When the dust cleared on last evening's Duke win over Notre Dame in the ACC opener the team checked off a lot of positive boxes. Let's take a look at that.
- Duke Responded. After facing some adversity where they were clearly outmatched in early season losses to Michigan State and Notre Dame the Blue Devils reached deep in practices to improve. Duke came out of the gate against an Irish team coming off a win at Kentucky with immense focus and laid the groundwork for what can come. Duke responded to Jalen Johnson being sidelined by injury and questions on when they might start to come together as a more cohesive unit.
- Steady Matthew. The one player who has shown up in every game and becomes a team leader and a go-to guy is Matthew Hurt. His consistency to date has been solid and the team started to grow around him in their first ACC win of the season.
- Maturation. Stop me if you have heard this before. Duke is young. But really, they are. Duke played older last evening and got contributions from pretty much the whole team. You could see the beginning sides of a group coming together. Sure, there is a long way to go, but becoming a solid team has to start somewhere. We may look back at this game as a catalyst despite many traps and lessons to go.
- Jeremy Roach. Roach looked comfortable as he develops his role and gets back to the player he was before an injury sidetracked him during his high school senior season. Roach is his best when he attacks the lane and when he learns his teammates, the assists will increase.
- DJ Steward. DJ made the fanbase smile almost as wide as he does in post-game interviews. The very likable Steward has a nice game and it will only get better. He is battling despite his body not catching up to his talent at this stage in his career. The future is bright here.
- Jaemyn Brakefield. Let me remind you Brakefield came out of high school a year early. Thank goodness for Duke. Brakefield has been steady with timely three-point makes and being very efficient when on the court.
- Staff Adjustments. Duke did an excellent job in recent practices in getting the team focussed and playing with purpose and poise. Duke came out of the gate strong in last evening's win and that propelled them to the victory. This was a hurdle game for the team and they checked the box in getting past the challenge.