Syracuse plays in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament against Duke at 9 p.m. tonight. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Wes Cheng and Saugat Sen give their predictions below.
SAUGAT SEN (Season Record 1-3): The first time Syracuse played Duke, the Blue Devils were missing Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. The second time, consensus No. 1 NBA draft pick Zion Williamson was injured.
This time they will be without a much lesser part of their team, center Marques Bolden.
Syracuse on the other hand, will be without their leader and best scorer Tyus Battle. Oddsmakers have Duke as an 11.5 point favorite, and that might be a bit generous.
To keep the game close, Syracuse will need a repeat performance from Frank Howard. In a 73-59 win over Pittsburgh, Howard scored 18 points and did a nice job of driving and finding open shooters. That is, of course, harder to do against a Duke team filled with NBA talent that includes the ballhawking Jones.
Playing Duke with all of their super stars in the lineup in the state of North Carolina is never easy. The only (small) consolation is that the UNC fans from the first game of that session may become Orange fans if there are any signs of an upset.
Even with the sky blue and Orange crowd behind them, this is too steep of a hill to climb, with or without Tyus Battle, and I see Duke winning 76-68.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 10-6): Earlier in the year, when Syracuse upset Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils were without Cam Reddish and Tre Jones in an upset that essentially catapulted SU into the NCAA Tournament.
Both are healthy, and will be joined by presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson returning from injury, who along with RJ Barrett are all projected as first round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.
When the four are in the lineup, Duke has lost only once this year—in an early season loss to Gonzaga, who may still be in line for a 1 seed despite a loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC Tournament.
Meanwhile, Tyus Battle is ‘realistically two to three days’ away from rejoining the Orange lineup, according to Jim Boeheim. Battle’s 32 points lead SU in the first matchup between these two teams, and it’s hard to see a path for Syracuse to win without its best player.
Syracuse needed a win over Pitt to clinch an at-large NCAA bid, and SU got that on Wednesday night, so the pressure is off, for now. The Orange is only given a 10.2 percent chance to win this game according to ESPN’s matchup predictor, and I agree, as the Blue Devils should easily dispatch the Orange, 75-62.