With both Top 5 teams coming off of a loss to an unranked squad, it could be said that today’s game is extremely important to both the Syracuse Orange and the Duke Blue Devils.
The Orange lost in overtime to the Boston College Eagles earlier in the week, and will likely lose its no. 1 ranking in the new polls. The Devils, on the other hand, lost to their bitter rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Not only do both teams desperately want to win, but Duke is looking to avenge its February 1 loss to the Orange. At the Carrier Dome, the Orange defeated the Blue Devils in overtime in what many called this season’s most exciting college basketball game.
In that game, Jerami Grant led the Orange with 24 points and 12 rebounds and dominated Duke inside the paint, taking advantage of the smaller Blue Devil forwards.
On the other hand, Duke excelled shooting from range. They were blocked by Rakeem Christmas six times and therefore settled for outside shots. The Devils shot 42 percent from behind the arc, making 15 three-pointers. Tyler Thornton and Rodney Hood both led the team with three.
Duke will be playing at home today and will try to utilize the home crowd. Duke has not lost on its home floor this season, and will look to continue that against the Orange. In order to win, Duke will have to stretch the zone by shooting three-pointers. College basketball fans saw Boston College do just that against the Orange on Wednesday. They can also work the high-post area with Jabari Parker. The freshman phenom is shooting 48 percent from the field, and is averaging 19.1 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. If he can get in the middle of the zone and hit jump shots, the Syracuse center will have to extend, leaving the baseline open.
For Syracuse to win, they will have to start the game hot. They will need to score early and often to take the crowd out of the game, and will have to force turnovers to break up Duke’s tempo. Syracuse hasn’t started games well offensively in the past couple weeks. The Orange only forced eight turnovers against Duke in its last match up, and it helped keep Duke in the game. Syracuse should also feed their big men. Duke often plays with undersized rotations, and the Orange has plenty of forwards who can take advantage of that. Look for Christmas and Grant to have big games again offensively.
Prediction: Duke 68, Syracuse 74
Posted by: Jason Weingold