It’s the game many casual fans have been looking forward to since the schedule was announced as the Syracuse Orange (15-13, 9-8) men’s basketball team welcomes the Duke Blue Devils (24-4, 14-3) to the Carrier Dome on Saturday night. Here’s what we’ll be looking for when these teams meet for the final regular season match-up with Coach K on the Duke sideline:
Kevin: Leave the iso-ball at Melo
Take away Jesse Edwards’ stats from the first match-up and the other Syracuse starters managed to shoot 13-49 from the field (5-29 from 3) and that was with Trevor Keels missing from the Blue Devils line-up. The Orange have played better offense lately but against Duke they are going to have to be near-perfect when they have the ball. Duke is holding ACC opponents to 29% shooting from 3 as they aren’t afraid to close out on the perimeter with ACC blocked shots leader Mark Williams in the paint. Isolation ball isn’t going to beat Duke the Orange need to rebound and force turnovers to get out in transition before the defense can get settled.
Zeke: Big men defense is the key
Frank Anselem and Bourama Sidibe have been splitting minutes at the five since Jesse Edwards season ending hand fracture two weeks ago. One area of weakness for Anselem specifically is interior defense and patience fouling. Sidibe on the other hand has barley played completive basketball in two years due to his string of injuries but is effective when his conditioning has been there. If Syracuse has a shot at winning this game against the best of the ACC, Anselem and Sidibe need to dominate the paint keeping the likes of Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams out of their comfort zone, forcing them to put the ball on the floor and shoot.
Christian: Hot Potato
Kevin already mentioned to stop playing iso ball, but another way the Orange can achieve that same idea is to do what teams do to them. Move the ball around and pass it frequently. Even if Syracuse doesn’t play iso ball, the ball still stays stuck in one player’s hand too often. The Orange need to get Duke running around to unlock the Carrier Dome shooting boost. Trying to shoot over Duke’s defenders isn’t a recipe for success.
Szuba: These 3s and rees ain’t free
Syracuse managed a paltry 5-29 (17.2%) 3-point shooting effort in the first meeting and while there were some forced shots, a lot of that had to do with Duke’s in-your-shorts man-to-man defense. It’s true, Syracuse will have to make shots to beat Duke. But look for the Orange to attack the Duke with pressure with some backdoor action and dribble penetration to eventually free up space on the perimeter. If Joe Girard is struggling to shoot it could mean an increased role for Symir Torrence, who had a good showing in his first trip to Cameron Indoor. That, and the Orange will also be without Edwards, who provided nine rebounds in that first meeting. Anselem and the two forwards must rebound. We know the Syracuse defense won’t be stopping Duke, so to have a chance the Orange need 3s and rees.