SYRACUSE, N.Y.—There are Beat Duke signs in the airport, on city buses and along the highway, on digital billboards. A make-up counter in the campus bookstore is offering to paint variations of Go SU on faces, marking fans with orange and blue. Students have been camping out since Jan. 19th. An NCAA on-campus attendance record will be set when the expected crowd of 35,446 files into the Carrier Dome.
The T-shirts the bookstore has been selling since November read, “the rivalry begins” across the back. Clearly, the Orange faithful have selected Duke as their new love-to-hate, favorite conference foe. And why not? It’s a somewhat natural fit, given both schools’ heavy northern alumni bases (it would be awesome to watch this game in a NYC bar, with a mix of fans from both schools). And, more importantly, it’s a match-up of the two most winningest coaches in the game— Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski.
According to ESPN, it’s the first time in 92 years that the men who sit Nos. 1 and 2 on the all-time wins list have squared off (Minnesota's Louis Cooke and Kansas's Phog Allen met in 1922). It’s a historic event. And the hype is reaching historically high levels.
“My wife said to me (Thursday) morning,’ hun, you’ve done more than a thousand games, I’ve never seen you so pumped up, you’re like a little kid,’ and that’s how I feel,” ESPN’s Dick Vitale said. “I really do. It’s an honor for me to have a chance to sit courtside for this game.
“It’s one of those games, in 35 years of doing games for ESPN, and I think back to some special moments when you really can’t wait to do a game. I remember the days of the Jordan gang, coming down to do games with (Ralph) Sampson and (Michael) Jordan. I remember the (Allen) Iversons against the Ray Allens, games that just unbelievably grabbed you like you cannot believe. And this game grabs me. It’s been grabbing me all year. Thinking about it, thinking about the kids (Tyler) Ennis and (Jabari) Parker, two of the best diaper dandies, thinking about an offensive potent attack with a kid who can shoot the 3, like (Andre) Dawkins against that zone, will he get space, all these thoughts go through my mind in preparing for the game.”
Without further ado, here’s your game preview
NO. 17 DUKE AT NO. 2 SYRACUSE
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
TV/Radio: ESPN, WKIX-102.9 FM
Line: Syracuse by 4
A podcast, breaking down Duke, that I did with syracuse.com’s Brent Axe
What’s below ran as a sidebar to the Krzyzewski-Boeheim friendship story, but I reprinted it here in case you missed it.
Projected Starting lineups:
No. 17 Duke (17-4, 6-2)
G Quinn Cook (12.4 ppg, 5.5 apg)
G Rasheed Sulaimon (8.3 ppg, 2.1 apg)
F Rodney Hood (17.4 ppg, 2.1 apg)
F Jabari Parker (18.8 ppg, 1.3 apg)
C Amile Jefferson (6.8 ppg, 1.0 apg)
No. 2 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0)
G Tyler Ennis (12.3 ppg, 5.4 apg)
G Trevor Cooney (13.2 ppg, 1.4 apg)
F C.J. Fair (16.7 ppg. 1.5 apg)
F Jerami Grant (12.4 ppg, 1.6 apg)
C Rakeem Christmas (5.6, 0.6 apg)
How they match up:
Fr. Tyler Ennis (6-2, 180) vs. Jr. Quinn Cook (6-2, 180)
No ACC player has been more important to his team than Tyler Ennis, who plays best against top competition and at the end of games.
R-So. Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195) vs. So. Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 190)
Cooney is second in the ACC in steals (behind Ennis), is the Orange’s 3-point sharpshooter (he leads the league with an average of 2.9 per game) and hits 40 percent of his attempts. This is the spot that Krzyzewski has juggled the lineup most often at, though Sulaimon seems to have found his stride of late.
Sr. C.J. Fair (6-8, 215) vs. R-So. Rodney Hood (6-8, 215)
After Hood locked down ACC player of the year candidate Lamar Patterson on Monday in Pittsburgh, his job doesn’t get any easier against C.J. Fair, the ACC preseason player of the year. Fair is the Orange’s go-to option on offense as well as a stout defender in the back of the zone, but if Hood can hold him in check, forcing a wash at this position, Duke comes out ahead. Hood will be a factor on the offensive end as well, most likely working through the high post
So. Jerami Grant (6-8, 210) vs. Fr. Jabari Parker (6-8, 235)
Grant is a nice player, with the length you would expect from a Syracuse wing, but Parker is so multidimensional on offense that it’s hard to give any player the edge over him. Parker’s new-found rebounding abilities – he has posted a double-double in the last three games – could be key against the zone.
Jr. Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250) vs So. Amile Jefferson (6-9, 210)
Christmas’ contributions come on defense – he protects the rim, and the Orange don’t need or expect much from him offensively. Jefferson has been playing the best basketball of his career lately, becoming an especially productive rebounder despite his smaller frame. He handled bigger opponents in the last two games (Florida State and Pitt) fine.
The Orange basically uses a six-man rotation. Duke’s bench goes 10 deep, with 3-point specialist Andre Dawkins being a potential X-factor in the game.
The two most winningest coaches in college basketball. Can’t go wrong with either.