While the Syracuse Orange did not put on their best show in a 77-55 loss to the Duke Blue Devils, it was a special day for the NunesMagician basketball crew. All three of our reporters were in the Dome for this one, with James sitting down on the floor while Dom and I watched from the upper deck of the student section.
Christian tackled the traditional three takeaways after the game, but I figured we could do something different and each offer our perspective on the Syracuse vs. Duke spectacle as a whole.
Here’s what we came up with:
Dom: Catastrophe on the court, captivating in the stands
Let’s be honest: there’s a case to be made this year’s matchup versus Duke was the worst performance by the Orange against the Blue Devils in the last decade (which I will feasibly argue in a day or two once I recover from Saturday’s nuclear meltdown). With that said, everything off-the-court made up for Syracuse’s disaster on it.
For starters, Syracuse University’s Otto’s Army deserves a huge shoutout for the student turnout on Saturday. Getting over 8,000 of the roughly 15,000 undergraduate students to attend in-person is impressive nonetheless, especially in a contest which saw the Orange secure the largest number of fans in attendance (31,063) in a college basketball game all season. It felt like a game-day atmosphere where the crowd at least provided the perception in mind that ‘Cuse had a chance to win, even if (as Mike will discuss) both programs aren’t at the peak of their former powers.
Standing ovations for Damar Hamlin and ESPN announcer Dick Vitale were each touching moments given each of their stories up to this point. Again, there was a legit game-day atmosphere, which comes as a shock given initial concerns with attendance and a last-minute price drop to boost turnout. At least for me, that and some early-game hope at a win is what I was looking for.
With all that said...
Mike: Duke has become a PR stunt
There, I said it. I’m not one to claim this was never a rivalry, because the first few years of Jim Boeheim vs. Coach K featured some truly fantastic basketball. But after John Gillon drained that oft-referenced buzzer beater in 2017, the luster behind this yearly presentation began to fade. Over time, it became clearer that fans were no longer following along because of the matchup on the court, but rather the one between the elder statesmen on the benches. Now even that is history.
With the Boeheim/Krzyzewski duels in the past, the overall feeling in the building reflected that. Last year, even when the Orange were flat out bad, the people who sat all around me were genuinely excited for the basketball. This time, it seemed like more of them were just there because it was “the thing to do” over the weekend - and that should be concerning. The sharp decline in attendance, along with how it took a late ticket discount to break the usual 30k, should also point out that ‘Cuse basketball lost a good chunk of its casual audience this season.
Duke is now the inverse of Georgetown: while losing to the Hoyas would be an absolute embarrassment, it’s going to take a miracle for Syracuse to break the Blue Devils’ head-to-head dominance anytime soon.
Szuba: My kingdom for a WiFi connection
I like Mike’s point in that it does feel like Syracuse vs. Duke is jumping the shark a bit and the on court product hasn’t been able to live up to the hype in recent years. I wonder: if these games were more competitive would it still feel that way?
The game continues to be a spectacle and an event worth attending, but Syracuse’s play has definitely taken some wind out of the sails in the last two home meetings. Or maybe that was just the WiFi connection. After an entire first half of refreshing browsers and failed attempts at gaining reliable internet access, it became obvious writing would be impossible. Panic messages to Kevin didn’t go through until halftime, so shoutout to our editor for being able to write the recap on the back of his sterling home WiFi connection on short notice. And because I’m an ungrateful, entitled millennial who demands special treatment, I’m going to carve out space and continue to complain about how media doesn’t have access to a separate WiFi connection than the 31,000 fans in attendance. Makes sense.
This was a bit of amateur hour on my behalf, however, I must admit. I should’ve pulled up my browser and the websites I needed access to before all the fans enter the building to combat overcrowding. That’s why they pay us in NunesBucks. Either way, the JMA Wireless WiFi upgrade can’t come soon enough.