After a long break, the Duke men's basketball team returns to the court this Saturday evening to take on Clemson in both teams ACC opener. Duke will do so ranked as the number one team in America after going 11-1 during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
During the seasons opening stretch, the Blue Devils won a memorable game over Kentucky in dominant fashion in. They would be humbled against Gonzaga but also gathered wins over solid teams in Auburn, Indiana and Texas Tech.
The Blue Devils have also become must-see basketball where they dominate the likes of the ESPN airwaves with the teams' exploits. While R.J. Barrett is the teams alpha player, it is Zion Williamson that has set the world on fire.
Williamson has made it clear that no analysts can properly describe his game to date, The young phenoms game is more than powerful dunks. He has shown an uncanny potential to flourish in any on the court situation and his every move is watched.
Duke has also developed quite nicely around their two high scoring stars. Tre Jones has run the point guard position effectively and his defense often starts the machine and its roll.
Cam Reddish has struggled at times, but his potential points to more consistent play and aggressiveness during ACC play. But when the four freshmen play together, they are at times unbeatable.
In the preseason, most analysts felt Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden would share the fifth starting spot. Both of these players have shown flashes of solid play. An injury set DeLaurier back a bit and Bolden has had some moments.
The most surprising contributor to date has been Jack White. In fact, he is currently the fifth man due to his ability to fit in seamlessly. White is flourishing in his captain's role on and off the court.
Duke has also been able to develop more depth in the way of Alex O'Connell. A timely three-pointer here and there but more importantly being better on defense has made him an option.
The team will now face the gauntlet known as the ACC schedule. And the league is good. Florida State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech are all off to solid starts and each is ranked.
The Duke staff will now have to prepare the team in a short time between games until the NCAA Tournament ends.
By all accounts, the time off has been beneficial for the players before the ACC slate, It is the last time they can really catch their breath and reflect on how things have gone to date. Those lessons learned can help prepare them for the stretch run.
From this point forward, the games and lessons come quickly. In a sense, Duke is ahead of the curve with concern to chemistry, This seasons teams core was set early on and there is little to no controversy to date.
It will be important for the collective team to learn in the coming battles, who takes shots and when in close contests. When it is time to leak out into the passing lanes instead of leaving others open and so and much more. Those are the lessons which will help guide them to their goal of getting to the Final Four.
One thing we know for certain. That being that the hype will not go away. During ACC play, Duke will have to learn to deal with expectations and how hard it is to bring your A game every night. In short, they will get every teams best shot.
While this team has yet to achieve anything in the way of championships, they surely have the potential to be special. This team has the air of those special teams past but it will take continued work and some luck for the ultimate success.
It will surely be fun for the Duke fan base to watch as the season unfolds with what has become one of the more likable teams in memory. And that is saying a lot for Duke fans love all their teams.
Strap yourself in for what is now the greatest show in college basketball. But there will be some bumps along the way and how the team deals with them will ultimately decide if they become truly special in the way of title memories.