Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
DURHAM — This sounds ironic, but it’s fair to wonder if Duke was overlooked in the latest Associated Press Top 25 basketball poll. The Blue Devils often get the benefit of the doubt, including opposing coaches charge from referees.
But despite Kansas tumbling from its No. 1 perch, Duke remained No. 4 in the AP poll voted upon by the writers. Ohio State leapfrogged the Blue Devils from No. 5 to No. 2 behind the new top-dog, Gonzaga, although the USA Today poll (coaches) moved Duke up one spot to No. 3.
The Blue Devils (10-1), whatever their proper standing in the national title chase, return to the court following nine days off to face the Ivy League’s Brown (5-5) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The early start avoids a conflict later in the day with two College Football Playoff Games — Oklahoma vs. LSU at 4 p.m. in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Clemson vs. Ohio State at 8 p.m. in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.
What AP voters could have weighted more heavily was Duke’s versatility and depth displayed while winning without Tre Jones in the Blue Devils’ only game last week, an 86-57 thumping of Wofford. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Jones was held out with a slight foot sprain, adding Jones would have played if it had been an ACC game.
But keep in mind Coach K has said since the start of the season Jones is the most important player to the Blue Devils’ success. Sitting him is not a decision he made lightly.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Jones from Apple Valley, Minnesota, has been the anchor in an otherwise floating lineup. He averages a team-leading 34.5 minutes (37.3 if not counting the Central Arkansas rout when he played only nine minutes after a collision early in the game). No one else is averaging 27 minutes for a coach that historically uses a short bench.
Kyrzyzewski’s willingness to play without Jones against an upset-minded team with an NCAA Tournament pedigree — Wofford had won just four days earlier at North Carolina — demonstrated confidence in his young roster’s maturation. Jones not only distributes the ball, he drives the pressure defense.
“This was the best game that they talked the game,” Krzyzewsk said. “They were just thinking the game individually – they were talking, especially on the defensive end.”
Junior Malcolm Goldwire replaced Jones in the starting lineup. Although he isn’t the offensive threat Jones is, both are tenacious defenders.
Coach K also cited the athleticism of Goldwire, a 6-2, 185-pounder that was only a 3-star recruit out of Norcross (Georgia) High. Goldwire scored eight points with five assists, one steal and no turnovers.
“Their pressure took us out of things,” Wofford coach Jay McAuley said. “That’s what Duke does.”
INCOMING FOOTBALL TRANSFER
Two days after Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said he “doesn’t shop the transfer portal,” the Blue Devils added Michigan safety J’Marick Woods (6-3, 210).
As a graduate transfer, Woods is immediately eligible with two seasons remaining.
What Cutcliffe meant about “shopping” is he limits his interest to players that contact him for a second look at Duke and he knows from recruiting them in the past. The Blue Devils had offered the 4-star prospect out of Florence (Alabama) High.
Woods played in 12 games with one start in as a freshman, including five tackles against Ohio State, and 11 as a sophomore in 2018. He entered the transfer portal four games into 2019 to preserve it as a redshirt season.
Tom Shanahan is freelance writer based in Cary and author of Raye of Light, a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.