Syracuse faces Duke at the Carrier Dome in a game that could provide the Orange with an all-important victory as we approach the stretch.
TV Schedule: Saturday, February 1st, 2020. 8:00 pm ET. ESPN.
Location: Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.
After their win streak was stopped at five, at the hands of Clemson, Syracuse will be desperate to put a foot back in the right direction in their next outing. This will be far from a simple task though, as the Orange return back home with the daunting task of going head to head with the Duke Blue Devils. Duke, who hasn’t enjoyed their best start to the season, remain a top team in the college basketball game. They’re currently ranked at No. 9 in the nation, and they’ll be looking to make jumps whenever they can. A road win in Syracuse would provide the Blue Devils with plenty of ammunition to make a jump.
Syracuse and Duke have had their fair share of battles over the years. Last season saw the Orange take one from the Devils at Cameron Indoor before getting beaten a month later in the return game, and then ultimately losing the one that mattered the most in the ACC Tournament. Duke went on to win the conference tournament last year but didn’t get the one they really wanted. This could be a very big factor for Syracuse come selection Sunday, and an important victory for Duke, who’ll be looking to take a top seeding when it matters the most.
For the Orange, everything was starting to look up. After a torrid first half, a five-game win streak had them back in the mix for a potential run at making the NCAA Tournament. After dropping a game against the Tigers, their record is now 13-8 (6-4). Among the positives to look at, they started to get hot when conference play started – giving them a healthy platform to build on within the ACC.
What would be needed to make March again is a couple of big wins to bolster the resume. For this, look no further than Saturday night. A win against the powerhouse that is Duke would provide Syracuse with not only the assets required to potentially be considered for the dance but most importantly the belief to continue going strong and ending the season with plenty more victories that would give them an opportunity going forward in the same way it would allow Duke to make a case for a top seeding.
There’s no doubt that this is Syracuse’s toughest task yet. It comes at a weird time, too. If the Orange did close out that Clemson game then they would be fired up and Duke would be very wary of the momentum that they had. But, losing that one in the manner that they did – by a single point and being seconds away from being able to take a realistic game-winning attempt – then the momentum swing will be in Duke’s favor. Duke come into it on the back of back-to-back wins against Miami and Pittsburgh, the former being a thirty point victory on the back of 22-points from freshman forward Matthew Hurt, as well as 27-points from the depth of the bench – in a game where Mike Krzyzewski was able to get valuable minutes to his back-up guys.
Against one of the premier offenses in the college game, the Orange are going to have to be at their best defensively if they are to stand any chance – something that we haven’t seen all too much of this season. The defense has stepped up recently, but that’s going to have to be on point Saturday night. It’s an offense with little weaknesses. Vernon Carey Jr. is the main man – a guy who looks like a lottery pick in the draft – averaging a cool 17.4/8.5, leading his side in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.
He’s going to work the paint at a rate that might be hard for the Syracuse frontcourt players to stop. Quincy Guerrier‘s size and versatility could play a huge part off the bench in the Orange’s attempts to stop Carey Jr. Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe are going to have their hands full as Carey Jr. will undoubtedly look to manipulate the weak areas of the Syracuse zone. After that, you have Hurt, Cassius Stanley and Tre Jones to worry about who’re all perimeter threats and are scoring in double figures themselves.
If the Orange are to limit the Duke offense to a point where they’ve got an opportunity to make a mark on the game then the main goal will be to find their shots. Joseph Girard III will have to act like the facilitator that he can be creating good looks for the likes of Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, as well as himself. Spacing is going to be a key factor, as the guys who’re playing at the three, four and five will need to have their wits about them as their screening games will need to be crucial in providing realistic attempts.
It will all come down to patience and the ability to switch on and know when the shot is the right one to take. If they can do this against a Duke defense which is far from perfect, then they might have a shot.
Prediction: Syracuse 72-76 Duke