Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Duke Hoops Enters Phase II

The Duke Blue Devils will take to the court again this Tuesday against South Carolina State in Cameron Indoor Stadium. After a two-week-long break in the action, Duke enters what I am calling phase II of the season which consists of four games.

I am not sure what Mike Krzyzewski may term it but I do know he does break down the season to teach lessons, etc. This has been a practice of his for years but this does not mean my take is accurate but lets give it a shot.

So what is phase II? Quite simply games that get progressively tougher after the team returns from an extended break. And the four games fall from December 14th to the 22nd.

While this is no knock on the next opponent, South Carolina State is possibly the easiest team left on the schedule. And that is what you want coming back from exams and holidays. And yes, I know they have won two consecutive games.

Duke has often struggled no matter the year against lesser opponents after holiday breaks. So it seems Mike Krzyzewski was aware of that and scheduled accordingly.

The Blue Devils will then take to the court again just two days later this time against Appalachian State on Thursday in Cameron. Appalachian should be an upgrade from the last opponent where they sit at 5-5 but are a defensive-minded team that plays at a slower pace.

Duke will then face Cleveland State in Cameron, again, two days from their last game. But this time there is an early start of 4:00 which means Duke could be a little leg-weary. This team is yet again, better than the last two opponents and can give you a game. And that is exactly what the team needs to get to their fourth game in phase II.

That fourth game will be played on December 22nd. The longer break allows for Duke to rest a bit after three games in less than six days. It also allows film study for the next opponent Virginia Tech at home which is the ACC opener for the Blue Devils.

And the ACC opener is the grand prize of phase II with hopes of going 1-0 to kick off the league season. And Duke will need their focus from the Hokies have stumbled a bit of late and will be hungry on the national stage.

Anyhow, there is a seven-day break before Duke plays Clemson again on December 29th and that begins a new phase where Duke will play two ACC games in four days. In fact, the season rarely has a break after that, so the staff will likely see those games in two-game clusters, etc.

What Duke is likely to seek to do is continue to build a little depth before their ACC opener. AJ Griffin is slowly getting back to the player he was before injuries and setbacks and they will look for consistency from a guy who will be majorly deepened on before a long season ends.

Duke will also likely see the talented Paolo Banchero start to mix his game up a bit on offense with the realization he can be a force near the rim.

The bottom line is there is a lot to work on.

We will also see in the next few days how this team has adjusted since losing to Ohio State. But honestly, we will see more on that past what I am calling phase II for the next four games are not on the road.

Still, one has to think the team learned a lot simply by watching basketball and studying game films over the break.

And we have all seen Purdue go down as number one and at the time of this writing Villanova travels to Baylor today and the Bears are expected to be the new number one team with a win. A loss however would possibly put Duke back in the top spot where they currently sit at #3.

So, the staff hopes phase II leads to four consecutive wins culminating with going 1-0 in the ACC. Fans may be looking over their shoulder at meaningless December rankings, but the team just wants to get better and forge their way to an 11-1 before the meat of the ACC season begins.

Lastly, it is a long season. While it is all grand in nature to be ranked near the top of the rankings in December it will always be March and possibly April that counts the most.

Mark Mitchell to Duke

Mark Mitchell has committed to the Duke Blue Devils where he will play for Jon Scheyer. Mitchell is one of the nation's top-rated prospects. Mitchell plays his high school ball for Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas.

Mitchell is closing is on 6-9 and has a solid frame physically. He has just returned from an injury as he continues to reacclimate himself to the timing of the game.

The newest Blue Devil to be is another can't-miss prospect who joins future teammates Jaden Schutt, Derick Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kyle Filapowski. This class is collectively ranked the best in the land.

Mitchell has lauded his relationship with Scheyer and the rest of the Duke staff where they kept in constant contact throughout the process. Mitchell chose Duke over Missouri and UCLA. He is a consensus top 10 prospect.

Nolan Smith Q & A

Nolan Smith addresses the media.

On what he has learned about the team so far this season:

We've learned a lot about our team. There were very good moments in these first eight games. First thing for us is how competitive our team was in these games. We're very competitive and very together, especially on the defensive end of the court. Defensively, our guys, brought the energy and brought the fight every single night, so that was a big takeaway for us heading into everything. Then offensively, I feel like we're in a good place but know that we can get into a much better place offensively. [We are] using this time right now during exams to really focus on our offense and focus on scoring together more and movement and different things like that on the offensive end of the court. We're using this time wisely.

On the teams half-court offense at Ohio State on Nov. 30:

That's really the game that we all sat down and watched together. Obviously in the second half really, the whole game we saw a lot of things that we didn't like offensively, whether it was movement, just standing and watching each other with the ball, or whether it was missed kicks. There was a lot of missed kicks where obviously a lot of teams going into each game are going to say, We have to make Duke make shots. But if we make the right kicks and our shots are wide open, we know that we have guys that should be shooting close to 40 percent from three, but it has to be connected shots where it's a team shot, not individual. Just focusing on that during this time has been a huge point of emphasis for our guys.

On how the team can improve its three-point shooting:

A lot of that is really a lot of film work, from me working with the guards, showing our guards how we can get better shots. Then when we are getting those shots, are we connected on them? A lot of that is communication, a lot of that is making the right plays, making the right pass, taking tough twos or taking a wide-open three which one is the better shot? We feel like all of our guards can get their own shot, but is that the best shot? So, just really focusing on scoring together. Very often, coach [Jon] Scheyer and I, we try not to talk about our 2010 time and our playing days. We're retired now, but I actually mentioned that to them I was like, In 2010, Scheyer, [Kyle] Singler and myself, we scored together. All three of us one dribble, penetration, kick. We have a good core of guards that can be exactly like that, but they have to see that, they have to know that they need each other to score and just going one-on-one is not going to get it versus a really good defensive team. As we get into conference, were going to play against a lot of really good defensive teams that are going to scout us, are going to know our faults, they're going to know how they can beat us, what they're going to try to do to beat us, but we can't beat ourselves. So, if they're intending on forcing us to kick, that should be something that was really good at, so let's kick the ball.

On what he wants to see from the team before it begins ACC play:

For us, I think the consistency on the offensive end and being connected offensively. Defensively, we're very competitive on the defensive end of the court. We know when we need to get three stops in a row in a game that we can do that against anybody. Were very versatile defensively and we know that we can rebound and get stops and push offensively. But when we get down to the offensive end, are we going to score together, are we going to be able to make enough passes and be connected when teams don't allow us to score quick? Those are things getting into the conference that we know we have to tighten up.

On the teams takeaway from the loss at Ohio State:

The take-home was being in our first true road game, I think our guys definitely relaxed. They will say that. There was a sense of, OK, were coming off a big win. We handled that great, because we put together a good first half, but then at the start of the second half, there was something there that was missing. To come out and be able to put a team away, but do it together. You don't put a team away on the road by yourself, and when you end up trying to do it by yourself, you end up not scoring for a long period of time. I think just staying connected on the road is going to be a big thing for us heading into our next true road game, which will be at Clemson. Just being able to fix that on the road will be key.

On experiencing the first month of the season in his current role of assistant coach:

I'm a little more tired now. I can definitely say that. You start adding in scouts, but before the scouts I'm changing some diapers at home for my two kids, then I'm staying up late doing scouts, then my baby girl is waking me up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. I'm getting them ready for daycare, then Im coming in doing more scouts. It's definitely a different role, but I'm loving it. Im loving the involvement I get to have now every game. It's been a very fun time and of course, being on the court working with the guys and working with the guards specifically has been a great time. Obviously, I need to do a better job of getting them to make kicks, so thats my focus right now.

On the growth in junior Wendell Moore Jr.s confidence during his career:

I think it just comes with the natural growth in his game and basketball that sometimes comes with time. He made the choice this summer to stay here and work with coach Will [Stephens], focus on his body and become a better athlete. He worked on his run. People are like, How do you work on your run? He changed his gait he started getting a longer gait to his run, and that was key. Now, you see him making these athletic plays. His hang time is greater than it was last year. Last year, he would go in there and make contact and boom, he's on the ground, he's throwing up a bad shot. Now, hes making contact and hes able to float and still finish. All that started with the work that he put on his body this summer. Then just mentally, now he's a junior. He's been through the ups and downs. He's been through the battles. He's been talked about, he's seen what people might be saying about him. Now, he truly believes in himself and his game. He knows what his game is, he knows what it take and he knows that he's our leader. He's been the best captain and leader that we've had here in a long time. He's really taken a big jump, so I'm just excited to see the remainder of this season. He knows that he needs to put his foot on the gas. He needs to do it earlier and we need him to set the tone in the first half and the second half. He has a long way to go, but his growth has been simply amazing this year.

#1 Duke Cannot Overlook the Buckeyes

It has been an epic start to the season for the 2021-22 Duke Blue Devils who are now ranked number one in the country after a win over Gonzaga. The Blue Devils face a different animal against the Ohio State Buckeyes who were in all the pre-season polls only to fall out after a close loss to #14 Florida.

The Buckeyes currently stands at 4-2 with a win over #25 Xavier and they are a very old team. In fact, the kids on their roster have years of experience over the Blue Devils.

Another key factor in this game is the Buckeye's finally return to their homecourt with their backs against the wall after two early-season losses to ranked teams. In short, Duke will get their best shot in front of a raucous crowd.

On the other side of the ball, Duke must regroup and forget what has happened to date including putting the huge win over Gonzaga far behind them. Duke now is the hunted being atop the polls again and if you think they have gotten team's best shot to date, that will simply continue at a higher pace as their opponents want to show well.

The Buckeyes have not been especially good at putting up points early on. They are led by E.J. Lidell, a player you may remember us discussing in the past for Duke kicked the wheels a bit during his recruitment.

Lidell has been their go-to guy times two. They quite simply run the offense through him. It makes sense to me that Duke should go at him offensively when possible to get him into foul trouble. With the three-headed paint duo of Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero and Theo John this can happen.

The Buckeyes will be really physical and they have some players suited for this. This means they will try their best to make this a half-court game pushing this game into grinder status. If they can muck this game up a bit and not allow Duke easy buckets it could serve them well.

Another key for Duke will be to get their guards rolling on offense again. While Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach played great court games in the last outing, they will need them to score the ball better in this one.

Duke will see this as yet again another business trip, but the staff needs to make the team aware that the Buckeyes will try to knock them back in a very hostile environment. There is a reason Duke is just a 3 point favorite in Vegas in this game. Some think Duke will get a heck of a shot including feeling they will be sluggish after their recent travels and success.

But if Duke can be themselves and not allow the Buckeyes to dictate the early tempo, I see a slugfest win. After all, they will spend two weeks with school work and family during a break, so they can go all-in on this matchup.

The prediction here is Duke 74 Ohio State 67