In what was arguably the greatest game in college basketball this season, Syracuse defeated Duke in overtime on Feb. 1 in front of a record 35,446 fans in the Carrier Dome.
Both teams were coming off double-digit wins and the stakes were sky-high for each. This time around, the stakes are yet again monumental, but for different reasons. Both teams are coming off losses to unranked teams, as Syracuse fell from the ranks of the unbeaten to Boston College and Duke was court-stormed against North Carolina.
A win would not just get each team back on the winning-track, but also put them in higher standing for ACC and NCAA Tournament seeding. Here are two things each team can do to get that edge:
Two Keys to Victory for No. 1 Syracuse:
1. Attack the Basket and Draw Fouls
Both Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson, who carried Duke throughout regulation against Syracuse, were in foul trouble for the majority of the second half and fouled out before overtime began.
Even though Andre Dawkins gave Duke a three-point lead 14 seconds into the extra period, he was then taken advantage of by the taller, more powerful Jerami Grant. With Rodney Hood guarding C.J. Fair on the perimeter, Tyler Ennis dumped the ball down to Grant on three-straight possessions that resulted in three-straight dunks.
If Syracuse can get Duke into early foul trouble, it'll be able to take advantage of mismatches such as the aforementioned.
2. Extend the Top of the 2-3
Boston College went 11-of-22 from beyond the arc en route to the biggest upset of the season so far. Against Duke, the Orange was almost doomed by Duke's barrage of 15 three-pointers.
Even though a flaw of Syracuse's zone defense has allowed teams to catch and turn at the foul line, it'd be better off extending Ennis and Trevor Cooney at the top of the zone. This would allow Parker many opportunities to catch and face in a dangerous position, but Rakeem Christmas and Grant proved they can do a sufficient job of containing the freshman.
Two Keys to Victory for No. 5 Duke
1. Control the Offensive Glass
When Jefferson wasn't in foul trouble, he was bullying Christmas on the glass, securing offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Six of Jefferson's seven rebounds came on the offensive end, which gave Duke second and third chances to score.
Against North Carolina, Jefferson was virtually non-existent. He grabbed two offensive rebounds in 23 minutes while scoring only two points. This allowed James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto to control the boards and the Tar Heels won despite only making two three-pointers.
2. Get Production Out of the Bench
There may not be a team with a shallower bench than Syracuse. On a great night, it goes eight deep, with Baye Moussa Keita, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson playing sparingly. Duke, on the other hand, gets much more production out of its reserves.
Duke's bench outscored Syracuse's 30-4 in their first meeting. It outscored North Carolina's 25-17 on Thursday despite playing three less players off the bench. Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook are all capable of taking over a game at one point, even if they don't start. If Sulaimon and Dawkins can catch fire, as they did at the Carrier Dome, Duke will have a very good chance to win.
The likelihood Duke takes 36 three-pointers again is slim. Even if it does get the occasional open look from the foul line because of the extension of Ennis and Cooney, Syracuse is better off in that scenario than getting killed from deep.
Bottom line, Syracuse can expand to a more multi-dimensional game than it played the first time around easier than Duke can. The Orange's ability to incorporate three-point threats is greater than that of Duke to establish a force on the inside.
Syracuse 71, Duke 65