The biggest game of the regular season is finally here. Syracuse and Duke matchup in the Carrier Dome as two of the best coaches of all time square off. This one could go a long way towards deciding the ACC champion.
Duke uses several guards in their backcourt. All of them have started at one time or another. Quinn Cook is a steady point guard who fits into the Duke system well. He plays solid man-to-man defense, passes well and can hit from the outside.
Shooting guard Andre Dawkins might be the best shooter on the team. He is making nearly 48% of his shots from beyond the arc. He could be a zone killer for the Blue Devils. He doesn't offer much else offensively, as most of his points come three-point land.
Rasheed Sulaimon rotates into the backcourt with Dawkins, and is another sharp-shooting Duke guard . Sulaimon is more well rounded than Dawkins and is more of a playmaker. He is hitting over 46% of his shots from beyond the arc. He also has solid court vision as a passer.
Tyler Thornton backs up Cook at point guard. He is a steady veteran who can run the show when needed. He doesn't take a ton of shots from beyond the arc, but he makes 54% of those he attempts.
Matt Jones gets a few minutes as well in the backcourt off the bench. He is a bigger guard who does most of his damage inside the arc. He plays very physical but doesn't get a ton of minutes.
Duke's two best players reside in their frontcourt, and starts with super talented freshman Jabari Parker at small forward. Parker is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, and leads the team in blocks. Parker is as complete an offensive player as there is in the country. He can shoot, take his man off the dribble, hit the mid-range jumper and score in the low-post. He will be a load for Syracuse to handle.
Rodney Hood is the other forward and is second on the team in scoring at over 17 points per game. The Mississippi State transfer can score from anywhere, and is a dangerous outside shooter at nearly 45% for the season. Hood is super athletic and could be dangerous playing in the middle of the zone.
Amile Jefferson starts in the middle for the Blue Devils. He is a solid rebounder and efficient low-post scorer. He only shoots 47.5% from the free-throw line, however. Jefferson has been playing more physical ball inside of late, and has stepped up his game as a rim protector. Still, he is not a big time shot blocking threat.
Marshall Plumlee and Josh Hairston come off the bench to contribute at times. Plumlee has been getting more consistent run in recent weeks. He is an average player on both ends, but gives Duke some needed size inside.
Hairston is a power forward who doesn't get a ton of run. He spells guys at times, and doesn't provide a lot on either end.
Duke has a history of playing a pressure man-to-man defense that can extend to half or full court. They play physical all over the court and force a lot of mistakes by speeding up their opposition.
This season, the Blue Devils have used more zone than in the past. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski learned zone techniques from Jim Boeheim during their time together coaching USA Basketball. Expect to see Duke use some zone against Syracuse as the Orange have struggled against that look.
Duke is one of the best outside shooting team's in the country at 41% from beyond the arc. They are 20th in the nation in points per game at 81.5. Duke is 10th in the ACC in rebounding margin and 14th in blocked shots, but second in assist/turnover ratio.
Syracuse will have its hands full with Duke who has shooters throughout their lineup to try to pick a part the Orange zone. Jabari Parker could play in the middle and hit the mid-range jumper or kick to open shooters. The zone will be tested like it hasn't been this season.
But Syracuse should have an advantage inside and on the glass. Look for the Orange to hit the offensive boards hard in this one. It should be an intense battle between two of college basketball's best.