Coach K

Duke Basketball – The Road Ahead

Coach KThe Duke Blue Devils currently stand 8-0 on the young college basketball season.  We covered the fast start in a previous article, now let’s take a quick look at the road ahead –

The first leg of the journey …

The Blue Devils will next take to the court against Elon in Cameron Indoor Stadium on December the 15th.  Yes, tip off for that contest is still a week off and its by design that Duke generally plays a lesser opponent to shake off the exam break blues.  The reason being that this game will serve as a tune up for their next marque match up against the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies. There will surely be a standing room only crowd in East Rutherford, New Jersey when the Blue Devils take on the Huskies in that both teams have huge alumni bases in the area.   If Duke comes out of these two games, they’ll head into ….

… the final holiday break of the season where the Blue Devils hope to be 10-0.

Duke will get an eleven day break after the UConn match up where they return to action against Toledo on December 29th, followed by the Wofford  game on the 31st and or New Years Eve.    These two opponents will be the last easy games on the Blue Devils schedule before they get into the thick of their ACC slate.  That statement is not meant to be disrespectful to Toledo which is currently 4-4 or Wofford who stands at 7-2.  It’s just the way Duke schedules and the ACC is shaping up at the top, makes these easier contests than most of the remaining games.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski and company will shake off the Holiday break in these match ups and could very well enter ACC play 12-0.

Nowhere to go but down …

It’s easy for the fan base to suddenly take early season success for granted.  Duke is currently ranked as the number two team in the country and they will likely keep that spot if they get past the Huskies.  The hype machine will be in full swing and that means new lessons to be learned by the freshman.  So far this season, the freshman and veterans on the Duke squad have dealt nicely with expectations.  In fact, they’ve been cool customers on the court in hostile environments.  The win over Wisconsin solidified Duke in the eyes of the general media.  It’s not easy to beat the Badgers anywhere, much less their infamously tough home court.  And despite the loss, the Badgers dropped just four spots to sixth in the country in the polls.  While the Blue Devils are flying high, the schedule gets tougher which brings about varying amounts of possible adversity.  Duke must travel to Louisville with no return favor.  They also have tough road games at North Carolina,  N.C. State, Virginia and Syracuse as well as one more non conference road game at St. John’s.  They do get an upstart Miami team at home as well as return trips from North Carolina and Syracuse.  Duke is riding high at number two in the nation and they could get to the number one spot, but realistically, there is nowhere to go but down after a loss when in early season rare air.  I might add that past a game against Louisville and a home contest against North Carolina, Kentucky which is ranked in the top spot then takes on a soft SEC slate.  That means, they’ll almost assuredly remain in that spot for most of the season.

A lot of speculation  …

Fans and media can speculate on what might transpire down the road.  It’s easy to go out on a limb, but hindsight has a way of making current realities seem, well … you know.  Right now, it looks like the Blue Devils are destined for great things, but we’re more than three months removed from March when the true madness begins.  Mike Krzyzewski knows that it is what you do at that time that folks remember most and it will be fun to see how he molds his troops for the stretch run.

And all eyes will be on Coach K …

… as he goes for an unprecedented 1000th win as a college basketball coach.  Somewhere scalpers are already speculating on when that might be, for it will be a most storied day in Duke tradition.  I will tell you that if Duke stumbles or loses on game between now and January the 19th, it will come at home to Pitt.  And if they run the table, they will be going for it  for their coach against Louisville the game before.  Okay, I’ll stop looking so far ahead now.  What we will all see is how the Duke players handle the situation as it nears, for their will be hype and deservedly so for Mike Krzyzewski.  Adversity can even come in positive scenarios as well for players and watching them deal with the pressure will prove interesting.  It’s been a long and wonderful ride for Duke fans with the living legend at the helm.  He’s spurned he NBA on many occasions and stuck it out in Durham.  I am old enough to remember his early struggles, but I have also seen his accomplishments.  Quite frankly, it’s memory overload for me when thinking back on all the wonderful seasons and players he’s coached.  I’m just glad I got to see a lot of his career up close and personal and that the ride is far from over.

In closing, I will repeat myself from my last blurb on the team.  It’s a fun bunch to watch and a likable team which seems to have the ability to do special things.  And with that said, enough speculation … let’s just take it one game at a time and enjoy the ride.

 

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Duke to face Arizona State in Sun Bowl

The Blue Devils are headed to a postseason bowl game for the third straight year under Head Coach David Cutcliffe. This year, Duke has accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The game will kickoff at 2:00PM ET on Saturday, December 27. The Blue Devils will face off against the Arizona State Sun Devils out of the PAC-12 conference.

Duke finished the regular season 9-3 and in 2nd place in the ACC Coastal Division. The Blue Devils have won 19 games over the past two seasons, but are still in search of the program’s first bowl victory since the 1960 Cotton Bowl. This year’s team is led by three senior first team All-ACC players in WR Jamison Crowder, OG Laken Tomlinson, and LB David Helton. The Blue Devils have averaged 32 points per game on the 2014 season, while allowing just 20 points per game to their opponents.

Arizona State finished 9-3 in the regular season under Head Coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils feature one of the top offenses in the country, putting up 37 points per game. ASU is also led by 3 first team all-conference performers in redshirt senior OT Jamil Douglas, redshirt senior S Damarious Randall, and redshirt junior WR Jaelen Strong.

Tickets for the game are available through GoDuke.com.

Justise

Duke Baseketball – The Season To Date

JustiseAfter a 8-0 start to the season and most recently a victory over Wisconsin on their home court, it’s clear that Duke is a national championship contender.  Since we have a break in the games, let’s take a look at the Blue Devils to date.

A team that stays together, plays together

It’s clear that the 2014-15 Duke Blue Devils like each other on and off the court.  So far, this season, the chemistry is solid as a rock.  Said chemistry comes in many forms but one aspect which goes unseen by most is a tight locker room.  There are no overblown egos with the talented freshman class who are mature beyond their years.  Meanwhile, the veterans know their roles and realize that winning is something which brings all notice.  One thing players must realize in the Duke system is that their day will come if they’re patient.  And this years group seems to have a better grasp of that concept than some teams past.

Good coaching

During the off-season, Coach Mike Krzyzewski represented his country by once again leading Team USA to Gold.  During his absence, the Blue Devils assistants meshed together well, meeting the challenges of losing Chris Collins to Northwestern and more recently, Steve Wojciechowski to Marquette.  Jeff Capel, who has been a head coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth has really stepped into the role as the second man in charge.  Nate James  and Jon Scheyer add to a mature, no non sense Duke staff on game day as well.  But this group has been working hard off the court as well and they blended the team wonderfully in the off-season.  While certainly leaving instructions, Krzyzweski simply had to make his tweaks upon his return and we are seeing the results.  Those results are a better defensive team, a smooth looking offense and the ability to accomplish the mission at hand.  Duke shook things up in the off-season and the staff pushed the right buttons to make sure each and every player came back better.

marshallThe vets have all improved

It’s easy to focus in on the talented freshman class for many and for good reason.  But the veteran Duke players all made significant off season strides.  Let’s start with Quinn Cook, who has matured into his role of being a leader and captain.  Over the summer, Cook made an effort to get in tip-top shape and it shows.  He’s been the rock on this team to date in many ways and his outside shot will continue to open other opportunities for Duke.  Amile Jefferson has been oh-so solid on the boards.  His improved rebounding and spacing on defense is most noticeable.  Jefferson is taking his role of captain seriously and doing what it takes no matter what comes the Blue Devils way on the court.  Marshall Plumlee has been backing up Jahlil Okafor with good minutes as well.  And one of the stories of the new season is how consistent his free throws shooting has become where he is now efficient.  Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon have made huge strides in the area of maturity and understanding their roles.  In the case of Jones, he moves much better off ball this season and has played some hard-nosed minutes where he defends well.  Sulaimon learned to deal with adversity and to let his time come when it presents himself.  Scoring points in bunches are what can happen when you buy into “the game will come to you when the time is right,” scenario.  Let me also add, that both Jones and Sulaimon have been capable and active defenders to date.

And then there are the freshman

It’s clear now just how good this years Duke class is on the court.  Having seen all of these kids while on the AAU circuit gave me an idea of what they can do.  But watching them mesh together has yielded better results  than anyone could have envisioned.  We all knew they were good and mature beyond their years, but nobody knew they’d look like a well oiled machine together this early.  Jahlil Okafor is the best big man in the country already.  He’s as solid as one can get in the post and has the skill set to do it all.  Yes, he is one and done, so enjoy him while you can Duke fans.  Okafor is moving better than ever and his short-range use of the glass on the offensive end makes him one tough match up.  Krzyzewski has been masterful in keeping him fresh and Okafor is ridiculously efficient when he’s on the court.  Tyus Jones has won at every level he’s played on.  Now he’s doing it again at the highest level of college hoops.  Jones is silky smooth and savvy and has an extra competitive gear which showed in the Blue Devils win over the Badgers.  The combination of Cook and Jones has been as good as it gets to date and that was a question going into the season.  Justise Winslow is a fan favorite for many in that he is versatile, hard nosed and tough.  Just plug Winslow into the line up and watch him produce in every aspect of the game.  These three have been rock solid and fun to watch and more importantly good teammates.  Before you think Grayson Allen is the odd man out let me speak to the big picture.  Allen will for sure be a huge contributor at Duke in the future, but don’t count him out this season just yet.  Krzyzewski has a way of pushing buttons at the right time and Allen has a way of stat stuffing on the offensive end.

Resume building wins

Okay, here is a reality check for all Duke fans.  It’s been an incredible season to date, but it’s what you do in March and hopefully April that is most remembered.  Still, Duke has had a nice November and December with some NCAA Tournament resume building wins.  The best win was the last outing versus Wisconsin in one of the toughest places to play in America.  Duke also has wins over Stanford and Michigan State, two teams sure to be in the field of teams come March.

In closing, Duke looks as good and better than most teams in the nation in early December.  The team has been fun to watch and has likable players who seem to be having fun.  Thus far in this early college basketball season, Duke fans have little to complain about and plenty to crow about.

Next up:  We’ll take a look at the road ahead for the Duke Basketball team.

 

Clemson v Duke

Duke drops Wisconsin 80-70

Clemson v DukeThe Duke Blue Devils travelled to Madison, Wisconsin for the biggest early season college hoops match up to date.  And the result was to their liking, as they knocked off the nations second ranked team 80-70.

The Blue Devils moved to 8-0 on the young season by taking the crowd out of one of basketball’s infamous venues, trailing just two times in the game.  Duke has dominated their opponents in the ACC vs Big Ten Challenge but most figured that the Badgers would be the favorite playing at home.

Duke was led by a sensational performance by Tyus Jones, their freshman point guard who was the games high scorer with 22 points.  That was also Jones career high at Duke, but he had plenty of help on this evening.

“My teammates and coach are very confident in me and they’ve been getting on me to be more aggressive on the offensive end,” said Jones after the big Duke win.  Jones also added 4 assists and 6 rebounds to his stat line.

The Blue Devils only went eight deep with their rotation tonight, but it was the bench play which stood out.  Rasheed Sulaimon played his best game of the season, scoring 14 points.  Many of those came at key moments in the game when the Blue Devils were fending off an attempted Badger run.  Matt Jones and Marshall Plumlee also contributed by playing key minutes.

Jahlil Okafor was hampered a but by foul trouble, but was effective 13 points, including one of his more emphatic dunks of the season.  The Blue Devils leading scorer this season, senior captain Quinn Cook added 13 points as well and Amile Jeffrson and Justise Winslow tallied the remaining 11 points for Duke.

The Blue Devils stymied the Badgers with a solid defensive effort where they switched off their opponents with team play.   That coupled with shooting 65,2% from the floor was the recipe for victory.  And that victory came against one of the nations most experienced and disciple teams.

While in reality this is only a December win, it is one that will stand out big time when the NCAA Selection Committee seeds teams come March.

Duke improved to 25-13 against top-5 teams under coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke win snapped a  23-game non conference winning streak for the Badgers.

Duke used a 6-0 run to stretch the lead to 69-60 after Wisconsin close the gap late in the game.

The Blue Devils will not enjoy one of their longest breaks of the season.  The next game on the slate for the Blue Devils will be on December the 15th against Elon in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

 

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Duke at Wisconsin By the Numbers

duke-wf rick c 001By the numbers

• Duke (7-0) travels to Madison to face Wisconsin (7-0) Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the Kohl Center in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m. (EST) with ESPN televising the contest.

• Duke enters the game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 64-13 when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Wisconsin is ranked No. 2 in the AP and No. 4 in the Coaches Poll.

• The Blue Devils are 30-14 against teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll this decade (2009-10 season) with a 12-8 mark against top 10 teams.

• Wednesday’s game marks the 38th time under Mike Krzyzewski Duke has faced a team ranked in the top 5 of the AP Poll while also ranked in the top 5 of the poll. The Blue Devils are 24-13 under Coach K in matchups of top 5 teams.

• Duke is the winningest team in ACC/Big Ten Challenge history with a 13-2 (.867) record. The Blue Devils won their first 10 matchups in the event before Wisconsin snapped that streak Dec. 2, 2009.

• The Blue Devils are 3-2 overall in ACC/Big Ten Challenge road games but have lost their last two road contests in the event.

• Duke is coming off a 93-73 win over Army Sunday, Nov. 30. The Blue Devils dominated the interior, finishing with a +18 rebound margin, including a 17-6 edge on the offensive glass.

• The Blue Devils shot 65.9 percent (27-of-41) from inside the three-point arc and scored 50 points in the paint against the Black Knights. Duke is shooting 61.4 percent (162-of-264) on two-point field goals and averaging 42.3 points per game in the paint on the year.

• Jahlil Okafor scored a game-high 21 points in the win over Army, while Tyus Jones added 16 points, five rebounds and 10 assists.

By the numbers

• Duke has won each of the first seven games by 10-or-more points, marking the first time since the 2002-03 season it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils opened the 2002-03 campaign with nine straight double digit wins.

• The Blue Devils have trailed for just 48 seconds through the first seven games of the season. Duke has not trailed past the 16:46 mark in the first half with its largest deficit being two points.

• Eight different Blue Devils have scored in double figures this season with Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor reaching double figures in all seven contests.

• Freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow have started all seven games for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 42 times at Duke, including 27 times during the 1982-83 season.

• Duke is averaging 25.7 points per game off opponent turnovers. The Blue Devils have scored 20-or-more points off turnovers in six of their seven games.

• Duke’s top-rated freshman class – Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow – combines to average 45.9 points per game while shooting an efficient 52.8 percent (113-of-214) from the field. The group has posted for 16 of Duke’s 29 double figure scoring games this season.

• Quinn Cook has scored in double figures in all seven games and ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring at 15.6 ppg. He leads the ACC in three-point field goals (3.0 3pg.), while also ranking among the conference leaders in three-point percentage (.429 – 8th), assists (4.0 apg. – T-9th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (4.67:1 – 3rd).

• Jahlil Okafor, a three-time ACC Freshman of the Week selection, ranks second in the ACC in scoring (17.7 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.636), while also ranking among the league leaders in rebounds (13th – 7.9 rpg.), offensive rebounds (T-4th – 4.0 orpg.) and blocks (T-9th – 1.57 bpg.). Okafor averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to claim last week’s award.

• Amile Jefferson continues to be active on the glass, averaging a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game (5th in the ACC). He has collected 29 of his 62 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor and is third in the league in offensive rebounds (4.14 orpg.).

• Duke’s backcourt tandem of Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones has combined for 70 assists with just 13 turnovers (5.39:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) through seven games. Both players rank in the top 10 of the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

• Matt Jones is averaging 7.6 points per game, while shooting 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from three-point range. As a freshman, Jones was just 3-of-21 (.143) from behind the arc and averaged 1.8 ppg.

• Jahlil Okafor has grabbed four or more offensive rebounds in four straight games and is averaging 5.8 offensive rebounds per game in that span.

• Tyus Jones recorded 10 assists with no turnovers in the win over Army to become the second player in Duke history to post 10-or-more assists in a game without a turnover. He currently leads the ACC and is tied for fifth nationally with a 6.00:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (minimum 4.0 apg.).

• Duke’s post rotation of Amile Jefferson, Jahlil Okafor and Marshall Plumlee combines to average 30.6 points and 19.9 rebounds per game while shooting 66.4 percent (89-of-134) from the field

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Blue Devils Place Nine on All ACC Teams

DSC_0303DURHAM, N.C. – Led by first team selections Jamison Crowder, David Helton and Laken Tomlinson, Duke placed nine players on the 2014 All-ACC football team, as announced Monday by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).

A senior, Crowder earned first team all-league honors at both wide receiver and return specialist while Helton, a senior linebacker, and Tomlinson, a redshirt senior offensive guard, both received the second-most votes at their respective positions. Redshirt sophomore DeVon Edwards joined Crowder with two citations, garnering third team honors as a return specialist and honorable mention accolades as a safety. Other Blue Devils earning recognition included redshirt junior safety Jeremy Cash (2nd team), redshirt senior offensive tackle Takoby Cofield (3rd team), junior kicker Ross Martin (3rd team), redshirt junior center Matt Skura (3rd team) and redshirt junior punter Will Monday (honorable mention).

Cash, a 6-2, 205-pound native of Miami, Fla., is the only defensive back in the nation to have amassed at least 100 tackles, 10-plus hits for lost yardage and five-plus sacks this season. He paces the Blue Devils with 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks while his 103 stops are good for the third most on the squad. In addition, his four forced fumbles are tied for the fifth-highest single-season total in program history. Cash has tallied seven or more tackles in 10 of 12 regular season games and ranks 13th among all active FBS players with 8.62 stops per game. He was one of 15 Thorpe Award semifinalists and was twice honored as the ACC Defensive Back of the Week this season (Oct. 13 and Sept. 29).

Cofield, a 6-4, 310-pound native of Tarboro, N.C., has helped Duke’s offensive line rank 11th nationally with 1.08 sacks allowed per game and third with just 3.33 tackles for loss allowed a contest. The strong line play has opened holes for the Blue Devils’ 390 points this year, the third most in a year in program history. The squad owns 24 rushing touchdowns and has surpassed 20 ground scores in consecutive years for the first time since 1994-95. Cofield was named the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week on Sept. 22.

Crowder, a 5-9, 175-pound native of Monroe, N.C., ranks second in the ACC in receptions per game (6.5), third in receiving yards per game (78.5) and seventh in all-purpose yards per game (98.8) this season. In ACC history, he stands second in career receptions (268), tied for second in 100-yard games (15), third in receiving yards (3,539) and sixth in all-purpose yards (5,372). He paces Duke this year with 78 receptions for 942 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 12.08 yards per catch.

As a returner, Crowder ranks third in the ACC in punt return average (10.1). He ran back a punt 52 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-deciding touchdown at Syracuse. Crowder owns three punt returns of at least 20 yards this season, including two in the last four weeks. He was selected to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was named the ACC Specialist of the Week following the win over Syracuse on Nov. 10. Crowder has now earned All-ACC honors in each of the past three seasons.

Edwards, a 5-9, 175-pound native of Covington, Ga., earns All-ACC honors for the second straight year after being a third team return specialist pick a year ago. Edwards ranks second on the squad with 119 tackles and leads the way with 71 solo stops, nine pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He is tied for second among the Blue Devils with 6.5 tackles for lost yardage and 3.5 sacks. Edwards ranks third in the ACC and 15th nationally with 9.92 tackles per game and has tallied seven or more in every game this season. Edwards’ four forced fumbles this season are tied for the fifth most in a year in program history as he matched the Duke single-game record with two forced fumbles at Troy on Sept. 6. He is one of only two players, joining teammate Jeremy Cash, to rank in the ACC’s top 13 in fumbles forced per game (2nd), tackles per game (3rd) and passes defended per game (10th).

On kickoff returns, Edwards ranks second in the ACC and 23rd nationally with 25.42 yards per kickoff return. He was named the ACC Specialist of the Week after his 99-yard touchdown at Pittsburgh. He has returned two kickoffs 60 or more yards, tied for the third most among FBS players this season. Edwards owns three kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, tied with Randy Jones (1990-93) for the most in Duke history.

Helton, a 6-4, 240-pound native of Chattanooga, Tenn., leads the ACC and ranks 15th nationally in tackles per game (10.42). In total tackles, he tops the league (125) and stands 11th nationally. He owns six games with double figure tackles in 2014 and is a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy. In Duke history, Helton ranks tied for 10th with 338 career tackles. He is a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete selection, making him a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, and earned first team CoSIDA Academic All-District honors.

Martin, a 5-9, 185-pound native of Solon, Ohio, is Duke’s career record holder in points (303), points after touchdowns (150) and consecutive PATs made (106). In ACC history, he ranks ninth in career extra points. This year, Martin leads Duke with 100 points and has converted all 46 PAT attempts. Martin is 18-for-20 in field goals and was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist. It is the third consecutive All-ACC selection for Martin as he was an honorable mention selection in 2012 and 2013.

Monday, a 6-4, 210-pound native of Flowery Branch, Ga., has averaged 43.4 yards per punt with 17 of his 56 punts downed inside the opponent 20-yard line and 12 traveling 50 yards or more. He ranks ninth in ACC history in punting average at 43.56 yards per boot. Monday was a Ray Guy Award candidate and the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week (Nov. 12). It is Monday’s third consecutive All-ACC honor as he was a first team choice in 2012 and a third team selection in 2013.

Skura, a 6-4, 305-pound native of Columbus, Ohio, has been the anchor of Duke’s offensive line for the last two years. This season, the offensive line ranks 11th among FBS programs with 1.08 sacks allowed per game and stands third with just 3.33 tackles for loss allowed a contest. Skura earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors following Duke’s win over Virginia.

Tomlinson, a 6-3, 330-pound native of Chicago, Ill., has started 51 consecutive games for the Blue Devils, matching the longest active streak in the country. Also a first team All-ACC pick in 2013, Tomlinson was selected to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was a CBSSports.com and Phil Steele Midseason All-American second team selection. He was also an Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award nominee and one of 11 student-athletes named to the FBS Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.