A down year for Syracuse would typically mean the Orange don’t stand a chance against Duke. Not this season. The Blue Devils have looked shaky since ACC play began, even in many of their wins. A trip to the venue formerly known as the Carrier Dome could be a real challenge for Jon Scheyer’s team.
Jim Boeheim, more than double Scheyer’s age, has his team on a three-game win streak. Will it continue this weekend? Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in upstate New York.
Duke vs. Syracuse Prediction & Pick
Duke is a flawed team still finding its way, but Syracuse is a flawed team that might have reached its peak. The Orange will need their crowd to show up in a big way – Syracuse is 10-5 at home, a fine record but still the most home losses of any top-nine team in the ACC.
The Blue Devils should be able to ride their defense to a win here. Syracuse hasn’t looked tremendous against tough defenses, and Duke has been playing well enough on that end to slow down a thin Orange offense.
If the Blue Devils can contain one of Joseph Girard and Judah Mintz, all it will take is this strong rebounding team limiting Jesse Edwards in the paint. The Blue Devils are also near full health with Whitehead, Roach, and Filipowski over minor injuries.
Duke will have problems in the ACC Tournament, but Syracuse simply might not have enough options – and not enough of a defense – to take advantage of the Blue Devils’ vulnerabilities the way other teams have. Duke -1.5 is the pick.
Duke vs. Syracuse Odds
Duke is a 1.5-point favorite, sitting at -117 on the moneyline. The over/under is 140.5 points.
It’s been a tough year for Duke, but the Blue Devils at least save face here by retaining their status as slight favorites on the road. That’s what a win at Syracuse would do for this team: it’s not a game-changer, but it would allow Duke to maintain what respect it still has this season. Is Scheyer’s group up to the challenge?
Duke vs. Syracuse Key Matchups
The Blue Devils are an unsteady offensive team. This isn’t the first time a Duke team hasn’t shot well from beyond the arc (32.4%), but there just hasn’t been enough offense near the basket to make up for it. With that being said, Duke usually wins when both Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach are making a big impact.
Filipowski can take over games with his presence inside, and his ability as an outside shooter forces defenses to be careful with him. Roach has had a tough year, shooting under 40% from the field, but when he’s healthy and shooting the ball well, this team seems to roll. Most of Roach’s best performances this season have come at home.
Who’s going to take a critical shot on the road for Duke? It was Mark Mitchell in a closer than expected home win over Notre Dame, but Mitchell only averages 0.6 threes per game. It could be freshman Dariq Whitehead, the only member of the rotation shooting better than 40% from three. Whitehead recently missed four games with an injury but is back healthy.
Syracuse, with a defense that ranks below average, allows a whopping 28.8 three-point attempts per game. It’ll be interesting to see whether a Duke team that doesn’t live or die by the three is forced to do just that. That might come down to what Filipowski can do closer to the basket.
Duke is in no danger heading into Selection Sunday because of its defense. The Blue Devils allow only 64.3 points per game, are top-15 in the country in rebounding, and hold teams to 30.2% shooting from beyond the arc. Syracuse has been held under 70 points by Virginia twice and by North Carolina once, so the Orange offense doesn’t have a spectacular track record against some of the ACC’s leading defenses.
Syracuse does have a paint presence that can match Filipowski’s rebounding and Dereck Lively’s shot-blocking ability. Jesse Edwards averages 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks – he’ll be a huge factor in this game, especially with rebounding lacking elsewhere.
Aside from poor defense, Syracuse’s biggest issue is a lack of depth offensively. If the shots aren’t falling for Joseph Girard and Judah Mintz, there isn’t anyone reliable to turn to. If Girard is at his best, he’s the best scorer in this game. I’m wary of his inconsistency lately, but playing at home should help. Girard has attempted more threes than twos this season, which is another concern against a Duke team that defends the three so well.