The Duke Blue Devils weren't great Friday against Syracuse (they hit 5 of 26 from behind the arc), but they did enough to get by the Orange, 69-65, and advance to the Elite 8, where they will face No. 1 seed Kansas Sunday.
Syracuse, the team that so many people thought didn't even belong in the NCAA Tournament, has finally been eliminated after a great run. After three solid games to advance to the Sweet 16, the Orange (23-14) stumbled against Duke.
Here's what Duke (29-7) got right and Syracuse got wrong in the matchup between coaching legends Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim.
1. Syracuse had twice as many turnovers as Duke
Syracuse out shot Duke (49 to 39 percent from the field) and out rebounded the Blue Devils (37-33). So how did they lose? The Orange turned the ball over 16 times, compared to seven turnovers for Duke. You simply can't give a team like the Blue Devils that many extra opportunities with the basketball.
2. Blue Devils' defense created problems for Syracuse
On the flip side, Duke's zone defense (it still sounds weird to hear that phrase) created problems for the Orange. On several occasions, passing lanes that seemed clear quickly closed as a Blue Devil stepped in to intercept a pass. More than the turnovers, the zone also seemed to confuse or alter the shots of Syracuse players. The Orange seemed tentative at times to take easy shots, passing up short/mid-range shots to look for something right under the basket, which sometimes backfired. To be fair, it's not like teams have a lot of film to watch on Duke's zone, which is a relatively new wrinkle for Krzyzewski's teams.
3. Marvin Bagley III is a beast
Stating the obvious here, but Bagley will be a key for the Blue Devils the rest of the way, whether his time at Duke ends Sunday with a loss against Kansas or with another national championship for the Blue Devils. The ACC Player of the Year had his customary big game, with 22 points and eight rebounds. Just the threat of Bagley lurking down low, awaiting a lob or entry pass, opens up the offense for everyone else. The 6-11 freshman, who is expected to declare for the NBA Draft, is still unpolished in some respects, but he is going to be a great one at the next level. He has that kind of raw talent.