March Madness 2012: Syracuse Orange Dress Up as Underdogs for the First Time

Jeff GrantContributor IMarch 23, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange looks on from the bench during their 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Semifinal game at TD Garden on March 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Jim Boeheim has likely run out of motivational speeches due to coaching the Syracuse Orange for 36 seasons, but Las Vegas oddsmakers have supplied him plenty of ammunition for Saturday's Elite Eight contest against the Ohio State Buckeyes inside the TD Garden.

The Orange were sent out as two-and-a-half point underdogs for the first time this season, while the total has held steady at 136.

It's not often that this year's Big East Conference regular season champions are given points on any court, as the program hasn't played in this role since capturing a 69-64 win over the Villanova Wildcats as three-and-a-half point road underdogs on Feb. 21, 2011.

Sports bettors will find that the Orange are 6-3 against the spread (ATS) as an underdog since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, which includes a perfect 2-0 ATS mark on a neutral court when receiving three points or less.

Boeheim should also take comfort in knowing that Big East programs are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six chances as an underdog in the Elite Eight.

Ohio State is certainly no slouch in being the No. 2 seed in the East Region, as it prepares to take on the top seed after registering an impressive 81-66 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats as eight point favorites in the Sweet 16.

The Buckeyes have also proven victorious in four of five meetings with the Orange, which includes a 79-65 win as two point road underdogs on Nov. 11, 2007.

Forward Jared Sullinger is definitely one of the key players in this marquee matchup, especially when the Orange are playing without the services of Big East Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo due to eligibility issues.

He will need to display the aggressiveness that led to 23 points and 11 rebounds versus the Bearcats, as the Buckeyes are 31-3 during his career when he tallies a double-double.

Leave the points behind in this one, with the Orange moving their record to 7-3 when getting points the last two-plus years.

Pick: Syracuse Orange +145