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Syracuse vs. Duke preview: Four things to watch

Other than how Boeheim and Coach K greet each other

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team certainly made it interesting over the weekend, but they’re now the owners of three straight wins and are looking to close strong while playing their way back into the NCAA Tournament conversation. Similarly, the Duke Blue Devils have collected three straight wins and are also trying to make a bubble case. Something obviously has to give on Monday night.

Before this game gets going at Cameron Indoor Arena, we preview some of the most important things to watch.

Christian: Force others to beat you

Not only are Matthew Hurt and DJ Johnson Duke’s leading scorers, they take the majority of Duke’s shots, especially from three. Every other Blue Devil is scoring in single digits. The ball will most likely be in their hands to quarterback Duke’s offense and everyone else who has attempted at least 100 field goals for the Blue Devils is shooting under 45%. The Orange can’t get stuck ball watching and need to keep an eye on where Hurt and Johnson are. That might mean pulling Girard and Griffin like the Orange did against Syracuse in order for those guys to not overextend on defense.

Kevin: Desperation is contagious

Duke’s recent play is that of a team that knows the window is closing. Syracuse didn’t exactly match Notre Dame’s intensity early on like I warned, so they are going to need to be ready to go in this one. Matthew Hurt is on fire and the Orange can’t afford to let him get going early one. There are no Crazies in Cameron but spotting your opponent a double-digit lead isn’t a recipe for repeated success.

Szuba: Syracuse offense vs. Duke’s defense

I was going to make a Jalen Johnson joke but figured I should quit while I’m ahead behind. Duke hasn’t been a good man-to-man defensive team this year, but over their last three wins they’ve held opponents to 59.3 points per game. The strength of Syracuse has been on offense this year. Can they take advantage when Duke switches on ball screens? Re: this is the kind of game where Quincy Guerrier can be a major factor inside. Also, can Buddy Boeheim continue his hot shooting from deep? He’s 16-32 from beyond the arc over his last five games.

John: Force Duke to play your game

It may sound like a broken record, but Syracuse’s free throw prowess — hitting nearly 80% from the line — can be used against opponents if they consistently attack the rim and don’t just settle for threes. Like Saturday’s matchup vs. Notre Dame, Duke’s three-point defense is poor (allowing 38% shooting from outside) — and the Blue Devils foul less frequently than the national average. The urge to test the perimeter defense will be strong, especially if SU falls behind early. They’re better off letting interior shooting create fouls and importantly, also open opportunities from deep.