Pick – Analysis
It should be smooth sailing for Duke until their final regular season Game at North Carolina. But that also means the Blue Devils could take their foot off the gas in their final couple home Games, especially having already beat Syracuse on the road.
The Orange held a three-point lead at halftime the first time these teams played only two weeks ago. And then Duke went into another gear and led for most of the second half after force-feeding Jahlil Okafor (23 pts, 13 rebs). If Duke plays to their ability, will Syracuse have a chance? If they couldn’t win at a packed Carrier Dome with Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson combing for 18-of-28 from the field, then it’s hard to see how they’ll win at Cameron Indoor.
Syracuse isn’t a great road team, having lost to the likes of Pittsburgh and Clemson this year, and only beating Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech by a combined three points. It doesn’t help that Syracuse’s final seven Games are all against Tourney-hopeful teams. Although, they just picked up a nice win Tuesday night at Notre Dame.
OUtside of the overtime win against UNC, Duke has rarely been challenged at home. And looking at the first Game, it’s hard to see how the Orange will have a shot in this one. Okafor is dealing with an ankle issue, but he returned last Game and dropped 30 points on Wednesday.
Okafor looked himself in that Game and that’s not good news for the Orange. Christmas struggled on the offensive end in the first meeting going 5-of-17 from the field, having trouble dealing with Okafor. The Orange will need similar performances from Gbinije and Roberson, as well as a better day from Trevor Cooney, who also struggled from the floor shooting 4-of-14.
Justise Winslow took up a bigger role in the Game Okafor missed and he’s really picked up his play in the last couple weeks. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones didn’t have great Games in the last meeting, but both of them can catch fire at any moment, as made evident by Cook’s 6 three pointers on Wednesday.
Syracuse’s zone isn’t a great detractor against Duke’s offense because they have the ability to go down low with Okafor, but also have a number of shooters on the outside. That’s a main reason Matt Jones saw 32 minutes compared to Amile Jefferson’s 14 in the first Game.
The status of Okafor is an obvious thing to check before betting this Game, but the line will move appropriately for the likely No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. However, it’s unlikely he’ll be missing this Game, which is big trouble for Syracuse in this environment.
Our Prediction – Duke by 12