Syracuse vs. Duke Prediction: Is This Number Too High?

Syracuse vs. Duke prediction and pick. College basketball expert Mike Spector offers his best bet for Saturday's ACC matchup between Syracuse and Duke. Which side should you be on? Find out here.
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Syracuse vs. Duke Prediction: Is This Number Too High?

The Syracuse Orange desperately needs an NCAA tournament resume-building win after struggling to a 9-9 start thus far. Meanwhile, Duke is looking to rebound from their second league loss in their last game and remain among a select group at the top of the conference standings. 

So who has the edge in this matchup of college basketball’s two winningest coaches of all time? 

Here are our picks and predictions for the ACC matchup between Syracuse and Duke.

Click here for Syracuse vs Duke odds

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Syracuse vs. Duke Prediction

Syracuse (9-9, 3-4) has struggled to generate consistency this year, not having any winning streak longer than two through their first 18 games. The good news for the Orange is that head coach Jim Boeheim has said many times this year that this is one of the best, if not the best, shooting team he has ever had. The bad news is that this year’s squad is not playing the same time of menacing zone defense that has been a calling card of Boeheim’s teams throughout his career. At times, Boeheim has been so unhappy with his team’s traditional 2-3 zone that he has resorted to more 1-3-1 looks and morphs his zone throughout the game.

Duke (14-3, 4-2) has lost two of their three games on the road, most recently a 79-78 overtime loss in Tallahassee to Florida State. Duke committed 15 turnovers to Florida State’s five in that game and was outrebounded 42-37. Outside of a loss at Cameron Indoor to Miami, Duke has won their other three home league games by an average of 12.7 points. 

One concern for Duke heading into this game is an injury that star freshman Trevor Keels suffered in their loss to Florida State. Keels is the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.9 PPG and is second in assists but is also arguably their best on-ball defender. Coach Krzyzewski clarified Keels’ injury as not a leg but a calf injury, though the team did not know his status as of this writing. If Keels were to miss this game, it shortens a Blue Devils bench that was not deep to begin with and forces players like Joey Baker and Theo John more into action, neither of whom average more than 16 minutes per game coming into this contest.

Syracuse started changing their zone looks in a 63-60 December 4th victory over Florida State and has had better success defensively ever since. Just one opponent has topped 80 points against them in their last ten games, while four teams scored 80 or more through their first seven, with two even cracking the 100-point barrier.

Though Duke’s offensive metrics are impressive, with a top-20 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, and 2-point shooting percentage, they are not the 3-point marksmen that Coach K has had in the past. Just one of their top three-point shooters (in terms of 3-pointers attempted) is shooting better than 34%, and Syracuse’s zone will limit the damage that players like Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero will have inside. While Banchero has no problems stepping out and shooting from deep, Duke does not have enough perimeter threats to crack the Orange zone consistently.

Syracuse has covered the spread in four of their six games as underdogs this season and is 5-2 ATS in their seven ACC games. Thus, 12 points are too many to give a team that defensively can take advantage of Duke’s offensive weaknesses and who also may be without one of their best players.

Syracuse vs Duke Line Movement

Syracuse vs Duke Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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