<![CDATA[College Sports in North Carolina - Duke]]>Sun, 15 Nov 2015 17:47:54 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Can Duke Sustain Success?]]>Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:08:31 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/can-duke-sustain-successAfter having two great back to back years in 2013 and 2014 a question has arrived in Durham that will soon be answered: Is Duke football rebuilt or was it just a phenomenal class of 2014? After winning a division title and falling just short in 2014, there are lots of reasons for optimism around Duke football, but still kinks to be worked out now that the likes of Jamison Crowder and Anthony Boone gone.

            Boone and Crowder pushed the Duke offense to previously unseen heights. While the defense, and more specifically the defensive line, was inconsistent last year, the offense always seemed to keep the Blue Devils a chance by finding ways to put points on the board. The Boone Crowder tandem connected for a total of 86 receptions. Similarly, despite taking a step back from his junior campaign Boone still totaled 2,700 yards through the air and 19 touchdowns coupled with 5 touchdowns and 466 yards on the ground.

            On the other hand, Duke holds on to its leading rusher Shaquille Powell who shared the load with quarterback Anthony Boone and others last season. Powell rushed for 618 yards on 134 carries to go along with two touchdowns and no fumbles. For this reason, Duke fans can expect to see an increased trust placed in Powell with the passing game experiencing a few adjustments to new started Thomas Sirk. Sirk, a junior, should have a relatively smooth transition to the starting job after seeing a few opportunities to get his feet wet in the offense last season. The bigger problem for the offense will possibly be finding a way to replace multi-threat wide out, Jamison Crowder.

            On the other side of the ball there are few things more reliable heading into the 2015 campaign than the Blue Devil secondary lead by returning safeties DeVon Edwards and Jeremy Cash. Meanwhile, the defensive line has multiple issues to address from last year after struggling time after time again to put any kind of halt to running attacks.

X-Factor:

            If Duke can easily transition into a new starting quarterback and get its receiving core up to speed after losing its top two threats from last year Duke can expect to be competitive week in and week out within the ACC.

Expectations:

            Duke has several difficult opponents throughout the ACC including North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech. A lot will ride on how Duke handles the transition away from last year’s senior class. Nonetheless, there will without a doubt be bumps in the road for this Blue Devil team.

Stock Sez:

A variety of adjustment to Duke’s bread and butter in previous years, the aerial attack, will result in some ones against the likes of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, but expect Duke football to prove they are in fact rebuilt as a program. Duke will finish the regular season 9-3.

 

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<![CDATA[Blue Devils Hope to Continue Hitting on All Cylinders Moving into ACC Competition]]>Sat, 03 Jan 2015 00:14:24 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/blue-devils-hope-to-continue-hitting-on-all-cylinders-moving-into-acc-competitionDuke finished its non-conference games on New Year’s Eve with a win against Wofford and now looks ahead to ACC play starting January 3rd at home against Boston College. To this point Duke has far exceeded the expectations bestowed on them at in October. Duke’s group of freshman has lived up to their ranking as the top recruiting class in the country entering this season. Led by the duo of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones this freshman class has handled everything thrown at them. Okafor, whom entering the season was touted by ESPN and others the best freshman in the country, has proven to be as talented as any other big man to call Cameron Indoor home in Coach K’s tenure. Okafor leads the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game and rebounding with 8.8 rebounds per game, meanwhile, dominating every one on one matchup he has faced this season. Also, the point guard duo of senior Quinn Cook and freshman Tyus Jones has been lethal in leading the Duke offensive attack.

            Duke’s biggest non-conference games to this point include Michigan State, at a neutral site, and Wisconsin, on the road in Madison. The Blue Devils will go on the road one last time for a non-conference game on January 25th to play #15 St. Johns.

            First off, the single most significant takeaway from Duke’s non-conference play is how well this year’s team has come to play together. Between the leadership on the court of Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson and the potential of freshmen such as Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow every player knows their role extremely well. Although the team as a whole might lean heavily on Okafor’s play, defensively and offensively, in the post no player oversteps the boundaries of their role and tries to do too much. In addition, this Duke team is as unselfish as any in recent years, always making the extra pass to find the open man. What really allows for this is the fact that those receiving the most playing team in the rotation are all extremely talented individually. As a result Coach K and his players can trust that whomever it is that has an open look at the basket is more than capable to take a shot opposed to last year where Duke’s chances of winning a game rested on Jabari Parker’s ability to single handedly carry the team.

            Also, a major factor in Duke’s high level of play so far is how fast this group of freshmen has adapted to the college level. Heading into the Wisconsin game many believed Duke’s freshmen would not be able to handle the intensity of an away game at the Kohl Center and that they did not have the experience necessary to play at the same level of Wisconsin, then ranked second in the country. Although the young Blue Devils took control of the game almost from tip-off and defeated the Badgers 80-70 while Quinn Cook contributed twenty-two points, six rebounds, and four assists. Since this victory Duke has held the number two ranking in the AP and USA Today polls.

            The players that have really jumped off the page to this point have been senior point guard Quinn Cook and freshman center Jahlil Okafor. Since Cook arrived in Durham as a freshman his potential at the point guard position has been more than evident as he has steadily progressed over the past three years. Yet Cook took the biggest of those steps entering this season as he was named co-captain with his fellow upper classmen Amile Jefferson. So far this season Cook has looked as good as any other point guard in the nation between his career high statistics and his leadership on and off the floor. Cook has set the tone for Duke by controlling the game’s tempo tremendously along with initiating Duke’s unselfish play on offense. Despite the talent of Duke’s freshmen at the core of Duke’s success is Quinn Cook’s leadership and basketball IQ.

All in all, although Duke is yet to lose a game there are still some concerns as the head into ACC play and the most difficult part of their schedule. The first and foremost of these is Duke’s short bench and a specific lack of depth at the positions of power forward and center. With the exception of Jahlil Okafor and Amile Jefferson the only other big man that has received significant playing time is Marshall Plumlee, although nobody can get too excited over his averages of 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Even though Coach K normally shortens his rotation in conference play he does not have much to shorten as he already has a rotation of seven to eight players with really only a core group of six players getting the bulk of the playing time. Also, given how much Duke relies on Okafor to pose a threat offensively and to anchor down the defense in the paint, if he were to get into foul trouble Duke’s chances against a formidable opponent could diminish juristically.

Another big issue Duke will likely be forced to deal with is rebounding. Out of Duke’s average of 25.7 rebounds per game 17.2 of which, on average, come from Jahlil Okafor and Amile Jefferson. The team’s third best rebounder, statistically, is freshman Justise Winslow who averages 4.5 rebounds per game. Although Winslow has been successful thus far playing on wing and it is safe to assume he will not be asked to bang with the big men down low. If Duke is going to go all the way at some point they will be forced to look towards Plumlee and hope he can provide significant assistance on the boards to lighten the burden currently concentrated on Okafor and Jefferson.

Key Upcoming Matchups

January 17th: at #5 Louisville

January 25th: at #15 St. Johns

January 28th: at #14 Notre Dame

January 31st: at #3 Virginia

February 7th: vs. Notre Dame

February 19th: vs. North Carolina

March 7th: at North Carolina

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<![CDATA[Despite Losing Key Playmakers, Duke Will Look to Build on Winning Foundation in 2015]]>Fri, 02 Jan 2015 23:59:40 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/despite-losing-key-playmakers-duke-will-look-to-build-on-winning-foundation-in-2015
            Duke football once again proved this year that they are here to stay as they closed the year on going to their third straight bowl game led by David Cutcliffe. Duke also won nine games in back to back years for the first time in school history. The Blue Devils came up just short, losing 36-31 to Arizona State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Besides the great leadership of coach David Cutcliffe much of this team’s success can be attributed to Duke’s strong group of experienced and talented offensive personnel.

            Duke’s offensive attack was led by senior quarterback Anthony Boone. Boone was named starting quarterback for the second year in a row at the season’s start and did an exceptional job controlling the offensive tempo and spreading the ball around. Boone closed the season with 2700 yards and 19 touchdowns compared to his junior year in which he totaled 2260 yards and just 13 touchdowns. Coming into the season Boone was ranked as the 10th best quarterback prospect looking ahead to the 2015 draft, although with Boone’s completion percentage falling to 56.3% this season we likely won’t see him suiting up on Sundays. Nonetheless, even though Boone did not have the season he probably hoped for there is no doubt that he was as integral to the team’s success as anybody else. In addition, Boone closed his college career as part of the winningest class in Duke history.

            The wide out that received most of Boone’s and the opposing defense’s attention was senior Jamison Crowder. Crowder cemented his legacy like none other in his career at Duke. With Crowder’s last reception in the Sun Bowl he tied former Duke teammate Conner Vernon atop the all-time ACC receptions list. Crowder also finished the season with 85 receptions, 1044 yards and 6 touchdowns.

            Also, highly critical in Duke’s offensive success was the run game and offensive line anchored by first team All-American Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson was a four year starter at Duke and led an offensive line that allowed only 13 sacks all year. Tomlinson will likely be drafted higher than any other Duke player in recent years. Most of Duke’s running attack was split between junior Shaquille Powell and freshman Shaun Wilson. Powell was the most productive between the two, rushing for 618 yards on 134 attempts with two touchdowns while Wilson showed a lot of potential by rushing for 598 yards on 78 attempts for five touchdowns. Between the duel threat at running back position along with at quarterback Duke was able to rush for 181.8 yards per game, the best since 2003.

            Although Duke loses several key players, in looking ahead to next year, they will still have a strong group of returning players at a multitude of positions. A few receiver slots along with the quarterback position will be up for grabs as the possibility of a transfer looms to compete with current backup quarterback Thomas Sirk. Four running backs including Powell and Wilson will compete for carries while Duke also returns three offensive linemen. Expect Duke to compete once again next year atop the ACC.   

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<![CDATA[#4 Duke vs. #2 Wisconsin Big Ten Challenge Preview]]>Wed, 03 Dec 2014 22:52:48 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/4-duke-vs-2-wisconsin-big-ten-challenge-previewThis game, put simply, will come down to the battle in the frontcourt between Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky. Okafor has proven that he can handle the college level as well as anyone and already has scouts drooling over his NBA potential. Duke has not had a big man anywhere close to Okafor’s talent since Elton Brand was in Durham and for that reason Coach K has been certain to exploit the talent of his top recruit to the fullest. Along with providing an offensive force Duke has lacked in the recent past Jahlil Okafor serves as a rim protector on the defensive end, helping Duke’s defense improve immensely from last year in which Duke had no true defensive big men. Duke was 128th in defensive efficiency last year while this year they rank 21st. This year’s team has put the D back in Duke.

            Wisconsin is equally impressive on defense averaging 50.1 points per game, 6th fewest in country. Although Wisconsin does not have young talent like that of their ACC counterpart they still return four of five starters, led by senior Frank Kaminsky. After defeating Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament over the weekend Kaminsky was named MVP. Also, Kaminsky leads the Badgers in points, blocks, rebounds, and steals. The senior seven-footer jumped onto the scene last year in Wisconsin’s Final Four run where Kaminsky proved to be a match-up nightmare through his crafty defense and rebounding and inside-out scoring ability.

            Furthermore, despite most of Duke’s players having less than a month of college basketball experience they move the ball extremely well lead by their point guard duo of Tyus Jones, a freshman, and Quinn Cook, a senior. Jones leads the team with 6.0 assists per game while Cook follows close behind with 4.0. As a result, Duke has the ability to not just score, but give one of their multiple talented players the ball in a position on the floor where they can be most effective. For that reason, Duke should be able to handle Wisconsin’s defense just as good if not better than other team has to this point this season.

            In addition, while Wisconsin relies heavily on Kaminsky they have other able weapons in Nigel Hayes and Duje Dukan. Both have shown the ability to shoot and make the three ball this year. Hayes, 6-7, and Dukan, 6-9, also combine for an average of 12.1 rebounds a game to go along with Kaminsky’s 8.7. While Duke does have talent they have yet to face a team as versatile and with as much size as this Badger squad.

            All in all, as tip-off approaches there is no doubt this game is as good as any to this point this year and that there will be a tournament atmosphere in Madison Wednesday night. Duke holds a 13-2 record all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. One of which came to Wisconsin back in 2009, the same season as Duke’s last national title.

Stock Sez: Duke 79, Wisconsin 76

            Everyone knows Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky will play big roles. Although guys like Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson, the two captains, will be the ones who turn the tide of this game. Duke fans have seen Cook’s potential throughout his first three years at Duke, but this year Cook seems to have found himself like never before. Like all coaches want  to see out of their seniors Cook just looks like he been there before no matter the situation and as though he always knows what he is doing. Cook is playing extremely smart, making good decisions with the ball while still knowing when to look for his shot(Not to mention its going in, shooting 50%, 43% from three, and averaging 15.6 points per game). On the other hand, Jefferson has been dominant on the boards with 8.9 rebounds per game. Expect Jefferson to counter much of Wisconsin’s attack on the glass while being able to match defensively the height and length of guys like Nigel Hayes.

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<![CDATA[#4 Duke vs. #19 Michigan State Preview]]>Tue, 18 Nov 2014 23:41:47 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/4-duke-vs-19-michigan-state-preview                As both Michigan State and Duke face their first top 25 opponent this year major questions will be answered for both teams. For Duke, can they prove to have the defensive presence expected of great Duke teams that was absent last year? For Michigan State, with Keith Appling and Adreian Payne gone who will step as a play-maker and leader offensively?  The important thing for both teams is to not let preseason rankings get to their heads since neither team has played anybody legitimate yet. Both teams are led by two of the better coaches in college basketball if not the best. No matter what number is next whose name tonight fans can expect a competitive game between two of the best basketball minds in the game today. To this point it is obvious to Duke fans everywhere that they are loaded with talent and potential at every spot on the floor.  From the get-go Jahlil Okafor has jumped off the page leading the team offensively, providing a weapon Cameron Crazy Nation is used to having. Also, the contributions of guys like Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook have helped substantially. If Duke is going to take home a W tonight they will need to prove on the national stage that they can play strong defense in the post and on the perimeter as well as receive equal contributions from their talented freshmen and experienced upperclassmen. Also, if Michigan State is going to put up a fight against this skilled Duke squad returning players like Travis Trice and Brandon Dawson will have to do damage on both sides of the floor.

Stock Sez: Duke 78, Michigan State 64

                Duke has too much talent for this Michigan State team which is very unsure of what their identity will be. Although they have only been faced with week opponents thus far Duke appears to have the ability to score in a variety of ways, causing many match-up problems for Michigan State.

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<![CDATA[Duke Edges Pittsburgh in Double OT]]>Tue, 04 Nov 2014 19:37:38 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/duke-edges-pittsburgh-in-double-ot
            The Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 ACC) were able to squeak out a close one this weekend 51-48 in double overtime over the Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5, 2-3 ACC). Duke proved their ability to come through under pressure yet again as they won their seventh straight game decided by a touchdown or less. Given the potent offense of each team it was assumed whoever could stop the other would win, but neither decided to bring their defense to Heinz Field this Saturday. With the exception of slow third quarter this game was a shoot-out from the beginning. Both teams put up a total of 56 points in the first half and 99 when Duke scored the game-winner in the second overtime.

            After constant back and forth throughout regulation Pittsburgh had a chance to win it at the end of regulation. Although, put simply Chris Blewitt blew it for the Panthers and helped the rapidly maturing Duke Blue Devils stay atop the Coastal Division. After driving deep into Duke territory with the clock winding down the Panthers were able to set up Blewitt with a 26-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left. David Cutcliffe being the football strategist that he is called two timeouts in hopes of icing the kicker and he did not disappoint, hooking it far left.

            Even though Duke took home the victory the player that should receive the most attention is easily running back James Conner. Conner ran for a career high 263 yards on 38 carries culminating in three touchdowns. Similarly Duke quarterback, Anthony Boone, and wide receiver, Jamison Crowder, were the main proponents leading this Duke team to victory. Anthony Boone led the game in passing going for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 23/31 throwing the ball. Boone is now 17-3 starting at quarterback for Duke tying Jerry Barger for most wins by a quarterback in school history. Meanwhile, Crowder moved to second all-time in receptions in ACC history after passing Sammy Watkins on Saturday going for 165 yards on nine catches for two touchdowns.

            Despite Duke’s high level of play on offense they still needed some luck to pull this one out. Also, as Duke heads down the home stretch of the season, hopefully winding them up in the ACC championship game, there are still some important questions that need to be answered to go along with several significant takeaways in focusing on this game. First off, Duke may have been ranked fourth in the FBS in points allowed going into this game, but looked nothing close to it in Pittsburgh this Saturday. If Duke is going to be “for real” this year as many Duke fans hope just by looking at the wins column to this point they will need to step up their ability to slow down the run(i.e. allowing fewer than 358 yards). It is apparent that Duke has the maturity on offense that they have lacked in the past that has stopped them from taking that next step. Duke reached the ACC Championship game last year just to be soundly defeated by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and company and it appears we will likely see a rematch again this year. Although if Duke is going to compete at that level they will not be able to solely rely on Anthony Boone and Duke’s well-rounded offense, but on a trustworthy defense as well. Nonetheless, in continuing to look at the big picture Duke maintained its position atop the Coastal Conference and moved up to #22 in the AP Top 25 rankings as head into their last four regular season games, all of which are very winnable. 


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<![CDATA[Duke vs. Pittsburgh Preview]]>Sat, 01 Nov 2014 15:28:54 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/duke/duke-vs-pittsburgh-preview
After beating Virginia two weeks ago Duke became bowl game eligible once again. Although as Duke rolls into the Steel City this weekend that will be a distant thought as they find themselves in a similar spot to where they were last year at this time. Duke has much larger goals on their mind this week as they now sit atop the Coastal Conference standings, where they finished last regular season before losing a rough one against Florida State in the ACC championship game. If there is one conclusion that can be made from all this it’s that Duke with David Cutcliffe leading the charge is no fluke. But with David Cutcliffe at the helm there is one team Duke is yet to beat in the Coastal --- Pittsburgh.

                Put simply this game will come down to stopping the running attack for both defenses. Duke and Pittsburgh both rank at the top of the ACC in rushing, Duke averages 218.0 yards per game while Pittsburgh leads the ACC with 233.9 yards per game.

Duke’s front seven can expect to have their hands full with Pitt’s superb backfield led by James Conner. Despite letting Georgia Tech hang a 56-28 victory Pitt can at the minimum hold some confidence in their running game. James Conner has been at the forefront of the attack to this point this season, putting up 120 rushing yards on 10 carries culminating in three touchdowns. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore running back Rachid Ibrahim can expect to get a few opportunities after going for 60 rushing yards on 3 carries in which one of the carries led to a 50 yard pick up. Faced with the challenge of Duke’s highly ranked defense one can expect Pitt to try and keep Duke’s defense as uncertain possible and give Ibrahim some significant chances. Additionally, Pitt’s attack through the air has a chance to have an impact if they can get they can be just as effective on the ground. Starting for Pitt at quarterback this year has been Chad Voytik who has shown to be as unpredictable as the 4-4 team he plays for. Despite throwing for 9 touchdowns Voytik has tossed an interception in six of his team’s eight games giving uncertainty as to what can be expected this week.  

                Stemming from the other sideline will be a nearly equally potent ground attack. In addition, to Duke’s array of running backs, Josh Snead, Shaquille Powell, and Shaun Wilson, Duke’s quarterback, Anthony Boone, has proven to pose as a running threat to opposing defenses in his time behind center for the Blue Devils. Nonetheless, behind Boone’s leadership on offense Duke can expect to perhaps find its avenue to victory this weekend. To this point Boone has a total of 9 touchdowns while throwing just 3 interceptions. Two weeks ago at home against Virginia Boone threw for an efficient 176 yards on 22/37 while effectively averaging eight yards per carry on the ground. Additionally expect Duke to counter its aerial attack with contributions from all three of Duke’s leading rushers. Throughout the season to this point each of the three have played significant roles making it hard to tell who will be seen most in the backfield in this game despite Powell seeing the most success two weeks ago with 68 yards on 11 carries. Though one thing can be certain and that is that coming off a bye week Duke can be expected to have game plan devised to maximize the talent they have at the running back position.   

                As previously stated this game will come down to defense and slowing each team’s running game for which case the upper-hand has to be given to Duke, ranking 4th in the FBS to this point in points allowed. Although before giving up 56 to Georgia Tech last Saturday Pittsburgh was yet to allow more than 20 to anybody in a single game.  Either way a player to keep an eye on this side of the ball is Duke junior safety Jeremy Cash who was a second team All-American last season and may be even better this fall. Cash has two interceptions to go with one fumble recovery and 1.5 sacks. Expect Cash to be flying around Heinz Field tomorrow disrupting the already inconsistent passing attack of Chad Voytik.

Stock Sez- Duke 36, Pittsburgh 20

                Duke will focus students back on football after the bye and force them to keep an eye on football as Cameron Crazy season in Krzyzewskiville inches closer by the minute. Duke will definitely be tested as they go on the road up north to Pittsburgh this Saturday but expect them to take control early. Duke has too many weapons offensively not to mention wide receiver Jamison Crowder who is three catches away from passing Sammy Watkins for second most catches all-time in the ACC. Expect Pitt to gain traction in its ground game at home (125+ yards) but will not be enough to turn the tides of the game. 

Game Info- 


TV- ESPNU
Start TIme- 12 PM Eastern
Date- November 1st
Location- Pittsburgh, PA
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