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First Up: Coppin State

We hope anyway

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 14 Duke at Clemson
 CLEMSON, SC - JANUARY 14: Matthew Hurt (21) forward for Duke during a college basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Clemson Tigers on January 14, 2020, at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C.
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Date: 11/28
  • Time: 2:00
  • Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Video: ACCNX

Duke opens the season, belatedly, against Coppin State.

At least we think so. Right now it looks like it’s on but this year is so strange, who knows? But we hope so and it hasn’t been postponed or cancelled so that’s a positive.

And the trip marks the return to Cameron of Maryland great Juan Dixon, who now coaches the Eagles.

And frankly, we really aren’t sure what to expect.

Coppin State plays in the MEAC and finished 11-20 last season.

They lose three starter from that team and haven’t played yet this season so winning at Duke, even without the Crazies, won’t be easy.

Six-foot-six senior Koby Thomas is probably Dixon’s best player. He averaged 13.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg last season.

Dixon also has the luxury of a 5th year point guard which would make most coaches happy.

DeJaun Clayton, 6-2, averaged 12 points, 3.7 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals.

Like a lot of teams outside the power conferences, Coppin State doesn’t have a lot of size: only redshirt freshman Kenan Sarvan is over 6-7 (he’s a 6-10 redshirt freshman).

There are a number of first-year players, both transfers and freshmen.

Chereef Knox is a 6-6 wing who transferred from St. Joseph’s where he didn’t do a lot. Anthony Tarke, also 6-6, has had stops at NJIT and UTEP.

The freshmen are 6-0 Dwaine Jones, Jr., 6-4 Nendah Tarke, 6-2 Kyle Cardaci and 6-7 Bryce Hunt.

Tarke joins his brother Anthony on the Eagle’s roster.

We mean no disrespect to Coppin State when we say this, but we don’t know much about any of the freshmen. They’re a bit under the radar but so was Dixon when Gary Williams discovered him.

And any look at this matchup would tend to favor Duke. It’s not just the talent, it’s the infrastructure. Duke has the advantage in every conceivable category: training facilities, equipment, technology, even nutrition.

There is one category that is up for grabs thought and it’s an important one: heart.

Dixon showed enormous heart as a player and if his players have anything close to that, they could make a game of it.

We’ve talked extensively about Duke in the pre-season so we won’t get a whole lot more into that other than to say we’re excited to see the freshmen and Patrick Tapé.

And we’re really excited to see Jalen Johnson. The previews we’ve seen so far suggest that he’s a gifted and creative passer and as we’ve often said, good passing is contagious.

We’re also keen to see Henry Coleman in action. Okay, and Jeremy Roach. And DJ Steward. And Mark Williams. And Jaemyn Brakefield.

And of course the returning guys - Matthew Hurt, who has shown great improvement, Joey Baker, Wendell Moore and Jordan Goldwire.

And it occurs to us that when Dixon watches this game from the bench, he’s going to see Goldwire and see a lot of himself in that kid.