Duke Now

Three things Duke must do to beat Syracuse and advance to the Elite 8

How do Duke and Syracuse match up for their NCAA Sweet 16 game?

Find out how the Duke Blue Devils and the Syracuse Orangemen match up as they battle in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Sweet 16.
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Find out how the Duke Blue Devils and the Syracuse Orangemen match up as they battle in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Sweet 16.

Duke and Syracuse will face off in the late night game Friday night in the NCAA's Sweet 16 here.

It is the second meeting this season between the two teams. Duke won the first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium 60-44 on Feb. 24. But both teams are different now, Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley said.

"Last game we both had pretty bad games as teams as a whole, but it should be a great game," Bagley said. "And I'm excited to get out there and compete with my teammates and just try to continue to get wins."

Duke and Syracuse are meeting for the 12th time in program history. Duke leads the series 6-5. At neutral sites, the series is tied 2-2.

The winner of Friday's game will play the winner of the Clemson-Kansas matchup in the Elite 8 on Sunday.

Here are three things Duke needs to do to beat Syracuse:

1. Find open shots for guards

The Duke Blue Devils practiced at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. Thursday, March 22, 2018, before their Sweet 16 game in the Midwest Regional against Syracuse Friday.

Open shots were hard to come by in Duke's first game with Syracuse. Duke shot 2-for-18 from behind the 3-point line. Credit Syracuse, which limits penetration and forces teams into tough shots. Duke freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. said it was difficult to shoot 3's because Syracuse's players were active in the zone.

"That was the first time we played against a real 2-3 zone, where they specify it in their defense, where they are moving, where they are active," Trent said. "It's kind of tough to find your spots in a zone, but I feel like now we've got a better understanding of what we're going to see and we've just been playing and getting better."

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Duke got away with shooting poorly from behind the arc in the first matchup because it played good defense too. But it can't count on it this time around. The Blue Devils are at its best when it is balanced offensively. In the first game, forwards Bagley and freshman Wendell Carter Jr. scored 35 of Duke's 60 points, which is 58 percent of the offensive.

2. Take care of the basketball

Duke senior Grayson Allen and freshmen Wendell Carter, Jr. talk about leadership on the team and the upcoming NCAA regional semifinal matchup with ACC foe Syracuse in Omaha on Friday night, March 23, 2018.

Turnovers have been Duke's Achilles heel this season. Turnovers have limited the number of shots the Blue Devils take, and have given opponents easy chances to score. Since using zone as it primary defense in February, teams have had trouble scoring against Duke.

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Opposing teams have been able to score when Duke turns the ball over, though. Syracuse does not have many scorers. Duke must limit turnovers, and the easy points that come off those turnovers.

That starts with Duke's guards freshman Trevon Duval and senior Grayson Allen, who will be the primary ball handlers, and must take care of the basketball.

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3. Force turnovers, get steals

Duke Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about his team and the NCAA Sweet 16 matchup against ACC foe Syracuse Orange in Omaha Friday night, March 23, 2018.

Again, it's hard to score against Syracuse's zone defense. The Orange rank No. 5 overall in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions).

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Michigan State, which was upset by Syracuse in the Round of 32, shot 26 percent overall from the floor. It couldn't make a basket.

The Spartans only came up with four steals. If Duke can force turnovers and get out into the fast break more often, it can get some easy buckets before Syracuse is able to set up in its zone.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander