Tag Archive | Austin Rivers

Maryland at Duke

Maryland (14-9, 4-5) at Duke (20-4, 7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Terrell Stoglin had arguably his most efficient game of the year at Clemson with 27 points on 11 shots.

Duke and Maryland are both coming off of emotional wins, although Duke’s was just a tad more high-profile. Maryland got its first road win of the year after eight straight road losses dating back to last season. Duke knocked off North Carolina on a buzzer-beater, and the Blue Devils’ jubilance – though obviously understandable – makes for an interesting emotional challenge with a Maryland team coming to town that will be eager to knock them off. Not that Duke would overlook the Terrapins, but the Blue Devils have lost two ACC home games in four tries this year and Maryland knows that Duke is still riding that emotional high from Wednesday night. The Blue Devils will have to maintain the focus and intensity they showed not only in the closing minutes in Chapel Hill, but also for much of the game at Maryland earlier this year as well.

Stat to watch: Two-point field goal percentage. Maryland’s Mark Turgeon has made no secret about what his game plan was the first time around, and he’ll likely stick to a similar version of it this time. “I’d rather (Mason) Plumlee score 22 than give up 15 3’s any day,” Turgeon said. “I thought that if we guarded that way (in the first meeting), we would win but we weren’t good enough offensively to win.” Against Maryland, Duke shot 62% from inside the arc which is their highest percentage in ACC play when attempting at least 30 two’s. Duke shot 50% from two against North Carolina, but attempted 26 shots which is tied for their fewest such attempts in ACC play. Duke drained 14-of-36 three’s against the Tar Heels – their most three’s attempted and made this year (the game before, their 31 attempts against Miami had been a season-high). But Duke isn’t just going to forget what their advantage is against Maryland, and it’s their inside game. Maryland held Duke’s guards to just 21 points on 8-of-27 shooting (1-of-12 from three) but allowed Duke’s bigs to score 44 points on 71% shooting.

Maryland is going to need to shoot better from inside the arc, though. The Terrapins made just 43.2% of their two’s against Duke. Maryland’s bigs shot 5-of-14 (36%), the lowest percentage Duke has allowed to an opposing ACC frontcourt this year. Duke has allowed five of its nine ACC opponents to shoot 50% or better from inside the arc and six to have 30 or more points in the paint, but Maryland did neither, shooting just 43.2% from two (the lowest allowed by Duke in league play) and scoring 28 points in the paint. Maryland is going to have to make those higher-percentage shots against Duke because while they have been shooting three’s better (8-of-11 at Clemson and 15-of-28 in their last two ACC wins combined) they shoot just 34% on the year and 35% in ACC play. Even against North Carolina’s lengthy inside presence, they had 36 points in the paint, their most in league play so far. They need to channel whatever it is that allowed them to do that against Duke.

Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Austin Rivers, Duke. This could be the matchup of the weekend, especially considering the games that each are coming off. Stoglin quietly had his most efficient game of the year to date with 27 points on just 11 shots, draining 4-of-6 three’s and nine of his 11 field goal attempts. He had to take 21 shots to get 20 points against North Carolina in the previous game and 26 shots for 33 points against Miami in the game before that. Stoglin was brilliant against Clemson, but it won’t be nearly as easy against Duke. Prior to his 16-point performance against Duke in the earlier meeting, Stoglin had a total of 11 points in three games against the Blue Devils on 4-of-24 shooting. He is still without a made three against Duke (0-of-11). He was just 2-of-7 from the foul line in the first meeting this year and he’ll have to be ready to knock those down. He has made 17-of-19 in the last three games and is shooting 75% on the year (73.3% in league play). It’s not always easy to hit them in Cameron, though.

Everyone with a TV knows that Rivers hit the game-winner for Duke against North Carolina, and he’s certainly riding as high as anyone. In the first half, he was going one-on-one a bit too much and taking some ill-advised shots (though some were going in). But he settled down in the second half and made perhaps the most important play of his – and Duke’s – season to date with a three-pointer as time expired. His ten three-pointers attempted were a season-high, but so were his six made three’s. He averages 10 shot attempts in Duke’s wins and 15 in their losses, and he had 16 against North Carolina in a near-loss. But more than at any other time this year, his 29 points off of those 16 shots (compared to 73 off 60 shots in Duke’s four losses) against North Carolina show that he is learning to be efficient, which is scary. He just can’t get over-exuberant and let his confidence spill over into making bad plays.

Random stat: Duke leads the all-time series 111-61 and while this used to be a matchup that would eventually rival Carolina and Duke, it hasn’t been all that competitive lately. Duke has won four in a row and 10 of the last 11 dating back to 2008. Maryland’s only win came in 2010 and it clinched the ACC regular-season crown for the Terrapins. Maryland’s last win at Cameron came in 2007, but the Terrapins have won four times there since 2000, second only to North Carolina (five times). Still, Duke has taken the last four meetings in Cameron by an average of 20.3 points. Maryland’s seven-

Prediction: Duke 88, Maryland 77

 

Last week: 10-2

Season: 103-36 (39-17 ACC)

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Miami at Duke

Miami (13-7, 4-3) at Duke (19-3, 6-1), 3:00 PM, ESPNU

Austin Rivers had one of his best games of the year in Blacksburg on Thursday night.

While Virginia at Florida State was Saturday’s most meaningful game, this matchup has potential to be the most exciting of the weekend. Miami seems to be hitting its stride after a double-overtime win over Maryland, and the Hurricanes desperately need a marquee win. Duke, however, seems to be dialed in after letting St. John’s nearly come back on them last weekend. And with North Carolina and Florida State tied atop the ACC standings, all Duke has to do is win to keep pace. Florida State will almost surely win its next game (at Boston College), and that will set up a Wednesday night showdown between Carolina and Duke that will leave one time in great position and the other needing to play catchup. But Duke has to win this one first.

Stat to watch: The three-point line. Miami is going to continue to shoot three’s (they tried 28 against Maryland, making only eight), and eventually, they’re going to go in. In the Hurricanes’ four-game winning streak prior to ACC play, they shot 36-of-75 (48%) from three. When the Hurricanes shoot as low as 30% or better from three in ACC play, they are 3-0 and 11-3 overall. In losses, they have shot 28.6% from three and in ACC losses only, that drops to 19%. With Kenny Kadji back and point guard Durand Scott starting to feel it, it could get interesting if Miami starts draining three’s. And Duke’s defense hasn’t been as good as past Duke teams, but they are starting to lock down on the perimeter. Duke’s ACC opponents have shot 30% from three and in Duke’s ACC wins, opponents have shot 26.4 percent. But Duke hasn’t seen a team that will attempt as many three’s as Miami will perhaps since they played Michigan in Maui.

Miami has defended the three-point line pretty well in ACC play, particularly in its wins when it has allowed 23-of-82 (28%) in four ACC wins compared to 12-of-39 (30.8%) in losses. The biggest difference, though is that in wins, Miami’s opponents attempt 20.5 three’s and just 13.0 in losses. Miami wants to make opponents shoot three’s rather than get into the paint, and Duke is certainly prone to do that from time to time. But the Blue Devils are playing smarter basketball and have cut down on their attempts recently, averaging 17 attempts in their last two ACC games compared to 22.2 in their first five. Their 44.4% at Virginia Tech (8-of-18) was their second-best percentage in league play. Three-pointers are so important for Duke’s momentum in that building, and if Miami can limit Duke’s three’s (thus limiting some of those patented Duke runs) and hit a few of their own, they’ll have a chance. And if Duke gets rolling from three, the Blue Devils will win easily.

Most important players: Kenny Kadji, Miami and Austin Rivers, Duke. Kenny Kadji missed Miami’s double-overtime win over Maryland on Wednesday with a concussion, and his absence was notable as eventually, Miami had to play essentially a five-guard lineup. He’s a very tricky matchup as he can shoot three’s and score down low against physical defenders. With Reggie Johnson being a virtual non-factor right now, Kadji has responded by averaging 16.5 points in league play on 56% shooting and adding 6.5 rebounds and two blocks. In his last three games of action, Kadji averaged 18.3 points on 54% shooting and hit 3-of-9 three’s and 10-of-13 free throws. He also averaged 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and three blocks in that span. He’s been in foul trouble just once (he fouled out of the Clemson game) and he’ll need to stay out of foul trouble and play as well as he has been playing for Miami to have a chance this afternoon.

Austin Rivers had arguably his best game in a Duke uniform on Thursday at Virginia Tech with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, marking his best shooting percentage of the year (63.6%). His four three-pointers (in six tries) set a new career high for three-pointers made and tied his best percentage of the year. And his five assists were his second-most this year. But what really made his game great was his defense. Duke Hoop Blog has been charting Duke’s defensive statistics, and they had Austin Rivers with a 90% stop percentage. He’ll likely be on Durand Scott and/or Malcolm Grant for most of the Miami game and if he can shut them down, Miami won’t be nearly as lethal on offense. Rivers might also spend some time guarding the speedy Shane Larkin, who – according to the Category 6 Miami blog – was a former high school rival of his in Orlando. Rivers has all the physical tools to be an elite defender, and he has often talked about how important defense is to him. If continues to be as dialed in as he has been, Duke should win this one easily.

Random stat: Miami and Boston College are the only remaining ACC teams that have never beaten Duke in Durham. The Hurricanes have only beaten Duke twice – once in 1962 at home and are 1-11 against Duke since joining the ACC. Their only win came in Miami in 2008. But since then, Miami has lost five games by an average of just 6.8 points. The closest Miami has come to beating Duke in Cameron was in 2009 when they lost by three in overtime. They have lost their other four games in Cameron by 11 points or more and two by 20 or more.

Prediction: Duke 79, Miami 72

 

Last week: 12-0

Season: 100-32 (36-13 ACC)

Wake Forest at Duke

Wake Forest (10-7, 1-2) at Duke (15-2, 3-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Austin Rivers didn't seek out his shot very much against Clemson.

As recently as a week ago, this could have been a somewhat competitive game. Well, competitive as in Wake Forest might have kept it close for half the game. There’s no way that happens now after the egg Wake just laid on Saturday against N.C. State. And even if this were a confident Wake Forest team it wouldn’t matter. Duke has owned the Deacons in Cameron Indoor lately, winning the last six by an average of 16.2 points; two of those wins were against some pretty good Wake teams (2004, 2005 and 2009). This Wake team? Not so good.

Stat to watch: The foul line. That’s really the only area Wake has excelled in this year, but certainly not in ACC play so far. A big reason the Deacons are 1-2 in the ACC is they are averaging just 11.3 attempts per game (24.8 attempts in the non-conference). Wake’s opponents were averaging 21.4 fouls in the non-conference and ACC foes have averaged just 14. Duke averaged 17 fouls in non-conference games and 17.7 in-conference, so not a big jump there. Fouls haven’t even been a huge factor in their losses (just 14 at Ohio State and 19 against Temple). But fouls have extended games the Blue Devils were dominating and made them closer than they should have been (Michigan State: 21 fouls, Washington: 21 fouls and Georgia Tech, 22 fouls).

Wake’s opponents still haven’t gotten to the line much in ACC play except in their only road game: at Maryland, the Terrapins attempted 37 free-throws, by far the most by a Wake opponent this year. In that close loss, Wake managed to get whistled for 28 fouls. Duke’s opponents are averaging 20.3 fouls in conference, down slightly from nearly 22 out of conference. Wake can’t afford to commit that many fouls. Duke has averaged 24 free-throw attempts per game in conference, down slightly from 27.6 out of conference, but averaged just 18.5 attempts over the last two games. Wake has to keep them off the foul line because Duke will do plenty of scoring from the field as it is.

Most important players: C.J. Harris, Wake Forest and Austin Rivers, Duke. Harris has had some big games against ACC foes, but not against Duke. He has averaged 6.5 points on 3-of-14 shooting (2-of-6 from three, 1-of-8 from two). Wake is 7-0 this year and 8-1 overall when Harris has 20 or more points. He’s certainly shown he’s more than capable of doing that. Wake is 10-30 in his career (3-7 this year) when Harris doesn’t hit the 20-point mark. Kind of an arbitrary stat, but who else besides McKie is capable of scoring? His average has dipped way down in league play to 11 a game and he is shooting 32% from the floor (27% from three). Duke has had some trouble guarding good perimeter players in the past and if they struggle with Harris, this game could be as close as their other ACC outings have been.

Rivers is playing like most freshmen play when hitting the ACC season, and that’s to be expected. Blogger So Dear (a Wake blog) ran a Q&A with a Duke Hoops Blog writer (@TheDevilWolf on Twitter), who had an interesting take on Rivers’ struggles: “I think he’s one of those guys who is just wrestling with himself right now, similar to what Harrison Barnes went through last season. If you remember, Barnes took off when Larry Drew was removed from the situation – I don’t expect a mid-season transfer from Duke, but I do think Rivers’ improvement has as much to do with his upperclassmen teammates as it does with himself.” Not much to add to that. To read that interview, click here.

Random stat: Wake Forest is 13-1 when leading at halftime under Jeff Bzdelik, 16-2 when leading with 10 minutes remaining and 17-1 leading with five minutes remaining. But – and this is crazy, since Wake has lost some close games – the Deacons are 4-28 when trailing at half under Bzdelik, 2-29 when trailing with 10 minutes remaining and ONE AND THIRTY (as in one win, 30 losses) when trailing with five minutes remaining. That sums up the Jeff Bzdelik era.

Prediction: Duke 83, Wake Forest 56

 

Last week: 6-5

Season: 72-27 (11-8 ACC)

Duke: ACC Outlook

Austin Rivers has been great, but someone on Duke needs to get his teammates more involved.

Record to date: 12-2

Strength so far: Inside game. Mason Plumlee has averaged 11.9 points and 9.9 rebounds on 63% shooting and his brother Miles has added 7.3 points (on 67% shooting) and 6.5 boards in 17.9 minutes a game. They have over 45% of Duke’s rebounds (230, or 16.4 per game) and 66% of their blocks (46 of 68). Mason has 29 assists (fourth on the team) and the two have committed just 49 fouls between them (3.5 per game). If there’s a knock on either, it’s their foul shooting: Mason is shooting 40% (32-of-80) and Miles 22-of-34 (65%). Duke is shooting 68% from the line as a team and it would be 77% without them. Still, they’ve had a huge impact and given Duke the kind of balance it hasn’t had in years.

Needs improvement: Defense. Already, Duke has allowed opponents to shoot 43.9%, which would be the worst it has allowed since 2003 (44.4%). Luke Winn did his weekly power rankings, at SI.com, and he broke out some stats from Synergy Sports Technology:

My dig through Synergy Sports Technology’s stats yielded two noticeable ways in which the Blue Devils are struggling to contain opponents:

• Their transition defense has dropped from 0.835 PPP (which put them in the 95th percentile last year) to 1.000 PPP (in the 64th percentile).

• They’ve struggled to contain pick-and-roll ballhandlers, too, going from 0.638 PPP (90th percentile) to 0.822 PPP (28th percentile).

While it’s a problem, there aren’t too many teams in the ACC that can hurt Duke from an offensive standpoint. But it’s a problem, particularly on the perimeter, for Duke and will likely continue to be one against teams with good guard play.

Most important player: Austin Rivers. He’s had a pretty good freshman campaign so far, averaging 15.1 points on 44.2% shooting (42.3% from three). The only issue is he has just 30 assists (one more than Mason Plumlee) to 32 turnovers, adding 12 steals, one block and 2.6 rebounds. Despite perceptions about Austin Rivers’ ball-hogging, five Duke players have taken between 96-156 shots this season and those five have between 102-212 points each. As a point of comparison, J.J. Redick took nearly a third of Duke’s shots in 2006 and had over a third of their points.

Reason for optimism: The Blue Devils’ offense is good enough to outscore most ACC tams. Duke has faced some of the better offenses in college basketball (seven of the top 38), so their defensive numbers are a bit skewed. And the Blue Devils won’t see many more offenses like that (just four ACC offenses rank in the top 50 and six in the top 100).

Reason for pessimism: No one is creating shots for others. Rivers and Seth Curry, Duke’s primary ball-handlers through 14 games, have combined for 72 assists and 71 turnovers. Mark Watson over at Blue Devil Nation talked about the rest of the Duke players standing around and watching, waiting for someone to make a play against Temple. Too much 1-on-1 play, as Watson pointed out, has been an issue and has led to some of Duke’s struggles with turning the ball over.

Surprising stat: Duke’s opponents have scored 62% of their points from two-point range; only two teams allow a higher percentage scored from two. That’s because Duke’s opponents score just 20% of their points from three (327th nationally) and 17.8% from the foul line (276th).

Most likely wins (12): @GT (1/7), UVA (1/12), @Clemson (1/15), Wake (1/19), @Maryland (1/25), FSU (1/21), Miami (2/5), Maryland (2/11), NCST (2/16), @BC (2/19), Va. Tech (2/25), @Wake (2/28)

Most likely losses (2): @UNC (2/8)

Toss-ups (2): @Virginia Tech (2/2), @FSU (2/23), UNC (3/4)

Best-case scenario: 14-2.

Worst-case scenario: 12-4.

Weekend Previews: Conference Play Begins!

No. 5 Duke (12-2) at Georgia Tech (7-7), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

Austin Rivers and the Duke guards struggled to contain the dribble against Temple.

Overview: Duke is coming off of a 78-73 loss to Temple in Philadelphia. Georgia Tech ended the non-conference with three straight losses to Mercer, Fordham and Alabama (73-48). Duke has won three straight and 27 of the last 30 over Georgia Tech (11 of 13 on the road). Duke is 0-2 on the road but Georgia Tech is 0-2 at Phillips Arena and 5-2 in games played in Atlanta.

Stat to watch: Turnovers. Georgia Tech’s last three opponents (all of which beat them) have averaged 21 points off of 16.3 Georgia Tech turnovers; points off turnovers accounted for 30% of their points.  Duke has averaged 16.8 points off of 14.7 turnovers forced. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is forcing just 11.7 turnovers per game (15.5% loss of ball) and is scoring 12.0 ppg off of those turnovers. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had more than 20 points off turnovers all year and have averaged just 10.8 in their last 12 games. Duke has struggled with turnovers at times, averaging 13.7 per game (16.6% loss of ball, fifth in the ACC). But opponents have averaged just 11.9 points off of their turnovers and Temple had to score 21 off of 16 Duke turnovers to win.

Key players: Austin Rivers (Duke) and Glen Rice, Jr. (Georgia Tech). Both Rivers and Rice have this in common: no one on either team can guard them. But Rice has been awful of late, scoring single digits in three of his last five games (including none in a loss at Fordham) and averaging 2.5 points in the last two games on 2-of-10 shooting (1-of-6 from three). Rivers is coming off arguably his worst game against Temple. He had 12 points but he shot just 3-of-11 from the floor (a season worst 1-of-8 from two) and had two assists to three turnovers. Against Duke’s major conference opponents (plus Temple), Rivers has shot 38.6% and 44.9% in all other games. He’s going one-on-one too much and all his teammates tend to stand around and watch. Georgia Tech is terrible, but they are hard to score against. If Duke has issues in this game, it will be because there is more standing around and watching.

Prediction: Duke 79, Georgia Tech 60

Virginia Tech (11-3) at Wake Forest (9-5), 12:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3

Dorian Finney-Smith has struggled with his shooting, but has averaged 8.2 rebounds.

Overview: Virginia Tech has won six in a row, most recently at Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve. Wake Forest lost to Wofford on January 2nd without C.J. Harris, snapping a three-game win streak. Virginia Tech has won five straight and eight of the last ten against Wake since joining the ACC. 

Stat to watch: Free-throw attempts. Each team has traditionally relied heavily on getting to the foul line. Wake is averaging 24.8 attempts and has scored over a quarter of their points from the charity stripe. The fewest free throws Wake has attempted 20 or more eight times and 30 or more three times. Virginia Tech’s opponents have attempted 18 foul shots per game. The Hokies are attempting 21 free throws a game and making 75 percent of them. In the last six games, they have shot 81% after shooting 71% in the first eight games. Wake’s opponents are attempting 19.1 free throws per game.

Key players: C.J. Harris (Wake) and Dorian Finney-Smith (Va. Tech).Harris sat out Wake’s loss to Wofford with a groin injury, but he is expected to play. And Wake needs him: even missing a game, he has a fourth of Wake’s points. Harris has struggled in three career games against Virginia Tech, averaging 9.7 points on 9-of-23 shooting. If he struggles again, Virginia Tech will win easily. And they may anyway. Finney-Smith is just the kind of piece that Virginia Tech’s offense needs. The willowy 6-7 forward has rebounded consistently; he has seven or more rebounds in 10 games and four double-digit efforts. He has struggled shooting (35% overall and 2-of-11 in the last two games), but Wake Forest shouldn’t put up much resistance defensively if he wants to get back in rhythm.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 83, Wake Forest 72

Boston College (5-9) at No. 3/4 North Carolina (13-2), 2:30 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3

Overview: Boston College has lost two straight to Harvard (by 21) and Rhode Island (in double overtime). Of six Eagles averaging 20 or more minutes, five are freshmen. North Carolina rolled over cupcakes in four of its last five games and has won seven straight. The Tar Heels have won a record 26 straight in the Smith Center. Carolina freshman James Michael McAdoo sprained his left ankle in practice on Wednesday and is doubtful.

Stat to watch: Possessions. The only way the Eagles have any sort of a chance is to slow this game down. Last year, BC allowed Carolina its highest points per possession of the year (1.2 in a 106-74 win) and lowest (0.66 in a 48-46 Carolina win) in the same season. That’s because BC tried to play with Carolina in the first meeting (96 possessions) and set the game back decades with a snail-like pace in the rematch (67 possessions). It was the lowest-possession game for Carolina all season (73) and BC’s 67 were the fewest by an opponent.

Key players: Matt Humphrey, BC and Reggie Bullock, UNC. Humphrey is BC’s lone upperclassmen seeing significant playing time, and though he’s now coming off the bench, he’s the Eagles’ most potent offensive threat. Bullock made 6-of-9 shots (4-of-7 3’s) in Carolina’s blowout win at BC last year and just 1-of-4 shots (0-of-1 3’s) in the narrow win at home. This year, he’s averaging 9.3 points and shooting 41% from three (and 66% from two).

Prediction: North Carolina 86, Boston College 55

Florida State (9-5) at Clemson (8-6), 4:00 PM, ESPN2

As with all of Clemson's games this year, they need Andre Young to have a big day.

Overview: Florida State stumbled down the stretch of its non-conference schedule, getting blown out at Florida and losing at home to Princeton in triple overtime.  Clemson edged East Tennessee State on New Years’ Day, but went 1-2 in the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas with losses to UTEP and Hawaii. FSU is 0-2 o the road (at Florida and Michigan State) but Clemson is 4-3 at home with losses to College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina.

Stat to watch: Each team’s turnovers. Both teams have struggled with hanging onto the ball: Clemson is 9th in loss of ball (17.4%) while FSU is 12th (21.6%). Their defenses both thrive on forcing turnovers as FSU is 2nd with 19.9% loss of ball forced and Clemson is 3rd (19.3%). Florida State thrives on those turnovers (16.9 per game forced), converting them into 17.4 points. Clemson’s opponents have managed just 11.3 points off of 13.1 Clemson turnovers per game. But Clemson hasn’t capitalized on turnovers, either: the Tigers have managed 12.4 points per game on 14.1 forced.

Key players: Michael Snaer (Florida State) and Andre Young (Clemson). Snaer’s last two games have reminded everyone why the junior was so highly regarded out of high school: he has averaged 20.5 points on 13-of-25 shooting. He’s been consistent scoring-wise this year with 13.6 points per game and hitting double figures in 11 of 14 games. But for FSU to be a top-three team in the league, he has to become unstoppable. And he’s capable. Andre Young of Clemson is likely exhausted from carrying Clemson offensively this year. And for the Tigers to have a chance, he’ll have to do it again: Clemson has won three of the last four meetings and Young has averaged 12.8 points and hit 11-of-30 three’s in those four games.

Prediction: Florida State 64, Clemson 57

Miami (9-4) at No. 21/23 Virginia (13-1), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Kenny Kadji has been fantastic for Miami in the last few games.

Overview: Virginia has won 11 in a row (its longest winning streak since 1992-93) and is 13-1 for the first time since 1981-82. Miami has won four in a row, all four since the return of center Reggie Johnson from a foot injury. These Miami-Virginia games always seem to be close, and this one will be no exception.

Stat to watch: Miami’s three-point percentage. Virginia allows just 26.8% from three, 2nd in the ACC and 8th nationally. Miami has made 39% of its three-pointers, 2nd in the league and 27th nationally. Michigan is the best three-point shooting team Virginia has faced (37.3%) while the best three-point defense Miami has faced is No. 39 Massachusetts (29.5%). Virginia allowed Michigan to shoot 10-of-22 from three (a season-high) and Miami shot 8-of-17 (47.1%) against Massachusetts.

Key players: Mike Scott (Virginia) and Kenny Kadji (Miami). Scott has been on a tear, averaging 16 points on 62% shooting to go with 9.0 rebounds. But he hasn’t faced the kind of big men he will see on Saturday. Kenny Kadji has given opposing big men problems on both ends, and he could do that again: the junior transfer is averaging 18 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks the last four games. Scott didn’t play in the two losses to Miami last year, but he was 0-of-7 in a loss at Miami in 2010.

Prediction: Virginia 65, Miami 62

Sunday, 1/8:

Maryland (10-3) at NC State (11-4), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Terrell Stoglin was asked to carry Maryland early in the season, and he obliged.

Overview: Maryland has won seven straight games (albeit some squeakers) against bad teams. N.C. State has won five in a row since losing to Syracuse by an average of 19.6 ppg. Maryland has won nine straight against N.C. State; the Wolfpack’s last win was February 7, 2006. Maryland leads the all-time series, 76-72.

Stat to watch: Defense: Will there be any? N.C. State and Maryland are 11th and 12th respectively in points per possession allowed and loss of ball percentage forced. N.C. State allows 41.7% shooting (38% from three) and 69 points a game. Maryland has allowed 43% shooting (32% from three) and 68.1 points per game.

Key players: Terrell Stoglin (Maryland) and Richard Howell (N.C. State).Stoglin carried Maryland in its stretch without Alex Len and Pe’Shon Howard, scoring nearly a third of their points. He’s been just as good since, averaging 20 in the last three games and 21.2 on the season on 43% shooting. Stoglin tore up the Wolfpack in College Park last year with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go with nine assists and one turnover. He had just nine points in the ACC Tournament rematch. Howell has really come on for N.C. State, averaging 13.8 points and 13.8 rebounds in State’s last four games on 57% shooting. Besides Len, Maryland doesn’t have a big man that can guard Howell one-on-one and Len likely isn’t ready for that, either.

Prediction: NC State 82, Maryland 73

Last week: 6-3

Season: 61-19

ACC Preview: Dec. 19

Nicholls State (4-7) at UNC (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU

Former Louisiana governor Francis T. Nicholls (you can see his left arm missing).

Four years ago to the day, North Carolina slept-walk through a win over Nicholls State in the Smith Center, 88-78. The Tar Heels allowed 14-of-28 shooting from beyond the arc and Carolina could never quite pull away. The players were as somber in postgame interviews as they would be after a loss.

It was the kind of Roy Williams postgame press conference that sportswriters love, featuring quotes like: “It wasn’t a very good game for us. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or a basketball coach to figure that out.” When asked whether his team was tired: “They may be tired of me but they will be a hell of a lot more tired of me tomorrow (in practice).”

This is the type of game that Carolina has to dominate from start to finish. They have really only done that once, against Evansville. Nicholls State’s best win is over Louisiana-Monroe, ranked 308th of 345 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Nicholls is 333rd, the lowest-ranked opponent the Tar Heels will face.

Prediction: North Carolina 95, Nicholls State 66

Random: “Nicholls” comes from former Louisiana governor Francis T. Nicholls, who was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during World War II. He lost his left arm in the Shenandoah Valley and his left foot in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

UNC-Greensboro (2-9) at Duke, 7:00 PM, RSN

Austin Rivers and Seth Curry were going to split the duties as Duke’s primary ballhandler but the two have combined for 56 assists to 47 turnovers. It’s been reserves Tyler Thornton (19.2 mpg) and freshman Quinn Cook (8.7 mpg) that have looked the most like “true” point guards. Without Curry or Rivers, both of whom fouled out late against Washington, Cook came in and steadied the ship, as he has done all year.

But Duke has so much depth in its backcourt and each player has a different strength. If the Blue Devils can get just a bit better defensively, particularly on the perimeter, they will cruise through most of ACC play and easily lock up a top-two NCAA Tournament seed.

UNC-G has lost six in a row after new head coach (former Tar Heel) Wes Miller lost his first game against ECU on Friday, 71-62. UNCG led 50-40 with 11:19 to go but an 18-4 run by ECU over the next 5 minutes gave the Pirates a four-point lead. UNC-G’s best result of the year was a 15-point loss at Florida State where the Spartans forced 26 turnovers. That won’t happen in Durham.

Prediction: Duke 89, UNC-G 60

Random: Gerry Austin, a former ACC referee who went on to the NFL from 1982-2007, went to UNC-G. Austin refereed the 1993 NFL Wild Card round between Buffalo and Houston (Oilers), when Frank Reich engineered a 32-point comeback.

North Florida (5-6) at Virginia Tech (8-3), 7:00 PM, theACC.com

A real-life osprey.

Virginia Tech’s 85-60 win over Campbell was impressive, particularly as they held the nation’s No. 1 three-point shooting team to 1-of-12 from three. But the best part was senior Dorenzo Hudson had his best performance since the third game of the season, scoring 15 points (snapping a six-game single-digit streak) on 46% shooting.

And Jarrell Eddie’s recent surge might not be a fluke; the sophomore saw limited minutes last season but is averaging 25.7 this year and is averaging 10.1 points. In the last three games – all Virginia Tech wins – the 6-7 guard/forward has averaged 16.7 points on 16-of-22 shooting and 9-of-11 from three.

The Ospreys’ six losses this year are to Alabama (then ranked 19th), Florida (then 7th), Ohio State (then 3rd), Miami, at Kansas State in overtime and at Auburn. That’s a tough schedule, but Virginia Tech is better.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 68, North Florida 61

Random:

Ozzie the Osprey.

Ozzie and Harriet are the two osprey mascots for North Florida.  Per the UNF website, Ozzie’s weight is “a few pounds short of elevator limit”, his height is 7’2” and his motto is “awesome by association”.

Alabama State (2-7) at Clemson (5-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Clemson’s defensive-oriented 60-40 win over in-state foe Winthrop on Saturday was much-needed. The Tigers had lost their previous three games against in-state opponents. Travis Sawchik from the Charleston Post and Courier wrote about the increasing contributions of Clemson’s freshmen. Rod Hall, T.J. Sapp, K.J. McDaniels and Bernard Sullivan combined to shoot 5-of-11 from the floor (3-of-5 from three).

One of Alabama State’s wins came on the road against Isiah Thomas’s Florida International squad. But the Hornets lost two of their next three to Stephen F. Austin and St. Louis, scoring a combined 83 points in both games.

Prediction: Clemson 72, Alabama State 56

Random: Per Wikipedia, singer Clarence Carter is among Alabama State’s notable alumni, which allows me to link this.

Alabama A&M (2-4) at Georgia Tech (6-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

The Yellow Jackets played well in wins over Georgia and Savannah State. Against Savannah State, Glen Rice, Jr. played 27 minutes and had a season-low six points on just five shots; he hadn’t attempted fewer than 10 all season. Head coach Brian Gregory has been playing him some at the point guard spot. It’s not a natural position for Rice, who is used to being a wing scorer.

“When he plays (point guard), he becomes even more focused and more concentrated on what needs to be done,” Gregory said. “That’s helped him when he moves back to the wing spot where now his job sometimes is simple, we need him to score some points. But he is making better decisions al the way around because of his time at the time point.”

Alabama A&M is much worse than Savannah State; the Bulldogs have averaged 48.7 points in losses to Alabama, South Alabama and Michigan.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 75, Alabama A&M 51

Random: Alabama A&M’s notable alumni include Robert Mathis (of the Indianapolis Colts), John Stallworth (NFL Hall of Famer) and Ruben Studdard (former American Idol winner).

Last week: 8-1

Season: 27-11

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 10

ACC teams are 67-36 so far (and that’s only after an 8-1 week…A-C-C!), and teams not named North Carolina or Duke are 52-33. Without Virginia’s 7-1 start, the other nine teams are 45-32. Ew. Conference pride is on the line!

Duke (8-1) vs. Washington (4-3), CBS, 12:00 PM, Madison Square Garden

Washington would be considered elite if not for losses at St. Louis (by 13) and at Nevada (in overtime). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln… But the Huskies gave No. 11 Marquette all it could handle in a 79-77 loss on Tuesday in the Garden. With just a few weak non-conference games left, not to mention an awful Pac-12 schedule, Duke is Washington’s last chance at a quality win.

Duke’s defense is eighth in the league in points per possession defense but fourth in loss of ball forced (18.4%), and that’s where the it can do damage against the Huskies. Duke averages 17.7 points off of 15.5 opponent turnovers; the Blue Devils started the year averaging 21 points off turnovers in its first four games. Beginning in Maui, that number dropped to 14.3. But the rejuvenated Blue Devils turned 17 Colorado State turnovers into 18 points, and that’s what they need to do again on Saturday.

The Blue Devils (as of December 4th) are 244th nationally in field goal percentage defense. Duke’s three-point defense has been pretty good, as they held the nation’s top three-point shooting team, Colorado State, to 4-of-11 (36.4%) on Wednesday. But opponents are attempting just 14 three’s a game compared to 43.4 two-pointers (of which Duke opponents make 48%). BCS conference foes have shot 51.6% inside the arc.

Washington can shoot from two (49.5%) or three (40.8%). Sophomores C.J. Wilcox (47.7% 3FG%) and Terrence Ross (37.8% 3FG%) can both go nuts from beyond the arc. Against North Carolina in last year’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ross led his team with 19 points off the bench in just 24 minutes. C.J. Wilcox added 11 points (3-of-5 from three) in just 19 minutes. Duke will have a long day if it stops penetration as poorly as the Tar Heels did at times in that game.

Duke will have an advantage on the interior, especially if  7-foot Washington center Aziz N’Diaye gets in foul trouble. He hasn’t fouled out yet this year (albeit in just 24.3 mpg). Against North Carolina last year, N’Diaye picked up four fouls in 20 minutes but still managed to pull down 11 rebounds.

Seth Curry had been the steady one for Duke, but he shot just 7-of-24 in the last three games. Andre Dawkins showed up and had 15 first-half points off the bench against Colorado State before going out with back spasms, and his status is uncertain. Austin Rivers is really starting to get it, scoring a very efficient 17 points on nine shots.

Andrew Jones of Fox Sports wrote this about the freshman: “…The 6-5 slasher can get to the rim with the dribble … maybe more effectively than most players in the ACC. But an issue with him entering this night was that once he decided he was taking the ball to the hole he would cut off all other options. Twice in the first half, however, Rivers got near the rim only to kick it out to Tyler Thornton for a jumper and Andre Dawkins for a 3-pointer. … As Rivers matures and adds this to his repertoire, Duke will grow.”

Washington is missing is what Isaiah Thomas brought last year – a point guard that can make plays for himself and others. They have other elite perimeter players, but at point, Abdul Gaddy is not an offensive threat and Tony Wroten, Jr. is very talented but erratic.Washington is capable of winning, but it’s hard to imagine Duke losing to an unranked team that is talented but flawed, especially in Madison Square Garden.

Prediction: Duke 82, Washington 77

Random: From Lorenzo Romar’s info page on GoHuskies.com:

“The loss to North Carolina in the third round of the NCAAs 2½ months ago was as frustrating and regrettable a defeat as Romar has had at Washington. If not for multiple meltdowns that cost the Huskies the lead and the game to the shaky Tar Heels that Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., they would have been favored to advance to the Elite Eight and past a Marquette team UNC blew out days later in the Round of 16.”

Why don’t you just start up an “overrated” chant? The Tar Heels didn’t play their best game and Washington was fantastic late in the year, but they were a 7-seed and had a 24-11 record for a reason. The Tar Heels were a No. 2 seed. And “as frustrating and regrettable a defeat” as Romar has had at Washington? Does this ring a bell?

Clemson (4-3) at Arizona (6-3), 12/10, 4:00 PM, FSN

Arizona impressed the college basketball world in a 78-72 overtime loss at No. 12 Florida on Wednesday. The Wildcats had been disappointing with losses to Seattle Pacific (in an exhibition), Mississippi State and San Diego State. This seemed like a game the Tigers could win earlier in the year, but Clemson just dropped their third game to an inferior in-state opponent – at home – in a loss to South Carolina. Greg Wallace (@aimclemson on Twitter) from Orange and White wrote about Clemson’s scoring struggles. The Tigers have cracked 70 just twice and have a season-high of 73, averaging 64.4 for the year.

While Andre Young has been fantastic, the 5-9 senior can’t do it alone. In Clemson’s three losses, he has shot 12-of-35 and 7-of-26 from three, averaging 12.7 points. In wins, Young shot 20-of-33 (12-of-19 from three), averaging 15.3 points. He’s taken fewer shots in Clemson’s wins, because he can be more efficient without having to carry the load. But he has 19 of Clemson’s 42 made three’s this year and someone needs to step up there too.

Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have been disappointing. Jennings is a McDonald’s All-American averaging 10.4 points, but he has nine in the last two games on 4-of-13 shooting. He accounted for nearly half of Clemson’s turnovers against South Carolina (he had five; the Tigers had 11). Booker is averaging 9.8 points but hasn’t hit double digits in the last four games, averaging 6.3 field goal attempts. He had averaged 10 shots a game in Clemson’s first four games and he needs to be more assertive.

The Tigers don’t have many options. Without Demontez Stitt’s ability to drive to the hoop and make plays for himself or teammates, Clemson simply lacks playmakers. Arizona is missing some key pieces, but I still don’t see how Clemson can score enough to keep pace with on the road.

Prediction: Arizona 70, Clemson 59

Random: Arizona is 264th in tempo, 19 spots BELOW Herb Sendek’s famously slow Arizona State offense. Clemson, by the way, is 284th in tempo.

Georgia Tech (5-4) at Savannah State (3-6), 12/10, 6:00 PM

Georgia Tech is 11th in the league (per Ken Pomeroy) in offensive efficiency. The puzzling part has been the inconsistency – Georgia Tech has shot 51.8% in five wins (50% or better in all five) and 38.5% in four losses. The Yellow Jackets probably should slow down on the three-pointers (29% on the year) and they might be a more efficient offensive club, because they have some pieces.

The sophomores are key for Georgia Tech: Kammeon Hosley had 12 points against Georgia in a season-high 32 minutes. Brandon Reed snapped a four-game shooting slump (7-of-34, 3-of-19 from three) with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Jason Morris has been coming on, averaging 16 points in the last three games (shooting 6-of-11 from three).

If there’s a concern, it’s Glen Rice, Jr. He’s averaging 14.1 points on 50% shooting but is just 2-of-12 from three in the last three games after starting 6-of-14. He needs to drive more as he is shooting nearly 61% from inside the arc, but he tends to keep jacking up three-pointers. This team is not good enough offensively for him to be inefficient. He can be such a lethal scorer at times, but his 31% shooting from three is not the reason.

But this kind of stuff from new head coach Brian Gregory (via From the Rumble Seat) is awesome. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a two-game winning streak since the first two games and could really use a convincing win to keep momentum going. Savannah State has three losses by a combined nine points (the other three by a combined 74 points) and three wins by a combined 25 points.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 78, Savannah State 57

Random: Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax inherited a mess of a program in 2005 that had gone 0-28 in 2004. The 13-18 season in 2008 was the most D-I wins by Savannah State ever. Broadnax was a point guard for Georgetown from 1983-86, a run that included a national title in 1984.

Miami (5-3) at West Virginia (5-2), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN2

Miami fans will need to have patience with the team under new head coach Jim Larranaga. There’s a lot of personnel missing still, and he had to start small by changing the culture of shoelaces (h/t The Sporting News). The Hurricanes are holding opponents to 64.1 points (on 41% shooting), but Miami is shooting 39% from the floor and averaging 67.4 points.

The Hurricanes are shooting 35% from three, but since making 10-of-23 against Rutgers (43.5%), they have shot over 40% just once. And they have yet to shoot over 50% overall this season. Miami has cracked 70 points three times this year and in those games, it has made 25-of-58 three’s (43.1%) and have needed 27.7 trips to the foul line. Those kinds of calls likely won’t continue in physical conference play.

Their two best guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, have made 31-of-84 (36.9%). But the two combine to shoot just 31-of-98 (31.6%) from TWO-point range. Last year, Grant shot nearly 42% from both two and three while Scott shot 46% from two (40% from three). Their combined assist average is also done from 6.4 last year between them to 5.1 this year (but their turnovers are down from 5.3 to 3.0).

Junior transfer Trey McKinney Jones has become more consistent, but Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has been all over the map – in back-to-back losses at Ole Miss and Purdue, he played a total of 13 minutes and had one rebound and two points. Since, he has played 25 minutes in each of the last two games and has averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He has picked up more than two fouls just once this season. When Reggie Johnson comes back (supposedly sometime in December, per Category Six), Miami will have a talented frontcourt that

Unfortunately, Miami and West Virginia are meeting at the wrong time for the Hurricanes. West Virginia didn’t have a good win until beating Kansas State in Wichita in double overtime Thursday night. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it’s a short turnaround for the Mountaineers. But it probably won’t be enough in a tough road environment.

Prediction: West Virginia 66, Miami 62

Random: 

Deniz Kiliicli deserves props for his magnificent beard. He looks remarkably like:

North Carolina (7-2) vs. LBST (4-4), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN3

It's too bad the world hates offense/scoring, or else this game would be on real TV.

North Carolina did not mess around with Evansville on Tuesday night, beating the Purple Aces 97-48. While the offense was good, the defense was better – Evansville’s 0.545 points per possession were a season low. It’s a good sign despite the inferior opponent, because Carolina has slept-walked on defense at times, allowing even Tennessee State (0.82 PPP) and UNC-Asheville (0.88) to score efficiently. And Carolina had been just +2.5 in rebounding this year despite its height advantage over most teams, so throttling Evansville 62-30 on the backboards was good as well. Reggie Bullock has made 7-of-15 three’s in the last three games. He loves the Smith Center nets best of all, making 14-of-25 three’s in four home games. Having potentially two three-point threats with Bullock and P.J. Hairston makes the offense more dynamic, particularly when the two play together.

Last year, the Tar Heels squeaked by Long Beach State, 96-91, in Carolina’s 2010-11 defensive nadir. The Beach shot nearly 51% and – fortunately for the Tar Heels – only 32% from three (10-of-31). They made 27-of-42 two-pointers (over 64%) and against Carolina’s front line, that’s inexcusable. Larry Drew II had 13 points, eight assists and two turnovers. John Henson and Tyler Zeller combined to shoot 6-of-15 from the floor. Carolina was out-rebounded 37-35. Long Beach forward T.J. Robinson had 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting while dynamic point guard Casper Ware added 22.

Long Beach State has four wins this year; three against Idaho, Boise State and BYU Hawaii. But their other win came at Pittsburgh, in a thrilling game that temporarily made The Beach America’s darlings. Unfortunately, they lost at San Diego State (in overtime) and at Montana (by two), in addition to at Louisville (by 13) and at Kansas (by eight). I don’t think The Beach has enough to hang with the Tar Heels for too long, but if Carolina has one of its patented zombie-esque performances, it could be in trouble.

Prediction: UNC 101, The Beach 79

Random: Luke Winn from SI.com had a great chart of all Tyler Zeller’s second-half offensive touches in the second half at Kentucky. It’s color-coded based on the result of the play (made field goal, missed field goal, pass out, turnover) and an interesting look at how much more quickly he was double-teamed in the second half.

Wake Forest (6-3) at Seton Hall (7-1), 12/10, 8:00 PM

I’m not sure why Wake Forest (6-3) played at the Millis Center (announced crowd: 1,801; capacity: 1,700) in High Point, but the Deacons escaped, 87-83. High Point had nearly knocked off Purdue on the road earlier this year, and had a chance to get a huge win over Wake Forest but fell just short.

C.J. Harris is an offensive machine; he is averaging 18.6 points (he has 20 or more in five games) on 51% shooting from both the field and three-point range. Travis McKie has averaged 18.8 points on 50% shooting (41% from three). If those two can get more consistent help from their teammates, Wake Forest is going to end up beating a team or two it shouldn’t. Wake gets 7-foot senior center Ty Walker back from suspension against Seton Hall, and the Deacs are 2-0 on the road this year.

But Seton Hall has won four straight and their only loss came by seven to Northwestern. They don’t have any amazing wins, but they have beaten the teams they should. With the firepower of Herb Pope (the leading scorer in the Big East at 21.4 ppg), I don’t see Wake keeping up on the scoreboard, especially since Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is a Rick Pitino guy who preaches aggressive defense.

Prediction: Seton Hall 83, Wake Forest 77

Random: Wake Forest includes plus/minus stats in their game notes and in the blowout loss to Arizona State, Harris was -27 and McKie was -21. Without that game, Harris would be +44 and McKie +47 on the season. What voodoo did you do, Herb Sendek? …. And did you know Travis McKie is the first Virginian to play for Wake since Josh Shoemaker (1998-2001)? It feels like Carolina and Duke have had at least five each from Virginia since 2001.

Season record: 10-9

A New-Look Duke Team

Austin Rivers fields questions from the media.

The Duke players held media availability earlier this week, and they were obviously asked a lot about head coach Mike Krzyzewski ultimately breaking the all-time wins record, likely against Michigan State on November 15th. But Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee had some interesting things to say about how this team is coming together. It’s odd to think about Duke without Nolan Smith or Kyle Singler, and while this young team might have a few early stumbles, it should right itself quickly in a pretty bad ACC and could be peaking at the right time.

Duke opens the season with Belmont tonight at home, and Belmont is legit (the Bruins, 30-5 last year, were the trendy 13-over-4 upset pick in last year’s NCAA Tournament – they lost to Wisconsin). Belmont rolled through the Atlantic Sun last year but didn’t beat any “name” teams, losing twice at Tennessee (by nine and by one) and once at Vanderbilt (a 9-point loss). But going into Cameron Indoor is not the same as going to Tennessee or Vanderbilt, and though Belmont is a solid team, I don’t see them being much closer than 10-12 points.

Seth Curry transferred to Duke from Liberty, a Big South team, so said he knows that there are some good teams on the mid-major level. Curry’s big brother Stephen Curry has been giving him some advice about his new role as Duke’s primary ball-handler this year (“He has a lot of time on his hands with the lockout, so we talk a lot,” the younger Curry said).

Neither Curry nor freshman sensation Austin Rivers are pure point guards, but it will be interesting to see how that dynamic develops. “In walking situations, I’ll bring it up pretty much every time, just getting us into our offense,” Curry said. “That’s what I’ve been doing in practice. On a miss or a turnover, (whoever is) closer to the ball can just push it up the floor so we can get it up as quick as possible. (Rivers) likes to attack in transition and get to the hole, so that’s good for him to push the ball while the defense isn’t set.”

Opposing fans have already labeled Rivers as cocky and arrogant, in part because of some of Twitter comments over the last year, but he doesn’t come across that way. He was self-deprecating when evaluating his defense: “The first game (against Bellarmine), I played like a freshman and we don’t have time for that – I don’t have time for that – just because of our schedule. … That first game really told me what I needed to do. I came back in the second game focusing on pressuring my guy. That’s one thing I think I improved on is my defense.”

He talked more than once about how others perceive him, so it’s clear he’s conscious of that. And he seems very gung-ho about all things Duke, especially defense: “I actually like to play defense. Whether people really saw it or not in AAU and high school, it’s just because probably you didn’t really have to back then. … That’s how you win games. Coach K knows just about everything about winning and that’s one of the things he believes in, so I believe in it. … When you have assistant coaches like (Steve Wojciechowski) who was Defensive National Player of the Year, you’re going to play defense. If not, you’re not going to play.”

The Blue Devils have five scholarship players 6-8 or taller and seem ready to use them. Miles Plumlee, who seems ready for a big year, sees the change already: “Even in practice, there’s much more of an effort to get it down low. It feels great to be a part of the offense and it’s not always for us to score. We’re kicking it back out and getting a lot of great three’s in practice. It’s much balanced on offense this year than it has been in recent years.”

Other notes:

-Ryan Kelly said his beard is Zoubek-approved. He also said he grew it initially out of “laziness”, but added that the three women in his life – his mom, his girlfriend and his sister – all liked the look, so it stayed.

Ryan Kelly (and his beard).

-Andre Dawkins gave an interesting answer when asked if he’d rather be preseason No. 1 or under the radar (by Duke standards): “I kind of like being preseason No. 1. I think it’s good with the amount of young guys we have on our team, but from our standpoint, our expectations are the same year in and year out. Our end goal is to win a national championship so regardless of what other people think we can do, we’re going to work extremely hard every day to win a national championship.”

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