Preview: Duke v. Presbyterian

The Blue Devils will begin the '14-15 regular season on Friday night against the Blue Hose. The game is set to begin at 6:00 and will be broadcast on ESPNU.





?F- 23 Ruben Arroyo-Felix (N/A)
G- 02 Marcus Terry (8.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
?C- 15 William Truss (10.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
G- 21 Jordan Downing (20.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
?G- 14 Reggie Dillard (12.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.7 rpg.)

?The team returns its top scorer from a season ago in the form of fifth year senior Jordan Downing, a preseason all-conference selection who averaged 20.2 points per game last year. During his junior season Downing was one of two Blue Hose to start every game and led the league in minutes per game at 37.2. Downing is a strong guard who shoots a respectable percentage from the perimeter (37 percent), but also goes off the bounce to the rim where he either finishes or gets fouled (he led the team in free throws made and attempted a season ago, shooting 23 percent of his team’s attempts from the charity stripe).

Prior to enrolling at Presbyterian Downing attended Davidson during the 2010-2011 season where he averaged 9.1 games, scoring 3.2 points per game. He shot 11-of-32 from the perimeter, and 37 percent from the floor for the Wildcats.

Downing will likely be defended by Duke freshman Justise Winslow, providing Duke’s designated perimeter stopper his first real collegiate test.


Hoping For More From The Same:
The Blue Hose return seven of the top eight scorers from a season ago. That’s the good news. The bad news is all that production returns from a team that went 6-26 overall and 2-14 in the Big South. On the road Presbyterian was just 1-15 overall and 0-8 in conference games. Against Power 5 conference opponents the Blue Hose went winless, losing to Georgia Tech (by 31), Wake Forest (by 21), and West Virginia (by 33).

Meanwhile, Duke’s continuity from last season to this year is not nearly as stable. The Blue Devils will start four new players from last year’s first five including three freshmen.

Utilizing the transitive property, Duke beat Wake Forest by 22 and Georgia Tech by an average of 19.5 points in two games. The Blue Devils also dispatched Big South opponent Gardner-Webb by 19. The Bulldogs beat the Blue Hose twice a season ago by nine points each time.

Duke Dominates The Glass?:
A season ago the Blue Hose had trouble on the glass with opponents owning a 6.4 rebound per game advantage over them. The leading glass worker was starting center William Truss (6’8, 265) who pulled in nine rebounds per game in 33.3 minutes. Truss is back as is Downing (4.5 from the wing), but aside from those two nobody on the roster averaged more than 3.7 rebounds per game.

It should be an area that Duke can exploit behind Jahlil Okafor, Amile Jefferson, and Justise Winslow who averaged 7.0, 8.0, and 6.5 rebounds per game while playing just over half the contests during the two exhibition contests. In addition to controlling the class, the starting Blue Devil front court was a combined 18-of-25 (.720) from the field in exhibition play. It’s a trend that’ll likely continue on Friday.

The Kids Can Play:
Freshman Tyus Jones has won the starting point guard role and will join Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor in Duke’s first five when the season tips off on Friday night. The trio will join an elite company of high major recruits who have come through the Duke program. Coach Krzyzewski has started 25 freshmen during his more than three decades in Durham. That number will jump to 28 on Friday, and it’ll be interesting to see if any of this year’s freshmen can produce big games. Some of the best games losses in recent memory include:

Jabari Parker (22 points, 6 rebounds), Austin Rivers (16 points), Kyrie Irving (17 points, 9 assists), Brian Zoubek (18 points, 6 rebounds), Luol Deng (21 points, 8 rebounds), Shavlik Randolph (23 points, 7 rebounds), and Cherokee Parks (16 points, 8 rebounds).

Questions To Be Answered

1. How deep is K willing to go?
During the preseason games the Blue Devil head coach player a rotation of 10 players - each getting close to 20 minutes per night. It’s a concept that was used a season ago with some success, though once the games got tighter, the rotation shortened. For more than three decades the preferred method in Durham has centered around a rotation of around eight or nine players with seven of those getting a lion’s share of the available time. Coach K pointed out that early in the exhibition season he wanted to get everyone “equal time” owing to the fact that the entire roster had been healthy and not missed any practices, but also pointing out that “things would be done differently” as the team moved forward. In the second exhibition, however, 10 players all played at least 16 minutes with nobody playing more than 27.

So where does that leave the rotation as the real games begins?

As with the games against Central Missouri and Livingstone, Duke is unlikely to be challenged on Friday night. Does that mean a platoon again as the Blue Devil head coach looks to tinker with in-game situations that could arise down the road? Who will emerge as the primary post back up behind Okafor (i.e. will Duke finally be comfortable with Marshall Plumlee in the middle for spells); who is the sixth man (Sulaimon or Cook); and how many of the wing players will get time?

2. Can this team shoot?
It seems an odd question to ask of a team that hit more than half its field goal attempts in the preseason, but here we are. The question here is can Duke shoot well enough from far enough away to create space inside for the best center the program’s had in quite a while.

A look at the starting lineup yields an unclear answer. Gone is the true stretch power forward as Amile Jefferson prefers to work from around 12 feet from the basket and in. Justise Winslow is a versatile player, but there are questions regarding the consistency of his jump shot (it’s the only thing keeping him out of the top 10 in most NBA mock drafts). Matt Jones came to Duke with the reputation of a long range marksman and proceeded to shoot 14 percent from the perimeter as a freshman. That leaves Tyus Jones, the starting point guard who is a good shooter from outside, but prefers to operate as the maestro of offense more than the focal point.

Off the bench Duke’s best shooter, Quinn Cook will likely come in as a two guard or to relieve Jones at times. Either way, he’ll play off the ball more this season than in his previous three. Similarly, junior Rasheed Sulaimon has been streaky for two years from outside, while power forward Semi Ojeleye could make a living from outside, trailing the break and getting off his set shot approach. Freshman Grayson Allen is the wild card here because, like Sulaimon, his game works off driving and then expands to the perimeter.

3. Who’s the spark?
Similar to the question regarding the team’s collective outside shooting, it’s fair to wonder which player(s) will be the designated “instant offense” off the bench. The answer will likely change over the course of the next several months as Krzyzewski begins to settle on his rotation and that process mingles with what is needed from the reserves. Early on the best bet would be Quinn Cook. He’s the best shooter, and he’s the only senior. When Cook enters the game it could have a calming effect on the youngsters and it’ll provide Duke another set of eyes and another ball handler who can knife through the defense for a finish at the rim or a kick out. Cook also has a knack for taking an hitting big shots.


- Friday marks the beginning of the 110th season of Duke basketball. Over the previous 109 years the team has compiled a record of 2,028-848.

- Coach K will win his 1,000th game at some point this season. His career record is 983-306 while his Duke mark stands at 910-247.

- The Blue Hose have a lot going against them on Friday. The gap in talent is the major issue, but there’s also history. The Blue Devils have won 109 straight games against non-conference opponents. It’s been 14 years since a non-ACC team won at Cameron Indoor (St. John’s in 2000). Another point of history working against PC? How about the fact that Duke is 13-0 under Coach K and 16-0 all-time against Big South opponents.

They Said It:

“He is a guy that guys like to play with. He doesn’t need the ball long. He does dirty work. He hits his open shot. He makes big-time plays, and he is tough as can be.” - Krzyzewski on Matt Jones

The Prediction

There’s not a lot of drama building for the season opener. Certainly there’s curiosity regarding the Duke freshman class, the evolution of the returning players filling new roles such as Matt Jones (starter), Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook (off the bench). But, at the end of the day, this is a match up of a top five team against one of the weakest mid-major programs. It’s a recipe for a blow out, and that may provide the biggest question of all. Can the young Blue Devils put a clearly overmatched opponent away early and move on without issue? A season ago Duke struggled to do that for extended periods of time and nearly lost several games including a nail biter against Vermont at home. Yes, Vermont. We don’t expect to see any such issue on Friday night…

Duke - 97
Presbyterian - 54

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