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Next Up - Georgia Tech

Can Duke prevail in Hotlanta?

Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski gives his players instructions in their game against the Maryland Terrapins at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski gives his players instructions in their game against the Maryland Terrapins at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Georgia Tech, and while the Yellow Jackets are having an unsatisfactory season, there is talent on the roster - when it's healthy anyway.

Tennessee transfer Trae Golden is normally a really key contributor, but he's listed as questionable for Duke, and coach Brian Gregory says he won't use him if he doesn't have his normal explosiveness. It's a groin injury in case you were wondering.

Additionally, Robert Carter, who was expected to miss the rest of the season after knee surgery, continues his comeback but Gregory thinks he's about a week away from being fully up to speed.

Travis Jorgenson, seen as perhaps a very underrated point, went out after four games and won't be back.

Corey Heyward's injury was last year, but it was serious and he is playing, but not as well as one might expect.

Jason Morris made it back briefly from a previous injury, then promptly broke his foot.

Solomon Poole, unable to conform to what Gregory wanted, is no longer on the team.

Against Boston College, Tech's last opponent, Carter came off the bench for 24. Quinton Stephens played 12 minutes, while walk-on Ron Warner played seven. And then there's the elder Poole, Stacey, who transferred in from Kentucky. He played just three minutes. His Tech career is not going well.

Against BC, Tech went with Daniel Miller, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Kammeon Holsey, Chris Bolden and Heyward.

Heyward played 33 minutes but might have been called on for more if he hadn't picked up four fouls.

Right now, Georges-Hunt should be flying high after his clutch dagger against BC. That kid's confidence should be sky high.

The other player who may pose particular concerns for Duke is Daniel Miller.

Miller, whose recruiting rap was that he was a decent player with no major physical gifts, has turned out better than that.

He's averaging 11.4 ppg and 7.7 rpg. He's big (6-11), thick and strong (275) and a smart player.

We still don't see him as an NBA level player (and if he is, he'll be discount role player), but he's become a solid, smart big man. You could do worse. Anyone could. The guy has heart.

The problem for Tech is that Duke, while smaller, is deeper, faster, shoots, passes and arguably rebounds better.

In order to beat Duke, the Yellow Jackets will have to shoot well, defend well, win the boards and keep a tight rotation fresh.

You never say never, because as we remind from time to time, a group of guys who are determined and who believe in themselves can do remarkable things.

It just seems like a tough matchup right now.

In the Durham game, Tech gave Duke trouble for most of the first half before Duke started to pull away, ultimately winning by 22. In that game, Tech had a healthy Golden and Jason Morris was in the midst of his brief return.

Heyward never got off the bench.

Of course, Carter didn't play at all.

For Duke, the challenge is that Tech might appear to be a safe valley between the emotional peaks of Maryland and UNC.

Duke can't afford to treat them that way, because all it takes is one guy (maybe Georges-Hunt, and by the way, sportswiters are duty-bound to hate him because his name is such a pain to type) getting explosive and things change just like that. That kind of confidence is infectious, and next thing you know, the favored team is playing scared. And it's just a question of time then.

Duke's in an enviable situation in many ways. Despite not having a great post presence, Duke's athleticism and talent lets it work around that. There is some concern about Quinn Cook's recent play. He's been struggling and pressing, and the sooner he gets out of that, the better for Duke. At his best, he's a slippery, confident guard who can work his way into the lane for a shot or a nice assist.

With UNC coming up Thursday, and Syracuse just behind, it's an important game for Duke, particularly since UNC has crawled back into the race after an 0-4 start. Tech might not appear to be a dangerous opponent, but you can't afford to think that way. In World War II, General George Patton said that the fact that the Germans hadn't launched a winter offensive in centuries meant that that would be exactly what they'd do.

It's not quite the same thing, but Duke has a way of firing people up. Don't be shocked if this is a much more competitive game than anyone expects.