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At one point, Connecticut looked like a potential threat to repeat as the national champion. Now? The Huskies need to right the ship soon just to ensure an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. UConn has a major chore on Saturday afternoon as it visits No. 2 Syracuse, with the Orange as solid favorites on Bovada’s NCAA basketball odds.
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Huskies coach Jim Calhoun will miss his third consecutive game as he continues to battle spinal stenosis, a painful lower back condition. Calhoun has been experiencing lower back pain since last summer. The condition grew worse last week, however, and the Hall of Fame coach went on a medical leave of absence last Friday.
UConn (15-8, 5-6) is 1-1 without Calhoun and has lost four of its past five to sink to ninth in the Big East on squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Huskies were embarrassed at Louisville on Monday, falling 80-59. Leading scorer Jeremy Lamb had just 7 points. Freshman center Andre Drummond continued his struggles, going scoreless. The Huskies are averaging fewer than 60 points per game since the New Year.
Syracuse (24-1, 11-1) escaped a Georgetown upset bid in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday, with the Orange winning 64-61 in overtime. Kris Joseph scored a career-high 29 points, including the decisive 3-pointer in overtime, to give coach Jim Boeheim his 880th career win, passing Dean Smith for third in NCAA history. But there are warning signs potentially for the Orange. In that win and a close win two games ago against West Virginia, SU has been outrebounded 93-55. The Hoyas had a whopping 23 offensive boards.
Syracuse leads the all-time series between these two games 51-36. The last time these teams met, Kemba Walker scored 33 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Huskies to a 76-71 win in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. The underdog and road team have covered in past four in this series.
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