It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for, and it is finally here. The Duke Blue Devils travel to Syracuse to take on the undefeated Orange Saturday for the first time as ACC opponents.
The sold out Carrier Dome should be loud and ready for this one, which features the two top teams in the conference. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in attendance as well. The matchup features the two winningest coaches in college basketball history, Jim Boeheim and Duke coach Mike Krzyzsewksi, who combined have 1,914 wins.
The Orange, 20-0 (7-0), are coming off of a 64-52 win over Wake Forest. The offense was all over the place in that game, as they only made two of their first 18 shots and finished the game shooting just 36 percent. The Orange will have to play better on offense if they want to keep up with the Blue Devils, who average 81.5 points per game and shoot 41.4 percent from three, fifth in the nation. However, they aren’t too great on the defensive end, as opponents shoot 44.1 percent from the field against them (220th in the nation) and they allow 66.4 points per game (75th in the nation). The Blue Devil defense is improving, as opponents have only scored an average of 55 points per game in their past three games.
Because of Duke’s talented offense, the Orange will have their work cut out for them on the defensive end. The Blue Devils like to shoot a lot, and there will be a lot of shooting against a zone that is hard to penetrate. Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Andre Dawkins can all heat up from downtown for the Blue Devils. If they start to hit shots, expect the zone to extend. Teams that have had success against the Orange this season have controlled the tempo of the game, but Duke will speed up the game and I think the Orange can benefit from that. Long shots create long rebounds, which can only help the transition offense, along with the nine steals the Orange get per game.
This game also features two of the best freshmen in the country, Parker and Tyler Ennis. They are first and second in win shares among freshmen (wins they earn the team based on their play), Ennis having 3.8 and Parker with 3.4. This will be one of the biggest tests of the season for Ennis, but he hasn’t shied away from pressure as he averages 1.2 points per play in the last five minutes of games on 47.8 percent shooting.
The Pick: I think that this game will live up to the hype and be very exciting. Both teams are very good but play different styles. Syracuse fans have grown accustomed to seeing their team play slow tempo games this year, but I think this one will be a little bit quicker and more points will be put up. A great defense against a great offense, and it should be fun to watch. I give Syracuse the edge in a close one since it is at home, 78-75.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York
When: 6:30 p.m. ET