The stage is set. An NCAA on-campus record 35,446 fans are expected at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night as Duke and Syracuse square off. The lights will shine brightly on these two super programs.
I cannot wait to call the game. The atmosphere will be electric. There is a big-time buzz surrounding this matchup. Tickets were sold out in one day and there will be so much passion and emotion in this contest. The Dome will rock and roll.
Syracuse will enter Saturday's game unbeaten thanks to a 67-57 win at Wake Forest on Wednesday. That was huge because the Demon Deacons entered with a 13-game home win streak. Jim Boeheim was concerned going into the game at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, but his squad played tremendous defense and got another W.
Tyler Ennis has developed into one of the premier diaper dandies in America, and he showed why against Wake. His 18 points were vital, since the tandem of C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney was cold, combining to shoot 6-of-23 from the field.
Duke is coming off a big-time win at Pittsburgh on Monday. The Blue Devils were especially impressive in the second half, getting to the winner's circle against a quality Panthers team. Duke put up 80 points and one key was Andre Dawkins. He was on fire over the final eight minutes, making six-of-seven trifectas. Dawkins totaled 20 points in just 15 minutes overall.
Do you think that Syracuse will try to find him with their trademark 2-3 zone defense?
This will be a chess match between two of the top coaches in college basketball. Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim have combined for more than 1,900 wins and they have the ultimate respect for each other. They are very close; Coach K hired Boeheim to be his assistant for USA Basketball in winning the Olympics twice.
These guys know each other well. Do you think Krzyzewski has heard a little about the 2-3 zone when talking to Jimmy B?
It is a whole different ballgame when you get on the floor and the adrenaline is pumping, baby!
Can Duke beat the zone in transition, scoring on the fast break off rebounds? Will they get in the gaps and the seams of the zone? You hear about attacking the interior of the zone by going inside out. That is a tough thing to do against a Syracuse unit of five guys who play together as one, moving as a group.
You know that Duke will be prepared, thanks to having an extra few days off. If they shoot the 3-pointer like they did against Pittsburgh (13-of-25, 52 percent), watch out.
While diaper dandy Ennis is a key for the Orange, the Blue Devils will expect big things from their freshman star, Jabari Parker. He had 21 points and 11 rebounds against the Panthers, and he is ready for the big stage.
Duke has established itself on the defensive end lately, one reason that its last four wins have come by an average margin of 23.3 PPG.
An unsung factor for the Blue Devils is the inside play of Amile Jefferson. He scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made all five of shots from the field against Pittsburgh. If Jefferson and transfer Rodney Hood can perform on the glass, it will be a big plus for Krzyzewski's club. Duke also has an edge in depth, which could play a role in this showdown.
The bottom line of this matchup is Duke's offensive firepower against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Something has to give.
It will be showtime at the Carrier Dome, a special game for college hoop fanatics to enjoy.