Rushed Reactions: Duke 80, UCLA 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 20th, 2013

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Brian Otskey filed this report after Duke’s win over UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

  1. Duke is getting better defensively. After a so-so defensive first half, Duke held UCLA to 26 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the second stanza. In particular, Rodney Hood did a terrific job containing Jordan Adams and keeping him out of any kind of rhythm. The Blue Devils also frustrated Zach LaVine into a number of bad shots that fueled Duke’s transition attack. Holding the nation’s third-leading scoring team to 63 points is a feather in Duke’s cap and it appears Mike Krzyzewski’s much-maligned defense is starting to come together. If the Blue Devils can defend at this kind of level, they will be the clear favorites in the ACC.
  2. Rasheed Sulaimon may have found his role. Sulaimon had a terrific freshman season for Duke in 2012-13 but his second go-around in Durham has been anything but smooth sailing. After being benched against Michigan and playing only five minutes against Gardner-Webb, Sulaimon gained a lot of confidence in 18 minutes of action tonight. While he was only 3-of-7 from the floor, Sulaimon grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. On a team with so many options, he needs to carve out a role for himself without trying to do too much. He did just that tonight and his teammates and coaches noticed. This should serve Sulaimon well going forward and get him out of Coach K’s doghouse.
  3. UCLA needs to figure it out defensively. UCLA entered the game allowing opponents to score 70.2 points per game but allowed 80 Duke points on 48.4 percent shooting. We knew defending the three-point line was going to be key for the Bruins tonight but they did not do a good job. Duke shot a lukewarm 34.4 percent from beyond the arc but it bombarded UCLA with 32 attempts and 11 makes. This has been a recurring issue for Steve Alford’s team this season and until it figures it out, there will be a ceiling to how far it can go. Offense can take you a long way but against top competition such as Duke and the kind they will face in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins must do better.

Star of the Game:  Jabari Parker, Duke. The stud Blue Devil freshman shined once again under the bright lights. Parker put together a double-double, tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting night. The 6’8” forward also recorded five assists in the win. UCLA had a difficult time matching up with Parker and it showed. He basically got what he wanted on any part of the court whether it was from long range or around the basket.

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Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

When Duke and UCLA lock horns for the first time in 11 years tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City (7:30 PM EST, ESPN), plenty of offensive fireworks figure to be on display. These teams are elite offensively with UCLA ranking third nationally in points per game at 89.1 and Duke not too far behind at 86.0. For as potent as these teams are offensively, their defenses leave a lot to be desired. What we have is a recipe for an up-tempo game, lots of points, and a fun viewing experience. There are also plenty of intriguing match-ups in this game when you look at each squad’s style of play. While their statistics are similar, the teams are constructed very differently. Let’s take a look at three key questions that will decide the result of this contest.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Brings His Bruins to MSG to Face Duke Tonight (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

Much has been made of Duke’s defensive issues but defense has also been a problem for Steve Alford’s Bruins, especially when it comes to guarding the all-important three-point line. The Bruins’ 2-3 zone was torched by Missouri in their only loss of the season back on December 7. Missouri made 10 threes which proved to be the primary difference in the game. As a whole, Duke shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent of all Blue Devils’ field goal attempts are triples. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features four lethal perimeter threats and that may be too much for the Bruins to handle. While UCLA’s zone may help contain Duke’s versatile forwards from cutting to the basket, it opens the door for a Blue Devil three-point bombardment. Alford may be forced to extend the zone but his team’s performance will come down to the effort of guards like Norman Powell and a pair of freshmen (Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford) getting out to cover Duke’s shooters.

2. Will Duke be able to prevent UCLA from getting into the paint?

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Morning Five: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 17th, 2013

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  1. It turns out that we might never see this Florida team at full strength. After appearing to turn the corner both on the court and off of it with players returning from injury and enrolling in school, it appears that the Gators will be without South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, who has been suspended since the start of the season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. According to Billy Donovan, Harris has not demonstrated the necessary changes to lead him back to the team and Donovan said, “I don’t ever anticipate him playing here at Florida.” Although the Gators could certainly use some interior depth (Harris averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the 2011-12 season at South Carolina) they are probably more focused on getting Chris Walker eligible as he represents a bigger potential impact than what could be expected of Harris.
  2. We formally jumped on the Iowa bandwagon almost a month ago and now Dan Hanner is offering some advanced metrics to explain why you should believe in both Iowa and Iowa State. As Hanner notes, the Hawkeyes’ improvement in efficiency margin during Fran McCaffery’s has been remarkable and both teams are among the best in the nation in Sagarin’s margin-of-victory based predictor. Perhaps the most interesting part of Hanner’s column is about coaches whose teams peak early. Many of the names on the list consist of coaches who are often criticized, which is not too surprising, but one name on the list–Mike Krzyzewski–jumps out. Those who pay attention during the season and are able to analyze without being influenced by the Duke mystique will not be shocked by the result, but it is still interesting to see it put into numbers.
  3. North Carolina State transfer and former top-20 recruit Rodney Purvis will undergo arthroscopic surgery later today for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Purvis, who averaged 8.3 points per game last season, is sitting out this year at Connecticut after his transfer. According to reports, Purvis has been bothered by the injury since he was in high school so the timing of his surgery works out well since he is expected to take four to five months to recover from the surgery. Our only question is why he waited until the end of the semester to have the surgery if he had dealing with the issue that long since this will basically mean he is ready in time for off-season workouts rather than having a chance to be in shape several months earlier.
  4. Normally there is never a good time to get suspended indefinitely (ok, maybe the offseason when your team starts against a tough early schedule), but Utah State might actually catch a bit of break with the timing of its indefinite suspension of Jarred Shaw, its leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker. Shaw, who is averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, was suspended for the popular undisclosed violation of team rules. The Aggies have a very manageable schedule until January 15 when they start a difficult two-week stretch so if they can find a way to get Shaw back by then they still could be in position to contend for an at-large bid even with a month-long absence from their best player.
  5. Yesterday, former UNLV forward Savon Goodman was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and must pay $1,370 in restitution after entering into a plea deal on larceny and trespassing charges. Goodman was accused of entering a “friend’s” apartment and stealing a pair of LeBron X sneakers, $500, and 26 video games. Goodman was able to get the charges down from grand larceny, burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary to misdemeanor petty larceny and trespassing. Goodman left the UNLV program in October and given his skill level we would not be surprised to see him pop up somewhere else soon.
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Morning Five: 12.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. It won’t settle any arguments about which conference is the best (we still think it is the Big Ten), but the Big Ten/ACC Challenge did yield some interesting results. The most obvious of which was North Carolina‘s surprisingly comfortable win at Michigan State. At this point, we have no idea what to make of a young Tar Heel team that is missing the two players who were supposed to be their two best players coming into the season. And of course there is the question as to how the Spartans laid such a big egg with all of their apparent advantages, but we will give them a pass because it was so out of character. On the other end of the spectrum was a game we wish we could unsee: Wisconsin‘s 48-38 win over Virginia that was eerily reminiscent of a Big Ten rock fight in 2009. Some of the highlights from the box score: the team’s shot 28.8% and 23.4% respectively from the field, 21.7% and 9.1% from three-point range.
  2. The majority of the discussion regarding the new rules being implemented this year has been based around the number of fouls being called. One area that has been largely overlooked is how it encourages zone defense. As Ben Cohen notes there has been a fairly substantial increase in the use of zone defense so far this year. The percentage of plays that it is being used on is interesting at some level, but the number of programs that are starting to use it or considering use it might be more impressive. While the trend is impressive we will be interested to see how this changes as the season progresses.
  3. Dante Exum is one of the more intriguing recruits in the class of 2014. The problem is that the Australian point guard probably won’t enter play a college game. At least that is what fellow Australian Andrew Bogut is suggesting to Exum. According to Bogut, Exum should not go to college and risk injury since he is a likely top-5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Although we would expect the schools that are recruiting him (basically every big-name program that you can think of) to try to push  the benefits of a year of college we have a hard time disagreeing with what Bogut is saying. Forcing players to spend a year in college is obviously beneficial to the college game, but if the player can go straight to earning millions of dollars we would have a hard time telling a player to turn that down. That’s the same thing each of these programs say they tell their players when they are deciding whether or not to return to school so it will be interesting to see if they do the same with a player that they are recruiting.
  4. We are not sure how we missed this and we are even more unsure of how Rob Dauster of all people appears to be the only one we have seen point this out, but with Tuesday’s win Mike Krzyzewski tied Herb Magee for the all-time men’s wins record with 964 career wins although Magee overtook Krzyzewski with a win last night. As Dauster notes, with Krzyzewski coaching more games each season (and to be frank winning a greater percentage) the record should be his as long as Magee doesn’t coach for many more years than Krzyzewski does. As for the all-time college wins record, that appears to be pretty safe for the next few years as Pat Summitt has a comfortable lead at 1,098 wins.
  5. Over the past few years we have heard a lot of complaints from individuals in print media about how online media was destroying their careers. So it was interesting to read Seth Davis’ piece on Dick “Hoops” Weiss and how he reinvented himself after being laid off. Some might argue that Weiss was fortunate to have a connection that enabled him to land such a job, but based on what others have said about him and our limited interaction with him (about 10 minutes back in 2009) we don’t think it has that much to do with luck.
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What to Make of Duke’s Monstrous 2014 Recruiting Class

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on November 22nd, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski is on top of the world. At 66 years old, most people would be retired or nearing the golden age of relaxation and 4:00 PM dinners. But not Krzyzewski; he is gaining a second wind and dominating the recruiting landscape like few senior citizens before him. On Thursday afternoon, Duke landed five-star wing prospect Justise Winslow from the Lone Star State, which by itself would be enough to build around for most programs, but Winslow instead is the third five-star recruit and fourth top-30 recruit Duke has landed in the 2014 class.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Just last Friday Duke landed the second-best point guard and fifth best prospect in the entire class in Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. And it doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with and the first half of a package deal featuring center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who many have dubbed the best back-to-the-basket big man prospect since the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, is the top-ranked prospect in the 2014 class. Krzyzewski put it best when he said it was ‘three years of hard work’ paying off in the end with the signings of both players. The addition of 6’6” wing Winslow this week rounds out an already extremely potent recruiting class for the gold medal-winning coach. Winslow brings a physicality and athleticism that will have him poised to challenge for a starting position on the wing from day one. He has a college-ready body and is an extremely tenacious perimeter defender who will relish the easy looks provided by Jones’s penetration and double teams on Okafor.

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ACC M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 21st, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Hartford Courant: We may lose Duke-Maryland, but it sounds like Kevin Ollie and Steve Donahue are prepared to bring back the Boston College-Connecticut rivalry in earnest. The rivalry effectively died when Boston College joined the ACC and an embittered Jim Calhoun vowed never to schedule the Eagles again. It seems like Ollie doesn’t hold the same grudge (although if the athletic directors do, look for the game to never happen). All we know for sure is that Boston College and Connecticut will play in the 2KSports Classic semifinal tonight at 7:00 PM. But here’s hoping to the continuation of a fun, heated, regional home-and-home rivalry in the near future.
  2. Greensboro News-Record: It’s only been four games, but people are already starting to take a closer look at Jabari Parker‘s phenomenal start, which has been better than any ACC Rookie of the Year in the last 17 seasons. Amazingly Parker isn’t even the most efficient player on his team (that honor belongs to the honorable-80.9-effective-field-goal-percentage Rodney Hood). Mark Thompson also compared his early statistics to the only two freshmen to win the Naismith Award (Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis). He’s bound to come down to earth at some point, but there’s no denying Parker is really fun to watch.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Keeping things at Duke, it’s safe to say Mike Krzyzewski isn’t pleased with the people who plan the NIT Season Tip-Off. If you tuned into the Eastern Carolina – Duke game on Tuesday night, you probably noticed a lot of empty seats in the student section. That’s because of a ticket distribution system with far too much bureaucracy. Here’s what happened: Each school was given 200 tickets, but most returned the majority of their allotments. The problem was Duke only had a single day to try to sell the generally overpriced tickets. As an example, Greensboro News & Record‘s Ed Hardin attempted to buy tickets for the UNC Asheville – Norfolk State game while in progress and was told they would cost between $41 and $123. According to Laura Keeley, fewer than 100 people made it to that game. Here’s to hoping they change the ticketing protocols for future NIT Season Tip-Offs, as having the opening rounds at cool arenas should be a positive, not a negative.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Aaron Thomas is getting a lot of love from his teammates because of his defense. Ian Miller said he’s “like Mike Snaer, but a little bit better.” Wait, what? Snaer was arguably the best on-ball defender in the conference. I watched him execute a one-man full-court press at Clemson that was one of the more impressive defensive performances I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure I’m ready to put Thomas in the same category with Snaer, but it’s true that he’s off to a great start. The Seminoles will get quite a challenge today as they face Virginia Commonwealth.
  5. Syracuse Post Standard: Syracuse‘s free throw shooting has been subpar so far this season, which is a big part of why the Orange’s wins have been tighter than expected. So Jim Boeheim upped the ante with his end of practice free throw-sprint tradition. The team breaks off into groups and shoots free throws before coming back to take one shot each (and running team sprints when a person misses), although he made players run sprints every time they missed in the smaller groups too. At least Syracuse’s shooting at the charity stripe hasn’t cost them a win yet: Just ask NC State or North Carolina about poor free throw shooting. In more pleasant ACC free throw surprises, Clemson has broken out of its historical slump, currently hitting a mind-boggling 81.4 percent of its free throws this season. Even more amazing is that the Tigers are only third in the conference behind Boston College and Miami. Take that haters! The ACC is the best (free throw shooting) conference in the land (except maybe the vaunted Missouri Valley Conference)!

EXTRA: In honor or North Carolina Central‘s first ACC win in program history (over Mark Gottfried’s floundering team), here’s an old story from Gary Parrish on Eagle coach LeVelle Moton and his friendship with Leah Ward.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode II

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 20th, 2013

Is there anyone out there who still thinks Marcus Smart made a poor decision in returning to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season? Smart is the star player on a team capable of making the Final Four and showed last night that he’s taking his commitment to improve all aspects of his game seriously. Remember, Smart was just a 40 percent shooter overall last season and an anemic 29 percent from three-point land. His talent is obvious but fine-tuning those skills are imperative if he wants to be successful at the next level of basketball. Consider last night’s 39-point performance against an overwhelmed Memphis squad a terrific start. Smart and his Cowboys blitzed the Tigers from the opening tip while the OSU guard enjoyed perhaps the hottest 10-minute stretch of basketball I have ever seen. Smart still has to prove he can hit jumpers with regularity and work on making better decisions, but he made significant progress last night, despite some ill-advised, quick shots and a couple of poor passes. Don’t forget about him: College basketball is not just all about Wiggins, Parker and Randle.

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night.  (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night. (AP Photo).

It was interesting to note that John Beilein benched freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. down the stretch of Michigan’s 77-70 loss at Iowa State on Sunday. Instead, Beilein went with sophomore Spike Albrecht at the point as the Cyclones managed to pull away and pick up a big win. Beilein is a highly-regarded coach but this was a questionable decision. In a November game in a tough environment, I’d prefer to see the freshman in there to get that experience, good or bad. Nobody is going to be Trey Burke so what’s the harm of seeing what your young point man can do in a pressure spot? Yes, Albrecht is still young too but Walton Jr. seems like the point guard of the future for the Wolverines. I don’t think this decision cost Michigan the game but it was something I noticed immediately. Beilein should have let it ride with his promising freshman in that situation.

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Morning Five: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. The residual from Tuesday’s Champions Classic buzzed throughout the sports world on Wednesday, with considerable discussion devoted to rank-ordering the superstar freshmen who were on display (Parker, Randle, Wiggins was a popular order), discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the four teams, and projecting the areas in which each will get better. But perhaps the biggest storyline that came out of the game was related to the interview that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski gave afterward. In response to a media member’s question about the not-exactly-secretive practice by NBA teams to tank games in order to position themselves for high draft picks next summer, Coach K waxed poetically in his response about the virtues of good old-fashioned competition: “As an American, I wouldn’t like to think that an American team would want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose. [...] Maybe I’m naive and I’m going to go read a fairy tale after this.” Full clip here. Speaking of competition, ESPN cleaned up with its broadcast of the double-header, recording the second-highest rated regular season non-conference game in history for #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State, and the nightcap game wasn’t terribly far behind.
  2. Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands on Wednesday with spectacular timing, choosing to release its 2013-14 College Basketball Preview issue in the wake of all the good Champions Classic vibe and avoiding the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls’ mistake of choosing Kentucky for its top spot. Utilizing a neat four-region cover format, the experts at SI instead went with Louisville as its preseason #1 team, although there aren’t any real surprises among the rest of their list (Harvard at #20, maybe?). For their full top 20 rankings and excerpts of some of the articles printed in the preview, check out this SI.com One and One post here; for complete scouting reports on each of the ranked teams, check out their online post here. But if you really want the full experience, get analog and enjoy the magazine the way it was intended — in hard-copy, ink-and-paper, magazine format.
  3. Speaking of the Cards, the AP announced on Wednesday that the school had negotiated the exit fee from its one-year foray with the AAC as it looks to head to the ACC next July. The final number turned out to be $11 million, which is roughly the revenue that Louisville creates in the price of a handful of hot dogs and beers at the Yum! Center during a basketball game. OK, not really, but the most profitable basketball program in the nation — estimated to bring in an annual surplus of $23-$28 million per year — shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever in finding enough couch change to write the check. With a move to its new conference starting next season and all the additional television revenue that will come with being a part of the dominant east coast sports league, expect those coffers to continue to rise.
  4. When Louisville joins the ACC in 2014, the next basketball season will culminate in a blockbuster ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the 25th time. But with the push to save itself and add teams from above the Mason-Dixon Line, the league is looking to make its hallmark event a bit more inclusive and cosmopolitan than the longtime location of league HQ. A part-time move to New York City is an inevitability, but before the nation’s oldest conference tournament heads to the Big Apple, the league has decided to take baby steps with a trip to Washington, DC, in 2016. The ACC has accepted this dance with the District once before at the Verizon/MCI Center in 2005, an event that was notable for its relatively light attendance over the course of the weekend. The DC area had also hosted several ACC Tournaments prior to that at the old Capital Center in Landover, Maryland, but in all of these events, the Terps and maybe Duke were the only real attractions. Syracuse, Notre Dame and to a certain degree Pittsburgh, on the other hand, all have huge alumni bases in the East Coast megalopolis between Washington and New York, now just an easy train ride between city centers. And Louisville fans travel well. Contrasted with nearly a decade prior, expect the 2016 ACC Tournament even without local team Maryland involved to be a fantastic success.
  5. Finally today, if you read nothing else, read this story from SI‘s Seth Davis about Duke guard Andre Dawkins‘ struggles with clinical depression. By all accounts, depression is a medical condition that people who don’t suffer from it have a lot of trouble understanding. Why not just pick yourself up? Why not just find something that makes you happy? The truth is that picking yourself up and finding something meaningful is extremely difficult for those with the disease. The complicated brain chemistry involved with the condition doesn’t just go away because they want it to, and as Davis elucidates so nicely with the story on Dawkins, the only way it can be solved is through therapy and (sometimes) medical intervention through antidepressants. The happy ending here is that Dawkins is back on the Blue Devils for his senior season and he really wants to play basketball again, something that he had almost no desire to do two years ago. That’s a win right there, and Davis should be commended for bringing this encouraging story to the forefront. Even if you hate Duke, you’ll have to root for Dawkins after reading this one.
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20 Questions: Who is This Year’s Indiana?

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 7th, 2013

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Who is this year’s Indiana? Whoa, that is a loaded question that certainly won’t endear me to one particular fan base. This exercise is essentially an educated guess based on unknowns, so remember to take this with a big grain of salt. Before we begin, here is a little refresher for those who may have forgotten some things about last season. The 2012-13 Indiana Hoosiers were the nation’s preseason No. 1 team, an ultra-talented group that went 26-5 in the regular season and won the Big Ten with a 14-4 league record. Despite bowing out to Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers locked up the top seed in the East Region, eventually falling to fourth-seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen as Tom Crean and his club simply had no answer for Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone. In a year where IU fans had dreams of at least another Final Four and possibly a national championship, the Hoosiers’ season ended with a resounding thud – a full two rounds short of the ultimate goal, Atlanta.

Jabari Parker has arrived in Durham but will it be enough to vault Duke past the Sweet Sixteen? (credit: RNO)

Jabari Parker has arrived in Durham but will it be enough to vault Duke past the Sweet Sixteen? (credit: RNO)

So, who fills that unlucky role this season (if anyone)? This question is inherently difficult because of the simple fact that I have to choose a highly-ranked team, all of them capable of making the Final Four, winning a national championship and making this article look incredibly foolish. But I’m going to go with Duke. Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils enter the season ranked No. 4 in the nation in both the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls. However, this is a considerably different Duke team from last year’s 30-6 outfit that advanced to the Elite Eight. Gone are Coach K’s top three scorers: Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly. Coming in is Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood along with the nation’s seventh-ranked recruiting class, headlined by the player some folks feel is the best incoming freshman in the nation, Jabari Parker. Sharpshooter Andre Dawkins also returns after a year off. Without Plumlee and his terrific inside presence, this Duke team will have a different look in 2013-14. Krzyzewski has admitted as much in many preseason interviews, but adjusting his playing style to fit the talents and skills of his team is not going to be a problem for the Hall of Famer and winningest coach in men’s Division I history.

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Jabari Parker’s Skill Set Reminiscent of Versatile Past Duke Stars

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 21st, 2013

Countdown to Craziness, Duke’s version of Midnight Madness, was held before a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night. The evening featured a variety of entertainment, but the feature act was the much anticipated debut of Jabari Parker in a Duke uniform in front of a real crowd. Just two days prior, the ACC media had voted Parker to the 2013-14 preseason All-ACC team along with another new Blue Devil, transfer Rodney Hood. Parker was also the near-unanimous choice as preseason ACC Rookie of the Year. At least for now, the player may match the hype. The scrimmage part of the night consisted of two highly competitive 15-minute periods of play that were called halves but were in reality two mini-games. Some players played for the White team in the first session and switched to Blue for the second. Unlike some other schools, though, Duke chose to make these open scrimmages as game-like as possible. Real NCAA officials worked the games and the result was an intense scrimmage with fouls called at an alarming rate. The official box score reflects combined stats for both sessions and it shows that Parker was the star of the scrimmage with 24 points and 12 rebounds with zero turnovers. The unquestioned highlight of the night was Parker running down an offensive rebound, spinning and going baseline for a reverse slam right over and through Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee.

Jabari Parker Wowed Duke Fans at Countdown to Crazyness Friday Night

Jabari Parker Wowed Duke Fans at Countdown to Craziness Friday Night

As much as we like to make player comparisons within top programs, Duke hasn’t had anyone exactly like Parker — especially as a freshman — in a long time. Probably the closest match might be a mixture of the talents of Grant Hill and Luol Deng. Like Hill, Parker handles the ball like a guard and sees the court well, but he doesn’t quite have the two-time national champion’s outstanding athleticism. An area to watch with Parker’s offense will be shot selection; he missed all three of his attempts from deep and two of those were forced step-back jumpers that were not close. It was exactly 10 years ago that Deng arrived at Duke with the size and versatility to play both inside or out, and Parker already shows that same type of wing flexibility. Given Duke’s current roster, look for Parker to primarily be a post defender. He spent almost the entire scrimmage guarding 6’11” Marshall Plumlee, the only true post man that Duke has this year. When he did guard the wing he moved his feet well and made himself tough to beat. He already appears to have a good grasp of Duke’s help team defense, but that aggressiveness also exposed a possible crucial concern of foul trouble. Parker was whistled for four fouls in the first stanza, and after some adjustments in the second session,  he committed only one more foul on the night. But it is definitely something to keep an eye on.

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If a Coach Says Something Interesting at a Media Day, Does It Make a Sound?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 18th, 2013

There is nothing quite like media day season, is there? Well, okay there is, but amidst all the generic answers and meaningless chatter are tiny, real pieces of actually interesting information – I swear. In case you haven’t spent the week sifting through sound bites and press releases, here are a few of the more noteworthy revelations from recent media days in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12.

No Speed Limit At USC -- If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

No Speed Limit At USC — If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

Let’s start out west. While some may have been disappointed by the lack of intra-LA fireworks at Pac-12 media day, we’re going to count the continued discussion of the UCLA-USC “rivalry” as a step in the right direction. Earlier in the week, Andy Enfield was quoted as saying “we [USC] play uptempo basketball here – if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” He took a predictable shot at softening the blow of those words on Thursday, but let’s focus instead on his tacit admission that the quote is real. Sarcastic or not, those words exited his mouth. Steve Alford played nice and refused to bite in response to the comment, but you better believe that the architect of those grinding, tough New Mexico teams would love nothing more than a snail-paced 65-35 beat-down of his cross-town foes come January 5. The tempo clash will be a constant subplot to the rivalry as long as these two coaches are at the helm, and despite the niceties of yesterday’s media day, don’t expect Enfield’s declaration to disappear from memory anytime soon.

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Extra Practice Time Allows Duke a Leisurely Trip to NYC

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 16th, 2013

With the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s college basketball season rapidly approaching, coaches are all striving to find ways to bond and unite their teams. This season, the NCAA was kind enough to grant college teams an extra few weeks of practice time, allowing for preseason workout regimens to begin in late September and allowing for players and coaches to become better acquainted with one another earlier than in years past. With the ACC now expanding its ranks to include Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, all coaches are looking to use that time to gain a leg up.

Duke Players at NYC's Historic Rucker Park Courts (credit: GoDuke.com)

Duke Players at NYC’s Historic Rucker Park Courts (credit: GoDuke.com)

That competitive edge is not always gained strictly through practice and weightlifting sessions. Often, it’s the extra time spent hanging out together that helps a team gel, whether through playing video games in the hotel or extra face time with the coach. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, always one looking for ways to bring his team together as a unit, used the opportunity this preseason to take his Blue Devils on a Columbus Day weekend trip called “Duke Elevate” to New York City.  According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, among other things, the team visited the Apollo Theatre, the 9/11 Memorial, Broadway, West Point, and the Museum of Modern Art. While a cynic might say Coach K is trying to impress culture on young men who just want to refine their games on the hardwood in hopes of making it to the next level, a realist might argue that it’s these times away from the gym, yet still together as a team, that often forge the best collective units. The NCAA disallowed international travel in the month of October this year, but traveling to see some of our country’s most impressive sights in the Big Apple is a pretty good Plan B.

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