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On Saturday, Syracuse will host No. 7 Duke in the Carrier Dome for another opportunity at a resume-beefing Quadrant I win. The topsy-turvy season has seen the Orange fall under .500 as late as January for the first time under head coach Jim Boeheim. But with two games in three days against two of the best teams from North Carolina, Syracuse has a chance to save its season.
Up first is a Duke team ranked ninth in the nation on KenPom. The team sports one of the top prospects in this year’s NBA draft, Paolo Banchero. The Blue Devils trounced SU in Durham, North Carolina, by 20 points a month ago. Saturday’s game will also be the final regular-season meeting between Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, as the latter is expected to retire after this season.
Here’s what you need to know about No. 7 Duke (24-4, 14-3 Atlantic Coast) as Syracuse (15-13, 9-8 ACC) plays arguably its biggest game of the season:
Duke leads 12-6.
Last time they played
The two teams last played each other earlier in the season on Jan. 22. The 79-59 loss is one of Syracuse’s biggest of the season. The Blue Devils held Buddy Boeheim to just seven points and 1-for-10 from 3. The rest of the offense also struggled to make up for the lost production posting one of its lowest point totals of the season.
Duke’s scoring was significantly more spread out with four players scoring 15 points each. AJ Griffin gave the Orange the most trouble going 5-for-9 for 3 and faceguarding Buddy for most of the game.
KenPom gives Duke a 72% chance of winning with a projected score of 80-73.
The Duke report
Duke is again having an excellent season near the top of the ACC. The Blue Devils once again have a plethora of talent that could be taken in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft.
Banchero headlines the group as a potential lottery pick. The forward was named preseason ACC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Alongside him, Trevor Keels, a guard, did not play against SU the first time around because of an injury. Keels is now back healthy and will give SU another weapon to worry about.
There’s also 7-foot Mark Williams, who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds against SU the first time around. His height will likely give SU more trouble this time around with Jesse Edwards out.
How Syracuse beats Duke
The Orange will need to have a near-perfect game to top the Blue Devils. The Orange have lost just one game this year when shooting at least 40% from 3 and sinking 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Not only will they have to do that, but Syracuse will also likely have to keep its centers out of foul trouble.
Frank Anselem fouled out and Bourama Sidibe came dangerously close to fouling out against Georgia Tech. This time, both centers will have a much tougher matchup against Williams. It might be a long shot, but if Syracuse can get hot from 3 and contain Duke down low, the Orange might have a shot at an upset.
Player to watch: AJ Griffin, forward, No. 21
Griffin is the younger brother of former Syracuse forward Alan Griffin. He came to Durham as the No. 1 ranked recruit and small forward from New York. The freshman was not immediately a starter for the Blue Devils this year, but he entered the starting five in mid-January. His defense on Buddy shut down the Orange’s top scorer in the two teams’ first meeting.
The forward is a capable scorer as well shooting 49.8% from the field and 48.1% from 3. He also scored a career-high 27 points against North Carolina.
Stat to know: 17.2%
That is Syracuse’s 3-point percentage the last time these two teams played. Buddy, Cole Swider and Joe Girard III were a combined 3-for-25 from 3 as Syracuse’s offense couldn’t get anything going. It was Orange’s worst 3-point shooting percentage of any game this year. In the past few games, they have been much better, consistently making double-digit 3-pointers in each of their wins. But if Duke can limit Syracuse’s 3-pointers once again, it could prove too tough an obstacle to overcome for the Orange.