You either love Duke or you hate them and the Blue Devils continue their quest for another NCAA Championship as they face the Syracuse Orange in the Carrier Dome.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 pm ET tonight at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. NCAA basketball odds lists Duke as a 7 point betting favorite on the road and the total for the game is 147.5
Playing Duke out of their cocoon of Cameron Indoor Stadium would give an opponent the best opportunity to defeat the Blue Devils and a win here would be huge for the Orange. Are they up for the task is the question?
Battle of the Bigs
If you look at their statistics, Rakeem Christmas and Jahlil Okafor's numbers are almost identical. Both players are averaging 18 points per game and Christmas is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game as opposed to Okafor's 9.1 rebounds per game. That said, Okafor has had less playing time due to blowouts and these two players are on completely different levels.
While Christmas had never averaged more than 5.8 points per game in his first 3 seasons, Jahlil Okafor will be the number 1 player taken in this year's upcoming draft.
NBA coaches and presidents of NBA teams such as Phil Jackson have come to see Okafor play, hoping for a chance at a lottery pick as he has the potential to be a franchise player in the NBA for the next 15 years.
Okafor has fit perfectly in Coach K's team oriented offense as team always comes first in Duke. If you had asked me about Christmas the past few years, I would've said that he's only playing college ball due to his size. In his senior season, Christmas has carved out a spot for himself in Orange history and a game like this may do a lot for his stock in possibly hooking up with an NBA team. This game is as big for Rakeem Christmas as it is for his entire team, who are looking for a post-season berth. The question is, "Can Christmas deal with the talent of Okafor?" The only way to do so is by using his experience. I'm not so sure he is capable of doing so, but I'm leaning towards Christmas having a respectable outing.
Duke Equals Teamwork
Coach Krzyzewski has already made it clear that nobody is bigger than the team when he booted Rasheed Suliamon from the squad. This is the first time that Coach K has ever kicked a player off of the team in his coaching career, never mind a veteran player. One player that has flourished under Krzyzewski's beliefs has been senior guard Quinn Cook.
Cook knows that there are "one and done" super talents on this team such as Okafor and Tyus Jones and he's adjusted to their style of play and has been quite successful at it.
Cook is coming off of a monster 26 points game in a 73-70 victory over Florida State in which he shot 4 for 9 from 3 point range. Quinn played the entire 40 minutes and in most games, he plays more minutes than anyone because Krzyzewski knows the value of a player such as Cook with the experience that he carries. Expect Cook to be effective against Syracuse.
Tyus Jones is another one of Duke's talented freshman and he will be coming into this game with major momentum. Jones is coming off of a 16 point, 12 assist, and 6 rebound performance in the win over Florida State. You can bet that Jones will be setting up Okafor on a regular basis.
This home game is very important to Syracuse, I suggest adding them to your NCAA Basketball picks as I expect the Orange to be competitive enough to stay within the bloated point spread,
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +7 at 5Dimes