Now that the tilt against Wake Forest has come and gone, I feel it’s finally safe to talk in earnest about this Saturday’s game against the Blue Devils from Duke. I’d hate to be accused of looking past the Demon Decons.
So, on to the Dookies and, really, I’d just like like to start with a question.
What the hell?
Ever since Duke took down Pitt by 15 in the Pete, every Orange fan I know has been shitting their pants at the idea of playing the Blue Devils.
“Duke looked pretty good…”
“Who’s afraid about the Duke game…”
With all due respect to my Orange brethren…nut the f*ck up. Are the Orange not undefeated? Have they not been ranked second for two solid months, held back only by the fact that Arizona has refused to lose? Why are we all of a sudden so scared of Duke?
Now, of course, last I knew Mike Krzyzewski was still the head coach down in Durham. They still have a boatload of talented players. Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared of Duke. But I’m certainly not any more scared of them because they rode some stupid hot three-point shooting to a 15 point win. Here’s what I saw watching that Duke/Pitt contest.
One, Duke’s perimeter defense is a sieve. They couldn’t defend their way out of a wet paper bag with scissors in their hands. Pitt was able to get into the lane pretty much at will and I see no reason Syracuse can’t do the same, Tyler Ennis in particular. I mean, look at what he did in the second half against the Deacons. He killed them with penetration. And that finger roll? Damn.
Two, Duke’s interior defense is soft. The Blue Devils average a downright embarrassing three blocks per game, led by Jabari Parker of all people. I’ll give Parker all the credit in the world for being an outstanding all-around player, but I have no fear of him as a rim protector. 1.1 BPG doesn’t deter drives to the rim. So, not only should Syracuse be able to get into the lane, but they should be able to get good shots in the paint with little resistance. Expect Jerami Grant to add a few Dookies to his poster collection.
Three, Andre Dawkins was Robin to Parker’s Batman. Again, credit where it’s due to Dawkins for being a hell of a three point shooter. But you can bet your Orange-painted ass that his performance on Monday caught Jim Boeheim’s attention. Any Syracuse player who lets Dawkins get a clean look is going to have a long night sitting next to the ol’ coach. When it comes to Dawkins, I have faith in two things. First, Syracuse defends the three very well (34.1% by opponents this year). Second, Syracuse is adept at not letting multiple players beat them. They could weather Parker drooping 20+ or Dawkins draining 5, 6, 7 threes and are good enough on defense to make sure both don’t happen.
Which brings me to my last point. Syracuse in 6th in the country in scoring defense at 57.8 PPG. Duke needs to score to win, averaging 82 PPG. Even if they split the difference and the game ends up in high 60’s, Duke is 2-2 this season in games they score under 70. Advantage Orange.
If you ask me, this match up favors the Orange. Playing slow is Syracuse’s style. If this game is in the 50’s, Jim Boeheim is perfectly happy. But, in this case, playing fast might suit the Orange too. For one, as we’ve already discovered, Duke can’t guard worth a damn. If Syracuse is getting quick, easy layups and dunks in the half court, I’ll take them. On the other hand, if Duke tries to push pace and get quick shots, those shots are likely to be threes. Any SU fan will tell you that the whole point of the zone is to get the opponent to take (and miss) a shit ton of threes.
Again, don’t mistake me. By no means am I brushing off the Dookies. They haven’t fallen off a cliff the way UNC has. They still have elite talent. They still have Mike Krzyzewski stalking the sideline. Even in what most would could consider a down year for the Blue Devils, Coach K could very well guide his squad deep into the NCAA tourney. All I’m saying is, don’t get your panties in a bunch just because they had a great shooting night in a tough gym. They’re good, but not unbeatable, and last I checked, Syracuse was the team with a zero in the L column.
What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Leave your comments below.
Chris Daughtrey is the creator and author of Bleeding Orange. He is a contributor at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and at Atlantic Coast Confidential. You can connect with him on Twitter @OrangeBlood 44 or search #OrangeBlood.