It’s been a tough year for the Duke basketball program. In a year where they started ranked in the top-10, the Blue Devils have fallen to #17 with a 17-4 record, including a 6-2 mark inside the ACC. They have a chance to change all of that with their first clash against Syracuse in ACC play.
This is the first year in the ACC for the Orange, but they haven’t wasted any time getting adjusted. Off to a 20-0 start, that includes a 7-0 mark in the ACC with wins over the likes of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and North Carolina. Syracuse would love the chance to knock off one of the top teams in the conference, as the Blue Devils come to town.
The matchup that everyone should be watching in this one should be that between Tyler Ennis and Jabari Parker. Ennis hasn’t gotten some of the love that other freshman in the nation have gotten this year, but he is arguably having the best season considering the fact that Syracuse is ranked #2 in the nation.
Parker started off the year scorching teams before the ACC season began. He’s slowed things down a bit as of late, but he still averages 18.8 points a game and also leads the Blue Devils on the glass with 8.1 rebounds. Duke also gets huge input from transfer Rodney Hood, who puts in 17.4 points per game and is second on the team with 2.1 dishes per.
And while Duke will likely need huge games from both Hood and Parker on Saturday, they’ll also hope for at least 10 points from Andrew Dawkins. During his career at Duke, when Dawkins scores at least 10 points the Blue Devils are 38-2. This year, they are 10-0 when he gets to double-digits.
The Blue Devils will get another shot at the Orange later this year, when Syracuse comes to Durham on February 22nd. And while that game may be even more important when the time comes, there is no understating the value of this game for Duke. A loss would put them even further behind in the ACC and it would also give them their fifth loss on the season. On the other hand, a win would give Duke a huge victory against a top-5 team that is one of the last undefeated squads left in the nation. Duke is also coming off a win against #18 Pittsburgh, so beating two ranked teams in the course of a week looks good come tournament selection time.
One more win would give Syracuse a 21-0 record and it would become the best start in school history. But what may be even more important would be their ability to say that, despite being the new dogs in the ACC, they were able to take down a tough Duke squad who has been one of the few teams to dominate the ACC for the last few decades.
Currently, Duke is listed as at 13/1 to win the NCAA Championship.
Syracuse is listed at 8/1.
All of that could change with the outcome of Saturday’s ACC showdown