If you walked around SU’s campus on Saturday afternoon, there was a palpable buzz in the atmosphere. The Orange were on a three-game win streak, coming off their first ranked victory of the season, and about to face a Duke team that had played below its potential all season. There was a strong belief that Syracuse could snap a seven-game losing skid to the Blue Devils. Oh, how mistaken we were. After Duke outclassed SU in every way imaginable on the court, Jim Boeheim’s bunch hit a new low.
The most frustrating about this is that this wasn’t supposed to happen. Vegas had Duke listed as just a one-point favorite. KenPom predicted the Blue Devils to win by just two. Also, remember that fantastic win over No. 23 NC State last week? Well, the Wolfpack eviscerated Duke by 24 back on January 4. And the Blue Devils beat the Orange by 22.
This game also reinforced the narrative of “the more things change, the more things stay the same” when it comes to Syracuse-Duke and SU’s place in the ACC. We wrote about it yesterday- this is not and never was a rivalry. After Boeheim threw his jacket when Rodney Hood drew a charge on CJ Fair nine years ago, you could make a case one was brewing. But the Blue Devils are 12-3 against the Orange since then. It doesn’t matter that Coach K is gone. It doesn’t matter that this is one of the weaker Duke teams in recent memory. It doesn’t matter that the Blue Devils don’t have the superstar they typically have. Saturday reinforced that Syracuse is very much separated from the top of the ACC.
Finally, what are recruits supposed to think after a game like that? There certainly can’t be many positives from an SU perspective. Kyle Filipowski was once a Syracuse target, and he feasted on the 2-3 zone like it was Thanksgiving. This year, Jon Scheyer (who was a fantastic recruiter before he became head coach) has a trio of 5-stars pledged to Durham. Meanwhile, SU (at the time of writing) currently has zero recruits in the Class of ’23. Duke has been at the top of the recruiting landscape for years, and Saturday’s game reinforced that and gave prospects zero incentive to come to Central New York anytime soon. Embarrassing.
Yes, last season was not fun. At all. But because this team could be so much more than its 16-11 record, enduring Saturday’s loss felt significantly more painful. The Orange are trending on a dangerous path toward a standard of mediocrity. But do you know what the best part about hitting rock bottom is? There’s only one way left to go.