Keys to victory for Syracuse against Duke

Orange Nation
Dolezaj has been a different player-118809342

DAYTON, OH – MARCH 14: Marek Dolezaj #21 of the Syracuse Orange argues a call with an official during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at UD Arena on March 14, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Marek Dolezaj

The Syracuse University men’s basketball team has surprised some people with three wins in the NCAA Tournament – but on Friday, the No. 11 seed Orange will face an elite caliber team in 2-seed Duke.

Here are NewsChannel 9 Sports Director Steve Infanti’s Keys to Victory for SU when they face the the Blue Devils in Omaha, Neb.:

The Usual:

We all know what this Syracuse team needs to do to be successful and it doesn’t change for this game.

Let’s face it, a lot is going to have to go right in order for SU to win.

As always though, it starts with defense and rebounding.

‘Cuse has taken its defense to another level since the start of the NCAA Tournament.

We’ve talked about this for the last week, but it’s worth repeating.  

Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State all averaged better than 80 points per game this season.

Against the Orange, none of them got to 60.

It’s a good thing the defense was that good against the Spartans, because rebounding was an issue.

Michigan State finished with 29 offensive rebounds in that game.

As good as the Spartans were on the offensive glass, Duke is statistically even better.

The Blue Devils lead the country in offensive rebounding percentage.

They grab 39% of their own misses.

SU doesn’t necessarily need to win the battle of the boards against Duke, but it does need to keep that category closer than it was on Sunday. 

Marek Makes His Mark:

Marek Dolezaj played timidly in the first meeting against Duke last month.

Since then, he’s been a different player.

In the month of March, Dolezaj is averaging better than 10 points per game.

The Blue Devils are expected to play primarily zone against the Orange.

One way to beat the zone, is by attacking the high-post area.

Marek figures to be the guy SU will use at the free throw line.

He needs to look for his shot and continue his aggressive play of late.

As I’ve pointed out before, Syracuse is undefeated this season when Dolezaj hits for double figures (6-0).

If he can be that fourth scoring option against Duke and keep the defense honest, SU has a much better chance of advance to the regional final.

Keep It Close:

We saw last week in Detroit how the pressure can get to a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The longer the game remained close on Sunday, the tighter Michigan State got.

The Spartans missed their final 14 shots from three-point range.

Don’t forget, that was the seventh-best three-point shooting team in the country.

Duke is just 1-6 this season in games decided by five points or less.  By contrast, Syracuse is 3-0 in this tournament alone in games decided by five points or less.

Everybody loves to root for the underdog.

If things remain close, expect the Kansas and Clemson fans in attendance to get behind the Orange.

This SU team has a ton of confidence in crunch time situations.

If Syracuse can remain within striking distance throughout the second half, it might be advantage Orange down the stretch.

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