N.C. State at Duke Preview

ACC OP BB 001The Duke Blue Devils take to the hardwood tomorrow afternoon hoping to advance their ACC record to 3-2 with a win over cross town rival N.C. State.

Basketball is a curious thing. For instance a tough and hot UVA team which Duke defeated got blown out at Tennessee, while the Wolfpack hold a win over the Vols on the same court. The Pack also defeated Notre Dame on the road which Duke was unable to do. Let's face it though, the Pack faced the Irish right after their win over Duke, so they caught them fat and happy.

What am I getting at here? Well, on a given day, they do show up and they've done this more often than not on the road.

But the Pack has struggled of late losing four out of their last six contests which translates to a 11-6 overall record. This includes a heart breaking loss to Wake Forest by a digit.

That has most folks seemingly writing the Packs season off and that sometimes makes for a dangerous team. And we know that the Pack like all others are likely to play at their best against the team with "Duke," on the jersey.

The Pack are led by Tony Warren, one of the ACC's top scorers. I told anybody who would listen that this kid could score the ball while covering the AAU circuit and that he'd be a much better player than Rodney Purvis who has since transferred from Raleigh.

Warren can more or less score from anywhere on the court and he will likely be the point of emphasis for the Duke defense. Another player capable of big games is Anthony Barber who can break a defense down on the drive. But Barber has been inconsistent with a sometimes terrible shot selection. Still, he is just the kind of player who knows there will be a spotlight on this game and he could rise to the occasion.

Both the Pack and Blue Devils have struggled on the boards this season, but this will be a stat line to watch. Another thing is how will a week lay off effect the Blue Devils at the start of the game.

I expect Duke will defend their home court and that they'll wear down the Wolfpack over the course of the game to come away with a win.

It seems that this Duke is learning to bring consistent effort tot he court and play complete games and with each victory the confidence builds for a team that is very young by Duke standards.

Don't look for the same platoon rotation though, for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is likely to settle on the players he feels most comfortable with until the game is in hand. That is partially due to the rest this team will have coming in.

The Wolfpack come into this game with their back against the wall and this sometimes makes for a tough team effort. But Duke has had early season adversity as well and they will not make for an easy win in Cameron.

Master moves nothing new for Coach K

Coach Kcoach k familycoach k PlympicsAPTOPIX NCAA Final Four Butler Duke Basketballcoach k 1BDN Photo

 As the buzzer sounded on Monday evening, the Duke Blue Devils celebrated happily after their win over Virginia.  It wasn't easy mind you, but who thought it would be over a pesky and hot Cavaliers team?

Still, this Duke team came together more than some might realize and they did so in a way that could be a starting point moving forward. It was no surprise to see the Captain, Mike Krzyzewski take the blame for his teams recent play, where they came into the game 1-2 in the ACC.

It was on the day after the Christmas holidays that his brother, whom he's extremely close to passed in a most untimely and unexpected way.

Unlike many folks, it is not as easy for Krzyzewski to have taken time off during a tragic moment in that the Duke Basketball machine is a college basketball behemoth which is driven to success by the all time wins leader in NCAA Basketball history.

He was visibly shaken before the game against Eastern Michigan, mere hours after he received the disturbing news and that wasn't easy to see.

Anyhow, it was certainly not my place to have mentioned his brothers passing as fans wondered aloud later what had gotten into their team.

Kryzyzewski is a private person with concern to family like many of us are, so all I could do is send a prayer his way and allow him to mention the news in his own time.

A few days later it came out in an obituary form in the Chicago paper and then it became public.  But the last thing the family seemed to want was a circus atmosphere of well wishers when he probably needed to work through things on his own.

Working through things is something Coach Krzyzewski is pretty good at per history and in time he will come to grips with the hole which currently resides in his heart.

And he'll work things out on the court as well. Krzyzewski took the heat off his team with his post game comments and this allows them to start fresh.  It was clear that Krzyzewski had implemented another master plan for a win Monday evening while instilling confidence at the same time.

He knew his team was tired and mentioned this prominently in the post game, taking the blame for not substituting properly as he dealt with difficult personal issues.

So the strategy was to keep five fresh players in at all times and for the first time in a while, he would platoon his players and they responded wonderfully. Krzyzewski likely knew his teams confidence was shaken against Clemson, so he involved all in an effort to turn their fortunes around.

It may sound unusual to say that Krzyzewski is underrated as a tactician, but I think it goes underappreciated once some of his moves happen. If you go back and look at the history of Duke Basketball, he's made several key moves and won when the media and fans thought his team was doomed to swoon.

This is the guy who plugged a football player in Reggie Love in the middle before a UNC game where Duke won easily over their rival. Also, in 2001, he flipped Chris Duhon into the backcourt with about ten games left in the season, sending current assistant coach Nate James to the bench as the sixth man and both flourished in their roles and energized the team.

How about the time when he inserted Jordan Davidson into the starting lineup against Chris Paul.  Davidson, a walk on played just a few minutes but he got the Crazies and the team pumped out of their heads.

Most recently, during his last NCAA title run, the moves were too numerous to mention.

Current assistant Jon Scheyer had been inserted into the PG spot the year before late in the season as was an athletic Elliot Williams on the wing.  But Williams unexpectedly transferred to Memphis at the midnight hour the following season.

Duke adjusted.  And nobody picked them to win it all.  In fact, they were considered un-athletic and too slow, but enter Brian Zoubek and a slower pace and a crystal trophy would ensue.

It would take ten thousand or more words to accurately document Krzyewski's moves but you get the general picture. Moving forward, I doubt we'll see the platoon system as much, but there will be other moves made for they always are.

The crazy thing is that move back to a shorter bench will be questioned, just like playing time is for certain players.  Fans generally see all the on ball stuff but fail to watch players off ball or where players are on defense.  After all, this is the age of ESPN ready players where people look for the three ball or the dunk to wow them ignoring the many other aspects of the game.

It never fails to amaze me that some will question a coach in any way with his credentials with concern to strategy.  This man and his staff see the players on a daily basis and not a soul catches practice or is aware of any kind of external issue with players be it injuries or private matters.

If anybody knows how to win, it is Mike Krzyzewski and it is probably easier for me to overlook a so-called swoon in that I have followed the program for a long time and have witnessed crazy success.

In that time, I have seen Coach K make constant moves and most of them work out.

There will be more ebbs and flows as the season unfolds, but don't be surprised if Duke doesn't once again make a deep run when it counts.

"I'm human," stated Mike Krzyzewski with concern to mourning the loss of his brother.  Well, you have had some not typical human success at Duke, Coach.  And perhaps you will have to find it in your heart to forgive those who think you are made of steel.

Amile Jefferson was a beast tonight – Coach K

Amile Jefferson sat down with BDN's Andre Slater in Fort Wayne Indiana for an in depth interview with one of the nations top prospects - BDN PhotoHuge effort from Amile Jefferson tonight, whom Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called a beast in his post game presser. Jefferson grabbed 15 boards, with three of them coming during a key stretch. One where he bounded the ball out to Sulaimon for a three and then two consecutive as UVA was trying to tie the game. Jefferson also scored 10 points for a double-double on the night. Check out what Jefferson had to say to Blue Devil Nation post game -

Thoughts on Virginia at Duke

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils return to Cameron tonight fresh off their upset loss to Clemson to face a hot Virginia team. After a blowout loss, the Cavaliers have won three straight ACC games and with ease.

Make no mistake about it, this is a must win for Coach K and company in that they have to protect their home court, especially since they are struggling on the road.

Duke will not fall out of the nation's top 25 teams when the polls come out later today, but they could if they cannot find the victory column this evening.

It will not be an easy task for the Blue Devils who have lost two of their last three games. In fact, the Blue Devils have little time to wallow in the Clemson defeat with such a short turnaround.

Duke will not play again until Saturday against N.C. State, so that is the time when the staff will have time for adjustments.

But for now, expect few changes this evening with the exception of some possible starters in their rotation.

That means, Duke will have to reach deep and quickly for the ACC will not bow at the four letters on their jersey while they find their footing.

Duke faces a much more solid team than Clemson in Virginia but the home court edge could be what the doctor ordered in that students will finally be back in full force.

But for Duke to come out on the winning end, they'll need to reach deep and find a way to get more stops and more boards.

Suddenly, the offense is struggling and that is not something that can last if Duke is to right the ship.

Thankfully for Duke, there are a lot of games to be played this season, but unless they reverse their fortunes and blend together, they could be saddled with a low seed come March.

Time and time again, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has found ways to right the ship when adversity hits, but this season, he has a very young team at key positions.

And the Blue Devils played young against Clemson this past Saturday, allowing the Tigers to dictate the pace at key moments in the game.

Duke also continued to struggle in the post where they are roster challenged.

Coming into the season, the Duke hopes were for their size to create match up problems on the offensive end to off set the lack of post depth.

But that hasn't been the case of late.

Another thing which is still evident is that the team has yet to blend well together which is expected to a degree. Still, it is the time of the season when most would like to see this happening.

The bottom line is that if Duke cannot find a way to take out a pesky Virginia team tonight, expect some serious red flags to continue to wave.

I think the team will rise to the challenge but it will not be easy. I look for a grinder of a game that will be close and tense.

On Saturday, several Blue Devils players didn't seem to pack their A-game. Well, tonight, it's time to bring it or else the Blue Devils could fall into that place they haven't seen in years.

There is too much talent on hand for this team to be in the long time no-see honorable mention column. Or at least one would think so.

You cannot force a young freshman super star to age a year in a month, nor can you stretch a player to 6-10.

It will not be easy against anybody on the road this season for Duke.

If Duke is to turn it all around and fight their way back toward the top ten they need a win over Virginia and not to look ahead, N.C. State this weekend as well.

If that doesn't happen, the top ten could be a distant memory.

It's time to draw a line in the sand for these Blue Devils.