Team Williamson was in the stands for the Duke vs Virginia game this past weekend. Zion Williamson was able to see more of the Duke campus and the facilities with members of his family. Flanked by his mom Sharonda Sampson, they sat behind the Duke bench. Be sure to check out the documentary below which is sure to get you excited while allowing you to the the character of the Blue Devil to be.
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.
They did it again! Just when you thought the team was about to lose their third game of the season, Duke came alive. The Blue Devils uses an 18-0 run to shock Miami and snatch a key ACC road win. Without further ado, here is volume V of 10 Random Thoughts on Duke Basketball.
30 Point Efforts
No other team in the ACC has more than two players with 30 plus scoring games this season. Duke, on the other hand, has now had players go for 30 points or over in seven games. Last night it was Gary Tent Jr.s turn. After being sick the game before against Wake Forest and still playing well, Trent followed up that game with 30 points which included some big time three pointers. His effort helped Duke remain undefeated against teams in the current A.P. Top 25.
Trailing 66-53, Duke went on an 18-0 run and outscored Miami 27-4 over that stretch which sealed their fourth conference win. Gary Trent went 6 of 9 from three-point range, knocking down two consecutive trays to start the comeback. Trevon Duval also stepped up his game after struggling with turnovers early in the game and ended up having 8 assists. Duke has had a way of turning up their offense for spurts all season long. Quite simply, they are capable of staging major comebacks in just a few minutes or when the game looks to be in doubt.
Not to take anything away, but ...
The Blue Devils still need to find some consistency in many areas of the game. Firstly, they need to protect leads they build in the first half or leads in general. Duke also needs some work on their free throw game. They got away with going 10 of 21 from the charity stripe last evening and left a lot of points with misses of late. Then there is the need for a consistent effort and better shot selection not to mention a better understanding of man to man defense. Duke is young and learning. Once they take better shot and gain a killer instinct with the lead, they will be hard to beat. Just a little bit of improvement in the aforementioned areas could pay huge dividends.
A different role from Bagley
Well of course Marvin Bagley III got his 15 double-double on the season. And he tallied 13 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists by deferring to other Duke players at times. Last evening three other Duke players had more shots than Bagley. The talented freshman took another step in his development by allowing this to happen which translated to a win. And if Duke wins, Bagley will still remain the center of attention for many.
Wendell Carter went beast mode
When teammate Marvin Bagley went to the locker room with a shoulder injury, Carter played outstanding basketball. He was a machine on the boards where many of his game high 14 rebounds came early or in key times in the game. Carter is a double-double guy as well and he has pout together back to back games with the not so easy feat. Duke would be well served to make sure he continues to get touches moving forward for he is better when that happens as is the team. What people might miss is there is a timed development with players from the staff. They told Carter he would float outside for some shots to better that part of his game when recruiting him. They are keeping their promise. BTW, Carter has an insane stat line - 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 3 assists and 2 steals.
Allen continues to struggle with his shot
Sometimes players get in a shooting funk. That has been the case with all of the Duke backcourt players at times this season. It is scary to think how good Duke can be if all three are hitting on the same night. What Allen is doing is finding his way into the stat line and remaining the senior leader a team needs. Last evening he led Duke is steals with 5 and his effort towards the end of the half to get one and assist Trent for a 3 halted Miami's momentum.
I know there is a part of Mike Krzyzewski that hates going to a zone. But in the one and done era with limited teaching time with players, not to mention a top-heavy team with concern to minutes: it is necessary. And when Duke does go to that zone it seems to have a great effect to date. When they went to it last evening, the Hurricanes offense immediately struggled with the length and movement.
Bad Duval, good Duval
Trevon Duval got into some early foul trouble and had to sit. He needs to learn to harness his aggression in that Duke needs him on the court. He is the best option at his position hands down. I thought he was on his way to 8 turnovers like he had against NC State, but he flipped the switch and halted that. Instead of 8 turnovers he ended the game with 8 assists. And he was very efficient from the field going 7 of 11 and 2 of 2 from 3. There is no position like the point guard spot which makes mistakes stand out. Duval was good down the stretch and was a part of Duke not committing turnovers after a season high 19 during their 30-9 run to close out the game.
This and that
Duke has now had players garner 25 double-doubles on the season. Bagley is 2nd in the nation in double-doubles and 1st among freshmen players. Trent tied a Duke freshman record with six made three pointers. Coach K is now 1014-273 at Duke and has 1087 total wins.
Pitt will visit Cameron Indoor Stadium on Coach K Court this coming Saturday. That game will tip-off at 4:00 on ACC Network Extra. Duke should get both rest and good practice time this week. They should also be able to let injured players continue to mend against Pitt which s struggling while rebuilding their program.
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Welcome the second installment of "10 Random Thoughts on Duke Basketball," where we take time to reflect during the break in competition. Give it a read. It gets better and you go...
Duke is coming off a bad loss -- Look! I am as big an optimist as anybody, but there is no sugar-coating the fact that Duke Basketball is coming off a bad loss. The team was a 16 point favorite on the road and it was the all important ACC opener. But what's done is done.
Good things can come from bad losses -- Nothing gets a good teams attention like an upset loss on the road. Fans storm the court making an exit difficult and then the players are peppered with questions about what happened. The young Duke players found out that they will get every teams best shot and that they are not as good as the hype which surrounded them. Now, the team must look at the ACC standings where they are 0-1 and in last place until they can do something about it on December the 30th against Florida State. If this does not motivate the team, then there is no hope.
Practice counts -- As I look around I see a lot of people complaining about what the current group of players need to do better. Well, they are finally getting some time for practice, sort of. The team will be taking exams this week and that makes for a stressful time.
What needs to happen in coming practices -- Get better on defense. The team to date is very efficient on the offensive end but their defense, especially against the perimeter has been suspect at best. One of the hardest tasks the staff has is to teach one and done or young players how to play defense. But to win and win big, the team must buy into what they are about to learn. In fact, I would bet that 75% of practices will concentrate on teaching the defensive aspects of the game. Teams will continue to jack threes against Duke until they prove they can run players off the stripe.
A little perspective -- Before I go on, may I remind you that Duke has wins over Florida, Michigan State and Texas. They have a single loss which everyone with the exception of Villanova, Arizona Sate and one or two other contenders do as well. The team has a bevy of freshman playing key roles who have played together in 12 games and they will get better with the aforementioned practice time and another break to come after the Evansville game. The teams talent alone will win games, but once they improve things will get even better. Number four in the country in December is not a bad place to be. And better to learn lessons now than later.
However -- The ACC is once again good this year and Duke will face a test almost every night out in league play. A game with Florida State is looming and the Seminoles are ranked and undefeated. Six league teams are currently ranked and Virginia Tech should be. UNC is adjusting as is every other team in what will be another brutal league schedule. There will be many wars ahead as the season progresses.
Evansville is good -- It is always fun to hear fans say, we'll take it out on our next opponent which in this case Evansville. Well, a look at the standing shows a team that is currently 8-2 and likely to be 10-2 when entering Cameron on December 20th. The students will be gone for this game and the ACC home opener with FSU, so the fans who have closest to Coach K Court will need to be loud and proud.
The mental part of the game -- So many things can happen when you have a youthful team. But the one thing that will no matter how talented the youth might be is there will be a learning curve. As good as Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval are, they are going up against grown men. And as grown men, it is not just their physical aspects which come into play, but the mental part of the game where they can take advantage via experience. In short, improving mentally is important. Shot selection, consistency, team play and much else fall into the mental category.
Development -- It is already clear to many what Javin DeLaurier brings off the bench with his motor that helps with energy. But another freshman in Alex O'Connell seems to be developing and earning the staffs trust. The key is to play within yourself and not try to do too much when earning burn.
Lastly -- Nobody involved was happy with the loss at Boston College. But basketball can be a cruel sport at times. Duke faced a team that had players step up for great games and flirting with a loss via having to stage a comeback caught up with the team. But the future is bright and this group while not immensely deep is talented. Keep in mind that this is December basketball and while it counts, the goal will always be to develop fully come March. This has and will be a fun group to watch, so enjoy the ride for Duke Basketball never stops.
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Unless you have been in hibernation or are not a sports fan, you know that Tennessee recently fumbled the handing of hiring or firing Greg Schiano. Okay, maybe he was neither hired nor fired but let me add for emphasis that it was a hot mess.
Now, sources say they reached out to David Cutcliffe who has already balked at the opportunity in the past. Make no mistake about it, part of Cutcliffes heart is in Tennessee where he met his wife.
But the Vol Nation has had horrible timing in hires of late and their track record of success has been abysmal with choices. Had they offered Cutcliffe at the right time, meaning years ago -- perhaps he would be there today,
Anyhow the story is making the rounds on ESPN. But Cutcliffe seems likely to end his coaching career at Duke. He has invested a lot of time in building a program that will soon get its fifth bowl invitation in six years. And the university has invested in him with facilities in a mutual plan for improvement.