North Carolina dropped its first three games to start league play -- including a loss at Syracuse -- and has seemingly taken itself out of the race early. Although the Heels haven't statistically been eliminated, it would take a remarkable scenario for them to win it.
The Blue Devils are positioned in striking distance of first place despite beginning 1-2 in the league after back-to-back road losses. They have won five straight, including wins over Virginia and Pittsburgh, and look like the team the league's media predicted would win the regular season.
As they prepare to play before upwards of 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he welcomes the attention the matchup brings.
"Hopefully, the game will measure up to the buildup," Krzyzewski said in a release.
Somewhat lost in what the game will mean for both teams is the fact that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Krzyzewski -- the winningest coaches in Division I history with more than 1,900 wins between them -- will meet for just the third time ever. That's why Krzyzewski doesn't see it as a potential hostile takeover; he believes it'll be good for the ACC brand and points to the presence of ESPN's "College GameDay" broadcasting from Syracuse as proof.
As fun as this one could be, the two teams have a second meeting scheduled for Feb. 22 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It's why Duke guard Andre Dawkins didn't feel the need to give the game a greater meaning than it already has.
"We're not about making statements and doing a lot of talking, we just play," Dawkins said. "Right now our focus is on Syracuse, then we'll worry about who we have next. We'll let you guys [media, fans] do the talking."