It is not unusual for there to be emotion on and off the court on Senior Night. Afterall, fans have gotten to know these players over the years in countless ways. And the players have many memories of their careers at Duke.
When Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones take the court tonight, it will be their last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Each of the players have seen the joy of a national championship in 2015. And they have also been through some tough times as well.
Duke recruited Amile Jefferson as a junior and the battle for his service would in time come down to the Blue Devils and N.C. State. In hindsight, Jefferson chose Duke at a time when they really needed a boost and a front court player.
Jefferson has always been a fan favorite. He is never short for words in the locker room and his smile lights up a room. The young man is now a mature leader and he has been on quite a journey. The first time Jefferson saw Cameron was his junior season in high school. Back then, recruiting or shoe camp events were allowed on campus.
The Philadelphia native always wanted the Blue Devils to take notice but there was a time when that was in doubt . For a short time, Duke had concentrated on other prospects and had to get back into the race late for Jefferson. Needless to say, they are glad they did.
Jefferson was having the season of his life when he went down a year ago. He was a double-double machine. He was a national champion that had waited his turn to make his mark on the team. He will leave Cameron tonight having made his mark on and off the court.
Duke was recruiting current Los Angeles Laker, Julian Randle a few years back. But it was another young man who caught Mike Krzyzewski's eye. Matt Jones was their leader then and a lot of Randle exploits came from his assists..
Jones would later visit Cameron on a recruiting visit where he was entertained by then assistant coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski. I will never forget him playing a game of 'Horse' with fellow Texan Rasheed Sulaimon at said visit.
Duke would fail to get Randle on board, but they would get the always humble and down to earth Jones. Many times over, the staff has praised Jones defense. The young man has become a staff favorite in that he is low maintenance and does what is asked of him.
These two young men deserve a nice exit tonight and nothing would be better than a win over a tough Florida State team. The year has not gone as expected for the captains but there is still time to right the ship and make a run this season.
Despite what happens tonight and in the near future, Jefferson and Jones have represented the royal blue in a most outstanding way. Good character is an understatement when mentioning it with these two young men.
Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones will always be Duke Blue Devils and champions.
The Duke Blue Devils had a most humbling week with two close losses on the road to Syracuse and then Miami. After a seven game winning streak where the team seemed to have turned a corner, they now find themselves seeking answers.
While the Blue Devils were certainly in both games until the end, that is little consolation. The reason is they have almost assuredly played themselves out of a double bye in the coming ACC Tournament.
Duke came into the season ranked number one in the nation. There has been well documented injuries to not only the team but the staff itself in its coach Mike Krzyzewski. The expectations have not been met for many varying reasons.
In yesterdays loss to Miami, Duke played more of Harry Giles and Marques Bolden with Grayson Allen on the bench with an injury. It was painfully obvious to see that the Blue Devils had played little time together.
There were instances when teammates were battling each other for rebounds, bad passes and lapses of communication leading to turnovers. It was also plain to see that it takes a while for freshman big men to mesh due to a lack of earlier playing time in the season.
Add to that some late game jitters or simply not executing on offense and a loss to a hungry team happened. That loss will cause the Blue Devils to tumble in the polls this week while playing the top two games in the ACC standings to close out the regular season.
Krzyzeski has mentioned on more than one occasion that the team is seeking continuity. That remains the case late in the season with March less than a week away. And that is not ideal for a team many thought could not possibly fail to be a Final Four contender.
Right now, Duke has many more question marks than answers. They struggle on defense on occasion. But that was not the case yesterday for the offense was stagnant. It was as if the team was wading through the thick south Florida humidity rather than be in any kind of flow. It was as if they were playing their opponent or the man in front of them but not the game.
Many point to the lack of a true point guard as to the issues. They may be right. Duke has a bevy of solid offensive players who should be able to score the ball. But answers with concern to distribution have not worked consistently. Duke is not as good as the sum of their parts and that again, points back to continuity.
Duke played hard yesterday, They left it on the court. But they seem to be making the game harder than it should be at times. For the Blue Devils to turn this around they have to get on the same page and quick.
The team has not shown the ability to put teams away. Nor are they playing well in close games with their team execution. Duke finds itself saddled with seven losses where they could as easily been just four or less.
Right now Duke just doesn't seem to have that ''it'' factor whatever it might be. Many are doubting them for good reason with selection Sunday two weeks away. Duke must take the bad taste in their mouth from the two losses and turn it into something positive.
If Duke doesn't step up and learn from the close losses, the season will end and this team will be talked about for what could have been. There is no time to feel sorry for themselves which I don't think a Mike Krzyzewski coached team would do. But there is a sense of urgency for the team.
Duke has a mere two days to prepare for a Florida State team that wants to further their misery. The Seminoles smacked Duke at their place and they are deep and talented. And they are playing better as a unit than is Duke.
In this match up, Duke needs to win their final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season. It will be Senior Day for Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones. And those two Blue Devils have national championship rings.
Duke was supposed to possibly get Jefferson, Jones and the sometimes embattled Grayson Allen another ring this season. They came into the campaign with a high ceiling. There was a mixture of solid veterans and a perceived great freshman class.
For those hopes to come true, Duke must get together both mentally and physically. The staff will need to push the right buttons and the players will have to concentrate and take advantage of every on court opportunity.
Duke is now the underdog. They are the team that many expect to fold in the final week of the season. They could easily be caught looking ahead to North Carolina in the eyes of many. In short, doubters abound.
Some of this years team will move on to the NBA after the season. The coming contest with the Seminoles could be the last game in Cameron for more than just the seniors. In fact, it will be. If the young men want to be remembered in a positive way, they must blend as anticipated with the veterans. And they will need to fight like there is no tomorrow putting the team first.
Let me clarify that I in no way mean any of these players do not represent Duke in an up standing manner. The memory with concern to that kind of thing will be solid. But what they do on the court or their legacy at Duke is on the line.
Teams have come back in the past to right the ship and make a run in March. There was a North Carolina team in the early 2000's and most recently Syracuse last season. There is time left for success.
Whether this Duke team is remembered for their in season adversity or their late season success us upon us. And this is Duke Basketball, so the eyes of the nation will all be watching to see how the story will take place and eventually end.
Duke takes on Florida State at 7:00 PM ET this Tuesday before travelling to North Carolina to close out the regular season on Saturday. Duke is currently tied for 5th in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a record of 22-7, 10-6.
Unlike football ACC teams do not have to share injury information on a player's status. Duke is especially plays it close to the vest on these kind of issues. What I can share is that Chase Jeter is dressing out for games and warming up and looks as if he could play if needed. Coach Kyryzewski is known to play a shorter bench towards the end of the season. Whether Jeter is actually available to play or not is only known by the player himself who has not shared information on his recovery and or the staff.
What many miss is the fact that Matt Jones is a great defender and being that has earned him immense trust from the staff. Duke has three players on the roster with National Championship rings with Jones being one og them. While he is streaky with his three-point shot, he knows the Duke system and where to be on the court, That allows for less easy buckets. If one single player had a breakdown on defense an easy basket generally happens.
As for Tatum, part of his lack of touches was that Syracuse was defending him with much more attention. Still, I get that anyone would want the ball in his hands more as hot as he has been of late. Duke had a really bad final few seconds with concern to execution versus the Orange which cost them the game.
@BlueDevilNation is K saving Bolden and Giles legs for tournament time or are they that far behind? 6 man rotation is wearing us out
Not at all. Some of the reasons for certain easy lineups are matchups. We all want to see the Bolden that played against Miami, especially going down south in short time after being far north at Syracuse. The short rotation has more to do with trust and injuries, One must also realize Syracuse played just seven players in their win with four players playing almost the whole game. We tend to reach for things that are happening elsewhere after losses in that it is in our nature. I do think Duke will need one of those players to step up really soon or they could be going home earlier than wanted come March. It is critical that Duke has a second big man in place if something should happen with Amile Jefferson be it a dreaded injury or foul trouble.
@BlueDevilNation Why not play two bigs plus Tatum once in a while when teams are driving to the hoop with reckless abandon?
Many fans feel your pain with those easy drives to the hoop. The way Duke plays defense they depend on some help defense or rotating players and that has not been a smooth transition for much of the season. The problem with playing two bigs is staying in front of their man. On the other hand, having two in could help in a zone at times. It wilzonel be interesting to see if Duke starts to play a little more junk zone the rest of the way just to change things up. Another reason for not playing two bigs is a combination of health and readiness. The bottom line is it takes freshman the most time to adjust on defense. And Bolden and Giles are indeed freshman.
@BlueDevilNation what must duke do in the remaining part of the schedule to play in Greenville for the NCAA tournament
Win. For what it's worth ESPN currently has Duke playing in Greenville. Duke must close out the regular season strong, maybe 2-1 or better. Or they will have to win the ACC Tournament. If Duke fails to get a two game bye with a top four finish the odds go down. I think they have a pretty good shot still, but they need on the court success. The one game that haunts Duke the most is their loss at home to N.C. State. That made for a situation where Duke had to win some difficult road games to finish atop the ACC this season. They have also been hampered by having to play at Louisville, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech. Syracuse, Miami, Notre Dame and North Carolina. Not many ACC teams have to go to all those places. Duke also got most of the cellar teams one time with the leagues unbalanced schedule.
We will be periodically taking random questions from twitter at times for the rest of the season. Thanks to our followers.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the second consecutive week, Duke forward Jayson Tatum was rewarded for his stellar play in a pair of Blue Devil wins with ACC Freshman of the Week honors.
In addition to garnering the award for the second time in as many weeks, Tatum has now collected ACC Freshman of the Week honors three times on the season.
The St. Louis native was the catalyst for wins at No. 14 Virginia and at home over Wake Forest last week, averaging 23.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 35.5 minutes per contest. He was lights out as a shooter in both games, shooting .609 (14-of-23) from the floor, .750 (9-of-12) from three-point range and 1.000 (10-of-10) from the line.
Tatum put Duke on his back on Wednesday with a career-high 28 points and a team-high eight rebounds as the Blue Devils handed Virginia just its third home ACC loss in the last three seasons. He was 6-of-7 (.857) from outside the arc against UVA, tying the Duke single-game freshman records for three-pointers made and three-point percentage. Twenty-one of Tatum’s game-high 28 came in the second half as Duke erased a four-point halftime deficit to win by 10.
Tatum put together a 19-point afternoon against Wake Forest on Saturday, knocking down 3-of-5 from long distance. He shared the team high with seven rebounds and added two assists against the Demon Deacons. With Wake making a push late in the game, Tatum came up with two huge free throws in a one-and-one situation to help Duke seal the victory.
For the year, Tatum is averaging 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting .453 from the floor, .389 from three-point range and a team-high .870 from the line. He is a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.
The Duke Blue Devils won their 7th consecutive game with a 99-94 win over pesky Wake Forest. The Blue Devils put six players in double figure scoring led by Luke Kennard who dropped 23 points. Jayson Tatum added 19. Amile Jefferson 16, Frank Jackson 12, Grayson Allen 11 and Matt Jones 10 points to round things out.
Duke would also go 13 of 27 from beyond the three-point stripe and knock down 14 of 16 free throw attempts in their win. And it took this kind of effort to hold of a tournament hungry Wake Forest team who got 31 point, 10 rebound effort from John Collins.
The win pushes the Blue Devils ACC record to 10-4 and they now own a 22-5 overall mark. Duke is in a heated race for the regular season title and a top four finish which earns a two-day bye in the ACC Tournament.
Duke changed up their defense at the half, going smaller and allowing for Wake to get easy buckets at times inside. But the defense also kept the Deacons from going off from the three-point stripe. It was a trade-off or sorts and the reason Harry Giles and Marques Bolden saw little action after the break.
After the win, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he hoped his team could get healthy. Allen is nursing a bad ankle and other Blue Devils have undisclosed ailments. He has to adjust on the fly this week in that Duke travel north to Syracuse and then as far south is there is in the league at Miami. And they do this in three-day stretch.
Duke is currently tied with Louisville for second. But there is a three-way tie if Florida State wins today. It is worth noting that Notre Dame at 10-5 is nipping at their heels hoping for a stumble. And the Virginia versus North Carolina game result tonight will have further implications.
The bottom line is every game is a major battle from now until the season ends. It is almost as if we are seeing tournament basketball in the regular season. Duke will battle two more teams in Syracuse and Miami on the road with both seeking to solidify their resume. All the games are tough with just four games left.
It is also worth noting that Duke was visited by former players and National Champions Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Mason Plumlee today. The first three mentioned played on the 2015 National Championship team while Plumlee played on the 2010 team. All were here during the NBA All Star weekend break.
Jeff Capel Senior was also able to sit on the bench with his son, Jeff Capel who is Krzyzewskis' right hand man.
The Duke Blue Devils have good reason to feel good about their play of late. The team is riding a six game winning streak which has propelled them back in the the regular season race. The top four seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference receive a two game bye in the tournament.
Duke used solid man to man defense, sharp free throw shooting and the play of Jayson Tatum to defeat Virginia in their last game. The key for the Blue Devils will be to focus forward and put that game behind them in that Wake Forest offers a different style of play.
Where the Cavaliers want to get you into a grind it out slugfest, the Deacons are content to run with anyone. The Deacons average slightly more points per game than the Blue Devils in that they are one of the better offensive teams in the league.
Ironically, a comeback win over this same Wake Forest team started the turnaround for the Blue Devils. In that game, late heroics from Luke Kennard helped Duke escape. The hope is for this game not to come down to the buzzer.
In order for that to happen, Duke must score the ball well. This will be the teams second to last outing in Cameron for the 2017 season. Duke will seek to protect their home court and stay atop of the ACC standings with a win.
Make no mistake, Wake Forest will be a dangerous team on Saturday. The Deacons currently stand 6-8 in the league and 15-11 overall. In short, they're currently a bubble team fighting for their tournament life.
Wake Forest goes about eight players deep. They are led by John Collins, one the best frontcourt players in the league. Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods round out their top three scorers.
Duke is still getting healthy. While the team has been led of late by star freshman Jayson Tatum and the steady Luke Kennard, they still have players hobbled. Among those is Grayson Allen who is nursing a sore ankle which showed up in the last game via his shooting stats.
One of the bright spots for Duke is late has been the play of Harry Giles Jr. He had some good minutes against Virginia and should continue to see more time as the season winds down. In fact, Giles is an X-Factor in tomorrows game in that he is from Winston Salem. He will have some people keenly interested in this game and there is reason to think he will play well.
But it is not about one player for Duke and Krzyzewski has been sure to get that across. The Blue Devils are just starting to scratch the surface of how good they can be. If the team continues to trust one another and play unselfish, active basketball good things will happen.
Duke needs a win here as much as they do any of their remaining games, But Wake Forest in is a similar position and that makes for a competitive game. I like where Duke is at this time. They seem like a team that is hungry for more and they had better be.