Duke travels to Atlanta for their first road trip of the year, where they'll
take on a young and talented bunch of Yellow Jackets. It should be an
intense game on both parts: Duke had an awful game against Virginia Tech,
and Tech blew the Clemson game, and they're still mad about it - especially
In Duke's case, we've learned over the years that after a loss, Duke usually
shows up with an extra dose of intensity. They may or may not win, but a
Mike Krzyzewski team rarely fails to play better after a bad game.
That's not to say they always win, however. There have been a few
occasions when Duke's lost two games in a row, and on rare occasions,
What you'd typically expect from a coach, if you buy into the stereotype, is
a ferocious, peel-the-paint-off-the-walls tirade/challenge to manhood. And
no doubt that happens from time to time. But the rest of it is a careful
analysis of failure and an extraction - and application - of lessons.
Duke often does this through video, where something is broken down and
demonstrated again and again - for instance, perhaps, how Gerald Henderson deals
with someone driving to his left.
But the ultimate upshot is that failure is anyalzed thoroughly and addressed.
So while Duke might lose at Tech, odds are they'll play better. And they'll need
to, because Tech is likely to come in somewhat enraged.
The way they lost to Clemson - on a last-second drive by James Mays, when
coach Paul Hewitt emphasized not letting him drive - had to get under their
skin. It had to. Hewitt has said on several occasions that he's not very
happy with his team's defense.
And the way Tech lost probably bothered Crittenton more than any of his
teammates. He has become the leader of the Yellow Jackets, and he's
probably more capable of lifting the team than anyone else - a nice thing to
have in a point guard.
Tech is not quite as young as Duke, but they're not far off: Anthony
Morrow and Jeremis Smith are juniors; there are five sophomores, counting the
just-suspended Lewis Clinch, who is gone for the year for an honor code
violation, and five freshmen. Only Mario West is a senior.
Tech is a fairly deep and athletic team, although their depth is somewhat
lessened with Clinch's suspension and the possible absence of Zach Peacock, who
got off a major cheap shot in the Clemson game. Hewitt has said he expects
Peacock to be suspended for the Duke game.
Regardless of the status of those two (the first two off the bench for
Hewitt), it's a tough matchup for Duke. Paul Hewitt has put together a
rangy group of athletes that will try to push Duke hard on defense. It could be
a particularly tough matchup for Greg Paulus, who could see anyone from
Crittenton, Morrow, West, Paco Diaw, or Thaddeus Young taking him
on. All of them are going to immense challenges for a smaller guy who is
not as athletic as his potential defenders.
Josh McRoberts will have his hands full, too, as he'll get Ra'Sean Dickey,
Mouhammad Faye, and Brad Sheehan (our mistake - he's redshirting), among other possible defenders. Faye in
particular has the potential to be a lock-down defensive player.
The same defensive versatility will be applied to everyone else:
DeMarcus Nelson, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek.
Duke may not be as versatile as Tech, but they are a better defensive
team. With the offense still struggling to reach a consistent level of
performance, Duke has relied on their defense even more than in most
So with two frustrated teams, what's going to give? Well, good
question. Here's our best guess:
Duke will try to drive, dish and draw fouls. Tech will try very hard to
avoid foul trouble: they are currently starting three freshmen and may have to
experiment with some unfamiliar rotations.
Tech's offense is ahead of their defense; Duke's defense is ahead of their
offense. If Duke can avoid the turnovers and convert on offense, they'll
have a shot. If Tech can adapt to a shorter bench and play to Crittenton's
desired level of intensity, they certainly have a shot.
Someone is coming out of this game at the bottom of the ACC, but whoever it
is, they're not going to stay there. Both teams are too talented and too
well coached to stay in the cellar for long.