Duke Basketball: Getting an in-depth look at the Syracuse Orange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JANUARY 11: Buddy Boeheim #35 and Elijah Hughes #33 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate a shot in overtime during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 11, 2020 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JANUARY 11: Buddy Boeheim #35 and Elijah Hughes #33 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate a shot in overtime during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 11, 2020 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

The Duke Basketball team hits the road to face the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night and we take an in-depth look at the Orange thanks to Inside the Loud House.

Duke and Syracuse will renew a rivalry on Saturday night in the Carrier Dome and the team at Ball Durham got a chance to talk with the team at Inside the Loud House, the FanSided page dedicated to Syracuse Athletics.

Site Expert Paul Esden Jr. was kind enough to give us some of his time for a Q&A all about the Orange.

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Q: I’m going to be very blunt with this question. I’ve watched Syracuse a lot this season and I don’t even know the answer to this question, are the Orange good? 

A: That’s an excellent question. Early in the year, the local media started to wonder if this would be the first losing season EVER under head coach Jim Boeheim. He’s currently in the midst of his 44th year running the operation and he’s set a high standard of winning and an expectation that this team will be tournament bound every year. Over the last few seasons, things have gotten dicey with Syracuse firmly on the bubble. Ultimately yes I think the Orange are good, but like any team, especially this year, they are vulnerable. If you can get the Orange in foul trouble on the inside (Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe) you can expose their lack of depth. They have shown the ability to hit from deep and most recently hitting from inside which has been key. 

Q: How explosive have Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard been for the Orange this season?

A: Joe Girard is the starting point guard for the Orange, but he wasn’t supposed to be. Jalen Carey opened as the starter for the first two games of the season, but he proved ineffective and ultimately was ruled out for the year with a thumb injury. Which forced Jim Boeheim to try out JG3 at the point and it’s been hit or miss. For every wow play, he’ll follow it up with a dumb high school shot, but he has certainly captivated the fanbase with his hustle, passion, and drive. He’s going to be a special player on the hill. 

As for Buddy Boeheim, he started off 2018-19 slow but picked it up during conference play. This year he’s replacing Tyus Battle at the two-position and those were huge expectations. Somehow Buddy has more than lived up to the hype. He’s one of the top three-point shooters in the country and he has had a chip on his shoulder all year to prove that he’s more than just a spot-up shooter. Buddy still needs to improve, but his game has developed since last year and defenses have to respect his ability to get to the cup. 

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Q: It feels like Elijah Hughes has been at Syracuse for about ten years, how has he faired this season and what do you expect from him on Saturday night? 

A: That’s funny you guys mention that. Technically this is only his second year on the hardwood, he’s been here three years including 2017-18 which he had to sit out due to the transfer rules, but he did practice with the team all year long. Honestly? Elijah Hughes is in the ACC Player of the Year conversation and that is one hell of an evolution from last year when he was often the third or fourth option on the Orange. To put it simply, Elijah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Orange. In every game this season he’s reached the double-digit point barometer and more times than not he’s carried the Orange to victory. Over the last handful of games, he hasn’t been nearly as efficient as he was earlier in the year, but he still found a way to put up 22 points vs Clemson “despite an off night”. I expect greatness from him and hopefully another Duke half-court buzzer-beater on Saturday night. 

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Q: Does Syracuse have anyone that can match the physicality and size of Vernon Carey Jr. in the paint? 

A: Honestly? Syracuse doesn’t have a soul that can match the 6-foot-10, 270-pound chiseled frame of Vernon Carey Jr. Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj play the center, but both are far too frail to put up a real fight. Jesse Edwards is an emergency option off the bench and he isn’t ready for the big-time yet. The one player that has proven to be the most physically imposing on the team is the Canadian sensation Quincy Guerrier. The Candy Man is three inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Carey, but he’s got a great frame and was a projected NBA first-round pick before the season started. Q hasn’t quite developed the way everyone had hoped, but he’s probably Syracuse’s best shot at matching VCJ from a physical standpoint.

Q: If Syracuse wins they would substantially move on the better side of the bubble, can they do it, and more specifically, will they do it? 

A: Can they? In this version of college basketball and more specifically this version of the ACC? Absolutely they can. Will, they is a very interesting question. The Orange have proven they’re capable of beating anyone in the country and in addition they can play down to their competition. Over the last few games even when they create massive leads, they can’t maintain them. The key to the game is likely the battle of the boards. The strongest indicator of whether Syracuse wins or loses a game this year depends on the rebounds. If they win the battle of the boards, they usually win. If they lose the rebounding battle, they usually lose. To win this game Syracuse needs to keep Dolezaj and Sidibe out of foul trouble because if that happens they’re going to lose. In addition, Duke likes to cough up turnovers, if the 2-3 zone can turn that into transition easy offense, perhaps the Orange can pull out the dub after all. I’m a crazy fool who has been drinking the Kool-Aid and I’ve convinced myself Syracuse finds a way to win 79-74.

We’d like to thank Paul for his time and remind all fans that the Duke basketball game at Syracuse will tipoff at 8:00pm EST on Saturday, February 1 and will be televised on ESPN.