Tournament Preview: The Duke Blue Devils


Alright Tar Heels fans, before I begin writing this article, I want to first acknowledge the obvious rift between your Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. While I could simply trash Duke and point out UNC’s blatant superiority, The Devils have proven time and time again that they are capable of being a legitimate Championship contender this season. While my allegiances lie with the Tar Heels, I also have a great deal of respect for Mike Krzyzewski and his team. After all, when you take into consideration how great the Heel’s regime has been over such a large span of time, the sole fact the Duke has been able to keep up with them for so many years, shows their true value. As much as it pains me, this article will give the Blue Devils their due credit.

When the 2011-2012 NCAA Basketball season began earlier last year, the Duke Blue Devils were expected to have a down season. After losing standout players like Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving, and Kyle Singler to the NBA as the 2010-2011 season came to an end, the team’s youth and perceivably average roster were expected to be their downfall. However, Coach K has one again shown why he is one of the top two coaches in college basketball history. While this Duke team does not have the same level of superstar talent as UNC, the team once again boasts a roster of solid players how play with outstanding effort and chemistry. This team, much like teams past, is predicated on the three point shot. While this type of offense often leads to some rough games every now and then, when they are at their best, the Devils have the ability to beat any other team in the game. Austin Rivers (a name that needs no introduction to Tar Heels fans) has developed into the one true star talent for the 2011-2012 Duke team. His 15.3 points per game leads the team, and his exceptional play has led this Duke team for much of the season. While he can be a bit reckless at times, he has shown much more control as the season has progressed. River’s backcourt counterpart Seth Curry has also been a big reason for Duke’s success this season. While he has yet to live up to the standard set by his older brother Stephon Curry, Seth has shown that he has what it takes to be a vital part of the Blue Devil’s success this year. Curry provides his team with the shooting ability that they need to help spread the floor. Doing so help free up everyone else to drive the ball to the basket and get high percentage shots. While he not received the credit he deserves for his contributions to this Duke team, forward Ryan Kelly has been an extremely valuable piece to their success. Kelly is a player who outworks his opponents and often comes up with clutch plays when his team needs them most. It is also worth noting that, at this point in the season, Kelly has shot an exceptional 40% from behind the three point line. While there are several other affective role players (such as Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee) who have meant a great deal to this Duke team, the only remaining significant piece in the starting lineup is Mason Plumlee. Mason’s 11.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game have made him the most effective big man on the roster. His 6-10, 235lbs frame make him the teams go to guy for points in the post and post defense.

When you look at the roster that Duke brings to the tournament this season, it’s perfectly clear that the Blue Devils may very well be the team that brings home the 2012 ACC Championship. As Tar Heels fans learned during the school’s first regular season matchup, the team is more than capable of putting up a performance that outlast that of the UNC Heels. While Carolina is still my personal pick to come out on top when all is said and done, I would not be surprised in the least if Duke is able to put together a solid stretch of games and take the crown back to Durham. With all of this uncertainty surrounding the upcoming ACC and NCAA Tournaments, one this is for sure: the rivalry between the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils during this basketball season is far from over.