These teams met less than a month ago in Durham, but this time the stakes are much higher and it’s also at a neutral site. Will that be enough for Syracuse to challenge the biggest National Champion favorite? The Blue Devils were early -11.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
It’s hard to read into that last Game between these teams. Syracuse had its worst offensive performance of the season in a 60-44 loss. The Orange scored just .69 points per possession, going 6-of-25 from three and 11-29 from inside the arc to go with 17 turnovers. Those are terrible numbers, but there’s a reason that could happen again. Duke has turned into a good defense since going zone and that’s why it’s in this spot right now, often keeping opponents under 70 points.
Similar to that first meeting and Syracuse’s win over Michigan State, this will be extremely low scoring. The Orange want to slow the pace down and keep the Scoretight throughout. But that will only be possible if they hit shots. They don’t have anyone that shoots better than 33 percent from three, which is a clear problem. Because of that, there’s a chance they struggle from deep again. Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett will have to do a little more in the paint to put points on the board. Otherwise, settling for threes is not the answer for this team. It’d also be helpful if Marek Dolezaj steps up his Game. The lanky freshman has the ability to beat defenses and he could be key for this matchup.
It’s a little different on the other end. Duke went just 2-for-18 from three in that first Game, but eventually figured that the best way to beat the zone was to attack it and get easy looks with the bigs. That led to Grayson Allen, Wendell Carter and Trevon Duval combining for 13 assists with Marvin Bagley leading the Game with 19 points. Even in the zone, the Orange don’t have anyone that can deal with both Carter and Bagley and that’s what could be the problem again.
Syracuse may be able to make this a closer result than the first time around, but it’s going to take an all-around team performance to beat Duke. That means the three guards don’t fall in love behind the three-point line and try and draw fouls while attacking in the paint. If that happens, Dolezaj could get some easy looks if Bagley or Carter help out on the guards. But that’s a perfect world for Syracuse.
Dolezaj isn’t quite ready to deal with guys like Carter and Bagley on the defensive end, while big men Paschal Chukwu and BOurama Sidibe are likely to get into foul trouble. Even if Duke has trouble connecting from distance, it still has the bigs and quick guards to open up the zone and put points on the board. With the way these teams play, there’s a chance the Orange can cover, but it’s difficult to see them winning outright.
Our Pick – Syracuse +11.5