Last we saw the Duke Blue Devils, Jim Boeheim was busy losing his goddamn mind on the Cameron Indoor floor, with the jacket toss heard 'round the world. Sure, this game may not mean much in comparison to that one -- Syracuse will not be going to the postseason, and are not at all as good as they were last year -- but it IS Duke. They are the Orange's most interesting regular opponent right now, and because of that, we should be excited for Saturday.
Below, Julian King (who you should follow on Twitter) of the excellent Duke Basketball Report, stops by to chat all about Blue Devils basketball. Join us below, and swing over there too if you'd like to see our answers.
Other college basketball fans seem to be pretty ticked off about this late postseason ban we just self-imposed. How about Duke's supporters? Obviously Duke is a great team this season, but they've still managed to slip here and there. When the Blue Devils have lost, what's the biggest reason you can point to?
Duke's losses go in two buckets. The State and Miami losses were a young team being overconfident. The Notre Dame loss was a close game where the Irish just shot very well and hit what they needed to at the end. Obviously the second game was very different.
So early on, overconfidence and Justise Winslow being subpar and in the other game, Notre Dame just played better.
Duke can certainly be beat, but you have to have a lot of answers to do it. As far as the ban goes, until the NCAA report is released it's kind of hard to know. I was surprised by the ACC Tournament pass. No one has done that lately.
Jahlil Okafor's defense isn't necessarily his forte. Does that concern you for this matchup, and on a bigger scale, the postseason?
No, not terribly. First, he's not an awful defender. He's just not great. His offensive skills are so advanced that he almost always wins his matchup. It could be a problem in a particular situation, but overall, the tradeoff is in Duke's favor.
Does Duke feel like they need "revenge"at the Dome after last year's 91-89 OT loss to the Orange, or did the rematch down in Durham cover that last season?
One of Coach K's tenets is that if you look for revenge you are focused on failure. Last year's games were amazing. This is a different year. We'll have to see how things go. I feel better not seeing Tyler Ennis. That guy was tremendous.
It seems Amile Jefferson gets passed over for some sexier names on your roster, but to me, his success appears linked to Duke's -- support on the boards and another potential presence inside. Do you agree?
Yeah, and not just that. Jefferson is a really good leader and an on-court communicator. He benefits a lot from the attention Okafor gets too, but he's a sneaky rebounder and has a knack for scoring inside. He's a very smart player.
Which Syracuse player (other than Rakeem Christmas) concerns you the most -- specifically on the offensive end of the floor for the Orange?
Cooney's always a worry, but I think people caught on to him last season. Gbinije is having a big season and he's so versatile. I wish he had stayed. He would have been good at Duke too. But he made the right decision for himself.
Okay, who wins this one on Saturday? Does Duke win as expected, or can SU pull an upset?
Putting me on the spot... well let me wear two hats. As a fan, I generally see Duke winning. As an objective basketball person, if I were wagering here, I see Syracuse's depth, the injuries, the absence of Ennis, Fair and Grant from last year, and I have to think Duke has most of the advantages.
Duke also has a significant benefit with Boeheim being the Olympic zone specialist. He knows as much about Boeheim's 2-3 as anyone because Boeheim has explained it in detail. Of course understanding it and defeating it are two different things.
Quinn Cook has had a tremendous season for Krzyzewski and Duke, and has turned out to be a much better senior leader than anyone expected. He and Tyus Jones have developed a really nice chemistry in the backcourt. The big difference for Duke lately has been that Justise Winslow, who was out of it for a few games, is really back. He's highly athletic, he's rugged and he changes things for Duke in a big way. I'm not a gambler, but if I did bet on this game, I'd look for Duke by 5-8 I guess. Given the quick development of the rivalry, though, and that Christmas is probably the toughest defender Okafor has faced so far, and things could go the other way.