There are definitely factors that favor each team in the matchup between Duke and Syracuse, and before the season I would have said Duke had it but not so sure right now, whats your best guess? You can check up on and view odds and predictions on the NCAA Basketball here but the way Duke played against Georgia Tech in the second half, I see a team getting better but still working on putting things together. A win against Syracuse would be huge in erasing the bad taste of the Notre Dame defeat so I’m putting my eggs in Coach K’s coaching skills basket.
The loss of the 6-6 Carter-Williams will hurt Syracuse on both ends of the floor. His replacement is 6-2 freshman Tyler Ennis. Ennis, a top 20 recruit nationally, is a true point guard can run the offense efficiently, but he can’t possibly be expected to help on the offensive boards as much as his predecessor. After struggling early, Ennis has begun to live up to his high school press clippings. With Jerami Grant unable to shoot from the perimeter as Southerland did a season ago, scoring could become more of an issue for Syracuse as they get into conference play. The zone defense will suffer as well, as Carter-Williams length tightened passing lanes (his 2.8 SPG will be missed by a team that was 13th in the country in steals) and made shooting over the top substantially more difficult (the Orange were also 3rd in the country in FG% defense). Their shooting guard, sophomore Trevor Cooney is currently shooting 46% from the field and 47% from three-point range. C.J. Fair had a breakthrough junior season, earning second team All Big East honors. He has not dropped off, hitting 46% of his shots from the field and hauling in just under 6 RPG. James Southerland’s own productivity certainly helped Fair get some of those open looks last season, but sophomore Jerami Grant is filling those shoes nicely, leading the team in FG% (.514) and contributing 12.3 PPG. One of Syracuse player’s has a Duke connection in forward Michael Gbinije, a former Duke transfer and a top 20 recruit two years ago. He is currently averaging just over 14 MPG and his overall stats are good. Then add in freshman Tyler Robinson, a skilled top 40 recruit, and that gives Jim Boeheim plenty of options to pair with Fair. The Orange still don’t look nearly as impressive as they did a season ago, but they are one of the only two undefeated teams in the ACC.
Currently the number 2 team in the country, Syracuse joins the ACC with a distinct pedigree, arguably the best team in the country and with their own freshman phenom Tyler Ennis. Ennis has become the best point guard in the country and the Canadian product is just getting started. On a team that already boasts pre-season player of the year CJ Fair in the back-court, Duke will have hands full against this team. Ennis is averaging over 5 assists a game, and Fair 17 points a game for Jim Boeheim.
Duke will have to contend with quite a bit, and at a time when Syracuse is playing its best basketball. Duke will have to get back to basics, the formula for Duke success is simple, rebound and defend – everything else will take care of itself. Duke will also have to play much better against the 2-3 zone, a staple of Boeheim and the toughest zone in the nation. Duke got a taste of it against Eastern Michigan but the Syracuse version will be daunting for Duke to overcome. Patience will be a virtue but also crisp passing and positioning can beat it. Whoever camps out in the middle of the zone will have to read who the shooters are and deliver perfect passes to get good shots over the zone and Duke may again use Jabari behind the zone on the baseline in which case he will have to make good decisions in his choices on taking the ball to the rim or passing out of the zone without causing live ball turnovers.
It will be a true battle of match-ups, especially at the guard spot. Can the Duke guards content with Tyler Ennis, he doesn’tt make many mistakes on the offensive end but if Duke can make him work on defense perhaps they can get into the freshman’s head. Who covers CJ Fair for Duke? I would assume Rodney Hood would draw the assignment, which may limit his production on offense. Duke will need a big game from Jabari, Quinn and the bench should Hood not deliver his normal numbers.
Duke knows what needs to be done, the question is are they the team to do it? Against ranked teams Duke has folded, against Notre Dame Duke folded, Syracuse could be the best team they’ve faced and the biggest test.