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Next Up - Elon

Time: 6:00 || Venue: Greensboro Coliseum || Video: ESPN2

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NCAA Basketball: Tennessee State at Duke
Dec 19, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; Tennessee State Tigers guard Armani Chaney (0) shoots against Duke Blue Devils guard Frank Jackson (15) in the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough game with Tennessee State, Duke gets a Wednesday matchup with Elon. Elon probably isn’t as talented as Tennessee State, but it is a very well coached team.

Like App State’s Jim Fox, Matt Matheney is a Davidson product, a former Bob McKillop assistant. He was both a quarterback and a point guard at Davidson.

Coaching at Davidson, much less Elon, isn’t like coaching in the ACC. If you gave those guys the resources that, say, NC State has, things would be very different.

So measuring success by records is misleading. Instead you measure success partly by records, yes, but also by how disciplined and intelligent those teams are.

By that reckoning, Elon is very good.

This year the Phoenix are 7-4 and have a win over Georgetown. The Hoyas are not what they were but that’s still an impressive win for a school like Elon - a tribute to the intelligence and discipline the team has.

Elon’s scoring balance is striking: five guys average between 10.6 and 12.5 ppg. Brian Dawkins (6-8 junior) leads with 12.5 ppg.

Luke Eddy is the point guard. The 6-1 senior from West Virginia averages 4.3 apg. Six-foot-eight sophomore Tyler Sebring averages 12.4 ppg. Steve Santa Anna, a 6-4 guy from Charlotte, is bagging 12 ppg.

Elon is a solidly coached team. Where is Duke?

Well coached too of course and with significantly more talent for what that’s worth. We saw Ben Simmons play for LSU last year and the Tigers didn’t make any noise to speak of.

Talent’s not everything.

And even when you have it it has to fit together. People have to understand and accept their roles.

Duke’s injuries have pushed that process back.

On Monday we saw the debut of Harry Giles as the celebrated talent got four minutes in his return from knee surgery.

Tennessee State pushed Duke but Duke pushed back. And we saw tremendous things from a number of players. Grayson Allen had the most explosive dunk we’ve seen in a long time in Cameron (it was waved off but still incredible). Matt Jones has become a real badass even with minimal scoring. Luke Kennard has shocked people with his Great Leap Forward and Amile Jefferson nearly bagged 20 rebounds against Tennessee State.

Kennard was sensational but the guy who really caught our eye was Jason Tatum.

There was a stretch in the second half when we watched him and thought - Jayson Battier!

He was doing everything - rebounding, blocking shots, scoring, bringing the ball upcourt - but it was more than that.

Like Battier, he sensed where he was needed and just plugged himself in as needed.

It was about a five minute stretch but it was eye opening. We knew he was remarkably sound on offense, and we’ve seen that he’s more than willing to play defense, but did we think he could remind us of Battier’s brilliance?

No. No, we did not.

Tatum is capable of dominating the game in multiple ways and that makes him an unusual player indeed.

Mike Krzyzewski tends to tinker with. his roster quite a bit but the starting five here - Tatum, Kennard, Allen, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson - are going to be hard to supplant.

And while Jones has evolved primarily as a defender and quiet leader and Jefferson as a rebounder/communicator/inside scorer/defender, the other three are a really versatile offensive trio.

Call it a three-headed monster. They can all shoot from three point range, they can all penetrate and they can all pass.

And Duke’s bench, which was terribly thin early in the season, is now deep and improving.

Coach K said recently that because of injuries his team was in October mode. Well it’s moved into November now and the pace is accelerating.

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