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Duke

vs.

Syracuse

College Basketball

Pick

Score Prediction

2/1/14

Even though Syracuse is undefeated at 20-0, it still isn't in the conversation as best team in the country or even a top candidate when people talk about the NCAA Tournament. Is there a good reason for that, or do people just forget about the Orange because they are so consistent? Duke will try its best at giving the Orange their first loss, but it won't be easy.

Syracuse is undefeated, but its level of opponents isn't quite at the same level as Arizona's. Two upcoming games against Duke should change that, though. The Orange have beaten two ranked teams this year (Villanova, Pittsburgh) with both being at home. Their wins against Minnesota, California and Baylor on neutral courts are all nice, but those are three bubble teams, likely not even Sweet 16 teams.

Duke is starting to figure things out a bit after losing two of its first three ACC games, both on the road. Since that, the Blue Devils have won five straight, including two big wins at Miami (FL) and Pittsburgh. This will obviously be their hardest test yet, going to Syracuse, the newly acquired ACC school.

When talking about Syracuse, the first thing people usually bring up is its zone defense that not many schools can figure out. In ACC games, no one has scored more than 59 points against them. As for Duke, they have at least 59 points in all eight of their conference games. So how is this game going to turn out?

If the Blue Devils can beat the zone, will the Orange have enough offense to stay competitive here? Syracuse scores 71 points per game on the year, but is well below that in ACC play at 62 points per game. Point guard Tyler Ennis has been great as a freshman averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.4 APG and 2.5 SPG. It's going to fall on him to get this offense going. He's joined by leading scorer C.J. Fair, who is as consistent as they come at 16.7 points per game. Trevor Cooney (13.2 PPG) is the three-point specialist and Jerami Grant (12.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG) works down low. Those four is about it for Syracuse's scoring. Rakeem Christmas is the next highest scorer at 5.6 points per game, and is used mainly on the defensive end.

The good news for Duke fans is that Marshall Plumlee is finally putting in decent minutes for the team which gives them some height. That will help on the defensive end against someone like Grant. The problem for Syracuse in this game, however, will be the scoring prowess of the Blue Devils.

Almost at all times, everyone on the court for Duke can drive to the hoop. Then you throw in their ability to shoot the ball extremely well and that's definitely a problem against the zone. X-factor Andre Dawkins hit six three-pointers last game and if he's on, that means trouble for the Orange. Throw in one of the best players in the country in Jabari Parker along with Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook, and people will start thinking this could be Syracuse's first loss.

Undoubtedly, it's going to be hard for the Orange to hold down this offensive juggernaut, due to the amount of shooters and slashers they have. Those are two ingredients for success against Syracuse. Can the Orange keep up in the shooting department? Maybe, but that's a hard area to trust them in. The Orange get the advantage at home, but this one could come down to the wire in a freshman vs. freshman battle. Who's getting that last bucket, Ennis or Parker?

Our Model's Predicted Score - Duke 73 Syracuse 67

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