Duke Basketball Opener Postponed; First Game Will Be Saturday

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.

Countdown the Movie Premiere: A Fantastic Season Intro

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

Okay, now do you get why I had a tough time explaining what this room looked like???

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.

Bleed blue.

2020-2021 Preview: Here We Go.

Hi, I’m back!

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:

  1. 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.

Bleed blue.

How in the World?

Think about this: Zion Williamson from last season (Heisman Trophy winner alongside every other award possible in college basketball for his position, eventual No. 1 NBA draft pick, social media rockstar, dunking sensation but way, way, way more than a dunker) in prime physical condition.

Hold up– Zion wasn’t in prime physical condition last year?

Well, obviously, Zion was in incredible shape. Like, he was jumping from the free throw line before the season had even started. However, it appears that even that isn’t prime physical condition for him; this picture is getting a lot of attention:

Good gracious. Many were quick to jump on the “not in good enough shape” bandwagon after his post-college, pre-draft break, but that’s out of the question. I’m pretty sure he’s doing alright and it looks like his knee, which he injured minorly in his first summer league appearance, is healed up pretty well (see below).

We can’t wait for Zion to start tearing up the league. The Pelicans open in Toronto to play the reigning champion Raptors, sans Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Bleed blue.

Bye-Bye, RPI

Thank goodness. After 37 years of RPI rankings, the NCAA is replacing the system in favor of “N.E.T.”, NCAA Evaluation Tool, which values quadrant wins more. RPI, or Rating Percentage Index, was used to help seed teams in men and women’s NCAA college basketball tournaments. It’s considered a God-given move by many, as RPI had, according to many, long expired in the college basketball world.

We all remember when Trae Young and his 3-12-in-the-second-half-of-the-season made it into the tournament soundly. Their 18-13 record was certainly aided by their four Quad-4 (bad teams, basically) wins. But they did have six Quad-1 wins (good teams, basically) that fueled their entry into the tournament (and I’m guessing CBS had a say, with Trae Young being the clickbait of television) But their eventual record of 12-13 against “good” teams was not considered tournament material. Of course, Trae Young and Co. (I don’t know the rest of their names, to be honest) were incredible in the first half of the season, rising up in the rankings to (I think) the top 5. But their descent (it was really a direct downward plunge off of a cliff) happened as soon as teams figured out that by defending Young extremely, extremely well, they could basically cut the team’s scoring in half. Young still managed to average the highest in points and assists for the year, but that certainly didn’t lead to actually winning. You can celebrate the statistics, awards, whatever all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s the score that actually counts and Oklahoma crashed and burned in that category. Oklahoma’s ranking in RPI didn’t actually help their case. Would this system have? Will this system consider events like the downfall of Oklahoma? We must wait and see.

Bleed blue. The wait for Countdown to be here is agonizing, I know, but I’ll try to keep you busy whilst we must endure the anticipation.

⬆︎ Me going back to school ⬆︎

Coach K Speaks Out on NCAA Reforms

After the NCAA put out a proposal for the new reforms for college basketball, including changes in the rules regarding agents, the NBA Draft, and more. The changes were not received well, as many important people in the college basketball world spoke out against the rules put in place.

Now, probably one of the most important people in sports has spoken out. Mike Krzyzewski spoke about how the NCAA didn’t go far enough. He gestured to a picture in which leaders from the NCAA, the NBA, the NABC, AAU, and more, met in a summit in 2005, using it as an example. Coach K said that while the reforms were “well-intentioned”, the NCAA lacked coordination. Many reports say that while the organizations met, both the NBA and USA Basketball, who were implemented multiple times in the proposal, felt blindsided. In addition, he addressed the unchanged rules on communication between coaches and players in the summer months, which hasn’t been solved.

You can read more on Coach K’s comments here, but basically, he appears unimpressed. He also mentions the upcoming Canada trip (four days!). Bleed blue.

Oh, and by the way, Jay Bilas on Zion Williamson’s astronomically awesome size and mobility at that:

 

Massive Changes In Store for College Basketball

After becoming immersed in FBI investigations last year for corruption involved with the sport, the NCAA has announced some majorly huge changes for college basketball. In summary, based on the NCAA’s report on the rule changes, here they are:

  • The number of visits has been increased.
  • With a pending decision from the NBA and NBPA, high school players can have an agent by July 1st before their senior year, provided they are identified as an elite senior prospect by USA Basketball.
    • This rule becomes effective if/when the NBA/NBPA reaches the decision to allow high school students in the NBA Draft
  • College basketball players can be represented by an agent if they ask for an assessment from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee
    • Effective immediately.
    • Agents are permitted to pay for expenses, including meals and transportation for players and their families.
      • This rule is effective when any relevant state laws are changed, including the Uniform Athletes Agent Act, Revised Uniform Athletes Agent Act, and others.
    • Agreements between players and agents must be:
      • In writing.
      • Terminated when a player enrolls in or returns to college.
      • Disclosed to the NCAA (for players in high school) and the school (for players in college).
    • To work with a student-athlete, agents must be NCAA-certified.
  • Students who wish to enter the NBA Draft must seek an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, providing information to advise the students in their decisions on whether to stay in school or enter the draft.
  • Student-athletes who are not drafted, attended an evaluation, and attended the Combine will be permitted to re-enroll in school provided that they alert their athletic director of their decision by 5pm the Monday following the draft.
    • Effective if/when the NBA makes an expected decision making undrafted athletes who return to college ineligible for the NBA draft until the completion of the next college basketball season.
  • Required funding and assistant from schools for players returning for degree completion.
    • Effective August 1, 2019.

These new changes will be groundbreaking for the NCAA and all of college basketball. Of course, many of these changes are pending a decision by the NBA and NBPA. It’ll take a while, but we may just be witnessing the end of the one-and-done era.

De’Aaron Fox had some choice words for the NCAA:

When it comes to the “elite” prospect rule, what about guys who aren’t USA Basketball eligible? International players, like R.J. Barrett, for one?

It’s a work in progress, mostly in the right direction.

The featured image on the homepage is courtesy of The Athletic.

Duke AD Kevin White Appointed Chair of NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for 2019-2020

Duke athletic director Kevin White has been appointed chair of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for 2019-2020. Dr. White has been on the committee since the 2015-2016 season. The current chair, Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen, is set to rotate off of the committee September 1st. Congratulations to him and his family.

⬆︎ Hi, Joneses! ⬆︎

(look to the right side of Mr. President)

Father’s Day Throwback

Happy Father’s Day! As this year’s draft approaches, this Father’s Day reminded me of a commercial from last year that Foot Locker put on. Jayson Tatum participated as the future draftees gave a tribute to their fathers who helped them on their way to the draft. The hilarious part? Lonzo Ball. His father, LaVar, is nationally famous for his outspoken views. Here it is. I laugh out loud every time.

NCAA Transfer Rule Amended

While the changes weren’t exactly what many people were hoping and vying for, beneficial changes were made to the NCAA Transfer law. Coaches are no longer permitted to block the transfer of a player and student-athletes will not require permission from coaches to visit other institutions. Simplistically, coaches are not allowed to influence a player’s transfer to another school, which I believe is a good move. If a student-athlete wishes to transfer for his own benefit, a coach shouldn’t be able to block the move simply for his and the program’s benefit. The NCAA is made so that the student can walk away with the best experience to benefit them in the long run (or at least they say so), and this rule accentuates this goal.

Bleed blue, Duke fans. NBA Draft is in one week! According to Rip Hamilton, after his great performance at the combine and workouts, Grayson Allen has a good chance to go early! No surprise to Duke fans, of course, but a good hearing for him.