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Duke at Florida State – It’s a Big One!

There is simply no other way to describe the Duke at Florida State game other than to say it’s a big one! The ramifications of a win or loss will be far reaching, be it a tie at the top of the standings with North Carolina or third place. And then there is seeding for the fast approaching ACC Tournament in Atlanta and NCAA seeding implications per said outcome. Yes indeed, this is a terrific match up and one of those pins and needles games if you will that makes every possession and every play seem critical. That said, Blue Devil fans need to gather their collective mojo and channel it to the team.

That team of course has now won 5 straight ACC games since the upset loss to Miami in Cameron, including two instant classic games against local rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State. In the pre game interviews (see them on BDN) star freshman Austin Rivers, said Duke was playing great basketball and they are, but to put into perspective how hot Florida State is, well, they’re 10- 1 in their last 11 games. That means something has to give this evening.

Duke is none too happy about losing to the Seminoles in Cameron but to focus on revenge is not always the magic potion needed for victory. The Blue Devils will be playing in a most hostile environment and keeping calm and cool will be a must. Weathering an early storm would be beneficial to the Duke efforts for Florida State is likely to try an intimidate the Blue Devils from the outset with their depth and athleticism.

The Seminoles are a mature and physical team, one which was a game away from the Elite 8  a season ago and lost but one significant player. After a slow start to the season, they asserted themselves and destroyed North Carolina 90-57 in the same venue the Blue Devils will play them in tonight. Close attention will be payed to Michael Snaer who hit a shot at the buzzer and is the conferences top three point shooter. In fact the Seminoles have the top three point field goal percentage in league play.

Another player Duke will watch closely is Bernard Hopkins, a versatile inside presence that is perhaps the leagues most overlooked player when talking All ACC. And yes, this games outcome will even effect votes for the All ACC where the ballots will soon be out. I know my votes can be swayed in tonights’ game. But with Florida State, you cannot guard just a few players for they come at you in droves.

The Blue Devils will face the leagues top defense which is holding opponents to .375 from the field and while some perceive the Noles to struggle on offense they average the 5th most points in the league. That means, Duke will have to be very efficient on the offensive end while trying to remain even or so in the battle of the boards.

This will be one of the biggest games in FSU history in that they have a chance to win the ACC outright since they first joined the league. But this is also a big game for a youthful Blue Devils team, one which has reached deep of late and in the process found it’s heart. This affair has instant classic written all over it going in but we’ll have to wait and see if that comes to fruition.

In my opinion, slowing the Seminole guards and making sure there are limited second chance opportunities will be the key to winning. I also feel this game could come down to who hits their free throws and remains out of foul trouble. Seth Curry and Austin Rivers have been playing their best collective ball of the season of late and that play needs to continue.

The Blue Devils must also prepare for the physical play Florida State will likely play where they get their moneys worth on every bump or foul committed. Another good idea would be to take advantage when their defense over extends with some backdoor cuts. Anyhow, I think it best I leave the strategy in the capable hands of Coach Mike Krzyzweski who is 28-7 all time vs Florida State.

It’s been rare that Duke loses three straight to anybody in the league under Krzyzewski, but with a loss that would be the case. But the Duke coach has worked an unusual roster to a 23-4 record. An interesting note is that the Blue Devils 8 losses to Florida State in the series have been by a total of 3.0 points per game which points to a close game this evening win or lose, but then again, remember the blowout of the Tar Heels.

Florida State is quite simply one of the hottest teams in the nation and they’ve been steadily moving up in the polls. This is a team looking to prove itself even more on the national scene and they’re coming off a win over N.C. State in Raleigh where they crushed them in their own backyard after they played Duke to the wire.

So at the end of the evening in the Donald L. Tucker Center, one team will be tied with North Carolina and one team falls to third place and will likely be out of the race. Oddly, North Carolina fans should pull for Duke in that the Noles would win the tie breaker over them for the regular season title would they win out. But something tells me that their fan base might have a hard time doing that and will depend on the Noles to lose to Miami or Virginia on the road. Like I said, this is a huge game in many ways.

One more thing to be on the look out for is how much this game takes out of the Blue Devils win or lose in that they have a ridiculous turn around where they play Virginia Tech at noon on Saturday. And that leaves so little time to prepare and more importantly get some rest. That means we may see some bodies play tonight, but then again, maybe not and Krzyzewski will use his depth against the Hokies.

But these Blue Devils have showed no quit and I in no way expect to see that tonight. I see a very hard fought game on the horizon and I also feel the resilient Dukies will find a way to win but it will be close. The pick here is Duke 75-71

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BDN Monday Musings ponders past and future happenings around Duke Basketball

The Duke Blue Devils coasted past Boston College last evening setting up a huge rematch against Florida State this week and BDN Monday Musings takes a look back and ahead.

Duke too much for Boston College

After a slow start, the Blue Devils waltzed past the Boston College Eagles 75-50 and that kept them in a three way tie for first place.  A tremendous 45-21 rebounding edge and pounding the offensive glass gave Duke the win but this game is less than memorable after the Blue Devils have won a couple high profile and talked about games.  But Duke took care of business and returned to snow dusted Durham healthy and well.  The 25 point margin was the larger in the series for Duke who holds a 14-2 edge in the series.  Duke held the hapless Eagles without a field goal for a 14 minute plus stretch.  Folks point to the Blue Devils defensive numbers being down this season and this game will help those numbers but has anyone taken into consideration the Blue Devils strength of schedule his season and that they haven’t played the sisters of the poor?  Just sayin’

Curry-Rivers chemistry

If you’ve been paying close attention to the last few games, the Blue Devils are getting improved chemistry from it’s guard tandem of Seth Curry and Austin Rivers.  This is a good thing for Duke in that the two have become the top two scoring options on the team.  You will continue to see Rivers with the ball in his hands at crunch time and Curry has a constant green light to shoot on the offensive end.  Both will need to show up big against Florida State in Tallahassee this week.

Coach K on the Dan Patrick Show

Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared on the Dan Patrick show today where he addressed “Linsanity,” an this seasons team.  When asked which president he’d have a drink with if he could, Krzyzewski responded that he’d like to have a glass of wine with George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, the founding fathers.  Patrick asked, but what if Washington was a UNC fan tongue in cheek.  Krzyzewski responded by saying, “He’s not a Carolina fan or he wouldn’t be after a few bottles of wine.”  Kyrie Irving was also on the show and spoke of keeping up with Josh Hairston and his happiness that Rivers shot beat the aforementioned rival North Carolina.

ESPN GameDay is coming to Durham for UNC-Duke Game

The GameDay crew of Reece Davis, former Duke player Jay Bilas, former coaches Digger Phelps and Bob Knight and former UNC player Hubert Davis will broadcast live from Cameron Indoor Stadium during the North Carolina at Duke game on March 3rd.  Former players and guests will appear.  More details to come from BDN as the event nears.  In the past, some fans just come for the atmosphere and then watch the game locally.  Tickets to a Duke and UNC game are next to impossible to obtain in Cameron without giving away your first born or a large section of your wallet.

Another reminder for Greensboro

The first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro will feature Duke and North Carolina and tickets are still available, so go to ticketmaster and get them now and show off your royal blue colors in an effort to move the team on.

Coach K post game comments

Here are a few comments from Coach K on yesterday’s game where Terry Rains represented the Nation in these two BDN Vids

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Coach K speaks of pending NCAA rule changes in recruiting

Coach K - BDN Photo

CHARLOTTE – The recruiting landscape is about to change for college basketball coaches and prospects alike.  The NCAA is set to employ new rules starting this April.  By NCAA standards, this is a quick turnaround after reaching a consensus decision for change.  While many of the details are still being worked out, the thought is that this will come to pass this spring.

During yesterdays ACC Media Day, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated that the changes were imminent.  Kyrzyzewski, who is never short on words for positive change on the college basketball landscape discussed the matter with BDN.

“With the new rules coming into effect, we’ll be allowed to do things with a junior.  There is going to be a change on when kids can visit and how you can contact them throughout their junior year.  If it is passed and I think it will be, a kid can visit sometime during his junior year and that can be one of his five visits,” said Krzyzewski.

In the past, prospects could only take official visits going into their senior season and  each prospect is allowed five total official visits to schools during the recruiting process.

Krzyzewski continued by saying, “In the top level of college basketball, kids are making up their mind sometimes in their junior year so moving the process back a bit makes sense.”

A lot of the changes will effect the new world of social media if passed.  When questioned about social media and contact, Krzyzewski stated, “I think all will be allowed.  We’ve been under archaic rules like no text messages.” He then offered an example stating,   “Okay, so you e-mail a kid.”  (pause) You can’t call him, so you e-mail him to tell him to call you.”

Krzyzewski was speaking to how you could contact kids in a certain media forum but not others.  He then joked of keeping track of the calls and responses and said the kids were accustomed to contact in various forums in that was what they did all the time.

While many athletes have been in hot water over what they’ve said via tweeting, Krzyzewski allows his players to participate. In fact, Krzyzewski said that while he didn’t want his players to fall prey to saying the wrong things in venues like twitter, he equated possible missteps as part of a learning process for the student athlete.  “If they (players) do say something embarrassing, that’s a good lesson to learn while they are a collegiate player.  It’s just like learning how to speak french or calculus … it’s a learning process.  So we don’t take away a means of providing education, ”

“They (prospects and current players) live on Twitter, Facebook and texting.  They don’t e-mail that much, but Twitter and Facebook are really their main means of communication. That’s the main reason we allow our guys to do both.  In fact we don’t put any restrictions on our players because you would be eliminating a basic way of communication.  I mean it’s like something all of them are doing and then we say don’t do that, we’re afraid you’re going to say something, said Krzyzewski.

Here is a synopsis of the changes -

- Start date for official visits will begin after the NCAA Final Four in April of the junior year for prospects.  This opens up the process earlier for juniors, many of whom are giving early verbal commitments these days.

- The big one is the deregulating of communication between coaches and prospects which includes text messaging and twitter.

- The new rules would allow unlimited communication after Aug. 1 before the prospects junior year in high school.

- The rules open up evaluations via certified AAU type events on two weekends in April, with some restrictions.  In the past, April has been closed to coaches as an evaluation process.  Coaches will also be allowed limited contact with the prospects high school coach and the biggest change, the prospect himself.  In the past, coaches could only nod and watch.

 

Incoming Duke Freshman Quinn Cook Opens Up to BDN

BDN checks in with Quinn Cook - Photo, BDN and Rick Crank

In less than one month’s time, incoming Duke freshman Quinn Cook will arrive in the Gothic Wonderland known as Duke University.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I first talked to Cook as a sophomore at DeMatha.  With his grandfather lovingly hovering in the background, young Quinn answered each of my questions in a polite and concise way.

Needless to say, he made a good impression on me.  Even then when asked about Duke, he glowed.  Cook grew up a UNC fan but, as time went on during the long and arduous recruiting process, he came to know that Duke was the best fit for him.

I also remember the first time I saw Cook in action, when he played for the U-16 D.C. Assault team during the Boo Williams event when he was just a rising sophomore.  He put his team on his back on his way to leading them to a comeback win against a more talented squad.  Cook showed off his leadership skills that day and he had that special look of determination in his eyes, something you cannot teach.  He was simply unstoppable down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 8 assists.

Cook went head to head while at DeMatha with the likes of his future teammate, Tyler Thornton, and UNC PG, Kendall Marshall, so he is already a bit familiar with some of the players he’ll face in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Going into his senior season, Cook felt going to Oak Hill Academy, an institution known for its disciplined school and powerful basketball team, would be the right choice for him in order to prepare for college.  Cook was slowed by a knee injury during his senior season and Oak Hill, which is in the middle of nowhere and where cell phone signals come and go with the wind, had few facilities to do any major rehab work.

Cook reached deep during this time, often gaining strength from the memory of his beloved father, who moved on with an untimely death.  One thing nobody doubts about Cook is his heart, one which he wears on his sleeve.

As you read the following interview, you will surely see his character shining through.  He is not talking, “I am going to come in and start from day one.”  Nope.  Instead, he is talking, “I want to come in and be the best I can be and do whatever it takes to help my team.”

Photo- Rick Crank for BDN

So, what have you been up to since the All Star games?

I just finished up my school work and graduated and I’ve been trying strengthen my knee up.  I’m no longer a high school student, so I’m just getting ready for Duke.  Graduation was cool, my family came down, maybe like 50 people, my Mom.  It was special because they got to see what I went through this year at Oak Hill.  They were shocked to see what all I wen through and I was just happy they were there.

A proud moment …

Yes, very much so.

And I think there was another person [His Father] looking down from above that was very proud of you as well.

No question.

You’ll be arriving on the Duke campus soon enough.  Is there a date set yet as to when you’ll arrive.

If I’m not mistaken, we’ll get there on July 1st.  I know Tyler, Josh and Andre are already up there.

Yeah, especially Tyler [Thornton] because I played AAU with him and faced him in high school at DeMatha as well.  And Andre [Dawkins]?  I’ve known him for a while.  And Seth [Curry] I’m real cool with him.  I talk to all of them here and there because I’m excited to be a part of the Duke Family.

Duke is also in the process of recruiting a lot of who might be your future teammates, do you get involved a bit with that?

Yeah, you know, definitely a little bit.  Guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker you know.  It’s not like I’m recruiting them real hard, just trying to tell little jokes out there.  I want them to make their decision on what is best for them.  I would never pressure a guy hard to come to Duke but I let them know what is cool about it.

You had a knew injury which slowed you down.  Whats been up with that?  How is it coming along?

I tore my meniscus in the Mobile 24 game and I played all season on it before ever really letting it heal.  After the Nike Hoops summer game my knew was really swollen and it was hard to walk.  I then got an MRI and saw that it hadn’t healed yet but didn’t see anything new.  So, I have been out a month but finally got back to playing recently.  My knee feels good right now but it still needs some time to heal so I can get back to full strength.

Well, one reason to look forward to being an athlete at Duke is that they have one of the very best medical staffs and facilities in the country.

Exactly.  And at Oak Hill, there are not a lot of facilities or much of nothing., so it’ll be great to have the best medical staff in America on my side.

Well, Duke is obviously looking for a point guard next year with the departure of Kyrie Irving to the NBA, where he’ll likely be the top pick.  Is it your goal to start at the point from the word go?

My goal is not to necessarily be the point guard, but just to get on the floor.  There is a lot of talent there.  They have a PG in Tyler Thornton there already and he’s my brother and a great guard.  He will be there to push me and make me better.  That’s what he’s been doing for five years, pushing me and making me better.  Going in, I am not trying to think I am the point guard, I just want to get better as a player in person and everything will fall into place.

Now, you’ve played against a lot these guys in the ACC before.  Down at UNC, there is Kendall Marshall who you played against all through high school.  Are you looking forward to going against him for the first time?

Yeah, I mean it is going to be fun.  I’ve known him since I was eight years old and while I was at DeMatha we were rivals you know.  I played him about three times a year so going up against him again is almost surreal.

We all know Oak Hill is a tough  school.  Do you ever look back and wonder if the transfer was the right thing for Quinn Cook?

I honestly think it was the right decision, so I definitely got better in the class room at Oak Hill.  I got more focused kind of an in my heart I felt it was the best decision for me to go and get away from D.C.   Oak Hill is like a college.  You go on the road a lot and you have to be responsible for the schoolwork you missed and it really helped me going into my freshman year at Duke.

Now, one of the Duke coaches that worked with you during the process was Nate James, a D.C. product himself.  They’ve recently added Jeff Capel who was a PG at Duke, the former Oklahoma coach to the staff, so that is a great addition.  Plus, Nate will still be around and quite involved with the program as well. 

Oh yeah.  He’s a great addition and was a good coach at VCU and Oklahoma and I had a chance to meet him this summer when he coached the our USA team  He knew then Duke was on my list and now that he’s on staff?  It’s just goog that he is there adding another great coach to an already great staff and that just makes the organization better.  He played at Duke and coached at a high level, so he know everything.

One last quest Quinn.  What do you look most forward to when arriving and being on the Duke campus.

Just being a college kid.  Being alone and all and being responsible for everything.  Getting up to go to class and go to workouts.  So, just being a college kid for you only get that chance once in life and I’m going to take it all in.

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