Zone D, freshmen crucial in Duke-Syracuse

Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Ennis' late-game play has helped Syracuse to an undefeated record.On Saturday (6:30 PM ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), the second-ranked Syracuse Orange, off to a 20-0 start, host the 17th-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the first ACC meeting between the schools, and just their fifth meeting all-time.

Syracuse’s 20-0 start matches the 2011-12 team for the best in school history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Syracuse is the first school to start 20-0 twice in a three-season span since the North Carolina Tar Heels did it in 1983-84 and 1985-86.

Duke, on the other hand, has won five straight games following a 1-2 start in ACC play.

What will be the keys for victory?

Duke vs Syracuse’s zone defense

Planning to take on Syracuse always involves trying to find a way to break Jim Boeheim’s zone defense.

The Orange have forced a turnover on 19% of defensive possessions in its zone defense this season. That’s the second-highest turnover percentage this season (minimum 500 plays), trailing only Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

Syracuse also has the only two players in the ACC averaging more than two steals per game: Tyler Ennis (2.5) and Trevor Cooney (2.2). Ennis is tied for 13th in all of Division I in that category.

Duke has had some success against zone defenses this season, averaging 0.98 points per play against zones, the third-best in the ACC.

Duke is fifth in Division I in 3-point field goal percentage this season (41.4%), but that number drops to 36 percent against zone defenses.

Battle of the freshmen

Both teams feature headline freshmen, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Ennis.

Parker, one of seven Division I players averaging at least 18 points and eight rebounds per game this season, could have a big game facing a zone defense. He’s shooting 50.7 percent against zone defenses this season, the best in the ACC among players with at least 60 plays, and above his overall season average.

He is also on pace to do something no Duke freshman has ever done, lead the team in both scoring and rebounding. Austin Rivers (2011-12) and Johnny Dawkins (1982-83) are the only freshmen to lead the Blue Devils in scoring.

Tyler Ennis
Offense This Season

Ennis is not just one of the top freshmen in the country, but one of the top point guards period. His 3.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is fourth-best in the nation.

If it comes down to crunch-time, expect to see Ennis step up. In the last five minutes of games this season, he has 14 assists and no turnovers.

Dawkins magic number

Highest Eff FG pct on Jump Shots
Minimum 90 FGA This Season

The mark to hit for Duke’s Andre Dawkins is 10 points. This season, the Blue Devils are 10-0 when he scores in double figures, and 39-2 in his career.

He’s proven most effective on jump shots, with a 69.5 effective (or adjusted) field goal percentage on jump shots this season, third-best in Division I (minimum 90 attempts).