After winning gold together as coaches for Team USA in Spain this past summer, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski have returned to their respective schools, making them opponents once again. Two of the games' greatest coaches and programs going head-to-head creates the potential for drama, as last year proved when Syracuse and Duke met for the first two times as ACC opponents. This year each team will feature both faces new and old, but everybody has high expectations for these two historic programs, which will help make this years' battles just as good as we hope.
The team's split their meetings last season. The first was that overtime thriller in the Carrier Dome, which housed the largest on-campus crowd in NCAA history. The second game, this time at Cameron Indoor Stadium, will forever be known as the game where Boeheim went on his jacket-flairing tirade in the final seconds of a Duke victory.
Now, with a little bit of history between these two teams, they will face off twice more this season. Winning either of these games won't be easy for the Orange, because the Blue Devils will be composed of one of the nation's best recruiting classes combined with a handful of returning veterans.
2013-14 Record: 26-9 (13-5)
Conference Rank: 3rd
Historical Notes: In six total meetings, each program has won three times. It will be interesting to see if either can complete the sweep and put some breathing room between them and their opponent this year.
What They're Known For: Winning and a standard of excellence. Coach K runs that program through his West Point routes, demanding a certain standard for his players to live up to. 910 wins and four national titles later, it looks like it has worked. Oh, and they also shoot a lot of threes (316 made threes ranked 5th in the country last year).
Season Summary: Their year started off rough, losing their second game of the season Kansas in Chicago, featuring the debut of Duke's Jabari Parker and the Jayhawks' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, the eventual top three picks in the 2014 NBA draft. They finished non-conference play at 10-2, losing two of their three games against ranked opponents.
After losing two of their first three conference matchups, they won 12 of their final 15 games, earning a double-bye in the conference tournament before falling in the championship game to Virginia. Then, they were bounced in their first game in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament by Mercer, ending their season prematurely.
Quinn Cook: (11.6 PPG/4.4 APG/2.2 RPG) Cook will be the senior leader of this team. A dangerous three-point shooter (37 percent last season), he will be called upon to mentor top recruit Tyus Jones and teach him the ways of the system. Cook will be a leader on both sides of the ball and will be a key component to their success.
Rasheed Sulaimon: (9.9 PPG/2.4 APG/2.4 RPG) Sulaimon, the 6'5" guard, is even more dangerous from beyond the arc then Cook, sinking 41 percent of his shots from outside last season. Another veteran presence, look for him to also be a leader on this team.
Jahlil Okafor: The incoming freshman and top recruit in the country will be the most talented player on this team. A 6'11" center, Okafor can score in a multitude of ways, whether it be with his back to the basket or off the dribble. This guy is going to be a force that not too many teams in the nation will be able to slow down.
Personnel Changes: While there are a handful of returning players for the Blue Devils, they also lost a good amount and will be bringing in one of the nation's top recruiting classes.
The losses of Parker (19.1 PPG/8.7 RPG) and Rodney Hood (16.1 PPG/3.9 RPG/2.1 APG) to the NBA will leave the team without their two best players from last season. Graduates Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton will be missed as well, especially because those two and Hood were their three most efficient three-point marksmen.
Losing that kind of talent is something Krzyzewski prepares for year in and year out, so he has four talented players coming into the replace the ones he lost. Along with the number one recruit in the nation in Okafor, the Blue Devils signed the top point guard in Tyus Jones, along with top 25 recruits forward Justise Winslow and guard Grayson Allen. All four have the chance to become immediate impacts for this team. Two guards are brought in for the two they lost, one forward to at least ease the pain of their two key losses there, and obviously the dominant big man they didn't even have last year. This team could have gotten better.
2013-14 Potential: Coach K did an awesome job preparing for the future. Two guards are brought in for the two they lost, one forward to at least ease the pain of their two key losses there, and obviously the dominant big man they didn't even have last year. This team could have gotten better, at least talent wise. Experience is a little less, but with their coach, experience can be taught fairly quickly.
Orange Match-Up: Luckily for the Orange, they have some depth and replacement for the guys they lost as well. Kaleb Joseph stepping in at point guard this season will prove to be a huge player if the Orange want to win either game against the Blue Devils. Against a team with a lot of guards who can knock down shots all over the place, Joseph will have his work cut out for himself on the defensive end. He will also have to run the Orange offense, which will not be easy with a combination of good defenders that could guard him. His efficiency on offense and his hard work on defense will make a huge difference in this match-up.
The center position will also be interesting, as the senior big man Rakeem Christmas will have to take on the talented Okafor. Christmas has not proven to give much offense no matter who the opponent is, so he might have to look to neutralize Okafor by playing good defense. Big men had their way against the Orange last year, disrupting the zone by getting in the middle and not only scoring, but passing as well. Christmas will have to work very hard to tame the monster, but if Boeheim were to need anybody to get it done, he'd trust him to do it.
What we have learned from both teams after their battle last year is that we will see a very well played game that will be hard to predict. This year will feature a mixture of youth, experience and passion to get a leg up on a formidable conference opponent.