Tyus Jones

Duke’s point guard ‘competition’ should benefit both options


After falling to Mercer in the round of 64 in last season’s NCAA tournament, the Duke Blue Devils are working to make sure their 2014-15 season doesn’t end in similar fashion. While Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both moved on to be first round picks in the NBA Draft, head coach Mike Krzyzewski rounded up one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

Guards Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen, forward Justise Winslow and center Jahlil Okafor make up the quartet that’s expected to achieve great things by a fan base hoping that Duke can win its fifth national title this season. In order to accomplish that feat the newcomers will need to mesh with a group of returnees that includes guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Cook started at the point for 22 games last season, yet even with that being the case those on the outside have operated under the assumption that Jones will run the show in 2014-15.

Whether or not that actually occurs remains to be seen, with practices having a far greater impact on Krzyzewski’s decision than any words said or written. And for Jones, in a story written by Joedy McCreary of the Associated Press he has no doubt that the pending competition won’t lead to a disruption of team chemistry.

“We’re looking at it as, we’re both trying to get better,” Jones said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re both pushing each other to be the best players we can be.

“We’re both trying to play in the backcourt at the same time and with each other we feel … we both bring different dynamics to the table that can help our team be good,” he added. “We’re looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. It’s a positive to have two point guards on the floor, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The more options Duke can have on the perimeter the better, especially when it comes to their defense. Duke had issues defending last season, and while the lack of a dominant interior force received the majority of the attention they weren’t much better on the perimeter.

In ACC play the Blue Devils ranked 14th in the conference (out of 15 teams) in field goal percentage defense and eighth in three-point percentage defense. Duke did rank third in the ACC in turnover margin, as they forced 12 turnovers per game while committing just over nine, but when the Blue Devils were unable to do so they were very vulnerable there.

Can a competition between Jones and Cook help Duke at the point of attack? One would assume that to be the case, because now with multiple options at the position the ability to play defense may have an even greater impact on playing time for the Blue Devil point guards.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.