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AJ Griffin Changes Things

The freshman brings energy, intelligent and versatility to Duke

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Duke
Dec 22, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward AJ Griffin (21) reacts while dunking the ball during the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won 76-65. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

When Virginia Tech took a lead into half-time against Duke Wednesday, Coach K said he never yelled at his team.

But he did something that was wholly unexpected.

He moved Paolo Banchero to center and surrounded him with four willing defenders who could all handle the ball.

Virginia Tech never knew what hit them. They went from a team with real swagger in the first half to one that was suddenly indecisive. And Duke’s defense took away three point shooting, a real strength for the Hokies.

So Duke will stick with that from here on out, right? That’s been the scuttlebutt anyway.

Don’t count on it.

That lineup worked very well and it put AJ Griffin in the rotation in a major way. He’s going to keep getting better too.

So what will Duke do?

Well here’s the thing: it depends.

Duke has immense versatility and should get after every team this year. But we don't think Banchero should be playing center for long because although he can do it, it limits other aspects of his game.

What Banchero is, essentially, is a 6-10 starting guard who is big enough to to bang inside.

There will be a lot of games when it would be logical to start Mark Williams or, possibly, Theo John. What is important is not the small ball thing, not per se. It’s that Duke is versatile enough to do that.

The big difference wasn’t a smaller lineup. The big difference is the versatility of AJ Griffin. That was the key that unlocked Virginia Tech.

Having him allows Duke’s versatility to just explode. More small ball? Maybe.

More Griffin? Most assuredly.