10 Reasons Duke Blue Devils Will Dominate After Maui Invitational Showing
It's no surprise that the Duke Blue Devils are off to another good start in 2011.
The No. 4 ranked Blue Devils are 7-0 to start the year, and have already beaten three quality opponents. All too often in college basketball, the top teams seem to schedule easy wins until conference play. On the contrary, in the Maui Invitational alone, the Blue Devils knocked off the Michigan Wolverines and Kansas Jayhawks. Both of these teams are ranked in the top 15 in the standings.
It doesn't get any easier, as the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are up next! The Blue Devils travel to Columbus tomorrow night at 9:30 PM EST.
This game will be a huge test for both teams obviously, but it isn't a must win. Luckily, this isn't college football, so we can enjoy a game between two of the nation's best college basketball teams without it destroying one of their seasons.
Sorry Duke haters, this team is on the fast track to another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Let's take a look at 10 reasons the Blue Devils will be so tough to beat going forward.
10. The Cameron Crazies
Is there a better fan base in college sports than the Cameron Crazies?
When the Duke Blue Devils are playing at home in the Cameron Indoor Stadium, I challenge you to find a more enthusiastic group of fans. These fans are dressed up wielding signs and are in full-on Energizer Bunny mode until the clock hits zero.
I am a huge believer in the effect a good home crowd has on the outcome of the game. Not only are the opposing players heckled and yelled at, but they can also hardly hear each other. Coaches can yell as loudly as they want, the Cameron Crazies are going to drown them out.
When the NCAA tournament rolls around, these fans travel in packs. Sure it's supposed to be a neutral site game, but the atmosphere is like a Duke home game most of the time. This is especially true in the early rounds where the opponents have little to no chance anyway.
This year won't be any different as the fans are as pumped up to follow Duke on another championship run.
9. Coach K
Who wouldn't be successful playing for the winningest head coach in men's Division-I basketball history?
Coach Mike Krzyzewski got his 903rd win on November 15, 2011, passing Bob Knight's record for most Division-I wins. The man obviously knows how to lead his team to victory. Sure, it helps to get some of the nation's top recruits every year. Don't forget that Coach K helped make the Duke basketball program what it is today.
Coach K has led the Blue Devils to 27 NCAA Tournament berths in the past 28 years and 16 consecutive from 1996 to 2011.
What's most impressive about Coach K is that he is dedicated to Duke.
He has turned down numerous offers to coach in the NBA, including the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
While he is already rich beyond what we can imagine, it says something about a man when he can turn down 40+ million dollars. All too often we see players and coaches chasing money which would have been easy for Krzyzewski to do.
He is a Blue Devil for life, and his players can take comfort in this.
8. Schedule Is Favorable After a Grueling Start
The Duke Blue Devils will have already played some of the best teams in the country before December.
This will prepare them for the long season, as they already know what it takes to win big games. Even the young players will have experienced some of the toughest teams in the country, so they will benefit whether the Blue Devils win or lose.
Come tournament time, Duke will have played Michigan State, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas and a host of tough conference games.
What is even better for Duke is the fact that the eight-game stretch following the Ohio State game is very winnable. This will allow the players to regroup and prepare for what really matters, the conference and NCAA tournament respectively.
The season is truly a marathon, not a race for the Duke Blue Devils.
7. Balanced Scoring Is Key
The Duke Blue Devils have five players averaging over 10 points per game.
While many teams have one star, Duke have five guys who can take over a game on any given night. Each of starting five is unselfish and the bench just wants to contribute.
If there is any tension between these players, it certainly doesn't show on the court. There truly is no "I" in this team. As good as Seth Curry is, he is an even better teammate. While he leads the team in points per game with 15.1, he also leads the team in assists with 3.1 a game.
Junior forward Ryan Kelly is the same way. As talented as he is, he still looks for his teammates after a big play rather than celebrating his own success.
Freshman guard Austin Rivers is as good as it gets, too. He is already playing over 30 minutes a game as a freshman, and doesn't waste his opportunity on the court. He's averaging 14.4 points per game, along with 2.1 assists, and 2.4 rebounds a game.
There is no LeBron James on this team, that's for sure.
6. The Plumlee Brothers
Mason and Miles Plumlee aren't superstars, but they are two key pieces of this Duke Blue Devil team.
Both of the brothers are 6'10" and take up a lot of space, and it pays off on the boards! Together, the brothers collect 15.3 rebounds a game. This is nearly half of the Blue Devils' total rebounding effort per game.
Without the Plumlee brothers, this team would be overmatched on the glass more often than not. There aren't many brothers who get to pair up in college athletics anywhere, let alone at one of the premier basketball schools in the country.
While they aren't the most talented players in the country, they both play hard all the time. I'm sure Coach K would say the same.
5. This Year's Team Is Hungry
Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have graduated, and past expectations went along with them.
The past couple of seasons, Duke was expected to win it all and I think the pressure got to them. Kyle Singler looked especially exhausted last season in the tournament. It seemed like the team had the weight of the world on its shoulders.
This young team is poised and confident. I don't think they have enough experience to feel the pressure quite yet!
All this team knows so far is how to win, and they are hungry for more. Miles Plumlee is the only senior and there are plenty of juniors to help guide the freshmen. The freshman they do have are supremely talented so that is huge for this team.
What do you get when you have superstar freshmen, a decent defense and a balanced offensive attack?
A deep tournament run in March.
4. They Know How to Win Close Games
It's all well and good to win games easily, but what about those close games?
We have all seen a front runner at some point or another. That team or individual that seems to dominate the competition until something funny happens. I'm sure you have all heard the saying, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going".
Well in the case of the front runner, they turn and run the other way when things don't go as planned.
The Duke Blue Devils have struggled at times, but like Tim Tebow they win.
Belmont and Michigan State gave the Blue Devils all they could handle, but they didn't give up. They won both games and marched on as though they won by 50.
These tight games will go a long way towards preparing this team for the end of the season, much more so than a big win would.
Instead of pointing out the fact that Duke barely beat Belmont, how about looking at the result?
A win is a win, that's all that matters sports fans!
3. Haters Will Feed Duke's Fire
Everybody who isn't a fan of the Duke Blue Devils, hates the Blue Devils.
I have to admit, I get tired of watching Duke win so many games. I root for the underdogs at times, guilty as charged!
I honestly believe this will propel Duke to a new level. Arizona absolutely pounded Duke in their Sweet 16 matchup last season, winning the game 93-77. While this team has a lot of new faces, you can bet they don't want to feel that sting of defeat.
These young Blue Devils are on a mission, and will only get better as the season wears on.
As well as freshman guard Austin Rivers is playing, he could easily be one and done to the NBA. He will do everything in his power to lead this team to a national championship. It may not be enough, but Rivers and the rest of this Blue Devils team want to return to glory.
Come March I expect to see Duke clicking on all cylinders. They are already playing well together, just think what a couple more months of team chemistry will do.
2. Duke Can Play the Underdog Role
Normally, Duke is a favorite to win it all every season.
This year there are a lot of doubters which is understandable. The Blue Devils lost over 50 points a game of offense between Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler. They also lost 11 assists per game and a lot of experience as we know.
Their ACC rival North Carolina Tar Heels are loaded with talent and are most people's favorite to win it all.
Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes is widely regarded as a top two lottery pick in the NBA draft, with Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger a slight favorite for the top pick. He has earned this praise by scoring over 17 points per game to go along with his nearly five rebounds per contest.
The talented Tar Heels score nearly 90 points per game, which is 10 more than Duke averages.
While Duke is emerging as a hot pick as they keep winning, North Carolina and Ohio State are both more heavily favored.
This will allow Duke to slide into a little bit of an underdog role among the top teams in the country. Duke will lose a few games too, which will help them in the long run as they get out of the spotlight.
1. Duke Finally Has Size and Strength
The reason Duke hasn't been able to win it all in recent past is because they relied too much on shooting.
Hitting a ton of three pointers is all well and good until they won't fall. Where Duke failed is inside the paint both offensively and defensively. The Plumlee bothers are a huge part of this, but the best Plumlee is yet to come. Marshall Plumlee is yet another brother, and he's gonna be good. While it won't be this season, the kid is bound to have an impact at 6'11" 225 pounds.
Junior forward Ryan Kelly gives the Blue Devils yet another big man who isn't afraid of contact.
Kelly is averaging 14.6 points per game, along with 4.6 rebounds. He is a good defender too who changes a lot of opposing players shots throughout the game with his length and athleticism.
If Duke continues to get production from the post players, there is no telling how far this team can go.
It's built to win it all if the players can get it done, and only time will tell us the answer.