After getting off to a rocky start, Coach K’s team is back on track winning seven of the their last eight games. The only loss in that span was that incredibly tough two point loss at Syracuse in overtime. But this is a Mike Krzyzewski coached team so you know that the loss at Cuse only fired them up even more.
The Blue Devils started off the ACC season with two losses in their first games, both on the road at Notre Dame and then at Clemson. In the grand scheme of things, that Notre Dame loss will go down as their worst loss of the season, but Clemson continued to be hot for the following several weeks after their upset of Duke, at one point in second place behind just Syracuse. Now Duke is picking up steam. They are the only team to beat Virginia in conference play this season and the thrashing down the stretch to knockoff Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center sent Pittsburgh on a downward spiral.
This isn’t the same Duke team full of Kyle Singlers, JJ Redicks, and Jayson Williams that we are used to seeing. This is a high-powered and extremely athletic team that runs as much as any other team down the floor. Duke usually isn’t a team that has gone with the one-and-done type of player, with the major exception of Kyrie Irving.
Jabari Parker has put on quite the show this season and he is putting up some of the best single season numbers in Duke and ACC history. After all, Duke records are usually near or at the top of ACC records.Parker at this point in the season is averaging 19.2 points and is scoring from everywhere on the floor. He can get to the rim quicker than anyone else in the conference with the possible exception CJ Fair. He can step back and knock down a huge three pointer and his game inside the paint gets better every game. Did I mention he is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game? His LeBron-like eight double-doubles for a small forward is unheard of. He will definitely be a top five finisher for Player of the Year, if he’s not the winner.
Though Parker is stealing the show game in and game out, there is plenty more to like about watching this Duke team. Guards Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Andre Dawkins are playing very smart and controlled basketball. Sulaimon hit that huge three at the buzzer to send the Syraucse game into overtime and he shoots 49 percent from deep range. Dawkins is shooting 47 percent from three and shooting 48 percent overall from the floor. Duke as a team shoots 42 percent from three, second in the country behind only Cleveland State. That is something that ACC fans have grown to fear every time their team faces Duke. They sometimes take more shot attempts from behind the arc as they do from the rest of the floor.
But their three point shooting isn’t their only other big story. Sophomore forwards Rodney Hood and Amile Jefferson have been key factors for the Blue Devils. Rodney Hood averages 16.5 points per game and even he shoots the three ball at 45 percent. He has actually taken the third most threes on the team (50-111). Jefferson, who at 6’9″ is the tallest of Duke’s key players has done a great job guarding some of the best big men in the conference. Between these two sophomores and Parker, Duke’s front court can compete with anyone in the country. They suffered two losses early in the season to Arizona and Kansas, but those were before they discovered their new-found chemistry.
Something not to be overlooked is the play of senior guard Tyler Thornton who averages fewer minutes than he did the last two seasons. He is one of the leaders of the team and is shooting much better from the floor, three point range, and the free throw line than he ever has at Duke. In fact he shoots better from the line and from three than any of the stars that have been mentioned earlier in the article.
For Duke they still have their two meetings with North Carolina after this past week’s snowstorm left the Chapel Hill meeting postponed. Tomorrow Duke has their last ever ACC matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium against the Maryland Terrapins before the Terps head off to the Big Ten. That is a game that you know Coach K is dying to win. But creeping up ever so slowly is the rematch at home against Syracuse. The two point overtime loss in which Jabari Parker fouled out in left a sour taste in Duke’s mouth and they will want a win in that game at all costs. This Duke team is as deep and talented as any in the past, it might have taken a little longer than usual for them to figure things out. Don’t be surprised if this team has a big Final 4 or championship run in them.
Up next on our ACC Midseason Reports is Pittsburgh.