The two winningest coaches in Division I history will meet in Durham on Monday night when Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange head south to take on Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is the No. 1 team in the country, and the Blue Devils are the favorites to win it all with star freshmen Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett leading the way. The Orange will look to disrupt their chemistry with their 2-3 zone and come out with a big upset.
There is a big injury concern for Duke coming into this game. Williamson was poked in his left eye in Duke’s win over Florida State, and he exited the game just before halftime and didn’t return for the second half. He is listed as questionable to play in this game. If he can’t go, Duke will be without arguably the most dominant frontcourt player in college basketball today.
Fortunately for Syracuse, the Orange have no injuries of note. This team hasn’t had much depth in recent years, so being injury free means more to Syracuse than it would other teams.
Even with Williamson listed as questionable, the oddsmakers believe that Duke is going to hammer Syracuse. The Blue Devils are a 17-point favorite per the CBB betting odds, and that is one of the biggest spreads we have seen all year involving games between blue bloods. The total is 145.5 points.
What’s at Stake?
The Blue Devils have been the most impressive team in America this year. Duke hammered Kentucky by 34 points in its season opener, and the Blue Devils have also nabbed wins over Auburn, Indiana, Texas Tech, and Florida State. That last one has been their toughest test in a winning effort to date, as the Blue Devils needed a last-second three-pointer from Cam Reddish to get the win with Williamson out. The win moved them to 3-0 in ACC play, and they are on their way to claiming the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse picked up a nice road win over Ohio State in non-conference play, but the Orange need to pick up some other big wins in a hurry if they are going to make it back to March Madness. The Orange lost to both Old Dominion and Buffalo at home and neutral site losses over UConn and Oregon don’t look so good either. If they could somehow pull off the upset here, that would give their resume a tremendous boost.
Both of these teams played on Saturday, so there has been just one day of rest between those games and tonight’s game. The Orange are traveling south after getting waxed by Georgia Tech at home, and they are out to avoid a sixth loss on the year.
Meanwhile, this has the potential to be a sandwich game for Duke. The Blue Devils survived the Seminoles on Saturday, and next week they host the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. Duke and Virginia are likely going to finish the season as the top two teams in the conference, so the Blue Devils know the importance of getting a win at home here.
If Williamson does not play, Syracuse may have a chance to pull off the upset. Duke does a lot of things well, but the one thing the Blue Devils struggle with is shooting the three. The Orange force opponents to make their threes with their 2-3 Zone, and if the Blue Devils can’t break out and score in transition, then they could be limited.
Syracuse is going to need a quality effort from Oshae Brissett in this game, especially if Williamson does end up playing. Brissett is the only real rebounding presence on this team, so he can’t get in foul trouble. If he does get in foul trouble, then the Orange are going to be in for a world of hurt.
The under is the best bet on the board here. Syracuse will give Duke some problems with its zone, and the Orange are not very good on offense themselves. They are sinking just 42.1 percent of their field goals and less than 30 percent of their three-point attempts on the year. Duke has the third-best defense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy, so points will be hard to come by tonight.