Season Ends In DC vs. MSU, 68-67

Instead of the season that would’ve been, this season is always going to have that part that could have been. An incredible season ended in heartbreak for the Duke Blue Devils of 2019 as a go-ahead three-pointer from Michigan State’s Kenny Goins put the Spartans ahead by two– for good. We’ve had an amazing time with this team and there will never, ever be anything else like them.

Duke came back from down 7 to go up 9 in the first half after a sluggish start. However, MSU went on a 13-0 run to end the first. These kinds of games are so difficult to swallow because any one play– any one– could’ve changed the outcome completely. It was back and forth to the very end from there. Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s veteran point guard, went off for 20 points and 10 assists. For Duke, Zion Williamson had 24 points and 14 rebounds while teammate and roommate RJ Barrett had 21. Tre Jones struggled offensively with 4 points and 5 assists.

I haven’t brought myself to watch it, but if you want to here it is. RJ Barrett consoles Tre Jones in the locker room after the game. Tre had Cassius Winston on the final inbound, who ultimately ended up running out the clock. Tre and his family have been through so much emotionally– his mother’s cancer diagnosis, primarily– and for it to end like this is just heart-wrenching.

Now, for the excruciating wait: Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones all have huge decisions to make. Two of them seem pretty straightforward as Zion and RJ could be the two first picks in the draft this year. Cam’s performance this year (love him, but it’s true) has been inconsistent but his potential puts him as even a possible lottery pick. He’s an underrated defender and has one of the most beautiful shots we’ve ever seen. Tre is projected in possibly even the first round but could return to work on his offensive skillset as a scorer, something he hasn’t done a lot this season though what his defense have done for us this season is inestimable.

Bleed blue. Thank you to all of our Blue Devils for making this season simply unforgettable.

Duke Survives Yet Again, Takes Out Scrappy Hokies, 75-73

I can’t breathe. Again.

Duke survived yet another nailbiter against another familiar, scrappy, and hot team with a Sweet Sixteen win over Virginia Tech, 75-73. Hats off to the Hokies for a game exceptionally well played. They were down 7 with 2:39 minutes to go, but battled back to contest it to the very end. However, the “will to win” for these young Blue Devils, as Coach K put it earlier this season, wouldn’t be defeated. Tre Jones had a career high 22 points on 5-7 shooting after going 1-10 in the previous two contests. With two points to go and 1.6 seconds remaining and Duke clinging to a two-point lead, Ahmed Hill missed the put-back layup off the lob from Justin Robinson that would’ve sent it to overtime. Duke is Elite Eight-bound.

Tre Jones was one of the biggest factors in this game, delivering with power. Tre is going through a difficult emotional time: Tre and Tyus’ mother, Mrs. Debbie Jones, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer just before the tournament. “I’m playing for my mama,” Tre said to CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson. Such an amazing performance for a guy who’s battling through the adversity alongside his mother. All the best to the Jones family; we know that fighters come from that family.

Zion Williamson had another great game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and some huge blocks to lead all scorers. RJ Barrett struggled to score in the first half but had no trouble involving others, with 7 of his 11 assists coming in the opening period. He came storming back in the second, though, with 15 points towards a total of 18.

Cam Reddish was a sudden loss for this game; he’s dealing with a left leg issue. There’s no timetable for his return as the decision over his availability didn’t come until mid-first half.

Now approaches a matchup with Michigan State, who crushed a good but inconsistent LSU team. That game will be on Sunday, but the time for that game is yet to be announced.

Bleed blue. By the way? WASSUP WASSUP AYYY, ELITE EIGHT.

Round of 32: AtTACKOing Fall

No. 1 overall seed Duke took care of business on Friday against 16-seeded North Dakota State; they will look to make quick work of UCF on Sunday but it will be no easy task. One of those main reason will be UCF’s inside presence on defense as well as offense, mostly comprised of a growingly famous name in college basketball: Tacko Fall.

Fall, as I’ve mentioned before, is a 7-6 (not a typo) center with mobility. He’s something few have seen in this game before. Not only that, he’s also one of the tallest living people on the planet. Try to wrap your head around that. He racks up the rebounds and blocks for the Golden Knights, as well as dunks (pretty much his only offensive weapon). Again, few even in the NBA have faced this kind of player before. It’s not only his height; Fall is mobile unlike most players of heights even somewhat smaller than his. He’s going to make Duke’s inside game much less straightforward.

Well, luckily for us, Fall won’t be the only player on the court of the likes rarely seen before; in fact, this one is most likely more uncommon. You’ve probably never heard his name before. Oh, wait. Zion Williamson. If you think Tacko Fall is mobile, Zion will blow your mind. That may just be the key to getting around Fall in the paint: ball movement, quick footwork. Nobody does that better than Zion and RJ Barrett, so hopefully they can put it to work and not allow Fall to clog the paint.

Fall is an excellent shot blocker and surprisingly only averages 2.8 personal fouls per game. If you can get fouls on him, though, you take out a major part of the Knights’ defense. That’s certainly something that RJ Barrett can do as well as Zion Williamson. If Cam Reddish does not lower the shoulder, he is also capable of forcing fouls on big men. We’ll need to adjust shots to get around him, as he’s an excellent shot blocker. Fall averages 2.6 blocks per game.

Another solution could be outside shooting, but that isn’t exactly our strength. This year’s Blue Devils are shooting barely over 30% from beyond the arc, good enough for 340th in Division I. Jack White (hamstring), one of the shooters, is likely out tomorrow so he will not be an option, though Cam Reddish is reliable if he can get hot, as well as RJ Barrett. Zion can also shoot from deep, but doesn’t do so as commonly as the previous. Could Joey Baker see some action? It’s a possibility, as Joey got his first points as a Blue Devil last night with a three.

The key to controlling him offensively would surely be to not let him get too close to the basket where he can just catch the ball over the head of his defender and slam it. Additionally, Fall shoots a dismal 36 percent from the charity stripe, which would be something to watch. He averages 11 points per game.

Bleed blue.

All-ACC and Awards

Nobody’s surprised here. With its high-performing freshmen, it was a Duke party at the ACC awards. All four were awarded in at least one category (five categories for Zion).

Let’s start with Tre. We all know the lockdown defense he’s played. Naturally, he made All-ACC Defensive team but was snubbed for DPOY. That instead went to UVA’s De’Andre Hunter, despite the number of nationally prominent point guards Tre Jones has shut down this season (Shamorie Ponds, Chris Lykes, literally all of Texas Tech because they didn’t want to face him but he figured it out). Despite the snub, Tre got All-ACC Defensive as well as All-Freshman.

This is the one I’m mad about. Cam Reddish was selected for NOTHING. Not even third team. Yes, he plays with the two best players in the country but that shouldn’t allow the omission of his name from these awards with all his accomplishments. Has anybody forgotten this?

https://twitter.com/espn/status1084199481774616577?s=21

Come on. Give him some respect.

On to RJ Barrett. RJ got 21 votes for ROY and 16 votes for POY, though those numbers would have been much larger had Zion not been there. He obviously was on the All-ACC team (almost unanimously) and All-Rookie team.

Now to Zion. Zion Williamson was awarded in ALL of these categories:

1. All-Freshman Team.

2. All-Defensive Team.

3. All-ACC Team.

4. ACC Rookie of the Year

5. ACC Player of the Year

All deserved. All having missed 6 games (minus thirty-six seconds, but be honest with yourself). All rewarding one of the greatest college players of our time.

The ACC tournament begins today. The winner of today’s BC-Pitt game will go on to compete for a spot in the quarterfinal against Duke. Remember, anything can happen in this tourney as the 2017 Blue Devils, a five-seed team having to play four days in a row, won it all.

Some big news pertaining to Selection Sunday: #1 Gonzaga was shocked by St. Mary’s in the WCC Tournament. How far do they fall for the committee? It’s not as though St. Mary’s pulled a fluke as it was a gritty 60-47 win (yeah, the #1 team put up 47). If the committee puts them at a one-seed, though, that two-seed is the most jubilant in the history of this sport.

Bleed blue.

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 Obliterates Miami, 87-57

No Zion? No problem, at least for today as Duke took care of business at home against the Miami Hurricanes. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish led a rejuvenated Blue Devil squad with 19 apiece; however, it was a more balanced attack today as Marques Bolden continued his excellent play with 15. Alex O’Connell had 11 points on 30 minutes; he’s certainly performed exceptionally in Zion Williamson’s absence.

One of the biggest highlights of this game was Tre Jones. He’s struggled offensively of late and completely botched a dunk but he certainly made up for it with his defense. He skipped lunch and instead feasted on Chris Lykes, the 5-7 (not a typo) Miami guard. Despite what he lacks physically, Lykes is one of the best guards in the ACC and before the game averaged 17 PPG, making him a top-10 lead scorer. Not anymore. Lykes failed to score until almost halfway through the second period and finished with four to go along with 2 assists. Additionally, the Miami point guard turned the ball over four times, most of them having to do with Tre Jones’ career-high 6 steals.

Another big highlight? Jack White not only broke his streak (28 straight misses from deep); he went 3-for-3 and the Crazies went absolutely nuts. Jack has struggled tremendously but his teammates never left his side and that’s what counts. He’s due to get very hot currently.

Sadly, it’s looking less and less likely that Zion Williamson plays again in Cameron. With the final home matchup with Wake Forest approaching quickly (two days from now) and Zion having been “not close” to playing Miami according to Coach K, it feels very unlikely. However, take a look at this video:

RJ’s dancing, he’s having fun. Zion looks downright angry. We all know that he wants to play; he loves the game as much as life itself and he’s anxious to get back but it all has to do with how he progresses. I’m all for him suiting up to play the last minute for his last game in Cameron. Just an idea.

Bleed blue. I’m so, so sad that I have to say this, but I do: the 2018-2019 Duke Men’s Basketball team will play *one last time* in Cameron tomorrow.

You’re welcome, Queen Bee. (it’s a Hamilton thing, I’m a total Hamilton nerd)

Undermanned Duke Falls to #20 Virginia Tech, 72-77

The basketball gods have been unkind to us of late.

  1. RJ Barrett was dealing with a stomach issue but still played 36 minutes (he usually plays 40/40).
  2. Zion Williamson out with the knee sprain.
  3. Cam Reddish injured mid-game and didn’t look the same but still grinded on.
  4. Same with both Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier.

That sounds so fun, doesn’t it?

Duke fell to Virginia Tech for the second loss in three games on Tuesday. Hats off to Virginia Tech– they played very well and we didn’t. RJ Barrett saw 2 to 3 defenders at almost every touch, under the weather in the first place, and the defense is still imperfect without Zion. RJ, Cam, and Marques Bolden combined for 52 but it wasn’t enough.

If there was one glaring issue on defense it was the strong side corner. That’s a spot you just don’t leave open, and it was left often when the ball went inside to a very strong big man in Kerry Blackshear. Cam Reddish said that they “weren’t rotating fast enough” and Coach K spoke similarly. The defense in general is an area of focus in the absence of Zion Williamson whose return is still unclear; he is yet to be upgraded from day-to-day.

Bleed blue. It doesn’t feel good, but a this rough 6-game stretch, especially with half of those played without Zion, is over. We have Miami on Saturday.

Duke Annihilates St. John’s, 91-61

Duke fans knew coming into this game that St. John’s was dangerous. Shamorie Ponds, especially: last year, he put up 33 in an upset in MSG against the Blue Devils. Tre Jones decided that history would not repeat.

Zion Williamson had 29, Cam Reddish had 16, and Duke shut down St. John’s main offensive weapons to get a smashing win in Cameron over the St. John’s Red Storm, 91-61. Cam Reddish was the spark early on with 11 first half points, and especially as the game went on, Zion couldn’t be contained. He stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points on 13-17 shooting, 4 blocks, 5 steals, and 6 rebounds. Believe me, there are highlights to come. Good Gods of Basketball, this isn’t fair.

Also, he, by himself, beat all of NC State today. Just sayin’.

The anchor of this win, however amazing Zion was, had to have been Tre Jones’ lockdown defense. Shamorie Ponds, the dangerous point guard that dropped 33 last year against Duke in an upset in MSG, did not hit a shot in the first half. He finished the day 3-11 from the field. This is no knock on Ponds as we’ve seen the great scorer that he is; it was all Tre today and he set the standard for the rest of the team.

St. John’s came in with an aggressive mentality, which showed during the game. In the first half, a flagrant 1 was actually assessed to St. John’s Marvin Clark and the physicality continued throughout the game, but the team handled it well, an important experience come late February and March.

The highlights (still to come) were great and all, but my favorite play of the game was when the ball went loose and every player on the court wearing blue and white dove to the ground at some point to get it. The call did not end up going in our favor as the referee called a held ball, mostly in order to keep the play under control. What are likely to be the #1 and #2 picks in the draft don’t care about getting the next highlight play or 40 point game: they care about the team win, even when it gets gritty, and that’s what makes them great.

Now, finally, for the highlights:

Good News for Tre Jones!

Duke fans have held their breath for the past week as Tre Jones continued to recover from an AC joint separation suffered early in a loss against Syracuse, but it’s time to exhale: Jones is doing exceptionally well and will be back much earlier than we feared. Coach Mike Krzyzewski described it as “not long-term”. AC joint separations are very dependent on the severity of the injury, and while Jones sustained a very painful injury it doesn’t appear to be horribly severe.

Agreed, Barstool Blue Devils. Agreed.

His shoulder has “responded well to treatment”, according to ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, though he is unlikely to play against Virginia on Saturday he is day-to-day and not yet ruled out less than 24 hours before the game. Cam Reddish, who did not play due to illness last Saturday, is expected to be available.

Bleed blue. All I ask is for you to continue to #PrayForTre! It’s working!

Duke Returns Home for Syracuse on Monday

Duke’s come-from-behind win against Florida State will have to be put aside for now as we get ready for a Monday night contest with Syracuse in Cameron. Syracuse is very up-and-down this season, having wins against against current #16 Ohio State and Clemson, yet lost just two days ago to Georgia Tech by 14 at home and Oregon by 15. This game really depends on who shows up for the Orange.

Okay, we’ll let this one in. Now we have to start looking at Syracuse.

One big question mark left from Florida State is definitely the status of Zion Williamson. A late first half eye poke kept him out of the entire second half against Florida State and his availability uncertain. Zion is a huge factor, and the stats against Florida State shows it: Zion left with 1:26 left. Florida State, though they had started, immediately came roaring back to take the lead at the half after quite recently being down by 7. Duke had 12 offensive boards in the first half; in the second without Zion, we had three. Total. Marques Bolden is a huge reason why we won as he saved us with defensive rebounds.

Zion reportedly had “double vision”, though how is not specified, and it apparently cleared after the game. Coach K said that he will “hopefully” play against Syracuse, but there’s certainly no guarantee.

Duke will have to make it work against a good Syracuse team if Zion isn’t available, but the Florida State game is a good testament to the toughness of this team that can get through without him if necessary- toughness that we’ll need against Jim Boeheim, whose team always likes to play tough and sloooow; they will want to keep the possession numbers low to keep the point totals low.

Syracuse may be one of the worst teams in the country at shooting, but their defense is tough. Syracuse simply isn’t good enough to keep up with Duke offensively, so defense is really key and will have to hold a perfect storm to keep in it. If Zion’s in, however, Syracuse has absolutely no answers, period.

Game Notes

Duke Blue Devils vs. Syracuse Orange.

Time: 7:00pm EST

Date: January 14, 2018.

Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC

TV: ESPN

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Bleed blue.