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Behind 28 points from Cole Swider and 51.4% shooting from the field, Syracuse cruised past Florida State 96-57 to set up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 1 seed Duke. But the Orange won’t have Buddy Boeheim, who was suspended by the Atlantic Coast Conference for one game “as the result of a flagrant act” when he punched Wyatt Wilkes in the midsection around the 10-minute mark of the first half.
Duke had a bye through the first two days of the ACC Tournament, and it last played on March 5 — when they allowed 94 points and lost to North Carolina by 13 in Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner advances to face either Miami or Boston College in the semifinal on Friday, inching closer to the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s what you need to know about the Blue Devils before they face Syracuse for the third time this season, with both of the previous meetings won comfortably by the Blue Devils.
Duke leads, 13-6.
Last time they played
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 14-0 advantage and led 41-13 by the eight-minute mark of the first half en route to their 97-72 win in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 26. Mark Williams paced Duke with 28 points, dominating SU’s forwards around the blocks and inside the paint, while AJ Griffin connected on six 3-pointers and prompted head coach Jim Boeheim to say postgame that “I’m really disappointed in our inside play.”
Buddy Boeheim managed 23 points on 21 shots, but the Orange only made 5-of-18 shots from 3 as Duke, for the most part, limited their threat from beyond the arc. In the second half, with Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim ineffective, Boeheim turned to an unusual lineup combination of John Bol Ajak, Benny Williams and Bourama Sidibe.
“We can’t handle Duke, it’s pretty simple,” Boeheim said.
Duke has an 82% chance to win, with a projected score of 82-72.
The Blue Devils report
Duke strung together seven wins in a row before allowing North Carolina to shoot 59% from the field in the second half and pull away for a 13-point win, but the Blue Devils had already clinched the ACC’s regular-season title and No. 1 seed ahead of the defeat. Paolo Banchero leads them in scoring with 17.1 points per game, with Wendell Moore Jr. adding 13.1 and a team-high 144 assists — the third-most in the conference.
In terms of adjusted efficiency, the Blue Devils have the fifth-best offense in the country, per KenPom, and they’ve also constructed a top 30 defense by those same metrics. They’ve topped 80 points in four of their last five games, a number SU has surpassed just once during that same span, Duke holds the 20th-best 3-point percentage and 21st-best 2-point percentage, according to KenPom.
But another strength of Duke’s lies at the defensive end of the court. It holds the second-best defensive FTA/FGA ratio in the country, which means that the Blue Devils don’t foul often, and four of their five starters average fewer than 2.3 fouls committed per 40 minutes, according to KenPom.
Connor Pignatello | Assistant Digital Editor
How Syracuse beats Duke
Even with Buddy, it would’ve been tough. Without Buddy, it’ll take an extraordinary great shooting effort from Joe Girard III and Swider pairing with an extraordinarily poor offensive performance by the Blue Devils. SU will likely need both Swider and Girard to hover around the 28-point mark given how limited the impacts at the center position have been offensively, with Swider and Jimmy rebounding from their performances in the last Duke game since the Orange no longer have the necessary depth to replace them in a similar situation.
Syracuse will be without Buddy, Jesse Edwards (injury), Benny (injury) and potentially Bol Ajak — who suffered an injury in the second half against the Seminoles and “didn’t look good,” Boeheim said postgame.
According to ShotQuality numbers from Syracuse’s two games against Duke during the regular season, the Orange only win those contests 26% and 1% of the time based on the shots attempted by both teams. And increasing those percentages results from better shots generated at the offensive end, and also limiting Duke’s open 3s in the corner and high-percentage dunks near the rim.
Stat to know: 139.4, 71.8
Williams’ individual offensive rating and 2-point shooting percentage rank third and eighth in the country, according to KenPom, despite the fact that Williams only averages 11 points per game — the fourth-best average on the Blue Devils.
Player to watch: Wendell Moore Jr., forward, No. 0
When Syracuse and Duke met back on Jan. 22, Moore served as the primary defender on Buddy and limited the Orange’s top scorer to 2-for-15 shooting from the field — including 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. There’s a chance that he’ll slide to Swider with Buddy suspended, and that could pose problems for Syracuse’s offense if he’s able to mitigate the impact of the SU scorer who has scored 36 and 28 points in two of the last three games.
Moore has also helped facilitate the Blue Devils’ offense with his team-leading assist total, and he’s also made the second-most 3-pointers on the team (41) while shooting 41%. He scored five 15 points in the first meeting between the two teams but only added five during their February meeting and accumulated 14 assists and 12 rebounds across the two games.
The post Opponent Preview: What to know about Duke, the ACC Tournament’s top seed appeared first on The Daily Orange.