the Syracuse Orange The men's basketball team (20-12, 10-8) will look to stay a little longer in Charlotte by beating the Duke Blue Devils (26-5, 14-4) for the second time this season tonight in the quarter-finals of ACC Tournament. This will obviously not be easy, especially since it is a team of Duke basically healthy, which the Orange did not face this year. Nevertheless, there could be opportunities for Jim Boeheim's team.
In fact, if Syracuse takes advantage of certain situations, it could well be for the first time in the semi-final of the ACC tournament.
Here are some keys of the game tonight:
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With Tyus Battle probably again, will Syracuse react?
We learned late Wednesday Tyus Battle was a game decision against Pittsburgh. And when the team hit the court for warm-ups, the junior star was sweating and was officially declared inactive. The battle would have hurt his tailbone late in the Orange defeat at Clemson last Saturday. At that point, Battle bounced off the ground and stayed on deck for a while before heading carefully towards the bench.
Although it looked like a painful injury for Battle, it was a surprise when Battle missed his first game in his Syracuse career. To go further in the numbers, Battle has played 95% of the Syracuse match over the past two seasons. It's been more minutes than anyone in the nation. With this distraction and without their most talented player being held out, Battle's teammates responded in the second half by overtaking Pittsburgh. Something that should not be overlooked.
Counterpoint: the duke is not Pitt.
In his post-game press release, Jim Boeheim said that Battle would probably be healthy enough to play in a few days. Can Syracuse score enough to stay close to the Blue Devils? Will Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes behave the way they did on Tuesday? How about Frank Howard. The senior has played well against the Panthers, but can he lead the show against Duke, a favorite? I'm not sure what the answers are, but it's hard to imagine that the Orange overcomes Duke without an effective match. Tyus Battle play his usual amount of minutes.
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Without battle Wednesday, Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim went against the Panthers. Actually, Hughes and Boeheim were rather quiet in the first half last night, while the Orange allied in break, 36-30. But in the second half, it was a different story, it was the Buddy and Hughes Show.
Buddy earned 20 points, the highest of his career, scoring 3 of his 7 3-point attempts. And most importantly, the first-year player sometimes threatened the playmaker against Pittsburgh, in addition to carrying the ball to the rim. He was not waiting for the ball to come to him, Buddy took control, unlike what he did all season. The rookie looked more like a member of the upper class, a considerable advantage for Syracuse.
Hughes, meanwhile, hit 5 of his 9 ball attempts in depth before getting 18 crucial points. It was an important performance because Hughes fought Clemson on Saturday afternoon. As in 0 for 2 on the pitch for zero point against the Tigers. This was quickly reversed against the Panthers when Hughes attacked actively in an attempt to create points on the rim. The second half, however, a bit like Buddy Boeheim, is where Hughes did his damage. Hughes scored deep goals and helped the Orange Cruise win a relatively easy victory.
And if Hughes and Buddy Boeheim are engaged and create scoring opportunities for Syracuse, this team becomes much harder to stop. Throughout the year, Battle has repeatedly needed someone, someone, and anyone else, to ease his burden. Maybe both shooters are ready to take on this role in a more permanent situation. Which gives SU a better chance to upset Duke if Battle is ready for … the fight.
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Oh snap, Paschal chukwu!
Syracuse defeated the Panthers 36-34, the first time in three games this season. The small victory on the boards is due in large part to the game of Paschal chukwu. The seven-foot-two got nine boards for the Orange, plus seven points and six shots on goal. Very early against the Panthers, Chukwu was called for an offensive foul when he drove to the rim and slammed the ball home. The dunk did not count, but the statement was made. ChukwuEnergy and trust have clearly created chaos for Pitt.
What is interesting is that Chukwu doubled 10 points and 18 rebounds in Syracuse's victory against Duke in January. Oh by the way, this staggering performance was against Zion Williamson. In February, Chukwu was less successful in scoring eight points and collecting six panels. But as was the case against the Panthers, when Chukwu quickly sets the tone, he can almost on his own change the course of a game.
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How effective will the Syracuse zone be against Duke?
Despite the talent available to Mike Krzyzewski, he does not really have a deep threat this season. As a team, Duke draws just under 31% of the 3-point line of the season. Sophomore Alex O'Connell proved to be the most effective, recording 38% of the vote – hitting 5 of the 8 players out of the arc in the Dome last month.
However, in the first encounter between the two men in Durham, North Carolina, the Blue Devils missed 34 of their 43 collective 3-point attempts against the Orange. O'Connell finally found success against Sweden last month, but otherwise Duke struggled again from a distance.
Can Orange force the Blue Devils to rely on shooting instead of hitting with RJ Barrett or overthrowing him on Zion Williamson? If the Syracuse area plays as it did against Pittsburgh, especially in the second half, then this match could be interesting.
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Will it be a road game for Syracuse?
On Wednesday it was unclear which team, Pittsburgh or Syracuse, had the advantage of being at home. This question was asked once the Orange made a mini-run just before half-time. Although the ACC tournament is taking place in Charlotte, it is not surprising to see a healthy contingent of Syracuse supporters cheering on the team in the arena.
Remaining to face Duke in the League tournament in North Carolina (Charlotte) is quite the task. Now, there will be fans of the North Carolina Tar Heels (who are playing against Louisville in the previous game) and other ACC teams will also be part of the Spectrum Center and will attack the Blue Devils at all costs. But the second Duke starts early in the race or makes some big shots. The fans will clearly indicate that Syracuse is no longer in the Dome.
Of course, it does not matter much when the Orange shot down the Devils in Durham in January. Yet this time, we're talking about a focused, motivated and healthy duke team that aims for an ACC tournament title and an NCAA championship. And his fans have the same expectations. This one could very well feel like a road game for the Orange outsider.