Tag Archives: Mark Watson

Duke Basketball is Exceeding Expectations

Coach K has his team playing at a high level.

DURHAM, N.C. - Back in March, I remember sitting down and trying to figure out what to say after Duke's loss to Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I realized that there really were no words that could comfort anyone after the upset loss, so I told it like it was. The team did not look like a Duke basketball team that evening. The defense was suspect overall, and it felt as if Lehigh and Duke changed uniforms that day, for the guys in brown were the aggressors.Granted, Duke was without the services of Ryan Kelly in that game.  That certainly affected team chemistry, and the Blue Devils had to alter their whole approach on the fly, but still, the performance versus Lehigh was very un-Duke-like.  That realization served as an off-season motivator for all involved.

Duke would later learn that Austin Rivers was taking his game to the NBA, and then there would be a couple of misses on prospects that the staff had recruited for a long time. Everybody in the media pounced, getting their shots in on Duke while they could.  Rivals on the recruiting trail did so as well, going negative like never before.

Over the summer, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski led Team USA to a second consecutive Olympic gold medal; two-thirds of his staff traveled with the team as well. The whispers began that Duke's team would not be as developed when the season started as they would have been had Krzyzewski not been "distracted" by serving his country at the highest level.

In the pre-season, most in the media succumbed to the lazy "what have you done for me lately" shtick, failing to actually look at what the Blue Devils had on this year's team, and just assuming that Duke would not respond well to last season's tailspin and be the same team as the one that went out to Lehigh. Duke was not talked about in the same way as were teams like Kentucky or Indiana, at all.

Many had the Blue Devils ranked in the mid-teens nationally, and many pre-season ACC projections surfaced with Duke being ranked third or even fourth in their own league.

Locally, all the media could focus on was N.C. State, a team that had a decent late-season run in 2012 and returned many of its players, and they did add a big recruiting class. Nobody seemed concerned that this group really hasn't done a thing on the court yet. But the Wolfpack were the chic pick, and were eventually selected as the pre-season favorite.

Those same people who picked N.C. State to win the league seemingly slept on the fact that Duke had three battle-tested seniors returning in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry. They also chose N.C. State's Rodney Purvis as the pre-season ACC Rookie of the Year; he's the second best freshman on his team to date. While Purvis is truly a talent, there are few that would trade him today for Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, who has been a coach's dream. In addition, the Wolfpack's talented C.J. Leslie was slated to be the ACC Player of the Year. This despite his history of inconsistency. In the meantime, Mason Plumlee, who worked all off-season to improve his game, was an afterthought.

Over the summer when Krzyzewski addressed the media, there was the hint of a sly smile on his face when asked what it was like to be picked behind UNC and N.C. State, and how he felt about those two teams getting all the publicity.  You could almost sense him licking his chops, loving every second of Duke being underestimated, content to have all the talk be about the others.

History shows us that Duke and Krzyzewski are at their best when questions and worry abound. In 2010 they lost rising sophomore Elliot Williams via transfer to Memphis just before the season started, and there was talk that Krzyzewski -- coming off his successful duties with Team USA --  had neglected his day job.  The fan base also went into "Chicken Little" mode, in particular on the message boards. "Duke has no athletes," many exclaimed, as they stated confidently that the Blue Devils would be a good team but was not a national contender.   Duke would be running shooting guard Jon Scheyer at the point all season and were too slow to have any hope of competing, the minions claimed.  There was doom and gloom in the air.

We all know how history played out. Duke won the national championship with a spectacular run, with seniors and two savvy juniors leading the way.

This year's team is comparable, but every team is of course unique.  This time, all of the "What have you done for me lately?" types are being forced to jump on the bandwagon of an undefeated team, a team that is battle-tested like no other team in the history of college basketball at such an early date.

What this tells us is that the Duke staff had a plan all along.  Implementation of that plan meant the nation gaining another gold medal in Mens Basketball while at the same time Coach K and company were pushing all the right buttons in the off-season to maximize Duke's opportunities for improvement as well.  Not an easy balancing act, but it's an accomplishment which is finally starting to be recognized.

Duke does not look anything like the team which lost to Lehigh a season ago. They instead look like a team in every sense of the word. They play together, they're unselfish, and they are focused. Their defense is once again a strength.  Each starter is a threat to score when on the court.

The Blue Devils have taken on all comers in a season where there is no one dominant team, and they've done so in a way that has made it clear that this team will be a factor come March.  After rolling through the likes of Kentucky, Virginia Commonwealth, Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State, there will be no sneaking up on anybody.  Duke is and always will be the team circled on an opposing teams' schedules, so tests are coming.   There is plenty of work left to be done and a long season ahead, as the ACC season has yet to get underway, but what an early season resumé this bunch has put together.   To date, the Blue Devils look as good as anybody.  But now, the team must learn how to play with the weight of what will soon be immense expectations.

The Blue Devils are now in an eleven day break, their longest of the season, after whipping another formerly undefeated team in Temple. During this time, Duke will get plenty of hype, and the next stage for this team is handling new-found expectations, the same ones some of us had all along including a coach with a sly smile loving that his Blue Devils were being overlooked early on.

Because if the question is "What have you done for me lately?"  the answer to that question is "Plenty."

BDN’s Countdown to Craziness Highlight Video – Get pumped!

Blue Devil Nation brings you our Countdown to Craziness Highlights Video and we hope you enjoy it.  We've partnered with Ball is Life and will be bringing you more prospect videos than ever as we continue to make out site all it can be.  Join BDN Premium today for full site access and Duke-centric coverage. Enjoy the show and please feel free to link or embed the video -

Coach K addresses the ACC Media in Charlotte

Coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the media today in Charlotte, North Carolina at the ACC's annual Operation Basketball festivities which kick off the season.  Mason Plumlee was voted pre-season 1st Team All-ACC and Duke was selected 2nd overall by the media.  Check out this video clip with Coach K, and for more exclusive clips, join BDN Premium, our extended subscription service.

BDN Monday Musings – Huge week ahead for Duke Athletics


Countdown to Craziness will be electric when Countdown to Craziness kicks off this Friday. Be there!

After a long hiatus, BDN's Monday Musings returns, and there is a lot to talk about with respect to Duke Athletics. To say this is a big week is an understatement. Duke Basketball will hold its annual Countdown to Craziness on Friday evening followed the next night by a prime time football game with archrival North Carolina, where a win would snap a long losing streak in the series and gain the Blue Devils bowl eligibility.

Basketball season is here!

The mens basketball team has started practice, and that always means excitement in the air among Duke fans. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seems as pumped up as ever as he enters the season with a record 927 wins, and he will close in on other marks as the year progresses. His teams have been ranked in the AP Top 10 a total of 425 weeks, and this year's first poll should make it 426. The Blue Devils return 10 letter-winners from a year ago, so there is experience on hand, and the team has received an infusion of talent with the additions of redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee, who join true freshmen Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaiman.

A couple of early injuries

As you may have heard, Marshall Plumlee is in a walking boot with a foot fracture, but the prognosis is unknown at this time.  Seth Curry is nursing a minor injury as well, and is close to being able to go 100%. Most football programs are mildly evasive in providing news on injuries these days, and basketball is becoming no different.

Early high praise for Mason Plumlee

Blue Devils fans needed a shot in the arm at the end of last season after the upset loss to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament and the departure of Austin Rivers, who entered the NBA Draft after his freshman campaign. They got that lift when Mason Plumlee spurned the league for another year to return for his senior season at Duke. Plumlee has earned high praise early on from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has made no secret that he expects big things from the multi-talented big man. Expect a larger role for Plumlee this year, and look for the Blue Devils to establish his game early on.

Who will run the point?

Actually, it is still likely to be done by committee. Many hope Quinn Cook steps up in his second year and takes over the role, but he will share time with Tyler Thornton, Rasheed Sulaimon and maybe even Seth Curry. Cook improved leaps and bounds in the off-season and his confidence and game are where they were when I first saw him on the AAU trail in his junior season in high school. Thornton has improved his quickness, and he is a calming influence on the team with his cool play. Sulaimon has the ability to be the best on-ball defender from the guard spot, and Curry has run the position before and if necessary can do so again. But in the end, Blue Devil fans will look for Quinn Cook to earn the major minutes.  Only time will tell if that happens.

Countdown to Craziness

This is one of the more fun events of the year, where the Blue Devils let their hair down for the last time before getting dead serious and focusing on the season, where early challenges against tough opponents abound. Countdown to Craziness is a celebration of Duke Basketball, where the team comes out to their song of choice during a raucous introduction and comedic skits are seen via video on the scoreboard. Then there is the Blue/White intrasquad game, giving fans a chance to see some action. It's a great event and one BDN will cover as always, so check back in for coverage. Tickets are still available at reasonable prices at GoDuke.com.

North Carolina at Duke

Both teams come into this weekend's prime time football game with 5-2 records, including 2-1 conference marks, but the Tar Heels have owned the series of late, and they opened as a 10 point favorite in this one. For the Blue Devils program, nothing would be finer than to see Carolina finally go down, and if the goal posts did not follow, there would be disappointment. A win for Duke would not only snap the long light blue winning streak, but it would also mean Duke is going bowling. Yeah, it's a big one, but tickets are still available for it, so why not make a Duke weekend of it by having a blast at Countdown to Craziness and then coming back the next night for some serious -- and meaningful -- football?

Can Duke Football bounce back?

After holding a 20-0 lead over Virginia Tech this past weekend, the team simply collapsed, allowing 41 consecutive points to a team which handled this week's opponent (North Carolina) with ease. The main concern I have is that the team almost seemed to mail it in once adversity struck, and could never find its way back. There have been times this season where I think the Duke team is better than the players realize; they need to believe they can win and deserve to win some ACC football games. Coach Cut has done a terrific job in rebuilding, but there are still important lessons to be learned, and patience is needed.

Duke Hoops in Fort Bragg

The Duke Men's Basketball team is practicing at Fort Bragg today.  You can tune into ESPNU at 1:00 to see the practice.