What year is it?
No. 11 Syracuse meets No. 2 Houston for the first time since 1982 in the Midwest Region semifinal Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:55 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on TBS.
The Orange (18-9) are back in a regional semifinal as a double-digit seed for the third time in six seasons. Jim Boeheim, 76, will try to guide Syracuse to its sixth Final Four appearance during his tenure.
It’s a tough test against Houston (26-3), which is trying to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama heyday from 1982-84. Kelvin Sampson is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
The Cougars beat the Orange 92-87 in that matchup on Dec. 11, 1982. It’s taken a long time for Boeheim to get that rematch. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the matchup between the Orange and Cougars:
Syracuse vs. Houston odds
- Spread: Houston -6
- Over/under: 140
- Moneyline: Houston –260, Syracuse +215
Three betting trends to watch
— Houston is 18-9 ATS as a favorite this season. The Cougars are 9-0 S/U in nonconference games this season.
— The Cougars are 6-3 ATS through a nine-game winning streak, but they have failed to cover in their last four games with single-digit spreads.
— Syracuse is 5-6 ATS as an underdog this season, but the Orange are 6-0 ATS in their last six games. Syracuse also is 10-2 ATS in NCAA tournament games since 2015.
Syracuse key players
Buddy Boeheim leads the Orange with 18 points per game, but the junior guard has taken his play to the next level in postseason play. Quincy Guerrier (13.9 ppg.), Alan Griffin (13.7 ppg.) and Marek Dolezaj (10.0 ppg.) also average double figures for the Orange.
Houston key players
Junior guard Quentin Grimes is a do-everything player for the Cougars. He averages 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Guard Marcus Sasser adds 13.3 ppg., and senior Dejon Jarreau adds 10.9 ppg. and 5.3 rpg. Houston is a strong perimeter team, but the offense flows through Grimes.
Best individual matchup: Boeheim vs. Grimes
Who else would it be? Boeheim has emerged as one of the hottest players in the postseason. In Syracuse’s last four games, Boeheim is averaging 28.3 points per game and shooting 24 of 43 (55.8 percent) from 3-point range. He will not guard Grimes head-to-head in the match-up zone, but they will have to match each other. Grimes averages 19.4 points and 5.2 rebounds through Houston’s postseason. Both teams will be leaning heavily on their star players in this matchup.
Syracuse vs. Houston stat to know
Syracuse’s defense baits teams into a 3-point contest, and it works. Consider that the Orange is 6-4 when opposing teams make 10 threes in a game, and that includes the second-round victory against West Virginia. Houston makes 9.2 3-pointers per game. The Orange, meanwhile, are 9-2 when they make 10 or more 3-pointers. If Boeheim stays hot, then Syracuse will have a chance.
Get to know … Justin Gorham
The 6-7 senior forward will be a key player against Syracuse’s match-up zone. He had 12 games with double-digit rebounds this season, and the Cougars were 11-1 in those games. He averaged just three boards in Houston’s first two tournament wins. If Gorham has success on the glass on both sides and can neutralize Dolezaj, then the Cougars will be in good shape.
Syracuse vs. Houston prediction
San Diego and West Virginia shot 22 of 66 from 3-point range against Syracuse last weekend. While that is the focus, Houston plays good defense, too. The Cougars allow just 57.9 points per game. That suggest this will be a slugfest where both teams rely on their hot 3-point shooting. Boeheim will keep Syracuse in it, but Houston will do just enough offensively to slide into the Elite Eight with a shot at the Final Four.
Final score: Houston 64, Syracuse 60