Duke opened the season tonight with a bang in the Champions’ Classic as the Blue Devils took out the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 68-66. Though by no means an offensive battle, sophomore captain Tre Jones led Duke, on every end of the court and every aspect of the game, with 15 points alongside 6 assists and 6 rebounds. It was a team effort, however, that won the game: both offenses struggled immensely, but the team defense was triumphant. It was a physical, rough game with ups and downs, and a young team responded on the big stage.
The biggest statistic for the game? 28 turnovers. 28! All on Kansas. Yes, that’s a sloppy game by the Jayhawks (almost the sloppiest ever) but it is undeniable that Duke’s defense played an enormous role in that stat. And while some may say that the margin of victory should have been much larger, the faintest idea that that is even possible is mind-boggling. With improvement and experience gained over the course of the year and that already established, this team is going to be very, very good. The game plan was executed exceptionally, with double teams containing the Jayhawk frontcourt and ballhandlers struggling to get by. Cassius Stanley’s athleticism was on full display, Jack White had numerous huge steals, one to seal the game, and Vernon Carey battled with the biggest of foes down low. It was an exemplary game in terms of strong and composed defensive play.
It’s not difficult to determine that the offensive efficiency for the Blue Devils was unimpressive. Duke managed to scratch out enough points to beat a top 4-ranked team, so I’m not too concerned. Shot selection was not always superb and neither was execution, at 36.5% on field goals. Considering the physicality of the game, though, the Duke offense wasn’t terrible, with some big shots coming from an array of players, eight in total scoring. Matthew Hurt had a huge three-pointer, and Cassius Stanley was magnificent, especially by the end of the game. In a rough offensive game for both sides, our Blue Devils didn’t back down.
One surprise was that Joey Baker, after showing out against Fort Valley State in exhibition, did not take the floor. Perhaps there’s an injury we’re not hearing about, but we’ll expect him to have an impact this season.
Bleed blue. Duke eases up with Colorado State on Friday for the home opener back in the Bull City.
The wait is over: college basketball returns tonight, and what way to start it other than a face-off between the premier programs of the NCAA? The Champions’ Classic pits Duke and Kansas against one another this year, both teams sitting atop the polls at #4 and #2, respectively. A young team will begin on a big stage, and it’s time to see how they’ll handle it.
Duke previewed the season with Countdown to Craziness then two exhibition games: Northwest Missouri State and Fort Valley State. NWMSU gave Duke a run for their money, and though they were reigning Division II Champions that doesn’t excuse a near-disaster for the Blue Devils. Duke scratched out a 6-point victory at 69-63. The emotion from the first game, however, seemed to be taken out in the second, unfortunately for FVS. Duke brought down the hammer on them, 126-57.
Duke is facing an experienced Kansas team, something we lack. A major focus will be rebounding, as the Jayhawks bring back a strong frontcourt including very productive big man Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike will provide a sufficient challenge on both ends of the court for Vernon Carey, Jr, the most renowned of Duke’s incoming freshman class and assumably starting center.
You can catch the start of the season tonight on ESPN at 7:00 ET. You won’t want to miss this.
On a hot night in Durham starting the season at least for Wallace Wade Stadium, the Duke Blue Devils made the home crowd happy with a win over the North Carolina A&T Aggies by a score of 45-13. A&T was overpowered, but in making it a contest it’s clear that they have a program to be respected.
Starting quarterback Quentin Harris had a field day, logging five touchdowns, four passing and one running, along with 345 passing yards and 85 rushing yards. A strong receiving game was encouraging after the “Core Four” receivers of 2018-19 departed for NFL and expiration of eligibility. A slow start deterred neither the offense nor the defense, an important lesson to learn entering a stacked ACC Coastal race in a couple of weeks.
Bleed blue. Duke takes on Middle Tennessee next weekend in Murfreesboro.
More bad news for Duke to begin this football season: projected starting wide reciever Jake Bobo will miss time with a fractured clavicle. Bobo had surgery on Friday to repair the injury but is out “indefinitely”. This unwelcome news comes to an offense that has already lost Daniel Jones, as the star quarterback was drafted sixth by the New York Giants in April. Additionally, the core wide receivers in TJ Rahming, Johnathan Lloyd, and Chris Taylor have all gone their separate paths and will not make a return to the program.
The first challenge this year is probably the biggest possible, perhaps other than Clemson (who, praise the football gods, we do not play this year): the Alabama Crimson Tide on August 31. It’ll take all we’ve got. Bleed blue.
With both electrifying play and persona, Zion Williamson has collected accolades across the board in college basketball; now, his stock of awards includes one that spans all college athletics. ESPN awarded him Best College Athlete for the 2018-2019 year as expected. Zion Williamson is no longer simply a basketball star, but has been for a while an ambassador of our sport to the world.
Congratulations, yet again, to Zion on one of the most incredible college years we’ve been lucky enough to witness. New Orleans has gained a phenomenal young player and man and he’ll always be part of The Brotherhood.
Zion Williamson has officially declared for the 2019 NBA Draft, as he announced via Instagram on Monday. His declaration is the final of the three expected to come from Duke, and like his teammates Zion is likely to be signing with an agent, being the face of basketball and all. Unless the general manager of the NBA Draft lottery winner is suddenly without a brain, Zion will go #1 in the draft, no question about it.
All we can say is that while this wasn’t unexpected, thank you, Zion. Thank you for making this season as unforgettable as it was. Thank you for making fans across America jump and yell with electrifying dunks. Thank you for being the spark for your team like no other player on earth. Thank you for fighting, fighting, fighting every second for this team. But thank you most of all for being yourself: for loving the game, for grinning and laughing and being so happy all the time to make the game so much fun for everyone. Zion Williamson is every reason why we love the game of basketball.
Bleed blue. Look for updates as Matthew Hurt, one of the final recruits on the list for Coach K and Duke this year, makes his decision on Friday. All signs have pointed to his interest in going to Duke, especially after fellow Minnesota native Tre Jones announced his plans to return to Durham. Additionally, Hurt’s father canceled visits from two of the four head coaches that he’s considering playing for, which certainly isn’t a good sign for those programs (neither of which are Duke; the two were John Calipari of Kentucky and Bill Self of Kansas).