‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Breakdown Syracuse’s Matchup with Duke
With time running out for Syracuse to gain a signature win, the Orange travel to Durham to take on number five Duke. Can Syracuse beat Duke for the third year in a row? Our analysts give their keys and predictions for the pivotal matchup.
Key to the Game: Drive to the Hoop with Tyus Battle
It’s been no secret this year that the offense for this Syracuse team runs through Tyus Battle. Though the sophomore guard can hit from range, he showed tremendous ability to penetrate the paint in Wednesday’s loss to UNC. In fact, eight of Battle’s nine made field goals against the Tar Heels came from within the paint. Battle went zero for five from three-point range on Wednesday, which means his outside shooting could be hitting a slump, but the Orange offense could see major results if Battle is allowed to get through the lane and reach the hoop.
Prediction: Duke 78-70
Syracuse scratched and clawed its way back into close range at a few points against UNC on Wednesday, and ended up losing a close game. That game, however, was in the Carrier Dome, which is a much friendly environment for the Orange than Cameron Indoor. Syracuse will keep it fairly close throughout, with Tyus Battle and Frank Howard carrying the offense yet again. The effort from the key guards will not be enough for the Orange to overcome the Cameron Crazies in the toughest road environment it’ll face all season.
Key to the Game: Keep Scoring
Syracuse has scored over 70 points in four of the teams last five games. I know the team is 2-2 in those games, but the losses were by a combined eight points, and not the fault of the offense. If the Orange can continue to space the floor and put up points this team becomes increasingly difficult to beat. Obviously Duke is a talented offense, as the team leads the ACC in scoring with well over 80 points per game. But, again expect SU’s defense to limit the Blue Devils into the 70s. So the question becomes can the Orange score in the 70s. Recent history says to me this team can do just that. If SU can, Syracuse will be right in this game the whole time, and I believe the squad can pull it out.
Prediction: Syracuse 77-74
Hold up, did he just pick Syracuse to take down fifth ranked Duke on the road at Cameron Indoor…yes, yes he did. Here is why: this may not be a full-strength Blue Devil squad. Phenom Marvin Bagley III is still injured and is questionable after missing four straight games. Sure Duke has played well in his absence, going 4-0, but I think Syracuse is more inclined to challenge the Blue Devils. The Orange puts forth the tallest lineup in the country, and even though Wendell Carter is still a handful, Bagley’s absence would limit Duke’s frontcourt depth. Plus, with the new FBI probe information Carter may not even be eligible really. Despite the probe, expect him on the court, that investigation will take time, his name was just specifically mentioned Friday. Duke’s lack of frontcourt depth can help SU limit the Blue Devils potent offense. In the end, if SU’s offense plays well once more watch out for the Orange in Durham.
Key to the Game: Make Threes
Duke is holding ACC opponents to below 45 percent in two point field goal percentage. The Blue Devils’ big men inside make it tough to score, and the teams that have struggled the most against Duke have failed to knock down their threes—Louisville went just 5-20 from beyond the arc in its 26 point loss. SU needs to convert from deep it if wants to stay in the game on the road.
Prediction: Duke 78-65
The Blue Devils have lost one time in Cameron Indoor Stadium (to no. 2 Virginia), while SU has yet to take down a ranked opponent this season. Duke is firing on all cylinders after its late-season switch to zone. The Orange had its chance to take down a top-25 team Wednesday night inside the Carrier Dome, but the Devils should take care of business on their home floor.
Key to the Game: Grit
Anyway you slice it, Syracuse’s loss to UNC was a heartbreaker. But the Orange can’t feel bad for itself. Duke is one of the most talented teams in the country, and winning in Durham is never an easy task. All I’m looking for in this matchup is for the Orange to fight
for 40 minutes. If ‘Cuse can stay within ten points until the closing minutes, they have a shot to make a run. Anything could happen.
Prediction: Duke 80-72
While the Orange offense has hit its stride of late, the defense has gone missing. Duke is vulnerable on the defensive end themselves, but I think the Blue Devils’ overall athleticism will stymie the ‘Cuse offense. This is a tall task for a young Orange squad, and I don’t think this team is equipped to handle 40 minutes in Cameron Indoor.
Key to the Game: Attack the Paint
In theory, with all its size you might think Duke has one of the best interior defenses in the country. However, that’s not exactly the case. The Blue Devils are pretty vulnerable in the middle of their makeshift 2-3 zone. In its surprising loss to NC State, Duke allowed the Wolfpack to score an astonishing 44 points inside the paint. Syracuse needs to follow that model and be aggressive on Saturday to come away with the upset.
Prediction: Duke 83-73
I don’t think Syracuse has too much trouble scoring in this one. But, I still don’t see how SU keeps pace with the more talented team in one of the toughest environments in college basketball. The Blue Devils score almost 88 points per game this season and now its defense is rounding into form at the right time. Even with likely no Marvin Bagley and maybe even no Wendell Carter Jr. after the FBI documents leaked Friday, I still think Duke has too big of a talent edge for SU to overcome.
Key to the Game: Don’t Give Gary Trent Jr. Room to Shoot
While Grayson Allen takes the most threes on Duke, Gary Trent Jr. makes the most. The freshman is shooting 45 percent from deep, the best clip of any player in the ACC who takes more than four attempts per game. The zone is built to handle Duke’s strong paint play, but if Syracuse fails to contest Trent’s shots, it won’t matter how well the rest of the game goes for the Orange.
Prediction: Duke 82-72
Syracuse is simply outmatched. Duke has more weapons. Whether that be Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen from deep or Wendell Carter Jr. and Trevon Duval down low. The Blue Devils can play just enough defense to slow a Syracuse offense that is too streaky to stay with Duke for 40 minutes. SU will find behind in the first half and spend the second half failing to make a dent in their deficit.
Key to the Game: Close Out on Second-Chance Opportunities
Syracuse isn’t rebounding the ball on the defensive end as consistently as it did in non-conference play, and thus more players converge to the glass off missed shots. Because of that, the Orange have left shooters open on the perimeter, and players such as Pitt’s Parker Stewart, NC State’s Sam Hunt, and more recently UNC’s Joel Berry II have connected on open treys. Jim Boeheim’s bunch likely will forfeit a fair amount of extra possessions to Duke, a team that ranks eighth in the country in offensive rebounds. It will be imperative for guards like Tyus Battle and Frank Howard to contest second-chance threes, especially against the Blue Devils’ Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen, who always has the green light from downtown. The senior guard chucked up 16 three-pointers in Duke’s last game; don’t expect him to be shy against the Orange.
Prediction: Duke 77-72
Syracuse is notorious for playing tough opponents closely, and nothing less should be expected down in Durham on Saturday night. However, in a close contest, securing the basketball and smart decisions become even more imperative. Paschal Chukwu’s suspect hands and Frank Howard’s poor shot selection down the stretch were fully exposed on Wednesday against North Carolina, and unless those two aspects change, don’t count on the Orange getting over the hump. Home fans have only left Cameron Indoor upset once this season, and Otto may be the only one with a frown on his face after the final buzzer.
Key to the Game: Get Ahead Early
Duke sports perhaps the best offensive roster in the country this season. The team is second in offensive efficiency and points per game. Additionally, the Blue Devils crash the offensive glass well, ranking third in offensive rebounds per game. This game will be Syracuse’s greatest challenge of the season.
One thing that worked for Boston College, NC State and Virginia earlier this year? They all lead at halftime and controlled the game at their pace. For Syracuse to pull off the upset, they’ll need to establish control early. This season, Duke has shown a slight tendency to switch defense until it finds a system that works against its opponents. That’s led to some big deficits to make up, but the Blue Devils are so gifted offensively they’ve managed to come back and win in many of they games they’ve trailed. It’s worth a shot for an overmatch SU roster.
Prediction: Duke 85-60
Duke, frankly, is Syracuse’s worst nightmare. The Blue Devils boast a starting line-up with five future pros (Marvin Bagley, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval) and can work the inside-outside game better than almost any team in the country. Even without Marvin Bagley, the Blue Devils boast four players that receive regular minutes who shoot better than 35 percent from three-point land. With Wendell Carter Jr. getting buckets on the inside at the 10th most efficient clip in the country, it’s pick your poison for ‘Cuse, and either solution will leave Orange fans feeling blue.