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Next Up: Jacksonville, And A New Era For Duke

The Dolphins could be a tougher challenge than most people might think.

Fayetteville State v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 02: Mark Mitchell #25 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots against Nakwan James #4 of the Fayetteville State Broncos during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 02, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Date: Nov. 7 || Time: 7:00 || Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video: ACCN

No matter what happens this season, it’ll be historic: it’s the first time since 1980 that Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t roamed the sidelines at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

While it was a sad farewell to the GOAT last spring, there is a good deal of excitement - tempered by uncertainty to be sure - but excitement nonetheless at the advent of the Jon Scheyer era.

Scheyer, who has long been seen as a potentially brilliant head coach, took over this summer and made a lot of intriguing changes. He hired outside of the program for the first time in a years, bringing in John Calipari’s ace recruiter, Jai Lucas. He brought Elon coach Mike Schrage back to Duke ( he had been on Coach K’s staff earlier in his career) as sort of a coaching consigliere as so many new young head coaches do. He also hired Rachel Baker as Duke’s GM, which was both clever and innovative.

And he rebuilt a depleted roster in next to no time, bringing in enough talent to keep Duke in the Top Ten preseason despite only two returning scholarship players - and nailed down next year’s class early too.

Duke has a lot of talent - Tyrese Proctor, Kyle Filipowski, Mark Mitchell and Jaden Schutt are freshmen and all highly promising. So are Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively but Whitehead definitely won’t play as he’s recovering from a foot injury and Lively is coming back from a less serious injury; he may or may not play. Jacob Grandison, a transfer from Illinois, sparkled against Fayetteville State in Duke’s only exhibition. We’ve been impressed by Northwestern transfer Ryan Young, who is limited athletically but who is going to outsmart a lot of people. Kale Cathings and Max Johns are solid. Jaylen Blakes appears to be vastly improved, and Jeremy Roach really came on last season.

So far, Scheyer has done everything you could hope for short of actually coaching games.

That starts on Monday as Scheyer and Duke welcome impressive opponent Jacksonville - where Jordan Mincy did a terrific job in his first season, finishing 21-10. The Dolphins were just 11-13 the year before.

Mincy won the Joe Hall (Joe B., presumably) as the nation's best first-year coach. That’s pretty cool really.

He imposed a very slow pace at Jacksonville and that will likely continue. We don’t know that it’s as difficult’s as Virginia’s is, but you get the rough idea: slow the game down, keep the opponent fairly close, and anything can happen.

And as we saw Saturday, Mincy is telling his players that experience is a significant advantage. His guys have a lot of it, with five seniors and four juniors, the type of roster Duke hasn’t seen in quite some time. There are also three sophomores and only two freshmen.

Kevion Nolan is a 6-2 senior who can shoot and pass. Jordan Davis is a 6-3 senior. Bryce Workman is a 6-7/230 lb. senior who holds his own inside. Osaka Osifo is a 6-8/230 lb. senior. Rod Brown, 6-7, is a senior from Memphis. Mike Marsh is a 6-10/250 lb. senior. Omar Payne, 6-10/240 lbs, and Tommy Bruner a 6-1 point guard, are both juniors.

Transfers Jarius Cook, a 6-3 senior from North Dakota State, and Dylan O’Hearne, a 6-4 senior who was at NJIT last season, add scoring punch.

Home towner Gyasi Powell is a 6-3 sophomore and possibly the least experienced player who will get real minutes.

We would list the stats but only Nolan averaged double-figures last season at 13.9.

And with a team that plays this slow, statistics, particularly scoring statistics, are, well not irrelevant, but misleading. Who cares if someone scores in single digits if you’re only averaging 67.1, as the Dolphins did last season? Plenty of guys score. Moreover, they held opponents to an average of 59.3 ppg, and that statistic is important. So is a 7.8 scoring margin.

It’s not going to be about scoring with these guys. It’s going to be a grinder of a game. Look for Jacksonville to pound the offensive boards too, which is going to put a lot of pressure on Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Young. Christian Reeves won’t play and it’s not clear yet that Dereck Lively will either as he’s still recovering from injury. How will Duke react to that stress? It’s going to be interesting.

Scheyer has already made clear that he is committed to running but Jacksonville is just as committed to a disciplined, slower style.

In a sense, this game reminds us of when Pitt came to Duke in 1979 during the Bill Foster era. Their center was Sam Clancy, who was 6-7 and about 288. He was not a run-and-jump athlete. He was a take-you-to-the-hole-no-matter-who-you-are player. He punished 6-11 Mike Gminski inside, leading Pitt to a 71-69 win in Cameron. Then he switched sports and had an excellent 11-year career in the NFL.

Talk about an ass kicker. That guy was unreal.

We’re not saying that Jacksonville has a Clancy on the roster but they’re a proud and confident team. They obviously believe in their coach, who looks for all the world like a rising star. And they all have a chance to make an historic mark in Cameron Monday night.

Don’t think they don’t know it. This is a tougher game than it looks.

We usually list the links at the bottoms of game previews, but DavidBenAkiva has been doing really great previews on the DBR forums and you should make sure to read his first.