Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Duke Checks Positive Gains in ACC Opener

When the dust cleared on last evening's Duke win over Notre Dame in the ACC opener the team checked off a lot of positive boxes. Let's take a look at that.

  • Duke Responded. After facing some adversity where they were clearly outmatched in early season losses to Michigan State and Notre Dame the Blue Devils reached deep in practices to improve. Duke came out of the gate against an Irish team coming off a win at Kentucky with immense focus and laid the groundwork for what can come. Duke responded to Jalen Johnson being sidelined by injury and questions on when they might start to come together as a more cohesive unit.
  • Steady Matthew. The one player who has shown up in every game and becomes a team leader and a go-to guy is Matthew Hurt. His consistency to date has been solid and the team started to grow around him in their first ACC win of the season.
  • Maturation. Stop me if you have heard this before. Duke is young. But really, they are. Duke played older last evening and got contributions from pretty much the whole team. You could see the beginning sides of a group coming together. Sure, there is a long way to go, but becoming a solid team has to start somewhere. We may look back at this game as a catalyst despite many traps and lessons to go.
  • Jeremy Roach. Roach looked comfortable as he develops his role and gets back to the player he was before an injury sidetracked him during his high school senior season. Roach is his best when he attacks the lane and when he learns his teammates, the assists will increase.
  • DJ Steward. DJ made the fanbase smile almost as wide as he does in post-game interviews. The very likable Steward has a nice game and it will only get better. He is battling despite his body not catching up to his talent at this stage in his career. The future is bright here.
  • Jaemyn Brakefield. Let me remind you Brakefield came out of high school a year early. Thank goodness for Duke. Brakefield has been steady with timely three-point makes and being very efficient when on the court.
  • Staff Adjustments. Duke did an excellent job in recent practices in getting the team focussed and playing with purpose and poise. Duke came out of the gate strong in last evening's win and that propelled them to the victory. This was a hurdle game for the team and they checked the box in getting past the challenge.

Oats Apologizes for Coach K comments

Ironically, an ACC basketball team in Clemson took it to Alabama on the hardwood yesterday just before Nate Oats issued an apology to Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski in the post-game press conference. https://www.al.com/alabamabasketball/2020/12/alabama-coach-nate-oats-apologizes-to-mike-krzyzewski.html

The Crimson Tide head man took some unusual shots at Krzyzewski after he elected to cancel the remaining non-conference basketball schedule this season.

The short-sighted criticism without the facts drew plenty of attention to Oats. In fact, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim ripped him after his team walloped Boston College in their ACC opener.

Excerpt -

“I kind of want to publicly apologize to Coach K for what I said,” Oats said. “I assigned a motive to him and a decision made for his team, which I shouldn’t have done. I actually felt terrible about it as soon I got out of the press conference, I reached out to him.

“He was gracious enough to return my call. We had a good talk on the phone. I got the utmost respect for him as a coach. He’s done unbelievable. Shoot, he’s an Olympic [coach]. When we played there my first year as a head coach at Buffalo, he was great to me, my family and my wife. She was going through a cancer battle at the time. He helped [former Buffalo coach Bobby] Hurley early in his career. Coach Hurley in turn hired me. He’s done a lot of good things for me.

Anyhow, if you read the article at AL.com you may even see more head-scratching information where Oats speaks of how Krzyzewski actually helped him early in his career.

Needless to say, it was not a good week for Oats who brought it all on himself. The Duke decision to cancel one of two games was a well thought out decision for what was best for the program and players.

Duke will travel to South Bend for its ACC opener against Notre Dame on the 16th of December. The Irish are coming off a win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

Why Tonight’s Game is Important for Duke

The verdict after two games into the basketball season is that Duke is young. And young teams take time to gell with one another to work in unison for wins.

We all know by now and some before now that when the ball tiped off on the season that it would take this team a bit of time to figure out what or who it wants to be. As that development is happening the early season schedule is as daunting as ever with the recent loss to a veteran Michigan State team and Illinois looming early next week.

Unlike seasons past, Duke did not have many games against non-powerhouse opponents before taking on the Spartans. And it showed for they're a new team trying to learn one another preferences on the court.Unlike seasons past, Duke did not have many games against non-powerhouse opponents before taking on the Spartans. And it showed for they're a new team trying to learn one another preferences on the court.

Add to the fact, head man Mike Krzyzewski is experimenting with lineups and combinations to the fray and we are presented with a live learning curve during games.

Some games allow him to grow his roster and find out who is ready or wants to play. Tonight's match up with Bellarmine (7:00 ACCNX, FOX Sports South) is one such game.

The Duke staff has likely worked a lot with film from the last contest and they want to see which players show the ability to learn from such lessons. And the games come quick, so this team is learning many things on the fly.

Teams like Duke, which are breaking in a lot of new players needed their traditional exhibition games and most certainly their non-conference scheduled games. Duke lost their scheduled season opener with Garnder-Webb due to COVID testing issues and that single game being canceled hurt with invaluable development.

Fortunately for Duke, the game with Garnder-Webb has been rescheduled for Sunday, December 6th in Cameron. I say fortunate because Duke needs all the experience they can get before the ACC begins.

There is no word yet whether this Saturday's canceled game with Elon, again due to COVID issues will be rescheduled.

Back to tonight's game versus Bellarmine. Firstly, you cannot get back on the court quick enough as a player after a loss and this should be a game where Duke can look deeper into combinations.

Duke needs to see some things go right and they should be able to implement their will against a Bellarmine team which despite being a former Division II power is picked near the bottom of their conference via pre-season projections.

The Blue Devils hope to see some guys step up tonight or bounce back if you will. Joey Baker, DJ Steward, and Wendell Moore need to get off the skid, where none of their shots was falling against the Spartans.

Duke will likely continue to develop Matthew Hurt into a go-to guy this season while developing duel threats upfront where he teams with talented freshmen Jalen Johnson.

The one position which needs to be better is the point guard spot where Jeremy Roach has been a bit slow out of the gate while Jordan Goldwire contributes there as well. But this position needs to distribute better to get the motor running.

So, yes, this Duke team desperately needs the experience from tonight's game to experiment and prepare for the coming schedule where the ACC despite its top teams all having early losses, seems better than expected.

Duke will be playing the Knights for the first time in regular-season play. They own an exhibition win over Bellarmine where Duke played the defending Division II national champs which is a common practice to open the season under Mike Krzyzewski.

Jalen Johnson ACC Rookie of the Week

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke freshman Jalen Johnson has been named the ACC Freshman of the Week coming off a record-setting performance in his college debut on Saturday.

In the Blue Devils' season-opening win over Coppin State, Johnson scored 19 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, had five assists and blocked four shots in 35 minutes. The Milwaukee, Wis., native became the first Duke player in history to post a stat line of 19+ points, 19+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 4+ blocks in a game. He finished the game a perfect 8-of-8 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, setting a Duke freshman record for the most points in a game with 100-percent shooting.

Johnson joined Wisconsin's Ethan Happ as the only power conference players in the last 10 years with 15+ points, 15+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 4+ blocks in a game. Through games played on Nov. 28, Johnson's 19 boards are the most by any freshman in a game nationally this season. His rebound total marked the third most ever by a Duke freshman, while his 15 defensive rebounds set a Blue Devil rookie record.

He became just the third Duke freshman to post a double-double in a debut game, joining Jason Williams (13 points, 10 rebounds) vs. Stanford on Nov. 11, 1999 and Marvin Bagley III (25 points, 10 rebounds) vs. Elon on Nov. 10, 2017.

Over the last six-plus seasons, Duke has had an ACC Freshman of the Week in 62 of a possible 126 weeks. Johnson becomes the 16th Blue Devil to have won the award at least once in that time.

No. 6 Duke (1-0) returns to action when it hosts No. 8 Michigan State (2-0) on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the State Farm Champions Classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.