Get well soon, Mike!

[private]I was saddened to hear that Mike Cragg had triple by pass surgery at Duke Medical Center this week. 

Cragg (right) has many duties including the coordination of the Coach K Academy
Cragg (right) has many duties including the coordination of the Coach K Academy

Cragg is in charge of the Legacy Fund at Duke University and also serves as the Associate Athletic Director.  He’s a class act individual who bleeds Duke Blue.  The Blue Devil Nation and myself wish Mike a speedy recovery.

Cragg is an 86 graduate of Washington University.  He’s spent 21 years of his career at Duke where he was the former SID.

I will be sure to let the Blue Devil Nation know how he’s doing.[/private]

It’s Duke vs Michigan I at MSG – preview and pick

[private]While many fans were expecting UCLA to be in the finals, the Wolverines proved that their program was on the upswing with a 55-52 upset win.  Much of this is due to their new coach John Beilein who has his club at 3-0.

Many of you will remember Beilein as the coach of an inspired West Virginia team which knocked Duke out of the NCAA’s last season.  That is one of the main story lines going in.  Another story line is that the Blue Devils travel to Ann Arbor on December 6th, meaning these two clubs twice in 15 days.

Michigan employs a tricky 1-3-1 zone which befuddled the Bruins.  The Wolverines got 19 points from DeShaun Sims who controlled the game in the paint.  Then there is Manny Harris and a cast of kids who can shoot the three, a Beilein trademark.

Duke shot more free throws than Michigan and UCLA hit and missed combined.  It’s no secret that the Blue Devils will hope to get to the line again and I expect to see the ball go inside early and often in that Beilein will defend the three with his zone.

Another key will be which team dictates their tempo.  Duke wants to run up and down, while Michigan will be a bit more controlled or methodical.  Both teams have now adjusted to New York, but it’s a mystery as to whether Michigan will play loose.  For that matter, Duke was pretty tight in the first half with their offense struggling.

I think Michigan will come out strong and implement their game plan, but as the game goes on, Duke will find a way to counter.  Once Duke has Michigan playing in transition, fouls should mount up.  Then again, if the 1-3-1 zone works as it’s suppose to, passing lanes and relocation of the ball is difficult, which would force Duke to seek cutters to the rim.

While this may sound odd, if you are watching on TV, the rim to the right is extremely tight, while the one on the left seems loose.  This was evident to me in last seasons Duke-Pitt game.  In short, lets hope the Devils have the left rim last.

The pick here is Duke 84 Michigan 65[/private]

Duke rides 40 of 47 free throw shooting to win over Southern Illinois

[private]Duke got a little bit defensive on their way to a 83-58 win over Southern Illinois to advance to the finals of the 2K Coaches for Cancer Classic in New York City.  Going into the game, there was much talk of the Saluki’s defense, but by games end Duke proved that they are known for their man to man prowess as well.

Duke shot an incredible 40 of 47 from the free throw stripe during a contest in which they struggled in the first half offensively.  The bright spot was Gerald Henderson who scored 20 points not to mention gaining the ESPN Play of the Day on a thunderous dunk.

He was helped by the continued good play of Brian Zoubek, who tallied 10 points and 6 rebounds in just 18 minutes of play.  Singler and Scheyr contribute 13 apiece, putting four Devils in double figures.  Duke advances to play Michigan, an upset winner over UCLA this evening.

The game went pretty much as our preview said it would in that Duke used the first game to adjust to MSG and got one of their key contributors in Henderson to step up.[/private]

Duke-Southern Illinois square off in MSG – Game Picks

[private]Duke returns to New York City once again, where they will face Southern Illinois in the semifinal of the Coaches for Cancer 2K Classic.  The game tips off just after 7:00 EST and will be televised on ESPN2.

Duke is coming off a close call at home versus Rhode Island and is facing a team which plays with a similar tenacity.  SIU is no pushover.  In fact, all week long people have raved about their defensive prowess which held opponents to well under 60 points per game last season.

The Saluki’s are anchored on the inside by well rounded Carlton Fey and the back court is manned by Bryan Mullins.  There is little doubt that they will want to showcase their program to a national audience, especially against the team that gets everybody’s best shot in Duke.

It will be interesting to see how the Devils respond.  In the past, Duke has blown through early games, but this is a team with a developing chemistry.  Coach Krzyzewski shortened his bench against the Rams, so one thing we’ll watch for is if a freshman can step up on a national stage.

In the first few games, the freshman have looked like freshman, looking lost at times and reacting too slow and or with hyper speed or forcing the issue instead of letting the game come to them.

Then there is Greg Paulus who will not be 100%.   That means Nolan Smith will have to prove he’s ready to take the next step as a leader.  More intriguing is the early play or lack thereof from Gerald Henderson.  “G” has all the tools to dominate aspects og the game, but has yet to put together a complete game and seems to be struggling to find his place in the chemistry.

Duke can likely count on Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler for leadership and cool under pressure, but they will need help to get through the next two games. That help could come by way of Lance Thomas, who has shown he wants to be starting with his recent play.

I am of the opinion, that K is bring this team along at his pace, one which will help them develop come the ACC.  There have been time when Duke didn’t play well in the limelight of the Big Apple, but SIU will be facing this stage for the first time in awhile.

I feel that Gerald Henderson will have a breakout game and that Duke will get balanced efforts from their cast in route to a win.  Look for the Devils to go at Fey early and often to get him in could trouble.  Fey is a solid defender, but the Saluki’s will be challenged if Duke gets into their bench up front.

It will be vital that Duke gets good play from either Smith or Paulus as well.  While I certainly respect the tough opponent, I feel Rhode Island prepared Duke for this game and that K will in no way allow Duke to look ahead to possible match with UCLA.

The pick here is Duke 82 Southern Illinois 64[/private]

Duke Redshirt QB Sean Renfree is learning the system

[private]I made it a point to ask about the progress of Sean Renfree during Tueday’s press conference.  Cutcliffe had some good things to say about a future signal caller -

While Duke has two remaining contests left in the 2008 season, some fans like to look ahead a bit.  Not all of the Blue Devils progress can be measured on the field.  For instance, Coach Cutcliffe said that he would burn no more redshirts the remainder of this season.

While seven or so key freshman have been forced to play due to needs, the Devils will hold the rest out to give them an extra year to mature. Duke is quietly grooming what could be their quarterback of the future behind the scenes.

Sean Renfree chose Duke over Arizona State, Boise State, Georgia Tech and Oregon State last season.  He was one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks and is the first one Cutcliffe and his staff targeted.

At 6-3, 200 pounds and gaining, Renfree has the kind of size Cutcliffe likes in a quarterback.  “I want them to be big, I want them to be able to see the field and they have to be able to command the ball and be accurate.  If they can run, it’s a bonus,” said Cutcliffe.

In fact, his mechanics somewhat resembles the Manning brothers, two highly successful, winning quarterbacks on each level.  The redshirt freshman is known for a quick release and more importantly accuracy and anticipating the wide outs routes.

“Sean had a good morning practice.  He’s a very bright young man.  Redshirting can come very complacent to certain kids, but he’s been 100% the other way – he’s been very much into what he is doing,” said Cutcliffe when I asked of Renfree’s progress.

Renfree attended Notre Dame Prep in Arizona and the school prepared him for the academics at Duke.  He’s adjusting on and off the field and may well earn playing time in 2009 which will be his first collegiate season.

Cutcliffe continued on Renfree’s progress, “I’ve been real pleased with Sean.  He’s throwing the ball well in practice.  We’ve increased his throwing.  He does all of our receiver drills.  He can really throw it and is working out a lot against the defense.  He’s kind of a double dipper, people don’t  know that this guy can really run.”

Duke will no doubt concentrate on Virginia Tech and UNC to close the season, but it’s comforting to know that recruiting continues to better team personnel and that Renfree is accepting of his current role to prepare for next season.

As Cutcliffe has often stated, “We’re not just trying to build a good team.  We’re trying to build a good program at Duke and we will.”[/private]

Duke-Southern Illinois Game Notes

[private]•  Game 4  • 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer
[10 AP/5 Coaches] Duke (3-0) vs. Southern Illinois (2-0)
Thursday, November 20, 2008  •  7:00 PM ET  •  espn2
Madison Square Garden (19,763)  •  New York, N.Y.
 
Game Quick Facts
TV: espn2; Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Bobby Knight (analyst), Doris Burke (sideline).
Radio: Duke Radio Network (flagship WDNC 620 AM in Durham); Reece Edwards (play-by-play), John Roth (analyst) and Matthew Laurance (sideline).
All-time Series: Duke leads the all-time series 2-1, including a 1-0 mark under Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils have won the last two meetings in the series, including a 105-70 win in the opening round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament.
Coaches:
                                    Mike Krzyzewski
   Overall Record: 806-267 (34th year)
      Duke Record: 733-208 (29th year)
                        vs. Southern Illinois: 1-0
 
                                           Chris Lowery
          Overall Record: 98-41 (fifth year)
Southern Illinois Record: 98-41 (fifth year)
                                            vs. Duke: 0-0
 
Blue Devil Bits
l The Blue Devils are ranked 10th in the AP poll and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. Southern Illinois is unranked in both polls.
l Duke is 3-0 on the year, marking the eighth straight year it has started with three straight wins.
l The Blue Devils have been ranked in 22 consecutive AP polls and in 225 of the last 227 polls.
l Duke is coming off a hard-fought 82-79 home win over Rhode Island on Sunday, Nov. 16. The victory extended the Blue Devils non-conference home win streak to an NCAA-best 62 games.
l Sophomore Kyle Singler was named ACC Co-Player of the Week (along with Clemson’s Trevor Booker) after leading Duke to wins over Presbyterian, Georgia Southern and Rhode Island. Singler averaged 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
l Junior Jon Scheyer (23) and sophomore Kyle Singler (21) combined for 44 points in the win over Rhode Island. Scheyer and Singler became the first pair of Duke teammates to score 20+ points in the same game since Singler (26) and Greg Paulus (20) accomplished the feat against Maryland on February 13, 2008.
l Duke advanced to the semifinals of the 2008 2K Sports Classic with wins over Presbyterian (80-49) and Georgia Southern (97-54) at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
 
Numbers Game
l Duke is 15-6 under Mike Krzyzewski at Madison Square Garden. Last season, the Blue Devils had a seven-game win streak at MSG snapped in a 65-64 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 20.
l Nine of the previous 15 Duke games at Madison Square Garden have drawn at least 19,000 spectators.
l Sophomore Kyle Singler ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring at 19.7 points per game. He also ranks 13th in rebounding at 7.7 rpg.
l Jon Scheyer went 13-of-13 from the foul line in a 23-point effort against Rhode Island. His 13 free throws made without a miss is tied for the fourth-most in school history. Scheyer ranks second in Duke history with a .869 free throw percentage.
l Junior Lance Thomas had 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Rhode Island. He has come off the bench to score in double figures in two of Duke’s first three games.
l Duke is 106-16 all-time in the month of November, including a 92-10 mark under Coach K.
l The Blue Devils have won 12 straight games in November and are 43-2 in the month since 1997-98.
l Mike Krzyzewski is fifth all-time (first among active coaches) with 806 career wins.
l Duke is 264-52 this decade, more wins than any other team in the NCAA.
l Duke is 5-2 all-time against teams currently in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Blue Devils have won 4 straight contests against Missouri Valley Conference opponents (last loss was 72-67 versus Southern Illinois on March 13, 1967).
l Sophomore Nolan Smith has reached double figures in scoring in all three games this season. He has raised his scoring average 6.8 points per game from last season and is currently third on the team in scoring at 12.7 ppg.
l Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler combined to score 15 of Duke’s final 17 points against Rhode Island. The duo was 2-of-3 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line in the final 4:28 of the game.
l Sophomore Kyle Singler is averaging 9.7 free throw attempts per game this season. He is 23-of-29 (.793) from the foul line. Last year, Singler averaged just 3.1 free throw attemps per game.
l Duke is well represented in Dick Vitale and Dick Weiss’ latest book; Dick Vitale’s Fabulous 50 Players & Moments in College Basketball. Eight former Blue Devils (Christian Laettner [2], Johnny Dawkins [13], Grant Hill [15], Danny Ferry [18], Jason Williams [21], Shane Battier [25], Bobby Hurley [31] and J.J. Redick [44]) are listed among the top 50 players. Vitale and Weiss also ranked Laettner’s field goal at the buzzer to give Duke a double-overtime victory against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional second overall among the Top 50 Moments of the last 30 years. Jeff Capel’s 40-foot shot to push the Feb. 2, 1995 Duke-North Carolina game into double-overtime was ranked eighth, while Duke’s 1991 NCAA semifinals win over previously unbeaten UNLV is 17th. Duke’s back-to-back NCAA titles (1991 & 1992) came in at No. 23 and the Blue Devils’ rally from a 22-point deficit to beat Maryland in the 2001 NCAA semifinals is No. 37. Duke’s final showing among the Top 50 moments is at No. 41 with the Miracle Minute at Cole Field House. Duke overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 60 seconds of play to top Maryland 98-96 in overtime on Jan. 27, 2001.[/private]