Today, the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team will play the No. 4-ranked Duke Blue Devils for the second and final time of the 2014-15 season. This will be the second of three straight top-10 opponents the Orange will face.
The Orange (18-10, 9-6 ACC) are coming off an impressive 65-60 victory over the No. 9-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Tuesday. Sophomore B.J. Johnson led all scorers with 19 points, but it was the heroics of junior sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, who scored seven of his 11 points in the final five minutes, that propelled SU to the win.
Meanwhile, Duke (25-3, 12-3) is peaking at the right time. The Blue Devils are winners of eight straight games, including a 96-86 overtime victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday.
Syracuse will be trying to avenge a 80-72 loss to Duke on Feb. 14. In the game, junior swingman Michael Gbinije netted a collegiate-best 27 points against his former team. His 19 first-half points helped Syracuse take a 39-36 lead into halftime, however, Gbinije wasn't as hot in the second half and Duke's freshman center Jahlil Okafor (23 points and 13 rebounds) stepped up his production to propel the road time to the win.
Since then, the Orange have knocked off two top-15 teams–Tuesday's win over Notre Dame and a 69-59 victory over the Louisville Cardinals on Feb. 18.
As mentioned, Duke is coming off a tight victory over Virginia Tech which featured Okafor netting a career-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and two assists. Teammate Quinn Cook added 26 points while playing all 45 minutes. He was 8-of-13 from the hardwood.
In Duke's last meeting with Syracuse, Okafor netted a team-high 23 points, while Cook added 17.
|Record||18-10, 9-6||25-3, 12-3|
In comparing the two teams, Duke has by far the more efficient offense as it ranks fifth in the nation in points per game, second in shooting percentage, fourth in point per possession and fifth in efficiency.
Syracuse's advantage come on the defensive end of the court, as the Orange are fourth in the ACC in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. Duke is near the middle of the pack or worse in both categories.
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Television: ESPN–Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (color) and Allison Williams (sideline).
Radio: Syracuse IMG Radio Network
RPI Rankings: Syracuse–62; Duke–5.
What A Win Means For Syracuse: It would give the Orange enough quality wins to say, "we would have as solid NCAA Tournament resume if we didn't disqualify ourselves." That's saying a lot for where the team was a few weeks ago.
Meaningless Prediction: Duke 83, Syracuse 73
Syracuse should keep this one close for awhile, but I think the Blue Devils will be too much overall and they will pull away in the end.