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10 RANDOM THOUGHTS ON DUKE BASKETBALL

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.

Marvin Bagley III

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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Cut is Staying Put at Duke per ESPN

Cutcliffe has some time in at Duke - image property of Blue Devil Nation.net

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,

Coach Cutcliffe poses with Duke AD Kevin White - copyright BDN Photo

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.

FWIW, Tennessee is now flying a group to Stillwater, Oklahoma to entertain Mike Gundy.

Duke will know where they are going bowling this coming weekend.  As for Tennessee, a storied program continues to struggle in their efforts to rebuild.

Bagley Named ACC Player & Rookie of the Week

 DURHAM, N.C. – Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III has swept the ACC basketball weekly awards, earning both Player and Rookie of the Week following his MVP performance at the PK80 Invitational in Portland.

 No. 1-ranked Blue Devils (8-0) have garnered six of seven ACC weekly honors in the season’s first three weeks. Bagley III, the ACC’s leading scorer (22.3 ppg) and rebounder (11.3 rpg), was both co-Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week on Nov. 13, while senior Grayson Allen and freshman Wendell Carter Jr., were Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, last week.

 Bagley was named the Most Valuable Player of the eight-team Motion Bracket in leading the Blue Devils to the title. In four games last week, he scored 106 points and grabbed 53 rebounds, averaging 26.5 points and 13.3 rebounds.

 He is the first Duke player since 1973 to post three consecutive games of 15+ rebounds and is the first Duke player in history with consecutive performances of 30+ points and 15+ rebounds.

 Bagley had 34 points and 15 rebounds in an overtime PK80 semifinal win over Texas, including eight of the team’s 12 points in overtime. He followed with 30 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday night’s win over No. 7 Florida in the title game.

 The 34 points versus Texas tied Duke’s freshman scoring record (J.J. Redick vs. Virginia in 2003). Bagley’s six double-doubles are tied for the most in the NCAA. For the week, Bagley shot 60 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free-throw line, including 9-of-10 in the PK80 title game. He added seven assists, four blocked shots and two steals last week.

No. 1 Duke Uses 15-2 Run to Stun Florida

Marvin Bagley III was named MVP as the Duke had a comeback win over Florida in the PK80 Motion bracket final.

There is something about this years Duke Basketball team that allows them to stage epic comebacks against good teams.  After an overtime victory over Texas on Friday, the Blue Devils gained an even more impressive win over a top ten team in the Florida Gators.

Florida held the lead for more than 34 minutes of the game and they built a 16 point advantage over Duke in the 2nd half.  But these Blue Devils did not fold and played through fatigue to go on a 15-2 run over the last 4:04 of the game for a 87-84 win.

Duke has a way of wearing teams down and hanging around just close enough to make a comeback.  But they were playing high level competition against a Gators team that will contend in the SEC all season long, so valuable lessons were learned.

After a painfully slow offensive start the 2nd half, Duke warmed up as did their defense.  The Blue Devils would go back to man to man and that held the highest scoring team in the nation in Florida to just 31 points.

Duke put game pressure on the Gators as they  did the Longhorns and much of that is from the play of their outstanding freshman, Marvin Bagley III.  The soon to be first pick in the coming NBA Draft scored 30 points while pulling down 15 rebounds.

Bagley was named the PK80 MVP after scoring 82 points and pulling down 45 rebounds in 3 games.   The young man is a match up nightmare while remaining a good team player.

The Florida defense held Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. scoreless for most of the 2nd half.  But when the two players came alive it was during some of the games biggest moments.

Allen (14 points, 7 assists) would knock down back to back 3 pointers during the comeback.  Trent (17 points, 2 blocked shots) knocked down two free throws to give Duke an 85-84 lead with 1:12 to go, then made a steal with 11 seconds left and sank two more free throws to seal the win.

All of the Duke players who played contributed.  Duke got good minutes from Javin DeLaurier, Wendell Carter Jr., Marques Bolden, Alex O'Connell and Trevon Duval.

The Gators held the edge on the boards for much of the contest, but Duke was tough on the glass during their 8-0 run to end the game.  They ended up holding a 43-36 rebound advantage when the dust cleared.

Two key factors played a role for Duke.  Firstly, going 19-20 from the free throw stripe was their best showing of the season in that department.  Secondly, Duke was hot from beyond the three-point stripe hitting 10 of 23 attempts.

Duke also shared the ball well with 20 team assists.  More importantly, they remained poised even when they were not playing well.  When you have a knack for continually chipping away at teams, good things will happen.

The Blue Devils celebrated the victory at mid court where Phil Knight awarded them their trophy.  The Duke team is likely heading for their flight as I type and will arrive in Durham mind morning.

Duke will soon have played 9 games in 20 days during a brutal scheduling stretch.  They will go to class on Tuesday afternoon before heading to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers in a game that tips off this Wednesday on ESPN at 9:40.

With tonight's win, Duke moves to an impressive 8-0 on the season and will remain the nation's top ranked team.  Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to build on his record as having coached the most games as the top ranked team in the land.

All in all, it was a great learning experience for a young team as they played three game opponents and varying styles of play in four days.  Duke is far from a perfect team but they are certainly a special team which has plenty of upside moving forward.

Duke Advances With Thrilling OT Comeback

Duke advances with thrilling comeback win over Texas in the PK80 Tournament in Portland, Oregon.

The Duke Blue Devils looked dead in the water when they were down 16 points to Texas with just over eleven minutes to go in the 2nd half.  But despite the teams youth and their captain in Grayson Allen fouling out, Duke (7-0) posted a thrilling 85-78 overtime victory over a game Texas (4-1) team.

"This was a magnificent victory because we were totally outplayed.  It looked like we were unprepared.  They were sharp and we were the worse we have been this season," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski referring to the teams 1st half effort and part of the 2nd as well.

And he was right.  Duke was down large at the half and nothing was going right.  They were simply being outplayed in pretty much every area of the game.  But there is a reason you hang in there until the end and Duke did that despite their youth and mounting stress.

"It was a very calm locker room.  The kids believed in what we were doing and each other," said Krzyzewski of how his players felt being down by 11 at the break.

Duke was beaten on the boards in the first half while turning the ball over multiple times where Texas had but a single turnover.  The Blue Devils would hold a 10 rebound advantage in the second half and that with a never say die attitude helped the team to a win.

As the game wore on, Duke was able to get the Longhorns in foul trouble.  Bamba fouled out on a key Gary Trent Jr. basket late in the game.  Texas would hang on for a bit longer but once Duke took the lead, they lost it just one more time down the stretch,

Duke would lose their captain, Grayson Allen on a charging call but the Blue Devils reached deep.  Allen ended the game with 12 points, all of which came in the second half.

The aforementioned Trent tallied 17 points while grabbing 8 rebounds.  His three-point play which fouled out Texas center Mohamed Bamba was one of the plays of the game.  Or should I say, one of many.

Wendell Carter Jr. added another double-double for Duke of 14 points and 11 rebounds.  He scored key baskets and pulled down rebounds with the game on the line.

The big difference maker for Duke was once again the play of its fabulous freshman Marvin Bagley III. "As they say in the NBA, he was a problem.. with a capital P.  You talk about a kid playing with all his heart -- he was terrific," said Krzyzewski.

Bagley would end the game with 34 points which ties a Duke record originally set by JJ Redick as the most points of any freshman newcomer in a single game.  He would also add 15 rebounds and Texas had no long-term answer for him.

Duke had five freshman out on the court in overtime, yet they found a way to win.  It wasn't easy for Texas deserves a lot of credit for a Herculean effort.

What the Blue Devils did in the process was to grow a little more as individuals and a team.  The Blue Devils found that winning effort in the end which sends  them to the Championship game against the winner of the Florida-Gonzaga game.

When Duke could have folded the tent and accepted a loss down 16, they instead gutted it out.  What we witnessed was an early season PK80 basketball match up which had a late season like tournament atmosphere.

It is only November and there are four months of basketball to be played before March.  But this Duke teams youngsters won on the road for the first time in a difficult situation.  They can do an even bigger thing with another victory against what will be an undefeated, ranked and older team this Sunday evening.

 

Duke Offers Isaiah Stewart

Isaiah Stewart

Duke has offered Isaiah Stewart, a 6-8 PF from Rochester, New York who played for City Rocks on the Nike EYBL circuit.  Stewart is the eighth player in the 2019 class to pick up an offer.

The Blue Devils have been steadily building a relationship with Stewart through assistant coach Jon Scheyer who recently went to visit the prospect.

Stewart most recently transferred to La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), which is a high school power.  Powerfully built, Stewart worked on his game and physique after an injury setback during his sophomore season.

Stewart averaged 11.5 points per contest and 9.2 rebounds while shooting close to  64 percent from the field during this past seasons Nike EYBL Peach Jam Finals.

Duke has been coming on fast and hard for the paint eating young big man.  Look for the prospect to keep Duke in mind as he close in on a decision and expect a visit to Cameron in the near future.