Duke basketball: Disturbing nugget about Syracuse series

The Duke basketball program must expel some Monday demons against Syracuse.

At 7 p.m. Monday, the unranked Duke basketball team (10-8, 8-6 ACC) hosts unranked Syracuse (13-6, 7-5 ACC) and will be looking to extend its signs-of-life three-game win streak following Saturday’s feel-good thriller over No. 7 Virginia (15-5, 11-3 ACC).

But in light of the rollercoaster these Blue Devils have been re-riding all season — routinely jolting between brief losing and winning streaks while dealing with the Jalen Johnson situation — there’s an unavoidable feeling of trepidation among many Duke fans, especially with the Orange coming to town.

Rightly so.

After all, Syracuse boasts a three-game win streak of its own right now.

Plus, looking back at the two-game history of Monday night showdowns in Cameron Indoor Stadium between the two schools, things don’t look so good for the Blue Devils.

Perhaps it’s due to the limited preparation time for Jim Boeheim’s signature zone defense. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that a couple of Boeheim’s squads have caught Mike Krzyzewski’s guys at just the right time for an upset on Coach K Court.

The last time Krzyzewski encountered such a Monday matchup was somewhat similar to the current scenario in that Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and the gang were recovering from a major weekend celebration.

On that Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, two days after Reddish splashed that epic game-winner from downtown in Tallahassee to knock off then-No. 13 Florida State, 80-78, No. 1 Duke suffered a 95-91 overtime loss in Cameron Indoor Stadium to unranked Syracuse.

Three years earlier, on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, already in the midst of a two-game losing skid after a 95-91 home loss to unranked Notre Dame two days prior, then-No. 20 Duke fell at home to unranked Syracuse, 64-62. Two weeks later, those Blue Devils fell out of the AP Top 25.

Until this next Duke-Syracuse clash tips off, the two above meetings are the only ones in the all-time series (Duke leads, 10-6) that have taken place on a Monday night.

More recent Monday blues for Duke basketball

In regards to Monday outings for the 2020-21 Duke basketball team specifically, the only one thus far wound up as arguably its most discouraging letdown, a 77-75 loss on Feb. 1 at Miami, leading to what became a three-game losing streak.

And that Miami loss came two days after what was the Blue Devils’ most impressive victory up until the one over Virginia on Saturday, a 79-53 blowout of Clemson inside Cameron, marking a two-game win streak at the time.

This go-round, obviously, dropping another Monday affair could slam the door on Duke’s hopes for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

Time to flip the Monday script versus the Orange.

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