If you haven't figured it out by now let it be known the Duke Blue Devils are really good. In the era of one-and-done players, this season's team is the most together of any group in recent memory under Mike Krzyzewski.
During the recent three-game stretch in six days, the Blue Devils have continued to play together and more importantly unselfish. This is a group of players who cheer for one another and seem hungry to achieve their lofty pre-season goals.
The Blue Devils go into ACC play next week on a roll, sitting at 10-1 and likely the nation's #2 rated team. While ACC teams have struggled to date and some want to paint the coming road as easy one needs to understand that this means every night out will provide a hungry opponent.
Perhaps no team will be hungrier for a win than the next opponent Virginia Tech. The Hokies lost a couple of tough contests early and had perhaps underachieved a bit. But the Hokies absolutely drilled St. Bonaventure in their last outing -- a team in every pre-season top 25 as the season began.
Virginia Tech got caught looking ahead or even off guard against Wake Forest in their ACC opener. They responded and they'll fight the Blue Devils hard in Cameron in an effort not to start 0-2 in the league.
The Hokies will likely be an upper-division team by year's end and they should push for an NCAA berth. And that is a warning that many ACC teams Duke will face will seek a resume-building win versus the Blue Devils.
Despite having two coaches out right now in Chris Carrawell and Nolan Smith, the message should get through to their young, but talented group to expect a few fights.
The great news for Duke is that if they play their game, they will be favored over every opponent left on the schedule. The team will hear this kind of thing from the media and that means the mental battle is just beginning.
Can Duke manage the hype and expectations? Probably so, but the grind is here. After a seven-day break between the Virginia Tech and Clemson games the Blue Devils will have no more extended breaks.
While the Blue Devils are clearly the most talented ACC team heading into the meat of conference action it is the mental aspects of the game that must be mastered.
During his post game presser after the win over Elon, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke of many things. But he also said this team is still a work in progress.
While that may be true, Duke is a pretty tight group already. But, yes it is factual that the team can get better. And they will need to get better for there are a lot of good teams in the country this season in what has been an interchangeable top spot in the polls.
Here is the thing. Duke has been great thus far and Krzyzewski knows it. But he is also looking over his shoulder at the suddenness of games being canceled due to COVID-related illnesses.
I mean, things are going close to perfect for Krzyzewski and the program. There is a bevy of players expected to hear their names called in the NBA draft. The team is well oiled with good chemistry for December, they are healthy and the list goes on.
And it is not just the team that is front and center of the college basketball world. Cameron has been solid this season. The Crazies were set to be a serious factor this season for they are a tight group of students and trust me, I have seen many come and go.
There is also a transition going on where Jon Scheyer will take over for the legend next season. And recruiting could not possibly be going any better.
Everything is clicking until it isn't.
There are factors that the team cannot control. There has been little discussion from the ACC or NCAA offices on more uniform testing procedures.
That frustration was evident for Mike Krzyzewski yesterday. It was almost as if his smiles were fighting back tears that the near-perfect path in every aspect for Duke could be altered.
Duke or should I say Cameron is just not the same without fans. As a team Duke has taken great strides with testing. But what good is that if others are not doing the same?
If Duke loses their sixth man it will make for a much longer season with concern to finding that vital game flow before March. And the many fans who want to see Mike Krzyzewski one last time in Cameron could have their desires wrecked.
He didn't come right out and say it but Krzyzewski is wondering what the media was. We could all see these pandemic-related issues coming and there needs to be immediate action to make it so we can somehow play the game as it is meant to be played in front of fans.
All of this falls on the ACC, NCAA, and fans alike and the actions we take collectively. Honestly, I, like many of you are dealing with the emotion of all this as a near-perfect start to a season for Duke could be altered.
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