First of all, why is there a blackout for a game that doesn’t allow fans? Seriously, broadcasting world? So I didn’t get to see it (thanks a lot, ACC Network) but Duke made its way past Bellarmine by a score of 76-54. Similarly to other games, there were high and low points for the Blue Devils, but they bounced back from Tuesday’s loss to Michigan State and regained some momentum. There were some big energy sparks, too. Take for instance:
DJ Steward is 6’2″ (he doesn’t look like it but anyone’s going to look short next to Mark Williams, our 7-footer), had a monster game in the opener with 24 points, and although his statline isn’t fantastic for tonight he still plays a major role for this team keeping the intensity high.
Interestingly, Mark Williams started today at the five. Mostly known for his incredible length, Williams had a pretty fantastic game in just 15 minutes. He only had 5 points but that was 2-3 from the field and 1-1 from the line, to go with 7 rebounds (4 of which were offensive), 4 blocks, and 3 assists. That’s a well-rounded game. He’s definitely an option going into the next few games to have some more minutes at the five. This could definitely be an asset defensively and on the offensive end, too. Williams is one of Duke’s best options in the frontcourt and he hasn’t played much to date. Coach K has been experimenting with the lineup and what he provided today will almost definitely help his playing time.
Matthew Hurt, have yourself a night. Hurt went for 24 points, hitting six threes of eight attempted. That’s a huge jump in efficiency for him. Hurt’s sharpshooting skills will be desperately needed come ACC play, so this game is a terrific sign for Duke.
Another interesting note: Bellarmine has officially played its first game in Division I. To be frank, Duke should’ve beat a first-time-Division I opponent by a lot more, but this is a learning team and a win is a win is a win. Defensively, there are a lot of holes. Offensively, there are a lot of holes. This is a young team that plays younger than any team we’ve had in the last few years. It’s important to remember the ceiling as well as where we stand in general.
What was scheduled to be Duke’s next game against Elon on Sunday has been postponed. It’s not super clear what the situation is regarding Duke’s next game; it’d potentially come this Tuesday against #5 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If that game were to happen it’d be a blockbuster. More to come as we find out what the situation is with Illinois’s program, as their next game has been canceled.
A late-game surge couldn’t save Duke tonight in its loss to Michigan State, by a score of 75-69. Duke led early, with a ten-point lead as late as six minutes into the game. Midway through the first half, though, momentum shifted to favor the Spartans and Duke just couldn’t catch up. Sophomore Matthew Hurt led with 21 points, followed by freshmen Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield with 11 each. Brakefield was Duke’s best bench scorer. Michigan State’s highest scorer was Rocket Watts, who had 20 points.
The game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. In the first half, Michigan State struggled early with fouls, and Duke took full advantage at the line. The scoring surge that put Michigan State ahead, though, was never reciprocated. While the margin was four at the half, in Michigan State’s favor, it grew to 15 within five minutes of play and the second half became a clawback effort for Duke. As a team, Duke shot 32.2% from the field compared to 42.3% on Michigan State’s side, with near-equal shot attempts. That was the biggest difference maker; the Blue Devils missed countless layups and misfired from distance (21.7% as a team with 23 attempts beyond the arc). Star scorer Jalen Johnson was 36.4% from the field compared to 100% against Coppin State on Saturday. The numbers speak for themselves.
Michigan State is an experienced team. They returned over half of their scoring from a year ago, and regained graduate senior Joshua Langford, who had a medical redshirt last year. This was a tough game for Duke going in, and the comeback effort is a positive sign in a very, very young team. Jordan Goldwire brought energy (and 2 steals) in the late second half off the bench, and the six-point end margin can be largely credited to his defense and final shot. The problem was consistency, on shooting, defensively, and with energy throughout the game. Fifteen minutes of this game were played very well tonight against a tough Tom Izzo team that played well. If Duke can get that number up, this season looks up from here.
A first loss puts the Blue Devils at 1-1 on the season. They’ll open the Mako Medical Classic, which honors Dr. Onye Akwari, this Friday at 7pm against Bellarmine University. The second game of the classic, against Elon, is in danger of cancellation after COVID-19 cases within the Elon program.
Duke’s season opener ended in a win over Coppin State in Cameron Indoor, 81-71, and fans let out a sigh of relief. There were points to celebrate and points to improve upon for the Blue Devils. The score reflects a tenacious effort by the Eagles. Coach Juan Dixon and his team came with a plan and they executed. They forced turnovers, hit from everywhere on the three-ball, and took away opportunities. Duke, of course, had something to do with the close margin but showed some grit, too, especially at the end. They were never able to put away Coppin State even with some major chances. There’s a lot to unpack with this game.
Jalen Johnson has arrived, everybody. The freshman stood out from the crowd, going for 19 points and 19 rebounds, and no, that’s not a typo. This too: he quite literally did not miss at 8-8 from the field. He was one of two shining stars for the game on our side and he showed everyone why he was so highly touted coming into college. He had 4 blocks, and I mean athletic backboard-slap blocks, too. Last, he led the team with 5 assists. That statline was accompanied by 7 turnovers, which is characteristic for a freshman but is concerning. Hopefully he can overcome that, because when he does, he’ll be unstoppable.
The surprise for this game was DJ Steward. Also a freshman, he was the game’s highest scorer with 24 points. He came off the bench and wasn’t predicted as a big scorer, but he showed out. He was impressively efficient, too, shooting 55% from the field and 44% from three. His debut ranks fourth in points scored by a Duke freshman out the gate, behind RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Marvin Bagley III. DJ Steward is among impressive company. But he, too, struggled with turnovers, marking 3 on the game, and that’s definitely a team mishap that we’ll get to later.
Turnovers. This game was a nightmare on ball maintenance. That’s a big reason for the thin margin in a season opener. Duke had 22 turnovers. Coach K was dismayed throughout the game. Tre Jones departed for the NBA after last season. He was a big reason why last year’s team was so secure in half-court offense. Without him, veterans like Jordan Goldwire and Joey Baker weren’t able to right the ship. Coppin State capitalized on our mistakes by scoring 28 off of It’s certainly something that the guys will need to work on.
Perimeter defense was not outstanding and Coppin State had a lot to do with that. In the second half, they shot 43.8% from three as a team. They hit 10 on the game, 7 of which came in the second half. Koby Thomas of the Eagles was 75% from three. Timely threes were a big reason why they just wouldn’t go away all game long, and Duke didn’t stop it til the last sixty seconds. Later this season, ACC Play will have no shortage of quality shooting teams, so Duke will have to overcome.
Overall, it was a big learning game, from a relatively close game situation (in what should’ve been a low pressure game) to turnovers galore. They’re a young team (no different from the last 6 years) so it’ll be a challenge, but we’re hoping they can pull together and keep up the energy.
Next game is Michigan State in the Champions’ Classic. MSU is without veteran Cassius Winston but certainly not without talent, and are ranked #9 in the country. The game will be in Durham.
Good win today to kick off the season. Bleed blue.
College basketball got underway for most teams unaffected by recent COVID cases, which sadly, does not include Duke. The scheduled opener for Wednesday against Gardner-Webb was cancelled due to a case within the opposing program. Of course, we hope everyone is okay there and we know teams on both sides are disappointed to miss a game.
The Blue Devils are case-free at the moment, and the de facto opener against Coppin State, scheduled for Saturday, is currently set to go on. Barring a surprise positive test or other issue, the Coppin State and Duke medical teams worked cohesively to ensure the game could be played safely. There was a positive test within the Coppin State program this week (not a player or coach, but personnel) but everyone else has tested negative multiple times to date. We trust that Duke will do everything possible to make sure this game is as safe as possible prior to tipoff.
And assuming we get to a tipoff… Duke will start today! It’s a wonderful feeling after a long offseason. If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last eight months, it’s that we have to stay in the moment and savor it because we don’t know what’s happening to the season next.
An interesting note about the Coppin State program: Maryland’s Juan Dixon is their coach. Dixon was a national champion in 2002 and Most Outstanding Player for that Final Four, too. He was also on the court for the legendary 2001 “Miracle Minute” game. Duke, led by the likes of Jason Williams, Shane Battier, and current associate head coach Nate James, overcame a double digit deficit in the final 60 seconds of the game. That game happened in College Park, but is well-remembered in Cameron. He’ll be back against Duke, this time on the sideline and in Cameron. There was no absence of dislike between Duke and Maryland before the Terps left the ACC.
We can’t wait to watch the game. You can see my season preview here, but we’ll be looking for veterans like Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore to lead while the young stars get their footing. You can catch the game on ACC Network Extra.
Duke Football plays today too, against Georgia Tech at 7pm. Tech is 2-5 to Duke’s 2-6, so hopefully the Blue Devils can get something going over in Atlanta.
The Duke Women’s Basketball season started with a bang on Wednesday. The Blue Devils took down the Longwood Lancers by a score of 94-64. On the scoring side, it was a collective effort: sophomore Jaida Patrick led with 21 points and 5 assists, followed by junior Miela Goodchild, who scored 16. Onome Akinbode-James had a monster game on the boards with 16.
The big story from the game was the beginning of the “Kara Era”: head coach Kara Lawson began her career as a head coach. Coach Lawson played for Pat Summit at Tennessee, then in the WNBA. She won a championship with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005 and was a 2007 All-Star, then won a gold medal in Tokyo in 2008 with Team USA. She was an analyst for ESPN for several years and the first female analyst to call an NBA game on the network in 2007. She’s a coach in 3×3 basketball for Team USA, and became the first female assistant coach to the Boston Celtics in 2019. Duke hired her to succeed Coach Joanne McCallie this summer.
Freshman Vanessa de Jesus stood out, starting at point. She had 13 points and 4 assists. Veteran Mikayla Boykin did not play due to knee soreness; she’s not expected to miss much time.
College basketball kicks off today, for both the men’s and women’s teams. Duke’s men’s team won’t be playing but you can look forward to a game on Saturday, assuming all goes well for both teams on the health and safety side of things.
Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram, both free agents this offseason, were given their contracts this week and their fantastic play is paying off, literally. Both were given max contracts by their respective teams on Monday and Tuesday.
Jayson got $195M for five years from the Boston Celtics. At 22 years old, Duke’s one-and-done superstar averaged 23.4 points per game last season and led the Celts to the Eastern Conference Finals. They fell to the Miami Heat in playoffs but came inches from the NBA Finals with Jayson, an All-Star, at the helm. He is absolutely one of the NBA’s best franchise players, especially under 25.
Over in New Orleans, Brandon got $158M for five years from the Pelicans. Just a year older than Tatum, Brandon won Most Improved Player for the 2020 season, as he beat his (relatively good) career stats and became an All-Star for the first time. New Orleans is a team to watch for the next five years: they drafted Zion Williamson in 2019 with the first pick, and are likely to resign him next year in free agency. Brandon Ingram and Zion are the franchise duo that NOLA is riding with.
College basketball starts today! Post on that coming soon.
Duke Basketball won’t get started as expected this Wednesday, after the scheduled opponent, Gardner-Webb, had a COVID-19 diagnosis within its program. The opener will now be this Saturday, November 28, against Coppin State in Durham.
Each player expressed dismay on social media, but postponements are expected as the NCAA scrambles to prevent and handle cases and exposures within college basketball.
It’s not the same, of course, but it’s pretty cool: Duke Basketball came out with a “Countdown: The Movie” substitute for the annual Countdown to Craziness pre-season hype scrimmage, and the outcome was fantastic.
It starts with a tribute to the qualities that make Duke Basketball so special, and to the social activism that players initiated in support of Black Lives Matter this summer. The videos’ beginning tied together beautifully how the players support one another on the court and off the court. It’s a wonderful picture of a team that’s really come together for a movement far more important than basketball.
Narrated by JJ Redick, the movie shows the new team while celebrating the Brotherhood’s history (JJ pokes fun at his own career starting around when the new players were born). It includes
The first segment shows the current players commentating on some of the all-time great Duke moments. Christian Laettner, Jayson Tatum, and Austin Rivers’ highlights were included, and Wendell Moore had the chance to relive his own buzzer beater at UNC last season.
Then some more team fun: the guys videoed themselves messing around Cameron, Wallace Wade, and the rest of the Duke campus, lip-syncing to “Laugh Now Cry Later” by Drake. It’s pretty much what you would expect if you put twelve nineteen-to-twenty year olds on a college campus with a camera and a soundtrack, with better camera operation. Coach K makes a cameo, too. We loved it.
Next, an animated video of some Duke greats was shown, from Grant Hill to Kyle Singler to Zion, while an art-form Coach K hoists trophies and Olympic medals. It’s a fitting (and funny) tribute
The photoshoot from a light-strip filled mirror room, with videos of the guys in uniform in the traditional preseason video. You can see the room itself in the video, but they each get the spotlight in the segment and you get to see some of their
Then, each player gets his own Countdown-style introduction within the light-bar scene. If you’ve never seen the traditional Countdown scene, each player is announce over the loudspeakers, has a walkout song, then dances and jumps around with the Crazies. They followed the same format (minus the Crazies, sadly), but instead of Cameron, they filmed in the same mirror-and-lights room. They added some photoshoot flicks, too, for each player. Jeremy Roach even wears the light-up horns that the Crazies wear every year. It’s a lot of fun.
The poster is introduced, but rather than the traditional team photo with a cool background, the players are animated again into superheroes. Matthew Hurt (Matty Ice) is Ice Man. Joey Baker is Bullzeye. Mike Buckmire is Professor B. It’s a fittingly unconventional poster, and it’s awesome.
Lastly, the Brotherhood alumni send a message to the new team: you can watch Tre Jones, Grayson Allen, Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Jahlil Okafor, Carlos Boozer, Grant Hill, Mason Plumlee, Shelden Williams, Tyus Jones, and more in a sendoff before November 25.
It’s worth a watch and it’ll get you excited for the new season, which is just five days away. We’re headed toward a crazy year, but the guys in this movie are sure to make it a good time.
Duke sent three more players to the NBA on Wednesday night in a draft where abnormal would be an understatement. The 2020 NBA Draft was about 5 months later than previously scheduled due to the hiatus from March to July and was held virtually, with players sitting in their homes as they waited to hear commissioner Adam Silver call their names. While it wasn’t the same, the draft is so special because it’s a literal dream come true for all of the guys selected. The virtual draft was different, but did not lack in emotion and whole-hearted joy. Congratulations to all of the NBA’s brand new rookies. The Blue Devil picks were as follows: Vernon Carey went 32nd to the Charlotte Hornets, Tre Jones 41st to the San Antonio Spurs, and Cassius Stanley 53rd to the Indiana Pacers.
Going into the draft was as strange as the draft itself mostly because none of us really had a clue what would play out. Especially compared to last year, the draft projections were further off. Outside of the top three (who went Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball), whose order was highly debated, the rest of the draft was a wild card. Teams didn’t have the same access to player metrics, like a formal combine or easily scheduled workouts, as typically.
All of the Duke picks went in the second round. While there’s an expectation of Duke sending several players in the first round, these guys are absolute steals. It’s completely insane to me that the ACC Player of the Year and defensive Player of the Year in Tre Jones went second round, as well as the ACC Freshman of the Year. The NBA values the “ceiling” for these players a lot; execs look at how high the players can go. That’s pretty obvious in this draft. But it’s important to remember that the “floor” is how high they’re already at, and is also vital to NBA success. We know that Vernon and Tre are big-time players and they’ll show that in the next level. Every rookie is a rookie in the NBA and can make their way to the top. Draymond Green of the Warriors went second round. Quinn Cook, Duke’s 2015 championship team leader, went undrafted altogether and just earned his second NBA ring. Tre Jones, Vernon Carey, and Cassius Stanley have limitless potential and have already shown what incredible players and guys they are.
Tre Jones to the Spurs might just be the steal of the draft. At 41st, he’s headed to San Antonio to play under Gregg Popovich. Popovich is arguably the NBA’s Coach K, and similarly to Coach K he values hardworking players who go hard at the gritty details. Tre is a defensive monster (Cole Anthony would know and he was picked just outside of the lottery) and is rock solid in the clutch (Cole Anthony, and the rest of UNC, would know this one too). As a sophomore he was captain and the hands-down leader of the team last year. He knows how to accentuate the talents of NBA stars. As a point guard and a leader, he was the team operator behind the likes of, oh, I don’t know, Zion Williamson? He set up the fantastic plays of guys like Zion, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, Cassius Stanley, and Vernon Carey. He’s experienced and can go even higher from here. Also to note, he’ll join his brother Tyus in the NBA.
Vernon Carey is next up. He was one of the first second-round picks and won’t travel far from Durham. He’s the Hornets’ newest addition. He’ll play with #2 pick, LaMelo Ball (yes, the Ball family is coming to North Carolina). The Hornets are considered one of the biggest winners of this draft and Vernon is part of that. He has a monster frame and is versatile and quick around the rim on either end of the floor. He could see some improvement in FG%, at 57.7%, but that’s still pretty consistent. He can stretch the floor; his 3-point shooting improved over his short college career. The NBA is shifting away from bigger players, but that 3-point shooting will be a huge asset. This is a talented, underrated player.
Finally, we have Cassius Stanley to the Pacers at 54th. If Tre and Vernon are the guys with a high floor, Cassius is the guy whose ceiling is in outer space. As a recruit in high school his athleticism was unparalleled. He’s come even further since then, as his highlight reel from Duke would indicate. He was not the most consistent college player, but that doesn’t discount his potential and he still posted a good 13 points per game average. Cassius could really go places.
These guys will get their first go in the NBA starting around Christmas, at least tentatively. They won’t have the more typical lengthy offseason but they will be as resilient as any class of newcomers we’ve ever seen.
We’ll continue to follow our NBA Blue Devils (Seth Curry is a 76er and Luke Kennard is a Clipper now, by the way) but the new season of college basketball starts in less than one week and we’re beyond thrilled.
The 2020-2021 season begins in two weeks. I’ll spare you the 2020 sucks jokes, but this season should live up to the year in craziness (sadly, without the help of the Cameron Crazies). Duke Basketball will be back! The idea of college basketball becoming part of our lives again is wonderful.
But forward we go. It should be recognized that we don’t know all of details, nor can we predict exactly what might happen. Our priorities are the players and their safety, and this virus isn’t letting up anytime soon. We should not pretend that it will. There will be no fans in Cameron Indoor this year, as expected and as health guidelines would recommend. But life in a pandemic means adapting to what it throws at you, and our hope is that the season is safe, resilient, and brings us something just a little bit normal.
Duke is poised to be a national power. No surprise there The AP Poll is out and Duke landed at #9 preseason. Preseason polls are almost never accurate (hello, UNC last year?) but it’s still exciting to think about. The schedule was published at long last:
Some notable dates for the 2020 calendar year:
November 25. The season begins at Cameron with the traditional early season games, never to be discounted. Some pre-Thanksgiving fun!
December 1. #13 Michigan State comes to Durham for a Top-25 showdown in the Champion’s Classic. While it won’t be Madison Square Garden, the Classic is always a fun game. Evidence? Look no further.
December 4-6. Duke will be holding its very own early season tournament, the Mako Medical Duke Classic. The event will honor Dr. Onye Akwari, one of Duke Medicine’s most legendary and influential figures. You can learn more about his life and the event here. The basketball participants will include co-host Howard, Bellarmine, and Elon.
December 16. ACC Schedule begins at Notre Dame.
As we’ve made clear, and as this football season has made even clearer, these dates are tentative. Testing and isolation will be important, and so will flexibility.
And now for the rising stars of this Blue Devil team. In no change from the last five years, Duke has an outstanding set of freshmen sure to light up the NBA prospect conversation (and hopefully the scoreboard). Here they are:
Say hello to Jalen Johnson. Wrapping up at 13th on ESPN’s Player Rankings for the Class of 2020, Jalen is the crowning jewel of talent for Duke this year. At 6-9, 220, he’s a powerful small forward whose electricity is exciting. See the picture above.
2. Following up, we’ve got Jeremy Roach. He falls closely behind Jalen at #19 in ESPN’s rankings and is a top point guard in his class. Jordan Goldwire, the senior PG, is more likely to start but don’t count Jeremy out. He looks to follow in the footsteps of Tre Jones as the next great Duke playmaker, and he’s got the potential to make that jump. His athletic abilities and dynamic ballhandling are his biggest strengths. Look for some big action from him this year.
3. DJ Steward is next in line. He’s a versatile guard with a quality shot. Earlier this year, he was named to the Jerry West award watchlist. He’s known as a huge prospect for scoring and playmaking, and can act as a point guard when needed.
4. The second standout freshman forward for the Blue Devils is Henry Coleman III. The 6-7, 229 big man is known around the team as an “energizer bunny”, as Coach James put it, and an athletic gem. He’s versatile, as an inside presence who can shoot from deep. He has the potential to be Duke’s underrated surprise this season.
5. He’s right, it’s that month and we couldn’t be happier. This is Jaemyn Brakefield, another forward with an added shot and a knack for defense. Athleticism is a pattern on this team, and Jaemyn follows it. He has skills in all areas of the game and is essentially positionless.
6. The final of the first years, Mark Williams. Most noticeably, Mark is tall. Like, really tall. He’s Duke’s first 7-footer since Marshall Plumlee graduated and has a massive wingspan of 7-8. Quite obviously an asset to the defense, Williams looks to be a Wendell Carter-style big man with opportunities for putbacks and rebounds galore.
That rounds out a balanced freshmen class with lots of budding talent for Coach K to play with. We’ve been treated to several high-profile freshmen classes over the last couple of years, but this season’s supporting cast of upperclassmen is arguably one of the best we’ve had for a while. Several returning sophomores and a solid set of leaders give this team a big edge. Here they are:
1.Leading the pack, we have senior co-captain Jordan Goldwire. Jordan’s been on the upward trajectory since he arrived at Duke three years ago. He guards the point profoundly well and hit some huge shots last season. He jumped from 12% to 35.4% on 3-point field goals between 2019 and 2020 and has stood out in scrimmages as a trusted leader.
2. The second captain this year is Wendell Moore, the standout sophomore who most certainly made his name known (see here) a year ago. Moore has emerged a leader, both with his basketball-related activities and his activism during the offseason. He’s expected to start as a talented forward who can stretch the floor. He could make a big jump this season in addition to having become a vital roleplayer for this Blue Devil team.
3. Joey Baker is returning as well. Our junior sharpshooter looks to improve even further this year. We can’t wait to watch him. He’s likely to come off the bench but can be a big influence for shooters like DJ Steward as well as a scorer himself. He’s looking like a seventh or eighth man and could provide some important minutes.
4. Everyone’s got their eyes on sophomore Matt Hurt. Like Joey, Matt is a lengthy sharpshooter who, according to the coaches, has made leaps and bounds from his freshman year. We’re looking for a breakout year from him. He’s almost definitely a starter at power forward. He’s a known three-point threat who averaged almost 10 points a game last year. He’s another important factor in this monster frontcourt.
5. Patrick Tapé is another newcomer for Duke, but not how you might think. A graduate transfer from Columbia University, Tapé was a force in the Ivy League during his first 3 years. He was out last year with a foot injury but will be back this year. He’s a 6-9, 233 forward, so obviously a presence in the post. He’s got better reaction time than one would expect at his size, a huge bonus on the defensive and offensive boards. He’ll more than likely be off the bench as well, and could be a sub-in anchor for this defense.
6. Last but certainly not least, we have sophomore Michael Savarino and Keenan Worthington, and senior Mike Buckmire. While these three aren’t expected to play often, their value to the team should never be discounted. Don’t forget Justin Robinson last year, who rose from non-scholarship to a fan favorite, reliable 3-and-D who started his final game. Mike’s final season will culminate the pre-med, stellar student’s career as a beloved team player (who received scholarship last year). We can’t wait to watch.
We’ll have more season preview over the next eleven days.