NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 09 North Carolina at Duke

BDN’s Duke Basketball Notebook

New polls have Duke #3 in the Nation

The new polls came out this afternoon and while it was inevitable they would fall from the top spot with the loss to N.C. State, the Blue Devils still have a lot of respect amongst voters.  Duke still received 14 first place votes, and is rated #3 in the nation. Louisville, a team Duke beat earlier in the year, climbed to the top spot, while N.C. State vaulted to #14. Duke is 3-1 against teams currently in the top 25.  With the weekend loss, Duke is now 213-32 in games played as the #1 team in the land.

A needed break

Duke will next take to the hardwood on Thursday evening against Georgia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It is never a bad thing for a team to have several days rest after a loss, especially the first loss, which can shake a team’s confidence. Duke will undoubtedly work on their transition defense and study film to see where they can get better as they adjust their line up with Ryan Kelly’s absence. Duke will get another six-day break after the Georgia Tech game before having to travel to Miami on January 23rd in what will be another stiff ACC road challenge. Duke will play three of their next five ACC contests on the road, so needless to say this will be an important stretch for the team.

Ryan Kelly injury

Seth Davis stated the other day that Ryan Kelly could be out for the season. Maybe so, but I wouldn’t read too much into his comment. Most unsubstantiated rumors have said it’ll be 2.5 to 4 weeks, but the reality of the situation is that it will be kept quiet. This is not an uncommon thing because teams do not want to allow their opposition to prepare differently, so sometimes what you are hearing is a form of disinformation. The bottom line is nobody will leak anything on this one, so it is best to just assume Kelly will be out for an extended period of time. While we often deal with what is termed inside information, we stop short of sharng anything we might learn if it could be remotely considered detrimental to the team; additionally, in my opinion they deserve some privacy. We all clearly wish for a return to the court for Ryan Kelly and continue to wish him the best in his recovery.

Silver lining of sorts

While the immediate impact from Ryan Kelly’s injury is not positive for a team that had perfect chemistry, the long-term effect could be the development of some additional players. Duke needs players to step up right now and Amile Jefferson did just that against the Wolfpack. While Jefferson may not be physically ready for the ACC grind, he plays smart and has length and he grabbed hold of the opportunity afforded him vs N.C. State, posting 10 points. On the other hand, Duke got three minutes each from Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee, and their box scores read zeros across the board. Trust me when I say this: these brief minutes are looked at for production, and for either player to play more, those minutes, no matter how brief, need to show something positive in the box score. Josh Hairston played a career-high minutes and played well as a starter, his third such opportunity in his Duke career.

Sulaimon slumping on the offensive end

Surely you have heard the phrase “Hitting the freshman wall,” and it is real. Adjusting to the speed and frequency of the games at the college level is a difficult thing.  Throw schoolwork into the equation — and we all know you have to attend class at Duke — and it can be a lot to handle.  Rasheed Sulaiumon has connected on just 9 of his last 40 shots in his last four games, including 0-10 against the Wolfpack on Saturday. In the four games prior to the last four, Sulaimon went 25 of 50 from he field, which is more of what the Blue Devils need from him. Hopefully, he can find that rhythm to his game again — and fast — as Duke needs its scorers to score. Sulaimon likely needs to just re-discover his feel for the speed of the game on the offensive end, where he can be aggressive but not playing as if expecting contact. I fully expect he will find that game flow, and Duke fans will be happy when that happens.