Tag Archives: Blue Devil Nation

Duke Basketball is Exceeding Expectations

Coach K has his team playing at a high level.

DURHAM, N.C. - Back in March, I remember sitting down and trying to figure out what to say after Duke's loss to Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I realized that there really were no words that could comfort anyone after the upset loss, so I told it like it was. The team did not look like a Duke basketball team that evening. The defense was suspect overall, and it felt as if Lehigh and Duke changed uniforms that day, for the guys in brown were the aggressors.Granted, Duke was without the services of Ryan Kelly in that game.  That certainly affected team chemistry, and the Blue Devils had to alter their whole approach on the fly, but still, the performance versus Lehigh was very un-Duke-like.  That realization served as an off-season motivator for all involved.

Duke would later learn that Austin Rivers was taking his game to the NBA, and then there would be a couple of misses on prospects that the staff had recruited for a long time. Everybody in the media pounced, getting their shots in on Duke while they could.  Rivals on the recruiting trail did so as well, going negative like never before.

Over the summer, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski led Team USA to a second consecutive Olympic gold medal; two-thirds of his staff traveled with the team as well. The whispers began that Duke's team would not be as developed when the season started as they would have been had Krzyzewski not been "distracted" by serving his country at the highest level.

In the pre-season, most in the media succumbed to the lazy "what have you done for me lately" shtick, failing to actually look at what the Blue Devils had on this year's team, and just assuming that Duke would not respond well to last season's tailspin and be the same team as the one that went out to Lehigh. Duke was not talked about in the same way as were teams like Kentucky or Indiana, at all.

Many had the Blue Devils ranked in the mid-teens nationally, and many pre-season ACC projections surfaced with Duke being ranked third or even fourth in their own league.

Locally, all the media could focus on was N.C. State, a team that had a decent late-season run in 2012 and returned many of its players, and they did add a big recruiting class. Nobody seemed concerned that this group really hasn't done a thing on the court yet. But the Wolfpack were the chic pick, and were eventually selected as the pre-season favorite.

Those same people who picked N.C. State to win the league seemingly slept on the fact that Duke had three battle-tested seniors returning in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry. They also chose N.C. State's Rodney Purvis as the pre-season ACC Rookie of the Year; he's the second best freshman on his team to date. While Purvis is truly a talent, there are few that would trade him today for Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, who has been a coach's dream. In addition, the Wolfpack's talented C.J. Leslie was slated to be the ACC Player of the Year. This despite his history of inconsistency. In the meantime, Mason Plumlee, who worked all off-season to improve his game, was an afterthought.

Over the summer when Krzyzewski addressed the media, there was the hint of a sly smile on his face when asked what it was like to be picked behind UNC and N.C. State, and how he felt about those two teams getting all the publicity.  You could almost sense him licking his chops, loving every second of Duke being underestimated, content to have all the talk be about the others.

History shows us that Duke and Krzyzewski are at their best when questions and worry abound. In 2010 they lost rising sophomore Elliot Williams via transfer to Memphis just before the season started, and there was talk that Krzyzewski -- coming off his successful duties with Team USA --  had neglected his day job.  The fan base also went into "Chicken Little" mode, in particular on the message boards. "Duke has no athletes," many exclaimed, as they stated confidently that the Blue Devils would be a good team but was not a national contender.   Duke would be running shooting guard Jon Scheyer at the point all season and were too slow to have any hope of competing, the minions claimed.  There was doom and gloom in the air.

We all know how history played out. Duke won the national championship with a spectacular run, with seniors and two savvy juniors leading the way.

This year's team is comparable, but every team is of course unique.  This time, all of the "What have you done for me lately?" types are being forced to jump on the bandwagon of an undefeated team, a team that is battle-tested like no other team in the history of college basketball at such an early date.

What this tells us is that the Duke staff had a plan all along.  Implementation of that plan meant the nation gaining another gold medal in Mens Basketball while at the same time Coach K and company were pushing all the right buttons in the off-season to maximize Duke's opportunities for improvement as well.  Not an easy balancing act, but it's an accomplishment which is finally starting to be recognized.

Duke does not look anything like the team which lost to Lehigh a season ago. They instead look like a team in every sense of the word. They play together, they're unselfish, and they are focused. Their defense is once again a strength.  Each starter is a threat to score when on the court.

The Blue Devils have taken on all comers in a season where there is no one dominant team, and they've done so in a way that has made it clear that this team will be a factor come March.  After rolling through the likes of Kentucky, Virginia Commonwealth, Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State, there will be no sneaking up on anybody.  Duke is and always will be the team circled on an opposing teams' schedules, so tests are coming.   There is plenty of work left to be done and a long season ahead, as the ACC season has yet to get underway, but what an early season resumé this bunch has put together.   To date, the Blue Devils look as good as anybody.  But now, the team must learn how to play with the weight of what will soon be immense expectations.

The Blue Devils are now in an eleven day break, their longest of the season, after whipping another formerly undefeated team in Temple. During this time, Duke will get plenty of hype, and the next stage for this team is handling new-found expectations, the same ones some of us had all along including a coach with a sly smile loving that his Blue Devils were being overlooked early on.

Because if the question is "What have you done for me lately?"  the answer to that question is "Plenty."

Battle for Atlantis Preview: Duke vs Minnesota

The Blue Devils had succes in Atlanta versus Kentucky but they'll drw three tough opponents in the Bahama's.

For the Blue Devils, the scene now shifts to The Bahamas, of all places, for the inaugural Battle of Atlantis.  First up is a matchup on Thursday with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, coached by Tubby Smith, who is now in his sixth year with the school.

The Gophers are coming off a 23 win season, though they did lose 15 games as well, a campaign that saw them make a run all the way to the finals of the NIT, where they were trounced by Stanford at Madison Square Garden.  Along the way to New York, Minnesota handled both Miami and Washington, so the run was no fluke.  The 23 wins was the most for a Minnesota team since 1990, and it resulted in a contract extension for Smith.

This season has started off smoothly for Minnesota.  They opened with three easy wins, against American, Toledo, and Tennessee State, and followed those up with a 15 point decision over the always tough Richmond Spiders.  So at 4-0 the Gophers have to be feeling pretty good about themselves heading into the matchup with Duke.

Minnesota lost big man Ralph Sampson III off of last year's squad, but brings back plenty of experience.  Senior forward Rodney Williams Jr. and junior guard Austin Hollins are the Gophers' leading scorers at 14.5 ppg.  The 6'7" Williams, who led Gopher scorers with 12 ppg last season, is shooting an absurd 73% from the field, while the 6'4" Hollins is very solid at 55%, including 44% from three-point land.  Williams is also the leading rebounder on the squad with 6.5 per game, backed up by 6'8" 245 pound forward Trevor Mbakwe, who is grabbing six boards per game. Mbakwe, who missed all but seven games last year after tearing an ACL, was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.  The leading assist man for the Gophers is Andre Hollins, who is dishing out five per game, with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  His 14 points and 7 assists in 32 minutes were key in the win over Richmond.  Sophomore shooting guard Joe Coleman, who is the third double digit scorer at 10 ppg, and 6'11" 260 pound sophomore center Elliot Eliason round out the starting five.

With Mbakwe back from the ACL, the Gophers feel like they finally have some depth on their roster that they can count on, unlike in recent years.  They're going to need it, as the Duke team they face down in the Bahamas has been developing quality depth of its own.  The perimeter rotation of Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook, andTyler Thornton is going to put a lot of pressure on Minnesota at both ends, and it seems unlikely that the bulky Eliason is going to be able to handle the ultra-athletic Mason Plumlee underneath, especially when Mason plays with the kind of confidence he has been displaying thus far this season.  In fact, I would expect to see Duke keep Mason on the move against Eliason or Mbakwe, as neither is likely able to keep up with him.  Minnesota is a quality team, and they're well-coached of course by Tubby Smith, but they don't appear to have the type of breakout scorer or enough quality athletes to be able to actually beat a team like Duke.  What would be nice would be to see Plumlee to continue to dominate the floor at both ends, Quinn Cook to continue to find guys in the halfcourt and on the break, Ryan Kelly find his shooting stroke -- and his shot should be available against the interior-oriented Mbakwe, unless the Gophers use Mbakwe to try to contend with Plumlee -- and to try to get Amile Jefferson and even Alex Murphy more involved as well.  I see no reason why any of those things can't happen in this game.  That's not to say they all will, but several of them should, and the result should likely be a Duke victory.


BDN Locker Room Rapid Reaction Report – Duke 88 FGC 67

Duke uses a 23-0 run to close the 1st half

The Blue Devils, down a point with 5:23 to go in the first half, went on a 23-0 run to take a commanding 52-30 lead into the locker room. Mason Plumlee and Rasheed Sulaimon led the charge with 14 and 13 points, respectively, in the stellar half. The Blue Devils were 13 of 14 from the free throw stripe. In the second half, the run would resume, and grow to 30-0, making it the largest since a 27-0 run over Clemson in 1999.

Career High 28 for Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee was a picture of efficiency tonight, scoring 28 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line. Plumlee added 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, and earned the praise of Coach Krzzyewski after the game -- including about his defense. The coach mentioned that Mason stayed away from fouls tonight, contrasting it to the foul against Kentucky where he strayed too far from the basket defensively. "Guys got me easy shots - I wasn't shooting jumpers," said a smiling Plumlee after the contest. "A lot of credit goes to Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton for getting me the ball in the right situations." Krzyzewski had mentioned in the pre-season that if Mason was to eliminate some of his misses from the stripe, he'd be a 20-10 guy, and tonight he showed that potential ...

... but it was Quinn Cook who got him the ball in position

The sophomore PG earned a start and he played well, dishing out a team and season-high 9 assists, tying his career high, set in January against Penn. Cook also scored 8 points in the game, including nailing consecutive three-pointers in the first half at a crucial time, and seemed very comfortable on the floor. He was humble in the post-game locker room. Check out our interview with him which will be up shortly. Cook had consecutive three pointers in the first half at a crucial time for Duke.

Kelly solid again

Ryan Kelly has struggled a bit with his shot early this season and went just 1 of 5 from the three-point stripe tonight, but he handled the boards early on for Duke and ended the game tied with Plumee with 9 caroms. But the most impressive improvement he's had in the off-season in my view is his development of better passing skills; he had 3 assists this evening, and that was his lowest total of the season. Any time you get a big who can dish to a scorer, he will present matchup problems. "We really locked in on the defensive end and didn't give them anything easy and really controlled the boards," said Kelly in the post-game locker room.


  • Duke will next take on Minnesota, ranked 27th in the country as I type this, on Thanksgiving Day at 3:30 EST on AXS TV. The team will leave on Tuesday for their journey to the Bahamas, and, win or lose, will play two games in the Battle for Atlantis.
  • Rasheed Sulaimon had a career high 19 points tonight for Duke.
  • The Blue Devils won their 96th consecutive game in Cameron against non-conference opponents.
  • Five Blue Devils hit three-pointers in the game.
  •  Tyler Thornton ended a streak of 15 consecutive starts.

Duke Football Still Has Plenty to Play For

There is plenty yet to play for Duke Football despite it's loss to Georgia Tech in a game which cost them any hope of winning the Coastal Division in the ACC.

Coming into the season, few thought the Blue Devils would be bowl eligible and those few that did projected nothing more than a .500 mark and or a 6-6 record.

Miami travels to Durham next week in the home finale for the Blue Devils and while the ACC only recognizes head to head tie breakers for the division title, a win would guarantee Duke a 3rd place finish with the same concept.

If Virginia Tech were to stumble against Virginia, then Duke would finish in 2nd place. Either scenario is a show of extreme progress for a bowl starved program and one the staff can point to on the recruiting trail.

A win over the Hurricanes would also give Duke a 7-5 mark, a winning season and the most wins for the program since 1994 and considering Duke was unlucky enough to draw Florida State and Clemson from the other division on their schedule, this would be quite an accomplishment.

Let's not forget how a win might possibly help with a bowl scenario as well. Duke for all intents and purposes probably out of the running for the Chic Fil A Bowl but a win still makes them a much more attractive invite.

And depending on other results, Duke still has an outside chance for the slot in Atlanta.

With a victory, Duke may well secure a berth in the Music City Bowl in New Years Eve in Nashville against a tough Vanderbilt team from the SEC. or perhaps Missouri.

That is more attractive to the fan side of me than say, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte which would be the likely destination if they were to finish with a loss and go 6-6.

While the Sun Bowl is El Paso, Texas is still a possibility, my feeling is that playing to be closer to home for the overall fan base is something worth playing for as well.

And then there is still the a chance for Orlando but a win on Saturday against Miami guarantees more varied opportunities

If that weren't enough incentive for Duke Football and the fan base which will need to turn out on a Thanksgiving Holliday weekend where the students are for the most part gone for the break, then maybe setting a few more records in Wallace Wade are in order.

Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon are still setting school and ACC marks and there is a chance for records to fall. I am sure their teammates want to reward these two seniors.

Speaking of seniors, this will be the last game for a bevy of them in Wallace Wade, so a send off with a win is in order for the class that brought Duke Football back to relevance.

Another thing Duke will be playing for is a break through win. The last time Duke beat Miami was in the year 1976. To put that into perspective, I was starting high school and many of you reading this were not even born.

The Duke program could use a win over what is still considered a storied program in Miami, a former football power that is still significant today and one playing for the division crown.

I had the chance to visit Coach David Cutcliffes office a couple of times over the years and when there I always look at those breakthrough commemorative footballs he has displayed.

I have covered Duke Football in each of those wins starting with his first over James Madison when the program was starved for anything positive.

There is also one for his first ACC win over Virginia in that Duke was not even competitive in conference when Cutcliffe arrived in Durham. Then there is one for a road win over N.C. State, a rare thing for a program until recently.

I am pretty certain without another visit to Cutcliffes' digs that a Wake Forest game ball was added in that the victory this season broke a long streak.

And surely there is a game ball for the win over rival North Carolina where Duke fans were elated that their team ended a long streak and brought the Victory Bell back to Durham for a year.

So, yes, Duke has plenty left to play for  when Miami comes to town and there is no short-changing how important a victory would be for the seniors who turned the programs fortunes around.

Duke over Kentucky Aftermath – One on One with Josh Hairston

The Duke Blue Devils are still basking in the glow of a big win over Kentucky and Blue Devil Nation continues to bring you post game comments from the players. We caught up to Josh Hairston last night and asked him if this was his best game to date at Duke and he said yes. We agree. Hairston was very productive with his minutes filling in for Mason Plumlee who had foul trouble and he played good defense on Nerlens Noel in the 2nd half. Check out what he had to say -

Amile Jefferson talks the Duke Basketball season opener

copyright BDN Photo, Mark Watsob

Duke Freshman Amile Jefferson has been a pleasant surprise in the early season exhibition games and BDN caught to him as members of the team addressed the media today.  Jefferson talks of his adjustment to the college game and his role on this seasons team and more.  Check it out for yourself -