Happy New Year!
I hope everyone made it home safely from whatever they had going on for New Year’s Eve. The Duke basketball teams don’t have as much of a break between their weekend games and their next matchups.
Instead of looking back on what has already occurred for both successful teams, let’s make some New Year’s resolutions for them
The Duke men’s basketball team is undefeated, has beaten three of last year’s Final Four teams, and is ranked number one in the country. They also have a favorite for the nation’s Player of the Year.
However, even they have some areas they need to clean up:
1. Rebounding: Sure, Mason Plumlee leads the ACC with 11+ rebounds a game, but no one else on the team averages five rebounds a game. They are regularly out-rebounded during games, which could come back to haunt them against physical ACC teams. Overall, they are ranked 146th in the country in rebounding.
3. Get Ryan Kelly on track: He just seems off in every aspect of his game right now. He’s getting into foul trouble and sometimes I forget he’s even on the court. He’s even missing his free throws when he used to be automatic. If Kelly gets back to the way he was playing last season before the foot injury, Duke will be tough to beat.
What scares me is that Duke hasn’t played a true road game yet (that comes Wednesday at Davidson). There are some tough places to play in the ACC and they have yet to face the loud opposing fans (which could affect freshman Rasheed Sulaimon).
My other concern is how flat they start out games. Right now, I’m chalking that up to the long layoffs between games. But if it continues, Duke will be in trouble.
The Duke women’s basketball team is also undefeated and have finally climbed out of the fourth spot in the rankings. They moved up one spot to number three, as now number one UConn thumped previously number one Stanford over the weekend. They, unlike their male counterparts, have played four road games. The Blue Devils have yet to play a close game, but they still have a few things to get better at.
1. Get healthy: Elizabeth Williams is back in the starting lineup, but she still is not 100% and it has showed over the last two games. Before that, she was playing well (before Coach P pushed the limits with her in California during last week’s Trojan Classic). Chloe Wells is also slowly making her way back. Richa Jackson played just her second game of the season on Sunday and Amber Henson has yet to debut. The Blue Devils need to be at full strength to finally beat UConn later in January and dominate in the ACC. Or else foul trouble will do them in.
2. Turnovers: They have always been an issue for Duke. The Blue Devils have cut down on them, especially Chelsea Gray. However, Williams has as many turnovers as Gray and has played way less minutes. Haley Peters has also been sloppy with the ball of late (nine turnovers in Sunday’s win). As a team, they are averaging close to 15 turnovers a game and I’m sure they would like to see that number go down.
3. Consistency: Sometimes, Tricia Liston cannot miss a shot and Peters is a force inside. Other times, they are close to non-existent. Duke needs a little more consistency from these two to make it to the Final Four (or at least dominate the ACC).
It looks like it is going to be a great season for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Duke. They just have a few issues to address heading into the new year to make their seasons truly special.
*I mentioned the men are back in action on Wednesday night at Davidson and they open their ACC schedule on Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Wake Forest. The women get back into their ACC schedule on Thursday at NC State and then at Boston College on Sunday.