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Duke Loses to Syracuse: Can the Blue Devils Win without Tre Jones?

David Golokhov

by David Golokhov in College Basketball

Jan 15, 2019 · 11:37 AM PST

Mike Krzyzewski hugging Grayson Allen after a Duke basketball game.
After losing to Syracuse and seeing point guard Tre Jones go down with a shoulder injury, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to adjust on the fly. Are the Blue Devils doomed? Photo by Hayden Schiff (wikimedia commons) [CC License].

The Duke Blue Devils were stunned at home on Monday night, getting upset by the Syracuse Orange 95-91 in OT.


The Orange, who were 17-point underdogs and 11/1 on the moneyline, became the first unranked team to ever beat a no. 1-ranked Duke squad at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Is this a bump in the road for the March Madness favorites or a sign of more hardships to come?

Odds to Win 2019 NCAA Tournament

Team Odds to win 2019 National Championship
Duke +170
Michigan +850
Gonzaga +950
Tennessee +1100
Virginia +1100
Kansas +1200
Nevada +1600
Michigan State +1800
Kentucky +2000
North Carolina +2000

What happened in Duke vs Syracuse?

The Blue Devils had won 14 of their first 15 games to start the season and looked downright dominant. The first thing to note about the loss to Syracuse is that a much different Duke team was on the court for most of the game thanks to two huge personnel changes.

To start, the Blue Devils were without Cam Reddish, who is a projected top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. While Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett are the studs, Reddish is third on the team with 13.3 points per game and third in three-point percentage.

The Blue Devils also lost star freshman point guard Tre Jones with 14:23 remaining in the first half. Between Reddish and Jones, Duke was without two of its top five players in terms of minutes and points. That’s hard to overcome against anyone.


Syracuse played their patented zone and took away layups and dunks. Without their lead ball-handler to break down and penetrate, Duke was forced to be a perimeter team. And without one of their key three-point shooters, they struggled from distance, making just 9-of-43 three-pointers.

Can the Blue Devils adjust without Jones?

Jones suffered an AC-joint injury but the extent is not known. Coach Mike Krzyzewski simply stated that he’ll “out for a while,” but an AC-joint injury could take anywhere from a couple of weeks with mere therapy, to 12 weeks or longer and require surgery.

While the Blue Devils have a lot of play makers, Jones is crucial to the team’s success as their primary ball-handler. His 5.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly twice as good as any other player in the ACC.

His on-the-ball defense is quite strong too as Duke had been the No. 1 team in terms of defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings going into last night. After that performance, they’ve dropped to fourth.

However, let’s give them a bit of a break. This happened in-game and Reddish was out. Let’s not overreact based on one loss – especially in overtime by just four points.

Should you be worried about Duke’s NCAA Tournament odds?

No – at least, not yet. Let’s not forget that this team has arguably the best college basketball coach of all-time. And let’s not forget that, while we don’t know a lot about Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire, it’s not as if Duke recruits scrubs. Even if they have to put the ball in Barrett’s hands a lot more, this team can adjust.

But for the bigger picture, let’s remember that the Duke medical staff once got quarterback Daniel Jones back on the court in three weeks after he broke his collarbone.

For now, I wouldn’t be betting on Duke to win the National Championship, but I would take a wait-and-see approach. If the odds drop (as they have) and we find out that Jones will return in a few weeks, I’d take a flier with the added value.

Keep an eye on all of the college basketball futures and how they change with our frequently updated March Madness odds tracker.

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