With both Duke and Syracuse coming off of losses this week, some people may have argued that today's match-up in Cameron Indoor Stadium had lost some of its luster. Judging by the atmosphere in Durham and the intensity of the game, it didn't. Here are a few key quick takeaways from Duke's home win over Syracuse, 66-60.
• Jim Boeheim completely lost it at the end of the game. You can certainly debate the block/charge call after which he was thrown out, but Boeheim's temper-tantrum cost Syracuse dearly. Boeheim's rant will not garner the type of criticism some other coaches' high-profile meltdowns have received, but it may have been the biggest meltdown of the season given the circumstances.
• The knock on this Duke team has been their inability to make stops when it needs them. Some of the blame certainly falls on the defensive shortcomings of the perimeter players, but the even bigger weakness has been on the inside where they lack a legitimate rim-protector. Amile Jefferson and Jabari Parker have been effective in spots, but neither is a strong defensive presence. This is where Marshall Plumlee becomes such a big key. Although he averaged just under eight minutes per game coming into tonight's game, he has seen increased minutes lately and he showed flashes that suggest that he could be come a much bigger factor down the stretch run of the season. Almost all of his production came in the first half (4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks), but Plumlee played a season-high 19 minutes, which should give Duke fans hope for the rest of the season.
• It seems ridiculous to suggest that a team that came into the week 25-0 and No. 1 in the polls could be in trouble, but that is exactly where Syracuse finds itself on its way out of Cameron. The loss tonight was not shocking, but coming off a completely unexpected loss at home Wednesday against Boston College and with its next two games on the road against Maryland and ACC-leading Virginia, there is a very real possibility that the Orange could lose four straight contests. At this point the Orange are not in danger of falling any lower than a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament unless they completely collapse, but after sneaking out with several close wins this season, Boeheim's team has now lost back-to-back games and is in considerable danger of falling off the one-seed line.
•Doug McDermott will likely win all of the National Player of the Year awards and probably will do it near-unanimously, but that should not diminish how great Jabari Parker has been this season. After being largely overlooked in the preseason in favor of Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, and to a lesser extent, Kentucky's Julius Randle, Parker has shown everybody why he was considered the top player in his class for much of his high school career. With all due respect to Tyler Ennis, who struggled from the field, going 2-of-13 tonight but managed to have six assists and four steals, Parker has been the top freshman in the country this season. He probably won't be the top pick in this year's NBA Draft, but that doesn't mean he isn't this year's top rookie.Player of the Game. It has to be Jabari Parker with his 19 points and 10 rebounds. He may have missed the front end of a big one-and-one late that gave Syracuse a chance to get back in the game with 52 seconds remaining, but he made all the big plays when he needed to. He managed to do this despite taking just nine shots from the field, which goes to show how efficient an offensive player he can be.
"I thought that was the worst call of the year" - Jim Boeheim, with only a hint of sarcasm.
"The basketball gods, they're the best." - Mike Kyzyzewski, referring to the fortuitous plays that enabled Duke to win.
What's Next? The Blue Devils have a pair of fairly easy games (home against Virginia Tech followed by a road trip to Wake Forest) before North Carolina pays a visit to Cameron to close out the regular season. If Duke can win out, the Blue Devils should be in good position for a #1 seed. As for Syracuse, we already discussed their upcoming schedule and how this could easily turn into a four-game losing streak for the Orange.