It almost sounds funny. That’s because out of context it is so simple.
To beat Duke, Syracuse will need to score more.
Syracuse is one of only two teams to win a game in the NCAA Tournament this year while scoring 60 points or less (the other is Kansas State, which beat UMBC 50-43 in the second round), and SU has done so not just once, not twice, but in all three games it has played so far.
But against Duke, even with a seemingly excellent defense, the Orange will need to pick up its offensive game.
Somehow, SU’s 2-3 zone has confused some of the best teams in the country and turned their fiery scoring shows into dry offenses. Arizona State, TCU and Michigan State averaged 83.5, 83 and 81 points before playing Syracuse, respectively, but only could put 56, 52 and 53 points on the scoreboard against the Orange, respectively.
To these teams, Syracuse’s defense might have been a confusing surprise. Duke, however, is a bit more accustomed to Syracuse’s style. As conference rivals, Syracuse and Duke have played seven games against each other since SU joined the ACC in 2013 in which the Orange has gone 3-4 against the Blue Devils.
The most recent game between the two teams was on February 24 where Syracuse fell 60-44. The SU defense did hold Duke—which was averaging over 87 points per game and had already scored 100 or more points in three games at the time—to only those 60 points, but the Orange did not even hit that mark itself.
As the opponents get better, and in this case, more familiar with SU tactics, Syracuse might not be able to rely on its defense alone. Everyone on the Orange offense will have to step up in the game against Duke on Friday to prove that Syracuse is really one of the Elite Eight.
Fun fact: Syracuse has never beaten Duke by more than three points.
Needless to say, this will be a good game to watch, even if some critics think Syracuse’s defense causes low-scoring, “boring” games.
Published: David Edelstein