There will likely be a new No. 1 team in college basketball a week from now. This thanks to Syracuse’s stunning 95-91 overtime road victory over Duke on Monday night.
Here’s what you need to know from the most significant result of the first Big Monday of 2019:
Everything Changed When Tre Jones Got Hurt
The value of Duke point guard Tre Jones — the oft-overlooked fourth freshman in Mike Krzyzewski’s starting lineup — was fully felt Monday night.
With Jones on the floor, Duke scored the game’s first 12 points and owned a 14-6 advantage with 14:20 to play in the first half. Then Jones bumped into Syracuse’s Frank Howard while diving for a loose ball, suffering a shoulder injury in the process that would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the game.
Syracuse’s offense was having trouble simply getting shots attempted before Jones’ injury. Duke recorded six steals in the five plus minutes that Jones played, and just two over the course of the rest of the night. The Blue Devil offense also struggled without its primary initiator, often settling for semi-contested outside shots against the Orange zone. They finished just 9-for-43 from beyond the arc.
Duke must now figure out a way to play better without their starting point guard than they did Monday night, because it sounds like Jones is going to be out for an extended period of time.
Tre Jones out indefinitely for Duke. Massive news. pic.twitter.com/JAqCzRnZeD— Brian Hamilton (@_Brian_Hamilton) January 15, 2019
Cam Reddish Also Didn’t Play
Coming off arguably his best performance of the season — a 23-point effort against Florida State in which he hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer — Cam Reddish was forced to sit out Monday night’s game because of an undisclosed illness. He had been sensational against the Seminoles, connecting on 9 of his 15 field goal attempts, including five of his eight shots from three.
This is Still a Monumental Win for Syracuse
Even without Jones and Reddish, Duke was still playing with arguably the most talented roster in the ACC, one highlighted by two guys who might very well end up being the top two picks in this year’s NBA Draft. And even if Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett had been out as well, the NET and the other metrics of note would still have dramatically rewarded Syracuse for a road victory over their No. 1 team.
A victory of this magnitude was almost a necessity for Syracuse. The Orange already own rough losses to the likes of Old Dominion, UConn, Oregon and Georgia Tech, and entered Monday night with just one Quadrant 1 victory. Now the Orange sit at 3-1 in ACC play, with their lone loss coming in the game (at home vs. Georgia Tech) that on paper appeared to be without question the easiest.
It All Feels Like Part of Jim Boeheim’s Master Plan
Recent seasons have seen Syracuse follow a similar path: Disappoint early in the season, show some signs of life in conference play, win a couple of really noteworthy games, ultimately disappoint and have everyone say you’re on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, be a surprise inclusion on Selection Sunday, win multiple games in the Big Dance.
With this being the case, Syracuse getting back to the First Four in large part because of a road win over a Cam Reddish and Tre Jones-less Duke team would be perfect. If they pop up in Dayton on Selection Sunday and everyone’s mad about it, go ahead and auto-advance them to the Sweet 16 of your bracket.
Tyus Battle was a Monster
When it looked like Duke might run away with things early on, it was Battle who stepped up and shot Syracuse back into the game. He scored 20 of his season-high 32 points, and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
After stunning a number of people by spurning the NBA Draft last spring in favor of at least one more collegiate season, Battle’s junior season had been something of a disappointment up to this point. Part of that is because of the extremely high level of expectations placed on his shoulders, but another part is just some standard inconsistency.
Perhaps Monday night’s effort proves to be the beginning of a monster stretch for Battle.
Zion Balled Out Too
While Duke’s chances of wining the ACC regular season championship and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament both took a minor hit on Monday, Zion Williamson’s run at earning national Player of the Year honors certainly did not.
The freshman sensation tore up the middle of Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone, setting a new Duke freshman scoring record by connecting on 12-of-20 field goal attempts and scoring a game--high 35 points. Still, it’ll be the point Zion didn’t get that will likely keep him up tonight. His missed free-throw with just 17 seconds to play in regulation could have given the Blue Devils an 86-85 lead.
Elijah Hughes Hit One of the Craziest Shots of the Season
This was cool for Syracuse at the time.
It was even cooler at the end of regulation when the Orange realized the game might have already been over if they hadn’t gotten those three points.
The ACC is off to a Wild, Wild Start
Duke’s home loss to Syracuse — which, again, was coming off a home loss to Georgia Tech — was just the latest head-scratcher the ACC has produced in its first couple weeks of play.
Pitt, which snapped a 25-game conference losing streak last week with an overtime win over Louisville, knocked off No. 11 Florida State in the other ACC game Monday night, 75-62. And that Louisville team? It bounced back by going on the road and beating North Carolina by 21, the most lopsided home loss for the Tar Heels in the Roy Williams era. The Heels were just four days removed from an ultra-impressive 90-82 road win over then-No. 15 NC State.
And then there’s Virginia, which hasn’t lost to anyone and is probably going to win the conference again. Or they might lose to No. 9 Virginia Tech on Tuesday and Duke on Saturday by a combined 65 points. Who knows.