Breaking: Alex O’Connell’s Surgery a Success, Should Start Practice in September

Alex O’Connell, who fractured an orbital bone in the third minute against Ryerson last week, underwent successful surgery to repair it and should start practice come September. O’Connell was hit in the eye against Ryerson and was unable to return.

The Duke Basketball eye specialist on the medical staff has been awfully busy this past year: Wendell Carter probably lost his contacts fifty times during a game last season, Marvin Bagley, III, had a scratched cornea during the game against Michigan State (which they won anyway, which is amazing), and now this. Maybe teams are conspiring to poke everybody’s eyes out so they can win by default. I don’t know, honestly. Injuries have been a problem for years now: Harry Giles’ knee, Marques Bolden’s knee, and we will never, ever, ever, forget Kyrie Irving’s toe. That ‘chip was ours.


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Alex O’Connell. Source: NBC Sports.

Our injury list continues to decline: Tre Jones (hip) and Cam Reddish (groin) are on the mend alongside O’Connell. Bleed blue, Duke fans. I woke up and it was cold this morning. At least that means basketball season is approaching (I hate the cold).

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.

Possible Starting Lineups for Duke Next Year

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Okay, so I’m doing this post because it interests me (thanks, Houston Rockets Mania Blog for the inspiration) and for Duke this year, there are many, many weapons offensively and defensively. It’s pick your poison for an opposing coach, in reality, but which 5 poisons should get the start? There’s also the fact that between the draft and the NCAA’s four-season limit, last year’s usual starting lineup (when Alex O’Connell didn’t get the start) is GONE. It’ll be hard to see a Duke starting lineup without Grayson, but here we go anyway.

First: The 2017-18 Lineup but Younger!

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Marques Bolden (20). Courtesy: CBS Sports.

Well, we all remember last season when it was Grayson Allen and a whole bunch of freshmen in every single starting lineup. Heck, I’m pretty sure Grayson was the only non-freshman to start except maybe Javin DeLaurier. Anyway, this lineup is…


  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Cam Reddish
  3. G RJ Barrett
  4. F Zion Williamson
  5. C Marques Bolden

Bolden never got much time to shine last season between injuries and future NBA star Wendell Carter, and he is a really, really good player. We need him to be able to break out this season, and giving him room to do so is a good way to start. Bolden would also be the only player with any experience whatsoever. He’ll be a junior next year (how the heck did THAT happen?) and will have to help lead the team, alongside fellow junior Javin DeLaurier and (gasp!) seniors Antonio Vrankovic, Brennan Besser, and Justin Robinson (again, how is four years so short all of a sudden?). Having a veteran (well, kind of) in the starting lineup will be very helpful next season.

Second: Freshmen all around! Lineup

Not to mention Zion at Center. That will certainly have the college basketball world freaking out. If you didn’t see my post before this, Zion, as SBNation put it, is a refrigerator with wings. He would be the second-largest player in the NBA, and he’s a BEAST. Not to mention the “wings” part: he can FLY. But here it is:

  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Joey Baker
  3. G RJ Barrett
  4. G Cam Reddish
  5. F Zion Williamson

That would be fun. I don’t really know how developed Joey Baker is after reclassifying from the 2019 class, but, hey, he could be. However, I think they’ll probably use him as a sixth or seventh man. However, it would be an extremely vulnerable lineup seeing as no one of them has any experience whatsoever. I doubt we see this lineup much if at all this season.

Third: A Grayson Allen-esque Breakout?

  1. G Tre Jones
  2. G Alex O’Connell
  3. G Cam Reddish
  4. F R.J. Barrett
  5. F Zion Williamson
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Alex O’Connell. Courtesy: Duke Athletics.

If you remember, in 2016 Grayson Allen had a breakout year in which he averaged 21 points. Really, the breakout happened during the National Championship game in 2015, but that carried out into his next season. He got a lot stronger between those seasons,  gaining some weight and assuming his position as a leader and a difference maker on that squad that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. That could be Alex O’Connell this year. He’s a good shooter, but he’s very wiry and has little to no bulk on him. Maybe this season will be a breakout for Alex.

Fourth: The Cam-at-PG Lineup

John Calipari used Reddish at point guard in the Team USA U19 World Championship in Egypt last year. That trip was spoiled by R.J. Barrett himself, now Reddish’s teammate, as Barrett exploded for 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. But anyway, here it is:

  1. G Cam Reddish
  2. G RJ Barrett
  3. G Zion Williamson
  4. F Javin DeLaurier
  5. C Marques Bolden
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Javin DeLaurier (left) and Marques Bolden (right). Courtesy: Duke Athletics.

This lineup throws another piece into the puzzle: Javin DeLaurier. His versatile game is in need of improvement, but with some hard work, he could become a difference maker for the Blue Devils. He’s very athletic which makes him an intriguing figure. Can he use that athleticism in a beneficial manner on the offensive end as much as he does defensively? We’ll see. Meanwhile, he will almost definitely continue to be a great teammate as always. He’s always come off as a really great guy to be around because of his dedication to the team.


Obviously, there are plenty more possibilities for this loaded team. Regardless, this is one of the most talented teams we’ve seen in a while (which we seem to say every year).