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Fri 13/02/2015 - 11:53 EST

Syracuse Can Salvage Season With Upset Of No. 4 Duke On Saturday

When Duke played at Syracuse last year for the first time as co-ACC members, it was one of the best games of the 2013-14 season. Might there be a repeat on Saturday night? Perhaps, but Duke is No. 4 in the country and a national title contender, while Syracuse is unranked and will not play any postseason basketball as it self-imposed a ban for NCAA violations. Duke is a solid favorite at Sportsbook.ag.

To no surprise, there will be a massive crowd on hand at the Carrier Dome, a sellout of 35,446, the  same number of fans that attended last year's game and is considered the biggest on-campus crowd in college basketball history. The game will be played at 6 p.m., broadcast on ESPN and, due to the school's postseason ban, likely constitutes the current team's Super Bowl. It matches coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim, the two winningest active coaches in men's basketball.

The Orange (16-8, 7-4 ACC) might have missed the NCAA Tournament regardless so the school wanted to get ahead of potential NCAA penalties. Also, SU didn't want a postseason ban next year because Boeheim is set to bring in the best recruiting class he ever has. The Orange come off a 70-56 win at Boston College on Wednesday. Michael Gbinje had with 21 points, while Kaleb Joseph and B.J. Johnson combined for 26 for the Orange. The victory clinched the 44th straight winning season for the Orange, the longest active streak in Division I.

Syracuse did it with an off night from senior forward Rakeem Christmas, who entered leading the ACC in scoring at 18.5 points per game. Christmas didn't collect his first basket until late in the first half and finished with seven points and 10 boards. Christmas was been named to the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 list released this week. Christmas leads the Orange and ranks second in the ACC in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game. He also ranks third in the league in rebounding (9.3 rpg.), fourth in field goal percentage (.582) and second in blocked shots (2.38 bpg.). Christmas has reached double figures in scoring in 22 of 24 games this season and has posted eight double-doubles. The 2015 Naismith Trophy winner will be unveiled on Sunday, April 5.

Duke (21-3, 8-3) is the +650 second-favorite at Sportsbook.ag to win the national title. The Blue Devils have won four straight but were nearly upset Monday at Florida State, winning 73-70. Quinn Cook scored a season-high 26 points and Jahlil Okafor was 5 of 5 from the floor in the second half and finished with 13 points against Florida State. Tyus Jones added 16 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. FSU pulled within one at 70-69 as Xavier Rathan-Mayes drove the lane for a layup after dribbling under the basket with 11 seconds to go. But the Seminoles couldn't close the gap any further in the final seconds.

Okafor and Jones are also on the Naismith Midseason Top 30. Jones continues to facilitate for Duke at the point guard position, boasting a 3.18:1 assist-to-turnover ratio through 24 games. The Apple Valley, Minn., native ranks as one of the top freshman in the nation in numerous offensive categories, including assists per game (5.3 - 3rd), assist-to-turnover ratio (3.18:1 - 2nd) and free-throw percentage (.868 - 4th).  At the conference level, Okafor ranks among the top five in numerous categories, including points per game (18.0 - 3rd), field goal percentage (.665 - 1st) and offensive rebounds per game (4.04 - 1st). Okafor’s 66.5 percent from the field also ranks second in the nation this season.

Syracuse won 91-89 in overtime at the Carrier Dome in the first meeting between the teams last year. The return game in Duke was just as exciting, ending soon after Boeheim ripped off his jacket in frustration and was ejected. Top-ranked Syracuse lost 66-60.

Category : News

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