Syracuse vs. Duke: What To Watch For in ACC Semifinal

Thursday, May 02, 2024 at 9:42 pm by Sports Editor

By Sam Corcoran | @The_SamCorcoran

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The calendar has flipped to May, which means it’s postseason season for Syracuse men’s lacrosse. The Orange begin their push toward their 11th (1990 title vacated) national title in Charlotte, N.C. tomorrow against Duke in the ACC semifinals. While the ACC tournament doesn’t guarantee a bid to the NCAA tournament for SU, it’s a crucial weekend that can potentially boost or tank Syracuse’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a mathematical system that plays an instrumental part in deciding the field of 17.

A win against Duke could further boost SU’s RPI with a championship match against Notre Dame or Virginia looming. An ACC title would mark the ‘Cuse’s third conference championship, and first since 2016 (the tournament went away from 2020-2023).

With a pivotal weekend in store for the Orange, here’s how SU can start its postseason on the right note against Duke tomorrow night.

Orange Silence Blue Devils in March

Friday’s meeting won’t be the Orange’s first rodeo with the Blue Devils. Back in March, SU’s defense had one of its best performances of the season and shut down Duke 10-4. The ‘Cuse held Duke’s big three – Brennan O’Neill, Dyson Williams, and Josh Zawada – to two goals throughout the contest. Syracuse head coach Gary Gait described it as a complete team effort on the defensive front, something that will need to be replicated tomorrow for the Orange to sweep the season series.

Duke Offense

Duke enters Friday’s contest as one of four teams nationwide to average over 15 goals a game. O’Neill and Williams lead that charge with an average of three goals per game, while Zawada earned a spot on the All-ACC team along with O’Neill.

The Blue Devils’ March loss to the Orange is their only loss in which the team failed to net double-digit goals. In recent games, Duke has slowed down a little bit with no more than 12 goals in four of its final five contents.

Nonetheless, the Orange won’t win this game without stopping Duke’s offense. SU’s defense has stayed strong for the most part since the March 20 win. In some of Syracuse’s late-game collapses, it’s been the defense keeping the ‘Cuse in the game.

Syracuse and Duke face off tomorrow from the Queen City at 8 p.m. The winner will battle either Notre Dame or Virginia on Sunday at noon.