We previewed Saturday’s Wake Forest vs. Duke game by chatting with our friend Ben Swain of Sports Channel 8. We greatly appreciate him taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter and check out SC8.
BSD: Losing on the road to FSU or UL isn’t surprising for anyone, but the loss to State in Cameron raises some doubt. With a roster packed pull of NBA prospects, what have been the primary problems keeping this team from their #elite potential?
BS: The easy answer is injuries. Duke still hasn’t played a game this year with all of their players available, but the biggest issue is not being able to practice together. They’ve had to limit a lot of players’ activity between games and it’s extremely evident especially on the defensive end of the court.
The team also goes ISO-heavy A LOT, especially when things get tough for them. They’ve got a few guys who feel like they can put the team on their backs, and Duke is just really easy to defend when they’re not sharing the basketball. To be specific, any possession where Luke Kennard doesn’t get a touch is a totally wasted possession. And they tend to have a lot of those.
BSD: Injuries have definitely plagued Duke this season - Do you expect them to be at full strength on Saturday?
BS: I honestly have no idea because there seems to be something that pops up nearly every game. I have never seen anything like it before, really in any sport. I’d expect Jeter to be out again, and my guess is that everyone else plays. Matt Jones is really the only player who’s 100% although he had his hand taped up against NC State so who knows. Allen has the dislocated finger. Kennard, Jackson, and Jefferson are fairly regularly in walking boots when they’re not playing. But I’d expect everyone but Jeter to play. And of course, Coach K won’t be there.
BSD: It seems those in the Triangle have believed Capel was the next in line to take over when K hangs it up. Do you think this unexpected "try-out" period could hurt Capel and maybe steer them to Collins or Wojo, both of whom are having success in their first gigs?
BS: I think that’s mostly a fan-driven way of thinking. When Duke makes that decision. Kevin White isn’t going to be comparing candidates based on how January of 2017 went. Here’s the thing … Capel’s job at Duke has been to recruit and to manage players individually. He obviously capable of managing an entire team, but the mid-season switch from “my guys” to “my team” is hard to do and extremely confusing for players too. You give Jeff Marquette or Northwestern and he’s doing just fine at those places. You give Wojo or Chris Collins Duke right now and they’re having the same struggles. The biggest difference in that “what if” scenario is that if Capel is in Milwaukee or Chicago, Duke is game-planning on how to defend Harry Giles on Saturday instead of trying to figure out how to keep working him back towards game speed. Duke would be foolish to pass up on his skills as a recruiter, and he’s a hell of a coach too. He genuinely has the toughest job in college basketball at the moment though.
BSD: Just so this article shows up in Google searches I'm going to type Grayson Allen. Feel free to use this space to promote anything you'd like. Also I need to include the words "tripping" and "trip.”
BS: Missed SEO opportunity by not making this the first question. You also need “Grayson Allen” at the start of the sentence. Where a word is located will trump (you’re welcome) how many times it’s used.
BSD: What personnel match-up between the Deacs and Devils do you think will go a long ways in determining the winner on Saturday?
BS: The one I’m downright giddy to watch is John Collins vs. Marques Bolden. Collins is a superstar, and Bolden is the one player for Duke on an upward trajectory so I really think it will be fun to see Bolden trying to slow Collins down. Having said that, Duke could easily go small and try to put Jefferson on Collins, but I’m really keeping my fingers crossed for the two big guys going at it.
BSD: Luke Kennard has an amazing 132.7 offensive rating so far this season. In what areas has he improved most to make this jump?
BS: If you get a chance to watch a Duke game back on tape, watch him off the ball. He’s just so slick without the basketball, which is a huge improvement from last year. He gets himself in open spots really well, but what he’s able to do better than most is to get his defender leaning the wrong way before he makes the catch. This sets up a step back or a blow by, and his finishing around the rim has improved tremendously as well. He’s Duke’s best player and it’s not even close.
BSD: Prediction for Deacs vs Duke at the Joel on Saturday?
BS: It’s hilarious to think that anyone could predict what this Duke team (or this Wake team, for that matter) will do. Both teams kind of freak out a bit when things get uncomfortable, so I’m mostly expecting a big win one way or the other.