Five things for Duke men's basketball matchup against Syracuse

Junior Wendell Moore Jr. is averaging 15.2 points 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season.
Junior Wendell Moore Jr. is averaging 15.2 points 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season.

If there’s one name that’s been a staple in collegiate basketball as long as Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, it's Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. 

The 46-year tenured Syracuse coach and Krzyzewski are long-time associates and friendly foes. The former served with the latter as an assistant coach for the U.S. national team in multiple FIBA World Championships and Summer Olympics. 

With the upcoming Syracuse match and coming after Duke’s recent Florida State loss, the Boeheim-Krzyzewski dynamic will be one of many stories as the Blue Devils attempt to bounce back Saturday. Here are five things to watch out for as the group prepares to host the Orange. 

Pound the paint

If the Blue Devils want to prove that they are back in business, especially with big numbers on the scoreboards from their side, they will need to dominate the paint. 

As of late, the Blue Devils have been reliably more consistent in the key than their opponents. In Duke’s recent match against N.C. State, it recorded a season-high 58 points in the paint. The Wolfpack themselves only managed to register 38. And in the Blue Devils’ latest contest against Florida State, the group recorded 34 to the Seminoles’ 30. 

Duke must use the area as much as possible to their advantage. Even in games where it may seem challenging to get into the paint, the group has done so. Against Syracuse, Duke will need to put extra focus on creating lanes in the key to create dunks and layups all afternoon.

Take care of the basketball

If anything was from Duke’s matchup against Florida State, it’s that its turnovers harmed it the most. There were difficult passes and poor ball-handling skills at times, leading to Duke accumulating 15 turnovers during the contest to Florida State’s five. The Seminoles also beat the Blue Devils out on the glass, registering 42 rebounds to Duke’s 37. Combined, this gave the Seminoles more extended possession periods with the ball, and in turn, more shooting opportunities than Duke had. 

Against Syracuse, the Blue Devils must start taking better care of the basketball. The Orange are infamous for their strong 2-3 zone defense. With a need to get opportunities in the paint in this game for high success, Duke will need to stay sharp against the zone. Once within a possession, using its point guard to make the calls that defeat Syracuse’s zone will be the best approach.

“The zone can make you stand up, can make you lazy and make you make plays that you wouldn’t normally make,” Joey Baker said. “So we have to fight that urge of making arm passes, you know, just passing it around the perimeter, not trying to get it into the paint.” 

Budding Boeheim’s

One of the most recognizable names in college basketball, Boeheim Sr., has served as the head coach of Syracuse even longer than Krzyzewski has been coaching at Duke. Something special about Boeheim’s program is that two of his sons are on his team while serving as the leading scorers—showing that basketball skills run in their blood.

Senior Buddy Boeheim is the highest-scoring player on Syracuse’s roster, notching an average of 19.2 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds while doing so at a clip of 41.1% from the field. His brother Jimmy Boeheim Jr., a graduate transfer from Cornell, follows with an average of 14.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds at a mark of 48.3% from the field. 

Together the sibling duo knows how to lead the team just as well as their father. In one of their best performances of the season, Buddy and Jimmy led the Orange to defeat Indiana 112-110 in double overtime Nov. 30, with the brothers combining for 53 points on the day. 

With Buddy Boeheim on watch lists for this season, including the Jerry West Shooting Guard Award, NABC Player of the Year, the Naismith Trophy and the Wooden Award, it’s clear that Syracuse is a team to be taken seriously.

Close up shop

Cam Reddish to Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones to the iconic Christian Laettner. Besides winning a national-level tournament, whether it’s the NCAA or ACC tournament, all of these former Duke players are known for holding the prestigious role of closer—the player who sticks up to finish the game with a Blue Devil victory. Having registered several within-reach losses this season, the group must identify a player to take the final shot and lead the last plays.

Behind the curve

Syracuse may have four ACC losses, but that doesn’t mean this squad doesn’t have what it takes to be competitive. Just as Duke does before a match, all of its opponents will get their research done on the Blue Devils before heading into competition.

“It’s a constant evolution,” Baker said. “We’re always trying to get better and improve, especially when different things happen. And circumstances arise where things have to change or, you know, one thing goes one way, and you just have to respond to the situation.”

Duke also its own things to work on in order to come out on top, something sophomore center Mark Williams touched on during his press conference this week. 

“I think the biggest thing was finishing, and rebounding, protecting the rim,” Williams said. “On the defensive end, and also being vocal. Allowing those guards to know where they are coming from, you don’t know when they have help on the backside.” 


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