clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

It’s Here! Duke Basketball Starts Tonight

Time: 7:00 || Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium: Media/Video: ACC Network Extra

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

High School Basketball: McDonald's All-American Games
Frank Jackson will make his Cameron debut Friday night.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty rare for an ACC team to lose an exhibition game and we don’t think it will happen at Duke on Friday.

You never want to say never but Duke has many advantages, starting with talent, coaching, training resources and Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Virginia State is a proud program with its own tradition though, not to mention some recent success. This team finished 24-6 last season and 14-2 in the CIAA. The two best players are 6-8 Elijah Moore (14.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and 5-11 Kevin Williams (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), both seniors. Sophomore Cyonte Melvin (6-3) is a valid third option as well.

The Trojans are not going to just roll over because they’re playing Duke.

And it has happened.

LeMoyne beat Syracuse in exhibition play in 2009. UNC lost to the EA All Stars 107-76 in 2001. Still, it’s pretty rare.

Duke will be playing without Harry Giles, still recuperating from his knee issues, and his sidekick (he’s more than that but they were pals long before coming to Duke) Jayson Tatum is out for a couple of weeks with a sprained foot.

Duke is in good shape otherwise. The Blue Devils will almost certainly start Amile Jefferson and Marques Bolden up front. Matt Jones will probably take Tatum’s spot and start as a third guard and a sticky defender. Or it could be Luke Kennard, who we’re sure the staff will want to observe after a summer of hard work.

And Grayson Allen will certainly start while Frank Jackson is almost certainly starting at point guard.

Not that it matters that much.

The point of exhibition play everywhere is to see what you’ve got and that’s usually more true at Duke than most places.

While it’s true as Ron Morris said the other day that Coach K almost always ends up with a tight rotation by the middle of the season, he does tinker and experiment a great deal early on. So we’d expect to see everyone and nothing would surprise us. Chase Jeter has improved a lot and if he doesn’t start, he’s certain to get minutes. We’re very excited to see what Javin DeLaurier has to bring to the team. Jack White has gotten some really nice comments so far.

And while we realize that Justin Robinson and Antonio Vrankovic are probably at or near the bottom of the rotation currently, they’re both intriguing in different ways.

Robinson may be growing, perhaps not as much as his father, David did before his Hall of Fame career, but enough to be intriguing. He looked pretty sharp in the Countdown to Craziness scrimmage.

And while Vrankovic has a long way to go, he’s got a nice feel for the game. His lower body is weak and will take some time to get up to speed. He has good hands however and no matter how good a coach you are, no matter how much you want it as a player, if you have Manos de Piedra, it’s really hard to work around.

Vrankovic has some limitations currently but hand-eye coordination is not on the list. He has really good hands.

You might ultimately put him in a group with former Devils Matt Christensen and Brian Zoubek as really big guys who were never very nimble but who were nonetheless skilled and who ended up having a major impact on their teams.

So what to expect Friday night?

Well a bit of choppiness, partly because it’s early and partly by design. The focus won’t be on a chest beating win but rather on identifying roles, strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve.

And whatever Duke learns about its team, don’t forget that its two most talented players will not take the court.