Duke put together a win against B.C. which was impressive on almost every front. The only bad news was an injury to Dave McClure. We have no idea yet just what happened, but it was the knee he'd had worked on previously. Here's hoping it's not too serious.
Duke looks less like the struggling young team which opened the season than a confident young team which is rounding into form and may challenge for championships at the end of the season.
Duke's backcourt has improved a great deal since early in the season; now, perhaps, it's the frontcourt which is taking its turn. Dave McClure has been remarkably steady and very, very smart this season, and in some ways has been the foundation the others have built on.
Josh McRoberts, though, is the lynchpin. His extraordinary range of abilities becomes clearer with every game. In this game, we saw powerful alley-oop dunks (he may be the best guy Duke's ever had at catching and converting alley-oop passes - certainly no one else has shown the knack to catch them backwards with the ease McRoberts does, and he does pretty well frontwards, too), some breathtaking passes, continued strong rebounding
Before, though, he was content to play a quieter game. Now, though, he is truly asserting himself, offensively and defensively, and this game had his fingerprints all over it: 16 points, 12 boards, five blocks, three assists.
McRoberts is becoming a highlight film. Whether he's leading a break, or very physically snuffing a shot, pulling the ball out of the hands of an opposing player or two, or whipping a behind the back pass through traffic, the guy's game is taking off. Duke's never seen anyone quite like him. The closest player in many respects would be Danny Ferry, but Ferry lacked McRoberts' athleticism. He couldn't have pulled off the acrobatic alley-oops, and as great as he was, he couldn't lead the break the way McRoberts does, either.
People used to say that Bill Russell was the personification of what Red Auerbach was looking for: a rebounding and shotblocking machine who could start a fast break in his sleep. In some ways, McRoberts is the best expression yet of Krzyzewski's determination to not put players in a box. He's capable of almost anything on the court, so might as well let him.
Lance Thomas had probably the best game of his young career, with 10 points and nine boards in 22 minutes. He's been playing because he brings a lot of energy to the team, but if he can whiff a double-double from time to time, and play reasonable defense, he's a huge asset.
But the rebounding didn't stop in the frontcourt, as DeMarcus Nelson had another strong outing, with eight boards and 17 points. Bruce Dalrymple has been gone for a good while now, but the former Tech star is probably the player Nelson most resembles, although Nelson is a much better athlete than Dalrymple, and has better skills, too. But like Nelson, Dalrymple was about 6-3 or 6-4, and could just kill people on the boards. Some guys understand it and it doesn't matter how tall they are.
Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer had quieter offensive games than they have had recently, but Paulus has really steadied his game of late and it's been a while since he's even really been seriously criticized, which must be a nice change from earlier this season. And Scheyer has gone from being a nice freshman to, really, one of the better players in the league. The earlier comparisons to J.J. Redick were not just unfair, but wrong.
Redick was the most amazing offensive weapon Duke has ever had, and Duke ruthlessly played to his strengths. Scheyer's game, though he also has a fine jump shot, is more varied. The kid can handle the point, can defend, can obviously make clutch plays - in a nutshell, he's just a tremendous basketball player. His biggest weakness is weakness, but as he fills out over the next few years, he's going to become a superb all around talent.
And Marty Pocius, who has struggled through ankle injuries this season, had perhaps his best overall performance of the year.
Overall, while Duke built on defense from day one this year, the offense is coming together, and you're starting to see some explosiveness now. The famous Duke streaks which so often blow a game open are starting to reappear - witness the bulge which happened just before and after halftime, giving Duke a 10 point lead. But add to that the better sense of spacing the team has on offense, the vastly improved passing and communication, the increased assertiveness of McRoberts, and the penetration by just about everyone else (and certainly including Gerald Henderson, although B.C. was not his best game), and suddenly this is a tough team to contain.
And you have to work like hell to get your points, too. B.C. was held to 34.5% from the floor, and while Jared Dudley and Tyrese Rice scored 17 and 13 respectively, Sean Marshall was held to seven points, and John Oates to one.
All things considered, it was a pretty smashing victory for Duke. Obviously there is great concern over Dave McClure's injury, but if it turns out to be something relatively minor, presumably he'll be fine soon. After the game Coach K said that "[t]he initial thing is that we donât think itâs unbelievably serious but itâs serious enough that he couldnât play.â
Let's hope so.
The win, and Virginia's remarkable win at Clemson which saw the 'Hoos score 15 straight to snatch the win away at the end, sets up a major battle in Charlottesville this Thursday. If Duke wins, they've moved from 0-2 to (a tie for) third place. Not bad.