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.

Duke Anhilates Stetson, 113-49

As expected, Duke demolished the Stetson, 113-49 and it wasn’t even as close as the final score may lead you to believe. Duke had its starters out for the most part of the second half; the score was 59-25 at the half but pretty soon it was 93-33. RJ Barrett was the high scorer with 26, but Zion and Cam weren’t far behind.  The “Baby Admiral”, son of David Robinson, Justin Robinson, scored a career-high 13 points (see the reference above). 

The defense stepped up today, as Duke probably could have scored 150 if they wanted and paid no attention to the other end of the floor, and yet you see Jack White getting blocks, Zion Williamson diving for loose balls despite a 60-point lead, and Tre Jones being an absolutely relentless on-ball defender amongst others. Tre Jones shot once in the whole game and missed but didn’t seem to give a crap, as he was going nuts as his teammates, such as J-Rob, make shots out there. We have a young team and while Stetson isn’t exactly an ACC-level opponent (sorry, Hatter fans, but better days are behind you) or anything it’s encouraging to see these guys work their butts off. Say what you will about RJ Barrett’s play in the final minutes against Gonzaga but this team just doesn’t stop for anything.

There’s an interesting history piece to this game: most people know that Coach K has won more than 1,000 games at Duke (1,034 to be exact), but not many know that Coach Krzyzewski won his first game at Duke against Stetson in 1980. Stetson was then a sort of rival with Duke, though Duke far surpassed them within a few years. Stetson saw its best days in the 80s, but since hasn’t been competitive even in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Stetson University is located in Central Florida.

Bleed blue. We will return to preview Hartford and Yale in the next week, then Duke (and I) will take a break for exams between the 8th and 18th of December. I just want to say that my blog posts may not be super quick for a few weeks; I don’t know if you guys know this but I am the only author of this blog and my school’s semester ends in the next couple weeks, which means for me exams. Yay.

Intro Video, Player Intros, Top Plays and More from Countdown to Craziness

It was an epic night as we got a glimpse of our team in a real scrimmage for the first time since August. The hype video got the night started, then the players took the floor for the first time in uniform, and the Blue-White Scrimmage began.

First of all, the Intro Video is fire. Literally.

If that doesn’t get you crazie hyped for the season, I don’t know what will. The players showed off their dance moves, and even some of their own music (go, Brennan Besser!):

Then we got to the actual scrimmage. This video has the top plays, and here’s a hint: “That’s gonna be on SportsCenter!”

It’s also got an interview (Tre Jones and Javin DeLaurier), and apparently, Javin yelled “Chicken” when he made a three-point shot. Find out what that was all about above.

The countdown to Countdown is over, but the Countdown to the Classic is ON! The Champions’ Classic is on November 6th at 9:30pm vs. Kentucky. Bleed blue.

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Duke Dominates McGill, Wins 103-58

Capping off their unbeaten Canadian tour, the Blue Devils won in a beating of the McGill Redman, but the score doesn’t tell the whole story. McGill played a very impressive first half, despite Duke’s offensive dominance. They trailed only by one at the start of the second quarter, after leading for most of the first. Kudos to them for a game well played. It may not look it, but they fought valiantly and didn’t truly give up until the final horn sounded.

Zion Williamson (1) and Marques Bolden (20) go in for the double block on an unidentified McGill player. Copyright © Duke Athletics. 

Guys across the board performed well. Take Jordan Goldwire, for instance. Despite a few instances where he tried for spectacularity instead of simplicity, he passed the ball well and had a good shooting night. Javin DeLaurier defended very well, as per usual. His role for the group is increasing by the minute played. Antonio Vrankovic defended and scored well in the post, using his size and skill to lead down low and has shown incredible growth. Justin Robinson got lots of playing time, which will help his role continue to expand. Jack White made some huge leaps (literally, his rebounds were way up in the air) and played the ball well. There was also an all-around intensity: guys were diving for loose balls, getting tough rebounds, doing the dirty work that makes everything look good. Marques is also my prediction for a breakout player. He’s been hobbled by injuries, but this year he’s in position to dominate in the starting lineup.

Then you’ve got the incredible, incredible freshmen. It was the Zion Williamson show today, as he had 36 points and 14 rebounds even though he sat with about eight minutes remaining (I think). RJ and Zion put on a show in Canada and we’re hoping it continues in November.

Bleed blue. After getting a taste of this year’s star power, we have to wait until OCTOBER? How cruel.

Friday vs. Toronto: Duke’s Lineup Thin vs. Toronto

After starting out down two guys at guard (Cam Reddish and Tre Jones), Duke’s depth started to slip. Now, it’s gotten worse. With sophomore guard Alex O’Connell out the rest of the tournament with an orbital bone fracture, there are almost no guards left on the squad. Jordan Goldwire, Mike Buckmire, and Brennan Besser are the only three left. Of course, all three players should be healed by the time the regular season begins. However, with smaller guys dominating the Toronto lineup, some of the bigger guys will have to play like a guard. Of course, there’s Zion Williamson, who is “a powerful Mack Truck with the feet of a ballerina” (Jay Bilas). He has the ability to keep up with a guard, and Duke has centers in Marques Bolden and Antonio Vrankovic. It’ll work out.

Canadian collegiate basketball is not something I’ve studied, but Ryerson is reportedly the best team we will face this week.

Jordan Goldwire stood up to run the offense on Wednesday. Will he step up again? Who gets a boost in playing time? Against Ryerson, lots of minutes were given to Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden, Goldwire, Justin Robinson, and Jack White, and of course the two freshmen after O’Connell’s early injury. This game will be the last of the two games played in Missassagua, R.J. Barrett’s hometown before the Blue Devils travel to Montreal for McGill.

Duke is favored pretty heavily despite the absences. Obviously, the athletic advantage is there, but Toronto has a heavy advantage by means of experience. These guys are smaller, agile, and good shooters. It’ll be a challenge, but beating a team like Duke is a monumental order. It’ll be a good test for Duke, who will face more experienced teams all season long, especially in the grueling ACC.

Bleed blue.