Preview: Duke (14-4) v. Syracuse (12-7)

The Blue Devils will look to reverse last week's negative momentum when they host a hot shooting Syracuse team on Monday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The game will be broadcast by ESPN beginning at 7 PM EST.

SYRACUSE ORANGE

12-7 Overall, 2-4 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS
F- 00 Michael Gbinije (17.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
G- 10 Trevor Cooney (13.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
G- 23 Malachi Richardson (12.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
F- 21 Tyler Roberson (9.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
C- 32 DaJuan Coleman (5.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

Former Blue Devil Michael Gbinije is playing point forward for the Orange, and he’s playing it extremely well.  The 6-foot-7 wing never really factored into the Blue Devil rotation while in Durham, but his move to Syracuse has paid off for both he and the Orange.  

Entering Monday’s game Gbinije leads the team in scoring and assists.  At times this season he’s been neutralized by both the opponent’s defense and a tendency to take a lot of shots regardless of the wisdom of the attempt.  However, when that’s happened, Cuse has been carried by Trevor Cooney, a lights out perimeter marksman who can score  in bunches.  Cooney hit for 25 against Wake Forest and 27 against North Carolina.  

THE STORYLINES

NEITHER TEAM HAS DEPTH

For all the (well documented) turmoil facing head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his group when thinking about depth, the Orange come into Cameron facing many of the same issues.  Syracuse is playing mostly a seven man rotation, while Duke is getting by - to some extent - playing just six players for long periods.  

So how does that hold up in the second game in two days for each team - and when Syracuse had to travel?   

Both teams have shown vulnerability in a lot of different areas - mostly due to lack of options off the bench.  In a high scoring shootout against Notre Dame, Duke’s bench accounted for all of 16 minutes, two points, and one rebound.   It was more of the same against Clemson.  

Meanwhile, the Orange have seemed to overcome their limitations of late and have won two straight games.    

BATTLING ON THE BOARDS

Coach K has talked about Duke’s margin for error being “razor thin”.  He’s right.  One of the biggest areas of concern of the Blue Devils has to be the inability to grab costly defensive rebounds at critical times.  Against Notre Dame it sealed their fate when the Irish missed a free throw late, but got an offensive rebound to put themselves up four with less than five seconds remaining.  

Without Amile Jefferson the Blue Devils rank just ninth in the league in rebounding margin.

Entering the game the Orange have also learned the value of working on the glass.  Syracuse.  When league play began, Syracuse was out-rebounded by Pittsburgh by 18, giving the Panthers 22 second change points.  That’s something that cannot happen going forward and since that time the Orange have committed themselves to improving their odds by improving their rebounding.  Over the last five games the team is averaging +3.4 in rebounding margin.

Notebook:

- Duke is 105-4 (.963) at home since 2009-10, marking the third-most home wins and third- best home winning percentage in the NCAA this decade.

- Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking fourth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (119.8) and fifth in the NCAA in scoring offense (86.6).

- Duke has scored nearly a 22.3 percent of its points this season at the free throw line. The Blue Devils have made 55 more free throws (329) than its opponents have attempted (274).  

- With five ballhandlers in its seven-man rotation, Duke ranks among the national leaders in both turnover average (10.2) and turnover percentage (14.4 percent of offensive possessions). Since Dec. 15, Duke is averaging 15.1 assists and 10.1 turnovers per game (1.5 assist-to-turnover).

- Brandon Ingram is in the midst of a team-best 10-game streak with at least one three-point field goal. Since Dec. 15, Ingram has averaged 19.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks while shooting .429 from outside the arc.

They Said It:

“We didn't keep the ball out of the paint. We didn't rebound very well. Defensively, we've just got to pick it up a little bit.” - Luke Kennard on Duke’s loss to Notre Dame

"We know we've lost some games and dug ourselves into a hole, but we also have great opportunities to beat some teams and get some wins." - Trevor Cooney

The Prediction

Two very flawed teams who seemed to be heading in different directions will tip off on Monday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Duke has lost two straight, while the Orange are on a two game win streak.  But, both of Duke’s losses went down to the final second and appeared to provide the Blue Devils a chance to win had one ball bounced a different way (or had open looks been buried).  The Vegas oddsmakers have pegged Duke a 10 point favorite.  For the Blue Devils to reverse the momentum of the last week and get a fourth ACC win, the team will have to rebound much better and the defense will have to be tighter.  Duke will get looks from the perimeter against Syracuse’s zone, but they also have to patient and remember that the strength of the offense is in driving the lanes.  Against the zone, those lanes won’t be as plentiful as in games past, which is where the patience and understanding will come into play.   We look for Coach K to have his team ready to play and for Duke to win a close one.  if not, things could really begin to spiral for the Blue Devils in 2016.

Duke - 82
Syracuse - 72


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