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Thoughts from Countdown to Craziness

It’s sort of hard to believe that we’re at the doorstep of another college basketball season, but it became official on Friday night as the Countdown to Craziness kicked off what is sure to be an expectation-laden year for the reigning National Champion Duke Blue Devils (dear God but that feels good to type). SI recently named Duke’s backcourt number 1 and their frontcourt number 2, so there will be no underestimating the team’s potential this year ! I was, alas, unable to attend this year’s scrimmage, but my good friend T.B. volunteered to put in his two cents about what transpired on Coach K Court over the weekend.

General:

  1. It’s good to be in Cameron again. The love. The energy. The possibility.
  2. The new PA guy can take it down a notch. It’s a little too much hype, much like the cheesy player introductions they instituted last year. Cameron doesn’t really need more of these “let’s-get-ready-to-rumble” stylings to make it an exciting place to see a game.
  3. Not only is the National Championship banner awesome, the are now many other banners (eg ACC, USA #1) hanging from the rafters. Nice to see!!
  4. Great to see last year’s team together one last time. Last year’s 4 seniors were the dunk contest judges along with Jason Williams. (won by Dre and including this spectacularly creative dunk form Miles:
  5. Player introductions were not as cheesy as they could have been. Nolan is so innately funny that his entrance (which could have been perceived as egocentric) came off as hilarious.

The Game:

  1. We have four truly outstanding guards. My sense is that if the season started tomorrow, Nolan and Kyrie would start as they did for the White Team, but a lot can change in between now and the first game
  2. Seth got the opening tip and Nolan stole it foreshadowing things to come. We will be able to put unprecedented amounts of pressure on the ball with our backcourt’s athleticism, and should definitely be able to play a much more uptempo style than in recent years.
  3. Not only are our guards good, but we have three of them can legitimately run the point (four , if you include Tyler Thornton). We will be showing lots of different looks depending on the situation.
  4. The Plumlees were making room for themselves, using their strength to their advantage to get open. This needs to continue.
  5. Miles seemed to have greater ease with his offensive moves in the post. (He came in second in the dunk contest, by the way.)
  6. Perhaps the biggest question going in to this year (and there aren’t many), is whether or not Miles and Mason can provide a consistent defensive presence in the post, and get the job done on the boards, things that Lance and Zoubek specialized at. They are our technical key to another title.
  7. The sheer physicality of Kyrie, Thornton and Hairston is a big shift in the qualitative feel of the team. Not that they don’t have finesse, but they have the potential to truly DOMINATE their opponents with a strong, physical approach to the game.
  8. Kyrie, in particular, can make it happen off the dribble. Wow! Just…wow!
  9. Kyle continues his quiet brilliance and his knee does not appear to be causing him any problems.
  10. Though it is early to make any specific judgments, Hairston definitely has a nose for the basket and will absolutely be a contributor this season. He and the significantly bulked up Ryan Kelly will fight for minutes.

As with any team (take Carolina last year) the real question is how these guys will gel under under adversity. Who will step up and lead? Last year the starting five all received the Team MVP Award. Each guy made important contributions to the team’s heart. How the 2011 Team’s heart evolves is an open question, but given the qualities of the returning players and Coach K’s unrivaled, non-formulaic ability to create “Team” I have high hopes for this season.