Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils lost key players from last season’s college basketball team, but added freshmen phenoms Vernon Carey and others in attempt to offset such a massive roster overhaul.
Five games into the 2019-20 college basketball season, while operating without the Zion Williamson-level hype, it appears as though everything is going to be just fine.
It’s The Morning After College Basketball.
Vernon Carey Is Legit
Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): It’s weird to begin a college basketball column with this caveat, but so is life in 2019: Vernon Carey might not be a great NBA prospect due to his style of playe, but he’s turning out to be a tremendous talent at the collegiate level.
In spurts, Mike Krzyzewski ran Duke’s offense through Carey in the post — as if it were 1994 — against the California Golden Bears on Thursday night. A more traditional big, Carey has nice footwork inside, finishing with 31 points and 12 rebounds in only 22 minutes of action.
“He’s the focal point of our offense right now,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s making passes, he can put the ball on the floor. He’s playing through contact, has a good touch.”
While Carey’s style of play won’t endear him to NBA Draft gurus, it’ll work well at the college level, as there’s going to be few (if any) opponents who can match is size and strength inside. Furthermore, his footwork ability can’t be praised enough.
On the season, Vernon Carey is now averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting about 62% from the floor. Hell, he’s even 3-3 from beyond the arc; though that’s not really part of his game.
For the time being, expect the Duke Blue Devils to use Carey much like they did Jahlil Okafor.
Duke’s Size Making It Difficult On The Competition
Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): With Carey commanding the paint on both sides of the cart, it’s tough for opponents to find consistency when it comes to scoring and defending.
It’s been especially difficult when it comes to the scoring part of the equation. Consider this: Duke has 10 players that are currently averaging double-digit minutes on the season, and eight of them are 6-6 or taller.
While some of the players may be stronger defenders than others, having that type of size and length at nearly every position makes it much easier to find ways to combat other teams’ best players.
The Blue Devils currently rank second nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, marking the third straight season they find themselves in the top 10 in that category.
There’s still a lot of basketball to be played this season, but it’s clear that scoring against this particular Duke team is going to be a challenge for both non-conference and ACC opponents.
No Rest For The Duke Blue Devils
Joe: Mike Krzyzewski will need to celebrate this victory in short order, as the Georgetown Hoyas are looming. Led by head coach Patrick Ewing, many are expecting the Big East program to awaken from its slumber and once again be one of the better teams in the forever tough league.
The Hoyas (4-1) did drop a game already to a solid Penn State squad, but has since bounced back, winning two straight, with one of those being a beat’em down on the Texas Longhorns.
This might end up being, for entertainment purposes only, the funnest game of Friday evening.
Taking The Schedule A Step Further
Blake: After the matchup against Georgetown, the biggest game on the non-conference schedule is the Dec. 3 showdown at Michigan State.
Obviously, if Duke can beat both Michigan State and Kansas in the non-conference portion of the schedule, it will give them a huge boost heading into the start of ACC play.
And really, the front part of their conference schedule isn’t exactly filled with projected NCAA Tournament teams.
Here are the Blue Devils’ first six games before they square off with Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 18:
- at Virginia Tech (Dec. 6)
- vs. Boston College (Dec. 31)
- at Miami (Jan. 4)
- at Georgia Tech (Jan. 8)
- vs. Wake Forest (Jan. 11)
- at Clemson (Jan. 14)
While Duke doesn’t have the same type of hype it did a season ago, beating Georgetown and winning at Michigan State could potentially propel this team to a 17-0 start. Of course, that’ll be easier than done.
But with how Carey and company are playing thus far, they’ve got the ability to do it.
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