Section 17: Ringing the Bell(armine) on a New Year

Walking into Cameron Indoor Stadium last night, you might have mistaken it for a regular season game. The arena was packed to the brim, a chill in the air gave the evening a wintery feel, and the excitement was palpable. Then the game and the harsh reality sets in—this was an exhibition, and at times Duke looked a bit more like a Division II team than their opponents did.

Seth Curry drives baseline against Bellarmine (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Now let’s keep this all in perspective. Although there were many negatives to dwell on, Duke overcame a rocky start to cruise to an 87-62 victory over defending Division II national champion Bellarmine Saturday night.

The game hadn’t even started yet before the Cameron faithful had their first shock of the season, as freshman Alex Murphy was announced as a starter over experienced junior Andre Dawkins. Murphy had been highly acclaimed by head coach Mike Krzyzewski throughout their first weeks of practice for his defensive abilities, but he contributed essentially nothing on the offensive end.  Zero points, one rebound, one assist, and two steals in 13 minutes of action. Those don’t sound like starter numbers. Meanwhile, Ryan Kelly, the team’s greatest offensive weapon from their summer tour overseas, came off the bench scoring ten points.

The offense started out slow and out of sorts, while Bellarmine shot 39% from 3-point range in the first half. Duke shot terribly from beyond the arc, converting on just 14% of three point attempts for the game, going without a three for the game’s first thirty minutes. For a team that in the past has lived and died on 3-point shooting, this is a terrifying statistic. Duke also struggled to maintain possession, turning over the ball 19 times over the course of the game, including 12 in the first half. Keep in mind that Duke only had 19 turnovers in a game three times last year. Granted, they won all three of those games, but you get the point. This lackadaisical effort combined with mediocre perimeter defense led to many open transition jumpers for the Knights. When shots were raining down near the end of the first half, for just a split second fans had a legitimate reason to question whether or not Duke would win this game at all, let alone do so comfortably.

The Blue Devils were able to correct many of these issues in the second half to an extent, shooting 64% from the field to pull away to a 25-point victory. Seth Curry led Duke with 18 points on 7 for 17 shooting while freshman Austin Rivers added 13 points.

Mason Plumlee dunks against Bellarmine (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Mason Plumlee played a very impressive game for the Blue Devils, shooting a perfect 8-8 from the field for 16 points, and adding 9 rebounds on the game. Following a poor showing at Countdown to Craziness where the athletic Plumlee appeared to be in great shape but played out of control, Mason looked as though he found the perfect balance against Bellarmine. Older brother Miles Plumlee added 14 points and 8 boards, but was exploited defensively on a few occasions. Whether or not all of their options play consistently, Duke will always have at least one option on the low block this coming season.

A huge question entering the year was who would run the point with Duke’s starting lineup. While both Seth Curry and Austin Rivers split time taking up the ball, as expected, the biggest surprise of the evening came from Duke’s true point guards, Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook. Thornton provided five points and three assists in 24 minutes while exhibiting his usual lockdown defense, and he was crucial in controlling the flow and tempo of the offense. Thornton, who drained one of Duke’s two three pointers with less than nine minutes remaining in the second half, garnered great praise from Krzyzewski in his postgame press conference. Meanwhile, Cook provided us with the most impressive performance of the game, scoring four points while adding two rebounds and five assists in just seven minutes of action. From the second he stepped on the floor, Cook was absolutely electric. He was quick off the dribble, feeding his teammates for easy buckets and navigating the lane like he had played quite a few games in Cameron before this one.

Though he saw moderate playing time, Andre Dawkins was strangely absent from this game. Dawkins did not receive the start as Krzyzewski opted for freshman Alex Murphy. Meanwhile in Dawkins’ 15 minutes he only shot 1 for 6 from the floor, a worrying performance following a 3 for 10 shooting night at Countdown to Craziness. Dawkins was expected to start as Duke’s third guard along with Curry and Rivers, but he has not played like a starter. This should open the door for freshman Michael Gbinije, who showed some flashes of brilliance in limited action.

Marshall Plumlee was strangely absent from this game—in fact he never even took his warm-up off. In an exhibition situation such as this, many would have thought that Marshall would see some playing time to get adjusted to the speed and physicality of the college game against a weaker opponent. However, he remained on the bench, raising questions of his future in the Blue Devils’ rotation.

All in all, it was a performance that was to be expected of Duke’s first exhibition game of the year. There were definite signs of rust in execution on both ends of the floor, but there were many distinct positives that provide hope for the future. Coach Krzyzewski tested out a variety of lineups and offensive sets, and although the game was at many times ugly, Duke remained firmly in control. Now everybody’s got their feet wet in this 2011-12 season, and it’s time to iron out the kinks.

Crazie Notes: Although the Duke crowd brought the noise like any Duke crowd would, the student section was a bit subdued as it was occupied by many parents for Duke’s parents weekend…Duke honored the parents of its basketball players with a ceremony at halftime, with NBA coach Doc Rivers and former NBA player Dell Curry in attendance…Duke hosted Lithonia, Georgia center Tony Parker for his official visit…Parker sat near former Duke players Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith…Parker was hosted by freshman guard Quinn Cook for his visit to campus…the crowd chanted for Parker to commit to Duke multiple times throughout the game, but Parker was generally unresponsive…UCLA and Ohio State remain among the top teams to land Parker, who intends to commit during the first signing period beginning November 6…it was an exhibition for all, and Coach K used it as an opportunity to practice winning over officials, giving them quite an earful following a charge call on Seth Curry in the second half.

Deviled Eggs 10/24/11

I bet Chris Spatola feels left out being around former Duke players literally all the time. (courtesy BluePlanetShots.com)

1. Lance Thomas will rep the stars and stripes at the Pan Am Games

Blast from the recent past: 2010 title tough guy Lance Thomas was selected to play for the U.S. in the 2011 Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The roster is a rag tag group of guys fighting it out in the NBDL for a spot in our favorite locked-out organization, the NBA. Thomas will play alongside former college stars like Villanova’s Curtis Sumpter and UConn’s Jerome Dyson. We wish the whole crew good luck–the world needs some high level basketball right now.

2, 3. Two things from Tobacco Road Blues on Grantland

Sportswriting wunderkind Shane Ryan of the blog Tobacco Road Blues nee Seth Curry Saves Duke has written two solid articles about his beloved Blue Devils on Grantland recently. Both are worth reading for his snark and insight, particularly the latter article that compares and contrasts Curry and Rivers. (“Why Duke Will Win the National Championship” & “Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and the Unforeseen Drama at Duke’s Midnight Madness”).

4. Get excited about Silent G

The Chronicle’s Tom Gieryn highlights the relatively un-highlighted member of this freshman class: Michael Gbinije. Hopefully this woke some members of the student body up to Mike G’s existence, even if the general population will mangle the pronunciation of his last name until he starts putting up big numbers.

5. Send good vibes toward Miles

K, y’all. How important is Miles Plumlee this year. Answer: very. Watch above dunk contest one more time! The most jacked and most vertically gifted of our players needs all the love he can get this year, his last at Duke, just like the founders of this site. As we go on, we remember…

6. Wake Forest doth break our hearts again 

Life is tough when you have to lose at football.

The Countdown

 

Howdy, folks. It’s Friday, October 14th, 2011 – and the long-awaited start of the college basketball season is finally here. Tonight, in the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium, the 2011-2012 edition of our very own Duke Blue Devils will take the floor for the first time.

Today, we’ll be updating you from the greens of Krzyzewskiville, as what promises to be a packed house of Crazies line up outside of Cameron. The festivities officially begin at 8:00pm, and will be televised on ESPN3. But check back here early and often! [Amogh]

12:15PM: Just ran into Coach Capel in Cameron as we were taking pictures of the renovations. Seems like a great guy. Really strong addition to our already ridiculously strong coaching staff. [Amogh]

1:30PM: Some pictures from inside and around Cameron. Renovations galore! [Arun]

 

2:00PM: There are at least 300 people in line now, and line monitors have started registering groups. Looks like it’s going to be a packed house tonight! Lots and lots of enthusiastic freshman. Makes me nostalgic to think about my first time in Cameron, way back when. [Amogh]

 

Unparalleled Tradition: A Fresh(man's) Take

Editor’s note: This is  the first in a series of columns by our newest staff member: Daniel, a proud member of the freshman class of 2015! Show him some love! – AK

K-Ville, soon to be home. (Courtesy of BluePlanetShots.com)

What is Duke basketball? Duke basketball is tradition. It’s 105 years, four national championships, 15 Final Fours, 55 All-Americans, 23 first round NBA draft picks. It’s playing home games in the holiest basketball cathedral known to man. It’s having fans that can remember specific plays from a given game that might span back years, let alone decades. It’s men and women who graduated in the 60’s and 70’s and can still remember the cheers and jeers that are quintessential to the Duke basketball experience.

What is Duke basketball? Duke basketball is passion. It’s about fans who are more than proud to call themselves Crazy and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s striking fear into the heart of every opponent with a sea of the most beautiful blue on the face of the earth. It’s having fans that will travel thousands of miles just to catch a glimpse of their team play. It’s having students at a top ten university that are willing to wake up long before the sun to stand in line for an exhibition game against a team they’ve never even heard of. It’s looking forward to sleeping in a tent and enduring six weeks of mild (let’s not get ahead of ourselves here) Carolina winter just so we can tell the Tar Heels to Go To Hell.

What is Duke basketball? Duke basketball is my life. Some of my freshman classmates have been Duke fans for a couple months, some of them maybe even fell in love with the school a year ago before they applied Early Decision. I’ve been a Cameron Crazie since the day I was born. I was a month old when I watched Christian Laettner hit the shot against Kentucky. Every winter since I can remember, Duke basketball has been part of my routine. No matter what important work there was to be done, the Duke game would always come first. Going to a high school that sat just down the block from Villanova’s campus, I was not afraid to let my classmates know that I wouldn’t be jumping on any hometown bandwagons, and in return they felt free to remind me of the four or five times a year that we actually lost a game. Bearing the brunt of that abuse was the price I paid for being better than them in every possible way come March.

Now 18 years later I sit where countless freshmen before me have, milling away in piles of schoolwork while all I can think about is basketball season. After all this time I have finally arrived, Countdown to Craziness is upon us. It was great hearing President Brodhead and Maya Angelou speak during O-Week, but in all honesty I consider Countdown to be the truest of freshman convocations, the first time in a new school year where all of Duke comes together and does what Duke does best—basketball.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to games almost every year since middle school, whenever Duke would play a neutral site game in the New York area or play Temple or Penn on the road. But I’ve been missing the most important piece to my Duke basketball experience, I’ve been missing Cameron. Friday will mark the first time I’ve taken in a Duke basketball event at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a moment I’ve dreamed about since I was young enough to realize how important Cameron was to the basketball world. Even thinking about it now, trying to convince myself that this time is finally here sends shivers down my spine. There is one word I can use to describe what I think stepping inside Cameron will be like—electric.

The electricity, the buzz, the anticipation will be so thick you could reach out and grab it and squeeze every ounce of glory out of it. It will be about then, when 10,000 voices become one, when time will seem to stop. And if you look just closely enough, you’ll see 1700 wide-eyed members of the class of 2015 do that same double take they’ve done since the moment they got here. They’ll look around at the most beautiful sight in the world, a sea of their royal blue brethren, and tell themselves, ‘Wow. I am the luckiest person in the world. I get to be a part of this.’ And after a moment, they’ll come back down to earth, and we’ll yell. Really, really loud. Because that’s what Cameron Crazies do.