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Syracuse and Duke Clash Again

Posted on February 26, 2022 by Chris Kent

Syracuse versus Duke.

Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim and Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski shake hands at half court before a game at the Carrier Dome. Together, the two have totaled over 2,000 victories during their hall-of-fame careers.

Coaching legends, hall-of-famers, and close friends in Jim Boeheim of the Orange and Mike Krzyzewski of the Blue Devils. The duo are the two winningest coaches in college basketball history and are coaching royalty. Cameron Crazzies and record-setting Carrier Dome crowds. Plain and simple it is must see television.

For nearly a decade the matchup has been a featured attraction in the Atlantic Coast Conference and all of college basketball. The sport welcomed the annual clash of titans when Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013. Since then this matchup has been nothing short of brilliant.

Over the last eight-plus seasons the teams have been filled with plenty of marquee players. For the Orange, there has been the likes of Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas, Tyler Ennis, Malachi Richardson, Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, John Gillon, Tyler Lydon, Tyus Battle, Frank Howard, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Elijah Hughes. Duke has featured players such as Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook, and Grayson Allen, all part of their NCAA championship team in 2015. Many other Blue Devil talents have come through Duke during this time on their way to becoming NBA lottery picks like Jabari Parker, Jayson Tatum, Wendell Carter Jr., Marvin Bagley III, RJ Barrett, and Zion Williamson. National rankings, conference standings, and postseason positioning have all been at stake over the years when the two schools have met. The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 12-6 and are 10-4 in the series since Syracuse joined the ACC. The matchup has always brought out the best in the respective programs and coaches. That is not surprising when you have two elite head coaches who forged their relationship while guiding Team USA to three olympic gold medals.

John Gillon’s 3-point shot at the buzzer gave Syracuse a dramatic 78-75 win in 2017 at the Carrier Dome.

There have been epic games and epic moments within those games. The series has featured clutch shots to force overtime or decide the final outcome such as John Gillon’s buzzer beating 3-pointer in the lone meeting in 2017 in the Carrier Dome that lifted the Orange to a 78-75 victory. There was Boeheim’s fabled coaching dispute and ejection in the 2014 game at Duke that turned the coach’s suit coat into a historical $14,000 charity auction item thanks to the big purchase by Syracuse superfan Neil Gold. There have been NCAA attendance records set only to be eclipsed again. Statistical milestones have being reached such as Tyler Roberson’s school record-tying 12 offensive rebounds – part of his 20 rebound effort – in the 64-62 Orange win at Duke in 2016. There has also been plenty of high caliber and dramatic play throughout the games. Six of the 14 games over the eight-plus seasons of conference play have been decided by six points or less. Syracuse is 4-2 in those games including a pair of overtime victories, winning 91-89 in the inaugural conference meeting in 2014 in the dome. The Orange also won 95-91 in overtime at Cameron Indoor stadium in 2019. In short, this matchup has had nearly everything you could want.

More of this could be in store Saturday February 26 when Syracuse (15-13, 9-8) and the Blue Devils (24-4, 14-3) meet again inside the dome before a national television audience on ESPN with tipoff set at 6 pm. Duke won this season’s earlier meeting back on January 22, 79-59 in a game that was one sided, an uncharacteristic trait of this series. Since the Orange joined the ACC, nine of the 14 games have been decided by 10 points or less with Duke winning five of them.

The Blue Devils lead 8-0 in the January game before Syracuse scored and had a 14-point lead at the half. The Orange got no closer than 13 points in the second half while Duke lead by as many as 31 points. It was the largest margin of victory in the series since the two have been in the ACC.

Buddy Boeheim gets his shot off against Duke.

If Saturday’s game is to produce another close encounter, Syracuse will have to shoot better and rebound better, particularly on the defensive end. The Orange got hammered 32-20 on the defensive boards and shot only 35.3 percent from the field (24-for-68) including a woeful 17.2 percent (5-for-19) from 3-point range in the January loss. Junior point guard Joe Girard III and senior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim will need to be productive as scorers and find open teammates. The tandem combined to shoot only 5-for-28 in the first meeting and were just 2-for-19 from beyond the arc. Buddy Boeheim leads Syracuse with 19.0 points-per-game and has scored in double figures in the last nine straight games. The senior marksmen shoots 33.3 percent (75-for-225) from the 3-point line. Girard III leads the ACC in free throw percentage at 89.7 percent as well as 3-point field goal percentage at 41.8 percent. Girard compliments Boeheim in the backcourt with 13.3 ppg and leads the team with 4.3 assists-per-game.

While the backcourt duo of Boeheim and Girard will need to produce on Saturday, Syracuse will also need scoring support from forwards Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim, the older brother of Buddy. Playing for his hall of fame father, the elder Boeheim is a grad transfer from Cornell where he played three seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the IVY League to cancel last season. A crafty and clever all-around player with a great feel for the game, Jimmy Boeheim scores 13.9 ppg and grabs 6.2 rebounds-per-game, both second on the team. Swider, a graduate transfer from Villanova, scores 13.3 ppg and leads the team on the boards with 7.0 rpg. With 6-11 junior center Jesse Edwards out for the season with a wrist injury, the Orange lose some shot blocking and offense. Edwards was averaging 12.0 ppg and 2.8 blocks per game in 24 starts prior to his injury. Frank Anselem, a 6-10 sophomore center, starts in place of Edwards and pulls in 3.5 rpg. A collective effort in rebounding will be needed by Syracuse as the Blue Devils outrebound their opponents by nearly five a game while Syracuse gets outrebounded by 1.3 a game. Staying on the court will also be important for the Orange so Anselem and 6-10 reserve center Bourama Sidibe will have to avoid fouls, rebound, and defend with smarts.

Freshman Paolo Banchero is a force for Duke.

Duke comes in ranked No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press Poll where it has resided in the top 10 all season. Syracuse has been unranked all season. The Blue Devils are currently in first place in the ACC standings. Their four losses have come by just a combined nine points and they have won 10 of their last 11 games. In his 42nd and final season at Duke, Krzyzewski has his team looking like a contender to win another national championship and send him out on top. Five of their top six scorers average double figures with 6-10 freshman Paolo Banchero leading the way with 16.6 ppg. Banchero also leads the Blue Devils with 8.6 rpg and teams with 7-1 sophomore center Mark Williams to give Duke an imposing interior.

Freshman AJ Griffin has great athleticism for Duke.

Williams averages 10.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg while 6-6 freshman forward AJ Griffin gives Duke athleticism and scoring punch with 10.0 ppg and 3.7 rpg. Junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. scores 13.5 ppg to go with 5.5 rpg while freshman guard Trevor Keels averages 12.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg. Sophomore guard Jeremy Roach also scores 10.0 ppg for the Blue Devils.

Since the 95-91 Orange win in overtime at Duke on January 14, 2019, the Blue Devils have won five in a row in the series includuing the last two matchups in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse will have to shoot well and limit Duke in second chance points to have a chance to win. The Blue Devils had 13 offensive rebounds in the January win that they converted into 16 second chance points.

It is a matchup that is always an attraction in the ACC and impacts the college basketball landscape in some way or another. Although games against North Carolina and Miami – currently fourth and third in the conference standings – to end the regular season follow for the Orange, Syracuse can’t afford to look ahead. Their biggest chance lies immediately in front of them with Duke. The Blue Devils can tighten their grip on the the top spot in the ACC standings with a win while a victory for the Orange gives them a major boost to spark new hope for their NCAA Tournament fate which currently is in question.

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