While we expected the Davidson game to be an intense blowout from the opening
tip, it didn't happen that way, and that's as much a credit to Bob McKillop and
Davidson as anything else. A 28 point win looks great, but it was more of
a struggle than that would suggest. Davidson is a really good team.
Duke did a number of things really well in this game: they continued to
play very solid defense, limiting Davidson to just 47 points - and just 18 in
the first half - and this from a team which was averaging about 85.
They also took away the three point shot (which Davidson adores) and shut
down impressive freshman Stephen Curry (son of Dell), holding him to 5 points.
Davidson had been shooting 40% from three point range; Duke held them to
3-19, according to ESPN's article, and 3-20 according to their boxscore (GoDuke
has 3-19). This is a common problem online, but we usually go with the
neutral source, since the home team (Duke included) sometimes gives a favorable
slant to the stats. It's understandable, but it is confusing.
Offense is still a work in progress, as you might expect with a
freshman-sophomore team. There were far too many turnovers - 17 - but in
spite of that ugly stat, there were a lot of nice things offensively:
- We saw a couple of dazzling passes from Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus,
really, really nice stuff. It wasn't like Ernie DiGregorio type stuff
(ask your parents!), where people couldn't imagine it before they saw it,
but it was impressive.
- We also saw Brian Zoubek do one of the best outlet passes we've seen at
Duke in years. Just classic big man stuff - grab the ball, turn
around, drop an overhead two-handed pass into someone's hands who was about
10 steps from the basket. Very, very nice to see.
- Jon Scheyer dropping shots with evident ease.
- DeMarcus Nelson, Dave McClure, and Gerald Henderson placing great pressure
on the defense as slashers.
The offense has a ways to go, but at Duke, at least under Krzyzewski, defense
has always been the point of pride.
It's funny to think about now, but it wasn't exactly the main focus of the
Foster years, or the Bubas era either. The Foster teams tended to play a
lot more zone, and much less aggressively on defense, and the Bubas years must
have been a lot of fun with high-octane offenses. You know they played
some defense, but you also know guys like Art Heyman, Bob Verga, Mike Lewis, and
Jack Marin weren't drawn to Durham by a promise of stiff defense.
But under Krzyzewski, people know that's exactly what they're going to get
into, and while offense is obviously critical since you can theoretically win
1-0, Duke has had teams which won with offenses which struggled or at least
weren't as powerful as the defense.
We're thinking specifically of one season in the Snyder-Ferry years, where
Duke regularly fell behind and then clawed their way back in on the backs of an
insanely good defense. There was a trip to Kansas where Duke fell very far
back before shutting Kansas down and clawing their way back in, point by
It happened more than once as we recall.
We're not saying this Duke team is going to be like that; for one thing, it's
way too early to make any such inferences. But we are saying that with a
very resourceful coach, Duke has found ways to make things work, even when there
were things to overcome. So with a young team which hasn't yet found
itself, we're pretty sure things will come together in a very interesting and
Actually, that's one of the great joys of watching Duke. In Dean Smith's
heyday, he tended to fit pieces into a highly defined system and you could have
swapped out, say, John Kuester for Scott Cherry or Joe Wolf for Tom LaGarde and
not changed things very much: the program as a computer program, more or
In Durham, it's always fun to see a Chris Carrawell or Robert Brickey do
things no one ever expected them to do, like guard Tim Duncan and JR Reid.
And so this year you see Josh McRoberts as a primary ballhandler and DeMarcus
Nelson (at times) as a potent inside player.
It's the classic K metaphor of not growing a plant in a jar. This team
has some interesting possibilities, but the best news is the already-impressive
defense. Watching the offense develop is going to be sweet.
But it's not there yet. Duke will have to develop a more consistent
inside game, and the three-point shot, such a potent weapon at Duke in recent
years, isn't as reliable as it probably will be in a few months. Certainly
Scheyer has the range, and so does Nelson. Several other players can hit
One bit of bad news: Jamal Boykin has a rather serious case of mono and
may end up sitting out the season.