This year's edition of the Duke/ St. John's series tips off at 1 pm in Madison Square Garden tomorrow. It's a great game for the fans; the Red Storm fans have a chance to see another top team, the team has a chance to knock off a giant of the game, and the Duke fans in New York get to bombard the Garden with blue.
What, that's not a good thing? We need to Paint the Garden Red for the home team?
Well, despite what may be a 50/50 crowd at MSG tomorrow afternoon, it's a fun game to watch. The Johnnies always get up for Duke, and for Duke, they get to face competent competition. The Atlantic Coast Conference this year is pretty weak, and this game might help Duke's RPI for NCAA Tournament seeding.
To start preparing for the nationally-televised matchup, I sent 10 questions to Julian from the Duke Basketball Report blog, and he was kind enough to answer them. Here are some insights on Duke's defense, emerging players, and the Red Storm/ Blue Devil series - after the jump!
1. This year's Blue Devils are much different than last year's version - they're faster, more point-guard oriented, more explosive. Is all of that true? How have the Blue Devils changed their spots in between seasons?
That's basically true. Nolan Smith, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are all capable going off for 20 or 25 points. Kyle Singler is essentially an extra guard. Duke is weak inside to an extent, of the big mineral proven too.
2. Who is the deadliest player on the roster (who plays, since Kyrie Irving is out)? What does he do?
It really depends on who's hot. Mostly I would say Smith, Singler can go off as can the other guys I mentioned. And lately, Ryan Kelly has emerged as a scoring threat as well.
3. What would a Duke loss to St. John's look like? What would the Red Storm have to do to pull off the upset?
That's really tough to answer. I don't know whole lot about St. John's year. But Duke's weakness has been scoring inside so that's first, and if you can stop the three-point shooting that helps too. Lately though, five guys have been offensive forces at different times.
4. I hear Ryan Kelly's name come up from time to time. Has he been an impact player this year?
As I said, he is evolving very quickly into a solid player. He's very smart and does a lot of things are just heads up plays -- getting his hand at the right time, blocking shots, just smart basketball. He's also a nifty outside shooter, although not as good inside.
5. How is Seth Curry fitting in? Would he play this much if Kyrie Irving was healthy?
Curry is coming on. Everyone has had to adapt in the absence of Irving, and Curry not be getting as much time if he were playing, but having said that, he's making the most of his opportunity. He's a sneaky good defender and of course like the rest of his family can really shoot.
6. Is Kyrie Irving coming back this year? Is he coming back NEXT year?
No idea, but I sure hope so. Watching him has been a rare privilege. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
7. The rankings and tempo-neutral data like Duke. But the ACC is really terrible this year. How do we know that this Duke team sans Kyrie is actually good? Can they make a deep NCAA run?
Well the tournament is a crapshoot; nobody can make any guarantees about that. But Duke has two great leaders and Smith and Singler, and the team is improving rapidly. Plus Coach K usually seems to do pretty good job in March.
8. How has Duke's inside scoring gotten better? Are the players scoring on dunks, in transition, or mid-range jump shots?
My impression of the Boston College game was that Duke consciously forced the ball inside as often as possible. The natural inside guys should be the Plumlees, but for whatever reason, despite their athleticism and many attributes, they both lack confidence on offense inside. Kelly is more of a perimeter scorer than an inside guy. Arguably, Smith is most effective inside scorer. I thought they used the Boston College came to address this.
9. Is there a defensive weak link in Duke?
Defense is really one of Duke's strong points. All three big men are solid shot blockers, Singler is highly effective on defense, Smith is equally good, and Dawkins and Curry both have shown some good instincts this year. In a way, my favorite is freshman Tyler Thornton. The guy really gets after it. Clearly, he loves playing defense.
10. Every year, the Red Storm fans get excited for the yearly matchup against St. John's. Maybe it's validation that the Red Storm matter a little, or maybe it's the fact that our favorite team has a chance to knock off one of the best and most consistent programs in the country. But St. John's hasn't beaten Duke since 2003. I remember the game well, it was a crazy moment. Do you remember that game, and does the St. John's series matter? Is the yearly matchup special in any way?
I enjoyed it personally. New York is one of the great cradles of the game and St. John's is king of that particular sandbox. So it's always fun to get a dose of the city. I will say though that a lot of Duke grads grew up as St. John's fans, and those guys get really geek up for this game. When it's in Durham, the St. John's game usually gets higher prices from scalpers than the Maryland game.