Category Archives: Monday Musings

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.

BDN Monday Musings – Huge week ahead for Duke Athletics

 

Countdown to Craziness will be electric when Countdown to Craziness kicks off this Friday. Be there!

After a long hiatus, BDN’s Monday Musings returns, and there is a lot to talk about with respect to Duke Athletics. To say this is a big week is an understatement. Duke Basketball will hold its annual Countdown to Craziness on Friday evening followed the next night by a prime time football game with archrival North Carolina, where a win would snap a long losing streak in the series and gain the Blue Devils bowl eligibility.

Basketball season is here!

The mens basketball team has started practice, and that always means excitement in the air among Duke fans. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seems as pumped up as ever as he enters the season with a record 927 wins, and he will close in on other marks as the year progresses. His teams have been ranked in the AP Top 10 a total of 425 weeks, and this year’s first poll should make it 426. The Blue Devils return 10 letter-winners from a year ago, so there is experience on hand, and the team has received an infusion of talent with the additions of redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee, who join true freshmen Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaiman.

A couple of early injuries

As you may have heard, Marshall Plumlee is in a walking boot with a foot fracture, but the prognosis is unknown at this time.  Seth Curry is nursing a minor injury as well, and is close to being able to go 100%. Most football programs are mildly evasive in providing news on injuries these days, and basketball is becoming no different.

Early high praise for Mason Plumlee

Blue Devils fans needed a shot in the arm at the end of last season after the upset loss to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament and the departure of Austin Rivers, who entered the NBA Draft after his freshman campaign. They got that lift when Mason Plumlee spurned the league for another year to return for his senior season at Duke. Plumlee has earned high praise early on from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has made no secret that he expects big things from the multi-talented big man. Expect a larger role for Plumlee this year, and look for the Blue Devils to establish his game early on.

Who will run the point?

Actually, it is still likely to be done by committee. Many hope Quinn Cook steps up in his second year and takes over the role, but he will share time with Tyler Thornton, Rasheed Sulaimon and maybe even Seth Curry. Cook improved leaps and bounds in the off-season and his confidence and game are where they were when I first saw him on the AAU trail in his junior season in high school. Thornton has improved his quickness, and he is a calming influence on the team with his cool play. Sulaimon has the ability to be the best on-ball defender from the guard spot, and Curry has run the position before and if necessary can do so again. But in the end, Blue Devil fans will look for Quinn Cook to earn the major minutes.  Only time will tell if that happens.

Countdown to Craziness

This is one of the more fun events of the year, where the Blue Devils let their hair down for the last time before getting dead serious and focusing on the season, where early challenges against tough opponents abound. Countdown to Craziness is a celebration of Duke Basketball, where the team comes out to their song of choice during a raucous introduction and comedic skits are seen via video on the scoreboard. Then there is the Blue/White intrasquad game, giving fans a chance to see some action. It’s a great event and one BDN will cover as always, so check back in for coverage. Tickets are still available at reasonable prices at GoDuke.com.

North Carolina at Duke

Both teams come into this weekend’s prime time football game with 5-2 records, including 2-1 conference marks, but the Tar Heels have owned the series of late, and they opened as a 10 point favorite in this one. For the Blue Devils program, nothing would be finer than to see Carolina finally go down, and if the goal posts did not follow, there would be disappointment. A win for Duke would not only snap the long light blue winning streak, but it would also mean Duke is going bowling. Yeah, it’s a big one, but tickets are still available for it, so why not make a Duke weekend of it by having a blast at Countdown to Craziness and then coming back the next night for some serious — and meaningful — football?

Can Duke Football bounce back?

After holding a 20-0 lead over Virginia Tech this past weekend, the team simply collapsed, allowing 41 consecutive points to a team which handled this week’s opponent (North Carolina) with ease. The main concern I have is that the team almost seemed to mail it in once adversity struck, and could never find its way back. There have been times this season where I think the Duke team is better than the players realize; they need to believe they can win and deserve to win some ACC football games. Coach Cut has done a terrific job in rebuilding, but there are still important lessons to be learned, and patience is needed.

Duke Hoops in Fort Bragg

The Duke Men’s Basketball team is practicing at Fort Bragg today.  You can tune into ESPNU at 1:00 to see the practice.

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BDN Monday Musings – Are you ready for some football?

It’s time to kickoff the 2012 Duke Football season this week, and Monday Musings hopes to see you in the stands at Wallace Wade on Saturday.

Injury-plagued Blue Devils face test up front in opener

The Duke Blue Devils will kickoff the 2012 football season this Saturday when they take on a very solid Florida International Panthers team in Wallace Wade Stadium. While the team has improved in many areas under Coach David Cutcliffe, injuries leading up to the game have been unsettling. As of today, the Blue Devils will be without several key projected starters, including receiver Blair Holliday, linebacker Kelby Brown, tight end Braxton Deaver, safety Jordan Byas and defensive lineman Jamal Bruce. They may also be without linebacker David Helton, who is listed as day-to-day. What this all adds up to for Duke is a serious lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball.  This could really matter in this game as the Devils go up against a team that will push the tempo under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey.  Cramsey’s “pedal to the metal” approach will force Duke to go to many unseasoned backups as the game progresses and the front line guys start to wear down.

While the defense will have its hands full preventing big plays, an area that Duke clearly needs to improve upon over last season’s performance, the offense faces a stiff challenge as well. The Panthers’ defensive front is solid and very deep, so all eyes will be on an improved Duke offensive front, and whether it can give senior quarterback Sean Renfree enough time to work with a bevy of new and unproven wideouts.  Duke did move senior Desmond Scott from running back to wide receiver, and he is capable of making big plays once he gets the ball in his hands.  But until a strong second receiving option steps up, you can bet  that All-ACC wideout Conner Vernon will see nothing but double teams, and it will be tough to get him the ball.

The Scott move may seem odd, as he is the last Duke player to rush for 100 yards in a game.  But this could be indicative of Duke’s depth and talent at the running back position, where the Blue Devils have two veterans in Juwon Thompson and Josh Snead and two talented newcomers in Jela Duncan and Sheldon Bell.

So when the ball kicks off around 7:00 this Saturday night to open the season, watch the battle in the trenches where the game could be won.  Click here for more on FIU depth on their Defensive Front.

Interviews with Duke Prospects on the way

We’ll start to roll out interviews from the Under Armor Elite 24 this afternoon, starting with Duke Basketball recruiting prospect Austin Nichols followed by 2014 stud PG Tyus Jones.  There are lots of happenings with hoops recruiting, so join BDN Premium for full site access and don’t miss any of it.

Bowling …

Let’s face it, we all want to see the Duke football team bowl eligible and ESPN’s Heather Dinich has the Blue Devils playing in the Military Bowl.  The Blue Devils face a very tough schedule this season, so that is some serious optimism for Coach Cut and company.  So are any of you  starting to realize how much pressure there is for Duke to win its opener?

Good turnout needed for Duke

It’s Duke Employee Day at Duke for the home opener against Florida International and the Blue Devils will need solid fan support to defeat a team coming off two straight bowl seasons.  Let’s have a great turnout where the home crowd helps lift the team to victory.  It has all the makings of being a very tense and competitive game, so don’t miss it.

 

BDN Monday Musings – “Meet the Devils” event sparks fan interest

Duke QB’s Renfree, Boone and Connette BDN Photo

Mark your calendars for October 19th and 20th, for that will be a heck of a weekend for Duke Athletics. On Friday, October 19th the always popular Countdown to Craziness event kicks off the basketball season, and the following day Duke hosts arch rival North Carolina in football. While schools can kick off the basketball season a week earlier with Midnight Madness-type events, Duke is not doing that this year, so CTC was moved back a week in Durham. Regardless, there will be little sleep for the BDN staff as we cover all the events, as we have in seasons past.

Coach Cut is ready for some football – Photo Mark Watson, BDN

The Meet the Blue Devils football event went down this past weekend, as 1500 Duke fans turned out to meet this season’s team. Fans got a chance to mingle with players and coaches while seeing the positive changes in the football facilities. Duke unveiled its team posters (ripe for autographs for the youngsters) along with the new helmets and new season ticket plans.

Duke Women’s Soccer is hot and ranked #2 in the nation. The team crushed Elon this past weekend, and they next take to the field in the UNC Nike Classic on August 24th at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.

Be sure to check out our BDN Open Group Facebook Page where we load a lot of photos in an environment that more or less acts as our free message board. Of course, BDN’s only true message board is reserved for premium members, who have full site access where they get all the latest inside tidbits and nuggets on the program, as well as a place to discuss recruiting with other members. Here is a link to the Facebook site, where you can see photos from the latest scrimmage and Meet the Devils Day. BDN Facebook Group

A steady stream of fans stood in line to get Coach Cut’s autograph this weekend. – BDN Photo

Speaking of photos, BDN has long used our own photographers, and we do not mind others using our pictures — provided proper credit is given. All of our photos are copyrighted, and we enjoy bringing you up close and personal with Duke Athletics through the medium. But far too many other sites are now using photos without permission and without crediting the original source. If you want to use our photos, please contact us beforehand. Most recently, we had to remove two photos from a gambling site whose operators felt it was their right to swipe them and tag them as their own.  It’s not.

On a related subject, it’s becoming more apparent to me that on today’s web, it can be hard to tell the difference between opinions offered without benefit of real on-scene access and reporting, and opinions offered by those who do have the benefit of firsthand views of a program.  The BDN staff regularly attends all Duke athletic functions and media events. Our team is in the trenches doing the work, enabling us to present an “eyes on” view of the subject matter. Why am I mentioning this? There is a growing trend out there of “reporters” and self-styled “insiders” offering what I’ll generously term “borrowed information.” A recent blog post came to our attention that consisted of BDN reports being simply copied verbatim, with a few minor word changes, and being passed off as the blogger’s own work. The bottom line is that you can trust what you read here as being original in every way. We like what we do, and we make the effort to get out there to cover Duke athletics in a comprehensive, professional, and honest way.

Back to the on-the-field stuff:  The September 1 home opener against Florida International looms, and it should be a good one.  For those unfamiliar with the Panthers, they return 18 starters from a season ago, when they were a bowl team.  The problem with playing an upstart program is that many fans underestimate teams they haven’t heard that much about, setting themselves up for surprise and disappointment when they realize these guys can play.  I can tell you firsthand that Duke will have to bring their “A” game to beat this team.  Adding to the pressure is that, given the difficult schedule the Blue Devils face this year, many are already coining this a “must win.”  I think Duke will be ready but they’ll need the 12th man, meaning a fired-up home crowd, to come out of the gates strong this year and get a win against a quality opponent.

Have a good Monday folks.

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BDN Weekend Notebook – Still celebrating Gold and Meet the Devils in Football

What an exciting time of year this has been for Duke fans. Coach K has returned from London with his blokes in tow — that’s assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, mate —  and with Gold. And football is just two weeks away from kickoff …

You need a map and compass to keep up with the various appearances Mike Krzyzewski has been making since he returned from the other side of the pond. Amazingly, Coach was the first one in the Duke Basketball offices the day after he got back, which is a testament to his dedication and hard work. Here at BDN, we’re still trying to figure out ways of saying thanks for all that he does.

Meet the Devils goes off tomorrow at the Paschall Field House at around 6:00 PM. Paschal is the new facility in the end zone of Wallace Wade, and once you see it you will know that Duke Football is making the necessary moves to compete in the increasingly difficult ACC. This is a serious facility. Free posters, refreshments, drawings for prizes and such will take place. It’s a great time to meet the football team in an “up close and personal” environment, and you’ll be able to take pictures with your favorite players as well.  Come on out if you can!

Staying with the pigskin, check out this in-depth question and answer feature on the ACC Sports Journal web site, where BDN Football Analyst Patrick Cacchio chats with Jim Young about the Duke program and this year’s team. Jim made no bones about putting Patrick on the hot seat, and our man predicts a 5-7 season against a pretty dern tough schedule, both in and out of conference.  For instance, Duke has to face Florida State and Clemson from the other division, while UNC gets Maryland and Wake Forest.

The pressure is already building  for the opener against Florida International, who returns 18 starters from a season ago, when they went to the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.  The Panthers dominate the Phil Steele Preview Magazine’s All-Sun Belt pre-season team, with 10 players on first or second team.  In last season’s meeting down in Miami, the Panthers badly outgained Duke in total yardage, but the Blue Devils prevailed because they did not turn the ball over and they capitalized on FIU’s only turnover to pull it out late by the score of 31-27.  Undoubtedly seeking revenge, the Panthers will have their ears pinned back and be ready to rumble; in many circles FIU will be considered the favorite.  It will be a heck of an early test for the Devils, and they’ll need Wallace Wade to be packed and ready.

Patrick also has an interview up where he recaps the latest Duke verbal commitment, California running back  Joseph Ageigbe.  This is verbal number fifteen for the program, which really does seem headed in the right direction.

With all of that going on, Andrew Slater’s latest interviews have been flying a bit under the radar at BDN Premium. Slater has set the gold standard when it comes to getting to know these hoops prospects.  One recent post profiles The Rockwell Rifleman, Austin Grandstaff who is a young combo guard out of the Dallas area that we talked to at the Nike Peach Jam and then followed up with in Las Vegas.  Then there’s the Rebel with a Future, KavonLooney, a good-looking prospect from Milwaukee who has been catching the eyes of many scouts.  There is also Explosive Potential-An interview with Robert Hubbs focussing on the Tennessee wing who continues his rise in the rankings, and finally the star wing out of Houston is profiled in And Justise for All-The Justise Winslow interview.  As a paying subscriber you have full access to all of these articles and can talk recruiting and more on our members-only message board, where you will get all the latest scoop.

BDN will cover today’s closed session football scrimmage and we’ll have photos galore. Be sure to check out the previous pictures from Photo Day here and we will be adding more as time allows.