Balanced Blue Devils Ready To Be #1

It's hard to believe it, but the Blue Devils haven't been ranked as the nation's top team since 2006. Now, three years later, Duke is poised to ascend to the No. 1 ranking after throttling Maryland at home. Unlike the 2006 team, and those since, it would appear as though this group may be poised to make a run at the ranking in April.

Prior to Saturday's win over the Terrapins, the Blue Devil offense had been somewhat hit and miss with junior swingman Jon Scheyer going through a four game shooting slump, with the rest of team struggling to log assists. The result was a team that seemed to become extraordinarily dependent on two All-Conference players in Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler. Such a strong two pronged dependance bore a striking resemblance to the teams featuring J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams - teams that were very talented, but lacked the balanced and depth to do damage in March.

The win against the Terrapins once again reaffirmed that this year's edition of the Blue Devils may very well have the makeup of a team that could win more than the first two games of the Tournament. Maryland saw eight Duke players score seven or more points; five players logged five or more rebounds; and no one played more than 24 minutes. As a team Duke out-rebounded the Terps by 18 and logged 23 assists on 31 made shots. It was certainly an impressive performance, and while Maryland was overmatched at nearly every position on the floor, there was no doubt that Duke played well.

"Our defense was outstanding," said head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "We had great communication and so it was one of those games where we played great defense, and the shots they did have early, they missed. The start of the second half was about as good of basketball as you can play. You wouldn't even know who scored – everybody was lights out for about five minutes. I was proud of our team because with the lead you have a tendency to let down and we didn't."

No doubt Maryland coach Gary Williams will agree that it's hard to have a let down when you are getting contributions from everyone on the floor in a number of categories. For Duke that meant post play from Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas who combined for 16 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks in 35 minutes - something Krzyzewski knows his team must have going forward.

"For us to be a special team, we're going to need [similar performances from Zoubek and Thomas], because we're not going to be able to play small all the time. We've been trying to be positive with [Zoubek] on the court. He's still a little bit anxious sometimes – doesn't use his shot fake – but he was very good today."

As was the entire team's effort - something Duke will need in both the short and long term. It'll start this week as the Blue Devils head to Winston Salem to face the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest - likely with the additional target of being #1 on their backs - something to program is no stranger to...just not this roster.

"[Being No. 1 is] a big deal for our guys because it means we're playing really well. Over the many years here, we've been fortunate to be ranked No. 1 a lot. We've played over 180 games as the No. 1 team in the country. For this group, I think Dave [McClure] and Greg [Paulus] have been No. 1 their freshman year, but otherwise it's the first time for this group."

"We talked about it last week – just don't worry about anything, let's just play, and it's the same thing we'll tell them going into this next week. It's an honor and it says that you're playing real well. You don't get anything from it except a big headline when you lose."

Undoubtedly Krzyzewski knows his team isn't going to win out, which means this group will get their "big headline" - possibly as early as this week in Winston. After all, the Deacons have a very talented and explosive roster capable of beating any team in the country at any time.

But, for the first time since 2004, it appears the same can be said of Duke.


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