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Next Up - Hartford

As the Hawks visit Cameron for the first time.

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NCAA Basketball: Stetson at Duke
Dec 1, 2018; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward R.J. Barrett (5) reacts during the second half against the Stetson Hatters at Cameron Indoor Stadium
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Duke plays Hartford for the first time ever. At 3-6, and out of the America East, the Hawks are not an outstanding team.

On the other hand, UMBC will forever be a cautionary tale for top teams and they’re out the America East. So sneer at your own peril.

Duke has most of the advantages in this game but not all: Hartford has seven seniors.

Despite that, it’s not a deep team: three guys play at least 36 mpg, one plays 33 and another 28. Foul trouble would doom this team.

The leading scorer is a bit of an anomaly: John Carroll, 6-8, is an Irishman. He’s a senior as are the other four starters.

Jason Dunne (6-4) checks in with 14.1 ppg while JR Lynch (5-10) puts up 13.8 and Aussie George Blagojevic is hitting 13 ppg and 7.4 rpg.

We’ve talked periodically about the Dinka diaspora and how it has begun to filter through college basketball, with several, like Blagojevic, from Down Under, but it’s worth considering that there was also a Baltic diaspora and it too has had a significant impact on American basketball. Lots of Aussie and Canadian players have powerful stories we’re sure.

Speaking of interesting stories the name that jumped out at us immediately on Hartford’s roster was that of Max Twyman.

Jack Twyman, who was a teammate of Maurice Stokes with the Cincinnati Royals, essentially adopted Stokes after he was paralyzed following an injury suffered during a game.

Jack’s son Jay played for Rick Pitino at Boston College and Max’s dad is named Jay although we haven’t seen definite proof that it’s the same Jay Twyman but we suspect it is.

The guy’s grandfather set a curve for kindness and altruism that shames most of us. He was a very, very good man. They won’t, but we’d love it if Duke remembered that at some point Wednesday night.

For Hartford, it’s a challenging game and they’d probably have to have a perfect game and some help from Duke to win it.

But Duke has its own challenges to deal with.

First, there is no substitute for experience and Hartford has far more than most teams in today’s game. And second, Duke’s attention is necessarily and properly compromised by exams.

Duke, like most college teams outside of Chapel Hill, loses focus during exams. Practice is kind of hit or miss and it’s impossible to maintain a fine edge.

So the focus is likely to be smaller and less ambitious. But you can bet defense and communication will be part of it.

Duke has shown some stunning offensive abilities so far and in the last two games, defensively has really improved.

RJ Barrett’s back to back steals and dunks are likely to be pointed to for some time and needless to say, this Duke team likes to get out on the break more than any in recent memory. The easiest way to do that, obviously, is to take the ball and run before the other guys can react sufficiently.

Duke is favored to win and should. A win by Hartford would be bigger than UMBC’s upset of Virginia.

The path to that win, though, is exceedingly narrow and Duke will have to open some gates.

That said, you can never rule an upset out.

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