Duke Basketball: Blue Devils are Focused and Ready For Syracuse

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17: Gary Trent Jr.
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17: Gary Trent Jr. /

We’ve been waiting all week, but it’s finally time for Duke to take on Syracuse in the Sweet 16!

The media requirements are over, the practices are over, the teams are ready, and it’s time to play some ball.

It’s an ACC matchup in Omaha, Nebraska, but who cares?

The Blue Devils defeated the Orange in their only meeting of the season 60-44 back on February 24.

That was an interesting game for the Blue Devils, to say the least. It was Marvin Bagley III‘s return from his knee injury and he came off the bench.

He was Duke’s leading scorer with 19 points and 7 rebounds.

Syracuse had no answer for the Duke bigs as Wendell Carter Jr. put in 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

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Marques Bolden also provided a spark off the bench with 7 points and 6 rebounds, while starting for Bagley, Javin DeLaurier also pulled down 6 rebounds.

It was a game to forget for the Duke guards and Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, and Gary Trent Jr. combined to go 6 for 28 for 16 points.

Duke will obviously look to work through their bigs again, but they need to get their trio of guards going if they want to have success against the Syracuse 2-3 zone.

Duke has to keep their defensive energy at a maximum level once again as Syracuse guard Tyus Battle can light it up at any given moment. Battle went for 12 in Cameron a month ago but averages 19.3 points per game.

Battle has struggled in the postseason. He was 4 of 21 from the floor in the Orange’s ACC Tournament loss to North Carolina and went 3-12 against TCU  and 4-15 versus Michigan State.

One under the radar player to watch for the Orange is big man Paschal Chukwu. Chukwu fouled out of the game against Duke, but in his limited 24 minutes, he had 6 points on 3-3 shooting and 12 rebounds.

Chukwu has been foul prone this season for the Orange, but if he can manage to stay clear of the fouls and on the floor he could be big for Syracuse.

The Blue Devils are the more talented team, but you can never look past a Jim Boeheim coached team late in March. It will be a close, low scoring type game, but Bagley and Carter will prove to be the difference for Duke.

Prediction: Duke 68 Syracuse 59