clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Next Up - Syracuse

Make no mistake, Syracuse fans are spoiling for a fight.

Justise Winslow goes for the block
Justise Winslow goes for the block
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is a trip to Syracuse, and while Syracuse may be down this year, and in the midst of a potential NCAA smackdown, make no mistake: there is enough energy coursing through that building and that entire town to melt snow from Onondaga Lake to Schenectady. Syracuse fans are spoiling for this game, and you know that energy will spill over to the players.

Make no mistake: everyone in the Carrier Dome will be amped out of their minds, even the kids who come in from camping with frostbite. No one is missing this.

So Duke had better match it.

Last  year's games were both superb, and because of that, and because Syracuse certainly went toe-to-toe with Duke both times, and perhaps a bit in need of one, Syracuse fans have declared this a rivalry.

And yeah, it is, and much more enjoyable, than, say, dodging hot pennies and full water bottles at Maryland.

It's kind of cool that it got so hot so quickly. This year, though, is very different from last year and both teams are completely different too.

Not only has Syracuse had to replace CJ Fair, Grant and Tyler Ennis, the Orange has lost outstanding freshman CJ MCullough for the year to injury and junior DeJuan Coleman, who was so highly regarded coming out of high school, will sit this season out as well. Injuries have really defined this kid's career. He's had rotten luck.

On the other hand, in the game up there last year, Duke got 30 points from Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon, who are now both gone, as are Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Tyler Thornton, who was consistently underrated, is too, as is reliable reserve Josh Hairston.

The only Blue Devils who played last year are Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook, Marshall Plumlee and Matt Jones, who is credited with zero minutes.

On the other hand, Duke reloaded with three brilliant freshmen in point guard Tyus Jones, forward Justise Winslow and center Jahlil Okafor and Cook has emerged as a tremendous leader, as has Jefferson. Matt Jones has become a much more confident player and has been an outstanding sixth man, particularly since Rasheed Sulaimon was removed from the team.

Syracuse, for their part, has rebuilt around Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije.

Christmas has shown an offensive game that no one outside of the Syracuse practice gym realized that he had, while Gbinije has really come on in a major way this season.

Cooney is a bit more one-dimensional - he's on scholarship for his shooting talent, not his passing or defense - but can score a lot in a hurry.

Syracuse runs into some problems when it has to go very far into the bench.

Against BC, BJ Johnson was essentially the bench, playing 30 minutes and hitting four threes (Ron Patterson played five).

Against Pitt, Jim Boeheim found just three points from the bench, against Virginia Tech 10 and against UNC none.

In the last two games, Duke's Okafor has gotten into foul trouble early, not that it mattered much: in both games, Marshall Plumlee filled in admirably and Duke played well in his absence, particularly against Notre Dame.

That could be a problem this time as well. So far Okafor has faced Frank Kaminski, a lanky big man, Devin Thomas, who is up and down but undeniably talented and tough, State's troika of big men, Montrezl Harrell of Louisville, Zach Auguste and Florida State's Michael Ojo, Kiel Turpin and Boris Bojanovsky.

He's outplayed just about everyone, too.

Christmas has different gifts though. He's almost as big, he's a tremendous shotblocker and he can put pressure on offensively as well.

It's not going to be an easy game for Okafor. As the kids say, Christmas is a grown-ass man.

Syracuse will zone of course - Boeheim's committment is absolute. And Duke may have trouble with Michael Gbinije, who started in college at Duke of course. He's had a really solid year.

In the last few games, Duke has played as a scrappy, running overachieving team. That sounds funny given the talent Duke has, but it's not entirely wrong. Duke has a lot of talent, true, but the Devils are playing like a team which is trying to get into the Top 25, not one that's already near the top.

No matter how you slice it though, we keep coming back to the near delirious energy the crowd is going to bring. Duke is not going to have an easy night in the Carrier Dome and if the Devils want to win, they'll have to match every bit of it.