Syracuse faces Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday in Brooklyn. Here’s what to watch for.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (16-16, 9-11 ACC) v. Duke Blue Devils (26-5, 16-4)
- Date: Thursday, Mar. 10
- Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Network: ESPN
Fearless Prediction: Duke 87, Syracuse 75
The Juice Online Season Record: 15-6 (ACC)
When Syracuse takes the floor against Duke on Thursday afternoon, it will be without its leading scorer and All-ACC First Team Selection Buddy Boeheim.
The ACC suspended Boeheim for one game after he punched FSU’s Wyatt Wilkes in the first half of Syracuse’s 96-57 win over the Seminoles in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday. The ACC declared it a “flagrant act,” though no foul was called on the play.
“In the heat of today’s game, after some shoving in the lane, I swung my arm while turning to go back up court. It was wrong to act out in frustration,” Boeheim said in a statement. “I apologized to Wyatt Wilkes multiple times in the handshake line. He said not to worry about it, but I know it was wrong.”
If Syracuse loses to Duke, Boeheim will likely have played his final game in an Orange uniform as Syracuse is not in contention for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT Tournament.
Boeheim, who came in averaging an ACC-best 19.3 points per game, played in Syracuse’s two previous games against Duke this season. The first was a 20-point road loss to the Blue Devils in February when the Orange was at full strength, and the latter was a 25-point home loss at the end of February when the Orange was playing without junior center Jesse Edwards.
Even in the best-case scenario, it’s difficult to see how the Orange can pull off the upset without its best scorer. Without a physical, athletic presence inside, Blue Devils big man Mark Williams punished the Orange at the high post, collecting 28 points and 12 rebounds in the 97-72 win at the Carrier Dome. Paolo Banchero, widely considered a top-5 NBA lottery prospect, was just as effective, scoring 21 points and adding 9 assists.
SU’s best chance is to outshoot Duke. But without Boeheim, it’s difficult to imagine how the Orange would do that. It would essentially need simultaneous season-best performances from Joe Girard, Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim, and exceptional supporting performances from Symir Torrence and Frank Anselem. While some of these scenarios may be possible, hitting the lottery of all of them having career games seems like a stretch.
I see Syracuse staying with Duke early, as Swider continues his torrid shooting streak (13-22 from 3-point land in the last three games), with Torrence distributing the ball well. But the magic will run out midway through the second half, as Duke pulls away for the win, and ends Syracuse season with a whimper.