Duke, dead and buried multiple times, has its best NBA prospect Jalen Johnson opt-out of the season with mere weeks left. And here we are after a win over 7th ranked Virginia this past weekend, to cap a three-game winning streak, and we’re all seeing the Undertaker gif in our heads as Coach K heads towards March.
Next up is a Syracuse team in the same exact position, on the outside, looking into the tournament. In fact, over at bracketmatrix.com, Syracuse and Duke are literally back-to-back in the at large column. So which coach, and which talent, do I trust more in a -5 game? Although tough, I think it’s Coach K. Guys like Wendell Moore are blossoming without Johnson’s weight, and for this game in particular, players like Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward are tailor made to beat Syracuse’s famous zone.
Syracuse can live and die by creating easy transition offense off turnovers, or finding a hot shooter like Buddy Boeheim in the last contest against Notre Dame. A lot of that predicated on the opposing team not being prepared for the length or fluidity of a team that ALWAYS plays a zone (weak), but most teams don’t have a skilled 6-10 player that can shoot or operate in the middle (Hurt), or a shooter of Steward’s ilk. If Duke can limit turnovers and be methodical through the zone, Syracuse won’t get easy opportunities and won’t score enough to win or taunt the over.
*Steward has struggled at times as a freshman, and even missed a lot against Virginia, but he’s so pure with that release that a night against the zone should lock him in. If you get a good prop for Steward, somewhere around 9.5, go over.
Why the double dip though? Well, neither of these teams are the 1 or 2 seeds of recent history. If you’re thinking Duke and Syracuse, clear that mental whiteboard, because this ain’t it. These are two teams hoping for a ticket to dance, and they’re both prone to looking inept for long stretches. For that reason,
I think it’ll be an ugly affair that falls short of the 150 o/u. So why not go for the upside, let's take Duke -5 and the under.
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