The # 11 seeded Syracuse Orangeman will take on the 2nd seeded Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet Sixteen matchup for the Mid-West region on Friday night. These teams have taken different paths to get here as Syracuse defeated 2 higher ranked opponents while Duke coasted to easy wins against inferior teams. The Orangemen first defeated the 6th seeded TCU Horn Frogs and followed that up with a very impressive 55-53 victory over the Michigan State Spartans. They are now the only at-large team left in the field. Duke coasted to a 22-point victory over Iona in the first round and did the same last weekend with a 25-point win over the University of Rhode Island.

Syracuse’s defense shined in the win over Michigan State. They had 5 steals and 6 blocks while forcing 14 turnovers. They limited the Spartans to just 25 percent shooting, including just 8 of 37 from behind the arc. The 37 attempts were a Michigan State school record and the Orangeman’s plan of making them settle for three pointers paid off. Offensively, they failed to score 60 points for the 3rd straight game and only had 3 assists. Three different players scored in double figures including Tyus Battle who led with 17. Free throws played a big part in this game as the Orangeman made 24 of their 31 free throws while the Spartans made just 11 of their 16 attempts. If there was a negative for Syracuse in this game it is they were outrebounded 51 to 30.

Duke’s entire starting five scored in double digits last weekend against Rhode Island. Marvin Bagley III led the team with 22 points and 9 rebounds. He was very efficient making 8 of his 10 shot attempts and has now scored 44 points in the first 2 games. The team shot well making 57 percent of their shots including 10 of 21 from three-point range and had 20 assists. Freshman guard Wendall Carter Jr. shined in just 19 minutes of playing time as he hit all 6 of his shots and grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out 3 assists. If there was a negative for Duke’s offense it is that they lost the turnover battle for the second game in a row 14 to 13. Defensively, they had 5 steals with 1 block but the Rams shot 40 percent from the field including 7 for 19 from three point range. The Blue Devils won the rebounding battle 36 to 29.

Duke is favored by 11 points in this game and have won their first two games by an average of 23 points. Syracuse has played 3 games in this tournament needing to win the play in game and all 3 wins have been by a combined 11 points. The 11-point spread for this game is more than double the spread for all the other games of the Sweet Sixteen. Both teams have won 4 of their last 5 games but Syracuse has faced superior opponents.

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