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A day after thumping Florida State in a 39-point victory, No. 9 seed Syracuse will play No. 1 seed Duke in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. The two teams have met twice this season, with both games ending in 20-point losses for the Orange.
The matchup will most likely be the final one between the NCAA’s two winningest coaches, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.
Syracuse’s leading scorer Buddy Boeheim will also miss the Duke contest after a flagrant foul during the FSU game. Here’s what our beat writers project will happen when SU and Duke square off at noon on Thursday in Brooklyn:
Andrew Crane (23-9)
Duke 84, Syracuse 77
And now they wait
The Orange looked like a completely different team with Symir Torrence back conducting its offense, but it’s difficult to pick them to win another game in Brooklyn because of Duke center Mark Williams. He scored 43 points in the two meetings between the teams this season, and although Bourama Sidibe flashed effectiveness on the defensive end against Florida State, SU will need Frank Anselem to string together another strong performance in case Sidibe gets into foul trouble.
Look for Syracuse to keep it close, though. Cole Swider, with 28- and 36-point performances within the last 10 days, has settled into a late-season rhythm that takes pressure off Buddy, and that’ll help the Orange stay within striking distance. But I think the Blue Devils will eventually pull away late in the second half, sending Syracuse into a stretch where it’ll wait to find out if one conference tournament win is enough for an NIT bid.
Roshan Fernandez (20-12)
It was good while it lasted
Duke 84, Syracuse 78
Picking against Syracuse in March makes me very nervous, particularly when the Orange just shocked Florida State by 39 points. SU played its best basketball of the year on Wednesday, but Florida State and Duke aren’t synonymous. Syracuse hasn’t been consistent from game to game, and the Blue Devils are on another level this season. Even Boeheim has made that clear. “We can’t handle Duke, it’s pretty simple,” Boeheim said after the latest contest, which ended in a 25-point loss for SU.
Boeheim’s team has lost both games to Duke by at least 20 points, the first time that’s happened in the history of the Boeheim-Krzyzewski matchup. Krzyzewski, on the other hand, has emphasized that this is one of his best teams in years.
Syracuse looked very impressive behind Swider’s hot shooting and the consistency of Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim scoring the ball. Torrence’s return came at the right time. But SU will be without Buddy against Duke, and I think it’ll hit the end of the road.
Gaurav Shetty (21-11)
Duke 90, Syracuse 74
It’s tempting to pick Syracuse after the Orange just trounced Florida State and I might’ve done so if they were facing a team like Miami, UNC or even Notre Dame, but Duke is a different animal. Both Buddy and Jim Boeheim have admitted that it would take a monumental effort to beat Duke, kind of like the 96 points SU just put up against FSU. Scoring 96 points against a weak Florida State team is different than scoring on this Blue Devils team, but stranger things have happened.
Duke is reeling after a shock loss to North Carolina in Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, so I can’t imagine this unit will do anything less than make the final of the ACC Tournament for their coach. But if the win over FSU taught us anything, it’s that Syracuse will go out swinging in a lost season where the Orange have nothing to lose anymore. Still, Duke’s talent should win out just like it did twice before.
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