Fans of the Duke Blue Devil’s men’s basketball team were able to rejoice on Monday night when their favorite team finally did something that they had not done all season; win a tough game on the road. Before beating the 17th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers on Monday night the only other true road win for this year’s Blue Devils came against a very young and inexperienced Miami Hurricanes on January 22nd.
Combined these two victories should give Duke fans hope that they can pull off the upset in arguably the most anticipated college basketball game this season when they play the Syracuse Orange this Saturday.
The youth and inexperience of the Hurricanes made the significance of that win very minimal. However, the fact that the Hurricanes rely on the same 2-3 zone that Syracuse is so well known for perfecting makes the win a little bit more meaningful. There is definitely a difference between how effective the zones of the two different schools are but the fact remains Duke absolutely lit up Miami’s zone for a 21 points victory.
As good as the Blue Devils looked on Monday night in order to upset the 2nd ranked Syracuse Orange they are going to have to be on top of their game once again. Syracuse has looked very impressive so far this season winning all twenty of their first twenty games but they are far from unstoppable.
In order for Duke to pull off the win on Saturday there are three major factors that they can control that need to go in their favor. The first of these factors is for Jabari Parker to only take open three pointers.
One of the major criticisms of Jabari Parker to this point has been his tendency to force a long ranged jumper even when he is completely covered by a defender. We all know that Jabari has the ability to make these shots but the fact of the matter is that they are not high percentage attempts. Jabari is clearly the most threatening to opposing defensives when he is being aggressive and attacking the basket.
Another major factor will be Duke’s ability to crash the offensive glass against the smothering 2-3 zone of the Orange. One of the weaknesses of playing a zone is that it makes it very difficult for the defensive players to locate and then box out the offensive players. Despite their overall lack of size the Blue Devils have their fair share of players that are more than capable of exposing the holes in this zone.
Sophomore forward Amile Jefferson in particular has shown the innate ability to snag offensive rebounds for easy put backs. Jefferson had six offensive rebounds on Monday night alone. If Jefferson can have the same success against Syracuse on Saturday it will go a long way towards Duke pulling off the upset.
The most obvious and important factor in Saturdays matchup is whether or not Duke will be able to consistently make shots from behind the three point line. It is a well-known fact amongst basketball minds that the best way to defeat a good zone is to shoot over it.
Duke is definitely a team that has the ability to shoot over the zone. As a team they are shooting a combined 41.4% from behind the three point arc on the season. Depending on the lineup Duke could potentially have 4 different players on the floor with the ability to make a three pointer making Jim Boeheim’s patented zone look a little vulnerable.
If these three factors go in the Blue Devil’s favor there is absolutely no reason that Syracuse will not suffer there first defeat of the season on Saturday night.