It was a heartbreaking loss for the Syracuse Orange this past Wednesday night, as their gritty comeback fell just short to the No. 10-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. The Orange will have another shot to boost their resume with a win on the road this Saturday against the number five ranked Duke Blue Devils (insert your appropriate Duke chirp here).
The Orange have had Duke’s number as of late, winning the last two matchups, with last year’s epic game coming down to a John Gillon buzzer-beater. This is a whole different kind of monster the Blue Devils are throwing at the Orange this year, so Syracuse will need to play pretty much a perfect game if they want to walk out of Cameron Indoor Stadium with a win.
Marvin Bagley III’s health
The Orange are going to have a tough time winning this game with or without Bagley, but it’ll be their toughest challenge yet if the talented freshman is able to return to action. Bagley has missed the past four games due to a knee injury, and his status remains uncertain heading into this weekend’s clash. Bagley’s impact would terrorize the Syracuse zone, as he poses the skill-set to have a field day in the middle of the zone.
Can the “big three” keep it up?
The Syracuse big three of Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, and Oshae Brissett did all they could to pull off the upset win against the Tar Heels, but even 66 points from the trio wasn’t enough to get the job done.
The Orange need their three dynamic scorers to be active and aggressive this weekend like they were against the Tar Heels, because their offensive production will be the difference maker if the Orange pull this one out.
What if happens if this one gets close late?
The Orange mounted a dominant comeback late in the second half against the Tar Heels, so dominant that they were able to tie the game with 3:09 remaining. However, some questionable decisions with the ball in part cost them the game, and they will need to hone in on those mistakes if they want to beat any top team in the nation, especially the Blue Devils.
Can the Orange contain the perimeter?
The Orange have struggled this year in terms of containing opposing team’s three-point shooters, and Duke showcases a handful of long range threats. Limiting Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr’s success from the perimeter will be crucial for the Orange on the defensive end. However, these two players won’t be quiet the entire game, so the Orange themselves will need to provide some three point shooting throughout.
The Syracuse big men
The Blue Devils have multiple big men who can dominate a basketball game, so the Orange will need their two centers to be on their A-game for all 40 minutes. Paschal Chukwu and Boruama Sidibe have shown flashes throughout this season, but this would be a perfect time for the two centers to have dominate games.