On February 1st, 2014, over 35,000 packed the Carrier Dome to begin the Syracuse-Duke rivalry and the game did not fall short of expectations. After 45 minutes, the Orange were victorious and before the night was out, the 21-0 Orange were the number 1 team in the country. The rivalry is set to continue in 2016 on the national stage.
The Syracuse-Duke game at Cameron Indoor on January 18th will be the first of two “Big Monday” games Syracuse participates in on ESPN. The other being the February 29th match-up with the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
As much as Orange fans all like to think the rivalry with Duke is one of the greatest in the country– maybe one day it will be– the animosity between the Blue Devils and the Orange is not enough, if of itself, to make their match-up one of the biggest games of the year.
There is almost no rivalry to speak of between Syracuse and Duke’s Tobacco Road Rival UNC. The two teams have split their two match-ups in the past two seasons, the home team emerging victorious on each occasion.
For both of these match-ups it’s all about timing. The Duke game will presumably be the first big test for Mike Hopkins as the head coach. He will be controlling the bench at Cameron as Boeheim sits out the first nine ACC games and there is no challenge bigger than going to Duke. If the Orange can pull off an upset win with Hopkins at the helm, Orange fans may just breathe easier for the future.
The UNC game is a different story. Boeheim will be back and there is not the same hype surrounding a trip to Chapel Hill as there is when a team goes to Durham. The game against the Tar Heels may be one of the Orange’s last chances for a statement win. The game comes at the end of February, meaning Syracuse will only have a few games remaining in the regular season, and if the National media is to be believed, a win against the Tar Heels could just be the thing that puts the Orange over the top and gets them in the Big Dance.
All eyes should be on Syracuse on Big Monday, not just because they are on National TV against two big-name schools, but because those games could go a long way to telling how the Orange will fare in this post-season and for years to come.