Perhaps the number given to Cassius Stanley's was a hint that he could play. The California freshman who led Duke in scoring with 19 points against Colorado State dons number two for the Blue Devils.
A quick look at Blue Devils past shows that some good players have worn #2 over the years. A season ago the number belonged to Cam Reddish and Gary Trent Jr. before that. You can trace the number back to two national champions in Quinn Cook and Nolan Smith as well.
Whether the number assigned to Stanley has anything to do with his ability or not, after just two games he's shown he is more than capable of handling a starting nod on the 2019-20 Blue Devils.
The Los Angeles native has had immediate success on the court this season. Stanley was wonderfully efficient in the Duke win over Colorado State. The self-proclaimed LeBron James and Lakers fan, went 8-11 from the field for his 19 points,
But Stanley is more than just instant offense. A quick look at the box score shows he grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds and added a blocked shot for good measure in 25 minutes of play.
His play was noticed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who lauded his newcomer during his post game press conference. The long-time Duke leader called Stanley's two opening games outstanding -- high praise indeed.
Duke won a defensive slug-fest against Kansas and Stanley scored 13 points in that game on 5 of 6 shooting. He also played 30 minutes, the second-most on the team.
You can already see that Krzyzewski wants Stanley on the court. And the reason for that is his efficiency. One of the most telling stats was the fact Stanley committed 4 turnovers against Kansas only to cut that down to zero in the win over the Rams.
Stanley has the potential to be a solid on-ball defender as well. He gets his hands on the ball and has stayed with his man in the 2-0 Duke start to the season.
It's also clear that Stanley likes to run the court and his two baskets against Kansas on the break were game-changing. Despite the early success, Stanley is still learning the Duke system and getting better as a player.
We have yet to see the finished product with concern to Stanley. But it is clear that he will play a vital roll on this year's team. The one thing which is evident early on is that Cassius Stanley can ball. And that is great news for this year's Duke team.
There was an NCAA type intensity in the Duke loss to Virginia yesterday. It is true that the Blue Devils had the home advantage which makes the Virginia Cavaliers win even more impressive.
After the dust cleared Virginia moved to 20-1 on the season solidifying their ranking. Their coach, Tony Bennett, said that his team knew exactly who they were as a team. He inferred that his squad knew their roles and played as one on the court, not caring who takes the shots.
On the other side, Duke lost a game on Coach K Court in Cameron Indoor Stadium which is rare. They pretty much allowed Virginia the regular season crown by not taking care of the business at hand. That means, one goal is all but done -- that being the regular season ACC crown.
Unlike Virginia, Duke is a young team that is trying find their stride. The Blue Devils, while good, are not playing like a well oiled machine just yet. And that is a fact, despite a starting lineup that is playing exclusively together.
On one hand, it is still early in the season with ten regular season games left. On the other hand, the staff needs to push the right buttons and start to see results and togetherness. With injured players Marques Bolden about to enter the fray and Javin DeLaurier starting to get healthy, team chemistry will be a challenge.
That is the keyword, right there. Chemistry. For this team to make great things happen, it has to improve. Yes, Virginia is the best defensive team in the nation. But the 16 turnovers Duke committed in the game was far too many.
Countless times, Duke tried to pass the ball through defenders or they would passes were not properly anticipated. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have just five turnovers and shoot lights out from the free throw stripe.
The game plan to beat Virginia is to not beat yourself with turnovers and bad shot selection. Missed front ends of one and ones helped doom the Blue Devils as did not playing smart when the game was on the line. You must value every possession.
The Duke defense was not that bad. In fact, the team, at times, looked great in that area. But Virginia would find just enough spacing to launch some timely three pointers. And this happened despite the fact that making their guards dribble or penetrate while limiting space is the way to go.
The Blue Devils looked dead in the water at the half. And perhaps they dug too deep of a hole to climb out of. But after a raucous comeback, where they took the lead came some untimely carelessness.
In short, the opportunities were there but the team could not execute well enough at crunch time for a win. And that points to questions. The main one being, can this team turn the corner in short time and play with more rhythm and better chemistry.
Maybe this is the way it will be with a young team. But Duke is immensely talented and capable, despite its youth. Duke had dominate performances from Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter Jr. which felt wasted. The teams guards were not consistent nor effective as a group, especially in some of the mental aspects og the game.
While there is no particular blame for the loss, there is concern with the back court. Gary Trent seemed to get back to the way he was playing before the loss to N.C. State instead of allowing the game to come with him.
Despite leading the league in assists, Trevon Duval made a very untimely pass into the teeth of the Virginia defense late in the game. It was a deflating turnover which was majorly risky.
As for Grayson Allen, he did not seem like himself in the loss. Nor has he of late where his offensive output has been streaky at best. And in this game, his other stat lines were not making up for his sudden shooting woes.
Another thing which from my non coaching vantage seemed amiss, was that Duke allowed the Virginia defense to set up. There were times towards the end of the game where the movement to take advantage of an unbalanced defense was not there. And that had something to do with spacing and not putting game pressure on when you had numbers.
But credit Virginia. They play a methodical and systematic style which causes players to doubt their instincts. While Duke is the more talented team, Virginia was the most savvy group where they played older and wiser.
The good news is that there is time to get better for Duke. The bad news is that the window closes each game out. With March madness approaching the staff will need to see some better results.
At some point this team has to get on the same page and cut down on errors. That potential efficiency can take this team far and maybe to the promised land. But at this point in the season, as Mike Krzyzewski has said, they either will or they won't -- it is that simple.
The current reality is that Duke has little time to learn anything with Notre Dame visiting Cameron on Monday evening. But perhaps the experience from top five showdown loss will spur them to a much needed win.
Here is the first edition of "10 Random Thoughts on Duke Basketball." I will be covering various tidbits worth mentioning that will consist of little known facts and things to ponder.
Marvin Bagley III is only scratching the surface - What a phenomenal week for Marvin Bagley III. He wins ACC Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week while setting various freshman records at Duke. But he could be in high school for his final season. What I am saying is he is young and learning and will realize more and more what he is capable of doing as the season wears on.
Duke is more than just Marvin Bagley III - Take a look at Wendell Carter Jr. for a second. He is having a solid freshman season as are all of the starters. It is his play and ability to help protect the lane and garner rebounds that helps Bagley to be great.
Duke is going to get a lot better soon - Okay, so you know they will have played 9 games in 20 days after they take on Indiana tomorrow night. But have you considered that during this stretch there has been little to no practice time? Once Mike Krzyzewski and his staff has time to break down the film from this run, Duke will make major adjustments and tweak what they are doing. In short, you ain't see nothing yet.
Run your own race - I have covered Duke basketball for many years. In that time I have seen great players in time not have the success they would like in their freshman and sophomore seasons. Heck, ask Nolan Smith about sticking with it after barely playing as a freshman. Duke has some guys on the roster that may not fully blossom until their junior years, but if they stick with the system, they will become stars with key roles.
What we have learned to date - You can never count this Duke team out. Fans should look over their timelines to see how they reacted when Duke was down 17 to good teams. Moving forward, they should know this team is talented and can wear their opponents down over the course of a whole game. The confidence gained in these comeback wins will serve Duke well.
Special - Mike Krzyzewski aka Coach K called his team special in the post game after the win over Florida. Special can mean many things, but he has seen this group will not give up and wants to play together, learn and get better. What he did not specifically mention is that these are all really good young men off the court as well and that he love teaching them.
Indiana is a trap game - The Hoosiers had one of the worst losses in their fabled history in their opening home loss to Indiana State of Larry Bird fame. They lost to a good, ranked, Seton Hall team on the road. But they have shown signs of improvement pushing their record to 4-2. They are rested and playing in their super bowl tomorrow night.
Duke does not announce their injuries - I often see fans ask what is wrong with so and so or he is having a bad game or two, It is not policy for the Blue Devils to announce their injuries and do not expect them to help their opponents scouting report by doing so. Food for thought.
The Duke team will soon get a break but - the coaches will be breaking down filming in between holiday recruiting events later this month.
That needed break will come - after Duke returns from Bloomington where they will face a good South Dakota team in CIS (Cameron Indoor Stadium) on December the 2nd (Saturday) and then St. Francis in a brutal 9:00 start this coming Tuesday. Wait! I am not finished. The team will then go as far north in the ACC as possible for their league opener against Boston College on the 9th. At that time comes a much-needed 11 day break. Duke will then play Evansville on December the 20th in CIS to shake off the rust before another 10 day break when they will come back to take on Florida State at home with the students still on vacation break. Duke will need their non student fans to be on the top of their game in the home ACC opener.
I hope you enjoyed my first edition of "10 Random Thoughts on Duke Basketball," and return for more. Remember that we are doubling your membership to all new members of BDN Premium through the new year. If you join for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, we will double your membership time. IOW, 2 years is just $100.00, or if you join for 6 months at $60.00 you get a full year. By joining you help us spread the news on Duke Basketball on various platforms while getting some inside news. For recent new members, you now have access to the message board, but it is a separate sign up which will then be approved.
As fans we get wired after big wins and that is exactly what happened to many in the Blue Devil Nation after Duke staged a rollicking comeback win. Duke moved to 7-0 on the season but not before the emotional meter ran from one end to the other for the team and those who watched.
Looking at twitter timelines show many fans going from ranting on the team to sheer elation in a matter of minutes. Yes, it was that kind of day and proof that one should never count any Mike Krzyzewski basketball team out.
But even Krzyzewski seemed thrown aback from the turnabout where he admitted his team could have folded being down 16 in the 2nd half with just over ten minutes to play. Thankfully, Duke saved their best play for when their backs were against the wall and came away with a fine victory.
Marvin Bagley III
One thing for certain is that everybody knows who this young man is now. It is amazing how many in the media did not seem to realize just how good Bagley not only is but will be. In short, he is a special player and perhaps, dare I say, the best to wear the royal blue uniform?
Okay, I will back up and not get ahead of myself. Thankfully, Bagley despite his immense skill set is a humble young man. In the post game locker room he admitted that he could get better and that he is still learning the game.
So, maybe a new lesson or two will lead to 44 points instead of 34? Anyhow, his numbers were 34 and 15 against a good team. And he now has five double-doubles on the season.
Our stinger covering the game got to listen to Bagley answer several questions about his recent eye injury. Seth Davis peppered the star with multiple questions about that and the incident did indeed bother Bagley more than some might think.
Bagley's play left many media types simply saying he was a pro. Some fumbled for words when describing his play.. One ESPN announcer said he was a sure top five pick. Top five? Maybe he had been watching football.
One More Game to Go and Quite the Set Up
While some of you were cutting z's last evening, Florida and Gonzage were putting on a show of their own. The Gators remained undefeated with a thrilling and hard-fought double overtime win over the Zags.
In their 111-105 victory, Florida was led by three main scorers which are all guards. Jalen Hudson led the way with 35 points while playing with foul trouble. Chris Chiozza added 26 and KeVaughn Allen chipped in with 23. Did I mention these guys consist of one experienced senior and two juniors?
And to add a little more of a twist to this upcoming game, Duke Athletic Director Kevin White's son, Mike White is the Florida coach. Yep! Kevin has had to face this before and insisted it is all about Duke for him when I asked before a previous match up. But man, his nerves will be in a bunch during what should be a great game between top 10 teams.
Oh, and one last thing. Florida (5-0, ranked 7th) has scored over 100 point in 4 of its 5 wins. That tid-bit translates as they are the highest scoring team in the nation.
Rest? What rest?
The teams participating in the PK80 have been quite busy with no time off. All of them visited the Nike Facility upon arrival and have spent most of their time preparing for great opposition.
For those who are not familiar, the assistant coaches will take in the next opponents game. That means Jeff Capel and company were up late last night watching Florida defeat Gonzaga.
Now with that said, Duke had a long journey to get to Portland and left the day after a recent win over Furman. But Florida had a slightly longer journey per flight logs. And now we have two east coast teams which will tip-off tomorrows game at 10:30 EST.
Win or lose, celebration or not -- Duke will then board a flight which will put them back in Durham, N.C. on Monday morning around 9:00. So, if you are thinking about greeting them know they'd probably appreciate a low-key walk to the dorms before class.
Duke basketball will then have to adjust to east coast time again and wake up the next day to leave for Bloomington, Indiana. And there, they will face an improving Hoosiers team in a game that tips at 9:40 or later. They will then return to Durham well after midnight and have a little off before facing South Dakota at home on December 2nd. They will take on St. Francis the 5th and then travel the next day to Boston to face the Eagles at 12 noon in their ACC opener.
That is the way it is when you are a cash cow for Nike and ESPN. The good news is after the game with Boston College, the team gets ten well needed days off.
#BlueDevilNation Follow us on twitter @BlueDevilNation