We're closing in on the 24 hour mark for the epic showdown between the Syracuse Orange and Duke Blue Devils in front of over 35K people. How's it all gonna shake out? The TNIAAM braintrust has their own ideas...
Syracuse 69 - Duke 67
Duke's playing extremely well right now, and SU has had a number of near-misses as of late, but for some reason I feel like the team will step up and put together a complete game against the Blue Devils. I'm looking forward to a classic at the Dome.
Syracuse 77 - Duke 71
This is going to be a great game no matter the outcome. We have perhaps the two best freshmen (Ennis and Parker) in the country, and two of the best forward tandems (Fair and Grant vs. Parker and Hood). Not to mention Boeheim and Krgzwyzyyszzyski. I can't wait to see C.J. Fair get a chance to shine against a team that plays a ton of man-to-man, and I think SU's zone will be up to the challenge of stopping a Duke team that shoots 41% from three.
I see a tight, back and forth contest that goes down to the wire. SU will hit a few clutch free throws late and win by about a half dozen. SU wins 77-71.
Duke 64 - Syracuse 59
Part of my brain is saying, "Syracuse is due" and the other part is saying, "Duke is built to shoot 3-pointers." A combo platter of bad for the Orange. But at the same time, both sides of my brain concede, Tyler Ennis may simply never allow SU to lose, ever again. It will be close and probably a little sloppy, and I wouldn't be surprised should SU win by the same score in my prediction, but I think a classic "Big Crowd, Slow Star" for the Orange may ultimately do them in tomorrow.
Duke 74 - Syracuse 70
Syracuse has been playing with fire for weeks -- going cold for long stretches on offense, while also experiencing some defensive breakdowns that let teams jump right back into games. Duke's arguably the best team we've faced all year and I think all of that finally catches up to the Orange. Beyond Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, they'll need to figure out a way to prevent Andre Dawkins from hitting threes at will, too. Just seems like too many shooters to keep track of and not enough scoring ability on the SU side to keep up with the Blue Devils over the full course of the contest. Perhaps I'm wrong and we contain their shooters and continue to own the boards -- but it seems unlikely we'll get both of those results in one game. Yes, I know I'm a disloyal idiot.
Syracuse 67 - Duke 64
If you're looking for a timeframe in which this Syracuse team is going to lose its first game of the year, you're in it. This stretch of games against Wake Forest, Duke and Notre Dame is a combination of tough arenas, tough opponents and short rests. That's a tough combo for anyone, especially for a team that plays it fast and loose like the Orange do. The smart money might be to say they lose to Duke and their three-point shooters but I'm actually go on record right now and say we beat Duke (barely, as usual) and then lose on Monday to Notre Dame (ugh, I know). We'll win this game but it's going to be costly victory.
Syracuse 69 - Duke 65
Two great teams, two great coaches and two contrasting styles. Duke can't defend anyone, loves to shoot the three ball and needs to score in the high 70's and into the 80's to win. Syracuse is locking down opponents to the tune of 58 PPG, defends the three very well and wants to keep this thing as low scoring as possible. Something has to give, so I'm splitting the difference and saying the Orange win a game in the 60s or lower. I think a track meet actually favors the Orange because, even though Ennis and company like to play a bit slower, they'll take the easy scores when they're there, then turn right around and make the Blue Devils grind for buckets. And no matter how the game plays out, #TylerTime always comes around eventually. I have faith that he'll be able to lead the Orange to victory just as he has 20 times already this season.
Your turn, how you feeling?