The Duke Blue Devils travel to Wake Forest this evening in a game that will tip-off at 9:00 and be televised on the ACC Network. The Demon Deacons are struggling, but as anyone knows strange things can happen when you are on the road in the modern-day Atlantic Coast Conference.
It has been quite a week for the Duke program. The team is playing better defensively and the roles of the starters are being defined in a better way. And there is no avoiding the verbal commitment from Zion Williamson which gives Duke the top class next year.
In a sense, it is hard not to get involved in the excitement and be caught looking ahead. Virginia will visit Cameron Indoor Stadium this weekend in the best match up of the week. And there will be a lot of hype for the #2 and #4 teams in the nation squaring off.
But first things, first for the Duke Basketball program. The team finds itself poised to make a move up the ACC standing ladder but only if it takes care of business. And that business starts with a difficult starting time against a Wake Forest team which will play loose with nothing to lose.
On paper, Duke should win the game. Gary Trent Jr. was recently named ACC Player of the Week. He is turning the corner as a player. the same can be said for Wendell Carter Jr. who seems more comfortable in his role. And then there is Marvin Bagley III who is quite simply the leagues best player.
Add to that group, Trevon Duval who leads the conference in assists and the leadership of Grayson Allen and you see why Duke is a 9 point favorite. But these guys are young and one of the next things they must prove is their ability to handle their business when they need too.
Duke has been fortunate enough to have two games with cellar dweller Pitt of late. Those games provided the team a chance to work on many things, including their man to man defense. But the Deacons, even with just 8 wins on the season is a much more talented team.
Wake Forest will come to play. That Harlely Davidson will rev up before the contest and this is their biggest game of the year at home. Duke will certainly have some fans in the stands, but this is the game for the Deacon faithful and they always play Duke tough in Winston Salem.
You can expect Duke to play its bench in this game as well. But the two points they got from the backups in the last outing won't cut it moving forward. So, the next step is developing some sort of consistency from this cast of players.
So, what we are watching for tonight is whether a young team which is favored on the road at the end of January can focus on the job at hand. And that will be a task having mentioned possible distractions. And while we are speaking to distractions, Duke must turn around and play Notre Dame the Monday after the showdown with Virginia.
Duke has a golden opportunity to get back into the regular season race by a week from today. The three conference games coming up will show us a lot about this teams meddle. So, in that sense, an interesting seven-day stretch starts tonight.
The Blue Devils are also starting to position themselves for a possible bye in the fast approaching NCAA Tournament. But before we look too far ahead, first things, first for this team. Make no mistake if the Blue Devils want to win the regular season crown, business is at hand.