In a year where the ACC is down, and Syracuse is struggling to stay at .500, a win over sixth-ranked Duke would’ve been a shot to the arm of a team that desperately needed some sort of motivation. Instead, the Orange looked undersized and underprepared against a team missing one of its best scorers. A 79-59 shellacking, where at one point, the lead was up to 31 points. Duke was up 11-2 at the first media timeout. Meanwhile, Jim Boeheim’s team scored 6 points in the first eight minutes.
There’s an old coaches’ saying: “It’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes.” Yesterday, it rang very true (and you can throw a Buddy in there as well). Syracuse’s primary scorers looked lost against Duke’s starting five. Buddy Boeheim was 2-15, continuing a not-so-great trend of Boeheim turning into a ghost in the big games. Joe Girard was 3-13, and noticeably rattled after missing some shots midway through the first half. The “best shooting backcourt” in the nation was 2-19 from three-point range. Jimmy Boeheim was 4-11, and missed four free throws because why not.
There’s a pretty simple reason as to why Syracuse’s scorers struggled. Duke’s individual defense was just better than the Orange offense. The Blue Devils put out five athletes on the four, five players who were part of Duke’s four straight top-six recruiting classes and themselves were top 50 in the 247sports.com recruiting rankings. Syracuse, on the other hand, hasn’t even had its last four classes touch the top 25.
Duke’s constantly lauded around college recruiting circles for the way it has turned the program into an NBA prep process. The player evaluation, strength and conditioning program, and individual development is as good as anyone in the country. Let’s be honest with ourselves, now. College sports are not about the academics anymore. It’s about giving players the best opportunities to succeed professionally. This is Mike Kryzezewski’s 46th year coaching. Over the past decade. he’s been able to change his program from a four-year growth process to a one-and-done factory. Other storied programs in the ACC have not. That shows in the recruiting rankings, it shows in the conference dominance, and it shows in national championships. In case you were wondering, Duke has the top-ranked class next year as well. Syracuse barely sneaks into the top 25.
Putting guys on the floor who are occasionally good, but nowhere close to NBA prospects can be passable at times, but it shows when SU has to compete at a high level. Programs are changing year-in and year-out, and those modifications keep things new and exciting for recruits. Could it be that somewhere along the line, Syracuse didn’t change?