Syracuse is Good
The Orange have been on yet another winning streak with victories over Pittsburgh and No. 1 Duke. Syracuse (13-5, 4-1) has won six of seven with the only hiccup coming against Georgia Tech. The win at Cameron Indoor Stadium marked the first time Duke has ever lost at home when ranked number one to a team that isn’t North Carolina. They’re now 104-1 in such contests.
Perhaps the most impressive finding of the first half is Jim Boeheim’s hidden ability to coach and tweet at the same time. pic.twitter.com/xnRCqwFezM
— NunesMagician.com (@NunesMagician) January 19, 2019
Many will try and dismiss the win, as Duke was without Cam Reddish (illness) and Tre Jones after he suffered an injury. “When you get two guys hurt, there is no game plan anymore. It’s a period of adjustment. You’re trying to find ways to win,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. True, but it’s still a roster full of high-school All-Americans.
Junior Tyus Battle is unquestionably the best player for Syracuse and he went big last week. He dropped 32 points in the overtime win over Duke and another 22 against Pitt. Duke’s trip to the Carrier Dome on February 23 is now a must watch.
Virginia Finally Lost, but They’re Still Good
— ACC Men's Basketball (@accmbb) January 20, 2019
No.1 Duke beat No. 1 Virginia in an odd quirk of having a split poll. The 72-70 decision was largely back and forth, but neither team could make anything from outside. The normally proficient shooters of both squads combined to finish 5-of-31 from three-point range. Despite that, both teams shot over 50% from the field overall.
RJ Barrett finished with 30 points and Zion Williamson posted 27 and nine rebounds. Plus this spectacular play:
This exchange from Zion Williamson: my word. Grab-and-go rebound, ditches Jerome with an in-and-out crossover at top speed, to the finish over a 7-footer with his off hand. Wow. pic.twitter.com/OjZyn4r64C
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) January 20, 2019
Barrett and Williamson combined with fellow freshman Cam Reddish to take 47 of the Blue Devils’ 51 shots and scored 66 of their total points. Duke (15-2, 4-1) may just be able to maintain the top ranking with No. 2 Michigan’s loss this weekend.
The overall scoring total marked the most points allowed by the Wahoos this season, which in and of itself is remarkable. Virginia (16-1, 4-1) was doomed by a lengthy stretch late in the game during which they missed 11-of-12 shots. Empty possessions are a rarity for Tony Bennett’s team, but they had quite a few against Duke’s constant switching off screens.
Kyle Guy was most affected by the strategy as he finished just 2-of-7 from outside and looked out of rhythm all night.
It was a setback, but don’t forget the thrashing of in-state rival No. 9 Virginia Tech earlier in the week. When the shots are falling —which they usually do— Virginia is still arguably the best team in the country. Duke is right there with them and made a nice adjustment that limited open shots. Other teams will try it now, but good luck .
There’s a Logjam at the Top
Looking at the standings you can see quite a disparity. Six teams currently sit tied for first place at 4-1 in conference play. Meanwhile, five teams are tied for last place with a record of 1-4 including surprise slow-starter No. 11 Florida State.
Boston College knocked off FSU Sunday 87-81 to earn the team’s first conference win of the season. That all but assures the slumping Seminoles will drop out of the polls.
The conference appears rather top-heavy at this point, with upstarts Louisville and Syracuse crashing into the group of 4-1 ranked teams and making an argument for rankings of their own.
Someone will be in first place after Monday night when No. 13 North Carolina hosts No. 9 Virginia Tech. After that it’s anyone’s guess as to how the standings will normalize over the coming weeks.
-Monday will mark the first time Virginia Tech (15-2, 4-1) has ever been ranked when facing the Tar Heels (14-4, 4-1). North Carolina is 67-14 all-time against the Hokies and 47-7 in ACC play.
-Wake Forest knocked off No. 17 NC State Tuesday night 71-67 in Winston-Salem. The Wolfpack was without guard Markell Johnson, but still nearly staged an epic comeback. Wake led 51-29 in the second half before the Wolfpack stormed back to tie the game at 58. Both teams struggled down the stretch, but Wake (8-9, 1-4) pulled out the upset by making just enough plays.