Syracuse Orange v. Duke Blue Devils Predictions (2/23/19)

Duke
Mike Krzyzewski, USA Basketball National Team head coach, speaks to servicemembers’ children at the Pentagon Athletic Center during the "Hoops for Troops" program April 6, 2006. USA Basketball joined the America Supports You program and held the basketball clinic at the military headquarters. Photo Credit: Department of Defense/William D. Moss

Syracuse is set to break an NCAA on-campus attendance record when it hosts Duke on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Wes Cheng and Saugat Sen give their predictions below:

SAUGAT SEN (Season Record: 0-3): Duke and Syracuse Part II is this coming Saturday. As if the overtime thriller of part one (an SU win) and a potential record setting on campus crowd was not enough drama, we have a cliff hanger with regard to the status of the No. 1 college player, Zion Williamson. Williamson twisted his knee in the first minute of Duke’s game against North Carolina on Wednesday and is questionable for the game at the Carrier Dome.

Duke and Syracuse are coming off two very different games in their last matchups. Syracuse shot 37 percent from 3 to defeat No. 18 Louisville 69-49. Duke, on the other hand, stumbled after the Williamson injury and struggled to shoot 21 percent from downtown, and was blown out by arch rival North Carolina at home, 88-72.

However, there is a big difference between losing your star player to a freak injury in game and adjusting to play without him in the next game. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have the Blue Devils ready to play at the Dome, and their depth in talent will be hard for Syracuse to contend with. To be sure, Syracuse won the first game, surviving Williamson’s 35 points and 10 rebounds, but Duke was also without All-American candidates Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

Both will be in the lineup on Saturday, and Jones figures to be a nightmare for Frank Howard, who is averaging over two turnovers in just 21 minutes of play in the last five games. This will drive Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim to play Tyus Battle at point guard. Battle will spend most of his energy fending off one of the best ‘on ball’ defenders and it should come as no surprise if he struggles shooting as a result.

» Related: Syracuse would be an elite team if its offense were consistent

The size and talent of Duke is enough to overcome the crowd and with Syracuse dealing with off the court distractions following Boeheim’s fatal car accident after the win over Louisville, I see Duke winning 72-68.

WES CHENG (Season Record: 7-5): While we wait word on whether Zion Williamson will suit up on Saturday, the Tar Heels showed Syracuse and any other team that plays a Williamson-less Duke how to take full advantage.

The Tar Heels got inside early and often, scoring 32 of its first 34 points of the game inside. It was a theme that would last throughout the game, as UNC enjoyed a 62-28 advantage in points in the paint en route to an 88-72 win.

The chief beneficiary was Luke May, who powered his way to 30 points and 15 rebounds to overcome UNC’s 2-20 shooting from beyond the arc. Sure, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish combined for 60 points, but the Blue Devils could get nothing else from the rest of its roster, including Tre Jones’ meager 3 points on 1-11 shooting.

If Williamson is indeed out, the Orange will need to adhere to driving as much as possible and not settling for 3-pointers. The onus will be on Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Elijah Hughes to follow the game plan.

You have to wonder what, if any, factor head coach Jim Boeheim’s unfortunate accident will play in this game. Despite no criminal charges being filed, it has to be weighing on his mind.

On top of that, ESPN was originally planning to have Game Day on campus before they announced on Thursday afternoon that they were going to move it back to Bristol, Conn.

Still, I don’t think it has any affect on the players, so my prediction is an “if/then” situation. If Williamson is out again, I’m predicting a 72-65 upset of the Blue Devils. If Williamson returns to the lineup, then Duke defeats Syracuse 81-70.

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