Mike Krzyzewski

Duke hopes new versatility leads to a Final Four run

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Duke is hoping that it’s newfound versatility will help the Blue Devils advance to the Final Four.

Final Fours are always the expectation in Durham and although they lost three experienced seniors in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry, they gain two of the most versatile wings in the country in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and highly-touted incoming freshman Jabari Parker.

With the start of practice yesterday, the AP’s Joedy McCreary gained some insight on how the Blue Devils might play this season with the new-look lineup.

“It’s not like one guy is trying to beat out one guy — basically, you’re trying to blend,” Krzyzewski said in the AP story. “The two guys you initially want to blend with are Rodney and Jabari because they’re two very talented and versatile players. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Among the most interesting tidbits from the story is Coach K explaining how Duke is not a conventional team this season and he also sheds some light on a potential starting lineup.

Krzyzewski said his 34th Duke team is “not your conventional team of, ‘Here are your two big guys, your wing, your shooter and your point guard.’

“It’s going to be a team that has, I think, very good versatility,” he added. “Guys are going to have to be able to guard multiple positions. I hope that we’ll be able to make sure they do that.”

The coach said the only starters he’s settled on so far are Hood, Parker, high-energy forward Amile Jefferson “and probably Quinn” Cook, last year’s starting point guard.

Krzyzewski also compared this Duke team to the ultra-athletic late ’90s, early 2000s teams, which is an interesting comparison.

If this year’s Blue Devils are going to compare to those late ’90s, early 2000s teams, Hood and Parker are going to have to do the brunt of the scoring and Duke is also going to need a third scoring option to step up.

But with Hood and Parker being matchup nightmares with great size and versatility on the wing, most teams will be hard-pressed to defend both of them well every possession.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.