Duke Survives Wake Forest in a Heart-Stopper, 71-70

What a game. What a crazy game. Duke came into the first half with little energy; Coach K described the guys as “giddy” afterwards but simply were outplayed by the Demon Deacons. However, with some crazy events and a bit of good fortune, Duke held on for a 71-70 win on Senior Night. Hats off to Wake Forest for by far the best game they’ve played in a really rough season. The defense wasn’t awful or something; Wake made some very difficult shots and we didn’t have our night but both teams just played their tails off. RJ Barrett was magnificent again and had 28 points.

As previously said, we were hit with a gut punch early on. The first half was played with very little energy; excluding RJ Barrett our team was 6-for-17 from the field. Jack White had two awesome three-pointers (he’d made 5 straight following the 28-streak before missing one) and RJ was getting double teamed and fouled hard (still had 15 points at intermission, though) and that was just about it, save a few plays, for the offense. Wake Forest, on the other hand, played very well and forced us to turn over the ball nine times in the first period of play. Cam Reddish was very limited during the game as 3 offensive charges took him out in the first period after just 8 minutes and a foul with about 9 minutes remaining kept him on the bench for much of the competition. He did contribute 6 points on a night it which he also struggled to put the ball in the basket.

Coming out of halftime, it wasn’t (at first) a patented Duke run but instead a Wake Forest one. Duke went up three on a Tre Jones layup, but Wake Forest immediately went on a 13-0 run. Duke was forced to take a timeout. Finally, that patented run was back and we scored 10 straight. Finally, some life in the building.

It was back-and-forth from there. The end of the game was a heartstopper but so was the injury to Tre Jones, who left for the locker room in the second half for a few very stressful minutes with a knee issue; he would, however return. Marques Bolden did not play for much of the second half because of a hip injury.

I don’t think that I breathed through the last few minutes. Tied 62-62, Alex O’Connell hit a three, a turnover was forced, Tre hit two free throws, and RJ and Brandon Childress traded buckets to give us the 5-point advantage with 1:24 to play. RJ missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Wake immediately responded with four free throws (all by Chaundee Brown). At 69-68 Duke, RJ made a shot that you just cannot teach from the paint to give us the three-point advantage.

This is where your heart rate goes up if you’re a Duke fan. Brandon Childress makes the layup to make a one-point game with seven seconds on the clock, and then something “inexcusable”, as Coach K put it, happened: Jack White, in attempting to change the inbounder, stepped over the line and turned the ball over right there, underneath the basket. Wake Forest had a shot to win it, and… well, I’ll just let you watch.

Oh. My. Goodness. That was too close.

It should be brought into consideration the number of injuries that we faced throughout the competition. Tre Jones took the energy in the building with him en route to a brief locker room visit in the middle of the second half, of which he would miss relatively significant minutes. Marques Bolden was unavailable (yet another post presence gone) for much of the game with a hip injury. Zion Williamson was yet again unavailable.

But it shouldn’t have been that close. Hopefully, a few days’ rest will get the Blue Devils ready for the upcoming rivalry rematch at UNC on Saturday.

Speaking of UNC and Zion Williamson, it’s been 5 (4.9999) games since we last saw Zion Williamson. UNC is yet to face him. Coach K said in his press conference that he “doesn’t think” Zion will be ready for UNC but later backtracked and said the decision will be made around Friday. Zion began “basketball activities” on Wednesday, but is yet to participate in full contact practice.

Bleed blue. The greatest rivals in basketball will meet again on Saturday. That’s must see. Look for my preview in the upcoming days.

Duke vs. Wake Forest Game Notes and a Zion Update

Before we get to anything else, today is absolutely in celebration of two guys:

Our seniors, Brennan Besser and Antonio Vrankovic. This is their final game in Cameron for two guys who don’t play as much but are as valuable or more than players with all the talent in the world. They’ve both given so much to our program and we’re so incredibly happy for them as they give a final farewell to the Crazies and, in May, to the University. Thank you, seniors.

Now, for the Zion update. It’s good news! Coach Krzyzewski said this in the ACC Coaches’ Teleconference:

There’s been no decision, he’s still day-to-day Zion Williamson is in phase 4 of the 4-phase program and it’s just a matter of how long he stays in it and we feel comfortable

Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Coach K is obviously not at all going to rush it but there’s no decision on whether Zion will play tonight. If he were to play– which means he’s 100%– I’m sure he’d not play the whole time but even if he doesn’t, he’d really ought to suit up. That article by Matt Giles is great, by the way.

Now, we want to get him back for the seeding implications. We’re supposedly in danger of losing that top seed– don’t ask me why, as we have owned Virginia all season, but I suppose that’s where we’re at right now. However, with a fully healthy squad, we all know who’s #1 overall (the team that hasn’t lost since November when fully healthy).

On to Wake Forest. They’re– well– they’re just bad again. The numbers don’t lie: they do have two good players in Brandon Childress (yeah, he’s still there) and Jaylen Hoard, as well as another double-digit scorer in Chaundee Brown but they’re not yet averaging just 70 PPG and allowing 75. Duke on the other hand averages 85 PPG. The Deacs are 11-17, though four ACC wins are better than last.

When these two teams met in Winston-Salem, Zion Williamson had a 30-point stat sheet stuffer, but with his status uncertain we’ll certainly rely on other guys to pick up the pieces. Alex O’Connell has played his best all season during Zion’s absence, which we hope will continue. Additionally, Marques Bolden has been just magnificent of late.

Game Notes

Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Duke Blue Devils

Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Time: 7:00pm

TV: ESPN

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; ESPN Radio

Bleed blue. “Teach them how to say goodbye, to say goodbye…”

Duke Cruises by Notre Dame, 83-61

Zion Williamson scored 26 along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, RJ Barrett had 17, and Duke cruised by Notre Dame in South Bend without too much trouble. The Blue Devils garnered a 17-2 lead early and never really looked back. Notre Dame did fight the whole game, an admirable show of perseverance.

A lot of the news in college basketball this week were about how Duke was unable to shoot the three; Duke came out of the bat with 2 shots from distance, making both, an continued to shoot well and intelligently with well-placed shots on a 52.6% mark overall (10-19). Tre Jones shot well and very efficiently, his mark at 9 points on 4-6. Alex O’Connell played well, getting 7 points in 9 minutes of play. Both players made at least one three pointer.

The defensive effort was impressive as Notre Dame, a generally good shooting team with a lane presence in double-double machine John Mooney, shot just above 34% overall and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Mooney had a good game but shot a low 4-15, like many of his teammates that scored on the higher end.

Notre Dame tried to stay in it and even got it to 32-23 at one point but that hope was all but squashed by a Zion Williamson 3-pointer. From that point the lead stayed in the 20 range and didn’t move much.

Now, we get to the highlights! Zion had a Superman-like block (okay, it was technically goaltending, but it didn’t get called).

Bleed blue. Duke returns to Cameron next weekend to take on St. John’s.

Intro Video, Player Intros, Top Plays and More from Countdown to Craziness

It was an epic night as we got a glimpse of our team in a real scrimmage for the first time since August. The hype video got the night started, then the players took the floor for the first time in uniform, and the Blue-White Scrimmage began.

First of all, the Intro Video is fire. Literally.

If that doesn’t get you crazie hyped for the season, I don’t know what will. The players showed off their dance moves, and even some of their own music (go, Brennan Besser!):

Then we got to the actual scrimmage. This video has the top plays, and here’s a hint: “That’s gonna be on SportsCenter!”

It’s also got an interview (Tre Jones and Javin DeLaurier), and apparently, Javin yelled “Chicken” when he made a three-point shot. Find out what that was all about above.

The countdown to Countdown is over, but the Countdown to the Classic is ON! The Champions’ Classic is on November 6th at 9:30pm vs. Kentucky. Bleed blue.

Image featured on homepage is property of Duke Athletics. I do not own that photograph.

Coach K’s Grandson is a College Prospect!

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Coach Mike Krzyzewski holds his two eldest grandchildren in 2004: Michael (left) and Joey. Source: The News & Observer.

Famous for Final Four photographs and texting with Justise Winslow (in the gray sweatshirt on the far left), Michael Savarino, grandson of Coach K, is becoming famous for something else: his own basketball talent. The 6’0″ PG out of Durham Academy is a legitimate college prospect, according to USA Today HSS. The Charlotte Observer did an article on him in July and he looks pretty darn good. He also looks very similar to a guy we all know very well thanks to the past four years: Grayson Allen. Mrs. K said that “they look more like brothers than Michael looks with his own brother (Joey Savarino).”

DA Basketball has multiple newer stars between Savarino and 2022 prospect MJ Rice, who is currently at USA Basketball’s Mini Camp.

Durham Academy is rivals with Ravenscroft who recently picked up Alex O’Connell’s younger brother Brady:

Lots of action picking up in Central NC right now! Bleed blue.

Breaking: Alex O’Connell’s Surgery a Success, Should Start Practice in September

Alex O’Connell, who fractured an orbital bone in the third minute against Ryerson last week, underwent successful surgery to repair it and should start practice come September. O’Connell was hit in the eye against Ryerson and was unable to return.

The Duke Basketball eye specialist on the medical staff has been awfully busy this past year: Wendell Carter probably lost his contacts fifty times during a game last season, Marvin Bagley, III, had a scratched cornea during the game against Michigan State (which they won anyway, which is amazing), and now this. Maybe teams are conspiring to poke everybody’s eyes out so they can win by default. I don’t know, honestly. Injuries have been a problem for years now: Harry Giles’ knee, Marques Bolden’s knee, and we will never, ever, ever, forget Kyrie Irving’s toe. That ‘chip was ours.

 

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Alex O’Connell. Source: NBC Sports.

Our injury list continues to decline: Tre Jones (hip) and Cam Reddish (groin) are on the mend alongside O’Connell. Bleed blue, Duke fans. I woke up and it was cold this morning. At least that means basketball season is approaching (I hate the cold).

Friday vs. Toronto: Duke’s Lineup Thin vs. Toronto

After starting out down two guys at guard (Cam Reddish and Tre Jones), Duke’s depth started to slip. Now, it’s gotten worse. With sophomore guard Alex O’Connell out the rest of the tournament with an orbital bone fracture, there are almost no guards left on the squad. Jordan Goldwire, Mike Buckmire, and Brennan Besser are the only three left. Of course, all three players should be healed by the time the regular season begins. However, with smaller guys dominating the Toronto lineup, some of the bigger guys will have to play like a guard. Of course, there’s Zion Williamson, who is “a powerful Mack Truck with the feet of a ballerina” (Jay Bilas). He has the ability to keep up with a guard, and Duke has centers in Marques Bolden and Antonio Vrankovic. It’ll work out.

Canadian collegiate basketball is not something I’ve studied, but Ryerson is reportedly the best team we will face this week.

Jordan Goldwire stood up to run the offense on Wednesday. Will he step up again? Who gets a boost in playing time? Against Ryerson, lots of minutes were given to Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden, Goldwire, Justin Robinson, and Jack White, and of course the two freshmen after O’Connell’s early injury. This game will be the last of the two games played in Missassagua, R.J. Barrett’s hometown before the Blue Devils travel to Montreal for McGill.

Duke is favored pretty heavily despite the absences. Obviously, the athletic advantage is there, but Toronto has a heavy advantage by means of experience. These guys are smaller, agile, and good shooters. It’ll be a challenge, but beating a team like Duke is a monumental order. It’ll be a good test for Duke, who will face more experienced teams all season long, especially in the grueling ACC.

Bleed blue.

Duke Cruises Against Ryerson, 86-67

R.J. Barrett says, “Stand back”. Copyright © Duke Athletics.

With an 86-67 victory, Duke Basketball’s new lineup looked very impressive in their debut exhibition game against Ryerson on Wednesday. The jitters were there, especially in the first quarter, but the veterans and the rookies got themselves together and paced themselves to a good rout. It was the freshmen show, as Zion Williamson, with 29 points and 13 rebounds, and hometown man R.J. Barrett, with 34 points, combined for over 73% of the team’s overall scoring.

The Injury Factor

Jordan Goldwire (14) brings the ball up. Copyright © Duke Athletics

Ballhandling was especially thin today as Duke’s Cam Reddish and Tre Jones were both sidelined. Alex O’Connell took a knock to the eye pretty early on and did not return (another ballhandler!). Jack White had a groin injury later in the game but was able to return. It looked like one of those injuries where the shock gives the most damage. However, from there forth the lineup was very thin and players started to seem pretty tired, but they fought through and that’s what really counted. Also, Jordan Goldwire played the point well for a lot of the game. He’s shown improvement as the backup for Tre now after being backup for Trevon Duval.

 

Zion Williamson Silences Doubters

This is what I was waiting to see: what’s behind the fame of the Instagram star? A player of the likes that we’ve never seen before if you ask anyone who watched that game. Zion Williamson danced through the lane, hit seventy-five percent on threes, and passed with skill like it was nobody’s business. He’s a spectacular athlete, of course, and showed it off, but plays with grace and intelligence. I love this guy thus far. And by the way, is it just me, or did he get his whole forearm in the rim?

Hometown Man

R.J. Barrett, playing just a few miles from where he grew up, was very solid in his debut, scoring 34 points. His field goal average is not super great, but that’s completely understandable in his first game. He got the crowd to their feet with some electrifying dunks and terrific plays. He’ll develop over the course of the season and we’re excited to see where that will take him!

Javin DeLaurier Looks Impressive

Javin DeLaurier (12) high-fives Antonio Vrankovic (30). Copyright © Duke Athletics

Javin DeLaurier, who worked out with Justin Robinson and his father, “The Admiral” David Robinson over the summer, looked significantly improved. He only had two fouls, and while he’s a good defensive player, fouls were often an issue for him. He turned that around, and his offense also looked improved, scoring eight points and snagging eleven rebounds. Kudos to him. He’s one of the most athletically inclined guys we have, so we hope he can keep it up. He’s sent some balls into the stands with his blocks at Cameron. In addition to his improvement in the mechanics of his game, he’s really started to take over the role of the veteran. He’s a junior now (how the heck did that happen?), and while everybody says Duke is super young, we have a lot of guys like Antonio Vrankovic, Justin Robinson, Jack White, and Javin who despite not having the publicity of guys like Grayson Allen, they are the core of this group.

Room for Improvement

Overall, it was a solid debut for this stacked team. The team is promising, defensively, and the talent level is obviously through the roof. The turnovers were an issue early on, but as it was the first game as a team, that’s nothing to worry about quite yet. Not to mention the injury to Tre Jones, primary ballhandler. There was a good bit of fouling going on, as well, but it was an overall good game for the very first exhibition game.

Alex O’Connell Injured

Alex O’Connell was knocked out early, and Coach K mentioned his hospitalization during his press conference, apparently getting his eye and socket checked out after getting hit during the first quarter. We hope it’s not too serious an injury and the best to him.

*** UPDATE: Alex O’Connell suffers orbital bone fracture, will miss the rest of the tour ***

Glad he’ll be okay but it’s unfortunate that he’ll have to miss time. Wishing him well.

Possible Starting Lineups for Duke Next Year

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Okay, so I’m doing this post because it interests me (thanks, Houston Rockets Mania Blog for the inspiration) and for Duke this year, there are many, many weapons offensively and defensively. It’s pick your poison for an opposing coach, in reality, but which 5 poisons should get the start? There’s also the fact that between the draft and the NCAA’s four-season limit, last year’s usual starting lineup (when Alex O’Connell didn’t get the start) is GONE. It’ll be hard to see a Duke starting lineup without Grayson, but here we go anyway.

First: The 2017-18 Lineup but Younger!

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Marques Bolden (20). Courtesy: CBS Sports.

Well, we all remember last season when it was Grayson Allen and a whole bunch of freshmen in every single starting lineup. Heck, I’m pretty sure Grayson was the only non-freshman to start except maybe Javin DeLaurier. Anyway, this lineup is…

 

  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Cam Reddish
  3. G RJ Barrett
  4. F Zion Williamson
  5. C Marques Bolden

Bolden never got much time to shine last season between injuries and future NBA star Wendell Carter, and he is a really, really good player. We need him to be able to break out this season, and giving him room to do so is a good way to start. Bolden would also be the only player with any experience whatsoever. He’ll be a junior next year (how the heck did THAT happen?) and will have to help lead the team, alongside fellow junior Javin DeLaurier and (gasp!) seniors Antonio Vrankovic, Brennan Besser, and Justin Robinson (again, how is four years so short all of a sudden?). Having a veteran (well, kind of) in the starting lineup will be very helpful next season.

Second: Freshmen all around! Lineup

Not to mention Zion at Center. That will certainly have the college basketball world freaking out. If you didn’t see my post before this, Zion, as SBNation put it, is a refrigerator with wings. He would be the second-largest player in the NBA, and he’s a BEAST. Not to mention the “wings” part: he can FLY. But here it is:

  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Joey Baker
  3. G RJ Barrett
  4. G Cam Reddish
  5. F Zion Williamson

That would be fun. I don’t really know how developed Joey Baker is after reclassifying from the 2019 class, but, hey, he could be. However, I think they’ll probably use him as a sixth or seventh man. However, it would be an extremely vulnerable lineup seeing as no one of them has any experience whatsoever. I doubt we see this lineup much if at all this season.

Third: A Grayson Allen-esque Breakout?

  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Alex O’Connell
  3. G Cam Reddish
  4. F R.J. Barrett
  5. F Zion Williamson

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Alex O’Connell. Courtesy: Duke Athletics.

If you remember, in 2016 Grayson Allen had a breakout year in which he averaged 21 points. Really, the breakout happened during the National Championship game in 2015, but that carried out into his next season. He got a lot stronger between those seasons,  gaining some weight and assuming his position as a leader and a difference maker on that squad that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. That could be Alex O’Connell this year. He’s a good shooter, but he’s very wiry and has little to no bulk on him. Maybe this season will be a breakout for Alex.

Fourth: The Cam-at-PG Lineup

John Calipari used Reddish at point guard in the Team USA U19 World Championship in Egypt last year. That trip was spoiled by R.J. Barrett himself, now Reddish’s teammate, as Barrett exploded for 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. But anyway, here it is:

  1. G Cam Reddish
  2. G RJ Barrett
  3. G Zion Williamson
  4. F Javin DeLaurier
  5. C Marques Bolden

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Javin DeLaurier (left) and Marques Bolden (right). Courtesy: Duke Athletics.

This lineup throws another piece into the puzzle: Javin DeLaurier. His versatile game is in need of improvement, but with some hard work, he could become a difference maker for the Blue Devils. He’s very athletic which makes him an intriguing figure. Can he use that athleticism in a beneficial manner on the offensive end as much as he does defensively? We’ll see. Meanwhile, he will almost definitely continue to be a great teammate as always. He’s always come off as a really great guy to be around because of his dedication to the team.

 

Obviously, there are plenty more possibilities for this loaded team. Regardless, this is one of the most talented teams we’ve seen in a while (which we seem to say every year).