Syracuse Orange v. Duke Blue Devils Prediction & Preview (2/22/21)

Elijah Hughes Duke
Feb. 1, 2020; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Elijah Hughes (33) shoots over Duke Blue Devils center Vernon Carey Jr. (1) during a 97-88 loss. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse will try for its first Quadrant 1 win of the season when it travels to North Carolina to play Duke on Monday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m. (TV: ESPN). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen gives his predictions below.

saugatSaugat Sen
Season Record: 4-1

When Syracuse plays Duke on Monday, it will be a slightly different version of an annual matchup of the two winningest coaches in the history of college basketball.

This time around, both teams are unranked and are on the outside looking in with the NCAA tournament bubble.

Duke (10-8, 8-6 ACC) has struggled throughout the season, but has won three straight, including a signature win on Saturday against No. 7 Virginia, 66-65. The Orange is coming off a 20-point rally to top Notre Dame 75-67, and the two teams are tied for fifth in the ACC standings.

Adding to the intrigue are Jim Boeheim’s comments about Duke’s Jalen Johnson. Johnson, a five-star freshman, announced last week that he would opt out of the rest of the college season and prepare for the NBA Draft.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was asked about the situation on his radio show last week and said that Duke was better off without Johnson, which seemed to prove true after Duke upset Virginia. But the comments drew some controversy, including from ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who called them “inappropriate.”

Boeheim defended his comments following Syracuse’s win over Notre Dame.

“Nothing against Jalen Johnson,” Boeheim said. “Some people have said he shouldn’t have left school. I didn’t say that. Some people have said he’s not thinking about his team. I didn’t say that. I don’t even know Jalen Johnson, I haven’t seen him that much, I don’t even know how good he is.”

» Related: Syracuse rallies from 20 down to top Notre Dame
Controversy aside, the two teams have always played spirited games, and Monday should be no exception. For the Orange, Buddy Boeheim, seems to have found his shooting range, and his shooting above 50 percent over his last three games, including shooting 10 of 19 for 29 points in the win over the Fighting Irish.

The Blue Devils have been riding their own hot hand in sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, who is the second leading scorer in the ACC at 18.5 points per game.

Despite their struggles this season, the Blue Devils are an extremely talented team who may have figured out their chemistry issues, and that should continue into Monday evening’s contest, as Duke wins this one, 72-68.

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