Teams: Syracuse Orange (13-7, 6-4) vs. Duke Blue Devils (17-3, 7-2)
Date & Time: Saturday, February 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has only a 22% chance to win against Duke at home.
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 6-9, Duke
Current Streak: 2, Duke
First Meeting: Would it surprise you to learn that the first time these two teams played was before either Jim Boeheim or Mike Krzyzewski were coaches? It occurred way back in 1966, when Boeheim was a senior for the Orange. The Blue Devils won that first matchup 91-81 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Boeheim scored 15 points in the loss.
Last Meeting: Syracuse and Duke met three times last year, with the Orange winning the first in Durham, and the Blue Devils winning at the Dome and in the ACC Tournament. In that last matchup in the ACC Tournament, Duke won 84-72 behind 29 points and 14 rebounds from Zion Williamson. Frank Howard led the Orange with 28 in a game that Tyus Battle didn’t play due to a hip bruise he sustained against Clemson in the regular season finale.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,058-387 at SU) | Duke - Mike Krzyzewski (40th Year, 1,076-288 at Duke)
Coach Bio: We all know who Mike Krzyzewski is: the winningest coach in college basketball history and the only other active coach aside from Jim Boeheim with more than 1,000 career wins. Oh, and he also has a few ACC and NCAA championships thrown in there.
I’m really not going to get into K’s accolades any more than that. With a team full of reloaded 5-star talent year in and year out, it’s no wonder he’s been able to see success. All I’ll say is, imagine if Boeheim had half the talent that coach K has every year. Boeheim does more with less than pretty much any coach in existence. Coach K does about as well as I’d expect with a revolving door of college All-Stars year in and year out (I’m certainly not biased or anything).
Last Year: Quite possibly the single most disappointing season in Duke’s history. With three of the top six picks in the draft, one of the best and most dominant players to ever play college basketball, and one of the best defensive guards in the country, the Blue Devils didn’t even make a Final Four. They were a basket away from not even making a Sweet Sixteen. With that amount of talent, anything short of an NCAA championship was a failure.
Last Game: Duke handled Pittsburgh 79-67 on the back of 26 points from Vernon Carey Jr. Four players scored in double figures for Duke, including Tre Jones who had 14 points and eight assists. The Blue Devils also hit nine three-pointers and out-rebounded Pitt 37-32 in the game.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: The above mentioned Vernon Carey Jr. is absolutely the prime threat for this Duke team. On the year he’s averaging 17.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He is an absolute terror on the interior and has been dominant both in and out of league play.
He poses a major challenge for the Orange, who haven’t faced a big man of this quality since playing against Luka Garza and Iowa back in December. Luka blitzed the Orange for 23 points and 9 rebounds. Think of Vernon Carey as a more athletic, stronger version of Luka with just a tiny bit less polish on his overall game.
He is going to be a wrecking ball on the interior against the Orange, and if Duke is smart, they will get him the ball on every single possession until Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj have fouled out. And yes, I fully expect both to foul out in this game.
If Syracuse Wins: Not quite the unbelievable victory that last year’s game in Durham was, but a massive win nonetheless. Not only would it negate the loss to Clemson, but it would instantly catapault us into the NCAA discussion and put us firmly on the right side of the bubble (for now). There is a clear divide between the top 3 in the ACC and the rest of the field, so getting a win here goes a long way.
If Syracuse Loses: I don’t think anyone will be surprised if the Orange lose. If you had asked me three weeks ago, I would have said it’s a foregone conclusion. Now, SU has a chance, but it is still slim. Duke is a physical team that will most likely dominate the paint on offense and the glass on both sides. If the Orange can stay close we’ll have a shot, but this one could get out of hand if our shooters are off.
Fun Fact 1: Syracuse and Duke have met three times in the NCAA Tournament and once in the ACC tournament, with the Blue Devils winning all four matchups. Outside of tournament games, the Orange are actually 6-5 against the Blue Devils.
Fun Fact 2: Last year was the first time Duke ever lost at home to an unranked team when they were ranked number one. The Orange were the team that beat them, fueled by a monster game from Tyus Battle with 32 points, a three-quarter court three at the first half buzzer by Elijah Hughes, and 18 rebounds from Paschal Chukwu, who went toe-to-toe with Zion Williamson in the second half and OT.