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Next Up: Bellarmine

No passing fancy, the Knights are a dangerous program. Just ask Louisville.

NCAA Basketball: Delaware at Duke
Nov 18, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Delaware Blue Hens guard Jameer Nelson Jr. (0) wrestles with Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor(5) for a loose ball during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Date 11/21 || Time 8:30 || Venue Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video ACCN

People are going to be looking carefully at Jon Scheyer as he grows into his role as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor at Duke but one thing that may not be getting enough attention is his schedule building. Consider:

Game #1 was against Jacksonville, a smart and experienced team that forced Duke’s young stars to start growing up.

Game #2 was against USC Upstate, which was essentially a tuneup for Kansas.

Game #3 was against KU, the defending national champs. It was a winnable game, but Duke was not yet ready to take that step.

And Game #4 was against Delaware, a mature and very competent team that can really pressure a defense.

And now Game #5 is against Bellarmine, a fascinating opponent.

The Knights of course upset Louisville in Kenny Payne’s first game as head coach 67-66, then lost to Morehead State 62-55 (Morehead State is more of a basketball school than a lot of people may realize). Then they played an entity called Campbellsville-Harrodsburg. The full name is Campbellsville University Harrodsburg Conover Education Center and by the time you said it, the game was probably decided.

Finally, they played Clemson Friday, losing 76-66. They won’t get a home game until Dec. 4th against an entity called Alice Lloyd.

They’re out of the A-Sun but are still transitioning into D-1.

Those are the basics, which you can now disregard. This is what you need to know about Bellarmine: coach Scott Davenport is a borderline basketball genius and teams from around the NCAA and NBA are paying careful attention to what he’s doing.

What Bellarmine is doing that’s so unusual is moving the ball while trying to dribble as little as possible.

More simply put, the Knights pass the ball so well that it puts immense pressure on a defense. And when you have a team that relies on many freshmen, as Duke does, they’re going to periodically get burned. And if it happens enough to affect their confidence, then you’re in upset territory.

In a sense, you could put Davenport alongside Pete Carrill, who used precision and patience to neutralize more powerful teams, and Tony Bennett, who basically lets you punch yourself out against a relentless defense that absorbs whatever you throw at it and then comes off the ropes at the end with more energy than you have and just guts you.

UVA might win 49-43, but getting those last six points when you’re exhausted and not really sure what game you’re even playing anymore is next to impossible.

Davenport’s offense isn’t like those two, but the effect is similar: once you understand the seriousness of the challenge it may be too late.

The Knights lose guards Dylan Penn and CJ Fleming, but Curtis Hopf, a 6-8 sophomore, and Juston Betz, a 6-3 grad student, are back. Peter Ruder a 6-5 redshirt freshman, Bash Weiland, a 6-5 senior and Garret Tipton, a 6-4 senior, also start.

There’s a pretty obvious problem here: Duke simply has vastly more size. However, as we say from time to time, mismatches go both ways and it’s entirely possible that Bellarmine, if they move the ball around fast enough, could wear out players like Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Young.

However, Duke can compensate with Dereck Lively, Mark Mitchell, Jacob Grandison, Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Jaylen Blakes and, now, Dariq Whitehead.

We got a small idea of what Whitehead can become in the win over Delaware. He’s not where he will be - that was his first game back from injury - but clearly, he’s the best all-around athlete on the team. He’s powerful, amazingly quick and has a mature offensive game. He’s also going to be a very serious defender. He changes a lot for Duke.

Duke has the potential to really pressure Bellarmine and if they get into the passing lanes consistently, they could leverage that strength against the Knights.

However, and this is a very big deal in this game, something that may be a challenge for Duke for a while with such a young team and a new coach is communication.

If you’ll recall, Coach K always said he coached offense, defense and communication. He also told Bellarmine President Greg Jones that he was not going to schedule Bellarmine ever again. He was joking, we think, but he also said that the Knights played together better than Duke did.

If Duke makes a few mistakes, that’s normal. But if Bellarmine can move the ball and exploit a certain level of confusion or uncertainty, well, let’s just say things could get interesting. With significantly more experience and being together longer as a group, at least Davenport’s core anyway, the Knights should have a major advantage is both communication.

Duke is favored and for good reason. However, Davenport has been at Bellarmine for nearly 20 years and clearly knows what he is doing.

This is a team with a very different style that will challenge Duke as it has before. The Blue Devils will probably win, but it won’t be easy. And that’s an ideal scenario for a young and developing groups.

As we’ve been telling you, DavidBenAkiva, who hangs out on our boards, does tremendous previews. Your next stop should be here.

We’ll add links as we find them.