Category Archives: Monday Musings

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Monday Musings – Duke Football, Hoops

DSC_0078Solid Opening Day Performance

You couldn’t ask for much more from the Duke Football team and their  52-13 opening day win over Elon.  The first thing they did was take care of business while other teams around the country struggled with lesser opponents.  Across the board, the Blue Devils looked solid in every phase of the game save two which we will speak to as you read on.  Duke had a solid opening day crowd and it was clear to many when students started chanting “Football School,” that things have indeed changed.

DSC_0065Cut Points To Needed Improvements

As I stated above, the Duke football team graded out nicely against Elon, but post game and during yesterdays chat with David Cutcliffe, he stated concern over special teams. If you are a stat hound, you may ask what he is talking about.  After all, Will Monday punted twice for and impressive 51.5 yard average and kicker Ross Martin drove home a 49 yard field goal.  But the coverage on kickoffs and such bothered Cutcliffe where he said they were not physical nor did they run their lanes properly on coverage.  According to the head man, this will be addressed in practice this week and changes could be made.  The other area I felt could have been better was the fact that Duke got little pressure on the quarterback.  While Duke came away with two sacks, there seemed to be ample time, but that is something the film will help to address as well.

Troy Trojans Are Next

I can almost hear many whining that this game will only be televised by ESPN 3 as many of us seem to still be streaming challenged due to spotty connections world-wide.  Anyhow, this game is dangerous.  Why you ask in that Troy got trounced by UAB?  Well, for that very reason.  Troy has a tradition of playing good football and they were flat-out knocked back this past weekend in a road game that turned many heads.  Troy held the series edge going in and still do despite the loss.The Trojans were not supposed to lose like that and it was their worst defeat ever on many fronts.  A season ago, Troy gave Duke fits on the defensive end and Cut made sure to mention that they’d have their ear pinned playing on their field named after their long time coach and would be playing for pride.  Duke, slated and early 18 point favorite, will playing in the epitome of a trap game, but this will also be a test to see if they can handle expectations and play the opponent while not get caught looking ahead or patting themselves on the back after a solid win over Elon.

Coach Cutcliffe 11-16-13Foundation More Solid Than Some Think

I was really surprised that the ACC Sports Journal said in an article in their pre season magazine authored by David Glenn, that Duke was listed as having the 14th best foundation in the ACC moving forward.  When I look around the program I see stadium improvements on the verge of happening, recruiting getting better and better, retention or maintaining a solid coaching staff at all times and wins.  Perhaps Glenn thinks this is all an aberration but it looks to me as if Duke is dedicated to football in a way they never have been before and that fans are enjoying the turnabout.  Prospects are contacting Duke now and that didn’t happen in the past and there is little reason to not think that Cutlciffe will not remain a vital part of the ascent even after his eventual retirement which is a long ways away.  In fairness the Sports Journal did pick Duke to win the Coastal Division, but 14th in the conference moving forward for long-term football success?  Really?  I like David Glenn and think he’s quite grounded and the best of the local radio personalities but in my humble opinion he’s way off the mark with his assertion with concern to Duke Football and it’s future.

SONY DSCDuke Hoops Is Around  The Corner

There is a lot of excitement as always as September moves in for Duke fans start thinking basketball is not far away.  By all accounts this years team will be oh-so exciting and a mix of some key veterans and youth.  I can tell you I am as excited as I have ever been to see what this crop of freshman bring to the table.  Jahlil Okafor has totally reshaped his body and gotten stronger and Tyus Jones is just a guy that knew how to win on the AAU trail.  And then there is the surprisingly freaky athletic Grayson Allen and a hard nosed, play all phases of the game well, Justise Winslow.  Duke has had so many great classes past, but I can say having covered AAU Basketball for many years that this is hands down the most mature bunch or class I have seen to date.

SONY DSCUSA Basketball

So far, so good for Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA.  With football in full swing, it’s hard to keep up with this as maybe we should around here but we are sure watching every game.  It’s great that Jeff Capel was able to go with the team while Nate James and Jon Scheyer hold down the fort in Durham.  And then there is a Duke flavor in the games with Kyrie Irving starting and Mason Plumlee coming off the bench.  Duke fans are so fortunate to have a living legend in Mike Krzyzewski at the helm and he sure seems to be focussed on the task at hand and advancing.  It will be fun to follow Team USA as they close things out in the month of September and to start talking more hoops around Blue Devil Nation.

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Monday Musings

SONY DSCMeet the Blue Devils was a hit

The annual Meet the Blue Devils Day was held this past Saturday at the Paschal Field House on the campus of Duke University.  There was a record turnout for the occasion and it’s clear that the program is riding the momentum of last season where Duke won the most games in their schools history.  Fans waited in a line close to 100 yards for a chance to meet Coach David Cutliffe and the players were quite popular as well.  I am sure that there was a moment when Cutcliffe reflected a bit on how far the program has come and most certainly most fans in attendance did the same.  The program has a lot of momentum and it seems like only the start as improvements abound and the future looks bright.  What was evident is that the program seems here to stay and for those long time fans, that is sweet music to their collective ears.  A season ago, many fans were almost stunned by the turnabout after a 2-2 start and some even had to pinch themselves as the team took them on what to that point had been a rare ride.  This seasons team seems poised to show that last seasons run was not by accident and that hard work will take care of any concerns.  Be sure to visit our gallery from this event at out Blue Devil Nation Open Facebook Page.

SONY DSCKelby Brown is as good a spirit as possible

After his emotional and devastating injury, Duke linebacker and defensive team leader, Kelby Brown was present at the Meet the Blue Devils Day and Photo Day held Sunday.  Brown seemed to be in good spirits with concern to his future outlook but stated that he has yet to decide whether he will petition for another season at Duke.  Brown is currently in the Duke Divinity School and professes that he has had a calling to enter the field of endeavor.  He will rehabilitate his knee as if he were to play claiming that was the only way to go.  I may be getting ahead of myself here, but it’s hard for me to imagine the competitive Brown not attempting to return once the dust clears.  After all, he could play beside his brother Kyler Brown a defensive end for this seasons team who will be a senior next season and close out their careers together.

Coach K busy with USA duties

Team USA has been riddled by departures and injuries but Coach Mike Krzyzewski seems up to the challenge of getting his team to where it needs to be.  Former Dukies, Kyrie Irving and Mason Plumlee remain on the team that has to cut down their roster before going overseas, but not to worry for assistant Jeff Capel will remain in Durham to keep an experienced and watchful eye over this seasons team.  On a side note, key Duke prospects Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum performed quite well helping to lead their USA U-17 team to the championship podium.

Site facelift is a work in progress

As you can see our front page view is changing and this is not the finished product.  What already helps is that if you access the site via mobile where a slider is already working. We will eventually go to a slider/hybrid.  We will also be adding a feature making it easier for brief updates which in the past was difficult in the old format.  So, stay tuned as we refine the site to better serve you.  Our goal is to make access easier to access and read.  This will take a bit of time and trial and error for the only way to make the changes was to take the initial changes live.  It is also worth noting that two-thirds of our staff will be on vacation in the next two weeks.  Any feedback is appreciated on what you like and don’t like, suggestions etc.

Chase-and-Chris-Jeter-e1407248425861-172x230Recruiting

The basketball and football teams are almost finished with their recruiting for next seasons classes.  In fact, both programs are having great success and each are moving on to the next class.  Duke Basketball will likely sign one more prospect this season and an offer currently stands for Brandon Ingram who recently visited campus.  Ingram will trim his list by months end and will make a decision around October or the start of his basketball season.  Duke could get involved with others in that time.  Football had two top-notch visitors over the weekend and we’ll talk more of that soon.  Duke most recently signed a big time front court player in Chase Jeter.

SONY DSCPicture Fun

Here is one from the archives of a quite light moment with Coach Mike Krzyzewski during Countdown for Craziness.

 

Monday Musings – Less than ten regular seson games remain, signing day

Time flies

It’s hard to imagine that there are just five games left in Cameron Indoor Stadium for Duke Basketball this season. You can actually see the Wake game with standing room only tickets through the ticket office, so my suggestion is to grab them up and support a team that is starting to find itself. Duke is down to just nine regular season games on its schedule.

Rankings

It was hard to believe that Duke was just ranked 17th last week and some think they could remain around that spot today in that they suffered another loss. But my take is that they move up in the polls later today as some start to realize how overrated teams I will not mention are. While the ACC is down, especially at the bottom of the league, the top is pretty tough. Yet folks seem in love with the Big 12 per their votes which I for one do not completely get. Anyhow, Duke has played a heck of a schedule to date and the losses as painful as they are to a spoiled fan base will only help when it truly becomes time to be one and done.

Duke Football Signing Day

Duke Football will welcome its new class of players to the fold on Wednesday and Blue Devil Nation will be there to get Cut’s comments. If you think for one second that the fan base is not still buzzing over an amazing season, you would be wrong. Momentum is finally on the side of the program and there is more interest in recruiting this year than at any time in several decades. Duke is still trying to close on a player, surprise or two, so we look forward to seeing it all play out.

You don’t have to be in the South to be a redneck

Maybe it’s because there are a lot of them, see the Carrier Dome packed to the brim. I mean, all fan bases have them whether they care to admit it or not. I’m talking rednecks here and they are definitely not just in the south. It wasn’t long after a classic game ended that a few Syracuse fans decided to send me some one liners on twitter where there was no dignity in their win. The usual “yall suck,” stuff came to my attention amongst others and that ignorant bliss and typing while drinking are here to stay. Even in Syracuse. To me a redneck is just another slang  name for ignorance. You can be truly southern in every way and not be ignorant. That said, ignorance is bliss for some no matter where you live. Thankfully, there are a rational few out there as well and they realize a great rivalry has been born and know how to enjoy it without belittling a team that made the very game you just watched classic.

K was not about to blame the ref

He never has and never will and I applaud him for that. I tweeted it was a shame that a classic game had a blatantly missed call. I am talking of course of the Rodney Hood drive where he was clearly hit on the arm. Michael Robert’s swallowed his whistle on that play despite being right in front of it. The thing here is that nobody wanted any tainting to a classic game that helped the ACC brand, but it is a shame that a clear call was missed. We’ll never know if that could have altered the outcome, but it is a shame that it was missed in an otherwise fairly called contest. Hopefully, the ACC will at least show him that missed call was huge in a high impact game. Still, it was not the cause of the loss, so we’ll move forward now.

Monday Musings – It’s time for some Duke Football

SONY DSCIt’s that time of year again folks! Duke Football is less than twelve days from kicking off their 2013 season against North Carolina Central in Wallace Wade Stadium. It’ll be a 4:00 start. Inside the locker room, the Blue Devils are where most teams are this time of year mentally: they’re anxious to compete against someone other than a teammate.

Coach David Cutcliffe has ushered in many changes since his arrival in Durham, with the main boost being facilities upgrades. Those upgrades were on display this past Saturday during Meet the Devils Day, where fans could meet and interact with players, and pick up some autographs and pictures along the way.

The event was held in the Paschal Field House, which is the new practice facility, so it allowed fans to see the new digs first hand. Having observed the changes surrounding the program in an up close and personal way through our coverage, I can tell you that the differences are like night and day from when Cut and company arrived on the Methodist Flats.  Players quickly pop to their assigned areas in practice, and there is a definite sense of togetherness and focus. Trust me when I say this:  there will be some more bumps in the road along the way, but a foundation is finally in place and as a result, Duke recruiting continues to get better each season. Better recruiting of course leads to better results on the field.

In the coming seasons we’ll be seeing the removal of the track and a new press box, not to mention an upgraded concourse which will connect to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Some of us used to say we wanted to see these kinds of things happen before we die.  Well, I’m not dead yet, and it is just great to see the administration finally dedicating the necessary support for these important steps to be taken.

Duke players, coaches, and fans had a ton of fun going to the Belk Bowl last season, despite losing it in heartbreaking fashion. But let’s face it: to make another bowl game this season, Duke will need to take another step forward — this one being winning games that are regarded as toss-ups on paper.  Many fans are falling into the trap of thinking Duke will be a favorite over teams they defeated a season ago, like Wake Forest and Virginia. Even without Florida State and Clemson on the schedule this year — which is nice — you could make a case that ten games could fall into that toss-up category.  Duke has to start winning some more of those.

But if the Blue Devils struggle in those games, and the record suffers, it is important for the fan base to focus on the big picture.  That big picture consists of a program that undoubtedly is moving in the right direction.

Duke can and will win some games this season, but keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago when the Devils struggled simply to compete at this level.  It takes time — a lot of time — for a foundation to solidify.

For me, I will enjoy attending the opener like any other person who follows the program. It will be a new team, breaking in a new starting quarterback and replacing some really good players who graduated off of last year’s squad.  It will be interesting to see which players step up and how they handle the inevitable adversity which comes to all teams.  I can tell you that these players are hungry for a win after losing every game since their rollicking and most satisfying victory over arch rival North Carolina a season ago, a win which landed the Victory Bell back in Durham.

One of the things Coach Cutcliffe has mentioned on several occasions this off-season is how much the fans helped Duke defeat North Carolina at home. We live in an age in which every move a team makes is televised in some way, but attending the games with some good old-fashioned live support makes things happen.  Fan support is one of the most important elixirs when it comes to winning, so in a sense the fan base and team are in this thing together.

And should the Blue Devils make it to another bowl, it will not likely be right down the road as it was in Charlotte last year, so fan turnout and continued support will be even more important.  A season ago in their close loss to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, Duke drew some very solid ratings on ESPN.  The team got a taste of something special and fans’ thirst for a bowl game was quenched.  But everyone left wanting more.  And that’s a good thing.

The truth of the matter is that the program is not at a place where you can count on a bowl game just yet, but these Blue Devils are in a position to compete in every game on their schedule this season and with some luck and good play, they could take their fan base bowling again.

But one game at a time is the way to get it done.  Game One: Duke will take on NCCU at Wallace Wade on August 31st at 4:00.  Tickets are still available through GoDuke.com.

Monday Musings – Duke heads down the stretch

duke vs bellarmine 080The week ahead is a big one for Duke Athletics as the Men’s Basketball team takes on N.C. State on Thursday evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium before traveling to Boston College for another road game on Saturday. Meanwhile, there is a little thing happening on Wednesday called football signing day, when players from around the country will seal their college decisions by sending in their official letters of intent.

Rematch looms

It was less than four weeks ago that N.C. State defeated a Ryan Kelly-less Duke team, knocking the Blue Devils from the ranks of the undefeated. Well, Duke will still be without the services of Kelly, but this time it is uncertain as to whether injured N.C. State point guard Lorenzo Brown will be available. The Pack is coming off a last second loss (without Brown) to ACC league leader Miami. They’ll surely feel that their backs against the wall in Cameron, a site which more often than not brings out their best. It should be another tense game and while the Pack will be trying to right the ship, it is almost a must-win situation for Duke if they want to remain in the chase for the ACC regular season title. The Pack matches up better with Duke than do most conference teams, in that they have a solid one-two punch in the front court of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell — who is perhaps the most underappreciated star in the league. After Miami, it is a crowded ACC race, and the winner of this game will have a big leg up moving forward.

Speaking of Ryan Kelly

You have heard the old phrase “if I had a dime for every time ….”  Well, if I had a dime for every time somebody asked me about when Kelly would return, I would have a hundred dollar bill. Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers.  As always, unfounded rumors abound on the web, as fans desperate for information increasingly believe just about anything they read, without bothering to check out the source’s credentials. I can tell you that Kelly is getting closer to a return, and awhile back I told our members, “Think Boston College.”  Duke plays the Eagles this Saturday and again on February 24th and I feel Kelly will be back within that time frame. Anyhow, nobody is going to rush Kelly back.  Once they get him back, the team needs him to remain on the court for the duration of the season, without relapses or setbacks. It’s hard enough for a team to adjust its chemistry, its roles, and its rotations even once in mid-season.  Two or three times?  Much, much more difficult.

Duke will continue to hover …

…. in the top five of the latest A.P. poll due out just after noon today. I’m not expecting a lot of movement in the polls where Duke is currently ranked fifth in the country, but fourth is not out of the question with Kansas losing. I think Michigan will not fall very far at all after their loss at Indiana. N.C. State will likely be just holding on to a spot in the polls, again, making them hungry to show the nation they can be consistent.

And just like that ….

There are only ten regular season games left on the schedule for Duke. Maybe it’s the fact I am getting old, but man, has this season flown by. And Duke of course gets arch-rival North Carolina twice in those final ten games, on February 13th in Cameron and March 9th in Chapel Hill. This stretch of the season should prove more than a little interesting.  And how many have March 2nd circled on their calendars, when Miami comes to town?

Seniors have just five more home games

Wow. There are just five more home games for Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly in the Duke uniform. I hope all the Crazies will give them a phenomenal send-off. I get to know the quality of the young men while covering the recruiting trail, and these are three really good guys. It’ll be time to reflect soon enough.

Football Signing Day

Our members know that our football recruiting information is second to none on the web, and we’ll certainly be in place when David Cutcliffe and company start to receive prospects’ letters of intent. Look for BDN’s Patrick Cacchio to have lots of great information and insights, and check back into our archives to read about the prospects who hope to continue to build Duke Football into a consistent winner.

A little bit about the site

We’ve been in the process of rethinking Blue Devil Nation a bit.  We’ve been slow to move on some of the changes, but you will see them moving forward. We’ll be introducing a couple of new writers who have the qualities we have been looking for, and recruiting is about to heat up around here again in a big way. After fielding several inquiries to join a group or network, we’ve decided to remain an independent site. That means we have to work a little harder. It may take until the off-season to get some things in place, but the goal is to continue to serve the Blue Devil Nation with solid, dependable information and full beat coverage.  We have assembled a team of what we consider to be true experts in recruiting and coverage, and that should become even more evident as we move forward.

Monday Musings – It’s all about Atlanta for Duke this week

This week is all about Atlanta. Duke in Atlanta, that is. The Blue Devils basketball and football teams will visit the land of the Peach Tree in two high profile games. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his charges will jump first on Tuesday evening, when Duke takes on Kentucky in a Battle of the Blues. This game is part of the State Farm Champions Classic, and pits two of the nation’s most storied programs facing off in an early season slugfest. On Saturday, the football team takes on Georgia Tech and with a win, followed by a victory in their final home game against Miami, the Blue Devils can play for the ACC Coastal Division title. So there is no doubting that Hot ‘Lanta will be the center of the Duke universe this week.

Blue versus Blue or Duke versus Kentucky

Two thoroughbred programs will take to the court tomorrow evening in Atlanta, and by evening’s end either the defending national champions will once again be standing tall or Duke will have served notice that they are a true contender for this season’s crown. A lot of folks want to make something out of early season basketball games, more so than they should at times.  Even if it’s true, the fact that neither Duke nor Kentucky played all that well in their season openers really means little, as those performances indicate almost nothing about how the season will ultimately go.  The winner of this game could have a leg up with the polls and the talking heads, if nothing else.  That is, until Duke next travels to the absolutely loaded Battle in Atlantis.

During today’s press conference, we got nothing more than the standard coach-speak from John Calipari. He was quick to point out that Kentucky is a freshman-dominated team, when in fact their veteran depth is very much alive and well, and in reality is likely the key to a Wildcat win. Calipari also mentioned that PG Ryan Harrow, a transfer from N.C. State, has been sick, is still sick, and may not make the journey. This means he’ll likely play. Calipari also mentioned that Duke would probably have the most fans in the arena, when the reality is that Atlanta is known for garnering a huge Kentucky turnout. I’d take the bet that attendance is 2 to 1 or better for the Big Blue Nation.  Calipari also mentioned the Wildcats would have to rebound better, but that goes for Duke as well, as the Blue Devils have not been as proficient on the boards as many anticipated in their two exhibition and one regular season game. Coach-speak comes in many forms; Krzyzewski has his own, so sometimes you’re forced to read between the lines. The bottom line is this: it’s a huge matchup, especially for the fans and the network. We’ll go into more detail in our game preview a bit later, and we’ll be in Atlanta to bring you all the latest from court side.

Duke in line for ACC Title

The Duke football team will take its turn in Atlanta this Saturday at 3:30 when they face Georgia Tech.  The Blue Devils are a double figure underdog. A few weeks ago, a lot of folks were pointing to this game as the best chance for Duke to get to six wins, but this is ACC Football — and much can change in a single weekend. Now the Yellow Jackets are peaking after they blasted North Carolina on the road, putting up ridiculous offensive numbers. In order to become bowl-eligible, Tech needs wins in its last two games, versus the Blue Devils and a highly ranked Georgia team.  Which team do you think their coaching staff feels they have the best shot to defeat? Duke was off last week, so had extra time to prepare for the vaunted option attack that many teams struggle to stop.  It’ll be up to the Duke offense to put up enough points to win in what could be a wild and woolly affair. A lot of great story lines in this one, and a Duke win sets up a game with Miami next week where a win would vault them to the ACC Championship game versus (probably) Florida State. But first things first.  The Yellow Jackets are more than just a bump in the road. The beauty of the whole thing is that nobody would have thought that Duke’s final two games in 2012 would have such meaning, and that they’d have the opportunity to actually compete for a championship.

The Intangibles

When Duke was searching for a football coach, they landed David Cutcliffe, but before that happened they interviewed Paul Johnson, the current Georgia Tech coach. He took the Tech job for less money than Duke offered, and it has been rumored that he’s not said a lot of nice things about Duke’s program ever since. His teams handled Coach Cut’s early teams easily, but the gap has closed.  Or has it? We’ll find out this Saturday. It is also worth noting that Duke senior quarterback Sean Renfree ended up deciding between Duke and Georgia Tech, so this game has to have some extra meaning for him as well. As I said, lots of story lines. I think you will see a physical game, with the toughest team coming away with the win. With conference championship implications on the line, this is one of the biggest Duke football games in some time.

On the lack of playing time for Alex Murphy

Everybody noticed that Alex Murphy didn’t get any burn in the season opener against Georgia State.  We decided not to address this situation past what Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, which was that it was a coach’s decision.  I suppose it’s because we’ve been around the Duke program for a long time and have seen this same type of thing happen to many players, including the likes of Nolan Smith. The bottom line is while it may be a shock to some that Murphy did not play, many Duke players in the past have had to pay their dues, or been in some sort of similar place that Alex is in now, and the vast majority of them worked things out over time. I have no first-hand knowledge of the situation, but I would advise against overreacting to this one game decision. A single game-day decision is by no means a long-term projection as to how things will go. My bet is another player will be on the bench at some point this season while Murphy plays, and then I will have to start this explanation all over again. That’s it! Let’s wait for something more clear and consistent to emerge.

Semi Ojeleye and parents visit Durham, BDN Photo

Semi Ojeleye and Family

Semi Ojeleye visited Duke on his official visit this past weekend. There are no first-hand accounts as to what happened, only that he is a sealed deal for Duke. Ojeleye is an interesting prospect who fits the Duke mold in more ways than one. He’s an athletic and versatile player who is unlike many of the current kids on the roster, and he already possesses a college-ready body.

 

 Kyrie Irving tearing it up
In his second season, Kyrie Irving is looking like an NBA All-Star.  If you can get past some of the garbage pail offerings from the likes of SB Nation, you will find a lot of good stories on his start to the season. Here is one of the better reads on Kyrie.