I gotta say, it seems like the Vegas isn’t really drinking the Jim Boeheim Kool-Aid like we are. Most oddsmakers out there set Duke as 11.5 point favorites over Syracuse Friday night. Now, keep in mind those same wise-guys also had SU as 10.5 point dogs against Michigan State and we all know how that went down.
To be fair, Duke actually has experience playing against the zone, crushed Syracuse by 16 earlier this season and just rolled over URI in the second round of the tournament. In other words, they are really, really good at basketball and it’s going to take one heck of a performance for Syracuse to shock the college basketball world again. BUT, this is March after all and anything can happen so let’s make the case for why Boeheim might stick it to the doubters yet again.
For starters, let’s analyze this Duke team. The Blue Devils are known for their high scoring offense, NBA level talent in the frontcourt and ability to bully their opponents on the glass. Sound familiar? Well, it should because that’s basically the same makeup as Michigan State.
The Spartans had two future lottery picks in the frontcourt (Jackson Jr. and Bridges), just like Duke has Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley. Granted, Duke’s tandem is probably better. Bagley has more size than Bridges and Carter has been putting up much better numbers this season than Jackson, who essentially was a non-factor against the Orange in the second half. But overall, the logic still holds: If Syracuse could limit Bridges and Jackson, it should be able to do it again against Duke’s future pros to some extent as well.
Now, you’re probably thinking yeah but even if Syracuse does that Duke still has better shooters and guards than the Spartans anyways. But, when you break it down that’s not exactly the case.
People forget, the Spartans came in as one of the better three-point shooting teams in the country. Cassius Winston shot the three roughly 50 percent this season. Matt McQuaid has been a three-point marksman off the bench for Tom Izzo the past three years and Joshua Langford also shoots it above 40 percent from the beyond the arc.
Coach K’s team, on the other hand, has this guy you might’ve heard of named Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr. and a couple other freshmen that can knock down an occasional triple. Pretty similar, right?
I’ll admit, Trent Jr. might just be the best three-point shooter in the country. But, let’s not forget that he and the rest of the Blue Devils simply couldn’t make a thing from downtown when they played the 2-3 zone earlier this year. They went 2-18 from three-point territory against SU. So why can’t Syracuse do that again?
Syracuse is now 7-1 as a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament. Insanity.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 18, 2018
Look, I’m not saying Syracuse is going to win this game. All logic says SU’s run comes to a crashing halt Friday night. But, that same theory applied Sunday and the Orange didn’t let it matter. That’s what happens in March. So why can’t SU defy logic again and beat a Duke team that’s really pretty similar to MSU?