A major Duke target, Matthew Hurt, announced this afternoon that he will be the newest Blue Devil.
The 6-9, 210 pounds, Minnesota native played his high school basketball for John Marshall in Rochester.
Hurt will join fellow Minnesota native Tre Jones who elected to return for his sophomore season. It is believed that this helped in his recruitment.
Duke had been a favorite for the last several months and Hurt spurned Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina to play in Durham.
Hurt received 19 total offers but many teams fell to the wayside with him being a consensus five-star prospect.
The Blue Devils head coach, Mike Krzyzewski took a vested interest in Hurt's recruitment where he played. Duke played the long game with Hurt, whom they knew would not make an early decision.
Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer was the lead assistant in Hurt's recruitment.
The entire Duke coaching staff visited in-home with the Hurt family in early March.
The fact that four blue blood programs sought Hurt's services speaks volumes with concern to his talent. A very skilled offensive player with size, Hurt is all but penciled into next years starting five.
Hurt was a mainstay on Team USA during his high school basketball career. He was also named to the McDonald's All American game. Hurt also garnered the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award.
With Hurt on board, the Blue Devils will now turn their attention to Cassius Stanley, a high-flying, top-rated shooting guard from California. He will make his decision this coming Monday.
Hurt joins Vernon Carey Jr., Wendell Moore Jr, and Boogie Ellis giving Duke one of the nation's elite recruiting classes.
The Duke Blue Devils will take on the Michigan State Spartans with a trip to the Final Four on the line. With the game just hours away, let's take a look at the matchup.
Forget the Past
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a gaudy record against Michigan State and Tom Izzo. Duke leads the series 12-2 and has a 4-1 mark in the NCAA Tournament, but forget about it for that means nothing when the ball is tipped tomorrow. These two teams have only one thing in common with the past and that is their uniforms and being two top-notch programs. The record book means nothing.
Forty Minutes and maybe more
Duke must come out willing to play consistently. The Blue Devils squandered some mild leads to hang on against Central Florida and Virginia Tech with lapses. Whichever team is prepared to bring it end to end and the one with the best focus will enjoy a trip to the Final Four. A season ago, the basketball Gods were unkind to a Grayson Allen tip in that rimmed out. If you take care of your business it may not come down to that,
Respect your opponent
I doubt the Duke staff lets the team be overconfident. If this does not happen, the team returns to Durham and some of the talented freshmen will soon be gone. Teams must live in the moment and make the safe plays at times over the crowd-pleasing ones for the margin of error shrinks in tournament games, especially the Elite Eight.
Will Cam play?
Sure, Cam Reddish can knock down the three ball, but his defense is underrated. His presence allows Duke to play the passing lanes in a more active manner and his long arms take up a lot of space. Reddish is a game-time decision, but the team will need him.
The Spartans are Red Hot
Sparty is 10-1 in their last eleven games and they swept Michigan who most thought should be flip-flopped in their regions. Obviously, the one and two seeds made it to the final in the East to nobody's surprise. Duke is hot too after winning the ACC Tournament but they have looked quite mortal of late. This game means the world to the Spartans fan base, but the same holds true for Duke and this is one of Mike Krzyzewski's best shots to make it back to the Final Four since 2015.
Duke Must Be Strong with the Ball
Michigan State plays stellar half-court defense where it seems like hands are everywhere. When Duke is in its half-court offense they need to pay attention to having strong hands for if not, the turnovers will come. In a game with this meaning, making safe plays outweighs the showtime style.
The Word is Out
In my preseason preview, I mentioned four possible weaknesses. The first, of course, was injuries in that Duke is not especially deep with players ready for prime time. The second was that they could struggle from the three-point stripe and third, free throw shooting would be important. The fourth thing I listed was that teams with good guards and physical wings would give Duke trouble, especially if they hit the three ball. Well, Michigan State fits the bill. Duke must push them off the stripe and make them drive.
May the Stars be Stars
Zion Williamson has had an amazing season and he should touch the ball in every half court possession. Good things happen when he gets the ball. The same goes for RJ Barrett who is a flat out stat stuffer. Michigan State has a lot of capable defenders to guard him, so his vision will play a key role. Making the safe passes will make Duke more efficient and tougher to beat.
Board the Offensive Glass
Duke has not been especially good on the offensive glass of late and Michigan State is a solid rebounding team. And they board from many positions with their activity. Duke needs to block out and hustle for the loose balls in this contest.
Of course, it will be tense...
This is a matchup of college basketball heavyweights. The Big 10 Champ against the ACC Champ and that means there will be plenty of tense moments. Duke has won their last two games by 2 points and they may have another game that comes down to the final buzzer. Hey, whatever it takes, right?
Mike Krzyzewski mentioned that his team was fresh coming into the D.C. regional or fresher was his exact term. Does that still hold true after the late game where the team got little rest? It will probably depend on how the staff handles this evening before the 5:05 start.
What will happen?
Who knows, but it will be a battle of styles. Duke will try to get out and press some while Michigan State will lean heavily on the three ball while hitting the board with their usual reckless abandon. Can Duke get back to more dominating performances? Will Michigan State play lights out ball to end the pain of their past against Duke? It will come down to heart and soul and playing a good forty minutes of basketball.
The X-Factor could be an unexpected player stepping up and whether Duke is with or without Cam Reddish, their whole roster needs to play well. The problem with the X-Factor is that it can work both ways and players who step up become heroes.
The Last Word
Do not look ahead. Be in the moment and you may cut down the nets as the Eastern Regional Champs. Texas Tech upset Gonzaga and awaits the winner, but that is to be discussed once the business at hand is accomplished.
It's been a pretty darn entertaining year for the 2018-19 Duke Blue Devils basketball team. The Blue Devils started the regular season with a beat down of Kentucky but ended it with their second loss to North Carolina and a third-place regular season finish.
Injuries played a big role in the late season struggles where several Duke players missed time, including Zion Williamson. Duke would right the ship with Williamson back in the lineup with three wins in the ACC Tournament and in the end, are the conference champions.
Duke enters the NCAA Tournament as the nation's number one seed and they will play not too far south in Columbia, S.C. in an effort to survive and advance. With Zion Williamson, the nations tops player, in his home state, good things are likely to happen for Duke.
The Blue Devils should be well rested with their game tipping off this Friday promptly at 7:10 on CBS. They will also get what amounts to be an easy game where they face the winner or North Carolina Central and North Dakota State. Both of those teams are 18-15 and the winners will be playing on two days rest.
Duke should be able to use their depth early and often in the opening game which will further rest any minor nagging injuries to their players. The second game will be more challenging, if not on the court, then in other ways.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski might well face his first great recruit in Johnny Dawkins and Central Florida. It is a known fact, that Krzyzewski does not like to face his former players when they are at the helm at other schools.
Then again, Duke may face Virginia Commonwealth and few Duke fans will forget losing to them in the NCAA Tournament during the 2006-07 season. The UCF and VCU game is expected to be close. The Golden Knights are a 1.5 point favorite, so it is tough to project who the opponent will be with any certainty.
Regardless of the opponent, Duke should make it through to Washington. D.C. In years past, this would seem less certain, but RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson are on this team and those two guys will be etched in Duke fans memories for years to come in that they are both destined for more greatness.
Quite simply, Duke should take care of business with a team that is peaking at the right time. They may have a challenge for a bit in games if they are not focussed but it would be a shock for them not to advance.
The Blue Devils are in a position to be a rested team as the tournament advances. What you want to avoid are injuries while working on areas of concern, such as ironing out the rotation that will be used as the team seeking its sixth national title adjusts for the prime time of the season.
It would benefit Duke for Cam Reddish to get a little more comfortable in the rotation by involving him more in Columbia. Tre Jones needs to continue being aggressive on offense for he is money from the free throw stripe, an area where the star freshmen struggle.
The Blue Devils could also use the trip to possibly shore up their three-point shooting while continuing to tweak their already good defense. What the staff is likely looking for is a more consistent effort by its rotation players as well for good things happen when all the players contribute in the box score.
And speaking of contrinutions, Marques Bolden has returned to practice. This is another key to chemistry, especially if Duke is able to get him some minutes this weekend.
The bottom line is that Duke has too much firepower on offense to stumble this early, but Krzyzewski probably rolls over when people pencil them forward with such ease. It is not for a lack of respect for the opponent that has me saying what I have but instead, the respect I have for the talent on this years team.
And did I mention that Zion Williamson will be playing in his home state this weekend? Let the games begin!
It's nice to return to the ACC Championship Game for Duke - The Blue Devils have won 11 of the last 22 ACC Championship games in the Mike Krzyzewski era and they have a chance to make those historic numbers more gaudy with a win over Florida State tonight in Charlotte. The game tips off at 8:30 and the teams are meeting for the second time in the title game, Duke won that game in Atlanta vs the Seminoles.
What a game - Last nights thrilling win over North Carolina was one of the classic games in the rivalry. After losing the regular season games, Duke got the monkey off their back by playing tough defense while the world continues to fawn over the amazing play of Zion Williamson. I want to talk about the game, I do. But for now, Duke needs to put this one to bed and let the final emotion out at games end providing they defeat a tough Florida State team.
FSU is playing with a chip on its shoulder - Do not overlook Florida State for many have before you including Virginia. This reminds me of classic Leonard Hamilton teams. They are big, deep and athletic and they have stayed just in the shadows of the ACC's big three. And they are out to prove they not only belong but that they are the best team in this tournament.
Duke fans should make the journey - Last night the crowd was decidedly light blue but both Tar Heel and Cavalier fans left in droves. That means a lot of tickets will be available and for very good prices. You do not need to hit one of those ticket brokers. Instead, purchase the tickets outside the venue for there will be some and they will likely be cheaper. Turn Charlotte the right shade of blue.
The fatigue factor - Duke will need to play its bench again against the Seminoles and as I stated yesterday, it is vital all players produce some numbers on the stat sheet when out there. How about the play of Jordan Goldwire? Well, one thing to watch today is his legs for he is not accustomed to the minutes and he was dragging last evening after some sensational, soon to be legendary minutes in the Duke-Carolina series.
FSU will test Duke in the paint - With Marques Bolden out and limited depth, the Seminoles will try to exploit Duke inside with their size. And, oh, are they big. Duke will need to spread the court to loosen things up.
Speaking of the paint - I know I said minimal talk on the win over UNC, but the Blue Devils scored more points in the pain on their rival than any team in the last eight years. I just had to get that out.
Seeding - Most think Duke has earned the number one line in seeding with last nights win. But a win today cements that and could vault them to the top line depending on which of the way to many bracket projections types. BTW, if you haven't done so yet, enter the Blue Devil Nation Tournament Challenge through ESPN. The group name is, of course, Blue Devil Nation and here is the link - Click HERE.
All the negativity - Perhaps it is the fact that I have seen Duke Basketball up close and personal since 1980 when Coach Mike Krzyzewski stood on the side of Cameron being introduced as their new coach that gives me perspective. But it was amazing how negative some in the fanbase got after losing to UNC last week. All the rumors on Zion Williamson when in fact Duke has been up front the whole time on what is happening. If Duke wins the game today, people who were up in arms will realize what some wiser minds said, that being, see the big picture. It is clear Williamson is healthy and rested now and at the right time of the season.
What I think will happen - FSU lost to Duke on a three-point shot from Cam Reddish in Cameron earlier this season. Zion Williamson scored 11 in that game and was sidelined for part of it. The Noles nailed a lot of threes in that game and Duke must chase their shooters off the stripe. Everything points to this game being a grinder and the Noles are tolled to defend Williamson better than most. I look for a very physical game and one that will make both teams reach really deep. I think Duke wins another banner but it will not be easy on such short rest and missing Marques Bolden who is expected to return next week. This will be a major test for the young Blue Devils who win or lose will need to get back to Durham in one piece for selection Sunday.
Here are some highlights from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and players Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and R.J. Barret before the teams trip to Canada.
Quick hits -
Marques Bolden said that the freshman are fundamentally sound and know how to do the little things already.
Bolden was asked about the transfer rumors a season ago and said it was never a true option for him.
Bolden said that much of his offseason work concentrated on his motor and eating habits.
Javin DeLaurier worked out with teammate Justin Robinson and his Dad David in the offseason where he took kickboxing lessons and also yoga while in San Antonio.
DeLaurier said his role was to lead as an upperclassman and that he joked with Bolden that they were the older guys now. He joked that the freshman came up and asked if there were practices on Saturdays in which they laughed.
The freshman are especially close and work hard and are ready to listen according to DeLaurier.
R.J. Barrett said he was excited to return home with Duke and see his friends.
Barrett said he had worked on his outside game and hoped people backed off him in games.
Barrett said that a big part of his game was to make plays and that he could run the point if needed.
Barrett said he has achieved good things while in Canada and grew up watching Andrew Wiggins and that the younger generation now looks up to him.
Barrett said Javin was one of the hardest workers he has seen.
Barrett said that Krzyzewski just allows him to play and he was one of the funniest guys he knows.
Krzyzewski said he just wanted his players to play to their strengths without position worries.
Krzyzewski glowed when he talked about Zion Williamson calling him a great player and young man on and off the court. He said his weight was proportioned to his body type and that he had good lateral quickness.