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.

Duke Takes Road Trip for #13 Florida State

Duke gets its first huge road test this weekend as they travel to Tallahassee, Florida to take on #13 Florida State. #4 Virginia shut down the Seminoles, but don’t take that as any indication for this game as they’ll be looking to establish themselves as a major threat in both the ACC and on the National level, something for which they’ve been close to but never legitimate for. An excellent November was followed by a more meager December and early January, but it’s not going to be easy.

Florida State: Résumé, Players to Watch

The Seminoles come in with a 13-2 record, 1-1 in ACC play. The two losses came at Virginia and vs. Villanova in the AdvoCare Invitational Championship, with the most impressive win probably being an 81-60 throttling of in-state rival Florida, whom most thought would be at least competitive.

Florida State returns multiple players from last year’s upset Elite Eight run. One notable is 6-8, 230 F Phil Cofer, who gave the Blue Devils some serious trouble from three last January before we pulled out, 100-93 (the score being explanatory of the nature of the game!). While most would certainly say that the Blue Devil defense last year was not nearly as efficient as this year. Cofer is currently averaging just 7.4 PPG as he slowly comes back from an injury that kept him out the first 10, having played his most minutes all season last week against Miami, but we all know that if you give him space, he’ll shoot it and probably make it, too. Matchup-wise, there will be rotation, but mostly RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish will probably take him on.

One major issue, though, is that this year we’ll face a guy significantly taller than all of our guys: Christ Koumadje. The senior, native to N’Djamena, Chad, is 7 ft. 4, one of the tallest players in the NCAA. He only averages 16.8 minutes but Coach Leonard Hamilton may take a shot at our absence of height, especially when 6-11 center Marques Bolden takes a rest.

Florida State is pretty stacked. Cofer is just the start: Terance Mann is averaging 11 points, while David Nichols and PJ Savoy add fire off the bench. This is a tall, deep team that will attempt to use our weaknesses against us in a very anti-Blue Devil environment.

Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett Look to Keep Going

After having a monster, NPOY-worthy performance in Winston-Salem, Zion Williamson looks to continue his electrifying performance in Tallahassee. He recently said that he hates being “classified as just a dunker”, and if he keeps putting up games like that, I doubt he needs to worry. Today, though, he’ll see a frontcourt that he hasn’t seen in the past: as mentioned, the 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele. However, after going 3-4 from three against Wake Forest, he’ll probably try to stretch out the big men with an improving shot.

RJ Barrett continues to average over 20 PPG, a major factor who, if possible, is sometimes overlooked as Zion shines! The great thing about this team, however, is that they don’t seem to care. Zion and RJ are great friends, regardless of how many times that they’re compared to each other.

Defenses Attempts to Slow Offenses

Florida State isn’t just tall and deep– they’re forcing turnovers on 25% of their opponents’ possessions. Duke will need to be careful when handling the ball, especially on those pitches down the court that sometimes don’t go as well as might have been hoped. Duke, on the other hand, is one of the top five efficient offenses and defenses in the country. The Blue Devils lead the country in blocks per game at 8.6, with a recent showing of 13 against Wake. FSU has only been stolen from on 7.6% of their possessions, including having played Virginia! It’ll surely be a tougher task on defense for us against a team very good at handling the ball.

Game Notes

Duke Blue Devils @ Florida State Seminoles

Date: Saturday, January 12

Time: 2:00pm

Venue: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL

TV: ESPN (Sonic Blockbuster)

Bleed blue.

State of the ACC in 2019

Well, if you haven’t paid attention to the ACC in the last month, it’s time to start. Duke isn’t the only force on the coast as teams such as UVA made statements in late 2018 and look to make their name known in 2019 before March (which is only 2 months away!). Happy New Year! It’s time to separate the headliners and the rebuilders. Take a look.

North Carolina: Will the real Tar Heels please stand up?

These guys are hard to figure out. They looked alright playing mediocre teams, plus Stanford, at the beginning of the year, but weaknesses were exposed in an 89-92 loss to Texas. Kerwin Roach smoked the Heels’ defense for 32 points as the Tar Heels gave up 92 and couldn’t win despite Coby White’s 33 points. A win UCLA against is looking less and less impressive. The one shining star on the Tar Heels’ record would be a 103-90 win against then-4 Gonzaga, but inconsistency has been a big issue. Also, Roy Williams refuses to play athletic marvel, top recruit, and NBA prospect Nassir Little more than a few minutes a game. Little needs the exposure; he has the potential to go top-5 in the draft if he can impress scouts which I believe he can do easily. His productivity is impressive in the few minutes he is granted. The consistency lies in freshman PG Coby White: that kid is a star. UNC plays Pittsburgh on January 5.

Record: 9-3

Pittsburgh: Jeff Capel Turning A Bad Program Around

I’ve been bad about following this since former Duke assistant head coach Jeff Capel departed for Pitt, but he’s making a bad program look fun again! They’re not going to win the ACC or something, but he has them set to be a winning program. The recruits flow to him. Plus, their social media platforms have been hyped. It’s not going to happen instantaneously, but Pitt is creeping back into competition. I can’t wait to see what happens there next. Pitt contested throughout the whole game in a 68-69 loss to ranked Iowa. They play UNC on January 5.

Record: 10-3

NC State: They’re Legitimate.

This is what I can say about NC State right now: Wow! Kevin Keatts was apparently the answer for State. They’re currently ranked #18 in the country. Torin Dorn is an excellent player. I’m excited for NC State-UNC this year (an early January game): this rivalry seems to come to life more and more as NC State revitalizes itself after the Mark Gottfried disaster. Poll voters have mixed opinions as some put the Pack near the top 10 while others didn’t rank them at all. They’re an intriguing development and look good in the future. They have a strong record of 12-1 and have a huge win on the board against #8 Auburn, the only blemish being a loss to Wisconsin. Star player Markell Johnson, though, is apparently having an issue as head coach Kevin Keatts didn’t play him for “low energy”: “Markell was low energy. So when you’re low energy, you don’t play for me… It’s not about the guy that scores the most points, but the guy who plays the hardest. I wanted more energy from him, especially on the defensive end.” NC State plays Miami on January 3.

Record: 12-1

Virginia Tech: Hokies Better Than Ever

Yet another team is on the rise: Virginia Tech had high expectations at the beginning of the season and has lived up to the hype thus far. They did lose to Penn State but have otherwise kept a clean record and entered the top-10 for the first time in a while. They’re the only team in the conference with an ACC win after kicking off the conference stretch with an win vs. Notre Dame in which their offense shone. Yet again, a trip to Blacksburg will be no fun for anybody.

Clemson: A Competitor

In general, this Clemson team has a goal: to prove that last year’s Sweet Sixteen run was no fluke. They’ve beaten the teams, certainly, that they should beat with a few losses intermittently, but in general is a strong group. Marcquise Reed has returned from a knee sprain, giving them back their best player after a little under a month out. This Clemson team will certainly be a competitor in the ACC and will be no easy game for anyone. Clemson will play Duke on January 5.

Record: 10-3

Syracuse: Up and Down

They beat Ohio State, they lose to Old Dominion. They defeat Georgetown, they get beaten by Oregon. This season hasn’t been anywhere close to consistent for the Orange. Tyus Battle has continued to be a force after returning to New York for another season, but in general this team hasn’t quite found its identity. Hopefully for ‘Cuse fans, they can do so during ACC play.

Record: 9-4

Florida State: Top-10 Power

The Seminoles are set to have a pretty good season, their current #9 rank supported by quality wins over LSU and Florida (a rout). Phil Cofer is back from the squad that made the Elite Eight last year alongside Terance Mann who can both be major producers on the offensive end of the court. The ‘Noles, however, will get their first major test against #4 UVA on January 5.

Virginia: Final Four Contender (But Still, UMBC)

Well, get ready, because the Wahoos are just as good as they were last year. With lockdown defense, they can contend with anybody provided that they make something happen on offense. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome can do so at least most of the time, as well as (only) NBA prospect De’Andre Hunter. They are going to be a major favorite- though probably second to Duke- for the ACC crown and will be able to contend with anybody in the NCAA. As of now, they’re undefeated (though the strength of schedule is not there); however, Virginia has a history of choking when it matters most: March.

Record: 12-0


The remaining teams, their records, and their upcoming schedule:

Notre Dame

Record: 10-4

Next: vs. Syracuse, Saturday 12pm

Boston College

Record: 9-3

Next: @ 10 VA Tech, Saturday 12pm

Louisville

Record: 9-4

Next: vs. Miami, Sunday 6pm

Miami

Record: 8-4

Next: @ Louisville, Sunday 6pm

Georgia Tech

Record: 7-5

Next: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday 2pm

Wake Forest

Record: 6-5

Next: @ Georgia Tech, Saturday 2pm

Bleed blue. Get this: we finally get to watch our team play again! Duke takes on their first ACC foe in Clemson in Durham on Saturday at 8pm.

ACC Basketball: Opening Day

Image result for acc
ACC logo in gold and black. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ACC_logo_in_Wake_Forest_colors.svg

While Duke obviously has the toughest test of the night, three other ACC teams also open the season tonight. It’s been a good day for the ACC thus far, which has a total of seven teams in the top twenty-five. These three are expected to have an impact on the college basketball world:

 

1. UNC Survives Wofford

I’ve got to be honest: making UNC play Wofford in their first game of the season is a little bit mean. Last year’s fiasco would not repeat, though, as UNC survived on the road, 78-67. It was closer than UNC probably would have liked it to be, but they survived and, by the way, it’s the first game and this is going to be a sentiment for many of these power programs vs. up-and-comings on either side: It’s the first game. Not much to look into.

2. Virginia D as Good as Ever, Offense Better?

Every year, the ‘Hoos look just about the same: their D is nearly unstoppable, while their offense could use some work (or a lot of work, depending on the week). This season doesn’t look too different. However, the offense could look a little different. A positive difference. Kyle Guy and especially Ty Jerome will drive a lot of people crazy with their speed. UVA defeated Tyson 73-42. Those forty-two points tell us one thing: that Virginia defense is stifling again.

3. Florida State Will Be Good

Florida State isn’t as consistently in the conversation for college basketball, as Duke, Kansas, and Villanova are. But last year’s Elite Eight run turned eyes on them, and now this year, they’re projected to be pretty darn good. They creamed in-state rival Florida today, 81-60, and it wasn’t even as close of as the final score. Watch out for the ‘Noles!

Bleed blue.