Syracuse vs Duke Preview and Prediction
Syracuse vs Duke Preview
For a team that “wasn’t supposed to be in” the Syracuse Orange have proved their doubters wrong the first three games they have played in this year’s tournament.
The opponent in the Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday night is Duke, a team that IS supposed to be here and one the Orange are familiar with.
Both teams know each other and know how to handle what they are both good at.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski picked up a large portion of the pointers on the 2-3 zone set-up from Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim when they spent more than a decade together on the staff of the U.S. national team.
“We’ve gotten better in the zone,” Krzyzewski said this week. “We’ve played really good defense. But it’s because we’re playing as one. … In our zone, we communicate better and if you communicate better, you have a better chance of playing as one.”
Second-seeded Duke and 11th-seeded Syracuse — both members of the Atlantic Coast Conference — will clash for the second time this season. The Blue Devils won the first matchup 60-44 on Feb. 24 at home.
“You have to be careful not to point out too many things that happened a month ago,” Krzyzewski said. “They’ve changed and we’ve changed. They’re better and so are we.”
That February meeting resulted in the lowest scoring output of the season for Syracuse.
“They were playing really up on us, making it hard for us to get open three-point looks,” Syracuse guard Tyus Battle said. “They made it tough on us.”
Since then, Syracuse has gone 5-2 and Duke is 4-2. Both teams exited the ACC Tournament earlier this month with losses to North Carolina.
The rematch with Syracuse has several components, so Duke guard Grayson Allen said the Blue Devils won’t take anything for granted.
“It helps and it hurts,” Allen said of playing the Orange previously this season. “It helps because we know their personnel. But they’re a different team. They’re a better team. Their guys are playing with more confidence.”
One player playing with more confidence is Syracuse freshman Oshae Brissett, who owns 13 double-doubles on the season.
“Oshae has been really good in this tournament,” Boeheim said. “He’s just a freshman, but he doesn’t play like a freshman. He makes big plays.”
He scored 23 points against Arizona State and 15 in each of the next two games against TCU and Michigan State.
That has helped pick up the slack from Battle (19.6 points per game) and guard Frank Howard (14.6). Battle has averaged 13 points in the tournament and Howard checks in at 10.7 in the three NCAA games.
“Our guards have not played well on offense and we need them moving forward,” Boeheim said. “We’ve got to get them to play better offensively.”
The Orange defeated Duke in their only meeting in 2015-16 and again in their only matchup in 2016-17.
Can Cuse slow down Duke’s talent?
There is no doubt the Blue Devils are more talented than the Orange. Not even close. Duke’s heralded group of freshmen includes ACC Player of Year Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval. Bagley returned from a four-game absence with a knee sprain to score 19 points vs. Syracuse in his only outing off the bench this season.
Bagley won’t be coming off the bench in this game, but if he has similar success against Syracuses’ zone, then it will be a long day for Orange fans.
LINE: -11.5 Duke
Duke 75 Syracuse 68