Duke Blue Devils

Did Utah Valley schedule the toughest 24 hours in college basketball?

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Utah Valley released its non-conference schedule early this week, billing it as, “the toughest 24 hours in NCAA basketball history.” That’s not really an exaggeration either.

The Wolverines open the 2017-18 season against Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 11 in Lexington. Less than 24 hours later, they will be prepping for a matchup with Duke inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Wildcats and Blue Devils are both pegged as top-5 teams entering next season.

“This is what college basketball is supposed to be,” Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to go out and play two of the best teams in the entire country in a 24-hour period. Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be at the end of the season. We had great success with that last year and part of doing that is putting together the hardest non-conference schedule we can and we’ve accomplished that.”

Utah Valley finished 17-17 (6-8 WAC) last year but did close out the 2016-17 campaign strong by winning six of its last eight, reaching the College Basketball Invitational semifinals. The Wolverines return three double-digit scorers, including Conner Toolson, who led them in scoring at 11.9 points per game, as well as top rebounder and shot blocker Isaac Neilson.

Still, they figure to a tomato can for two heavyweights in their first two bouts. Nevertheless, Pope and his program should gain some considerable attention for this scheduling. Utah Valley will likely be on television (or at least be available for streaming) for both contests. The only time I can recall the Wolverines even getting national mention last season was when CSU Bakersfield needed four overtimes to get past them in the WAC semifinals. For Pope, it also shows recruits two things: a. we aren’t afraid to play anyone and b. while you may not be the five-star recruit you hoped for, you will likely play in some of the cathedrals of college basketball in your four years in Orem.

The season opener will be a homecoming of sorts for Pope. He played for Kentucky from 1994-96 and was a member of a national championship team as a senior.

Report: Frank Jackson planning on returning to Duke

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Hours after the program announced that Grayson Allen would be back at Duke for his senior season, it was reported that another guard was expected to return.

Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported that Frank Jackson is planning on coming back for his sophomore season. This has been an eventful offseason for the Blue Devils. Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Luke Kennard have all declared for the draft and will sign with agents. Chase Jeter and Sean Obi have elected to transfer and Marques Bolden, like Allen, has decided not to test the NBA draft waters and will remain in Durham for 2017-18.

Jackson helps solves point guard concerns for Duke next season. Without him, you’re likely looking at Allen shouldering the ball-handling duties. Playing out of position this past season was one of the factors in a disappointing junior campaign for the All-American. Of course, a better answer to Duke’s point guard questions would be Trevon Duval, the top unsigned senior in the Class of 2017. The Blue Devils are among the five teams he’s considering.

Allen and Jackson will anchor a backcourt that will bring in, as it stands now, Gary Trent Jr. and Alex O’Connell. The best recruit of that crop is big man Wendell Carter Jr.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and 2.5 assists per game this past season.

Bolden returning to Duke

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Marques Bolden will spend his sophomore season at Duke.

The one-time five-star prospect will return for a second collegiate season in Durham, rebutting a previous report to the contrary, the school announced Monday.

“Despite rumors about my future that have circulated in recent days, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Duke for my sophomore year,” Bolden said in a statement released by Duke. “I have unbelievable support from my family, teammates and coaches. I’m ready to get to work for next season and I’m excited for what should be a great year for our program.”

There was a report that circulated Sunday that Bolden would look to transfer after a freshman season that saw him rarely crack the Blue Devils’ lineup. Instead, he’ll give it a second-go round under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“We’re thrilled that Marques will continue to be part of our program,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “In addition to being a talented basketball player, he’s an outstanding young man from a great family. It’s unfortunate that his freshman season was impacted by injury, but he has an opportunity to have a great summer and a special sophomore season.”

Bolden was considered by many as the top center in the 2016 class and was a consensus top-20 recruit. He was hampered early by a leg injury, and then he struggled to get much playing time for the Blue Devils. He averaged just 6.5 minutes per game and played in just 24 total contests.

Duke is adding another five-star big man to its roster next season with 6-foot-10 Wendell Carter, a top-10 consensus player, signed as part of the Blue Devils’ 2017 class.

Jeter to transfer from Duke

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A former five-star recruit is hitting the transfer market.

Chase Jeter, a top-20 talent in the Class of 2015, will transfer from Duke, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore could never really crack the rotation with the Blue Devils, playing less than 500 minutes total over two seasons. He averaged 14.9 minutes in 16 appearances this past season.

“Chase has been an outstanding young man in our program for the last two years,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. “He has been one of our top academic performers since he arrived on campus. Unfortunately, he was held back this season due to injury. We wish nothing but the absolute best for Chase and his family.”

This past season Jeter dealt with a back injury, and he did not play after Jan. 14.

“I have loved my time at Duke, getting a world-class education and competing alongside my brothers every day,” Jeter said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I decided it would be best for me to transfer to a school closer to home. I’ve made long-lasting relationships here and I want to thank my teammates and coaches for the support they’ve given me over the last two years.”

Jeter, a Las Vegas native, chose Duke in the summer of 2014 over Arizona, UNLV and UCLA.

Kennard comes through late for No. 14 Duke against Clemson

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NEW YORK (AP) Luke Kennard had an ugly first half, and Duke leaned on freshmen Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson to build a double-digit lead against Clemson.

Then the Tigers rallied, and Kennard put down the uprising.

Kennard made two clutch jumpers in the final 2:04 and No. 14 Duke beat Clemson 79-72 on Wednesday to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.

The fifth-seeded Blue Devils (24-8) will play fourth-seeded and No. 8 Louisville on Thursday at Barclays Center.

Kennard, the ACC’s leading scorer, went 1 for 9 from the field in the first half and 8 for 11 in the second to finish with 20 points.

“I think that’s a heck of a performance when a player it isn’t going and then it goes that shows you’re a different player. You’re a special player when you’re able to do that,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Tatum and Jackson each scored 20 and picked up the slack while Kennard was cold.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson (17-15) with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Duke built a 13-point lead midway through the second half but could not put away Clemson. Marcquise Reed converted a 3-point play with 2:51 left to cut Duke’s lead to 69-68 and get the small contingent of Tigers fans in Barclays, plus any Duke haters in the crowd, pumped up.

Kennard answered with a jumper to push the lead back to three. He dropped in a fallaway from the baseline with 1:14 left to up the lead to 75-70.

“The biggest thing I can take away from this is how much confidence my coaches, my teammates, they have in me,” Kennard said. “They continue to tell me to be aggressive.”

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers came into the game having lost 10 games by six points or fewer, including a two-point loss to Duke during the regular season. File another one under missed opportunities for Clemson. The Tigers were 24 for 26 from the foul line, but didn’t make enough shots to answer Duke’s proficient offense.

Duke: With Grayson Allen nursing a sore ankle and coming off the bench at the end of the season, Jackson has played his best ball since the nonconference schedule. He had averaged 17.6 points per game in the last three regular-season games.

Jackson gives Duke a true point guard instead of Krzyzewski having to force Allen in at the point. The Blue Devils also got some sharp low-post passing from Tatum, who had four assists against Clemson.

Coach K said his team is still searching for an identity.

“Crazy as it may sound, I think we’re still evolving because of all the injuries and interruptions that we’ve had. But we’re getting better,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t know who we are completely, but I have good kids. I have really good kids, and they play hard, and they share the ball. Maybe we’ll develop a little bit more of an identity here. We’ve got another chance, let’s put it that way.”

ALLEN T’D UP

Allen was called for a technical foul for a second straight game when he slammed the ball on the floor after getting called for a loose ball foul.

He was whistled for running into Blossomgame. Allen grabbed the bouncing ball as he moved toward the corner of the court on the opposite side of the benches. He then slammed the ball down in obvious anger and was hit with a technical, giving him three personal fouls. His next stop was the bench.

Allen, who was suspended for a game earlier this season for tripping an opponent for the third time in his career, said he probably deserved the technical and that he didn’t think he was being targeted by officials.

Allen received a technical in the season finale against North Carolina on Saturday for throwing an elbow. Allen finished scoreless and 0 for 4 from the field against Clemson, playing a season-low 12 minutes. He said his ankle is improving.

“I just need to play better,” he said.

UP NEXT

Clemson: The Tigers hope to get an NIT bid.

“We won six (ACC) games. We probably needed to win eight or 10,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said about getting into the NCAAs. “That’s obviously why today’s game was so important for our team. If we could have got today’s game, then I think we have a better chance, and then maybe one more.”

Duke: The Blue Devils lost their only meeting with Louisville this season, falling 78-69 on the road.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

More college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

VIDEO: Grayson Allen T’d up after slamming ball

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Every outburst and perceived misstep from Grayson Allen has been dissected and discussed to great lengths.

Add another to the list.

The Duke guard received a technical foul in the first half of the Blue Devils’ ACC tournament opener against Clemson.

This is a pretty run-of-the-mill technical (and maybe even a little ticky-tacky), but given Allen’s track record, every flare-up from him seems noteworthy.