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Next Up For Duke Basketball - Syracuse

The Orange come to Cameron still red-faced after losing to Georgia Tech at home on Saturday.

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Duke v Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, FL - JANUARY 12: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the second half at Donald L. Tucker Center on January 12, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After the boffo win at Florida State, Duke welcomes Syracuse to Cameron and it’s an interesting game for both teams.

For young Duke, what will they make of their triumph over Florida State which came with considerable adversity?

There were smaller bits of adversity but we’re referring primarily to Zion Williamson’s injury that kept him out of the second half. He had double vision and is likely to play Monday but that’s not official yet.

As for Syracuse, that’s likely to be one angry team. They were humiliated - there’s no other word for it - by Georgia Tech Saturday. It would be one thing if Tech had won just on defense, but the offensively challenged Jackets shredded Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone, shooting nearly 60%.

The zone is a major challenge for Duke and really anyone, although Syracuse has had trouble making it work this year.

Normally Boeheim gathers long, athletic defenders and more or less puts up a wall inside. But he’s had real issues at center this year, shifting between 7-2 Paschal Chukwu, 6-10/205 lb. sophomore Bourama Sibide and 6-10 sophomore Marek Dolezaj, who is listed at a spindly 180.

It’s understandable that Boeheim was hesitant to use him at center and the fact that he finally did was an act of desperation: Chukwu and Sibide were not getting it done.

Not to belabor the obvious but Williamson outweighs him by nearly 100 lbs. But it’s not just Williamson. Every player on Duke’s roster weighs more than Dolezaj except for Mike Buckmire, who weighs in at 173.

That doesn't explain how Georgia Tech had their way with the zone though. Here’s more on that.

We could see Duke lobbing the ball into Williamson who can probably out jump everyone except possibly Chukwu who starts with a big advantage but the same trick probably wouldn’t work twice.

There are basically three ways to beat the 2-3:

  • outrun it. You can’t set it up if the other team is moving faster than you are.
  • outshoot it. There’s no real way to guard someone like JJ Redick, who would just back up and keep shooting.
  • get into the seams and beat it from the inside.

Tech did that with lobs, which might be innovative, and in the small number of ACC games Duke has had with Syracuse, the Blue Devils have been pretty good at it.

This could be a great game for Cam Reddish. Fresh off of his FSU heroics, at 6-9, Reddish is an ideal guy to shoot over a zone and out top, neither 6-6 Tyus Battle or 6-5 Frank Howard will be longer than Reddish. He could have a field day.

If Williamson does play, we’ll be interested to see what he does. Coach K said he was very emotional after the Florida State win. How will that translate? Will he feel a need to assert himself?

And RJ Barrett’s strengths may not translate well in this game since Syracuse really shuts down penetration.

Generally speaking, almost everyone, even the Syracuse student writers, thinks Duke will win in a cakewalk and that could certainly happen. But the zone gives Syracuse a puncher’s chance in nearly every game and this is one seriously upset team. Will they roll over again? Seems unlikely. Or will they come out angry and swinging?

Our guess is that they come out mad as hell and remember this: as much as has gone wrong for Syracuse this season, a win over Duke, at Duke, would go a long ways towards setting it right.

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