hNext up for Duke is Georgia Tech. As we’ve said for some time, this Duke team needs some hard lessons before it can reach its potential, assuming that it does (most teams don’t). We didn’t count on losing three of the last four games (it’s worth mentioning though that Duke lost to Virginia by two and to St. John’s and UNC by four).
All three games could have been won with better execution and poise and a more experienced team probably would have done better and may possibly have won all of them.
The point is that no matter how good they are, freshmen are still freshmen and natural ability will only take you so far.
Losing is no fun, something we’re counting on.
Georgia Tech isn’t having much fun either.
Not only is Tech under .500 at 11-13, the Yellow Jackets have had two key suspensions early in the season when Josh Okogie and Tadrick Jackson were found in violation of NCAA rules. Star center Ben Lammers had lingering injury that has slowed his production and guard Curtis Haywood is out with an injury too. And Okogie had a brutal hand injury which he appears to have fully recovered from.
Assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie, implicated by the NCAA in a different situation, resigned a few days ago and head coach Josh Pastner was accused earlier by a former friend of knowing of NCAA violations at both his previous job at Memphis and also at Georgia Tech. Then this week, the friend’s wife accused him of sexual assault and specifically of masturbating in front of her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
Clearly it’s not a typical season for Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets are 4-7 in conference with wins over Miami, Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse and Pastner has been forced to use a six-man rotation - not ideal.
For Duke, the last few games have no doubt been frustrating. Duke hasn’t played consistently with the kind of unity the program has thrived on. Defense has been erratic and as noted, decision making hasn’t been the best.
However, Duke presents some difficulties for the Yellow Jackets. First as good as Lammers has become, he has been slowed to an extent by injury (he’s played through it but didn't practice for awhile) and he can’t guard both Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter inside. And against UNC, after being slowed by injuries of his own, Marques Bolden had a significant impact for the Blue Devils, playing 17 minutes and scoring eight points on 4-4.
He was good enough that Duke briefly ran a front line of Bolden, Bagley and Carter.
Duke’s starting guards, Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval, combined to shoot just 5-18 against UNC. Allen at times was impatient and showed a lack of composure while Duval, who has the potential to be a pit bull defender, all too often has come up short on that end of the court. He’s a freshman again, and there’s a lot to learn, but it’s become a weakness for him.
And neither guy did well defensively. UNC’s Joel Berry and Kenny Williams combined to hit 14-30 and Williams hit 6-12 from three point range.
He’s been erratic since ACC play started (against State Saturday he was held to 2-3 as State really pressured UNC’s guards).
Which leads us to Josh Okogie.
He’s emerged this season - partly due to Lammers’ issues - as Tech’s best player. He’s as capable of hitting 25 against Duke as he was against Louisville.
And Tadrick Jackson can score as well.
In other words, Tech’s backcourt is very capable of keeping the Yellow Jackets in this game and Lammers could get his inside too.
It’s a game Duke should win and a game where Duke could attack some recent weaknesses and that’s the best outcome we could hope for.
One small note: Wendell Carter, Alex O’ Connell and Jordan Goldwire will all be playing at home or close enough.