Devils Emerging From Tough Tests

Duke is closing in on a potential regular-season championship in the Atlantic Coast Conference, though the jumbled nature of the standings behind the Blue Devils leaves several contenders heading into the final two weeks.

Duke is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, although there's still something special to this team regarding its place atop the standings.

"Of course it does," forward Kyle Singler said when asked if the league title matters. "We haven't won a regular-season championship (with the players on this team), so that's one of our goals and we're just trying to chip away."

With a 67-55 victory over Virginia Tech on Feb. 21, Duke improved to 23-4 and 11-2 in the ACC, a game-and-a-half ahead of second-place Maryland.

The Blue Devils are still working on improving along the way. They've recently see senior center Brian Zoubek increase his role in terms of production, while freshman guard Andre Dawkins has fluctuated in his contributions. Yet Dawkins showed against Miami that despite a reduction in playing time in some games, he could still make a difference.

"The object of the game is to win and play the best basketball that you can," Singler said. "As long as you can improve and win, you build confidence."


--Duke has one of the top scoring trios in the country with G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith and F Kyle Singler. They combined for 63 points against Virginia Tech on Feb. 21, and they average 53.7 points per game, basically in a dead heat with Notre Dame's top trio, which is at 53.5 points per game. All three of these Duke players rank among the top 10 in ACC scoring.

--Duke's next ACC game comes at Virginia on Sunday, and that is the only meeting of the season between those schools.

ON THE SPOT: Duke is trying to put more players in comfortable positions away from the basket on offense. This has shown up with F Lance Thomas hitting jump shots, and it's also present when F Mason Plumlee launches jumpers. Now, there's the need for consistency from some of the players whose offensive contributions have been marginal or sporadic. Developing another scoring threat could be a luxury for the Blue Devils.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The standards here are very high, but they're not easily (achieved). ... Winning the regular season would be a really good thing for them. But not the end-all." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose current players have never won an ACC regular-season championship, although the Blue Devils are the reigning ACC Tournament champions.


SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils have won games in a variety of fashions in February. They've built big early leads and managed those margins. They've had to produce in late-game situations. And they've had a come-from-behind victory at Miami. But only two of the games in a five-game winning streak have been decided by more than 10 points.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Brian Zoubek, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- F Miles Plumlee, F Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, G Andre Dawkins.


  • Duke 77, Maryland 56
  • Duke 81, Miami 74
  • Duke 67, Virginia Tech 55

  • vs. Tulsa, Thursday, Feb. 25
  • at Virginia, Sunday, Feb. 28
  • at Maryland, Wednesday, March 3
  • vs. North Carolina, Saturday, March 6
  • ACC Tournament, Greensboro, N.C., Thursday-Sunday, March 11-14

IN FOCUS: Duke will step outside of conference play for the second time in less than a month when the Blue Devils take on visiting Tulsa on Thursday night. Duke often filters some intriguing non-conference games into its schedule amid its league games. For Duke, it's not meant to be a reprieve from ACC competition, but a chance to play against a different style of team. That's something the Blue Devils will encounter in the NCAA Tournament.


--F Lance Thomas has maintained his regular role despite a knee injury suffered Feb. 10 at North Carolina. Through 26 games, he leads the team with 11 charges taken. This is a key statistic within the Duke program because of the team's emphasis on defense.

--C Brian Zoubek has averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds in a two-game span that included his first two starting assignments of the season. He has shot 11 of 15 from the field in those games. Among other things, Zoubek's production has snuffed out much of the playing time that used to go to F Miles Plumlee.

--F Kyle Singler has averaged 19.7 points per game in six February outings, including a 25-point effort against Virginia Tech on Feb. 21. He has five double-doubles this season.

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