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Well, the Duke Basketball season is upon us and what a way to open things up. The Blue Devils will face off with the Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow evening in Indianapolis, IN in a matchup of college hoops heavyweights. So, what are my thoughts going into the game?
Win or lose, it will be a learning experience
Mike Krzyzewski has one of the youngest teams he's ever coached. While this group is immensely talented, they still start four new freshmen, This game will be a measuring stick for the program for Krzyzewski has in no way implemented his full hand yet with concern to how this team will look in March. This is by no means a must-win game for either team. It is instead, a game for college basketball fans around the world to celebrate the tip-off to another season. And, yes, the winner will stay atop the polls for sure, but the loser will not fall too far in the rankings.
What are the potential weaknesses for Duke this season?
If you watched the ESPN special eight-part series on Duke Basketball, you will see Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski addressing his team. One of the things thee things he mentioned was that players needed to be better three-point shooters via their approach. Duke does not have a lot of known three-point artists on this years team, so many of the players are getting accustomed to adding the shot to their resume, This, in turn, will reflect on two other areas of play in rebounding the ball and knocking down free throws. Duke is not as big up front and could go small, so that means all players will need to hit the boards and they could struggle against teams like Kentucky which have big, fully grown men in their frontcourt. As for free throw shooting, Duke should get to the line often, so struggling in any of the three aforementioned areas could haunt them at some point of the season,
What are the potential strengths
The defense will be improved where Krzyzewski has shown he will go man to man much more often. Duke is long and athletic and can get in passing lanes while pressuring the ball. This team will run. When the breaks are there, Duke will be off and running. Duke will also benefit from knowing their roles and or chemistry this season. asked veteran players in the locker room about this and they said this team is together on and off the court. I suppose we have to mention how ridiculously good the freshman class is as well. R.J. Barrett is an alpha dogs, alpha dog. Zion Williamson is a pleasure to watch skywalk, Cam Reddish knocking down threes is nice too. And all three can pass the ball as can true PG Tre Jones. Duke will benefit greatly from having a more traditional point this season in their positionless scheme.
How can Duke beat Kentucky
It will not be easy for Duke to beat Kentucky in that the Wildcats are a solid nine players deep and they have some grown men in their lineup. You just cannot concentrate on any one player for there is a danger at each position on the court. One thing which Duke needs to do is stay out of foul trouble early and the whole game for that matter. Duke loses a lot of talent when they go to their bench, but there are players capable of quality minutes there and they need to step up against the Cats. If those two things happen, Duke will be tight their in what should be a tense and close game before the final buzzer sounds.
Early season test will prepare Duke for the ACC and March
Duke has a very challenging early season schedule which includes tomorrow evenings opener against Kentucky. The Blue Devils will face stiff competition in Hawaii for the Maui Invitational where they can run into highly ranked Auburn and Gonzaga, not to mention Arizona. Even the opener against San Diego State is tough. Duke will take on one of the most underrated teams in the nation when they face Indiana in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge and mark my words, the Hoosiers will have move up the polls by then. These games along with a brutal ACC schedule and a late-season contest with St. Johns, where Mike Cragg now resides as the AD will have them a seasoned bunch before March Madness.
Who do I think will be good in the ACC this season?
The league is loaded. I voted for Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Syracuse in no particular order in the top four and have Virginia Tech, Florida State close behind. N.C. State will be better than some think, never sleep on Miami. Clemson will be solid and Notre Dame has an interesting roster. I went a little outside the box and voted Tyus Battle preseason ACC POY and R.J. Barrett as the top freshman. I also place both Barrett and Zion Williamson on the first team. It is a safe bet that Duke will have no less than three newcomers on the ACC All-Freshman team at seasons end.
What is Al Featherstons take?
Al thinks this years team can reach the Final Four but that a lot has to go right. He felt Marques Bolden contributing solid minutes is a major key to success as is bench development of the seventh man in crunch time. I watched all of the games in Canada with Al before he passed on this morning and he was excited to see what the team would look like with Cam Reddish and Tre Jones in the lineup. He scanned over the last exhibitions games box score fervently before saying, they're going to be pretty damn good. I will miss talking Duke history with Al and was honored he valued my opinion. I had hoped he'd make it through what may be a special season.
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We are still offering a special rate for new or former Blue Devil Nation premium subscribers of 60 bucks for one year. I will be talking recruiting happenings later this week while offering up behind the scenes tidbits.
The first Mike Krzyzewski coached Duke team to take an offseason foreign trip was the 1983 group to France. Freshman at that time could not make the journey per NCAA rules, but that has now changed.
Thank goodness for said changes, in that Duke will rely heavily on freshman this season and two of them in Tre Jones and Cam Reddish will be sidelined for their upcoming Canadian trip.
It was announced earlier today, that Cam Reddish is hobbled by a groin injury and that Tre Jones had yet to recover fully from an issue with his hip. While both players will be ready to go for the season and are participating in some drills, Krzyzewski will err on the side of caution and sit his prized freshman but did call the injuries minor.
Duke has completed seven of ten allowed practices to date. "So far, I couldn't be more pleased with the chemistry that has developed and these guys have been really fun to coach," said Krzyzewski.
Krzyzewski also said they have not been pushing conditioning as of yet, stating that his team was in decent shape but the staff did not want to push them too early. "For this trip, it is impossible to put in your entire system, so we are trying to keep it simple and see how our guys play."
As for the veterans, Krzyzewski said that Javin DeLaurier has played great and not just good. And that Marques Bolden was healthy and adjusting to a new position and how he will be used.
Other notes from his press conference were that Jack White has lost ten pounds and is shooting the ball better per Krzyzewski and Alex O'Connell has been playing well.
The Duke coach also said the team would run a different offense this season with five men out and more motion. And there was a strong hint that the team would get back to playing some man to man defense.
Before Kryzewsski came out for the media, R.J. Barrett took to the podium. He was asked if there were instances where he could run the point as a lead ball handler in which he said yes. Krzyzewski would later say that as well, "Having those two guys (Jones, Reddish) out will hurt our ball handling for the trip and there will be more emphasis with R.J. being out there. Alex O'Connell will help and Zion (Williamson) will be all over the place "
Krzyzewski also said this years group would be good defensively and that they would do a lot of things differently than a season ago on offense where he expects the players to have the freedom to create.
Duke will leave for the Toronto area on Sunday where they will play three games in six days.
August 15, 2018, 7 p.m. ET Game 1 vs. Ryerson University Hershey Centre
August 17, 2018, 6 p.m. ET Game 2 vs. University of Toronto Hershey Centre
August 19, 2018, 3 p.m. ET Game 3 vs. McGill University Place Bell
Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed today that incoming freshman Tre Jones and Cam Reddish will not play in their upcoming Canadian trip.
According to Krzyzewski, Reddish is nursing a groin injury while Jones is still not fully recovered from a hip injury. It was also mentioned that both players were currently participating in some of the seven practices to date including drills.
Both players will be ready to go when practice starts in October per Krzyzewski and neither injury is expected to affect either player long term.
Incoming Duke freshman Cam Reddish spent some time on the Duke campus recently during the Coach K Academy. Here are five quick questions with the highly rated freshman concerning the upcoming season.
I see you're in a waking boot, what is going on with that?
It's not serious. It's a stress reaction and I will be ready to go in two weeks. I will be ready to go when I get here in a few months.
I know you're tight with Tre Jones and that you guys talk a lot. What have you guys been discussing since getting here?
We talk a lot about the upcoming season and we're all just looking forward that and getting to work. Meeting the veterans has been really cool. It's a new experience and we learn a lot for them.
Do you feel like the upcoming Canadian trip will be important for the teams development?
It is real important. It will be the first time we play together as a team and we hope to go up there and dominate while preparing for the season. I think it will be fun and it is R.J. (Barrett's) hometown, so we'll get to see that and what it is like there. I am looking forward to it.
What has it been like to meet the guys on the team and how do you think the chemistry will go heading into the season?
Everybody here is pretty unselfish. All the freshman and all the returning players are just trying to win this season. Everybody here prepares well and are really hard workers.
What are your thoughts on Coach K?
I looked up to him growing up and then I got to meet him and now I will get to play for him, so it is like a dream coming true.
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The Duke men's basketball staff has been busy of late on the recruiting trail. Today, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are visiting Vernon Carey Jr. in Florida. The 2019 Power Forward is s sure thing prospect. For more on who Duke has visited lately and some other interesting information on Carey, join Blue Devil Nation Premium during our two for one membership special.
Two future Blue Devils will also be on display today during the Jordan Brand Classic which tips off at 5:00 on ESPN. Tre Jones and Cam Reddish will suit up for the moe squad in today's contest. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were scheduled to play on the same squad but will sit out the event. Williamson has his thumb in a cast for three weeks after injuring it at the McDonald's All American game. Barrett has had an extraordinarily busy schedule and will sit out the event. All of the current Duke signees have been select to play in the Nike Hoop Summit which starts next week. Blue Devil Nation expects Williamson to sit out that event as well but it is likely Barrett will play.
Duke lost Gary Trent Jr. to the NBA yesterday. We dreamed of a rekindled backcourt of Tre Jones and Trent whom played together on the AAU circuit and in high school. But Trent is a hard worker who is mature beyond his years and ready for the challenge. Duke will miss his three-point accuracy and mental toughness. He joins Marvin Bagely III and Trevon Duval as Blue Devils who will enter the draft. We should hear news from Wendell Carter Jr. soon. Carter is a projected lottery pick. All of these players gave their hearts and soul to Duke which fell just short of the Final Four as Grayson Allen's shot rimmed out. As for Allen, he is currently speaking with agents as are others.
The off-season is a busy time for Duke Basketball. All Star games are winding down while recruiting is still going on. Duke will soon start their exit interviews with players after class completes for the semester. More on that and much else on the Blue Devil Nation message board.
In short, Duke Basketball never stops.