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Next Up - South Carolina State

Duke v Ohio State
COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 30: Wendell Moore Jr. #0 of the Duke Blue Devils passes during the second half of a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena on November 30, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
  • Date: 12/14
  • Time: 8:00
  • Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Video: ACCN

Not many teams had a worse Covid season than South Carolina State: the Bulldogs finished 1-17 and fired coach Murray Garvin.

He had one good year there with 19 wins but overall his record was 82-168.

His replacement?

Tony Madlock.

A former starter at Memphis during the Penny Hardaway era, Madlock more recently was an assistant for Hardaway who is now the coach at Memphis.

It’s early, but he has shown some improvement with the Bulldogs, who are now 3-7.

And coach Madlock brought a bonus along too: his son, TJ.

A 6-3 freshman, he’s talented enough that ESPN’s Jonathan Givoney said he could “play anywhere.” Here’s more from Givoney: “Just a very physical, intense versatile defender, very good athlete and made a lot of shots. Kind of a funky jump shot, but went through a stretch where he made five or six threes in a row and I was like ‘ok, this guy does have some shot making ability too’ and just played with such a high level of intensity that it really lifted up the scrimmage. I came away saying that this is a guy we’ve got to keep an eye on.”

So far he’s averaging 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.1 apg and 1.5 steals. He’s also averaging 2.2 turnovers, but he’s a freshman. That should improve.

He’s also an excellent defender.

Beyond Madlock, SC State’s rotation is about nine deep, ten counting him obviously. They have some size - Dallas James is 7-0, Sebastian Guitian is 6-10 and Jemel Davis 6-9, but only Davis gets meaningful minutes.

It’s worth mentioning that guard Rahsaan Edwards is a long-time Duke fan and said this about playing the Blue Devils: “I’ve been a Duke fan since I was young. Now, the first time going (to Cameron Indoor Stadium) and I’m playing against them. It’s everything you work toward and dream about. It’s going to be a great experience and gives us a chance to showcase what we’ve been doing, and see where we’re at.”

So where are they at?

In a pretty good spot apparently.

SC State started off 0-5 but since then they are 3-2 in their last five games. They took the Citadel into overtime, and Duke fans have a good idea of how good those Bulldogs are. They followed that up with wins over South Florida and High Point. For an ACC team, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But for South Carolina State, which has struggled for years and which had a truly awful season last time out, back to back wins are a very big deal.

From a fan’s point of view, part of the problem of playing teams like South Carolina State is that it’s next to impossible to know much about them.

What we think you can say is this. Coach Madlock has his team pointed in the right direction. They are much more competitive with last year. Other than Charleston, nobody has really thrashed them. And he has a tremendous weapon in son TJ.

Odds are that the game will unfold exactly as people expect but as we’ve seen before, all it takes is a team to let down its guard down.

Will Duke do that? Seems unlikely, given the program history. But you can’t totally rule it out and we have every confidence that South Carolina State will give it their all. So Duke had better do that too.