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Duke Blows By Bowie State By 63

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Greenville Practice
Mar 16, 2017; Greenville, SC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marques Bolden (20) dunks the ball during practice for the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing without freshmen Trevon Duval, Alex O’ Connor and Anthony Goldwire, all suspended for this game, Duke blew past Bowie State, 116-53. Wendell Carter, Marvin Bagley and Grayson Allen all finished with double-doubles while Marques Bolden just missed. That’s all great but what was better was the passing and holding Bowie State to 27.3% from the floor.

As it turns out, the freshmen were held out for academic reasons. It’s a nice contrast to what happened at UNLV-CH, where not only did athletes not have to attend classes, they basically didn’t have to do any work either (if you’d like to make a statement about that, you can buy our new t-shirt).

The big men were indeed dominant but we wouldn’t read too much into that because Bowie State had no way to defend them. They started two 6-3 forwards and one 6-8 guy masquerading as a center and Carter, Bagley and Bolden toyed with them.

The most impressive of the three was Carter. He shot 11-13 and had eight offensive rebounds. Many of his shots were dunks but several were jump hooks and he also tried two three point shots.

Bagley shot 11-20 and showed some of the skills that made him such a desirable recruit. He also had three offensive rebounds, 10 overall, three assists and a block. On some of his shots we saw a remarkable ability to adjust. On one he was kind of stuck and essentially passed the ball to himself off the backboard. On another, he adjusted mid-shot and still hit it.

He’s very talented but the difference between Carter and Bagley is that Carter is physically ready to bang and Bagley may not be. He’s still thin and as small as Bowie State was, they gave him periodic fits on defense. It wasn’t really easy for him to get his shot off. That’ll come with time and strength but we’re a bit concerned about more physical teams like, say, Michigan State.

Bolden came off the bench and also was dominant. He looks like he did last year before he was injured. He’s a solid big man who can score, rebound and defend. He shot 5-6 but no three pointers for the big Texan.

The three big guys combined to shoot 27-39 and grabbed 32 rebounds.

Javin DeLaurier got the start and played well but picked up two fouls in the first half who limited his minutes.

In limited minutes though it was obvious that he’s much improved. And like the rest of his teammates, excluding the suspended trio, he passed very well.

In many ways ball movement was the most impressive feature of this game. This is a very young team and it’s way ahead of the curve on ball movement. All the big guys can pass and not just pass but creatively and unpredictably.

DeLaurier had three assists, as did Carter, Bolden had two and Bagley one.

The best passer on the team though, and a guy who probably had the best game, was Grayson Allen.

Allen finished with 21 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and one steal. His physical problems behind him, and presumably his other issues, we’re seeing the real Grayson Allen now. He’s fast, athletic and fierce. He did an outstanding job of leading a young team.

Gary Trent started at the other backcourt spot, meaning that all of Duke’s starters were taller than four Bowie State starters.

He’s a lot better than we thought he was and we knew he was pretty good. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds and also added four assists.

Justin Robinson, Jack White and Antonio Vrankovic all played at least 14 minutes and all three helped. Robinson is greatly improved. White is big enough and strong enough to challenge most mid-sized players this side of Bonzie Colson while Vrankovic is also much, much better than he was last year. He’s quietly become a solid player and when he’s called on, he’ll do well.

Jordan Tucker was at the end of the rotation for now and the native New Yorker showed quickness, range and aggressiveness. Like Bagley he needs some power to his game, but he’s a talented player. He reminds us a bit of Ricky Price, who remains one of the quickest players Duke has seen.

As we’ve said several times, there was a significant mismatch and it worked in Duke’s favor as the big guys just ate Bowie State up inside.

Mismatches go both ways of course and Duke did a tremendous job keeping up with smaller players. The Bulldogs took 66 shots and made just 18. Of 32 three point attempts, only seven went in. There were multiple airballs and challenging Duke inside wasn’t a great idea: Duke had 10 blocks.

The Blue Devils won the rebounding war too, 58-27.

It was in most respects a mismatch but there are still lessons to be drawn and here’s what we take away from this game.

  • Carter is a full-grown big man. He can bang with just about anyone from day one.
  • Bagley is not physically able to play at that level - yet.
  • Trent is a very savvy player who clearly listened to what his father, a former NBA star, taught him. He’s got a bright future and is ahead of schedule.
  • Allen and Bolden apparently are over last year’s injuries and playing at high levels.
  • For a team with eight freshmen, this group passes incredibly well. This could be the best passing Duke team since 1978 and that’s a high standard. It’ll be fun to see them with Duval at the helm.

For all the praise, keep in mind that it was Bowie State, not Michigan State. The Spartans are coming up soon and we’ll get a much better idea of where Duke stands after they absorb a tough, physical game from MSU.

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