The Duke Shadow Helps UNC -- Duke will play North Carolina for the third time since February 20th in the ACC Tournament semifinals just after 9:20 this evening. In each of the previous games, the Blue Devils have been the media darling. In fact, more people have been talking about when Zion Williamson will play than the two North Carolina wins and that kind of thing gets to you. This is especially true for a North Carolina team that is red-hot. No matter what they do, people have talked about Duke and that same thing will allow for a collective chip on their team's shoulder tonight. Trust me, the Tar Heels want their shot at Zion too if for no other reason than to remove that asterisk people have mentioned. Most teams would not trade places with Duke and the hype surrounding them, but it can at times work against you and I would make a case for that happening in this series to date.
I cannot help but notice or recall that -- Zion Williamson went out shortly into the McDonald's All American game when Tar Heel to be, Nassir Little aggressively jumped out to defend him resulting in Williamson going down which led to Williamson injury. That was uncharacteristic, if not over the top effort defensively for an all-star game atmosphere, In the game at Cameron, Luke Maye jumped out to defend him causing Williamson to start to make a move and we all know what happened with his shoe a second into the aforementioned move. The point is that the Tar Heels will make Williamson prove himself and could use the strategy of fouling him to limit his game. Williamson struggled from the free throw stripe last evening while dominating every other aspect of the game.
Duke does miss Bolden --Marquese Bolden clogged up the paint for Duke and with him being out, Duke is smaller even with Williamson back. The Tar Heel love to go inside and their backdoor cuts are relentless, so Duke will have to get a big game from Javin DeLaurier and Jack White on the boards.
Limit mistakes - Teams can find themselves down in a hurry to North Carolina just as they might Virginia. You have to value the ball against the Tar Heels in that they are so efficient on the offensive end. No team is playing together better than North Carolina at this time. Duke turned the ball over in a way last night that would bury them against better teams. It is critical that they cut down on mistakes against one of the ACC's best teams.
Don't get caught standing around -- If Duke stands around and watches RJ Barrett and Zion Williams it may not be enough. The Blue Devils must develop other scoring options and to win the tournament each member of the team has to show up.
Will someone in please ask RJ Barrett a question? -- Okay, yes, Zion Williamson had the game everyone is talking about, even those who do not follow hoops closely. But Barrett seemed lonely on the podium last evening with one question coming his way. Barrett is incredibly consistent and is the only college basketball player in all the land that has scored at least 13 points in every game he's played.
Yes, it looks like this game is for a #1 seed. -- While Duke is no lower than a #2 seed no matter what happens, they have to win tonight to regain a #1 seed.
Tre Jones must keep shooting. -- I get that he struggles at times with his three-point shot, but he must stay aggressive and take those open looks. Good things will happen in time if Jones continues to score and may he get to the line more as well where he was perfect last night. The bottom line is that Jones took a three is a much better option than some others doing so on this team and the shot will fall if he stays with it.
What needs to happen. -- I will not mention any names here but some Duke players on the roster have not shown up against North Carolina and in this game, the whole roster needs to contribute.
What I see happening tonight. -- It will be a heck of a game and one where things could get chippy. Williamson will have to earn his points but Duke will benefit from his presence which will loosen up others to score the ball. I feel that Duke could actually lose this game and still win it all, but I think they will find a way to come out on the winning end against North Carolina.
Well, the Duke Basketball season is upon us and what a way to open things up. The Blue Devils will face off with the Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow evening in Indianapolis, IN in a matchup of college hoops heavyweights. So, what are my thoughts going into the game?
Win or lose, it will be a learning experience
Mike Krzyzewski has one of the youngest teams he's ever coached. While this group is immensely talented, they still start four new freshmen, This game will be a measuring stick for the program for Krzyzewski has in no way implemented his full hand yet with concern to how this team will look in March. This is by no means a must-win game for either team. It is instead, a game for college basketball fans around the world to celebrate the tip-off to another season. And, yes, the winner will stay atop the polls for sure, but the loser will not fall too far in the rankings.
What are the potential weaknesses for Duke this season?
If you watched the ESPN special eight-part series on Duke Basketball, you will see Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski addressing his team. One of the things thee things he mentioned was that players needed to be better three-point shooters via their approach. Duke does not have a lot of known three-point artists on this years team, so many of the players are getting accustomed to adding the shot to their resume, This, in turn, will reflect on two other areas of play in rebounding the ball and knocking down free throws. Duke is not as big up front and could go small, so that means all players will need to hit the boards and they could struggle against teams like Kentucky which have big, fully grown men in their frontcourt. As for free throw shooting, Duke should get to the line often, so struggling in any of the three aforementioned areas could haunt them at some point of the season,
What are the potential strengths
The defense will be improved where Krzyzewski has shown he will go man to man much more often. Duke is long and athletic and can get in passing lanes while pressuring the ball. This team will run. When the breaks are there, Duke will be off and running. Duke will also benefit from knowing their roles and or chemistry this season. asked veteran players in the locker room about this and they said this team is together on and off the court. I suppose we have to mention how ridiculously good the freshman class is as well. R.J. Barrett is an alpha dogs, alpha dog. Zion Williamson is a pleasure to watch skywalk, Cam Reddish knocking down threes is nice too. And all three can pass the ball as can true PG Tre Jones. Duke will benefit greatly from having a more traditional point this season in their positionless scheme.
How can Duke beat Kentucky
It will not be easy for Duke to beat Kentucky in that the Wildcats are a solid nine players deep and they have some grown men in their lineup. You just cannot concentrate on any one player for there is a danger at each position on the court. One thing which Duke needs to do is stay out of foul trouble early and the whole game for that matter. Duke loses a lot of talent when they go to their bench, but there are players capable of quality minutes there and they need to step up against the Cats. If those two things happen, Duke will be tight their in what should be a tense and close game before the final buzzer sounds.
Early season test will prepare Duke for the ACC and March
Duke has a very challenging early season schedule which includes tomorrow evenings opener against Kentucky. The Blue Devils will face stiff competition in Hawaii for the Maui Invitational where they can run into highly ranked Auburn and Gonzaga, not to mention Arizona. Even the opener against San Diego State is tough. Duke will take on one of the most underrated teams in the nation when they face Indiana in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge and mark my words, the Hoosiers will have move up the polls by then. These games along with a brutal ACC schedule and a late-season contest with St. Johns, where Mike Cragg now resides as the AD will have them a seasoned bunch before March Madness.
Who do I think will be good in the ACC this season?
The league is loaded. I voted for Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Syracuse in no particular order in the top four and have Virginia Tech, Florida State close behind. N.C. State will be better than some think, never sleep on Miami. Clemson will be solid and Notre Dame has an interesting roster. I went a little outside the box and voted Tyus Battle preseason ACC POY and R.J. Barrett as the top freshman. I also place both Barrett and Zion Williamson on the first team. It is a safe bet that Duke will have no less than three newcomers on the ACC All-Freshman team at seasons end.
What is Al Featherstons take?
Al thinks this years team can reach the Final Four but that a lot has to go right. He felt Marques Bolden contributing solid minutes is a major key to success as is bench development of the seventh man in crunch time. I watched all of the games in Canada with Al before he passed on this morning and he was excited to see what the team would look like with Cam Reddish and Tre Jones in the lineup. He scanned over the last exhibitions games box score fervently before saying, they're going to be pretty damn good. I will miss talking Duke history with Al and was honored he valued my opinion. I had hoped he'd make it through what may be a special season.
BDN Premium Special Still Available
We are still offering a special rate for new or former Blue Devil Nation premium subscribers of 60 bucks for one year. I will be talking recruiting happenings later this week while offering up behind the scenes tidbits.
Here are some highlights from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and players Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and R.J. Barret before the teams trip to Canada.
Quick hits -
The first Mike Krzyzewski coached Duke team to take an offseason foreign trip was the 1983 group to France. Freshman at that time could not make the journey per NCAA rules, but that has now changed.
Thank goodness for said changes, in that Duke will rely heavily on freshman this season and two of them in Tre Jones and Cam Reddish will be sidelined for their upcoming Canadian trip.
It was announced earlier today, that Cam Reddish is hobbled by a groin injury and that Tre Jones had yet to recover fully from an issue with his hip. While both players will be ready to go for the season and are participating in some drills, Krzyzewski will err on the side of caution and sit his prized freshman but did call the injuries minor.
Duke has completed seven of ten allowed practices to date. "So far, I couldn't be more pleased with the chemistry that has developed and these guys have been really fun to coach," said Krzyzewski.
Krzyzewski also said they have not been pushing conditioning as of yet, stating that his team was in decent shape but the staff did not want to push them too early. "For this trip, it is impossible to put in your entire system, so we are trying to keep it simple and see how our guys play."
As for the veterans, Krzyzewski said that Javin DeLaurier has played great and not just good. And that Marques Bolden was healthy and adjusting to a new position and how he will be used.
Other notes from his press conference were that Jack White has lost ten pounds and is shooting the ball better per Krzyzewski and Alex O'Connell has been playing well.
The Duke coach also said the team would run a different offense this season with five men out and more motion. And there was a strong hint that the team would get back to playing some man to man defense.
Before Kryzewsski came out for the media, R.J. Barrett took to the podium. He was asked if there were instances where he could run the point as a lead ball handler in which he said yes. Krzyzewski would later say that as well, "Having those two guys (Jones, Reddish) out will hurt our ball handling for the trip and there will be more emphasis with R.J. being out there. Alex O'Connell will help and Zion (Williamson) will be all over the place "
Krzyzewski also said this years group would be good defensively and that they would do a lot of things differently than a season ago on offense where he expects the players to have the freedom to create.
Duke will leave for the Toronto area on Sunday where they will play three games in six days.
August 15, 2018, 7 p.m. ET Game 1 vs. Ryerson University Hershey Centre
August 17, 2018, 6 p.m. ET Game 2 vs. University of Toronto Hershey Centre
August 19, 2018, 3 p.m. ET Game 3 vs. McGill University Place Bell
The Duke men's basketball staff has been busy of late on the recruiting trail. Today, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are visiting Vernon Carey Jr. in Florida. The 2019 Power Forward is s sure thing prospect. For more on who Duke has visited lately and some other interesting information on Carey, join Blue Devil Nation Premium during our two for one membership special.
Two future Blue Devils will also be on display today during the Jordan Brand Classic which tips off at 5:00 on ESPN. Tre Jones and Cam Reddish will suit up for the moe squad in today's contest. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were scheduled to play on the same squad but will sit out the event. Williamson has his thumb in a cast for three weeks after injuring it at the McDonald's All American game. Barrett has had an extraordinarily busy schedule and will sit out the event. All of the current Duke signees have been select to play in the Nike Hoop Summit which starts next week. Blue Devil Nation expects Williamson to sit out that event as well but it is likely Barrett will play.
Duke lost Gary Trent Jr. to the NBA yesterday. We dreamed of a rekindled backcourt of Tre Jones and Trent whom played together on the AAU circuit and in high school. But Trent is a hard worker who is mature beyond his years and ready for the challenge. Duke will miss his three-point accuracy and mental toughness. He joins Marvin Bagely III and Trevon Duval as Blue Devils who will enter the draft. We should hear news from Wendell Carter Jr. soon. Carter is a projected lottery pick. All of these players gave their hearts and soul to Duke which fell just short of the Final Four as Grayson Allen's shot rimmed out. As for Allen, he is currently speaking with agents as are others.
The off-season is a busy time for Duke Basketball. All Star games are winding down while recruiting is still going on. Duke will soon start their exit interviews with players after class completes for the semester. More on that and much else on the Blue Devil Nation message board.
In short, Duke Basketball never stops.