Duke Is Gearing Up For March Madness
March 5, 2015
For fans of college basketball, the calendar has finally reached March. And the Duke basketball program may be peaking just in time for March Madness.
The Blue Devils posted a convincing win over Syracuse Saturday night, the last night of February. And as every college basketball fan knows, the real season begins in March. Tournament time. Conference tournaments are upcoming and NCAA Selection Sunday is now less than two weeks away. The first NCAA Tournament games are in two weeks.
And Duke clearly has a team that is capable of contending for the ACC Championship in Greensboro and the NCAA Title in Indy. Coach Mike Krzyzewski likes his team and he has a track record of successes in the month of March.
Duke, at 26-3 after Saturday night, has matched its best record through 29 games since the 2006 team opened 27-2. The 2008 team also got to 26-3 before losing three of its last five games and being ousted in the NCAA round of 32.
There are some media pundits out there who are predicting a similar fall could occur this season. Not because of talent, but because of injuries.
Coach K congratulated on his 1000th win
Yes, the Blue Devils have some health concerns heading into March. Both Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook are nursing sore ankles; Justise Winslow is still bothered by sore ribs; and Grayson Allen has knee issues. Remember, this is a dangerously thin team since it has just eight scholarship players. Those eight players have the skills to make a deep March run, but there is little room for injuries.
Historically, Duke teams that make runs at NCAA titles excel on defense. This season’s team can be inconsistent with its defense while relying heavily on its offense.
Okafor provides a steady inside scoring threat that few Duke teams have had in recent years. Cook is having a great senior season at the wing, as a shooter and as a playmaker. Winslow is a athletic wing with the ability to shoot the three. Tyus Jones is the most instinctive point guard that Duke has had this decade. Just a freshman, he has already shown he can thrive in big games and tight situations.
Though the Blue Devils are relatively young, they have played well on the road and that bodes well for NCAA play. With only the UNC game left to play, Duke is 9-2 on the road. Three of those wins came at Wisconsin, Virginia, and Louisville. No other program in the nation has a trio of road successes like that this season.
Another sign of resilience is the fact that Duke has rallied from big deficits to win, the Devils overcame double digit deficits on the road at Virginia and St. John’s and at home against North Carolina.
Coach K has to hope his freshmen can handle the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament. He relies heavily on the trio of Okafor, Winslow, and Jones. Statistically, the threesome combined to turn in the best freshman class season in school history.
It should be interesting, especially if the program’s training staff can keep the 2014-15 Blue Devils healthy.
NFL Free Agency and the Panthers
Free agency hits the NFL next week and it is expected that the Carolina Panthers will attempt to shore up its offensive line this offseason. The Panthers put together an unexpected season-ending four-game winning streak to clinch the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record in 2014.
Doug Free Panthers-bound?
One of the keys down the stretch was the performance of a ground attack that had stumbled early in the year and came alive when the team needed it most. Still, there were issues up front when it came to pass protection. And I, for one, believe quarterback Cam Newton will never thrive in Carolina until he gets some protection to show off his arm and make his receivers better.
I would like to see the General Manager make a run at Dallas Cowboy free agent Doug Free. The right tackle anchored a strong Cowboys offensive front and everyone saw how much better Tony Romo was last season when he was protected. The Panthers would improve themselves immediately with this signing.
Did You Know...
Did you know Johnny Manziel is still in rehab? Yes, we have not heard a single word concerning Johnny Football for well over a month now...Did you know that the Carolina Panthers cut DeAngelo Williams last week?
DeAngelo Williams was cut
Eventually, Williams will be remembered as one of the best Panthers runningbacks in team history...Did you know that the Carolina Hurricanes once won a Stanley Cup?
Shew, that was a long time ago...Did you know that Adrian Peterson got paid his entire salary last season despite a season-long suspension, and that Ray Rice settled his lawsuit against the Baltimore Ravens for almost $2 million last week? Both committed abusive crimes. Does not seem right.