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Clipped And Posted

"Everyone respects Duke, but teams no longer fear Duke. The Blue
Devils can shoot the lights out, but they don't have the swagger...Battier took
the last of Duke's tough persona when he graduated."

That's Ned Barnette in the N&O, and you can bet that's in the Duke locker
room by the time you read this

Herb Sendek likely cringed when he opened the paper this morning and saw
this article.
Duke has been working through some issues, clearly, but
let's get real: Duke isn't playing as well as they might like but 13-1 is
hardly a disaster. After all the early talk of going undefeated and setting new
standards, it has finally sunk in that no one is going to roll over and Duke
will have to assert itself to win. That's healthy and overdue. The Devils
are addressing some of their flaws, like
, and have expressed unhappiness with their defense.

No matter, really, because Duke-State always comes down to a defensive
struggle. We disagreed with Sendek's patsy approach to building his team, but
the one thing we have always admired about State under Sendek is the absolute
ferocity of their defense. It kept them in the game against Maryland and
helped them to win against UVa despite serious offensive shortcomings.

The question which Barnette fails to raise, and it's really a legitimate
question, is this: how will a young State team deal with an experienced Duke
team? They have some high marks on their record, notably the upset win
over Syracuse and the win over Virginia. Both get a slight asterisk,
however: Syracuse played without coach Jim Boeheim, and struggled in other games
while he was out for medical reasons, and UVa, it has become quite clear, is
overrated, at least for now, having been blown out by Clemson and barely
sneaking by UNC.

A couple of key things to consider: 1) will Duke defend Anthony Grundy and Julius
well? With Duhon, Williams and Ewing to rotate on Grundy, they have a
shot at defending him very well. In Hodge's case, the assignment will
almost certainly fall to Dahntay Jones, who is proving to be a formidable

A lesser factor is that State won't have a zone to jump shoot over. With
Evtimov and Miller, that's not a wise defense, but Duke almost never resorts to
it anyway.

We wouldn't be shocked to see State win, but our guess is Duke will play a
very tough game. And yes, State
did notice the stupid Maryland cheer the other night
, thank you very
much. The Pack will come into this game
fired up and excited to play Duke,
and it should be a great game.