There are a bajillion adjectives you could use to describe yesterday’s game, and none of them are kind to Syracuse. A letdown. A catastrophe. A butt-whooping. All of them fit. Duke ran the Orange up and down the court that bears the name of the longest-tenured head coach in college basketball, and besides bemoaning the ‘Cuse’s lack of inside scoring and lack of development at the forward positions, Jim Boeheim didn’t have much to say after the 22-point loss. Yesterday cemented a reality that many SU fans don’t want to face. There is no Syracuse-Duke rivalry.
It’s deeper than just what happened in 40 minutes in front of the largest crowd this year in college basketball. The Blue Devils have beaten the Orange in eight straight matchups, and six of those eight wins have come by double-digits. Coach K will forever be on the Mount Rushmore of coaching, and sure, if he had your number, you shrug your shoulders. But his successor, Jon Scheyer beat SU in even worse fashion than the prior year’s season finale. Scheyer readily admitted postgame that Duke didn’t do anything special to beat the 2-3 zone. They just moved the ball well and stuck to their philosophy of inside-out basketball.
Scheyer is also an amazing recruiter. Duke had the number one class in 2022, landing seven freshmen, four of which played major roles in its win, and is bringing in five five-stars in the class of 2023. Syracuse, on the other hand, doesn’t have a recruit in ’23, and just pulled out all the stops to woo the 98th-best player in the class of ’24. He didn’t even have a Duke offer. Regardless of the reasons why, Duke and Syracuse used to fight for recruits. You couldn’t tell me the last time the Orange beat the Blue Devils in a recruiting race.
Finally, proximity is what makes the greatest of rivalries. The Game. Tobacco Road. The Civil War. Red River. You get the idea. There’s a reason the “Civil conFLICT” didn’t stick around. You’ll never see swaths of royal blue shirts driving up to the frozen tundra of Central New York to invade the Dome. Although the JMA was packed on Saturday, it’s all based off hype. Syracuse supporters came because it’s Duke, one of the greatest basketball programs of all time. The game had a chance to be competitive, but wasn’t. The rivalry might’ve had a chance in 2015, but the Orange falling off the cliff ripped off those rose-colored glasses.