When you look at a 60-44 score in a box score, it seems pretty lopsided. That was the final of Syracuse and Duke’s first matchup. But the game actually was not a total wash when you dive deeper into the game. There is actually some good that can come from this game to encourage Orange Nation that a win this Friday is not out of the question.
First off, this game was by far the Orange’s worst offensive performance of the season. The team’s 44 points were tied for the fewest this season with SU’s 44 in a loss to Virginia. It’s actually the Orange’s fewest since 2013 when it mustered up only 39 points in a loss to Georgetown. Again, this is a historically bad offense. It’s one that people have called Jim Boeheim’s worst. During games, I get texts from non-Syracuse fans asking how I haven’t gouged my eyes out. The national media can’t stand it. But guess what? Jim Boeheim doesn’t care if you don’t like it. And that’s the way it should be.
Will Syracuse have to score some points to beat Duke? Absolutely. Going sub-60 probably won’t cut it against the Blue Devils and the 44 points in the earlier meeting don’t seem like a good sign. I don’t expect Syracuse to lay that big of an offensive egg in the second go-around. The Orange got a taste of its own medicine when it saw Coach K unleash a 2-3 zone against them (*insert Spiderman meme*). But just like how Duke is going to be more prepared the second time around with the zone, so will the Orange.
Lighting won’t strike twice. The 44 point eyesore featured a couple of things that won’t happen again for a couple of reasons. First, everyone that could play poorly, did play poorly for SU (granted that’s only seven guys). Oshae Brissett was held to season-lows in points (6) and field goal percentage (15.4 percent). He is now not just the hottest guy on the Orange, but one of the hottest guys in the entire tournament. He’s averaging a double-double in the tournament and his increased scoring will make life easier in that department.
The Orange is also due for big offensive performances from Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. Both have played well in clutch situations, but have been overall underwhelming offensively. It would be really alarming to see either one of them go four straight games under their scoring averages. Sure, the Orange wants to milk the clock and play slow, but that isn’t an excuse for inefficiency. Both have only had one game in the tournament shooting above 40 percent. Earlier this season against Duke, they combined to go 8-for-26 (30.7 percent) which would be tough to replicate. All SU needs is one of them to return to its natural scoring form to really make this a tight contest. While Syracuse fans are some of the best in the country, and will always travel to watch the Orange, the crowd assuredly will have Duke fans too. But if the game gets tight late, will the arena in Omaha start turning for SU? If you’re looking to head out to the game, book your travel with discounted rates at CouponsMonk.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this tournament so far, it’s that defenses don’t have off nights, but offenses can. Syracuse and Loyola-Chicago are great illustrations of defense and every opponent the Orange has knocked off along the way are the perfect reasons why offenses can go cold. Don’t get me wrong, offensive explosions can be the outliers in a one-and-done style tournament, but Duke couldn’t get it going all game long against Syracuse. The Blue Devils shot 0-for-10 from deep against the Orange in the first matchup. It’s Duke’s lowest offensive output of the season and if they set a new one in Friday’s game, it should not be seen as a surprise with the way this Orange defense is operating.
Lastly, the last meeting between these two teams was in one of the most hostile environments in all of college basketball. A meeting at Cameron Indoor should not be an indicator of what can happen on a neutral floor. Duke is a team that you either love or hate. And when you have Grayson Allen on your team, you probably hate them. The arena should be pretty pro-Syracuse for a couple of reasons. First, Kansas will have the highest representation in the arena. The Jayhawks would much rather face the Orange for a second time than take on a Blue Devils team that many think will run away with the Midwest region. Second, Omaha is a city of underdogs. When has anything from Omaha ever been the favorite to win anything? The answer is never. Fans will be rooting. The locals will certainly see a lot of themselves in the Orange. However, one Omaha transplant will likely be pretty pro-Duke. That’s former Syracuse turned Creighton guard Kaleb Joseph.
It’s not going to be easy, but the earlier loss to Duke should be looked at as more flukey than factual.