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DUKE UPDATE: FEBRUARY 14th

 

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IS DUKE UNSTOPPABLE?

by Andrew Abramson

 

In a season filled with surprises, shocks, and cinderellas, there has been one constant, and as usual itís the Duke Blue Devils. After jumping out of the gate with a 3-0 record, they went up to the Great Alaska Shootout where they were stunned and humbled by an upstart Purdue team. They have not lost since, running off seventeen consecutive wins.

When the season began, there were questions regarding this Duke team that had not existed in previous years. They had lost star forward Dahntay Jones to the pros, and had youngsters Luol Deng, (the nationís second best high schooler behind LeBron James), J.J. Redick, and Shelden Williams playing key roles. But the youngsters have delivered in a big way. Deng has provided Duke with an incredible weapon, leading the ACC in freshman scoring. He is coming off of his best performance of the season, at Clemson, coming up with 22 points and almost 70 percent shooting. He has All-ACC written all over him, and is so immensely talented that, if he chooses, could leave for the NBA draft and be a top ten pick. Redick, Dukeís leading scorer, might just be the best shooter that has ever graced Cameron Indoor Stadium. Shelden Williams has stepped up in a big way as well, leading the team in rebounding and blocks.

But Duke would be nowhere near the nationís number one team without their senior leader, Chris Duhon. Leading the team in minutes played and in assists, Duhon has become much more team-oriented than in years past, and it shows on the court. Though his scoring has dropped, his assists have shot up, and he has made it known that this is finally his team. Playing in the shadow of Jay Williams in years past, he had been known as Dukeís other guard, but all that has changed now with Williams in the pros. He has evolved into one of the premier point guards in the country, leading Duke to many close wins, including lasts weekís scintillating win over UNC, in which he made the game-winning drive down the gut of the defense in overtime. Two games before that, he put the dagger in Florida Stateís heart, making his only three pointer of the game to push Dukeís lead to five with 39 seconds to play. Duhon has provided Dukeís pulse this season, though after the UNC game, it is beating faster than normal.

However Duke, like any other team, has some weaknesses. Unlike other great teams such as Uconn or Stanford, Duke does not have great depth. They can go eight men deep into their bench, but not much more than that. Also, there is no true center on their roster, meaning that if they play against an Emeka Okafor or a Sean May, they may encounter some difficulties. Also, the road to remaining unbeaten in the ACC is far from certain. Being the most talented and deepest conference in the country, every game will be a dogfight for the Blue Devils, and every team that they play will be gunning for them. With an incredibly difficult three-game stretch ahead, in which they travel to NC. State and Wake Forest, and then host Maryland, Duke is going to have to work to keep their number one status. Every game could look like a possible loss, but with the blend of skillful youth and veterans, there should be no question as to why this team is number one in the country.

 

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