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.

NCAA Tournament: Duke vs. NDSU Game Notes

As we all learned last year, Round of 64 games are never to be overlooked. Never. Duke takes on North Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, as the Bison defeated the NCCU Eagles on Wednesday in the First Four. The good news is that Marques Bolden, injured in the second Duke-UNC matchup, will return; however, Jack White will not. Jack injured a hamstring, apparently during practice, and is unavailable. Again, these games are never to be taken for granted: the Bison are no easy walk. However, it will be interesting to see how NDSU reacts to seeing players like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, the likes of which they’ve surely never seen before.

Game Notes

Duke Blue Devils vs. North Dakota State Bison

Date: Friday, March 22, 2019

Time: 7:10pm*

TV: CBS

Radio: The Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; CBS Sports Radio; NCAA Tournament Radio

Bleed blue.

SELECTION SUNDAY: Duke Takes #1 Overall Seed in the East

Though it seemed to be an open race, the committee has decided that Duke will be at the top spot as we begin the most important three weeks of the season. As the top seed, Duke will face the winner of North Carolina Central and North Dakota State. Were NCCU to win, it would be an all-Durham Round of 64 as the Eagles are in closer proximity than even UNC and share the Bull City with the Blue Devils.

The other teams in the East are #2 seed Michigan State, #3 LSU, #4 VA Tech, #5 Mississippi State, #6 Maryland, #7 Louisville, #8 VCU, #9 UCF, #10 Minnesota, #11 Belmont and Temple (First Four), #12 Liberty, #13 Saint Louis, #14 Yale, and #15 Bradley. There are quite a few under-the-radar teams in this bracket: for example, for weeks Virginia Tech has been without star Justin Robinson but will regain him for the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, UCF has something virtually no one but the American Conference has seen before— Tacko Fall, the 7’6” yet mobile center. Like essentially any other, this bracket is no cakewalk to Minneapolis.

Bleed blue. Duke will play one of the two #16’s on Friday at 7:10pm, and as we all learned last year, that game cannot be overlooked.

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.

Well-Undermanned Duke Falls Courageously at UNC, 79-70

Fourth-ranked Duke fell to #3 UNC in Chapel Hill, 79-70, but must be commended for an amazing fight missing two starters and being well out-shot. Zion Williamson missed a sixth straight game (counting a month ago against the Tar Heels) but the second major injury came yet again against our fellow North Carolinians. Marques Bolden had an awful fall and had to be supported on both sides leaving the arena. The injury looked horrible as we was on the ground for a number of minutes– the med staff as well as Coach K himself caring for him– but he did support himself coming back to join his teammates on the bench.

The fight we saw from this team tonight was magnificent. Cam Reddish had a great game, RJ Barrett played a ton of time with four fouls, and guys really stepped up on the defensive end. Jack White and Javin DeLaurier did excellently in taking over in the paint in the absence of the two main post defenders and combined for 5 blocks. Duke did as much as possible to fight the heck out of the game and you can imagine how different it might have been with Duke at full strength.

In scoring for Duke, RJ led all scorers with 26 and Cam came second with 23. UNC’s Coby White had 21, while seniors Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson combined for 53 in their final game in the Dean Dome.

Coach also said after the game that Zion is “expected back” for the ACC Tournament starting Thursday. With the tournament bracket set, Duke will play either Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse in the quarterfinals. As the 3-seed, the Blue Devils clinched a double-bye a while ago.

Bleed blue.

Hey, Duke fans! If facing some UNC fans that want to talk, remember these things:

  1. UNC has not beaten Duke at full strength, and has lost to UVA, which Duke beat twice.
  2. Both of those wins came when Duke had no time to plan for an injury that would seriously affect them.
  3. Both of those injuries were to starters.
  4. Zion Williamson’s average accounts for more than enough to turn around both scores, not even including his defensive efficiency.
  5. Both Zion Williamson and Marques Bolden play the five, adding up to a serious hole in the paint.

As a person going to school with a ton of UNC fans, I come prepared for these things. I got y’all.