Seniors In Uncharted Waters

The Duke senior class is looking to complete a turnaround that will restore the program to previously achieved levels of success. Two big tests loom this week as the regular season will wrap up.

There's plenty to keep the Blue Devils occupied during the final stretch of the regular season. For a program that's nearly at another 30-win season, it would seem unusual that there's some uncharted territory out there.

First, the Blue Devils haven't secured a regular-season championship in the Atlantic Coast Conference since 2005-06. And there has only been one 30-win record since that season. If Duke can win its final two ACC regular-season games, it will have 14 conference wins for only the second time in 10 years.

For a senior class that dealt with a tie for sixth place as freshmen, this is a considerable rise after back-to-back runner-up finishes.

Duke has a couple of attention-grabbing assignments to close the regular season with a visit to second-place Maryland and a home finale against North Carolina.

"We've got to keep getting better," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You don't get better by taking time off."

The Blue Devils also will be aiming to complete an undefeated home schedule. They're 16-0, matching the most wins at home in school history with a chance of breaking the school record against North Carolina.


--C Brian Zoubek and F Lance Thomas had 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively, against Tulsa on Feb. 25. That marked the sixth time this season that two players have reached double figures in rebounds in the same game. Zoubek and Thomas also were in double figures against Connecticut.

--Duke committed a season-low five turnovers in a Feb. 25 victory against visiting Tulsa. The Blue Devils have had seven games with less than 10 turnovers, including four in February. One of those came on Sunday, when Duke had just eight turnovers in a win at Virginia.

ON THE SPOT: Duke has blocked more shots than an opponent in only four of 17 games since the start of January. In some cases, this has cost the Blue Devils some precious possession. But on the other hand, they're willing to take the ball to the basket and sometimes they benefit by getting to the free-throw line. Still, it might be a sign that sometimes they should consider their decision-making when going into the lane.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to do anything that I can to help them out. If they have a bad game one time, I don't want to lose." -- C Brian Zoubek, talking about high-scoring teammates Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.


SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils enter March on an eight-game winning streak with two regular-season games to play. Duke is in position to contend for a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament, but the first matter of business is to nail down the regular-season championship in the ACC.

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 67, Virginia Tech 55
  • Duke 70, Tulsa 52
  • Duke 67, Virginia 49
  • at Maryland, Wednesday, March 3
  • North Carolina, Saturday, March 6
  • vs. TBD, ACC Tournament quarterfinals, Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 12
IN FOCUS: Duke has its two fiercest basketball rivals in back-to-back games for the second time this season with a closing span that includes Maryland and North Carolina. The Blue Devils faced those teams in the other order in February, winning both games. Duke already has secured a first-day bye in the ACC Tournament, so the Blue Devils will play no more than three games in the tournament.


--Junior G Nolan Smith has been a defensive standout for much of his time in a Duke uniform. He has accomplished much of this by sticking to the basics against key players from opposing games. So it might have surprised some observers when his four steals against Tulsa marked a career high in that category. He had been credited with three steals in seven previous games in his career.

--C Brian Zoubek has fouled out in six of 29 games this season.

--F Mason Plumlee hasn't shown much range even though he has connected on two 3-pointers (in seven attempts) and he's barely above 50 percent on free throws as a freshman. Through Sunday's game, 21 of his 42 field goals were dunks.

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