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Next Up - Colorado State

Can CSU Ram their way to success in Cameron?

State Farm Champions Classic - Duke Blue Devils v Kansas Jayhawks
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils drives past Devon Dotson #1 of the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half of their game at Madison Square Garden on November 05, 2019 in New York City.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

It’s not that hard to write about a program like Kansas. Even if you don’t know the individual players that well, you know what a guy like Bill Self likes to do.

Niko Medved?

Not as much.

He made an impression on us earlier at Furman but we don’t remember a lot about the game other than it was clearly a well-coached team.

He left Furman for a year at Drake - Drake was a Final Four team in 1969 and has a nice tradition - then moved on to Colorado State.

He had been an assistant there from 2007-2013 so presumably he liked it and sees potential there.

His first year back was not great but maybe typical of a coaching change at a (God help us) mid-major: the Rams finished 12-20.

His best player is Chilean big man Nico Carvacho, 6-11 and almost 250. The senior averaged 16.1 points and 12.9 boards last season.

In CSU’s first game, against Denver, a 74-63 win, Carvacho was joined in the starting lineup by 6-6 sophomore Adam Thistlewood, a three point devotee, 6-0 freshman point guard Isaiah Stevens, 6-4 senior Kris Martin, and very thin 5-10 sophomore Kendle Moore.

Also worth mentioning: 6-5 freshman David Roddy was an AAU teammate of Tre Jones and the two remain in touch.

The Rams thus come to Cameron with two seniors, two sophomores and a freshman point guard. That’s not to say what they’re trying to do is impossible - Martin for one says they’re coming to Durham to win - no nonconference team has done it since St. John’s did it in 2000, although Vermont came very close in 2013 to a shocking upset.

What to expect? Well, as always Duke will get an opponents best shot. Colorado State has nothing to lose.

That said, in its last two games Duke has forced 64 turnovers. One of those was an exhibition game, sure, and Fort Valley State is not exactly, say, Kansas.

But the Jayhawks are, and Kansas had 28 turnovers against Duke. And while we’ve praised Missouri Valley State as a massively underestimated team despite being D-II, the Bearcats had 21 turnovers too. So that’s 85 in three games and only Fort Valley State was truly awful.

Duke’s defense is legit and it should continue to get better.

That’s the strong suit.

And offense?

As of right now it’s been feeding off the defense to a large extent. Duke’s transition game is very good.

Half-court offense will likely be a focus for the next few weeks.

On several occasions the younger Blue Devils did some foolish things like dribbling down towards the basket with no plan other than a quick shot.

Against Kansas, Duke hit just 23-64 with only Cassius Stanley shooting well.

However we saw signs of the offense to come.

Matthew Hurt demonstrated his range and sophistication. He’s going to get better quickly. Vernon Carey hit a three and grew increasingly confident against KU’s massive inside game. Stanley showed he will be a powerful force on the break. And Wendell Moore is going to have a breakout very soon. He’s coming on fast.

The upperclassmen are mostly known quantities at this point but everyone is taking on different roles and more responsibilities. Everyone has to up their game.

No one did that more than senior Jack White who could emerge as a rock for this team. However, Javin DeLaurier was solid, Alex O’Connell is improved and of course Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire are potent defenders. Both showed that they have the confidence to up their offensive games as well.

We admire Martins’ cockiness about visiting Cameron and if he can back it up, more power to him, but it won’t be easy.

Still, we’re wary. We can’t remember now specifically why Medved impressed us but he certainly did strike us as a promising coach. Duke is coming off a huge victory over Kansas and it would be natural to relax a bit, especially for freshmen. Clearly Duke is favored, but is there a path for Colorado State to pull an upset? Yes.

Zone Duke and force them to hit threes. Maintain your composure and hang on to the ball. Work it inside to Carvacho and use Thistlewood to loosen up the D. And it would help if the slight Moore turns out to be breathtakingly quick.

Duke would have to cooperate a lot for that to happen and as always, Coach K is vigilant about respecting all opponents and giving them your best game.

So yes there is a path, but it’s an unlikely one.