Mason Plumlee

No. 4 Duke survives at BC; headed back to No. 1?


Over the course of the last two weeks, No. 4 Duke had done a pretty good job of making everyone forget that they had gotten drubbed by 27 points at Miami and were playing without Ryan Kelly.

They smacked Maryland at home. They smacked NC State at home. They whooped up on Florida State at Florida State. They struggled a bit with Wake Forest on the road, but the Demon Deacons have all of a sudden turned into a tough team to beat in Winston-Salem. So we could over look it.

But Maryland has been a disappointment in league play this season. NC State was playing without Lorenzo Brown and needed a three-pointer with a second left from Scott Wood to beat Clemson with Brown back in the lineup on Sunday. Florida State lost by 25 points at Wake Forest. All those impressive wins Duke had? They don’t look at impressive anymore, do they?

Which brings me to Sunday evening, where the Blue Devils needed a 6-0 run over the final two minutes and a friendly whistle on the final possession to beat Boston College 62-61 in Conte Forum.

Now, there are some valid explanations here. On the one hand, Sunday night games are never easy to play, particularly when they’re on the road. But Duke’s travels were particularly difficult, as they were forced to fly up on Sunday thanks to Winter Storm Nemo dumping three feet of snow on New England. Throw in the fact that Conte Forum is always a tough place to play — it’s a cold, quiet and (usually) empty arena — and Duke was primed for an upset.

They managed to hang on for the victory, which, in the end, is more important than anything else, but it creates an interesting conversation heading into next week: Can we really vote Duke No. 1?

The Blue Devils are still playing without Kelly. They’re two games behind Miami, who beat them by 27 points, in the ACC standings. But they’re also the only team in the top five that didn’t lose a game this week. Indiana lost at Illinois. Florida lost at Arkansas. Michigan lost at Wisconsin. Kansas lost at TCU and at Oklahoma.

So does Duke take over the No. 1 ranking?

Frankly, no one should be allowed to.

Let’s just call it a five-way tie for fifth.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Knee injury temporarily sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.

Duke figuring out approach for this season

Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks with the media about the Blue Devils' 2013-14 basketball season, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Durham, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.

“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.

“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group.  Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.

As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.