Duke Blue Devils Men's Basketball Team

Duke tops list as favorites for 2017 championship

Well, now that we’re less than 48 hours removed from the 2015-16 men’s college basketball season coming to a close, there’s only one thing to do: take a breath and reflect — perhaps maybe spend time with our families.


It’s time to starting looking ahead towards next season; yes, that’s right, we’re already predicting who will be cutting down the nets in 2017. And at the top of the odds list, no surprises: Duke (9-2).

The Blue Devils, using only a seven-man rotation, advanced to this year’s Sweet 16. They’ll lose stud freshman Brandon Ingram to the NBA and Marshall Plumlee to the Army, but everyone else, including Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, will be back in Durham. Joining them will be the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, which features two of the top five players — Harry Giles (High Point, NC) and Jayson Tatum (St. Louis, MO).

Including Duke, there are four ACC teams inside the top ten for odds to win next year’s championship: Louisville (10-1), North Carolina (15-1), and Virginia (20-1). For a look at the rest of next season’s title favorites, check here: Wager Talk.

Grayson Allen Will Return to Duke for Junior Season

Mar 24, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) celebrates as Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) and guard Luke Kennard (5) walk to the bench during a West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center. Oregon defeated Duke 82-68. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) celebrates as Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) and guard Luke Kennard (5) walk to the bench during a West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center. Oregon defeated Duke 82-68. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a rough week for North Carolina fans. Less than two days after the Tar Heels fell to Villanova in the National Championship, Duke’s All-ACC wing Grayson Allen announced he will put off his jump to the NBA for at least another year, returning to Duke for his junior season in 2016-17.

His coach, Mike Krzyzewski, was pleased.

“We are thrilled that Grayson will be back with us next season.” Krzyzewski said. “Following the season, he put a lot of thought into an important decision that will impact the rest of his life. In the end, he chose to remain at Duke, where he will pursue an undergraduate degree and develop even more as a man and basketball player.”

The 6-4 wing, who hails from Jacksonville, Fla., played somewhat sparingly during his freshman season, when the Blue Devils won the 2015 NCAA Tournament; however, he blossomed in an expanded role as a sophomore. Allen averaged 21.6 points per game while shooting a team-high 41.7 percent on three-pointers. He was named first team All-ACC by the media and coaches while ranking second in the league in scoring, third in minutes (36.6 per game), and fourth in three-pointers per game.

After the season he had, which resulted in an appearance in the Sweet 16 for Duke, many thought he’d enter the 2016 NBA Draft. Allen, however, had other ideas.

“I talked with my parents and prayed about this decision, and I had the feeling that it was right,” Allen said. “I love Duke and I’ve made relationships with my teammates that will last forever. Coming back next season to play with them is important to me. Earning a Duke degree has always been a dream of mine, so I’ll also be working to get closer to that goal.”

Barring a transfer of some kind, Duke will return everyone from this year’s team, minus Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee. Joining Allen in Durham next season will be the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, which features two of the top five incoming prospects: Harry Giles (High Point, NC) and Jayson Tatum (St. Louis, MO).

With Allen in the mix, and the return of a healthy Amile Jefferson, and the Blue Devils look to by the heavy title favorites for 2016-17. For a look at those odds, check here.

Duke’s Coach K undergoes total knee replacement

DURHAM — Mike Krzyzewski underwent total knee replacement surgery on Sunday morning, Duke announced.

Dr. Michael P. Bolognesi of Duke Medical Center performed the surgery and said it “went as we had hoped.”

“The technical aspects of the case went as we had hoped, and Coach Krzyzewski is doing well,” Dr. Bolognesi said. “We will try to get him up walking today, as we will let him put as much weight as he tolerates on the implant right away.”

The 69-year-old Duke coach was expected to undergo knee surgery at the end of Duke’s season, and he’s still expected to coach the 2016 Olympic men’s basketball team in Rio de Janeiro.

“Immediately after the Duke basketball season is completed, I will undergo replacement surgery on my left knee,” Krzyzewski said in a February statement. “I have every intention of coaching the United States national team in Rio at the 2016 Olympics.”

Krzyzewski could be released from the hospital within three days the school said.

Good things ahead for Duke, Carolina McDonald’s All-Americans

Duke and North Carolina were well-represented in this year’s McDonald’s High School All-American Game in Chicago.

Blue Devils’ signee Frank Jackson won co-MVP of the game and was the slam dunk champion. Jayson Tatum, who scored 18 points, is also headed to Duke.

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Tony Bradley scored 11 points in the game.

What’s in store for the three players now? A total of 141 McDonald’s All-Americans have gone to Duke or UNC before Jackson, Tatum and Bradley. They scored a total of 143,918 points in college, or an average of 1,021 points per McDonald’s All-American.

That doesn’t mean that the three graduating seniors are guaranteed a successful career. Here’s a look at the McDonald’s All-Americans who scored the fewest points at Duke:

Player              Duke Points

Eric Boateng               14

Joey Beard                  21

Michael Thompson      27

Chase Jeter                  62 (so far)

And here are the McDonald’s alumni who did the least with the Tar Heels:

Player              UNC Points

Neil Fingleton             0

David Wear                 79

Vasco Evtimov           105

Travis Wear                 111

Clearly, transfer is the main reason that a player didn’t score well with the Heels or Devils. Overall, the odds are low that Jackson, Bradley or Tatum will transfer during their college years. A total of 15 Duke and Carolina McDonald’s players chose to transfer, giving them 10.6 percent odds of transferring. Duke (12.7%) has a slightly higher McDonald’s transfer rate than Carolina (8.6%).

The three incoming freshmen are more than twice as likely to leave early for the NBA Draft. Duke and Carolina have had 39 McDonald’s All-Americans give up some college eligibility, which is better than one-in-four odds (27.7%). Carolina (34.3%) is more likely to have players leave early than Duke (21.1%).

Of the 141 McDonald’s All-Americans at the two schools, nearly half (69, or 48.9%) scored more than 1,000 points in college. Eleven (7.8%) scored 2,000. More than half (55%) of the Carolina players and 42% of Duke players scored 1,000.

Two in five McDonald’s signees ended up winning a national title at Duke (43.7%) or Carolina (37.1%), and exactly the same number ended up being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Just under half (47.1%) of Carolina McDonald’s players became first-rounders, while 33.8% of Duke’s signees did.

While the odds in favor of the three incoming freshmen, it’s worth noting that the McDonald’s selection process is far from an exact science. Shelden Williams (1,928 points) and Rick Fox (1,703 points) were the Duke and Carolina players who scored the most collegiate points after being snubbed by the McDonald’s game.


Krzyzewski apologizes for comments after Oregon loss

DURHAM — Two days after denying to reporters that he talked to Oregon’s Dillon Brooks about sportsmanship in the aftermath of Oregon’s 82-68 Sweet 16 win, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski issued an apology to Oregon coach Dana Altman.

“Today, I spoke with Oregon head coach Dana Altman and apologized to him for my remarks to Dillon Brooks following our game,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is not my place to talk to another team’s player and doing so took the focus away from the terrific game that Dillon played.

“In the postgame press conference, I reacted incorrectly to a reporter’s question about my comment to Dillon. Clearly, the story that night was about Oregon advancing to the Elite Eight, and the outstanding game they played. I sincerely hope I did not create a distraction for Coach Altman and his team at this critical time of year. Certainly, I have the utmost respect for the Oregon program and their tremendous accomplishments.”

Brooks, who hit a long 3-pointer and celebrated in the direction of Duke’s bench with seconds left in a double-digit game, told reporters after Thursday’s West regional semifinal win that Krzyzewski lightly admonished him for showboating.

“He just told me that I’m too good of a player to be showing out at the end,” Brooks told reporters in Anaheim. “And he’s right. I’ve got to respect Duke.”

But when asked about the handshake line interaction in the press conference following the game, Krzyzewski denied telling Brooks anything about sportsmanship.

From the NCAA ASAP Sports transcript:

Q. Apparently after the game Dillon said that you told him that he was too good of a player to be showing off at the end like that —
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I didn’t say that.

Q. He said of you that you were right.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You can say whatever you want. Dillon Brooks is a hell of a player. I said, “You’re a terrific player.” And you can take whatever he said and then go with it, all right?

Video and audio captured by CBS backs up Brooks’ version of events as Krzyzewski is shown seemingly telling Brooks, “You’re too good a player to do that. You’re too good of a player.”

Because these so-called controversies never die quickly, Brooks was asked about the interaction in the team’s pre-Elite Eight availability Friday.

“You know, I talked with Coach Altman about this whole situation,” Brooks said. “Me and Coach K, that conversation should have stayed with us. But overall me and Coach K are both professionals, and I have to move on from this situation and focus on Oklahoma.”

I think I speak for everyone when I say, can we be done with this now?

Free wireless more than just a perk for NCAA players

Marshall Plumlee uses arena wireless to check his phone
Marshall Plumlee uses arena wireless to check his phone


Yale senior Justin Sears is glad that he has wireless in his hotel room in Providence, this week.

“I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix,” to tell you the truth, he said.

The 2016 Ivy League Player of the Year isn’t watching House of Cards in his room, though.

“I have to watch a movie for class,” he said. “I still need to finish that.”

While many observers probably think of movies in class as something that was done when there was a substitute teacher, Yale’s curriculum is a little different. “It’s for a class on genocide in Rwanda,” Sears said. “It kind of brings you down. I’ve been trying to avoid watching it until now.”

Sears isn’t the only one taking advantage of hotel wireless. Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that it was providing complementary wireless for all the student-athletes in this season’s NCAA tournament.

The self-congratulatory tweet earned plenty of snark on social media.

While it seems like a minor benefit, the fact is, many team hotels charge for wireless access in guest rooms, and, often, the fancier the hotel, the higher the charge.

Miami stayed a a Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington, D.C. for the ACC Tournament, and the wireless charge was $12.95 per night, $16.95 for high-speed wireless.

“Our coaches always try to make sure that we have wi-fi,” Sears said.

Despite the efforts of the Yale staff, the Bulldog players remember a few road trips where they were stranded in their hotel rooms, without wireless access.

Yale freshman Alex Copeland takes advantage of wireless in the locker room
Yale freshman Alex Copeland takes advantage of wireless in the locker room

“I remember one or two,” Sears said. “I paid for it. I think it was five dollars or something. So it wasn’t that big a deal, and I needed it.”

“I think most places we stay usually have free wi-fi,” said teammate Makai Mason. “When we don’t, we  just kind of have to make do with our phones.”

Yale is on spring break this week, but Mason has still put the hotel wireless to use.

“I’ve been doing a little homework,” he said. “We had some assignments over the break.”

“I was doing work a couple days ago to try to get ahead when we get back,” junior guard Anthony Dallier said. “I was starting a paper for one of my literature classes.”

Sam Downey also had a literature assignment he was working on between games. “We have a midterm essay due in four days for Race and Gender in American Literature. The assignment is called ‘The Diaries of an American Famer’, and we have to create a thesis statement that’s exactly 50 words. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long.”

That’s not to imply that it’s all work and no play on the hotel wireless.

“I’ve been playing a lot of games,” Duke’s Grayson Allen said.

“When you’re in the ice bath, sometimes you throw up a little Netflix,” Plumlee added.

Then, of course, there’s keeping track of your mentions.  After the Makai Mason put up 31 points in the upset over Baylor, the wireless again came in handy for the sophomore guard. “Last night, I was in the room checking Facebook,” he said. “I kind of blew up after the game.”

Like Yale, Duke treats hotel wireless like a necessity, instead of a luxury. To a man, the team doesn’t remember a Blue Devils’ road trip where they couldn’t access the internet in their rooms.

“One way or another, our academic advisor would make sure that we were able to get our work done,”  Marshall Plumlee said. “If we didn’t have it, there would be a communal computer we could all work at. They weren’t going to let us shirk our studies.”

Players on Duke and Yale all agreed that the move to provide wireless is a wise one for the NCAA, but they were surprised it took so long.

“Now that the NCAA is taking that step, I think it’s a very considered step to take,” Plumlee said. “Now that the decision has been made, I can’t imagine it being any other way.”

“That’s huge,” Sears said of the NCAA’s decision. “I think it should be a requirement. We always have school work. I remember one of our opponents played us earlier this year, and they were tweeting about not having wi-fi. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t just required.”

Duke’s Matt Jones laughed when asked about the importance of wireless on the road.

“I’m on it right now!” he said.


Seahawks fight to the end

Coach Mike Krzyzewski left the Duke locker room, on his way to the podium, to discuss his Blue Devils’ 93-85 win over UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

As he walked through the bowels of Dunkin Donuts Arena, he passed the UNC-W contingent, returning to the locker room area following their stint at the podium.

Coach K turned back and caught up to junior guard Chris Flemmings and senior Craig Ponder. He spoke to the two players at length, congratulating them on their effort and wishing them luck.

“They’re really good,” Krzyzewski said, once he reached the podium. “They’re extremely well-coached, not just in strategy but in effort and togetherness. You could tell right away. We watched on tape and had a very good appreciation for them, but when you see them in person, you can actually see their belief in one another and their strength.”

The four-seed Blue Devils played against them on Thursday, and the Seahawks pushed the Blue Devils to the brink before falling.

The Seahawks led by as much as seven points in the first half and took a three-point lead to the break, but Wilmington was in no mood to take solace in a strong performance in a loss.

“They believe they’re going to win,” Krzyzewski said.

“I know a lot of people are surprised, but being up three and possibly could have been up six at halftime, you know, we expected that,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “Obviously we have a lot of respect for Coach K and the program that he’s built and the players on the team, but my guys expected to win the game. When I walked into the locker room at the end of the game, I knew the program was going in the right direction because nobody wanted a moral victory. Those guys were upset because we lost.”

Flemmings, a Cary, NC native, scored 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting. A day earlier, he spoke of growing up in a Duke household. “She’s been a Duke fan since before I was even born,” he said of his mother. “She was a longtime Duke fan, even when like Grant Hill and ballplayers like that were there.”

At game time, however, he as ready to take the Blue Devils down.

“We didn’t work hard all season to just give up just because of the name,” he said. “That’s kind of our team thing. We’re going to fight every game no matter who we’re playing.”

Ponder, who put up 22 against the Blue Devils and led the team with four assists, added, “Our motto is pretty much we don’t worry about the name on the back of our jerseys, and we don’t care about the name on the front of yours.”

True to form, the Seahawks kept battling, even after Duke pulled ahead by 12 late in the second half. In the final three minutes, UNC-W went on a 7-2 run to cut the Blue Devil lead to five, and the Seahawks had a look at a three-pointer that would have made it a two-point game.

The shot was off the mark, but the Seahawks earned every bit of respect that Duke’s Hall of Fame coach sent their way.

“It’s really beautiful to watch. It’s more beautiful if you don’t have to play against them,” Krzyzewski said.

Duke vs. N.C. State: 4 takeaways from Blue Devils’ 88-78 win over Wolfpack

Ice and snow filled the roads outside, but both N.C. State and Duke got red hot inside PNC Arena on Saturday afternoon. After a blistering start from the Wolfpack in the first half, Duke sealed the win to snap a three-game losing streak in a 88-78 win.

Grayson Allen led the Blue Devils with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, finishing 11-of-17 from the floor. Brandon Ingram put on a similar show with 25 points and seven rebounds to finally earn a much-needed victory for the Devils.

It was a tale of two halves for Cat Barber, who finished with 19 points – scoring just three in the second half. An apparent knee injury had a lot to do with the drought in the second half, leaving Abdul-Malik Abu (14 points), Cody Martin (12 points) and others to pick up the slack.

Despite the blustering conditions outside, the Wolfpack’s fan base showed up in full force – something that didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Mark Gottfried.

“I also want to say thank you to the Wolfpack Nation,” Gottfried said. “Wow. I am so proud of our fans, I’m so proud of the way they came out today. With the weather, and the governor making a statement, our fans came. I’m just so proud of our fans.”

As both teams head their separate ways before another matchup on Feb. 6 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, here’s a look at what we learned from Duke’s significant win.


Duke’s Post Problems Continue, Help On the Way?

The Blue Devils may have ran away in the second half thanks to their outside shooting, but it was clear there was a mismatch in the post. Marshall Plumlee finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, serving as the lone inside presence yet again for Duke.

Luckily, it appears help might be on the way. Amile Jefferson, who has missed the last 11 games with a foot injury, was seen walking without a boot or crutches. His return would be massive for a Duke team that has struggled in ACC play thus far.

“We’re trying to get him now to walk properly,” Krzyzewski said of Jefferson. “There’s still no timetable. The bone has healed pretty well, but he’s still not there.”

Thanks to the development of Plumlee down low, the Devils might be in a better position come tournament time. But with games against Miami, Louisville and Virginia before Valentine’s Day, getting Jefferson back soon could mean a substantial boost for Duke’s seed in March.


Blue Devils Avoid Epic Loss

Losing three straight for Duke was shocking, regardless of injuries and depth issues the team has dealt with. However, dropping to 3-4 in conference after a loss at PNC Arena would have been crippling given the upcoming schedule.

Duke didn’t lose, but it still has a chance to drop outside of the Associated Press top 25. After 166 straight weeks inside the AP poll, the Syracuse loss will still likely leave Mike Krzyzewski’s squad on the outside looking in.

Is this team better than its current ranking? With a healthy Jefferson, yes. Without him, nope.


Cat Barber Continues to Amaze

Regardless of where this N.C. State team ends up in the ACC, nobody can take anything away from Cat Barber. The Pack’s only surefire consistent star is a contender for the ACC Player of the Year despite being on a team that is currently 1-6 in conference play.

How crucial is Barber? His knee injury in the second half – which he played through – signaled a huge swing in the game. After colliding with a Duke player early in the first half, Barber was limited to zero points on just two shots in the final 15 minutes.

“I think he got hurt a little bit too,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I hope he’s not hurt but you could see something happened. That type of thing happens to us too and they’re marginalized with that as well. They can’t afford to not have him on the court – he’s one of the best players in the country.

“He’s so dangerous, he’s really damn good.”

After scoring 16 points in the first half, Barber’s ineffectiveness left the supporting cast to carry State. It couldn’t. Barber’s sharp shooting and passing skills helped the Pack shoot 6-of-9 from three in the first half – including six straight at one point. State shot 1-of-11 from behind the arch following the injury.

Barber will need to be at full health against Georgia Tech to build confidence before facing Miami.


What’s Next?

For Duke, the upcoming seven games can make or break the entire season. Traveling to Miami then Georgia Tech before returning home to N.C. State, Louisville and Virginia is tough enough. Then tack on a road rivalry game against North Carolina then taking on the Cardinals at Louisville.

That, my friends, is called murderer’s row.

If the Devils survive and get Jefferson back somewhere in the middle, a top-five seed in the ACC tourney still seems attainable. Finishing .500 or worse over that stretch might lead to an unprecedented Tuesday start in the first round.

Meanwhile, State is all but assured to start on Tuesday of the ACC tournament after dropping to 11-9 on the season. With games coming up against Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State and Duke, the Pack can only hope to come away with two wins over the next two weeks.

Even after a strong showing from both on Saturday, that’s about all the Pack and its fan base can hope for at this point.