It's Syracuse v. Duke 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO!
When we last saw the Blue Devils three weeks ago, the two teams played an instant classic -- a 91-89 home win in favor of your Orange. But things have changed since then. Both Duke and Syracuse are coming off losses this week and whichever team drops this game will certainly be reeling as the regular season wraps up. But enough of that. What can we expect from these two teams this Saturday? How do Devils' fans like us as a budding potential rival (lowercase 'r' for now)? And who's going to win this game?
So, have you guys enjoyed having Syracuse in the ACC this season?
We've had a lot of fun. I'd say so, other than looking up the standings. But that changed a bit with BC anyway. Seriously though, it's a great addition and Louisville will be too. That's two more teams which have long-term identity and success in basketball. The ACC will benefit and the schools will individually as well. I know the ACC is trying to pimp football, but I prefer the basketball side, so it's great.
Has the ACC underperformed this season, or is this par for the course?
Tricky question. In some ways it's been an off few years. I think for a lot of people the Duke-UNC dominance got old. My theory is that the problem has been bad coaching - I had this argument with Mike DeCourcy on Twitter. He blames recruiting, but that's a byproduct of coaching. Gary Williams succeeded despite not really getting top-flight talent and so did Terry Holland back in the day. With Virginia, State and Clemson all having good new coaches, those programs will rise. Wake, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech probably need some changes. BC? I'd say give him the benefit of the doubt. He's had success and his teams can still gobsmack, as we've just seen. Coaching is the number one requirement for excellence.
We know Duke has one RIVAL. But can SU/Duke ever become a secondary Rival to the Heels?
At this point, I think we all accept Syracuse as a worthy rival. The game in Cameron should be fun. I'm not sure your guys have been in that sort of environment very often. I measure a home game by how far from the gym you can hear noise. If you can hear the gym from the parking lots, the intensity level is (sort of literally) through the roof. I was impressed by the desire at Syracuse to see Duke as a rival. But it's not like Maryland, where it's full of disturbing behavior and violence. I like the way things went up there, other than the score. It bodes well for the future.
Briefly describe your main takeaway from the first Orange/Blue Devils matchup.
I thought Duke should've won and would have if a) fouls hadn't become a problem, and b) Tyler Ennis wasn't so freaky good in winning time. He's like the Colt .45 of college basketball, the Gun That Won The Rest. He's unbelievably good. I think Syracuse, while really good, is absolutely beatable. The zone gets a lot of praise, but it's not mind-boggling. It's a zone. And Krzyzewski knows it intimately after working with Boeheim and the Olympic team. No secrets. Ennis has just been the difference maker. He's a brilliant point guard.
What's the competitive advantage for Duke playing at Cameron Indoor?
Cameron is a really different place from the Carrier Dome. It's tiny by comparison. But it's loud, the students are right on top of you, and in big games, the atmosphere is incredible. It's like an invisible hand just pushes the team on. At times, too, other teams just wilt. I'm not saying Syracuse will, understand, but we've seen it happen that the wall of energy, it's like a tsunami. There's no stopping it. It's an incredible environment. Are you coming?
What should visiting Syracuse fans check out in Durham on Saturday?
Duke Gardens if you want a relaxing afternoon. It's gorgeous, even this early. The Bennett Place, where the Civil War ended is good history. Ninth Street has sort of emerged as the counterculture capital of Durham. Brightleaf Square is nearby and there are other shops there too. Brightleaf Square is in some rehabbed old tobacco warehouses that are just gorgeous. American Tobacco Campus is similar. Durham has reconnected with some older parts of itself in a really nice way. It's too early for baseball, but the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a mini Camden. Designed by the same folks actually. And campus itself is a nice place to hang out. It's quiet, leafy and the architecture is wonderful. Go to the Bryant Center for souvenirs.
Who's the Orange player you're most concerned about this weekend?
Which Duke player does SU have to shut down to beat the Blue Devils?
Jabari Parker first, but a lot of guys can step up and Duke is most dangerous after a loss.
Who's your pick to win the ACC regular season and tournament titles this year?
Tough call still. Syracuse and Virginia should be 1-2, but what you guys may not fully appreciate yet is just how tough the ACC is. You can lose in Blacksburg, Tallahassee, Clemson, Charlottesville, Winston-Salem - anybody can get you, as you found out this week. The road is a perilous place. I wouldn't begin to guess. Too many variables. Virginia has an edge in that they know the road venues where you guys don't. You'll note that UVa gave Duke fits at the end of the game in Cameron. That's regular season. Tournament? It's hard to pick against Duke. Coach K has a knack for the post-season.
What's your prediction for Saturday's game?
Wow...if Duke's schedule hadn't been compacted I'd say no question Duke wins. People just don't get Cameron until you've been there. It's an amazing experience for a game like this. Pitt models itself on Cameron, but they're clearing aping what they see on TV. The signs didn't even make sense. I'd say it'll be brutally tight and Duke wins by a few. The worst time to play Duke is just after a loss. Also, I would love to see an analysis in games like this of how well Duke rebounds in the last 3-4 minutes. I'm also very curious to see how Ennis performs. That kid is something else. Incidentally, the analytics cameras are overhead and operational. Your guys will be studied to death.
Thanks to Julian for taking the time to answer these questions! And be sure to check out Duke Basketball Report!