While some rivalries are steeped in historical tradition (or an amazing 6-OT game), Syracuse has only played 16 total games against its second biggest rival.
Let me explain myself. I understand this school and Syracuse might not have the historical hoops significance of most college basketball rivalries you can recall off the top of your head. However, answer these questions: Which matchup draws the largest crowd to the Carrier Dome? Who has been the top dog since Syracuse entered the ACC? And which team in the ACC is the easiest to dislike?
The answer to these three questions is Duke. When the Blue Devils come to the Dome, 31,000-plus show up. Every single year, Coach K and the Blue Devils reload with class after class of five-star recruits. And from Bobby Hurley to J.J. Redick to Grayson Allen, it’s real easy to get fed up with Duke’s small guards that seem to get under everybody’s skin.
Although the schools have only played 11 times in conference play, the games are always excellent. The first ever conference matchup (an OT win for the Orange) was the best ACC game of 2014.
The next year, even though Syracuse lost both matchups, the storyline of Michael Gbinije against his former team was super fun to watch. The Duke transfer scored 27 when the Blue Devils came to the Hill. 2016, SU upsets Duke in Cameron. 2017, John Gillon’s beautiful game-winning half-court buzzer beater. And the best game of them all in my opinion, the 2019 OT win in Cameron, when after starting the game down 12-0, the Orange put in a performance for the ages, complete with a Elijah Hughes halftime heave, Zion Williamson bricking a possible game-winning free throw, and who else but Pascal Chukwu making the game-sealing basket.
Even this year, SU held its own against a much better Duke team. Every single time the two teams meet, Syracuse will rise to the occasion and compete against the Blue Devils. I’m glad more classic games are on the way.