Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Monday Musings – Big Week For Duke Hoops

The Duke Blue Devils currently sit at 7-2 in the ACC and 17-3 overall as they head into a critical week with concern to team development and the standings.

It is like this... if Duke loses tonight against the Irish, they drop to a half-game lead over North Carolina who plays at Louisville tomorrow night. A win there for the Tar Heels would tie the two teams headed into their Saturday showdown but two losses in a row would put Duke in fifth or sixth place. So, yeah, this is a big week.

The Tar Heels will have ESPN's gameday on-site and along with the Irish, they are battling the Blue Devils for the top of the league. As fans, we can look ahead a bit but it is dangerous to do so for the team.

That means the Blue Devils' sole focus needs to be on the Fighting Irish and for more than just one reason. Notre Dame and Duke share identical conference records, so something has to give. The Irish own the ACC's longest winning streak and they are 9-0 at home in South Bend this season.

Do you need more of a warning tonight's game is a tough matchup? Notre Dame is 11-1 in their last 12 games and they have wins over Kentucky and North Carolina. Mike Brey's team stumbled a bit early on but they have righted the ship and they are playing good basketball with a solid rotation.

Duke, on the other hand, has been mildly inconsistent dealing with injuries but they show flashes of brilliance at times. It is unknown at this time whether Trevor Keels will play tonight and his absence takes away another weapon while shortening the Duke bench of players ready to play.

The good news for Duke which traveled straight to South Bend after they defeated Louisville is that they have a long break before the contest they should not be thinking about after tonight. The better news is that they are the more talented team than the Irish but that does not always translate into a win.

The Blue Devils need to play well in the paint for they should have an advantage there. Paolo Banchero is better when he crashes the boards as evidenced by his 15 rebounds in his last outing. In the win over Louisville, it at times seemed Duke made the game harder than it should be until AJ Griffin erupted and carried the team on his back.

This is the time of the season when stress builds, legs get weary and the road grind takes a toll from jumping on and off flights in short order. A team with younger players feel this double for they have not been through said grind before. In short, Duke needs to refresh a bit but first, they need to find enough in the tank to take care of business tonight.

So, any way you cut it this is a tough week for the Blue Devils. It is their second and third road games against upper-level teams in the ACC and in hostile environments. We are all looking forward to talking about Mike Krzyzewski's last game in Chapel Hill, but first things first.

Duke Must Avoid Trap Game vs Louisville

The first thing some may think with the pending Duke vs Louisville game on Saturday is that the Blue Devils are heavy favorites. While Duke is indeed the favorite I expect a tougher test than before the Cardinals decided to part ways with former head coach Chris Mack

The reasoning is that teams generally rally around the wagon when a coach or player is down. In their minds, they have less to lose while realizing they have to step through a new door of change. By making a change, a proud basketball program may show up in a brand new way come game time. And it is so easy for some to throw out there the Louisville program is in disarray while avoiding the fact that all players point to the Duke game as one of the biggest of their careers. In short, Louisville will in no way roll over.

Another thing that makes the Cardinals a tough team to prepare for is that they play a lot of players. One quick look at the stats will show this and that means there are more players who can step up on a certain evening therefore all must be guarded well. And trying to figure out which players could play well is not easy when scouting a team that still sits at a respectable 5-5 in the conference and 11-9 overall.

Some are saying the Louisville team quit on Mack in his last couple of games. If that is true, they are sure to step up their game. You see, intangibles are a part of the game yet they are more often than not overlooked.

What Duke needs to do is try to get Louisville into a running game and not a half-court slugfest. The Blue Devils will need to be on point with concern to their focus in this one and if at all possible, have a good start. Duke has been streaky of late and at some point, they need to become more consistent with their efforts.

It is still unknown whether Trevor Keels will suit up for Duke. The sooner the better for chemistry and while the fanbase can look ahead realizing Duke must leave Louisville for South Bend on Monday night, the team will need a one-game focus to have success and stay near the top of the ACC standings.

This will be the last time Mike Krzyzewski is playing Louisville at the Yum Center. And he will not likely address the fact he wishes Louisville would have waited to make a change after Duke was in town for he knows the intangibles I speak of well.

So any of you expecting an easy win, I hope you are right. But from my vantage, this can be a trap game if the Blue Devils do not come out with their energy.

Duke Faces Pesky Noles

The Duke Blue Devils travel to Tallahassee, Fl. to take on the Florida State Seminoles in a game that tips off at 9:00 on ESPN. The pesky Noles have won three straight games and sit at 10-5 in need of a marquee win.

While last season's games were both canceled, most Duke followers are aware that these games are always close and tonight should be no different. The Blue Devils have been labeled a 5 point favorite.

As usual, Florida State will play a lot of players. In fact, no less than eleven rostered players averaged double-figure minutes. While Seminoles guard Caleb Mills leads the way on offense, the Noles get contributions from different rotation players meaning you have to guard all of them.

It would be wise for the Blue Devils to push the Seminoles off the three-point stripe for they have a lot of guys who can nail open looks. In fact, five of their top six scorers are guards

Duke will once again have a size advantage in this outing. In the last two games and especially the win over N.C. State the Blue Devils have had success with their bigs against smaller teams. This recent trend comes after a team meeting after the Miami loss.

The staff hopes their big men playing well and taking advantage of their size becomes a staple. It almost has to be the case considering the Blue Devils rotation has large wings and a three-man rotation around the paint if you include Paolo Banchero.

Speaking of Paolo Banchero, he is coming off some energetic performances that earned him ACC Rookie of the Week honors. The top-rated draft prospect is better when he mixes his offensive game up a bit.

Duke will almost assuredly get the Seminoles best shot. They're always hungry when Duke comes to town and their guys will try to up their game with a primetime focus on the matchup.

The Blue Devils need a win here in a hostile environment against an upper-echelon ACC team to remain near the top of the league.

I am expecting Duke to pull this one out but feel certain it will be a hard-fought contest until the final buzzer goes off. This is one of those games where you just want the win.

Miami Loss Not That Shocking

It did not take long for the overreactions to start after Duke lost to Miami, sending the then #2 rated team to its first conference loss on the season. But for some, we have seen this before and know it is but one game of a long season.

And if the season is long and full of twists and turns slipped by Duke's young roster they were given a wake-up call last evening.

I tweeted my surprise that Vegas labeled Duke a 15 point favorite over a hot Miami team. In fact, I warned all that it did not matter what one of the hundreds of imperfect ratings said the Hurricanes were ranked for they had been playing great and confident basketball.

I certainly do not think Duke overlooked Miami. They just did not implement their game plan while the Hurricanes did. It's better to seek the answer to those backdoor cuts now than later for the Blue Devils.

A lot of realities hit last evening. The ACC is really not as bad as the hype and the Hurricanes will move into the Top 25. Today's media is all about what have you done for me lately with little effort made on how things fit into the big picture.

Duke will now be seen as vulnerable when in fact, they have been all along. The reason is that there are a lot of older teams around the nation due to extended eligibility via COVID.

There are a lot of pesky-good basketball teams not ranked at this time and the Top 25 will continue to feature all kinds of upsets. Teams do not stop practicing or getting better even if they have experienced a slow start. And they are hungry when things start to roll in the right direction.

This will not be the last loss for Duke. In fact, they travel to Wake Forest next and that game now has added significance. And yes, they can actually lose two in a row in league play which was seen as unfathomable a week ago.

So what Duke will do is let go of the loss after some film study and move forward. At some point, this team had to learn the lesson that these ACC games will be battles and teams will seek to build their resume vs Duke at night end and afternoon out each week through March and hopefully beyond.

If one were to have listened to Mike Krzyzewski during his post-game presser after the Georgia Tech win they may have realized that he saw this coming. The break in play cannot be used as an excuse but it was a catalyst to why the teams' chemistry was altered.

Things will not get any easier as the reality that the league still has some good teams getting better. Duke must improve and be ready for all kinds of attempts to neutralize their size and take advantage of some who are going through the wars of college basketball in their first season.

Duke played young last night because they are young. It is going to take them reaching deep mentally to shake this loss with Wake Forest on the horizon for the residue can build and linger if allowed.

I think the team will be fine but I see adversity as the one learning tool that makes or breaks you in March. Duke fans can hope for the latter as the team will seek to find their groove again but once a loss is in the books, it can get even harder before it gets better.

We will learn a lot about this group in how it responds in their next outing. But just as I warned Miami was dangerous and certainly not a double-digit underdog I am telling you that once a team blinks the battle becomes more mental.

Add the mental stresses of the game to physical ones and it can tire a team out quickly.

That said, Duke needs to find its energy center again. They need to figure out the strengths of their identity and next time out take advantage of their height as the Hurricanes did with their quickness at the guard spots.

The battle is mental at this point and time. And Duke needs to respond after losing one at home. But Duke was a bucket away from closing this one out in the other direction. So keep that in perspective. They were not blown out of the gym, but then again, that does not mean they can't be.