Fansided’s ACC Basketball Roundtable

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Duke: Evan Stambaugh

What’s the current state of your team’s men’s basketball program?

It is in pretty good shape for the most part. Although the Blue Devils have lost key players such as Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Kyrie Irving, those guys are being made up for by freshman sensation Austin Rivers, fellow freshman Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, and Ryan Kelly. Curry and Kelly are getting more playing time this year and I think they’re doing just fine as starters.

The Dukies also just recently jumped up four places in the polls (from #8 to #4). But, there is plenty of room for improvement though, especially on defense. More on that later.

How do you feel about the ACC expanding to take in Pitt and Syracuse?

On a basketball level, I think it is a great idea. We receive tougher competition, especially from Syracuse. We all know that they are still undefeated and #1. ACC expansion even builds the reputation some more. Adding great basketball teams to the conference is a very good thing, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.

What are some surprises for your team so far?  Some disappointments?

Surprises: Quinn Cook. He has shown greatness in his game lately and that has earned him significant playing time against tough opponents such as Virginia, Clemson, et cetera. I knew he would be a great player, but I didn’t know that he would flourish so early in his college basketball career. It is going to be very fun watching him as the seasons go on.

Austin Rivers has also surprised me as of late. I still love him at Duke no doubt, but I don’t know what is up with him. Ever since the Blue Devils played Western Michigan back on December 30th, Rivers has seemed to hit a wall. Over the last five games, the freshman sensation has averaged 8.6 points per game on 36.4% shooting from the field. Over his first 12 games, though, Rivers averaged 16 points.

Everyone experiences slumps at some point, and this is definitely his slump period. Maybe Duke’s opponents are working on containing Rivers better? Not exactly sure, but that would be my guess at this point.

A disappointment would have to be Duke’s defense. That is the Blue Devils’ greatest area of concern right now. Watching Duke’s game against Clemson a few days ago was a bit frustrating because of the defensive performance. The Blue Devils allowed the Clemson Tigers to take too many wide-open shots and too many free throws. Fortunately for Duke, Clemson missed quite a bit of those free throws and wide open shots. If Andre Dawkins did have the best game of his college career against the Tigers, and if Clemson didn’t miss tons of those shots that should’ve went in, the Blue Devils would’ve lost the game.

By the end of the season, I would love to see improvements on defense. I think it can be done. If Duke can improve their defense, they’ll be a tough team to beat in the tournament.

Who have been some of the key players on your team so far this season?

There are quite a bit of guys who are key for Duke. Let’s start with the Plumlee brothers. Both Mason and Miles have looked spectacular under the basket, and they seem to get more playing time than they did last year, in my opinion, especially Miles. They’re snagging rebounds, burying buckets in the paint, averaging a blocked shot a game, and scoring more points than they did last year. Too bad Mason and Miles haven’t improved their free throw shooting much.

Just kidding. I’m not that concerned about their FT shooting.

Seth Curry has also been a pretty key player. He looks great out on the court – burying threes and having a spectacular shooting percentage. Curry has a shooting percentage of 45.3% and a three-point shooting percentage of 40.5%. Incredible? It’s nothing short of it! Curry also averages the second most points on the team with 12.5 per game – only behind Austin Rivers’ 13.8 points per game Yes, even though Rivers has been in somewhat of a funk, he still averages the most points on the team.

Ryan Kelly is another one as well. He is playing smarter basketball than last year, and that has earned him a starting spot on the Blue Devils’ roster this year. Kelly used to be a back-and-forth player… one night, he’d light the floor up with about 17 or 18 points and quite a few rebounds and assists. The next night, he’d be a disappointment. But for the most part, I haven’t seen much of that from Kelly this year, which is nothing but a great thing.

What does your team have left to do in order to make the NCAA Tournament?

All they have to do is focus even harder. Conference play is going to get tougher, and Duke will probably need to make it’s defensive improvements by then. They’ll get into the tournament, though, no doubt…. unless they somehow start dropping losses left and right. But I have never seen Duke do that, in my lifetime at least.

What’s your end-season prediction for your team?

Duke will definitely have a record with a win total in the high 20s and about four and five losses. They will definitely make the finals of the ACC tournament and/or win it. Plus, they’ll definitely make the NCAA tournament. I think they have a shot at winning the championship, especially with all of the talent they have. When Duke last won the NCAA championship back in March 2010, I didn’t expect them to win but I knew they had a shot. The same goes for this year’s Duke team. Go Blue Devils!