This basketball season has begun like a fairy tale. J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams are in top form, freshman Josh McRoberts looks like an NBA-caliber prospect and the team is deeper than any squad in America.
Duke is clearly the favorite to win the National Championship.
But to the kids who I see preparing to rush the Cameron floor after the Blue Devils capture the NCAA title, you are jumping the gun. Many of the same problems that have plagued this team in the past have not gone away.
The first problem Duke may face this year is finding a consistent rhythm from its offensive star. Redick is by far the most prolific scorer on the team, but he tends to score his points in bunches and often has long periods where he is invisible.
Take last year's game against Oklahoma at Madison Square Garden, for example. Redick was passive early, and the team fell behind, 41-29, in the opening minutes of the second half. Duke then made a run that was topped off by an incredible sequence by its suddenly aggressive sharpshooter-an old fashioned three-point play, followed by two consecutive treys on the ensuing possessions.
Redick greatly improved his ability to create his own shots and become more consistent as a scorer last year.
He was at his best when he got some easy points in transition and cut to the basket, and not when he just settled for shots from the outside. Regardless, expect there to still be stretches where opposing teams find a way to quiet Duke's best player, maybe even for a whole game.
Against Delaware State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Redick finished with a sloppy seven points on 1-of-7 shooting in a surprisingly close 11-point victory. If the Hornets could shut him down on a given night, any ACC team can.
It would also be naA_ve to ignore the impact fouls could have on Duke's frontcourt. If Williams and McRoberts have their minutes cut because of foul trouble, Duke turns into a much less formidable team. Williams has, at times in the past, had problems avoiding cheap fouls, especially on the perimeter while navigating around screens and reaching in to try to strip the ball.
McRoberts will also have to deal with the transition to the physical style of ACC play. Even Luol Deng, who was very similar physically to McRoberts, had a few rough games before feeling comfortable.
Another possible concern for the Blue Devils this year is clock management at the end of the game. Krzyzewski likes to slow the game down when his team is up late in the second half. Greg Paulus and Sean Dockery will probably be asked to dribble the ball up the court and run an offensive set until there are 10 or 15 seconds left on the shot clock before setting up a play.
Duke usually builds big leads by getting quick points on fast breaks and secondary breaks, but this trademark style seems to disappear at the end of some games. And sometimes leads have a way of evaporating when the Blue Devils slow themselves down.
Life is good in Krzyzewskiville, but let's not get ahead of ourselves too much.
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