Tag Archives: Duke Basketball Notebook

Duke Basketball – Notes from Indy

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight where they will take on Louisville for a chance to go to the Final Four. BDN takes a look at the frenetic pace of events in Indy as we continue our coverage.

A good win over Michigan State

A lot of people were worried about this game and for good reason in that Tom Izzo and the Spartans are always good, but the Blue Devils seized the opportunity at hand pulling out a 71-61 win. On a night when Quinn Cook struggled, Tyler Thonrton played well off the bench and Seth Curry was quite simply the best player on the court by evenings end. Curry of course, dropped 29 points to lead all scorers and he got help from fellow seniors Ryan Kelly who scored 9 points to go with his team high 7 rebounds. Actually, Mason Plumlee tied him for the lead in rebounds with 7 of his own and scored 14 points himself.  It is also worth noting that Kelly was also the games leader in blocked shots with 4 rejections. Rasheed Sulaimon tallied 16 points as well, knocking down 12 of 16 free throws. As a team, Duke went a more than acceptable 24-26 from the free throw stripe as well. And then there is the defense which you have probably read about by now, but if not is was stellar and should the level of play continue, Duke will be a tough out.

SONY DSCNo time to reflect

In talking to the Duke players during  the press conference here in Indy and what they call break out rooms where they speak individually with members of the media, it was clear they were tired due to the late end of the game.   Some members of the team had to take mandatory drug tests late last evening and the other players while they did not have to, waited for their teammates, putting them in their rooms about 2:00 in the morning. Krzyzewski and others saw this as being ridiculous in nature for many reasons. The team had to be back at Lucas Oil Arena by noon today for the aforementioned interviews and according to many of them, it took some time to wind down from the  Michigan State game they had just won. It was impossible for them not to think about that with the dreaded overkill thoughts before bedding down for the evening and to make matters worse, Louisville had to be on their minds as well. While these are indeed young men that can run circles around me, the responsibilities they have which are demanding in nature go unnoticed by fans. But the media knows, for they are on the same schedule with dead lines and in my case it was around 2:48 before I left the arena. Anyhow, Krzyzewski mentioned this as he should, hoping the NCAA will do a study on the situation. There was no reason why today’s pressers could not be pushed back at least until say, 2:00. Another thing worth mentioning is that the coaching staff gets very little sleep if any, breaking down film and preparing for the job at hand in order to advance.  How tired were Coach K’s Devils?  Tired enough to only conduct a simple walk through practice today.

SONY DSCThe Final Four Regional

Again, I have dubbed this the Final Four regional in that this region is and or was,  flat out loaded. For the record, Duke and Louisville are the top two seeds left in the entire tournament and many feel the game tomorrow could in a sense be the national title game. It’s almost a crime that these two-storied and strong programs could not meet for all the marbles. I mean it is Pitino vs Krzyzewski for gosh sakes and both teams are playing great basketball.  Some feel the winner of this game could actually get a break when they hit the Final Four and I would not argue against that and actually agree with the analogy.

Keep in mind …

Keep in mind that we’ll see these two programs going head to head in the future when Louisville joins the ACC. In that vein, this is an all ACC match up in slightly skewed way. The one thing I noticed when talking to both teams players was the fact that I saw a lot of character. Covering the Duke program up close and personal over the years and even the AAU trail and the kids who eventually go to school in Durham, the one thing I can say with 100% objectivity, is that the Blue Devils players all have immense character in that they are all great kids and citizens on and off the court.

SONY DSCNobody better than Coach K in Elite Eight play

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is 11-1 in Elite Eight play which is an amazing record. Blue Devil faithful are lucky to have him at the helm and who the heck else would you want in this situation? But the fan base should be grateful win or lose tomorrow and not take for granted how hard it is to advance in these tournaments. Remind yourself how it felt to go out last season against Lehigh in order to enjoy the accomplishments which are earned with hard work that starts the very next day the season ends. It’s a long process and the season will be full of ebbs and flows but the last team standing will always be the happiest. Duke is one victory away from going to another Final Four which would be the eleventh for Coach K and company, one shy of John Wooden at UCLA.

30 wins, again

Duke won its 30th game of the season and while no fan wants it to end, that in itself is a dream for any school. It’s the 13th time in history Krzyzewski has won 30 games at Duke. In fact, he is the only coach to win 30 in Durham and he has more 30 win seasons than any other coach in the long history of college basketball.

SONY DSCDuke just doesn’t have it … Duke will win it all

It amazes me how wrong the talking heads can be with their predictions as the year goes along and their flipping and flopping is akin to being manic. Going into last evenings game, BDN picked the Devils to win and we did so confidently. Maybe it comes from being around since the dawn of the K era for me or maybe it was just luck. Anyhow, Duke is starting to get some favorable press again. After the Maryland loss, everybody assumed a single game performance meant that Duke would continue to play like that and the ship was destined to sink. Maybe those NBA types will start to do their homework a bit more going forward. After all, it is not like anyone invited them to invade their living room trying to pose as college hoops experts.

Sidebar - Duke is 26-8 all time as a no. 2 seed. Duke is playing in their 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament which is the longest such streak of any program. Did you know there were seven couch fires in East Lansing, Michigan last night?  Seth Curry knocked down six three pointers, a new Lucas oil Arena record and his is 29 points were the second most scored in the arena.  Duke’s free throw percentage last evening was the highest in their NCAA tournament history.  Cook moved to 19th on the all time Duke assist list.

Stick around, for a lot more is coming from Indy.

Duke Basketball Notebook – March Madness begins

RCP_9020It’s time of year again when every team in America (well, those that are still playing) is in the same boat.  You win, you advance or you lose and you go home.  The stark reality of that  makes for a bundle of emotions and nerves.  Thankfully for Duke fans, Coach K is at the helm and this obviously will not be his first dance.  But the road will be a tough one.  BDN starts our tournament coverage today with the latest edition of our Duke Basketball Notebook.

Insanely loaded Midwest

The last thing I wanted to do was whine about the Blue Devils’ seeding yesterday, but once the pairings were announced, I was like, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But it’s not worth a lot of time at this point, because there are no words or actions that will change a thing and to get too caught up in it will serve no purpose moving forward. The Midwest field is loaded.  I could point to all the teams and All American players in the region, but you’ve probably already heard all of that. So let me just say that a Louisville vs Duke matchup, should it happen, is a Final Four quality game at worst. In fact, in my opinion Midwest #3 seed Michigan State could feasibly beat all four of the top seeds in the West Regional on a neutral court and none of them would be an upset. In short, the committee did Duke no favors.  While they claimed to look at a lot of factors in making their seeding and bracketing decisions, is seems their criteria were only loosely applied when it came to Duke. Over the course of this season, Duke faced a brutal schedule.  Yet when at full strength, the Blue Devils lost a single game. Where is the reward for that?  Why should this team have to play a rematch with a Louisville team which is the overall #1 seed, just to get to the Final Four, if Duke gets that far?  Ridiculous.

They’re a team to beat … no, they’ll go out fast

I wouldn’t give you a wooden nickel for the various talking heads’ predictions this time of year. I have never been one to give too much weight to the “What have you done for me lately” bit. I didn’t pick N.C. State, the pre-season favorite, to win the ACC as the media did, nor will I make too much over Duke’s one untimely loss to Maryland in the ACC Tournament. Now that the parings have been announced, none of the so-called experts are giving Duke a chance, which Coach Krzyzewski may use as a motivator heading to Philly. But before the loss the Maryland, those same talking heads were close to naming Duke one of the teams to beat for all the marbles. Well, guess what? They still are a team to beat and their body of work shows they are capable of beating anybody anywhere.  The fan part of me is loving the Blue Devils flying below the radar in a world which seems to think you’re only as good as your last game.

Albany and the next game if you win, forget about the rest

It would not shock me if there were some grumblings within the program when you compare the Midwest bracket to the West, but you can bet that Krzyzewski and company are only focused on Albany and the winner of the Creighton vs. Cincinnati game. First things first for Duke. The Blue Devils should handle Albany and I am not taking them lightly, but I do not expect a Lehigh upset here. The next game will be very competitive and both Creigthon and Cincy offer different challenges, each a stiff one. We’ll talk more about that later in the week.

Miscellaneous notes

– Duke has never played Albany in the NCAA Tournament.

– Duke is undefeated at 4-0 in the state of Pennsylvania in NCAA play.

– Duke is 79-24 in th NCAA Tournament under Mike Krzyzewski. This will be the Blue Devils’  37th overall appearance in the tournament.

– Looking for a Duke player to blow up on the offensive end? Don’t.  Danny Ferry went for 34 points in 1989 against Seton Hall. Jason Williams also scored 34 against UCLA in 2001 and Bobby Hurley dropped 32 against Cal in 1993.  Duke is 1-2 in those games.

BDN’s Duke Basketball Notebook

RCP_2850Duke finally gets a break

I will be th first to admit that I expected a bit more from last nights Duke win over Virginia Tech. Perhaps I expected too much in that Duke was celebrating the last game in Cameron for what has been amazing careers for Mason Plumlee. Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. A sportswriter friend of mine said he thought it would be a trap game, while i expected a blowout, but we got something sort of in between. Duke was only six points well into the second half before they hit the gas and coasted to an 85-57 win but their performance was at times mildly and surprisingly uninspired. But then came the reality that this was indeed a trap game where they were playing this game just hours after and emotional home win over Miami in a game the nation seemd to be watching per TV ratings released today. I really think this Duke team was a bit spent with the mental aspects of the game and after all, UNC lies ahead and they have not lost since the last time they faced Duke and they deserve some attention and a ranking at this point. Anyhow, they now know whwne they are playing having sewed up the second seed in the ACC Tournament and the team took today off before prepping for UNC on Thursday. They should be revitalized as a team and will likely leave it on the court Saturday evening in Chapel Hill knowing they have a six day break before the ACC Tournament begins.

39Kelly continues to prove his value

Of the three senior day speeches, Kellys was by far the best in my humble opinion if for no other reason than he propped his parents and even his girlfriend. There were times when Kelly looked exhausted, yet he pushed through fatigue to score a critical 18 points but that killed his average. I mean in the last two games since his return he is only averaging 27 ppg now and I hope you can detect the tongue in cheek sarcasm. Anyhow, Kelly is once again allowing for more opportunities in that he stretches the court with his ability to hit the three point shot and his defense is very, very underrated. Too bad Kelly didn’t play all season long for he would likely be getting some first place votes for All ACC this coming Sunday evening. I am still in awe of his performance against Miami where he dropped 36 points. In short, there are not enough words to properly describe that performance and it’s not like we can stop time long enough for it to come to us.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

If you are keeping up with the latest news, it looks as if Notre Dame could join the league next season alongside Pitt and Syracuse. I have already warned people that ACC Tournament tickets will once again be a most coveted thing once the other teams are in, so this is the last season we will go down a familiar path with the tournament. Winning the regular season will be a bear of a task moving forward and yes indeed, the ACC can truly be called a basketball conference again, especially once Louisville comes in. Just take a moment to imagine some of the ACC matchups next season. And for Duke, they’ll be a very talented but young team.

37Mason still has a shot at ACC Player of the Year

Mason Plumlee has not had his best games of late. In fact, many felt liek he has played himself out of the ACC POY race in the last three games but take him away from Duke and how well would they have done? And unlike, say, Erick Green, there are a lot of other capable players to take shots away from him on the Duke team. Shane Larkin is making a strong run for the award and me personally? I will wait to see how the last two games shake out for I still see it as a close call. But make no mistake, Mason needs a monster game against North Carolina for the aforementioned to happen. My mailbox is full of ACC SID’s pushing their players and for me past three players on first team, nothing is especially clear. That’s why i need to see how the teams finish and it will go down to the midnight hour before my votes are turned in.

I will truly miss our seniors

People can accuse me of being a homer all they want, but Duke really recruits classy young men with great character. I continue to b impressed with the type of players the program brings in and as most of you know I am very active on the recruiting trail. This allows me to gt to know prospects or players before they ever set foot on campus if they do at all and sometimes you meet their parents as well. I will sit down later and talk of all the seniors but for now they seem to have more work to do and they hinted as such last evening during senior speeches, but I will especially miss Mason and Ryan who I have known since they were barely old enough to drive. Each of them are high quality young men with bright futures and it was a pleasure to have watched them grow and get to know the parents who raised such fine young citizens.

Tidbits

Coach K won his 401stcareer ACC game and I can honestly say that I have been around for all of them. What a ride and it’s not over! Duke won it’s fifth straight game over a top 5 opponent over Miami this past week. Duke will play in the 7:00 game next Friday in the ACC Tournament and most folks are hoping to stay in the east in the NCAA Tournament. Duke went undefeated in Cameron this season and the Blue Devils remain the only team in the AP, Coaches polls, the NCAA RPI and strength of schedule.

Virginia Tech v Duke

BDN Duke Basketball Notebook – A look at the schedule ahead


In this edition of the Duke Basketball Notebook, I take a look at the schedule ahead while adding in some insights from covering the Duke beat.

Next up, Temple

Duke will face the Temple Owls in the Carquest Auto Parts Classic in Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey this Saturday, after which there will be an eleven day break before the next game. Look for Duke to seek a bit if revenge from the loss the Owls pinned on them last year.  The Blue Devils should also be focused on going into the break on a high note. We’ll preview the Blue Devils and Owls later this week, but until then here are some of my idle thoughts mixed with some facts about the upcoming December schedule.

Withdrawal Begins

Duke fans and their team have had little time to breathe, with games coming at a breakneck pace.  The Blue Devils have faced all comers and have remained undefeated through the toughest early-season stretch I can remember any college team ever playing. After the Temple game comes an eleven day break before Duke faces Cornell on December 19th. And after that and Elon the following night, there is another nine-day stretch until they play Santa Clara just before the New Year.

Cupcakes by Duke Standards

No disrespect is intended towards Cornell, Elon and Santa Clara, but these schools represent the easiest games left on the Duke schedule. Coach Krzyzewski will use these opportunities to further develop Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson off the bench, and possibly Marshall Plumlee too, who should be back. Of course, everybody will be developing, but fan interest is naturally highest on this season’s newcomers.

High Noon

I’ve been around since Coach Mike Krzyzewski took over at Duke, and we both came up in a time when Saturday games were the norm. But in today’s world Sunday games permeate the landscape, simply for television purposes. I agree with Krzyzewski, who has long felt that kids need their Sunday for rest and preparation for the week ahead in classes, and that a late night start is a major hindrance.  The prime-time TV-dictated starts basically steal the kids’ weekends while penalizing them for being successful. In this sense the Duke program in a way is a victim of its own success, because nobody wants bottom feeders playing on Sunday evening. Starting with the game versus Santa Clara, Duke will play three consecutive games on Saturday starting at high noon, and that will allow the kids to have an actual weekend and a little time to relax.

If I may wallow in nostalgia for a moment, I surely miss those Saturday games which started no later than 4:00, because even media feels the grind. For example, the Ohio State game in Cameron started on Thursday at 9:30 PM and ended early on Friday. It was 12:30 AM when Coach Krzyzeswski finished up at the podium, and then videos had to be formatted, articles written, and photos gathered, and by the time that is done, I am walking to my car around 2:15 AM. My point is that the decisionmakers often don’t consider how late starts or Sunday night games can take a toll on all involved, especially the student-athletes, but also the coaches and the media.

Holiday Games not Necessarily a Bad Thing

There was a time when many felt that the December games which fell around student breaks and the holidays were a disadvantage for Duke, but in recent years that trend has changed. It was about four years ago when I was walking up to Cameron on a sunny, crisp December afternoon noticing the lack of tickets available and their eventual price, which shocked me. Never had I remembered holiday games bringing more than face value to the always sold-out Cameron Indoor Stadium. Each year Duke gives average fans a chance to purchase holiday-time game tickets when the students are on break.  This means no band or cheerleaders, so there is an unusual atmosphere. That used to make for an odd, unorganized and uncertain air to the stadium, and it still does — but in a good way. Fans from all walks of life who never get to come to Cameron are there, and are itching to get close to their team. Some have made the journey for the first time to what is termed by many as a religious experience, while others just want to show they’re forty-something year-old Cameron Crazies who can still cheer with the best of them. What you see is unbridled and rabid support for the Blue Devils.  Although in the past there have been ACC games scheduled during the time when the students were gone, for the most part Duke tries to schedule cupcakes during this time. Personally, I like the full effect of Cameron with the students, cheerleaders and band in play, but the contrast offered by the holidays is not necessarily a bad thing.

The ACC Season begins on January 5th

Duke will open its ACC season on January 5th at home against Wake Forest and then play Clemson in Cameron three days later. The Blue Devils will have built quite the resume by then if they get past Temple and Davidson.

But Kryzyzewski will not let them forget that the ACC is a new season and winning the conference is always a major goal in Durham. January will provide two tough road tests for Duke against N.C. State and Miami, as well and home games versus Georgia Tech and Maryland, the latter looking like upper division material. With the ACC expanding, winning regular season ACC titles will soon become harder than ever and that means ….

… the ACC Tournament will get its swag back

With Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, not only will regular season titles become a tough get, but so will ACC Tournament tickets. In the past few years, there have been some occasional attendance problems to event, which used to consistently sell out and indeed was one of the most highly sought-after tickets of the year.  But soon, with the new conference additions, tickets to the ACC Tournament will again be hot, hot, hot.

BDN’s Duke Basketball Notebook – A look back at Kentucky win and a look ahead

In this week’s BDN Duke Basketball Notebook,, we take a look back at the Blue Devils’ huge win over Kentucky and look ahead to what’s up next. Duke pushed their record to 2-0 on the young season with a 75-68 win over the defending national champs and while of course it’s still very early, some trends seem to be developing.

Duke defense much improved

Duke’s defense last season was perhaps the worst its been in a decade or so. There was little doubt that a program which has taken great pride in this area would make adjustments in the off-season. Each year, Coach Mike Krzyzewski gets together with his staff to assess the roster and implement a plan for the season to come. Whatever strategic or tactical tweaks they made on the defensive end, as well as the motivational tools they chose, have worked well to date. The Blue Devils held Kentucky to 68 points, and they scored 18 critical points off turnovers in the high-profile win. Going into the game, Nerlens Noel was billed as a Shot Blocker Supreme and, having seen him play 20 or more time on the AAU circuit, I can tell you he is one of the best swat masters I’ve ever seen. Noel had 3 of Kentuckky’s four blocks in the game. But the Blue Devils had six rejections of their own; three of those were from Ryan Kelly and two by Mason Plumlee. Kelly played his position well, and looks to have really imnproved on the defensive end. Each of the senior co-captain’s swats came at a key moment in the game, and made the Wildcats re-think going at him. And for the record, Kelly also led Duke in steals with three of the team’s six. Plumlee was mired in foul trouble in the 2nd half, yet still established himself as an anchor in the post. It’s a safe bet that he’d have had even more impressive numbers were it not for having to sit for some key stretches.

Great minutes from Josh Hairston

The Blue Devils got 14 very efficient minutes from junior forward Josh Hairston, as he scored 5 points to go with 5 rebounds. His put-backs on a couple of misses in the paint were crucial in the Blue Devils’ ability to hold off a big second-half Wildcats run. But what may have gone unnoticed is the solid defensive postioning he used against the much taller and longer Nerlens Noel that kept the Kentucky big man away from the basket.

Sulaimon struggled with his shot but little else

True freshman Rasheed Sulaimon went just 3 of 14 from the floor, finishing with 10 points, but nine of those came on three-pointers. Rasheed’s defensive presence is much evident, as he is generally checking the opponent’s best guard. Sulaimon also dished a team-high 5 assists, and his quickness helped him grab 6 rebounds from the guard spot. None of this surprises me, having followed Sulaimon and his high school and AAU career, and many media members I chatted with agree that he will only get better as time goes on. Sulaimon is an unselfish player, perhaps even too much so, which prompted Coach Krzyzewski to say in our post-game interview after the season opener that Rasheed needed to look for his shot more.

High profile wins are good wins

Any time you win a game like the Duke-Kentucky battle on the big stage, it’s an accomplishment to be cherished. For the fans, it means bragging rights, and in reality these games are designed for them as much as they are for the coaches, though the coaches do get an early season barometer of what kind of team they really have. This win will look good in March, and let’s face it, on the recruiting trail as well. Kentucky has pushed the NCAA rules to the limit in creating a factory to provide players a one-year pit stop to the NBA while Duke is still very much about education and basketball. So showing your style of doing things — and still getting the wins — is a big deal, and a statement to prospects around the country. The Wildcats are unapologetic for the way they do things these days, and fans turn a blind eye because they’re winning, but Duke proved its staying power as well, and that one should never count out this program out.

Speaking of recruiting

Matt Jones, a 6-4 shooting specialist from DeSoto, Texas and Semi Ojeleye, a solid prospect from Kansas will soon be Blue Devils when the ink dries from signing day. The Blue Devils other target is the much heralded Jabari Parker who will likely make his decision this December which of course is right around the corner. So crank up the rumor mill and try to cipher through the muck or join Blue Devil Nation Premium where we will tell you just the facts. The aforementioned Jones can flat out shoot the rock and has length at 6-4 and his game has improved each of the many times I have seen him play. He’ll be in the Triangle later this year, but more on that later. Semi Ojeleye has a college ready body already and he provides many options for Krzyzeski in that they do not really have a player like him on the roster. Both young men have very high character, a Duke trait and they will both be welcomed additions in Cameron.

Florida Gulf Coast up next

While fans want to hang onto the win over Kentucky, it is early in the season and all must move forward. My bet is Krzyzewski and company have already made the player aware of this and turned their attention to Sunday for the Florida Gulf Coast game in a game which has a brutal 8:00 start. I say brutal because, Sunday games are notoriously the roughest on the student athletes and Kyrzewski has lobbied for no later than 7:00 starts. Anyhow, the opponent comes in 1-1 and they beat Miami handily in their last outing, so attention is warranted. The Canes of course were picked in the ACC’s upper tier on media day, so the opponent is capable of pulling off a win on the road under the right circumstances. But my bet is that Duke will be energized and players will step up for a solid win going into the incredibly challenging Battle for Atlantis I’m generally not he type to look ahead but Duke will open in the Bahamas with a veteran Minnesota team just outside the rankings and then face the winner of Virginia Commonwealth and Memphis. They may then run directly into the other highly ranked team from Kentucky, Louisville. But first things fist for Duke and they’ve rarely been caught looking ahead during Coach K’s tenure.