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Duke vs Tulane Preview

DSC_0108Duke vs Tulane
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, September 20
Durham, NC
TV: RSN
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 112 and XM Ch 201
Duke in 2014: 3-0
Tulane in 2014: 1-2

DUKE INJURIES

QUESTIONABLE – Dezmond Johnson (DE), Lucas Patrick (OG)
OUT – Dan Beilinson (TE), Johnathan Lloyd (CB), Trip McNeill (OL), Jake Sanders (OL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)

TULANE INJURIES – not available

Duke and Tulane last faced each other on September 24, 2011 in a game Duke won 48-27 at Wallace Wade Stadium. Tulane leads the overall series 2-1 with wins over Duke in 1964 and 1973. Duke defeated Kansas 41-3 last week, while Tulane defeated Southeastern Louisiana 35-20.

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

Executing on special teams, achieving balance on offense and ball hawking on defense will be the paths to success for Duke this Saturday.

In Tuesday press conference, Head Coach David Cutcliffe emphasized his desire to pin teams inside the 15 yard line on kick-offs. Look for Duke to use Jack Willoughby to hang the ball up just in front of the goal line in an effort to force Tulane to start their offensive possessions inside the 20 yard line. Moreover, Tulane is averaging 30.6 yards per punt on the season so Duke has an opportunity to exploit this weakness to win the field position battle.

When talking Duke and offense, balance is the key. Duke is averaging 510 yards offense per game through three games with 262.7 of those yards coming via the run game and 247.3 yards via the passing game. Not surprisingly, everyone is buzzing about the emergence of freshman running back Shaun Wilson and his record setting performance against Kansas; however, Duke starts three talented receivers who have the skills to burn the opponent’s defense. Taking a look at the season statistics to date: Max McCaffrey has 16 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns; Jamison Crowder has 16 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns; Issac Blakeney has 13 receptions for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Add in proven upperclassmen running backs Josh Snead and Shaq Powell, and Duke has a laundry list of options the opponent must account for when designing a defensive game plan. Involving all the offensive options to keep Tulane guessing is how Duke will achieve success.

On defense, Duke must pressure Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee and force him to make mistakes. Lee has thrown six interceptions in three games so it is imperative Duke mixes up coverage looks to confuse Lee while simultaneously bringing the heat to hurry him up. If Duke can force Lee out of his comfort zone, odds are he will make mistakes. It is up to Duke’s defensive playmakers to capitalize on Lee’s mistakes.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

Turnovers and Tulane’s speed are the two things Duke needs to be concerned with on Saturday. Duke has not turned the ball over in their first three games and that needs to continue for Duke to achieve success against the Green Wave. If Duke gets sloppy with the ball, the results could be disastrous. Tulane will be the fastest team Duke has faced in 2014 so Duke must be prepared to counter speed with speed and solid fundamentals. Players must execute their assignments and tackle and block with precision. Tulane has the speed to convert a small mistake into a big advantage.

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

The Blue Devils are looking to wrap up the out-of-conference schedule with a victory to improve to 4-0 on the season and equal last season’s non-conference record. After being held to 14 yards on two receptions last week, Jamison Crowder will crank up his star power and combine with quarterback Anthony Boone to lead the stacked Blue Devils offense to victory.

On defense, Duke will emphasize keeping the plays in front of them to limit explosive opportunities to Tulane’s offense, while mixing in blitz packages in an effort to create turnover opportunities.

Finally, Duke will utilize superior athleticism to dominate on special teams to win the vital field position battle. With Tulane facing a long field and Duke playing on a short field it will be a long afternoon for the Green Wave.

BOTTOM LINE

Duke has too many offensive weapons for Tulane to handle. Add to the mix a Blue Devils defense that has allowed opponents to score only 10 points in the 2nd half through three games, against a turnover prone Tulane offense and this event ends up as a game where Duke opens it up in the 4th quarter to win by four touchdowns.

Duke 38, Tulane 10

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Coach K Fires Back At Criticism

k usaDuring today’s press conference, Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski started by saying he would not address a spiteful article from Adrian Wojnarowki.  The article sparked a lot of talk right after Team USA won another Gold Medal.  As the conference continued, he altered his earlier statement and had his say.

Who can blame him.

Fresh off another Gold Medal effort where he led Team USA to the FIBA Championship, he was lambasted with more of an opinion piece from one who ignored several obvious facts.

Among the things Krzyzewski supposedly did, per Wojnarowski, was that he purposefully posed with self-serving intent for a picture with Paul George.

Indiana Pacer star Paul George, suffered a horrific and untimely injury during the USA trials.  It was a freakish accident that sparked talk of whether the NBA should send their stars to USA events.

Krzyzewski waited until the end of his press conference to address the one thing that seemingly disturbed him the most.  “That was a really bad thing to bring up on Paul George,” said the Hall of Fame Coach with concern to the controversial article which posted at Yahoo Sports.

Krzyzesski went on to say that he went back to the hospital secretly in that ESPN had camera’s were stationed in front of the hospital.  He ended up going through the back entrance and made his way to Paul’s room where he spent time with the George family.

Krzyzewski said he did not take any pictures, but Paul’s sister was one who he thought took and tweeted a picture out in an emotional moment when he hugged the injured player.

“To say that I orchestrated that and used Paul George is really wrong.  And if you want to think that, you’re a bad person,” said Krzyzewski.

“For somebody to put it out that way?  Well, you’re really reaching.”

Who wouldn’t be upset when somebody thinks they know your intent?  After all it was Krzyzewski who was instrumental in immediately stopping the scrimmage game after the tragic injury.

The assertion obviously did not sit well with Krzyzewski.  He lost a spirited player who was to have been one of Team USA’s leaders and he clearly cared about the young stars well being.

But reaching is nothing new and Wojnarowski implied that Coach K had an unfair recruiting advantage by coaching Team USA in his article as well.  Never mind, there was no mention of Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim or the many others who coach and have access to players.

If you follow USA Basketball closely, you know that there have been many involved with players they may end up recruiting.  One local outlet made mention of comments made at a recruiting event where it was said that Billy Donovan struggled to see his son play where he supposedly mentioned it to someone.

Well, guess what?  A lot of the coaches whine at these events about one another in the decade plus I have been covering them.  But in fairness, most do so tactfully. Duke has won big under Krzyzewski, so he is an obvious target of these kinds of things as are the likes of Kentucky head man John Calipari and the way he handles his recruiting affairs.  If you seek out this kind of stuff or negative comments, they are not hard to find.

One of the things Krzyewski alluded to today, should have been clear to any Captain Obvious.  Krzyzewski has earned his position with USA Basketball through winning.  It’s no secret, that winning certainly has it’s advantages and that should not come as a surprise to anyone.

He earned the job in the eyes of Jerry Colangelo and together, they righted the ship which had sailed into embarrassingly rough seas when he took over.  Embarrassing in that the USA Basketball program had taken major steps backwards.

When Krzyewski inherited the Team USA program in 2005, the talk was whether anyone could bring players together to focus on the job at hand.  All you heard was that the world had caught up to USA Basketball and it had.  And nobody would complain about the thought of the team starting to thump it’s competition again at that time.  Instead, there was a definitive thirst for victories.

Many want to take their shots by saying anyone could win that with the talent at hand, but why didn’t they before?  Some folks memories from 2005 are long gone as is the fact that Krzyzewski dismantled the then used concepts and implemented a new vision alongside Colangelo.  And now, the new way of doing things is obviously a winning one.

Lost in the  criticism from some circles, was that Team USA won with players that many felt could not get the job done.  Instead of struggling, they came together and won all their games by twenty or more points.

USA Basketball is now on as solid a footing  and that was the hope all along.   Most celebrate this, but some are always looking for a way to post their snarky comments.  And most who do that kind of thing have not done their homework nor rely on actual facts or quotes, but assumptions or the views of a few.

Many fail to see how much time Krzyzewski has actually lost in recruiting with his USA duties.  There have been times when he could not go to key AAU recruiting events and sent assistants instead, at times getting down to the head of basketball operations for one of the past Nike Peach Jam event.

You see, Duke is allowed three team representatives out at a time per NCAA rules.  When Krzyzewski had an assistant in tow for USA duties, he missed being seen at major events in the July sessions.  And to think that doesn’t possibly hurt in the last few events of the recruiting calendar is to ignore hard facts.

Krzyzewski has actually lost road time with his USA duties and if you add that time up  — it pales in comparison to his implied advantage of having access to the USA teams.  During his entire tenure with USA Basketball, Krzyzewski claims to have gone to see the younger players on two days.

It only makes sense that Krzyzewski keeps up with the USA Basketball program as a whole.  His job is to not only coach his players but to help to evaluate talent for the future and to establish a base of stability.

Have USA Basketball duties benefitted Mike Krzyzewski?  Of course it has.  He’s won Gold and the big games and coached some of the best players in the world.  When prospects see that, it helps with those who buy into the patriotism aspect and want to follow in the foot steps of their idols.

Oddly, for those with short memories, some in the Duke fan base and media types felt his duties would hurt and this was not that long ago.  They made the point of his time away from his team would be a detriment and that really makes the self-serving assertions look even more shallow if true on any level.

In the end, everything is all about opinion and perception, but opinions are by no means facts.  The bottom line is Coach Mike Krzyzewski took a dream job and who wouldn’t have?

What many fail to see is the sacrifice said decision required.  There is no bigger patriot in the coaching than Krzyzewski.  My opinion, is that his joining USA Basketball was and is a match made in heaven.  His accomplishments should be celebrated and not picked apart in a pithy manner, but that is again, just another opinion.

The man took on the job on as coach USA Basketball and getting the program back to where it once was, as the clear leader and best hoops in the world.

Mission accomplished.

 

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Duke Freshman Can Bring It!

SONY DSCThere are plenty of reasons for excitement when talking Duke Basketball in that the program constantly maintains excellence.  It’s nothing new for Duke to have a banner class of freshman coming in where they will be molded by Mike Krzyzewski into a unit upon his return for duties with USA Basketball.

Having covered the AAU trail for many years and the young men coming in ad nauseam, the one thing that stands out to me is the overall maturity of this bunch.  Many times, it’s hard for the fan base to realize that these guys are still teenagers and until they’re on campus it’s hard to get a really good feel for how they might react to the new and faster game speed and all the other intangibles with concern to adjustment.

Duke will get an immediate infusion of talent from their incoming class and we take a look at what some of these adept newcomers bring to the table which are all the opinions of one man who saw them play multiple times.

Semi others PEach 12 012Tyus Jones - When I started covering Tyus Jones heavily during his rising junior season, the one thing I remembered from seeing him at a younger age was that he knew how to win.  Jones was not especially flashy, so there was no early grab in my mind’s eye when he was a rising sophomore.  As I continued to watch him I saw a cool customer and a player that would stuff the stat sheet in a steady manner.  It was like, did this guy just do all that while I was watching when looking down the box score.  That led me to realize that this young man was a true point guard and one who made everybody around him better.  In short, he’s a winner.  Jones has a knack for controlling the game and he helped his Howard Pulley AAU team over achieve in that they had little around him in comparison to other teams on the Nike circuit.  Jones is not going to jump out of the gym or go down the lane for a flamboyant dunk.  But what he will do is find the open man and help them to have the flashy play.  At Duke, Tyus Jones will have a lot of weapons around him and that should make his acumen for dishing assists even more impressive.  Another thing you will see when watching Jones is that he remains emotionally stable at all times. He moves on to the next play and that puts him in position to always help his team.  Jones draws the defense in at times but he is also adept at slithering through the lane for an easy lay in when others are looking for the kick out and he has the ability to knock down the jump shot.  Jones will need to work on his on ball defense at the college level, but Duke got the best pure point guard in the class and a kid you will fall in love with for his commitment to his teammates and winning.

Peach 12 more pics 014Justise Winslow - Known by the nickname of “Chief Justise,” Justise Winslow brings a very solid skill set to the court.  What you will first notice about young Winslow is his toughness and his ability to guard multiple positions.  Winslow has the ability to pull his defender out or take them to the rack and he can easily post up smaller defenders when mismatches come his way.  Winslow has a good handle and you can bet that the Duke coaching staff will use him as a defensive stopper early on.  Like Jones, Winslow stays level when playing the game, but he has a fiery can-do side and he’s physically mature for his age.  Winslow can shoot the jumper with good range or power in the lane on offense and he likes to mix it up.  His value to this coming years team will likely be on the defensive end where his footwork is ahead of the curve.  On the offensive end, he can draw some mismatches and like all the Duke freshman, he can run the floor.  Winslow is one of the more versatile players I have seen coming into Duke and you will love his confidence which is a vital part of his game.

Jones, Okafor DukeJahlil Okafor -  Duke got their man of choice in the middle in Chicago native Jahlil Okafor.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski is not one to guarantee a starting role or playing time to any prospect, but he’s already said that the offense would look to run through and around the best post player during last years recruiting class.  Okafor has good hands and like the aforementioned two incoming freshman keeps his cool on the court rarely getting too high or too low.  He was a beast on the AAU courts last summer and he has a long running relationship with Tyus Jones which will provide immediate chemistry.  Okafor knows how to use his frame and get a player on his hip and he has good court vision.  The Duke staff has obviously been working with Okafor on nutrition and in the weight room and the budding star has reshaped his body or frame.  It’s a little harder for me to project Okafor in that I have yet to see him play with a trimmed down frame, but common sense says he is likely to be even quicker on his feet which is vital as the college game is much faster than AAU ball.  Okafor is the most likely of the freshman to be one and done, so Duke fans should enjoy him while they can.  Having a true post player to play alongside Blue Devil veterens like Marshall Plumlee will help to give the team the ability to get out and press or trap more in that they have a man to slow down the break aways in the post.  And Okfor will certainly help to develop Sean Obi, the big man transfer from Rice who will be eligible the following season.

AllenGrayson Allen - During the annual Nike Peach Jam, Allen sent word to Duke that he was playing in an event just down the road called the Peach State Classic.  Allen grew up a Duke fan and was playing for an AAU team that was not on the national radar.   It didn’t take long for Mike Krzyzewski to take a look after word came back from assistant coaches that he can play.  At the time, Allen was ranked in the top 100 at best but as more evaluators saw him and Duke offered he entered the top 25’s of many.  Allen is one of those “Did he really just do that?,” kind of guys.  He can throw down some impressive dunks which belies his look test at first glance and smile while doing it.  Allen can also drain the ball from deep and has the ability to become a fan favorite with his dunks.  Many may remember Olek Czyz exciting crowds at the N.C. Pro AM years back, with his dunks but Allen does similar things with an all around game in tow as well.  Allen enjoys playing the game and that is important and he takes a joke well.  He was quick to give me a smile when I joked with him about his size 17 at the time flappers or show size.  Maybe that’s why he has such surprising up’s.

Collectively, this is one of the more impressive classes the staff has been fortunate enough to land.  There is balance in that there is a true post player, a true point guard, a versatile wing and an explosive wing.  But in the end it will come down to how they integrate with the Blue Devils veterans players.  This seasons Blue Devils will be a mix of very young players and some guys who have seen the ACC wars. We’re not that far off from seeing these kids first hand and what they look like after the capable coaching staff has worked with them.  The public will have a chance to see this years version of the Duke Men’s Basketball team on October 25th for Countdown to Craziness.  Tickets are currently available through the Duke ticket office.

coach k Plympics

Monday Musings – Thoughts on Duke Athletics

coach k PlympicsWhat a weekend it was for Duke fans.  The football team goes to 3-0 on the young season with a stunning performance from a true freshman running back, Shaun Wilson.  Add to that, more Gold thanks in large part to Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the royal blue has never looked better.

Mission Accomplished

Most folks forget the moribund state USA Basketball was in before Mike Krzyzewski took over.  The program needed leadership and he sacrificed his time for country more than anything else, in that the man is a true patriot.  Team USA rolled to a Gold Medal and in a most impressive way, doing so with what many coined a “B,” team.  While I am not too fond of that phrase, what is obviously impressive is that it didn’t take a team of out very best to be molded into a unit that played together.  Coach K has a long and obvious history of helping men grow and despite the age of some of his players, how many on the roster didn’t get better in some way?   It’ll be a long time before Coach K takes to the court again for Team USA, but he will be plenty busy with his family back in Durham while teaching  his Duke Blue Devils how to come together as a team in similar fashion.  In today’s media, there is more than ample criticism no matter what some folks do but most of the time hater articles are designed for hits with many facts going to the wayside out of convenience.  You will see some of the said type of articles manifest, but you thankfully there are more appreciative ones.  Krzyzewski should be celebrated for what he has done for his country and USA Hoops.  He is one of the main reasons USA Basketball is once again the dominant force it should have always been.  Some want to take away NBA players who want to represent their country from playing, others see the benefits.  My guess is no matter the change or format allowed to rosters, with Coach Krzyzewski in charge that the results would be the same.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 18 Division I Men's Basketball Championship - Second Round - Hampton v DukeAnd then there was Kyrie …

Kyrie Irving came away with MVP honors for the FIBA tournament and deservedly so.  While talking heads strangely never mentioned him when talking candidates as USA was thumping Serbia, it was clear that he was Team USA’s most consistent guard.  In reality, this should have been a team reward for no one player stood out above the rest in what was a true balanced team concept.  Irving likely benefitted form his final performance where he busted the game open with his quickness on the court and it’s an another award, one of many to come, he will cherish.

Haters gonna hate …

Adrian Wajnarowski is an NBA writer for Yahoo Sports.  For some reason is took aim at Coach Mike Krzyzewski in his morning column which is all over the place with concern to a point.  It seems like he tries to pit John Calipari against Krzyzewski as his distaste for the Duke coach is more than a little obvious.  If you want to read his diatribe, you can search for it.  Anyhow, a good or valid point is lost in the article due to said hate with concern to the USA program possibly going with younger NBA players.  Whatever he was trying to say, other than Krzyzewski used USA Basketball as a recruiting tool was lost.  A normally grounded media type, lost his composure by not spewing facts but opinion in a way that may be designed simply for hits.  Honestly, I don’t know if Krzyzewski may have accidentally stepped on his toe when leaving the media room or if he just hangs with the haters.  Anyhow, he seemingly seeks the company of those who would agree with him more than he does a fair and balanced offering.  Oddly, or maybe not so much, he has a history of  different stances if one does a simple search, but he conveniently avoids trying to explain why he’s changed his mind.  That said, Krzyzewski obviously must have stepped on his toe on the way out of the media room one night;)

Still buzzing over Shaun Wilson’s performance

If you have been living under a rock, you may have missed that a true freshman running back, Shaun Wilson, broke the all time single game rushing record.  When the game was 20-3 and the tenth punt of the day was booted, the match up with Kansas was in a word, boring.  Then came Shaun Wilson, who dazzled on lookers with his speed and smooth running abilities on his way to 245 rushing yards.  Wow.  Anyhow, Duke fans are still buzzing over that performance and so is Athlon Sports who coined the performance the best of the week among freshman.  By the time most of you will have read this, I fully expect more honors to have come his way.

Duke WR Max McCaffrey hauled in 2 TDs on Saturday against Kansas.
Duke WR Max McCaffrey hauled in 2 TDs on Saturday against Kansas.

Not to go unnoticed …

After moving to the inside as a slot receiver this season, Max McCaffrey caught two touchdown passes from Anthony Boone.  It was the first time he had multiple touchdown catches in a game for Duke and his game was a bit overshadowed from the aforementioned Wilson.

Not to go unnoticed II …

The Duke defense has quite the game plan making Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart look just awful on his way to 89 yards passing.  The Blue Devils played their best defense of the season where Kansas barely threatened in this contest.  A couple of interceptions and steady play from Jeremy Cash and David Helton helped pave the way to holding the Jayhawks to a paltry three points.

Next up Tulane

Duke Football takes on the Green Wave of Tulane this coming weekend with a 12:30 kickoff.  The Blue Devils have opened as a 17.5 favorite.  This will be the last game that Duke will be a significantly favored to win in the near future.

Duke WR Max McCaffrey hauled in 2 TDs on Saturday against Kansas.

Max McCaffrey and DeVon Edwards discuss Duke’s big win

DURHAM – Duke WR Max McCaffrey fought his way into the end zone twice on Saturday as the Blue Devils topped the Kansas Jayhawks, 41-3. McCaffrey led all Blue Devil receivers with 79 yards and 7 catches on the day. Defensively, All-American safety DeVon Edwards had another big day, hauling in the Blue Devils’ first interception on the young season. He finished with 7 tackles. Blue Devil Nation caught up with both McCaffrey and Edwards shortly after Duke’s big victory to move to 3-0.