Teams: Syracuse Orange (11-5, 2-1) vs. Duke Blue Devils (14-1, 3-0)
Day & Time: Monday, January 14 at 7 p.m. EST
Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.
Line: UPDATE: Syracuse opened as a 17-point dog. ESPN’s BPI gives Duke a 92.2 percent chance of beating Syracuse.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 971 (Syracuse) | 84 (Duke)
Duke blog: Duke Basketball Report
Rivalry: 7-5, Duke
Current Streak: 2, Blue Devils
First Meeting: Syracuse lost out on its first Final Four trip back in 1966, when it fell to Duke in the Elite Eight (IN RALEIGH?!), 91-86. Rick Dean led SU in scoring with 16 points, but some guy named Jim Boeheim was second with 15 of his own. What happened to that guy? Anyway, the Blue Devils pulled away late in a back-and-forth game behind strong efforts from Jack Marin (22 points), Bob Verga (21) and Steve Vacendak (19). If Twitter had existed back then, Orange fans would’ve shouted about home-cooking for weeks. Which, let’s be honest, playing an Elite Game in Raleigh is pretty bogus, even for 1960s’ era hoops.
Last Meeting: The two ACC foes met up in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season. And in that do-or-die meeting, it was freshman Marvin Bagley III who scored 22 points, playing a big role in the Blue Devils get past the Orange, 69-65.
The game was so intense that neither team ever held a double-digit lead. In fact, the outcome was still in doubt until Gary Trent Jr. sank two dagger free throws with just six seconds left to play.
Bagley, however, was a big difference in the second half, scoring 13 points and grabbing all of his eight boards in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1,035-375); Duke: Mike Krzyzewski (39th year, 1040–280—1,113–339 overall)
Coach Bio: Coach K played at Army, then was active duty until 1974, when he rejoined Bobby Knight (his former coach) at Indiana. He stayed there for just a season before going back to his alma mater and coaching them for five okay seasons. That was enough to earn the Duke gig in 1980, and by year four he had them in the NCAA Tournament. Since then, he’s won five national titles, made 12 Final Fours and won 14 ACC Tournament titles. He’s also won three Olympic gold medals and in the process, earned the additional benefit of Boeheim’s zone defense.
Last Year: I hope you’re sitting down, because it might be hard to believe that Duke came into the season with high expectations. I know, crazy, right? Well, the Blue Devils were a preseason top-five and somehow grinded their way to a 29-8 overall record.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s group, a fun-loving, feel-good bunch, finished second in the regular-season standings of the ACC and ended up losing to North Carolina in the conference tourney. From there, Duke wound its way through the Midwest Region of the NCAA tourney, even taking out Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
The season came to a wrap when the Blue Devils lost to Kansas, 85-81, in overtime of the regional finals.
While it’s kind of hard to believe that Duke didn’t make the Final Four, it’s also kind of hard to comprehend the fact that the Blue Devils lost so much from last year and are on pace for another amazing season this year.
Think about this: Gary Trent, Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr. and Grayson Allen all left the program following last season. And despite that, Coach K rebounded with a rebuild full of top-tier recruits.
Last Game: A main reason for Duke’s ability to build off of 2018 despite losing so many key players is because, somehow, someway, the Blue Devils were able to piece together the top recruiting class. It’s a true underdog story, people.
In case you haven’t heard, freshman Zion Williamson leads the way, but the frosh hurt his eye in the first half at Florida State Saturday and ended up missing the final 20 minutes. That meant other amazing newbies like Cam Reddish had to step up against the Seminoles. Reddish made 9 of his 15 shots, including a game-winning three with less than a second remaining, giving Duke an 80-78 road win.
Reddish finished with 23 and fellow freshman RJ Barrett scored 32, making 10 of his 19 attempts from the field. Of the rooks not named Williamson, Coach K simply said “they rose” to the moment.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Good Lord, I have to pick one? I mean, prior to the eye issue in Tallahassee, Zion Williamson had a PER average of 43.1, the “highest” since the stat was tracked. The six-foot-seven, 285-pound, big man with a shooter’s touch is averaging 20.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and over 2 assists per game. And he can do this:
But also, Williamson has hit five threes in his last three games, including going three for four from distance at Wake Forest last week.
On top of that basketball freak, Cam Reddish hits at a nearly 36-percent clip from deep as well. The six-foot-eight freshman drilled five of his eight three-point attempts against the ‘Noles. That, of course, counts the game-winner as well.
If Syracuse Wins: (clears throat) Dickie V voice: “Are you serious baby?!”
If Syracuse rebounds from a horrible loss at home against Georgia Tech by beating Duke, then all is forgiven.
Really, if losing to the Yellow Jackets is a NIT death sentence, then beating the Blue Devils, on the road, is the total 180. It’s not just a “quadrant one” win, it’s the win of the season for Syracuse, or any team.
If Syracuse Loses: In a bubble, or in a vacuum, this defeat would be a form of the classic NBA “schedule loss.” No one expects Syracuse to go on the road and beat the number-one team in the country. Furthermore, having to play Saturday evening and then fly to North Carolina for a Monday night game is a tough enough challenge.
But all of that doesn’t really apply anymore. Not after what happened at the Dome this past weekend. A loss is still expected, but Syracuse better plan on playing well against the Devils if it has hopes of ever gaining the NCAA Tournament committee’s attention.
In other words, a victory on the road would be the best-case scenario, but a “moral victory” is the next best option.
Fun Fact No. 1: You know how all we hear about is how Duke recently has become something of a one-and-done factory? Well, only three players in Coach Krzyzewski’s reign have played multiple years and started every game: Jason Williams, Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker. That’s it and that’s all.
Fun Fact No. 2: Blame
Canada St. John’s.
Every single time Duke has won the national title, it has beaten the Red Storm during that particular season.