After Syracuse’s loss to Georgia Tech over the weekend, the Orange’s game against Duke Wednesday became a must-win if SU wants to be safely in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. Unfortunately for SU fans, Duke has never been an easy team to beat, even at home. The Blue Devils have only lost five games this year, and Syracuse needs to make it six to save its season. Here’s a look at three of Duke’s losses this season and how teams have been able to beat Grayson Allen and Coach K.
Florida State; 88-72 Loss
Duke’s most lopsided loss of the season came in Tallahassee to Florida State, a team you could easily argue is just as good as the Blue Devils, but also a team Syracuse led by 18 at half and beat in the Carrier Dome. A quick disclaimer: Florida State shot the lights out against Duke. The Seminoles shot 53 percent from the field, but it wasn’t the only reason Florida State won the game. Duke turned the ball over 16 times, the second-most of its season. The Blue Devils win when they play their game, and Florida State was able to get them off it. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone has been known to have the same effect, but who knows which zone we’ll see on Wednesday.
Virginia Tech; 89-75 Loss
Florida State is a top 10 team, but Virginia Tech’s 14-point win over Duke was a little more surprising. Again, the Hokies were deadly from the field (just about everyone who’s beaten Duke has had to score a lot to do it), but what sticks out in this Duke loss is the assists totals. 18 of VT’s 32 made shots were assisted on, while Duke only assisted on eight of 28 makes. This allowed the Hokies to win by 14 despite taking nine less shots from the field. Syracuse’s wins have come when the Orange moves the ball well. It’s why Jim Boeheim has been preaching better guard play all season. It’s no secret that SU’s shooting has been streaky this season to say the least, and a clean offense can make up for missed shots.
NC State; 84-82 Loss
Duke has only lost at home once this season, and it came on January 23 to NC State. To continue with the trend, NC State shot 50.9 percent from the field to beat Duke (Louisville is the only team which has beaten the Blue Devils while shooting under 50 percent. NC State didn’t do anything complicated to beat Duke, it just took high-quality shots. In fact, all three of these teams took 16 threes or less in their wins. That might be a problem for the Orange, which has struggled to find production inside all season and averages over 23 shots from behind the arc per game. Andrew White takes over eight threes per game on his own. Teams have had to take and make shots to win against Coach K.
Syracuse needs a win Wednesday to get itself back on the right side of the tournament conversation, and Duke has shown it can be beat on the road by a team with the consistency to run with the Blue Devils. Syracuse can win, but it will need an all-around performance we’ve only seen a few times this season.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson