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Women's Basketball Review/Preview, Part 3

** Carrem Gay 6-1 F So. 3.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 63% FG

Season Recap: Carrem was expected to make an impact as a frosh, but a severe
shoulder injury limited her effectiveness. Off-season surgery fixed that
problem, but Gay is still wearing a shoulder harness. Currently, she has yet
to get back a full range of motion in her shoulder, and one can see where that
limits her on the court. More than anything, Gay was prevented from working on
her upper body this summer, and that was development that she sorely needed.
Still, there's a real opportunity for Carrem this season, and I expect her to
become the team's top reserve.

What Carrem brings to the table is flawless footwork. With her quickness,
leaping ability and highly developed sense of anticipation, Carrem plays bigger
than her listed 6-1. Her length also allows her to get pretty much any shot she
wants. It's a pleasure to watch her operate underneath the basket. Her ability
to post up and quickly decide which way to pivot and turn to get the basket is
remarkable. Her decision-making ability is bolstered by that quick first step,
and her power step-through takes advantage of her length to get to the basket
with a minimum of motion. In practice, it was interesting to see her maneuver
around Bales to get decent looks at the hoop. Gay has played against bigger
and stronger players throughout her career and isn't afraid of contact.

The problem for Gay at this point is that she has trouble finishing after she
does work her way free. That mostly has to do with her slender upper body;
when she gets bumped, she sometimes has trouble finishing with contact. I'm not
sure what can be done about that this season, considering that she's still
recovering from injury. Gay will have a lot of work to do next summer. This
season, she'll simply have to learn how to adjust and take her lumps. With
Mistie Williams gone, Gay will need to step in and become a consistent scoring
presence. In addition to scoring in the low post, Gay will also need to take
and make the mid-range jumper. Of course, defense will be her other priority.
Coach G's been talking her up as the sort of player who can guard Camille
Little. In other words, players who are long but also play on the perimeter
will be Gay's responsibility when she's in the game. Gay is a solid
shotblocker who can handle that sort of role--especially since she's not quite
big enough to defend true post players.

Against Arkansas State, Gay used the glass on her spin moves and drives, and
displayed excellent body control. Gay also finished twice in transition; the
ability to run and finish are prerequisites in Duke's offense. Playing against
Wake Forest, Gay sank a couple of foul line jumpers. Carrem is a perfect player
for Duke's system: athletic but not flashy, versatile, defensive-minded and
team-oriented. I don't think we'll get to see everything she can do this year,
but she'll have every chance to prove herself.

Best Games: Fairfield (14 points, 4 rebounds); Arkansas State (14 points, 6
rebounds); Wake Forest (8 points, 5 rebounds)

Strengths: Footwork, fluidity, defense, quickness, timing
Needs To Work On: Strength, jumper
Role: Primary back-up post player
Must: Stay healthy, finish with contact

** Abby Waner 5-8 G So. 8.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 38% 3FG

Notable 2006 Achievements:
All-Tournament, Bridgeport Region
All-ACC Freshman Team
ACC Rookie of the Week (twice)

Season Recap: Abby's freshman year went about as I expected it to. Despite her
great talent and enthusiasm for the game, there were a lot of adjustments to be
made, injuries to play through and confidence lapses to deal with. While Abby
is an opportunistic defender off the ball with one hand always in a passing
lane, it took her awhile to adjust to the idea that she could be beaten off the
dribble by many quicker opponents. That was especially true if she wasn't at
her physical peak due to assorted bumps and bruises. For a player who was so
dominant in high school, that was a bit of a rude awakening for her.

As a result, she went through a number of slumps and bounced in and out of the
starting lineup throughout the season. To her immense credit, she bounced back
from an inconsistent 6 week period to become a key factor in the NCAA
tournament. Throughout the season, Waner proved to be an opportunistic player
at both ends of the floor. She was excellent at spacing and knowing where to
be in order to take advantage of the attention that players like Currie and
Harding drew. Waner was a great finisher in transition and loved running the
floor but wasn't much of a threat in the halfcourt off the dribble. That will
need to improve this season.

While a natural scorer, Abby loved to pass almost as much as she loved to shoot.
At her best in transition, she made many a slick fast-break pass. Of course,
she also threw a number of ill-advised passes as well, but that's part of the
freshman learning curve. She wasn't afraid to shoot, leading the team in three
point attempts with 131. Waner was a streaky shooter. There were 10 games
where she didn't hit a single three, and several others where she hit 3 or more
in a game. As a sophomore, her biggest adjustment will be in becoming more of a
primary offensive threat now that Currie has graduated and learning to deal
with other teams throwing their best defenders at her.

Abby started her freshman campaign with a bang, getting double figures in four
of her first five games. Against Texas, she scored 7 straight points in the
first half and had several key steals. Waner torched Colorado State with an
impressive display at both ends, showing off her hustle and timing. As the ACC
season began, the competitiveness and speed of the league was a bit of a shock
for her as she went scoreless against Maryland and Boston College. She
rebounded with solid showings against NC State and Tennessee. In the former,
she helped carry the load when Currie went out with foul trouble. In the
latter game, she hit a couple of clutch shots in the second half and dove out
of bounds to save a ball. She made some critical errors against UNC and
sustained a mild injury that limited her effectiveness as a defender, and the
result was a lot of inconsistent play.

She had the occasional big game, like the explosive offensive showing she had
against Virginia where she scored 7 quick points in the second half to put that
game away. Mostly, she struggled down the stretch and in the ACC Tournament.
The NCAA's were another matter, and it spoke to Abby's competitive nature that
she'd pick this time to shine. After solid showings against Southern and
Southern Cal, Abby hit 3 huge threes late in the first half against Michigan
State to give Duke a nice cushion. Against UConn, her intensity and energy
were crucial in a tense game. When Duke had trouble scoring, Abby was able to
find others for scores and hit a big early three. In the second half, Waner
sank a three to halt a big UConn run and then a short jumper to pull Duke
within 1 point. Against LSU, Abby was efficient at both ends. It's
unfortunate that she struggled so much against Maryland, missing a key free
throw that could have salted the game away. It speaks to her nature as a
competitor and great teammate that she took so much of the blame on herself.

I expect that in 2006 we'll see her learn to adjust to taking more shots,
attacking the basket and learning to work as part of an interchangeable
starting unit with Harding & Smith. Coach G plans to use any and all of these
three players as a point, off guard or wing. Abby will bring the ball up at
times, come off screens for jumpers at times, and feed the post & drive
baseline at other junctures. How well she can keep opponents in front of her
will be a key to her season. Waner is a risk-taker, and she will have to learn
the right times and places to take those risks. I expect her to become a
consistent double-digit scorer as she learns to maximize her efficiency and

Best Games: Penn State (15 points, 6 assists, 6 steals); Auburn (14 points, 3
rebounds, 2 assists); Colorado State (23 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 4
steals); San Diego (19 points, 10 assists, 4 steals); Tennessee (10 points, 2
rebounds, 3 assists); Virginia (14 points); Michigan State (14 points, 2
rebounds, 3 assists); UConn (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals)

Statwise: Abby's 310 points were the 10th-most scored by a Duke freshman. Her
112 assists ranked #4, 65 steals #3 and her 50 threes were the most ever by a

Strengths: Energy, shooting, aggressiveness, passing, transition play
Needs To Work On: On-ball defense, decision-making, attacking the basket
Role: Primary perimeter scorer, secondary ball-handler
Must: Finish fast breaks, hit the open jumper, play within herself, hit foul

** Brittany Mitch 6-2 G Fr (Redshirt) 3 ppg

Season Recap: Mitch is a fascinating player whose season was cut short due to a
hip injury. Happily, she'll be available for four years after a redshirt.
Mitch's size, skill set and versatility make her a matchup problem, one that
should continue to grow for opponents as she gets stronger, more experienced
and more in synch with her teammates. The year she sat out will do wonders for
the latter category, and it speaks to what she can do for a basketball team.
For most of her career, Mitch has played on winning teams with great players.
She's been the point guard and leader for those squads and so has learned to
subsume aspects of her game for the greater good of the team. That makes her a
perfect player for a highly ranked college team with other stars. Beyond simply
being a good teammate, Mitch stands to develop some nice synergy as a result of
this quality. Being around top-notch athletes like Lindsey Harding will get
her plenty of open looks as foes collapse around Duke's stars. At the same
time, her passing and ability to fit at so many positions will quietly & subtly
make Duke a smoother unit on offense.

Coach G values versatility above all else in a player, and so it's obvious that
she's excited to throw Mitch out there to see what she can do. At the moment,
given an injury to Black and Gay's recovery period, Mitch is being used at
power forward. Now, that certainly won't be in any traditional sense--Mitch is
not going to sit in the low block and try to post up opponents. Instead, Mitch
will operate in the high post as a triple threat. Her first mission will be to
pass it into Bales, but she also will have the option of shooting if open or
attacking the basket if there's a lane. Mitch mentioned that when she's in at
post, Duke will run 4-out, 1-in motion to take advantage of her shooting and
ability to move without the ball.

As the season progresses, you will see Mitch lining up mostly in the backcourt.
Her main job will be passing, especially feeding the post. Given Duke's
offense, she'll be able to do that some from the wing but also in a traditional
point guard spot. Look for her to get a lot of minutes as Harding's direct
backup, but also to step in for any of the three starting perimeter players.
You won't see her shooting all that often (especially in real games), but be
assured that her jumper will go in more often than not--her form is textbook.
Her three point shot is excellent, but I'm also impressed with her mid-range

The question for Mitch is her defense. While she noted that she played against
fast, quick guards in high school and used her length to contain them, it's
another world in the ACC. Will her superior height suffice for her to at least
hold her own, or will she get burned by premium ACC perimeter players? Also,
how badly will Duke get hurt when Mitch is guarding the post? Right now, it's
clear that Coach G has big plans for Brittany. She's likely the 7th player in
the rotation at the moment and the first perimeter substitution. Gail has said
that Mitch will "push to start", but I tend to doubt that she can displace any
of the veterans at the moment. Look for her to play a Foley-like role this
year, making big plays at key moments and racking up assists, but not
necessarily scoring a lot of points.

Best Games: Fairfield (4 points, 4 assists)

Strengths: Passing, size, versatility, floor vision, shooting
Needs To Work On: Strength, defense, seasoning
Role: Human Swiss Army knife--do a little of everything
Must: Absorb physical contact and stay effective, avoid bad passes, protect the

** Keturah Jackson, Fr (redshirt)

Season Recap: KJ suffered an injury early last season and never made it on to
the floor. The aftereffects of that injured ankle still linger. Coach G
described her as being about 85% healthy and noted that KJ will have to play
through the pain. The problem is that she's a player who depended on her
quickness and first step for maximum effectiveness. Jackson will have to learn
to affect the game in other ways until she's completely healthy. She is at
least practicing, though to my eyes she still seemed a step slow. At this
point, KJ simply has to be patient. While she may not get to play in big
games, she has the opportunity to prove herself by hustling and being in the
right place at the right time.

While Duke's top 6 is pretty much set in stone at the moment, Jackson has a real
opportunity to establish herself in the rotation. Defense is her strong suit,
which means that she will be called upon from time to time to step in and stop
someone who is killing Duke off the dribble. How she reacts to this will be
the key not only to her season, but possibly her entire career at Duke. She
has to be ready to shut down opponents, to play physical defense without
fouling, to attack the basket and hit the open jumper when it's there. As a
young player, she has to find something she can do on the court that she can
rely on and makes her valuable to her team. Even if other areas of her game
are lacking, KJ can get minutes if she finds that role and embraces it.

Strengths: First step, defense, passing, rebounding
Needs To Work On: Shooting, ballhandling
Role: Defensive stopper
Must: Get healthy, be ready at any time for major minutes

IV. A Look At The Class of 2010

** Joy Cheek, 6-1 F Charlotte, NC (South Mecklenburg)

McDonald's All-America
WBCA All-America, Honorable Mention
EA Sports All-America, First Team
Street & Smith All-America, Fifth Team
Parade All-America, Second Team
adidas Top Ten Camp
Miss Basketball, NC
AP Player of the Year, NC
Student Sports Prep NC4A Player of the Year
Charlotte Observer Player of the Year (twice)
AP All-State First Team (twice)
Orlando Sentinel All-South Team
USA Today Junior All-America
Women's USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival

Stats: 17.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.5 spg

Ranking: Blue Star #24, All Star Girls Report #13, #14

The Scoop: When Joy Cheek arrived at Duke, Coach G handed her a tape of Mistie
Williams and told her to study it. That's because Gail had Mistie in mind when
she brought Joy to Duke. Williams wasn't much taller (maybe 6-1 and a half)
than Joy is now, but her strength, power and bulk allowed her to have her way
with most of her opponents. Joy is a slightly different kind of player, one
who arrives with an intriguing set of skills but will also have a lot of work
to do adjusting to the conditioning of the college game. But oh, that skill
set! The best way to describe what she can do is "point-power forward". She
has the strength and ability to post up of an interior player but also possesses
the floor vision of a point guard along with the shooting skills of a wing. As
always, Coach G values versatility above all else in a player, and Joy's skills
can be plugged in all over the place.

Right now, it's unclear where Joy fits in the rotation. Carrem Gay will be the
top post reserve, but there's definitely room for Cheek if she can find a
specific role. Whereas Gay is strictly a post scorer, Cheek can face the
basket from the wing and hit shots. Of course, Cheek loves contact and uses it
to her advantage. While players like Gay, Black and even Bales find ways of
going around defenders, Cheek will happily go right through them, using her
posterior to push her opponents away from the basket and get great positioning
for the finish. From what I've seen, finishing with contact is not a problem
for her.

Joy is quite nimble and has great footwork, but like Williams before her, she'll
need to work on her body in the off-season. That's especially true if she wants
to play more on the wing. In addition to getting slimmer and quicker, Cheek
will need to get stronger in her shoulders and upper body to really take
advantage of her natural power. She's not a great leaper at the moment, so
refining her physical abilities will only serve to highlight her many skills.

Joy had an impressive high school career, though some injury problems kept her a
bit under the national radar. She led South Meck to a state title once she
finally got fully healthy, punishing her foes with her post scoring and
shooting. I mentioned her as a "point-power forward" and Charles Barkley
springs to mind as a comparable sort of player. She?s someone who can shoot,
rebound and pass. It's Joy's passing skills that make her such a dangerous
player, because she can operate in the high post, low post or from the wing and
find ways to get her teammates the ball. Though she is a gifted passer, Coach G
has noted that turnovers are a problem at the moment. Like Mitchell, Joy has to
learn to make the right pass in the right situation, and understand that some
passes she made at the high school level will get picked off in college.

Joy played on the Red team at the Developmental Festival and didn't put up huge
numbers (6 ppg, 5 rpg), but she was still recovering from an injury. In the
McDonald's All-America game, Joy had 3 points and 6 rebounds, along with 2
slick assists. Everyone noted what an intelligent player she was and how sharp
her decision-making was. If she can carry that smarts into her rookie year
against top-notch foes, that will go a long way to helping her make an impact.
Again, if she can find one or two things that she does well significantly and
make that her role, she'll have a great chance of getting regular playing in
real games. The Devils don't have a true post banger on this squad, and that
could present her with the opportunity she needs to let Coach G know what she
can do. Though she's remarkably skilled, Cheek will be well-served to keep it
simple as a frosh and slowly build on her role, proving herself at both ends of
the floor.

** Bridgette Mitchell, 6-0 G Trenton, NJ (The Peddie School)

McDonald's All-America
WBCA All-America
Street & Smith All-America, Second Team
Parade All-America, Second Team
USA Today All-America, Second Team
USA Today Junior All-America
Gatorade Player of the Year, NJ
Nike All-America Camp
AAU 16U All-American
Women's USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival

Stats: 19.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.3 spg

Ranking: Blue Star #7, All Star Girls Report #17, #12

The Scoop: Bridgette Mitchell is pure energy. The key to maximizing success in
her career will be focusing that energy and making wise decisions. As a frosh,
she has a lot of tantalizing tools that should get her in the rotation right
away. Coach G compared her energy level and quickness to Peppi Browne, who is
merely one of my two favorite Duke players ever. The first thing that one
notices about Mitchell is her length--long arms, long legs. She covers a lot of
ground. The second thing one notices is her explosiveness. Coach G noted that
her first step was one of the quickest she had ever seen. That quickness is
greatly aided by a deceptive crossover dribble that allows her to freeze
opponents for that split-second she needs to either drive to the basket or free
her up for her jumper. I saw her use that crossover a couple of times in
practice, and it's almost impossible to recover from if you guess wrong. It's
an impressive weapon, but she has to be careful against good defenders, who
will scout that move and try to strip her if she's not careful.

If one is to compare her to Peppi, it's clear that Bridgette is far more
advanced as an offensive player than Peppi as a frosh. Browne's handle was
erratic and her jumper was spotty, though none of that put a damper on her
relentlessness. Mitchell is a lot smoother and more polished as a scorer, and I
see that as her primary role this season. Peppi came in and was an immediate
terror on defense and on the boards, despite being just 5-11 and not especially
strong. Mitchell is not as good a defender, though the potential is certainly
there. Browne simply knew where to be at all times and got there in a hurry,
whereas Mitchell has the same quickness but not quite the same level of
anticipation. Still, she will get her share of steals as she jumps into
passing lanes and uses her length to poke away balls. On offense, her strength
will be attacking the basket and hitting open jumpers (from mid-range to
threeballs). She'll have to learn how to judge when she has an open lane, and
when to pull up and shoot so as to avoid charges. Coach G noted that
Mitchell's main flaw right now is turning the ball over, simply because she's
not used to the speed of the game. In addition to getting stripped on drives,
Bridgette is making bad choices when passing; passes she could get away with in
high school just aren't there at this level.

While a bit slender, Mitchell's quickness is such that she can make an immediate
impact. It just may take a while for her to get acclimated to the offense; she
noted that learning the plays and understanding when and how to make reads was
giving her the most difficulty early in the year. Don't be surprised to see
her really come on in January and February and log a few double-digit scoring
games. There's no question that she has the potential to crack the main
rotation, especially with Keturah Jackson still dealing with injuries. Duke
will likely use eight players in its extended rotation this season and I expect
her to be one of them.

Mitchell played in a tough high school league and led her team to the NJISAA
title, scoring 30 points with 24 boards in the title game. She played on the
Gold medal winning Blue team to a perfect record at the Developmental Festival,
scoring an impressive 12 ppg along with 5.4 rpg and 2.2 spg. Mitchell played in
the McDonald's and WBCA All-America games, scoring 4 and 3 points, respectively.

Mitchell aspires to play a bit in the post at some point in her career. While
too slender to do that now, don't be surprised to see her become a very
effective rebounding guard. With the graduation of Currie, that's a definite
area of need for the Blue Devils and a role Mitchell could quite easily fill.
In particular, I see her quickness and leaping ability allowing her to get her
hands on a lot of offensive rebounds. I also see Mitchell finishing many fast
breaks, thanks to her ability to run the floor.

V. Preliminary Season Preview

Duke is poised to have an interesting season. While the disappointment of the
national title game loss lingers, the Devils have been relieved of outlandish
expectations with the departure of three seasoned seniors. With both Maryland
and UNC picked ahead of Duke in the ACC poll and the Devils sitting squarely at
#6, there's not much pressure on the team in 2007. That's good news for a
number of reasons. The Devils have not always done well when the burden of
expectations was placed on them.

On the other hand, Duke has frequently overachieved when overlooked at a
national level. The 2000 season is my favorite example. The Blue Devils
lost 6 seniors after falling in the national championship game, with one of them
being its first-ever Kodak All-American (Michele Van Gorp). Despite that, Duke
came within 1 game of winning the ACC, went out and won its first ACC
Tournament, and marched to the Sweet Sixteen. The Devils did that despite
losing its best player (Peppi Browne) in mid-season. One can also look to
2005, a year after Alana Beard and Iciss Tillis graduated. Duke tied for the
ACC regular season title and made it to the Elite Eight.

Though Duke lost two fantastic weapons in Currie & Williams, there's still
an enormous amount of firepower across the board. The roster is not quite
as deep as last year's, but then some of last year's depth was illusory
anyway, thanks to injuries. The Devils will go as deep as they need to,
establishing a rotation of about 8 or 9 at some point during the year. The
younger players have a real chance to improve their standing in the rotation
and expand their role, and I expect a lot of competition as the young players
strive to improve.

A team tends to take on the personality of its leaders, and this year's
captains are Harding and Bales. Neither of them are especially
demonstrative players, and there's some concern that they're just too nice
to offer the occasional harsh words a leader needs to utter. At the same
time, both have a quiet confidence that they can't be stopped--especially
at the defensive end. Other than perhaps Erlana Larkins of UNC, Bales and
Harding are the two most influential defensive forces in the league. Harding's
ball pressure and Bales' shot-blocking will be the sparks that generate a lot
of Duke's offense this year. While Duke has plenty of shooters, leapers, etc
and will run a lot on offense, their identity will fundamentally be a defensive
one: relentless, unforgiving defense that never takes a play off. As leaders,
this is what they will expect from their teammates as well as themselves. If
they find that their teammates aren't performing up to their level, it will be
their responsibility to let them hear about it.

On offense, the team will center around Bales. Coach G's has installed a
10-shots-a-game rule for her that will be taken seriously by everyone. Quite
frankly, Duke will not be able to win big if Bales doesn't go out there with
the mindset to dominate each and every opponent. She's proven that no one can
stop her but herself. She's too skilled, too big and now has the stamina to
play big minutes. There are plenty of other players who can and will score,
Bales needs to touch the ball on every possession. She'll either post up,
face up and shoot, or find an open cutter. Bales will need to prepare for
double and triple-teams and get stronger with the ball.

Harding is the other obvious starter. She'll lead the team in minutes and
look for her shot a lot more. The other starters include Abby Waner, Wanisha
Smith and Chante Black. This 2-post, 3-guard lineup will offer a lot of
matchup problems. First, all 3 guards can pass, shoot and drive. All are
adept at feeding the post. Smith will have a smooth transition to the wing,
which is actually her ideal position. Considering that in Duke's offense, the
wing player is used to pass into the post, Smith is ideal for this spot.
Essentially, she'll be taking over Currie's position. Waner will look to shoot
more than the other two guards but will also be asked to run the team from time
to time. Black's rebounding and defense will allow Bales to play in the high
post; if her improvement is as dramatic as Coach G has noted, then Duke will be
a very difficult team to guard. The Bales-Black tandem was devastating in the
NCAA tournament last year, but will only be effective if both players actively
look to score. Look for Black to be assigned to defend long, quick forwards
(Coleman and Little, anyone?) in addition to defending inside.

One question this team has to answer is related to depth at the post. There's
not a lot of height beyond the starters, though there are skilled players. Gay
is the leading candidate for 6th woman and should be comfortable playing next to
either Bales or Black. Duke will need her to post up and face up, along with
defending quick forwards of all varieties. The question mark for Duke is Cheek.
There's certainly an opportunity for playing time given that there are so few
posts on the team, but she'll have to prove that she's quick enough to guard
the long & lean post players that inhabit the ACC. Her power and skill set
makes her a tantalizing prospect, but she's no sure thing to play as a frosh.
Watching her development will be an interesting subplot as the season

Where Duke does have a lot of depth is at guard and wing. At the top of that
list is Mitch, who will be plugged in wherever she's needed. Coach G says
she'll be used at the four, mostly in the high post, but I'm skeptical that
we'll actually see that in real games. More likely, Mitch will pop up at point
guard and shift between 2 and 3, depending on who else is in there. She's a bit
too slender to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket (Smith's role),
but I do see her setting up from the corner for open threes and feeding the
post. Mitchell is another wild card. Depending on how quickly she learns the
offense, she could play a lot at the wing. She has the height and quickness to
shadow virtually any opponent and loves to attack the rim. Learning how and
when to pass will ultimately determine how much she plays, but there's an
enormous amount of potential. Emily Waner has a defined skill and that is
shooting. Look for her to come in to bust up zones and do a bit of
ballhandling. Don't look for her to actively run the offense. Lastly, Jackson
is the one player who could be affected by an injury throughout the course of
the season. She can really defend, and that particular skill could come in
handy when Duke is pressing.

Duke's strengths will lie in its post defense and ball pressure. Harding
will force a lot of steals, while Bales & Black will block a lot of shots
and influence many others. Perhaps folks will finally take notice of Smith's
defense. Coach G noted that she's already a better and more consistent
defender than Currie and isn't at all worried about inserting her into Currie's
starting role at wing. Smith is big enough and quick enough to handle most
wings. Of the starting five, only Waner isn't a great on-ball defender. But
that can be hidden with her other teammates around allow her to roam passing
lanes for opportunistic tips and steals.

This Duke team should be very efficient in the halfcourt. With three
different guards who can initiate the offense, shoot threes and attack the
basket along with a 6-7 target inside, the Devils will be tough to stop when the
pace slows down. Duke will also seek to run against most opponents, but has to
be careful not to get into a track meet against a team like UNC. Coach G has
been recruiting to counter what goes on 10 miles south for quite some time, and
that approach has led to a lot of winning for Duke. These Heels run a lethal
series of traps and have an athletic frontcourt that plays bruising defense.
Duke was way too conservative against the traps last year; their slow-down
visibly stunted the team's confidence. That was a reaction to having so many
bad crosscourt passes run back for scores the year before. The Devils have to
reach a happy medium, where they are confidently moving the ball across
mid-court but making good decisions as they break down a defense.

Their other ACC bugbear, Maryland, will present a different challenge. That team
doesn't defend that well but scores relentlessly from every position. The key
will be tireless team defense that never breaks down and works to force bad
shots. In addition, good footwork will be vital in stopping Maryland's getting
to the foul line. The Terps love to initiate contact, and if a Duke defender is
just a second late getting to a spot, they'll get whistled for it. That team
defensive approach will also work nicely with the Heels, who tend to get antsy
when the shot clock is running down and have been known to jack up bad shots.
One thing's for sure--playing Maryland and UNC twice each during the regular
season and probably again in the ACC Tournament will be ideal preparation for
another NCAA tournament run.

I mentioned team defense earlier. Really, team **everything** will be the
key this year. There isn't a Currie or a Beard around to bail out the team when
plays break down or opponents put a lot of pressure on. This team will have to
depend on each other a lot more and find different players to step up in
different games. That said, one would always want Harding to help determine
who that player is in each game. In some games, it will need to be her taking
that crunch-time jumper or driving to the basket. In other games, she will
need to find the player in the best position to make that play and trust them
to let them make it. Without that dominant player who can initiate her own
offense whenever needed, this Duke team's success or failure will lie in their
ability to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.