Duke-Syracuse Betting Preview: Can Blue Devils Cover Without Zion Williamson?

Duke-Syracuse Betting Preview: Can Blue Devils Cover Without Zion Williamson? article feature image
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Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Duke F RJ Barrett

When Zion Williamson suffered a Grade 1 knee sprain against North Carolina on Wednesday, most media types seemingly earned their doctoral degree to assess whether the 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward should ever play college basketball again.

Meanwhile, us degenerates attempted to figure out how much Williamson’s leave would impact the spread for the No. 1 Blue Devils at Syracuse.

In the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 14, the Orange (+1200 moneyline) won 99-95 in overtime on the road in Durham. Blue Devils freshmen Cam Reddish (sick) and Tre Jones (shoulder) both missed much of that matchup, though.

Jim Boeheim’s crew owns only three quadrant one wins, so a victory would aid Syracuse’s odds of jumping up the bracket ranks come March. The Orange are currently projected to be around an eight-seed on Bracket Matrix.

So where’s the value in this critical ACC contest? Let’s break it down.


>> All odds as of Friday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and win probabilities on your bets.


Duke Blue Devils at Syracuse Orange Betting Odds

  • Spread: Duke -4.5
  • Over/Under: 145
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

The Blue Devils (15-11 against the spread) have lost three consecutive games ATS after covering in four of their previous five affairs before that while the Orange (15-11 ATS) have won four of their past six matchups ATS.

Duke gave us a glimpse of its defense without Williamson in Wednesday’s loss to UNC, yielding a 65.5% clip from inside the arc. Even with Williamson in the lineup, the Blue Devils are allowing the 10th-highest 2-point scoring rate in the country (56.9%).

But Syracuse has totaled the third-lowest 2-point scoring rate (43.2%) in league play despite boasting the first-ranked average height across Division I. Although its 43.6% 2-point clip in the teams’ first meeting was influenced by Williamson, the Orange rely on their perimeter shooting more than any other ACC program (39.5% scoring rate).

Syracuse delivered on those metrics in Cameron Indoor Stadium, shooting 44.0% from behind the arc while Duke responded in typical fashion with its 20.9% 3-point clip.

I’m expecting the Orange to undergo some negative regression against the Blue Devils’ seventh-rated perimeter defense (29.0%). They’re also letting up the seventh-lowest 3-point scoring rate (25.9%) in Division I.

At the other end, Duke’s effectiveness will come down to attacking the rim via the dribble drive and on the offensive glass. Mike Krzyzewski’s unit owns the highest 2-point scoring rate (54.5%) amid its conference slate, and much of that is sparked in transition, as its tallied the third-highest opponents turnover rate (19.8%).

Boeheim’s squad has produced the sixth-highest turnover percentage (19.3%) in league play. Guided by Jones and Reddish’s tenacious on-ball defense, look for the Duke to still rack up its fair share of fastbreak opportunities without its freshman leader.

If you’re interested in the total, the under is 4-3 in Syracuse’s seven ACC home games and 4-1-1 in the Blue Devils’ six conference road matchups. Even though Krzyzewski always aims to push the tempo, his offense will need some time to adjust without its most vital asset.

Unless Duke comes out firing from behind the arc — like it managed at Virginia (61.9%) — the first-half under could be an intriguing play.

Per our Bet Labs data, the Blue Devils are 3-2 (60.0%) as a road favorite in conference play this season. I’m leaning toward them in a revenge spot.

LEAN: Duke -4.5