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Duke Hoping Not To Zone Out Against Syracuse

The game will see the winningest coaches in men’s Division I basketball history squaring off as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, winner of 1,184 games, takes on 991-game winner Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.

The good news for Duke is that Syracuse does not hail from the Sunshine State since the last two games the Blue Devils played against Florida teams did not end well with Miami winning 76-74 on January 8 and Florida State surviving 79-78 in overtime 10 days later. The better news is Duke is playing the worst defensive team in the conference as the Orange allows 75.6 points per game.

Joey Baker takes a shot Syracuse at Duke Picks
Lance King/Getty Images/AFP

Syracuse is 1-3 in true road games this season while No. 6 Duke has lost just once in 12 home games.

Despite two losses to unranked teams in conference play, Duke (-140) is still the heavy favorite in the odds to win the ACC title. Syracuse (+10000) has tumbled to 10th. Only Gonzaga and Baylor have better odds than Duke (+190) to reach the Final Four.

Game: Syracuse (9-9) at Duke (14-3)

Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

Day/Time: Saturday, January 22, 12 p.m. ET

Television: ESPN

Syracuse Orange at Duke Blue Devils

Struggling Syracuse Has Room for Growth

There was a time when the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense would confound opponents and help to frustrate some of the best players in the nation.

That defensive prowess has been lacking this season or at least in the recent stretch of games.

Since holding Florida State to 4-of-30 from 3-point range in a three-point win on the road, Syracuse’s only victories have come against Ivy League foes Brown and Cornell and teams (Pittsburgh and Clemson) below them in the ACC standings.

Syracuse has shot better than 50% in each of those four victories but has also been held under 40% shooting three times during that time. The reality is that the Orange simply aren’t playing well enough defensively right to win a game against a quality opponent without shooting the lights out.

Virginia and Florida State shot 52.6 and 54.9% in five-point wins over Syracuse in January, Villanova made 13 three-pointers followed by Georgetown connecting 11 times from three-point range. Miami had 14 steals while Wake Forest outscored Syracuse by 13 points at the foul line and on three-pointers. Syracuse lost each of those games.

The unfortunate part for the Orange is that other than the loss to Villanova, they could have won each of those aforementioned games. Since that win over Florida State, Syracuse is 0-5 in games decided by five points or less.

Syracuse has covered against the college basketball spreads in four of its last five games.

Duke Looking To Avoid Third ACC Loss To Unranked Foes

It’s a pretty safe assumption that Duke wasn’t expected to be in a three-way tie for third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings in mid to late January. However. recent losses to unranked Miami and Florida State have the Blue Devils looking up to Miami and FSU while being tied with Notre Dame and North Carolina.

There are a lot of good things that Duke has accomplished this season but one problem with having a high-profile program like what Mike Krzyzewski has built is every hiccup is analyzed, analyzed, and analyzed some more.

Whether it was 17 turnovers resulting in 15 Miami steals or allowing 19 offensive rebounds against the Seminoles, the preseason conference favorites and only team in the ACC currently ranked in the top 25 in the Associated Press poll hit a couple of bumps in the road.

“You’d definitely much rather go through the bumps now than come March or April where it’s one game left,” Duke junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. told the media after the loss to Florida State. “For us to go through it now is, again, just a learning experience. We have a lot of young guys on our team, a lot of guys who haven’t even played ACC basketball – this is their first time in the ACC. So, we’ve just got to keep learning and keep getting better.”

Part of the issue is Duke putting so much of the offensive responsibility on talented freshman Paolo Banchero. He had 20 points in each of the conference losses and the Blue Devils simply didn’t have enough players making the shots to help out Banchero.

Moore is second on the team in scoring as he is averaging 15.2 points per game and Trevor Keels contributes 11.9 points despite some up and down shooting performances.

Duke has covered against the Las Vegas odds in six of its last nine games.

Top scorers Square Off

The game features two of the ACC’s top scorers. Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse is fourth in scoring at 19.2 points per game while Banchero of Duke averages 18.1. Banchero has four straight 20-point games and is averaging 20.8 points 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists over his last six contests. Boeheim has nine 20-point efforts with five coming in the last eight games.

Syracuse has lost six of its last seven games to Duke and has dropped five of its last six road games. Still, a 12-point spread will certainly grab the attention of those who bet online.

The total has gone over in six of Duke’s last nine games and with the way Syracuse has been giving up points, this game could certainly head that way even if four of the last games between the teams finished under the total. To place bets on the winning manufacturer of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix in NASCAR, visit BetUS Sportsbook.

We like Duke to take care of business but Syracuse should be able to make enough shots to stay within 10.

Pick: Over 155

Pick: Syracuse Orange +11½ (-110)

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