BDN Week 13 College Football Picks

For the second week in a row, the #1 team in the country lost, and none of our pickers got it right. With the upsets to Kansas State, Oregon, and UCLA, it was a tough week for our picks. BDN's Andrew Slater maintains the overall lead and was the only one to correctly pick Georgia Tech to beat the Blue Devils. Here are this week's overall standings:

It's rivalry week for many schools, meaning that anything can happen. Can Lane Kiffin rally his Trojans, without Matt Barkley, to a win over new #1 Notre Dame? Can Auburn rally around their beleaguered head coach and upset the rival Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl? The ACC will look to earn some national respect as they take on three of the best in the SEC in annual in-state rivalry games. Florida State hosts Florida, Clemson hosts South Carolina, and Georgia Tech travels to Athens to take on the Bulldogs. The Blue Devils host the Hurricanes as they look to ensure a winning season and generate momentum heading into their bowl game.

Here are this week's picks:

Mark Watson: Seniors Conner Vernon and Sean Renfree connect on a late game pass to give the Blue Devils a thrilling win. Duke 30 Miami 28

Patrick Cacchio: This senior class has transformed the Duke program from an ACC bottom dweller into a bowl eligible team. The #BowlBoundDevils finish their season with a win to guarantee a winning season. Duke 38, Miami 34

Bob Green: It is Senior Day for a lot of players who deserve credit for significantly contributing to the success Duke has achieved this season. It has been a long, hard path and I really desire to see all
the seniors go out winners in their last game at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The defense must step up and stop Miami's offense. The offense can score points and keep the pressure on but the outcome will be determined by turnovers and performance on 3rd down. Duke 31, Miami 28

Andrew Slater: While Miami is playing for nothing more than pride, their collective team speed and explosiveness on offense should more than offset their repeatedly demonstrated defensive weaknesses. Despite Miami's recent downturn, it would be a marquee victory for the Blue Devils if they could pull off the upset and give some momentum to the squad for bowl season. Miami 34 Duke 27

Bob Harris: : ‘Canes players are upset with powers that be over self-imposted post-season ban. They leave their will to win in Coral Gables, and Connor Vernon says goodbye to Wallace Wade Stadium with a winning smile on his face. Duke 48 – Miami 14

Matt Daniels: With the Devils falling one game short of going to the ACC championship game, look for the Devils to come out strong on their Senior Day, as Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon go out with a bang. Miami will be playing with 0 motivation, Devils pull it off at home, 31-27.

Thad Lewis: For the final game and senior day I'm going to take Duke with seniors like Conner Vernon and Sean Renfree who have seen the good bad and ugly will have their best game and lead the team to a victory. Duke 42, Miami 35

Vinny Rey: Duke will win their seventh game in front of the home crowd. In this one, Vernon and Crowder will make the plays to win the game. Duke 23 Miami 21

Battle For Atlantis Final Preview – Duke vs Louisville

Photo copyright, RIck Crank and BDN

A couple of college basketball heavyweights will meet in the Championship Game of the Battle for Atlantis tomorrow evening. The Duke Blue Devils led by Coach Mike Kryzewski will take on the #3 rated Louisville Cardinals, led by Rick Pitino in as good an early season match up that one could want.

The last time Duke met Louisville was a gut wrenching loss in the 1986 National Championship Game where Purvis Ellison put an end to an amazing season and the first great Mike Krzyewski coached team.

The last time Mike Krzyzeski and Rick Pitino met, Duke won with the shot. Yes, that shot, the now famous Grant Hill to Christian Laettner pass where Duke would later advance to become the first team to win back to back National Titles since UCLA.

Don't be surprised if the pending heavyweight battle of elite programs is not an instant classic as well.

While there were certainly different teams taking the court in 1986 and 2012, you can bet that Duke fans would love for a little revenge. Of course, the stage will not be nearly as important, but yet still large enough for Blue Devil faithful to feel some retribution.

And with a win, Duke would be able to lay claim to winning a mythical state of Kentucky championship with their earlier victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the Tournament of Champions.

In order for this to happen, Duke will have to find a way to shake free from a lengthy Louisville zone and some serious pressure from their guards.

Louisville comes into the game with a solid and convicting win over #13 Missouri and are led in scoring by Russ Smith. Past, Smith, the Cards get a lot of balanced scoring from a deep roster.

That contingent includes Smiths' backcourt mate and one of the nations best point guards in Peyton Slva and these two were big in the lop sided win over Missouri, as was Luke Hancock.

Hancock led the Cards in scoring including a couple of dagger buckets in the second half which squelched any hope for a Tigers comeback.

The Cardinals also feature Chase Behanen and Gorgui Dieng, two solid front court players who average 19 rebound per game between them. In short, I have seen their kids play on the AAU trail and in college and they're a very solid and talented group that will certainly present a major challenge for Duke.

But with the challenge also comes an opportunity for the Blue Devils to prove they're one of the nations top two or three teams with a win and even with a loss, by either program, both these teams are clearly final eight material.

Duke will need Ryan Kelly and others to make sure Luke Hancock does not get the same open looks he did against Missouri where his three pointers were vital in the easy Louisville win.

The Blue Devils will also need for Seth Curry who is battling a serious nagging injury to give it a go. Krzyzweski has said there could be times where this might not happen and Curry has been very consistent for Duke this season despite very little practice with the team.

This game will also be the biggest test to date for the Blue Devils backcourt where Quinn Cook must continue to distribute in the face of serious pressure defense. Cooks' nine assists against Virginia Commonwealth was quite possibly his best game to date. And then there is freshman Rasheed Sulaimon who will once again play on the big stage as a true freshman and his ability to do so will prove telling.

Duke has gotten a lot of good play from their seniors this season and there is no reason to think Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly will not continue that trend. Plumlees ability to hit free throws on a consistent basis has been a game changer when in close contests and Kelly has shown the ability to block some shots while waiting for his shot to start going down on a consistent basis.

One thing to look for will be fatigue or if Duke hits a wall for they played just seven players against VCU and mainly five. I feel certain they'll go to their bench more in this game but you never know.

Anyhow, strap yourself in for a good basketball game where we'll certainly learn more about Duke this early season.

At the end of the night, one of these teams will take sole possession of the #2 ranking, so there is a lot at stake for an early season slugfest.

So far this season, Duke has met every challenge and if they meet this one against Louisville, there will most certainly be a lot to talk about.

Some say Duke has not passed the eye test this season while others can only talk of the latest anti Duke rhetoric, flopping.

At some point they may recognize that Duke is still Duke and they continue to win consistently and low and behold position defense against team which drive aggressively is not always flopping.

Okay, maybe not, but a Duke win over another strong and talented opponent in Louisville would at least keep them at bay and force them to recognize this team is pretty good and ducking nobody.

Duke grinds out a 67-58 win over VCU, advance to Battle in Atlantis title game

Lance King Images for BDN

Somewhere along the way for teams hoping to play deep into March, you have to prove you can win a grinder style game against a good team and the Duke Blue Devils did that today.

While it is certainly too early to say how they'll look come March, Duke has surely showed they are up to the task against a challenging early season schedule where they continue to have success. Duke beat a solid Virginia Commonwealth team 67-58 to advance to the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis.

The Blue Devils did so and have won games to date with much improved defensive play and that side of the ball held the Rams to 32% shooting from the floor and chased them off the three point stripe after half time adjustments.

But the key adjustment was getting Mason Plumlee involved more in the post and Krzyzewski seemingly tapped the right buttons for he came out a different player scoring two early inside baskets while rebounding better. Plumlee finished the game with another double-double with a team high 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Another reason Duke will head to the championship game has been the play of Quinn Cook who entered the starting lineup three games ago.

Cook combined with Rasheed Sulaimon to fend off the Rams defense which is appropriately named "Havoc," from constant pressure and traps. Cook scored 9 points but more importantly dished out 9 assists and got his teammates the ball in the right position against a tough defense.

The aforementioned Sulaimon also helped the Blue Devils with 7 rebounds from his guard position and those were nig on a night when Duke struggled a bit on the glass. Sulaimon added 12 points and the Blue Devils ended the game with four players in double figures.

One of those players was senior Seth Curry who 15 points and knocked down 9 of 10 free throws. In fact, the prowess Duke showed from the free throw line was a difference maker where they went 24 of 27 which translates to 88.9%, a coaches dream.

Duke also benefited from 5 blocked shots produced by Ryan Kelly and one of those came at a most key momentum that killed a VCU run. Kelly finished the game with 11 points and 4 rebounds.

Another key stat for Duke was their ability to protect the ball against pressure. Few teams will commit just 8 turnovers against VCU this season and Duke was able to weather the storm.

Duke also dished out 14 assists to the Rams 4 and closed the rebounding deficit to 6 with many of those coming down the stretch.

While this might not have been the prettiest of wins, it was a solid one for Duke who goes to 5-0 on the season.

Krzyzewski and Duke made good half time adjustments and implemented their will to get to the fre throw stripe and get Plumlee going inside. They played VCU style ball in the 1st half but Duke ball in the second and that flip was the difference.

The Blue Devils will need a lot of rest before they play either Missouri or Louisville, two deep and active teams tomorrow. Duke played just seven players in their win over the Rams and the starters got the bulk of the minutes.

Duke looks for a win on Senior Day against Miami

Conner Vernon will cap off a record-setting career in Durham on Saturday against Miami - BDN Photo

Miami at Duke
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, November 24
Durham, North Carolina

TV: ACC Network

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke: 6-5 (3-4 ACC), lost at Georgia Tech, 42-24

Miami: 6-5 (4-3 ACC), defeated USF, 40-9




PROBABLE: S Jordon Byas, S Anthony Young-Wiseman
QUESTIONABLE: S Brandon Braxton
OUT: CB Jared Boyd, LB Kelby Brown, TE Braxton Deaver
OUT FOR SEASON: CB Lee Butler, TE Jack Farrell, WR Blair Holliday, DE Allen Jackson, S Corbin McCarthy, S Taylor Sowell


OUT: OL Jermaine Johnson, WR Rashawn Scott
OUT FOR SEASON: WR Davon Johnson, WR Robert Lockhart Jr., RB Eduardo Clements, OL Ben Jones, WR Malcolm Lewis, LS Sean McNally, LB Ramon Buchanan


It's Senior Day in Durham and the Blue Devils will have to put forth an inspired performance to pull off the upset against the Hurricanes. The key to a Duke win will be in establishing the running game against a Miami defense that ranks last in the conference, allowing 224 yards per game. Miami will look to feature star freshman Duke Johnson in their offense, and the Blue Devils will need to showcase their own young star in Jela Duncan. In addition to struggling against the run, the Miami defense ranks near the bottom of the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss, meaning that the Blue Devil offensive line needs to establish their dominance early and often in this game. Duke will need to match the Hurricanes' speed in special teams to prevent big plays. Stephen Morris has had success moving the ball through the air with Philip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott his favorite targets on the year, and tackling the explosive Johnson will be a challenge.


The difference in recent years between these two teams has been Duke's inability to contain the Hurricanes' athletes. This year could be a similar result if Stephen Morris gets going through the air, and if Duke Johnson breaks a few runs on the ground against a Blue Devil defense that has allowed more than its fair share of explosive plays (think Stanford, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Clemson). Miami will look to break open the game in special teams, where Johnson already has 2 kick return touchdowns on the season. Their defense will have to contain hometown star Conner Vernon and the speedy Jamison Crowder, and hope that the Duke offensive line struggles as they have at times this year. For Miami to finish their season on a winning note, though, they have to win with explosive plays.


With another self-imposed postseason ban looming, the Hurricanes will have to find their own motivation on Saturday. Jela Duncan will set a new career high in his brief career against the struggling Miami defense, and the Blue Devils' other sensational freshmen, Ross Martin and Will Monday, will contain the Hurricanes' return game. The Blue Devils are going bowling and will look to close the careers of Sean Renfree, Desmond Scott, and Conner Vernon on a winning note at home. It's been a terrific four years for this group of seniors, and they'll leave Wallace Wade Stadium as winners. Duke 38, Miami 34

Battle for Atlantis Preview: Duke vs. VCU

Coming off a solid 18 point win over Minnesota, the Blue Devils next face the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth, who upset Memphis by 13 later on Thursday in the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas.  Duke (4-0) enjoyed outstanding performances from Seth Curry (25 points on 8 of 11 shooting), Mason Plumlee (20 points and 17 rebounds), and Quinn Cook (a career-high 17 points) in controlling things against the Gophers, but will have to come back on short rest, and with (or without) a gimpy Curry, against VCU.

Of course, Duke and VCU have a history, and that history is not a pleasant one for Blue Devils fans, as the Rams knocked Duke out of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in the first round on an Eric Maynor bucket in the final seconds.  That signature win solidified VCU's status -- initially earned under coach Jeff Capel, Sr. and continued under Anthony Grant and then Shaka Smart -- as one of the top mid-major programs in the nation.  VCU's program is best known, however, for its magical run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, when the Rams, after winning in the play-in game, proceeded to blow out Georgetown and Purdue to reach the Sweet 16, then took out Florida State and #1 seed Kansas to reach the school's first Final Four, where they finally bowed to Butler.  Coach Shaka Smart has been mentioned for virtually every significant coaching vacancy since, but has turned them all down to remain in Richmond.  Last season, the Rams were outstanding again, going 29-7 overall and 15-3 in the conference, winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, and reaching the third round of the NCAA Tournament (to me it's really the second round),  having upset #5 seed Wichita State before losing a heartbreaker to Indiana by a bucket. For the 2012-13 season, VCU has moved to the more prestigious Atlantic-10 Conference, so even referring to them as a "mid-major" seems to be a misnomer.

Despite losing last year's leading scorer, Bradford Burgess, this team is expected to immediately contend for the A-10 title.  The 2012-13 season has started out well for the Rams.  They beat Florida Gulf Coast (common opponent with Duke) by 23, lost by a bucket to Wichita State, and blew out Winthrop before the upset of Memphis down in the Bahamas.  As in past seasons, Smart runs a perimeter-oriented attack.  Perhaps the most talented Ram is 6'5" 215 pound sophomore guard Treveon Graham, averaging 14.5 ppg and 4.2 rebounds as he has moved into the starting lineup this year.  Graham went off for 26 against Memphis, including 4 of 6 from the 3-point stripe.  The floor leader is 6'3" 200 pound senior point guard Darius Theus.  Though Theus only averages 10 ppg, he dishes out over 5 assists per game and most importantly is a real floor general out there who excels at getting his teammates involved in the offense; he also is aggressive at the defensive end.  The third guard in the starting lineup is 6'4" 200 pound senior and 3-point specialist Troy Daniels, averaging 9.5 ppg.  Amazingly, 247 of Daniels' 299 FG attempts last year were from 3-point land.  The main man inside for the Rams is 6'9" 235 pound junior forward Juvonte Redic, averaging 14.3 points and 8 boards per game; he has to hold down the fort, as he is VCU's only true post player who can hurt you.  7'0" 250 pound junior center D.J. Haley has gotten most of the starts this year as well.  He's a big body on defense, but a non-scorer.  The Rams' top guy off the bench is 6'2" 180 pound junior guard Rob Brandenburg.  Averaging only 6.3 ppg coming into the Memphis game, he had 15 big ones against the Tigers, including two three's in the second half that helped thwart a Memphis comeback.  Sophomore guard Briante Weber is a nice player off the bench as well, but the other Ram to watch is freshman guard Melvin Johnson, a top 100 prospect who was released from his commitment to Miami, and then was recruitied by several Big East schools.  The sharpshooter is going to hurt somebody this year when they're not expecting it.

As usual, Shaka Smart's team plays very hard on the defensive end, applying relentless full court pressure.  They're averaging 14 steals per game.  That's a ton.  As usual, they are deep.  This year's team is shooting the ball well from distance as well, hitting 37% from 3-point range.  The gym on Paradise Island was no impediment against Memphis, as the Rams hit 13 of 22 three-balls to help sink the Tigers.

The Rams are going to present some real challenges for the Blue Devils.  Their guards are big and solidly built -- just the kind of guards who gave Duke problems last year, as they shot over the smaller Blue Devil perimeter players.  Having a savvy playmaker and penetrator like Theus is going to provide a test for Duke as well.  Can the Blue Devils guards move their feet and prevent penetration and the kickouts to VCU's array of shooters?  If Seth Curry is hobbling, as seems likely, or certainly if he doesn't play at all, the other Devils perimeter defenders are really going to have to pick up the slack.  Quinn Cook is likely to have the first stab at containing Theus, and at the other end he'll have to resist Theus' in-your-shirt D.  I assume that Rasheed Sulaimon will have primary responsibility for Graham -- that's a real challenge for the freshman, but one I'm sure he relishes and, frankly, I think it's one he can handle.  Ty Thornton will probably get his cracks at Graham as well.  On the inside, Redic is the real deal, and he's a load in there.  But Mason Plumlee has been playing at an All-American level, and if he continues to do so, Duke will be in great shape in this game.  But he's going to have to be on his game against a strong and aggressive opponent like Redic.  If Redic guards Mason, the Blue Devil big man will have a couple of inches on him for starters, and his length and athleticism will provide additional advantages, but Redic will make him work hard for everything -- at both ends.  Cook is also going to have to protect the ball against top-flight pressure, and if Curry doesn't play, then an even greater responsibility for handling that pressure will fall on Quinn.  In that situation, I would expect Ryan Kelly, a very good ballhandler for a 4-man, to help out as a release.

Look, Duke has a better team, but it's a game the Blue Devils can lose.  I didn't really think Minnesota had the horses to beat Duke, but VCU does.  If Mason is off his game or gets in foul trouble, if Seth doesn't play, if we have trouble with their drive-and-kick game or their pressure D -- any of these could spell trouble.  But the bottom line is Duke has more margin for error than does VCU.  Duke has the best player on the floor in Plumlee, and may have the next best (or even two) as well.  When push comes to shove, I expect Duke to get to the winners circle here, but I also expect VCU to play them very tough.




Blue Devils shoot lights out to defeat Minnesota

The Duke Blue Devils pushed their season record to 4-0 with an 89-72 win over Minnesota in their opening game in the Battle for Atlantis Tournament. Seth Curry led the way for Duke by scoring 25 points and Mason Plumlee added 20 points and 17 rebounds as the Blue Devils advanced to play Virginia Commonwealth tomorrow evening at 7:00 on the NBC Sports Channel.

Blue Devils shoot lights out

Duke shot a solid 54.5% from the field but a whopping 80% from beyond the three point arc, where they went 8 for 10. Duke also made a very acceptable 21 of 26 from the free throw stripe. If Duke continues to shoot like this, they'll be tough to beat.

Starters played like starters

Duke got all but two of its points from its starters.  Three bench players saw significant action, but only Amile Jefferson scored late in the contest. Alex Murphy played the final mop-up minute. The Blue Devils will surely need more production from the bench to advance to the championship game in the stacked Battle for Atlantis field.

Quinn Cook starts and plays well

Sophomore PG Quinn Cook looked really comfortable on the court today, and his play was key to the Blue Devils win. Cook seems to play better when he starts and today he tossed in a career-high 17 points to go with 4 assists and 3 rebounds.  But it was his defense, including 5 steals, which most impressed. His off-balance three-pointer at the end of the first half gave Duke solid momentum as well.

Mason Plumlee dominated the paint

Huge numbers once again from the increasingly efficient Mason Plumlee, who was robbed of ACC Player of the Week honors in the opinions of many. Plumlee went 8 for 10 from the free throw stripe and finished with 20 points and a whopping 17 rebounds. Mason has established himself as a clear ACC POY candidate early on, and he is earning early consideration for national honors.

The recap

Duke started slow but as the game went on they looked poised against what Tubby Smith has termed his best team at Minnesota. The Blue Devils offense was amazingly proficient, but they also continued to show signs of playing much better defense than a season ago. There is no doubt that Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is treating the tournament in the Bahamas as a business trip, and several media members noticed, as they mentioned his focus and intensity this week. Duke will play two more teams on Paradise Island, and they'll both play much different styles than the Gophers.  No matter the opponent in this loaded Battle for Atlantis field, the experience gained will help big time when the Blue Devils begin ACC play.  Duke played very well today and Coach Krzyzewski is surely pleased to see that his three seniors continue to lead.  There is no word as to the status of Seth Curry's nagging leg injury or whether he is likely to recover in time to play significant minutes tomorrow against VCU.