Duke basketball must follow up major victory against Syracuse

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball must follow up its win over No. 7 Virginia against Syracuse at home. 

Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke basketball program picked up exactly what they needed against the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, a signature victory.

However, as the Blue Devils reemerge on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament, all the work they have done over the last three outings would be erased with a loss to the Syracuse Orange (13-7, 7-5 ACC) at home on Monday.

Syracuse is a fellow bubble team in the ACC, and its head coach, Jim Boeheim, made headlines last week as he had some choice words regarding the situation of former Blue Devil Jalen Johnson, which he then walked back after heavy backlash.

However, the Hall of Famer is not wrong in what he said, and it’s now officially been proven: Duke is a better basketball team without the former freshman.

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The excuses cannot be made that the Blue Devils have only defeated North Carolina State and Wake Forest without Johnson, as the team went toe-to-toe with a Top-2 team in the ACC and one of the best squads in the country.

But back to the players who will actually be on the court.

Syracuse brings a challenge to Durham with its zone defense. And the streaky shooting Blue Devils could win in a romp or struggle to hit their perimeter shots, allowing the Orange to hang around in an empty Cameron Indoor Stadium and try to spring an upset it has grown accustomed to.

Alan Griffin, Buddy Boeheim, and Quincy Guerrier all lead the Orange in averaging 15.2 points per game.

On Saturday, Boeheim exploded for 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting and 6-of-10 from three-point range as the Orange erased a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Notre Dame, 75-67.

Duke basketball has to be focused in its attack of the zone defense

Matthew Hurt has to be on the perimeter for Duke. If he can set screens on the two guards at the top of the zone defense and roll out to the three-point line for open shots, it could be yet another big night for the sophomore guard.

It’ll be interesting to see who Krzyzewski opts to put in the middle of the zone during crunch time. It could be Wendell Moore, DJ Steward, or Jaemyn Brakefield as all three players should be in the middle of the Orange defense at some point in the game.

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The Blue Devils also have the opportunity to set up Mark Williams along the baseline and try to penetrate the defense to throw a lob to its 7-foot-1 center.

Duke is playing with a newfound sense of energy and confidence, and the young team in quest for a postseason berth cannot take its foot off the gas pedal now.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00pm EST (ESPN).

PREDICTION: Duke 73, Syracuse 62

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