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Next Up - Georgia Tech

What seemed like an easy win a week or two ago doesn’t look so easy right now.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 21 La Salle at Duke
 DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 21: La Salle Explorers guard Anwar Gill (3) passes the ball as Duke Blue Devils forward Mark Mitchell (25) defends during the college basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and the La Salle Explorers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 21, 2023 in Durham, NC.
Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Date 12/2 || Time 2:15 || Venue McCamish Pavilion || Video The CW

We’re not revealing any secrets when we say that the ACC is going through a major transition. How could it not? Dean Smith/Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino have all left the scene.

The last time we saw change this massive was in the 1960’s when Frank McGuire was forced out at Chapel Capel Hill in 1961 and Everett Case, racked with cancer, retired in 1964. The ACC had Vic Bubas though, who was building a huge program at Duke, just as the league now has Tony Bennett and Jim Larranaga at Virginia and Miami respectively. However, Larranaga is getting on and turned 74 in October. He’s got plenty of energy, but old age is undefeated. He’ll be done before too long too.

So much of the league is in transition. That’s certainly the case at Duke, where Jon Scheyer took over for Coach K last year, and also for Damon Stoudamire, who is just five games into his ACC career.

Their first meeting is Saturday.

Scheyer probably has better players but a) having the best players doesn’t always matter and b) it’s hard to get a bead on Stoudamire’s roster this early.

What we can tell you is that the Yellow Jackets beat Georgia Southern handily, just nipped Kenny Blakeney’s Howard, lost to UMass Lowell, which is embarrassing, then got hammered by Cincinnati by 35 before upsetting #21 Mississippi State in the ACC/SEC Challenge.

And that was a road wind, mind.

So who’s he working with?

Well, he inherited Lance Terry, a 6-3 senior, Kyle Sturdivant, another 6-3 senior, Miles Kelly and Dallan “Deebo” Coleman, both 6-6 juniors, and that’s about it for impact players left from last year.

Ebenezer Dowuona is a 6-11 senior who transferred from NC State. Amare Abram, a 6-4 sophomore from Port Arthur, Texas, came over from Ole Miss. Kowacie Reeves is a 6-7 junior who came up from Florida. Tyzhaun Claude is a 6-7 senior transfer from Western Carolina. Tafara Gapare is a 6-9 sophomore who left UMass for Georgia Tech.

He also brought in four freshmen: Baye Ndongo is a 6-9 big from Senegal. Ibrahima Sacko is a 6-6 wing from Guinea. Ibrahim Souare is 6-9 and like Sacko, is from Guinea. Actually they’re from the same hometown, Conakry.

Finally, Stoudamire has Nathan George, a 6-3 freshman from Toronto

So how’s he using them? Overall, 11 guys are getting double figure minutes with Reeves getting the most at 32.8 and Dowuona getting the least at 10.4 mpg.

Kelly is leading in scoring with 19.4 ppg and rebounding with 6.6 per.

Sturdivant is getting 3.4 boards.

Against Cincinnati, Stoudamire started Ndongo, Claude, Abram, Kelly and only Kelly and Reeves were particularly useful (Ndongo had seven turnovers).

Against Mississippi State, Dowouna, Ndongo, George, Kelly and Reeves started and interestingly, Sturdivant came off the bench.

It’s tough to get a grip on this team this early because , other than Cincy and Mississippi State, the opponents have been weak.

We do know this about Stoudamire: he played for Lute Olson and worked for Brad Stevens and if he didn't absorb stuff from that pair, he’s nuts or incompetent.

But what about Duke?

The Blue Devils were unimpressive against Southern Indiana and soft against Arkansas.

They found their heart near the end, almost rallying to tie the game, but that doesn’t change the fact that they played soft through most of the game.

What they’re going to find is that everywhere they go, Duke will bring out the fans. There will be no easy road games.

The Devils, one and all, will have to play harder and they’ll have to do a better job of sharing the ball and playing together. They were vulnerable at Arkansas and everyone saw it.

Against Georgia Tech, they’re going to have to decide who they are, and they’ll have to do it against a team that, in many respects, is a mystery.

And that’s going to be harder than it sounds.