Next up for Duke is the annual late conference matchup, this year featuringÂ Temple.
Coach K has always scheduled a game like this to offer up a different sort of opponent shortly before tournament time. It's very easy to get trapped into styles of play within the conference, and this game not only introduces a different style of play but is also a useful way to gauge the team's progress.
Coach Fran Dunphy has done a tremendous job after taking over for legendary coach John Chaney.Â Since turning in a 12-18 debut, he has goneÂ 21-13, 22-12, and 29-6.
So far this season Temple is 21-5, but they come to Cameron shorthanded. Center Micheal Eric is out with a fractured kneecap and Scootie Randall is unlikely to play after suffering a foot injury.
Still, Temple has won 18 straight games, which you can partly put down to coaching and partly to experience and partly to talent.
Temple has six upperclassmen likely to play, and four of them are likely to start: 6-9 Lavoy Allen, 6-5 Aaron Brown, 6-4 Ramon Moore and 6-4 Juan Fernandez. They will be joined by 6-6 sophomore Rahlir Jefferson.
We haven't followed Temple closely this season, but we are very much aware ofÂ Dunphy's skill as a coach. Like his friend Krzyzewski, Dunphy has been at it a long time and knows exactly how to work with a group of kids.Â Whatever Temple is capable of doing, with however many normal starters they have, he'll get the most out of this group.
As for Duke, as we said, this is a chance to simulate playing a tournament level team ( you will notice they never schedule anyone like Longwood this late in the season - it's always somebody dangerous) and a chance to work on numerous things.
As impressive as Nolan Smith has been, it's been important to build other offensive options. The emergence of Seth Curry has been key as has been the vastly improved play of all three big men - Miles and Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.
Kyle Singler has been a slump, but he was last year late in the season too and it worked out okay.
Extending the roles of Tyler Thornton and Andre Dawkins is also important, and this game as a great chance to do that.
Whatever happens Wednesday night, Saturday it's right back to the ACC wars with a visit to Blacksburg. Along with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech is one of the most physical teams in the ACC. If Duke gets beat up against Temple, that can make life difficult on Saturday.
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