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Syracuse men’s basketball: what to watch for vs Duke

Time to get crazy in Cameron

NCAA Basketball: Queens University of Charlotte at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (10-3, 1-1) head to Durham tonight to take on the Duke Blue Devils (9-3, 0-1). Tip-off is 9:00 on ESPN and here’s what we’re watching for:

Kevin: Shooting

Syracuse survived against Pitt with some poor outside shooting (3-17 from deep), but to get a huge road win they will need to knock down some shots to open the lane. This doesn’t mean Judah Mintz and JJ Starling should settle for jumpers, but it would be nice if they along with Chris Bell and Justin Taylor can hit some early open looks to force Duke to guard the arc.

Max: Winning the turnover battle

Adrian Autry’s defense has been spot on so far this year, forcing 15.5 turnovers per game which is second-best in the ACC. Duke presents one of SU’s toughest challenges so far in the turnover department, as the Blue Devils commit the fifth fewest in the entire country. Every possession will be crucial for Syracuse on the road in a hostile environment, so stealing a few away from Duke will sway the momentum towards the Orange.

Dom: Physicality from the forwards

Rebounding and scoring around the rim both proved to be two deciding factors in the Orange’s win over Pitt, especially with Maliq Brown and Benny Williams having their way in the paint. Duke is a middle of the pack rebounding team, but the Blue Devils boast an excellent offense. Syracuse can’t afford to give them many second-chance possessions, and rebounding will yet again be essential if Autry decides to stick with the Benny-Brown combo down low.

Finn: Battle of the Sophomore Stars

This matchup will feature two players who could very well see their names get called in June this year. If Syracuse wants to take anything from this game, Judah Mintz will have to be the spearhead. Mintz has averaged over 22 points per game in wins this season (excluding a blowout over Chaminade). This total has dropped to 14 in ‘Cuse losses. Which form of Judah will we see in this massive litmus test? Meanwhile, Kyle Filipowski will pose a massive question with his height, length, and skill. What rotation of Naheem McLeod, Maliq, and others will be the right one to silence the Devil's star man?

Mike: Keep the Crowd Quiet

The Orange get a bit of a break with the Cameron Crazies mostly away on winter break. Still, Durham is always a hostile environment, and for SU to properly take advantage, they’ll need to take the home crowd out of the game early. Mintz’s usual style of trying to get to the line early may not be best suited here - expect him and others to gamble with some mid-range shots in an attempt to snatch the lead from the start.

Szuba: Ball screen defense

Last game we saw aggressive pressure defense from Syracuse in halfcourt man to man. Hedging on ball screens worked initially, turning Pittsburgh over for transition buckets. But eventually that was solved for and the Panthers made the easy play by hitting the roll as the weak side help came late for the Orange. Syracuse won’t be able to do that against Jeremy Roach and Kyle Filipowski — the latter is a three point threat on the pop too, something the center position has had trouble defending. I don’t think Syracuse wants to switch and gift Duke mismatches but I’m also not sure if Syracuse can successfully play in drop coverage on Roach/Filipowski, either. Pick your poison, as they say. We’ll see how Adrian Autry wants to defend but however he does, my guess is it will look a lot like Maliq Brown with the lion’s share of minutes at center.

Now it’s your turn. What will you be watching for?