Tag Archives: Mike Krzyzewski

BDN’s Complete Duke Basketball Preview

Duke Basketball Preview

Welcome to Blue Devil Nation's annual Duke Basketball preview.  You will find a recap on last seasons team, this years players and coaches and what to expect this coming season.  With practice starting today, it is time to take a deep look at Duke hoops.  If you like this article, please link for others to read.

2016-17 Season Recap

The highlight for Duke last season was an amazing 4 day championship run in the ACC Tournament. They defeated eventual national champion UNC alone the way and held a 2-1 over them during the season.

A season ago Duke Basketball was besieged by injuries and the team would in time fall short of lofty expectations.  There were no games played when Duke had a completely healthy team and that led to an early exit in a game against South Carolina in the NCAA tournament.

Duke had players injured before the ball was even tipped in Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles Jr. was recovering from his second major surgery.  Later in the season, Grayson Allen injured his ankle and he was never the same player after that happened.  Even Frank Jackson played with injuries and Amile Jefferson who was one of the teams steadiest players went out in January with a foot injury.

What Duke did get right a season ago was get it together in time to win the ACC Tournament.  The team was amazing when winning four consecutive games in Brooklyn.  Three players would later go in the first round of the NBA Draft, including the team's top player in Luke Kennard.

Duke experienced an unexpected departure when Frank Jackson elected to leave.  Jackson would have been a key cog for this seasons team,  but he felt his decision was the right thing to do.  Jackson went in the second round of the draft but signed a guaranteed contract.

If those were not enough players to lose, add Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones to the list.  Jones was a steady defender and Jefferson was a program staple.  Jefferson is currently expected to compete for a roster spot with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he would play alongside former Duke standout Tyus Jones.  The Blue Devils also lost Chase Jeter, who transferred to Arizona.

On paper, Duke lost six players who played significant minutes and return a single starter.  In a season where everybody anointed Duke the pre season pick as the national champion - everything went wrong at times.

Duke was not only hurt by injuries, but not having a true point guard came into play was well.  Jackson was never able to fill the role as some expected and Grayson Allen played out of position and weighed down my the mental aspects of the position.

There is also the elephant in the room in Grayson Allen and his conduct.  In short, the young man lost his composure and was the villan of college basketball.  It got a bit ridiculous at times when ESPN had some announcers cross the line.  But they were not the only ones.

As great as the ACC Tournament title  run was for Duke, it became overshadowed by the NCAA loss to South Carolina.  In a season where everything went wrong for Duke, HB-2 would send the higher seeded Blue Devils to play South Carolina in their backyard.  It was the final blow for the team which did their best to run from the black cloud of bad luck that enveloped the team with lofty expectations all season long.

2017-18 Season Prospectus

Developing a New Roster

It didn't take Duke and Mike Krzyzewski long to reload.  Recruiting started slowly as Alex O'Connell was the first player to commit to the Blue Devils.  But in time the flood gate would open and the talent would come once again.

Duke signed the top recruiting class in the nation.  Now they hope to blend those young men together with three other returning  players expected to play key roles in Grayson Allen Marques Bolden  and Javin DeLaurier.

Duke also returns Antonio Vrankovic, Jack White, Justin Robinson and Brennan Bresser.

Projected Starters

Grayson Allen is an All American candidate.

Grayson Allen (Sr. 6-5, 205 lbs SG, Jacksonville, FL) - Few will ever forget how Grayson Allen burst onto the scene in the 2015 National Championship game.  When Duke needed a mid game lift to defeat Wisconsin, Allen came to the rescue which helped his Duke team win the schools fifth national title.

A season ago, Allen tried to shoulder a lot of the weight for the team.  In a sense that backfired on him as he fell victim to the stress of trying to play out of position and run the point.  That combined with some ill-fated decisions made him a college basketball bad boy.

When a player plays with his tenacity, emotions can play a role.  He was the pre season pick as the National Player of the Year, yet injuries set him back.  He was viciously attacked by media and opposing fans alike in a way that has never been seen.

While some of the criticism was warranted, it would end up going too far.  But that was a season ago.  According to those close to the program, Allen is now rejuvenated.  He will play a role on this team similar to that of Quinn Cook who helped a bunch of freshman win the Blue Devils last title.

According to those close to the situation, Allen had an ankle injury which hampered him all of last season.  He could not do the things we have become accustomed to seeing him do.  His lift was gone and that is a big part of his aggressive nature as a player.

Allen certainly helped the media crown him the bad boy of hoops, but those who have known him over the years saw how that took a toll.  The truth of the matter is that as far back as high school, Allen loved playing the game with anyone.  He was more than accepted when competing in dunk contests and his Duke teammates coming into this season seem in great spirits with him being their leader.

In a sense, it is good that Allen returned to Duke.  This team needs a player who has been in the trenches and one who owns a national championship ring.  Allen has been seen making loose videos with his teammates in the off-season and he is enjoying himself again.

Duke will use Allen as their shooting guard this season.  He will team with newcomer point guard Trevon Duval to make up the teams starting backcourt.  The key for Allen will be to allow others around him to be good as well and support their growth.

We should see a return to his natural game this season.  He will slash down the lane for dunks, knock down the three and hustle after balls the coaches might not want him to.  That is Allen's game.  But the key for him to have a great year is to remain healthy and grounded,  He is still one of the best college basketball players in the country and a very good guy off the court.

Bolden started the season as a starter a year ago before an injury.

Marques Bolden (So. 6-11, 250 lbs. C, Houston, TX) - Many may not remember that Marques Bolden was tearing it up in the pre season a year ago.  A sudden foot injury would set the former DeSoto player back where he never regained his original stride.

Bolden would go through another experience this summer where he was an early cut on Team USA.  Sources say that worked as motivation for the big man and that he came back to Duke and decided to make it his mission to improve.

Before returning to Duke to train for what would be a canceled trip in the Dominican Republic, Bolden returned home to work out.  There is reshaped his body,  That led one Duke assistant coach to say, he was perhaps the teams best player in the few practices they got in.

I will go ahead and tell you that Duke will go big often this season.  That comes from people in the know.  And Bolden will be a big part of the plan.  He will be asked to anchor the middle to allow his teammates to float in and out in the front court.

When Bolden is motivated, he is a force to be reckoned with.  His mental and physical  motor is the key for him having a great season for the Blue Devils.  Look for Bolden to play faster and with more certainty.

Marvin Bagley is the nations top recruit even after moving up a class.

Marvin Bagley III, (Fr, 6-11. 230 lbs, F. Phoenix, AZ) - One of the last players to come aboard for Duke this season was Marvin Bagley III.  He reclassified and shocked many by picking Duke shortly thereafter.  But the plan for Bagley was shared by the staff and in the end, he realized, Duke was the best fit.

Bagley has impressed everyone in practice per sources.  He is fitting right in at Duke and enjoying himself and his teammates,  This young man is a phenomenal talent who is versatile and driven.  He is the kind of young man who never curses and has a focus on the court which cannot be taught.

Duke will allow Bagley to do his thing.  What that means is he will be allowed to float out for the three-point shot and go inside where he can be dominant.  He is a good rim protector and shot blocker who makes put back buckets seem easy.

Powerful is a word used to describe him and it fits.  He can dominate a game but still must adjust to the stronger players he will face.  In high school teams could double team him and play junk defenses.  If they do that in college, other Duke players will eat defenses alive.

Bagley is a good team player that will be challenged in multiple ways by the staff.  He is expected to be one of the top three players drafted in the next NBA Draft.  He will enjoy a long basketball career and could be one of the best to ever play in the royal blue and white.

Wendell Carter will now be playing in front of the Cameron Crazies. His length and game will make them cheer.

Wendell Carter Jr. (PF, 6-10, 260, Atlanta, GA) - It is likely frightening to opposing coaches when thinking how they will deal with Wendell Carter Jr.  He is long, strong and determined on the basketball court.  I list him as a power forward but he has worked on expanding his game to the outside as well and can also man the center spot.

Carter trimmed down in the off-season which will make for a quicker player -- not that he was slow to begin with.  He will be part of what will make up a beastly front line at Duke and should flourish in that no one player can be left alone in the starting line up.

According to the staff, Carter always wants to get better.  He asks questions and is attentive.  The young man was one of the more dominant players on the Nike EYBL circuit and he always liked the Blue Devils.

Carter already has connection with other Duke freshman and that bond should enable him to be a solid contributor from day one.  When playing alongside Bagley, the two will at times seem like bookends.  Carter is a hustler whose long arms should disrupt the passing lanes.

Gary Trent Jr. is a strong PG that will be the leader of this years talented freshman class.

Trevon Duval (Fr, 6-3, 185 lbs, PG, New Castle, DE) - The scary thing about Trvon Duval is that despite his immense talent, he is still developing.  Duval is known for taking the ball down the lane and flushing it in a way that point guards usually cannot do.

Duval is a physically mature player for a freshman who relies on his strength to create difficult match ups on both ends of the court.  He gives Duke a true point guard this season and he will have crazy talented teammates to dish the ball to.

The Blue Devils front court will allow for Duval to get out in the passing lanes where he will take advantage of his 6-9 wing span.  He has the potential to be a dynamic defensive player with work.

Duval is still working on a more consistent outside shot, but he makes up for that by finding holes in defenses.  He is a player who finishes well in contact and will likely get to the free throw stripe a lot via that skill.

In short, Duval has the keys to run a talented bunch.

Gary Trent is a hard working scoring guard.

Gary Trent Jr.  (Fr. 6-6, 205, SG, Columbus, OH) - You may have noticed that I have listed six players under the starters.  Well, Duke will use two main line ups this season due to match ups.  One will go big and one a tad smaller with Trent.

When you look for a hard-working young man with an ability to score points quickly, you might think of Gary Trent Jr.  The staff knows Trent can provide instant offense, so a sixth man role would fit.  However, he may be too good to keep out of the line up.

I have seen firsthand how hard Trent works when not playing while covering him on the Nike EYBL circuit.  He is a driven young man who played alongside future Blue Devil Tre Jones.  He is the perfect shooting guard type who can score in many ways.

The key for Trent will be to become a better defender.  If he does that, he completes his game.  He is already physically ready to play at the college level.  He remains cool and focussed on the court.

The First Man off the Bench

Javin DeLaurier (So, 6-10, 230 lbs, F Shipman., VA) - The Duke staff feels DeLaurier can guard multiple positions and potentially be the teams best defender.  That is saying a lot, but many feel the second year player will make a big jump this season.

When you have a top end motor are long and athletic, the staff will work you into the rotation.  I feel he will be the seventh man on this seasons team after hard off-season work and a great attitude.

Look for him to guard wing players this season despite his height.  He needs to improve his shooting, but should see action.

Who will Rise?

At some point, Duke will need more bodies to play.  Early season games will give players a chance to define and prove their game.

Antonio Vrankovic (Jr, 7-0,  270 lbs. C  Del Ray Beach, FL) - Vrankovic will help teach this team the Duke way.  How nice is it to have a player who has had on court success at Duke on the bench?  The big mans patience will lead to a role on this team this season and next.  He has played well under the tutelage of Nat James and Jeff Capel and is capable of filling a role.

Jack White (So, 6-7, 225 lbs, F  Taralgon, AS)- With a solid and improved physical presence from off-season work, White is a wing who could benefit from Duke needing a player at his position to play some minutes.

Jordan Tucker (Fr 6-6, 210 lbs, SF White Plains, NY) - Tucker can shoot, but will need to work on defense and knowing the system.  Like White, he will compete for playing time at the wing where Duke is less deep than in the past.

Alex O'Connell (Fr, 6-6, 168 lbs, SF, Roswell, GA) - His Dad played for Duke under Bucky Waters. The staff feels he can be a solid player for Duke but must put on more weight which could mean his time will come in the future.

Justin Robinson (So, 6-9, 195 lbs, San Antonio, TX) - The son of David Robinson was awarded a scholarship this past summer.  He will once again provide practice depth.

Jordan Goldwire (Fr, 6-2, 168 lbs, PG, Norcross, GA) Duke likes this young mans character and he will fill a key practice role in his first season at Duke.  He has played with talented players in high school

Mike Buckmire (Fr, 6-2, 170, PG, Blue Bell, PA) - The last addition to the Duke roster also bolsters team practices where the team was depth shy at the guard spot.  He put up some good high school numbers.

Brennan Bresser (Jr. 6-5, 190 lbs SG, Chicago, IL) - The Crazies love their hard-working walk on's and will chant for Bresser to see some late game action this season.

The Staff

Mike Krzyzewski returns to lead Duke in hopes of a sixth national title.

Mike Krzyzewski - After graduating from Army in 1969, Krzyzewski would later coach the Cadets.  Duke Basketball was searching for a new coach after Bill Foster left for South Carolina.  Krzyzewski came highly recommended by his mentor and then Indiana coach, Bobby Knight.   The story goes that then athletic director Tom Butters sent former Vic Bubas era player, Steve Vacendak, to the airport to stop the man who would in time be known as Coach K from leaving.  The job was his and the rest is history.

Duke has been blessed to have Krzyzewski in Durham and he is a living legend still doing what he loves to do best.  The Chicago native has now won 1071 college basketball games and garnered every honor that can be bestowed on a coach.  He has five national championships.  His wins are the most in college basketball history.

Krzyzewski has led Team USA to six gold medals as the men's basketball coach.  He took over the program when it had floundered and righted the ship.

Krzyzewski has also won the most regular season ACC championships in conference history  as well as the most tournament wins.  He has the most wins in NCAA Tournament history which currently stands at 91.  His 23 NBA Draft lottery picks are the most in history as well and the list goes on.

The long time Duke coach will enter his 43rd season as a head basketball coach.  He will hit another milestone early in the season when he wins his 1000th game at Duke University.  He currently sits at 998 wins.  The record will almost certainly be broken against Utah Valley State on November 11th.

Capel is not your normal assistant coach.

Jeff Capel -  Capel is not your typical second man in charge.  He has been a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma.  He is 175-110 as a head coach.  In the past few seasons, Capel has also had success when Mike Krzyzewski was out due to health reasons.

Capel has been instrumental in both player development and recruiting.  He has helped Duke land some of the nation's top prospects while developing the likes of Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum,

A graduate of the Class of 1997, Capel has seen the inner workings of Duke Basketball from both a player and coach standpoint.  In fact, all of the Duke assistants have this going for them.  Many think that Capel will one day be handed the reigns to the program in Durham.

Perhaps no assistant in the country has the respect Capel does as Krzzyewski's right hand man.

James coming off the court after a semi final win at the Final Four in Indy.

Nate James - As the eldest assistant, Nate James has been coaching at Duke for 11 seasons. James has played a role in national championships as a player and coach.

He once went to Mike Krzysewski's house after the 1999-2000 season with Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier to reassure head man that they would be just fine.  The reason is that Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette had all turned pro.

James would later become a veteran leader on the 2001 National Championship team.  James also won the three-point shooting contest in the McDonald's All American game.

Scheyer leads Duke
Blue Devil Nation has covered Jon Scheyer since his playing days at Duke.

Jon Scheyer -  An unfortunate eye injury cut short Jon Scheyer's career as a player, but not in basketball.  Scheyer seems to be a natural at coaching.

He brings to Duke the knowledge of a player who won a national title recently or in 2010.  His youth and maturity helps him to communicate with players.

Scheyer was also a decorated player who took on the challenge of running the point guard spot.  Duke would go on to win the title game over Butler.

"Get out of the way, I'm rollin!" Rick Crank for BDN in the 2010 ACC Championship Game.

Nolan Smith -  Well, Nolan just has that personality which makes one smile.  Always positive, Smith, like Scheyer, saw his career cut short due to injuries.

Smith has been yet another key addition to the Duke program in the role of special assistant.  That title means he is an assistant coach in waiting.

The D.C. native played a key role on the 2010 National Championship team and enjoyed a solid career at Duke.

Overview - Mike Krzyzewski has put together many great Duke staffs over the years.  But the current one is likely the best.  The Blue Devils feature a tangible strength in that this bunch has been together for a good while.  That shows in their chemistry where they work on the court or the recruiting trail with a defined plan.

What to Expect

  • Duke will not hesitate to go big this season.  I jokingly asked one assistant where would the rebounds come from?  He laughed for the Blue Devils have perhaps their best front court talent in the teams illustrious history.  Duke should be close to the top of rebounding stats in the nation.
  • Expect the Blue Devils to use two main starting line ups and most know that the sixth man at Duke is like a starter.  I see a seven man rotation at crunch time but the staff will seek to develop other players in case of injuries.
  • Look for Duke to experiment a lot early in the season before settling in on a true strategy.  The team may have actually benefitted from not taking the trip to the Dominican Republic in that they were still able to work on campus and get closer.
  • Duke may allow for Allen, Duval and Trent to be active with pressing and passing lanes,  The reason is they have rim protectors like never before.
  • There will be times when Duke bruises the rims.  They have players capable of throwing down terrific dunks and should feed off each other in that they will dare teams to double team starters,
  • A more known or expected rotation should allow for quick team chemistry, but chemistry will as always be the key to success.
  • This team will get to the free throw stripe a lot and will need to work on this in practice.  With so many bigs, they are likely to see a lot of fouls.
  • Duke may not be as strong as they have in the past beyond the three-point stripe.  Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. will be depended on the most and they will allow Bagley freedom from there as well.  It will be imperative for Duval to make teams come out on him to loosen up the many zone defenses they will face.
  • Having their staff together for a long time should help.  Mike Krzyzewski is expected to be healthy and ready as practice begins today.  I feel they have a chip on their shoulder and want to see an injury free season and nothing less than a national title.
  • Duke will almost certainly be picked to win the ACC, but the conference will be tough as always.  As we all know, there is news which could change the landscape rocking the sport right now.

Final Analysis

This is a super talented bunch of  young men.  But they are indeed young men,  Thankfully, they are better prepared than ever coming into college to play big roles.

Duke recruited some of the best players at their position and Krzyzewski always comes back strong when his teams have gone out earlier than expected the season before.

There are many good teams in the land which can beat Duke on a given day.  They are not so good as to go through the season without some adversity.

They are however, as good as anyone and better than most talent wise.  I think the staff will bring this team together quickly and establish roles early on.  This team should have fun playing the game while learning and have a veteran leader in Grayson Allen to turn to for his experience.

Go ahead and mark your calendars for Saturday, September 11th.  For that will be the day Mike Krzyzewski wins his 1000th game at Duke.  But he could care less about that and simply wants this team to live up to its potential.

If Duke stays healthy, they can do great things this season.  If that happens they should make it to San Antonio for the Final Four where they have a chance to win the schools sixth national title.

Let the season begin.

Who better to lead you into March than Coach K?

Is there anybody you would choose to lead your team onto the battlefield of March Madness other than Coach Mike Krzyzewski?  During today's press conference, Krzyzewski was relaxed and focused on the job at hand, stating, "I don't look at the brackets or look ahead.  Our focus is on Lehigh, they're a good team."

He then stated to any possible disbelievers that it was true and that he doesn't lie and while some from afar still might think, he has taken a look past Greensboro, I can assure you that he hasn't.  It does no good to worry about anything past Lehigh and scout Notre Dame and Xavier for there is simply too much you cannot control.

Krzyzewski holds the highest NCAA winning percentage with a 96-31 record which translates into a .756%, so if he chooses to focus on one game at a time, then so be it for it has worked for him in the past.   A further testament to his prowess is the fact Duke has been a #1 or #2 seed in the tournament 14 of the past 16 years and who can find any fault in that?

With 927 wins, the most of any coach ever to be at the helm in college basketball it can sometimes be overlooked by fans just how lucky they are.  Krzyzewski is a living legend and that is sometimes hard to realize amongst an increasingly spoiled fan base.

In 2010, he guided his team to the National Championship when nobody gave them a chance.  Duke was called to unathletic and a team without a true point guard but they managed to find ways of using their teams strengths and brough hime his 4th national championship.

And that is why I feel confident that Coach Krzyzewski will tweak this team a bit more, one which is certainly battle tested and good, but a team with a smaller margin for error than some of his past teams.

It's not easy adjusting to injuries in the middle of the season and I am of course referring to Ryan Kelly who missed the ACC Tournament and possibly the game this Friday.  While the Duke defense picked it up recently, the offense struggled and the man in charge recognized that and said that his team would get back to what they were doing earlier in the season.

Adjustments have been a huge part of the Duke program, one which takes every teams best shot.  Krzyzewski has been a master at taking his talent and molding them into a team and I am of the opinion that this years edition has been one of his best coaching jobs in Durham.

This years team doesn't have the upperclassmen leadership as some of the recent Duke teams. but who is betting against him pushing the right buttons to get the most out of what he's got?

The Blue Devils are in practice right now and  Coach Krzyzewski is planning his teams way.  You can bet that he will try to push each players buttons to get the most out of them, be they in a slump or just hitting a wall.

Counting the Blue Devils out in March is simply something that should never be done under the man known as Coach K for he has a knack at getting the most out of all his teams.  Duke needs three wins for a fourth straight 30 win season, but the 28th win is all Krzyewski has on his mind at this time.

While March Madness is tense as it can be where teams are one and done with a loss, Duke fans should feel good about having Krzyzewski on their side. History shows us that Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in the NCAA Tournament and that is something no other school in all the brackets can claim.

Joyous Random Bits – Rivers, Duke stuns North Carolina at the buzzer

What an amazing and joyous victory it was for Duke last evening over arch rival North Carolina.  It was an explosion of joy for the Blue Devils faithful as Austin Rivers became an instant legend and his exploits will be shown for a long time to come.  Here are my random thoughts and chatter this morning, so strap in and read ahead -

Sir Austin Rivers shot will be remembered for a long time to come

Players can live a lifetime and not have a storybook finish to a game, but Duke freshman Austin Rivers knocked down a three point shot as the buzzer sounded over the outstretched arms of Tyler Zeller to give Duke a 85-84 win over North Carolina.   The shot was a dagger to the heart of North Carolina and Zeller who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  One fan exclaimed, "Cry me a Rivers," as the freshman sensation stunned and silenced the North Carolina crowd as the ball dropped perfectly through the net as the red light and buzzer went off.  In the backdrop, the Duke players rushed onto the court after Rivers as their parents kissed, hugged and high fiving behind the Duke bench.  Duke played with heart tonight, but Rivers was the heart of that heart.  It's a given that he'll be named the ACC Rookie of the Week for the seventh time this season and his performance will now have the media thinking All ACC.  Rivers knocked down an amazing 6 of 10 three pointers for a career-high 29 points, the highest point total by a Blue Devil this season and the highest by a ACC freshman. Rivers scored 16 points of his points in the second half.  His shot is being shown on ESPN Sports Center every five minutes and was of course the Play of the Day.  Do you think a few folks will be talking about Rivers around the water cooler tomorrow or on Sports Center tomorrow?  You betcha!  It was a really big shot in so many ways and it made for a happy fan base.  "Obviously this is my favorite win I've ever had in my entire life," Rivers said.

The Comeback

The Blue Devils were down 13 points before outscoring North Carolina 15-4 including the last 11 points of the game.  Duke hung in the game as the Tar Heels controlled almost all of the half and good things happened.  With  2:33 left in the game Duke outscored North Carolina 13-2 hitting 5 of 7 field goals including 2 of 5 from beyond the three point stripe.  The Duke defense cause two late turnovers while protecting the ball during the stretch and amazingly, the Tar Heels were never allowed a single shot in that time.  It was one of the most amazing comebacks in the rivalries history.

Back in the saddle again

Just when it looked like Duke would be tied for fourth in the ACC standings by there next game against Maryland, a victory over their arch rival put them in a three way tie for first.  After losses to Miami and Florida State at home, winning the conference seemed like a pipe dream but it suddenly looks within reach again.  Duke also won their 20th game of the season against 4 losses and if they win Saturday in their new Nike uniforms, they'll surely move up in the rankings and ahead of North Carolina.

Ryan Kelly cool down the stretch

Ryan Kelly tallied 15 points, 10 of those coming in the second half. Kelly scored eight points in the final 7:05, showing great poise on a short-range jumper with 14 seconds that cut North Carolina’s lead to one point at 83-82.   Kelly had his three point shot tipped in for s deuce, missed another three and recovered for the aforementioned jumper in the corner.  He made just one of his three point shot, but that was a big one on a night when every play seemed big for the table as the game ended in a joyous celebration for Duke.

 Sweet Emotion

Emotion.  Without it you cannot win.  Rivers shot, all in one motion broke the hearts of the thousands of Tar Heel fans packed into the Dean Dome, leaving the North Carolina players and staff in disbelief while sending the Blue Devils into a frenzy of emotion.  This Duke team had lost two games at home and been sold short on having a chance in this game by everybody so it is no wonder that Coach Krzyzewski showed grand emotion as did his staff.  Krzzyzewski had another one of those leaps, like he did when Nolan Smith came off the court when Duke defeated North Carolina in the ACC Tournament a season ago which makes it two in a row now for Duke in the series.   As the buzzer sounded, Krzyzewski jumped into the air, one arm raised, Chris Collins doing the same beside him and Chris Spatola doing a high jump split as they watched their team rush the court after Rivers.  Kryzyzewski proceeds to go down the court knowing he'd just seen an amazing feat as Collins makes another jump with the number one finger held high. Then Collins skies again while the refs arms are still in the air for a made three.  By that time Wojo is into the mix.  Then Krzyzewski has one jump left in him and there goes Collins again like the Energizer Bunny as his boss looks over at his players celebrating as he then goes on to shake Coach Williams hand. Okay, you caught me.  I slowed the tape down on a shot of the bench after "the" shot.  But wasn't that fun? 

You want more don't you?

After Rivers knocks down the shot, he turns in that way I have seen many times on the AAU circuit, arms down, hands popped back as he runs back down to the other side of the court.  I can't imagine what was going through his mind.  Andre Dawkins was the first to get to him as Rivers jumped in his arms.  I can hear Nolan Smith say #pause right now after that statement but bare with me ... Then Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Ryan Kelly, Alex Murphy, Todd Zaforovski and Michel Gbinje followed by Miles Plumlee as the players knocked a smiling River to the floor.  Whew!  I got a little giddy there didn't I?

The Duke Campus erupted after Rivers shot led Duke to an amazing win.

More statistical tidbits

So Duke gets outscored in the paint by a 42-14 margin, but they dominate the outside scoring outscoring the Tar Heels 42 to 3 from beyond the stripe.  Duke wins the  points off turnovers by a 12-8 margin as well and win the battle of second chance points by a 17-12 margin.  Duke also held the North Carolina bench to a mere 6 points while getting 15 from their own.  And finally, Duke had it's larges lead of 8 points at the 15:06 mark in the 1st half while two ticks later art 15:08 in the 2nd half, UNC held their largest lead of 13 points.

Bob Harris gets some ESPN burn

I was so happy to see that ESPN was playing my pal, Duke play by play announcer Bob Harris calling the final seconds as Austin Rivers drove a stake in the his opponents heart.  It was another classic called by Harris who wants you to buy his book.  So do it already.

Did you know that ...

Duke has now won two of the last three meetings in the Dean Smith Center. When the first Duke-North Carolina meeting of the season occurs in Chapel Hill, Duke is 5-0 since Roy Williams took over as head coach at North Carolina. With the win, Duke improved to 15-0 when playing after a loss since February, 2009. North Carolina won the battle in the paint, scoring 42 points down low to Duke’s 12, but the Blue Devils won the perimeter matchup and scored 42 points on three-pointers to North Carolina’s three. Rivers hit a career-high six three-pointers for Duke while Seth Curry hit four.  Duke led for a total of 15:40 in the first half. Beginning at the 16:48 mark in the half, Duke did not relinquish its lead until the Tar Heels tied the game 39-39 with 1:19 remaining. The Tar Heels took a 43-40 lead into halftime, and Duke did not lead again until the end of the game after Rivers’ game-winning three-pointer.

ESPN Instant Classic and Play of the Day

You can cath this game again by looking at your local ESPN listings as it was given immediate Instant Classic status.  Austin Rivers shot is running pretty much everywhere you turn as well.  Watching the replay you would swear Duke doesn't have a chance in Hades according to the announcers but they were then stunned just like the  rest of us in one of the most amazing comeback wins in Duke history.  And of course, Hubert Davis, Stuart Scott and Jalen Rose shed a few tears behind the scenes as most talking heads ate a bit of crow sandwich.

 

 

A team victory for Duke

It was a sunny afternoon this past Wednesday on the Duke campus and at first glance it seemed business as usual, but parked in front of Cameron was a bus which would take the Duke Mens Basketball team to Blacksburg.  There would be no flight or luxuries past and even the traditional ice cream spread the evening before the game was gone, for this team was putting away all distractions, including the use of social media.

The Duke Blue Devils took a long bus ride to Blacksburg, Virginia after a tough couple of practices and a new found focus helped them to a 75-60 victory over Virginia Tech.  After allowing St. John's to make a comeback where a sizable lead was blown, the Blue Devils went into "Circle the Wagon," mode and whatever Krzyzewski did behind the scenes, prompted Duke to an easy team victory.

Once Duke adjusted to the way the game was being called, they took the crowd out of the game in the first half, working their way to a comfortable 10 point lead.   And from that point they never looked back on their way to an ACC win which would keep Duke in a three way tie for first place.

There were several signs in the air which went unnoticed by some in the media and fan base, that Duke was in a bit of a lock down mode.  Krzyzewski made no bones about that fact that he was not too pleased with the Blue Devils performances of late and that he more or less thought they'd become, pampered, fat and happy.  There was no media day this week where one could get player quotes and it would not surprise me if he didn't go as far as to lock his team out of their cozy facilities as he has done on rare occasion in seasons past.

Whatever was said or done, the Blue Devils seemed rejuvenated and in the process played with intensity from the opening tip until the end, committing a mere 7 turnovers and they constantly battled with intensity from opening tip until buzzers end.

Austin Rivers played perhaps his best overall game at Duke scoring 18 points to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal.  Rivers went an efficient 7 0f 11 from the floor, 4 of 6 being beyond the three point stripe to lead the Blue Devils in scoring.

It was an ACC Rookie of the Week performance by Rivers whose production level proved extremely efficient.  But this was a team win in every way where numerous players contributed where Duke got 34 points from it's bench.  Of course, the Blue Devils had shaken their lineup up, but it was still the workman like togetherness that helped Duke to the easy win.

One of the players who came off the bench was Ryan Kelly who was replaced by Josh Hairston in a lineup change.  Kelly responded with 15 points and 4 rebounds while Hairston finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

Seth Curry was another junior that came off the bench and he tallied 11 points including 6 of 6 from the free throw stripe.  In fact, the team knocked down 13 of 16 attempts and that was a key factor in the win making one think this was an area of emphasis of late.

Duke also outscored the Hokies by a 38-26 margin in the paint and Mason Plumlee had a lot to do with that adding 10 points, 6 rebounds and the only two blocks of the game for Duke.  His brother Miles, added 4 points and 5 boards in just 9 minutes of play.

And every other player for Duke added something as well.  For Andre Dawkins it was his big trey in the first half and his questionable technical foul seemed to fire up the Blue Devils even more.  Dawkins and Duke were so pumped up that Krzyzewski had to calm them during one timeout. 

Quinn Cook dished three dimes and added a couple of key buckets keeping the lead at a comfortable margin while the Hokies tried to stage several comeback efforts in nine minutes of burn.  And Tyler Thornton added his steadying influence which doesn't always translate to the box score.  Again, this was a team victory for the Blue Devils who sit a single win away from yet another 20 win season with the Mimi Hurricanes coming to town on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Blue Devils were never rattled in Blacksburg despite a very hostile and vocal home crowd and after taking a double digit lead as the 1st half ended, they never looked back.  I doubt Duke will be taking a bus on too many more trips other than next Wednesday's game in Chapel Hill with arch rival North Carolina, but maybe they've learned what it takes to compete at the level it will take the rest of the way this season and have gotten back to the kind of hard nosed Duke Basketball Coach Krzyzewski and the fans love to see.

Game Notes - (courtesy of Duke Sports Information)

Duke 75, Virginia Tech 60
Thursday 02/02/2012 - Duke Sports Information

Team Notes:
• Duke improved to 38-8 in the all-time series against Virginia Tech and has won 16 of the last 19 games. The Blue Devils are now 9-3 against the Hokies under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
• After falling 64-60 to the Hokies in Cassell Coliseum last season, the Blue Devils came away with a 15-point victory in Blacksburg. Duke has lost to just one team – Wake Forest in 2004 & 2005, and again in 2008 & 2009 – on the road in back-to-back seasons since the 2003-04 season began.
• With sophomore forward Josh Hairston making his first career start tonight, Coach K has used seven different starting lineup combinations in the last nine games. Mason Plumlee is the only player to have started every game during that span. Plumlee has started 43 consecutive games.
• In a game that featured the ACC’s top two three-point shooters, Duke’s Ryan Kelly topped Virginia Tech’s Jarell Eddie by finishing 2-of-4 from the three-point line and 15 total points. Eddie went 0-of-5 from three-point range and scored just six points. Entering the game, Eddie led the ACC in three-point shooting percentage (minimum 50 attempts) with a .493 (37-of-75) mark, while Kelly ranked second with a .472 (25-of-53) percentage.
• The Blue Devils held Eddie without a three-point field goal for only the sixth time this season. Eddie had connected on a trey in 12 of the Hokies’ last 13 games.
• Virginia Tech, which ranks 45th nationally in scoring defense, is the seventh opponent that Duke has faced this season that ranks among the NCAA’s top-50 in that category. The Blue Devils have are 6-1 and have outscored each of those opponents’ defensive scoring averages in those games.
• With the score tied at 21-21, Duke embarked on a 17-7 scoring run over the final 7:13 of the first half to stake a 38-28 lead. Kelly scored seven points for Duke during that run, hitting a layup and a dunk on consecutive possessions and then knocking down a three-pointer to increase the lead to 32-23. The Blue Devils maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
• Duke held Virginia Tech without a field goal over a 5:40 minute span from 8:15 to 2:35 in the first half.
• Duke continued its improved free throw shooting, finishing 13-of-16 from the line. The Blue Devils have shot 75.0 percent or better from the free throw line in six of their last eight games.
• Duke forced Virginia Tech into committing 13 turnovers while holding the Hokies to five assists. Duke amassed 12 assists and made only seven turnovers.
• With 33 rebounds to Virginia Tech’s 29, the Blue Devils outrebounded their fifth straight opponent. Duke holds a +3.3 rebounding margin per game.
• Duke improved to 9-2 when playing outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.

Player Notes:

Seth Curry
• In a return to Blacksburg, where his father Dell starred for the Hokies from 1982-86 and went on to play 16 years in the NBA, Curry scored 11 points on two field goals and a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line.
• Extended his consecutive made free throw streak to 14. Curry ranks second in the ACC with a .887 free throw shooting percentage. That would rank sixth on Duke’s single-season leaderboard if he can reach the 100 made free throws threshold.
• Defensively, helped to hold Virginia Tech guard Jarell Eddie to just six points and an 0-of-5 performance from the three-point line.

Andre Dawkins
• Hit his only three-point attempt of the game. Dawkins leads Duke with 50 three-pointers on the year.

Josh Hairston
• Made his first career start and played 15 minutes.
• Scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting. Threw down his second dunk of the season on a second-half alley-oop from Austin Rivers.
• Also contributed three rebounds, including two on the offensive end. On the season, Hairston has more offensive boards (20) than defensive (13).

Ryan Kelly
• Scored in double figures for the 15th time this season and the fifth straight game. Kelly is averaging 15.0 points per game during that streak.
• Improved his team-leading three-point percentage to .474 by shooting 2-of-4 from three-point range. Kelly leads the ACC in three-point percentage (minimum 50 attempts), surpassing Virginia Tech guard Jarell Eddie whose shooting percentage fell to .463 (37-80) with an 0-for-5 performance tonight.

Mason Plumlee
• Made his 43rd consecutive start. Duke is 36-7 during that 43-game streak.
• Recorded two blocks, increasing his career total to 126. Plumlee ranks ninth on Duke’s all-time blocks list, trailing Josh McRoberts (2005-07) by two blocks for eighth place.
• Scored in double figures for the 15th time this season and the third straight game. Plumlee has scored at least 10 points in four of Duke’s six ACC games.

Austin Rivers
• Scored in double figures for the team-leading 18th time this season and led Duke in scoring for the team-leading ninth time.
• Knocked down a career-high four three-pointers, finishing 4-of-6 from three-point range. Rivers hit three of his treys in a row.
• Dished out a team-leading five assists while committing just two turnovers. Rivers has 13 assists over his last three games, averaging 4.3 helpers during that span.
• Had his most efficient shooting performance of the season, finishing 7-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-6 from the three-point line. The .636 shooting percentage from the floor was the highest mark of his career.
• Matched a career high with five rebounds. Rivers has grabbed at least three rebounds in five consecutive games.

Coach K has touched the lives of many

The college basketball world stopped for a moment last evening as Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski broke the all time NCAA mark for wins.  It was the perfect stage for such a feat in the famed Madison Square Garden where he was surrounded by 30 former players.  But his meeting with his long time mentor and friend, Bobby Knight capped it all off in grand fashion and in that moment Krzyzewski finally realized that he was living in a most "special" moment.

Krzyzewski is at the top of the mountain this morning and depending on your rooting interest you feel either nirvana, respect or disgust.  As I walked into the local convenience store this morning, wearing a Duke t-shirt before heading to the gym, the color itself evoked comments. "He did it last night didn't he.  I know you're happy," said one lady.  Before I could answer, her 20 something year old son chimed in with "He aint done nothing!  Carolina is number one this year and nobody is going to beat them."

You see, if you are a college hoops fan there is no avoiding the incredible accomplishment of 903 wins and counting.  Even the Kansas and Kentucky fans bore witness to history and their comments were as varied as one could imagine.  In a sense, it is a bit surreal to realize that the team I cover and their coach has been so outrageously successful.  If I started to spout off numbers, you would be reading for a good long time, so if you want a complete breakdown of that visit GoDuke.com.

What I want to speak  of is how Krzyzewski has touched so many lives.  First there are his many former players, a star studded bunch who are a part of the Duke Family.  And man, how that family has grown since he stepped onto the Duke Campus in 1981.  You see, once you play for Krzyzewski, you are part of his famly for life and his door remains open to pretty much each and every one.  The stories alone with his former players are endless.

But Krzyzewski has touched the lives of many Duke fans as well and that fan base has grown significantly since he began his record tear.  On our twitter and Facebook sites, it is clear to see the adoration.  I mean, you can just feel the passion as one tries to explain what he has ment to them and their lives.

One BDN Premium member stated, "He's given me something to be a part of that's so special. I didn't go to Duke - I CHOSE to be a Duke fan, in great part because of that man and what he stands for. I really can't imagine my life without Duke Basketball being the most important "other thing", excluding only family, spiritual beliefs.

"Duke has helped me through rough times - just who they are which is a reflection of him. In 1996 I broke my neck in a bad car wreck. A few years later, I was going to attend some therapy down in Miami at a big center for spinal cord injury. My parents rented a car and we were going to drive down from NY. Knowing what Duke Basketball and Coach K means to me, my parents decided the first stop on the way would be Duke. I just wanted to see CIS . When we left NY to drive down we left one of my wheels to my wheelchair on the driveway by mistake. We drove all the way down to North Carolina, parked right in front of CIS, went to get me out of the car and found out we had a missing wheel. UGH!!!! So, one of these I will finally get get down there again and see CIS. But, Coach's philosophy, toughness, passion, old school grit, have taught me a lot" said another member.

A 1972 Duke graduate added, "I have really enjoyed the last 30 years. I have lived in Kansas practicing cancer med since 84 and his accomplishments helped me put my own life in perspective, someone said that when we die we can't take anything with us but judge our lives by did we make a difference and Coach K has made a difference."

Another one of our members said,  "Coach K brings distinction and grace to a program which has brought an infinite amount of pleasure and pride to so many of us.  I've been a fan for longer than most of you have been alive (Class of '54, fan since '39), and being so has brought joy and satisfaction to me consistently through the years."

A coach who is a BDN Premium member said,  "He taught me how to run a program the right way and get kids to trust me and get the most out of them. Most of all through watching and following the program for over 15 years I have learned how to be a professional."

And others spoke of how he helped them selflessly, "I have tried to watch a lot of the things he does and how he carries himself and tried to carry that over to my coaching.  There is no one better to emulate.  Back in 2003 when I was in college I very tragically and suddenly lost my older brother and was devastated.  The county administrator in the county where I live was actually in Coach K's graduating class at West Point and they know each other well.  He knew I was a big Duke fan, and he sent message to Coach K and Coach sent me a personal letter along with a signed bio photo and a team photo signed by all players.  His team was leaving the next day to play at Michigan State in a battle of two top ten teams in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, yet he still took the time to do that for someone he does not know."

There are many more stories on our Facebook page or in message board posts from members of the site and it is so clear to see that he has meant so much to so many.  I have yet to take time to really fully reflect on the accomplishment of 903 victories and kounting, but is is obvious that my respect for Coach Krzyzewski and the program is why this site, Blue Devil Nation exists.  One of the main purposes of this site was to cast a reflection on the program for there is so much to see and tell and we take pleasure in being the eyes for the fan nation.

Coach has meant a lot to me as well.  My life has centered around his and in that sense there is a 32 year connection.  His coaching philosophies helped me lead a team I coached to an undefeated season where my team emulated his system.  I cannot help but wonder had he retired early on or left for the NBA where my life would be and it is hard to imagine it at all.

Throughout the years, the shadow of Coach Krzyzewski has been with me through family deaths, good and bad times and well, just name any instance of possibilities in life and you get it.  Duke Basketball has proven to be one of the most stable things in my entire life and knowing it is always there has been akin to eternal sunshine.  The joy his teams have brought to me are so numerous that I realize how blessed I am to be connected and covering a juggernaut of a program.

But it is life's lessons where Coach Krzzyewski has had the biggest effect on my life and I am still learning from him to this day.  Don't get me wrong here, we don't share tea time nor talk like he does with his former players.  But he has still been a bit of an older brother, mentor like figure for me even at arms length.  And his lightest touch has meant a lot to me.  I hesitate to share some of the moments for they are personal and some would make me sound like a braggart but my brief dealings with him have certainly made a life long impression

Coach Krzyzewski said the Basketball God's have been good to him but in reality they've been good to every person who is in some way connected to the program be they fans, players or family.  I have been allowed to tag along for one helluva ride as a fan and the great thing is that the ride is still going full steam ahead.  But this accomplishment allowed many of us to reflect a bit even if we are overwhelmed to the point we stumble about trying to describe our feelings.

I think I speak for the entire Blue Devil Nation in saying congratulations and thanks to Coach Mike Krzyzewski.  You mean a lot to us coach and there is much love for you bringing so much joy into our lives.  In ending, being a former military guy myself, I want to stand at attention and pop a sincere salute coaches way and say, thank you for giving my life more meaning than it could have ever had without you at Duke.

 

 

 

Watzone’s Monday Musings – Coach Krzyzewski, Duke Hoops, Cheerleader of the Week

BDN's Cheerleader of the Week

It's another Monday morning and that means a new edition of Watzone's Monday Musings.  I'm a little upset that I will not make it to New York tomorrow night in that I have been there for most of Coach Mike Krzzyzewski's milestone wins and this is the biggest one of all!  We will have Andrew Slater there, so rest easy knowing BDN is always represented.  I mean, is there anything else more news worthy than Coach becoming the NCAA's All Time Wins Leader?  Still, we'll try to talk a little about other happenings, so here we go -

K - R - Z -Y -Z - E -W - S - K - I

Coach K has become a brand name and for good reason.  The man is an ambassador for all of basketball, Team USA's lead man and so much more.  But his name is Mike Krzyzewski and he deserves the respect of people spelling out his name instead of taking the easy way out with Coach, the 11th letter of the alphabet.  To this day I watch as media members still fumble with his name.  After 902 wins, you would think they would have it down pat, huh?  If you are around mid day or just after 12:30 or so, follow me on out twitter page for I will be tweeting his press conference comments as they happen.

The Michigan State game

The stage is set in New York City in the famed Madison Square Garden for Duke to win one for their coach and the world to acknowledge his incredible accomplishments.  But this game will be a test of a young teams mettle.  The Blue Devils hung on for a win over a tough Belmont team but showed when the game gets tight, to some extent, so do they.  This is something that happens to a young team that has not established a go-to guy yet and they could face a similar situation in New York.  It will be interesting to see if the immense pressure of winning this game for their coach will make them push too hard or be so emotional that they are spent early on.  Oh!  That's right!  Duke has Coach Krzyzewski, so all will likely work out.

Mason Plumlee

Mase is having a good start to the season averaging 15.5 ppg, 11.0 rebounds per game and an even more impressive 4.0 assists per contest.  Duke will need for Plum 2 to remain consistent for success this season and Mason seems ready for the challenge.  The physically gifted junior is coming into his own and he can do things athletically few can down low.  It seems like yesterday when I was hanging with Mason at the North Carolina State High School Basketball Championships.  As they say, time flies!

Brother Miles

Masons older brother, Miles, had a really nice outing against Presbyterian where he pout up a double-double of 13 points and 11 boards.  But he struggled in the opener and Duke needs the senior captain to bring his "A" game every night.  Like Mason, Miles can do some incredible things with his uncanny athleticism and once he realizes few can stop him when he wants to take it home, he can become a beast in the paint.

Curry seeks consistency

Seth Curry was one of the more hyped players coming into the season and made All ACC First Team.  Curry scored 10 points in each of the first two games and while that is consistent, Duke needs him to take it up a notch.  No reason to think this won't happen and there would be no better time for it than in New York tomorrow evening.

Tyler Thornton has been a steadying influence

Thornton brings a calm to the floor when he is out there in that he plays with maturity.  Thornton had a great opener where is production was more than many felt they might see.  While his numbers fell in the last win, he is getting 20 minutes of burn a game.  Thornton will play a key role on this team and will be depended on as the young freshman develop.

Freshman development

This is an on going process but Austin Rivers is the only one of the bunch playing a major role thus far in the 2011-12 season.  Rivers is just scratching the surface and trust me when I say this kid has shown you nothing yet despite playing well and scoring at a 15.5 ppg clip without taking a ton of shots.  Alex Murphy has been saddled in a precautionary manner after suffering a fall, so it is hard to see what he might bring to the table.  Quinn Cook has showed flashes of brilliance but is getting use to the pace of the college game and how sneaky defenders can be.  Michael Gbinije has played a few minutes but has yet to really find his way as well.  The bottom line is the freshman are just that but Duke needs them to adjust their games quickly for at least one of them besides Rivers will need to be counted on in a key reserve role.

Football team banged up

The Duke Football team fell to 3-7 on the season with a 31-21 loss at Virginia and several players were banged up.  Duke is now playing for the future and will attempt to set the tone for next season when almost everybody returns.  An upset win over Georgia Tech in their last home game this week or the following week at North Carolina but injuries might make this a tall task.  Duke never really got a break through victory this season, so fans can hope one will come.

Support the seniors and show up for the last home game

While Duke has struggled to find wins this season, the senior class, as small as it is, has given fans some ACC wins and a few years ago, the Blue Devils had nada.  We'll talk more about them later in the week but I do want to mention Matt Daniels, a vicious hitter who has been a main stay on the defense.  If Duke ca find players with his resolve and spirit all will be fine and coaches are hoping that other players step up late as he passes the torch.  Daniels has been rock solid for Duke and you should single him out and watch him pop in the last two games.

Until next week, Go Duke and congrats to Coach Mike Krzyzewski for he will soon be the King of the Hill and kounting.