Syracuse Orange vs. Duke Blue Devils Pick
Syracuse Orange (20-12 SU, 18-14 ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devils (26-5 SU, 17-14 ATS)
When: Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 9:30 PM ET
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SYR +11.5/DUKE -11.5 (Bovada)
Last Time Out: Syracuse beat Pittsburgh 73-59; Duke lost 79-70 to North Carolina.
Scouting the Orange:
Syracuse did what Syracuse does when it goes up against Pittsburgh: it found a way to win the game without looking overly impressive in the process. The Orange did it by withstanding an early hot start from the Panthers and getting a fantastic game out of Buddy Boeheim, who finished with a career-high 20 points in the victory. Now, can the Orange keep it going for a second straight time and deal Duke a defeat for the second time this season? History says no: Syracuse has never won consecutive games at the ACC tournament and has never even reached the semifinals of the event. Granted, the Orange have only been ACC members since 2013, but that’s still a surprising stat for such a storied program.
Scouting the Blue Devils:
How will the freshmen fare in the sport’s most intense conference tournament? The truth is, unless you’ve experienced it before, there is no way to truly prepare for the ACC tournament, an event steeped in tradition as the oldest conference tournament among the power conferences and the only one that can trace its roots back to the days of one bid per conference. That said, the Duke freshmen have met every challenge thrown at them so far and look like they’ll have no problem with this one either. R.J. Barrett has done an admirable job carrying the load for the Blue Devils with no Zion Williamson, and the latter is expected to play against Syracuse, per coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Star power. For Duke, the hype surrounding this game all comes down to Zion Williamson. Will he play, and if he does, will he be anywhere near as effective as he was before his injury? The honest answer is that nobody knows. Williamson hasn’t played since breaking his shoe against North Carolina, and it remains to be seen if he can get back to the level he played at before his injury. When a star player returns, it can go one of two ways. Either the player’s return provides a much-needed spark, or the player isn’t himself and he ends up contributing little to nothing, hurting his squad. Williamson is likely to be a big help, as he’s been part of the team for most of the season and provides points and rebounds that Duke missed out on while waiting for Williamson to recover. But anything is possible, and nobody knows what to expect from him until he shows what he can do after the injury.
Syracuse has its own issue in that department with Tyus Battle injured, as the Orange were without their leading scorer against Pittsburgh and will likely be without him again for the rest of the ACC tournament. Whichever team adjusts best to their respective situation will hold the edge.
Syracuse will Cover if:
The Orange can pick up where they left off from behind the arc against Pittsburgh. Syracuse is not a great offensive team by any stretch of the imagination, and its prowess at the offensive end probably had more to do with Pittsburgh’s ineptitude on defense than anything the Orange did. But the reality is that Syracuse got hot from 3-point range against the Panthers, and Pitt couldn’t stop it. If the Orange can do it again, especially early in the game, they have a real chance.
Duke will Cover if:
The Blue Devils can take the crowd out of the game and establish superiority right away. No team needs to take an ACC tournament crowd out of the game more than Duke. The final game of the day tends to have a more subdued atmosphere — unless the underdog has a genuine shot to win. With Duke involved, Carolina and State fans are likely to unite behind Syracuse in hopes of seeing Duke fall. The Blue Devils can’t allow the Orange to hang around and give the building a thought that they could win.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Health-wise, these teams are heading in opposite directions. Syracuse is banged up after losing Battle, while Duke is starting to get healthier. Plus, the Blue Devils have plenty of motivation to come out and play well in this game. They lost once to Syracuse this season, and a win over Syracuse this time would likely give them another shot at North Carolina. There’s also a chance at a No. 1 seed to think about, as well as the fact that no ACC coach prepares more earnestly for the ACC tournament than Mike Krzyzewski.
If Syracuse were at full strength, this pick would be a struggle, but I think Duke’s got too many weapons for Syracuse in this contest. With Zion Williamson coming back, this feels like a big Duke win. Give me the Blue Devils.
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