It's basketball season, boys and girls.
You know it must be official when a zealous freshman has already created a facebook event, "DUKE MENS BASKETBALL vs shaw university." Apparently, Coach K is hosting. Punctuation and capitalization rules be damned-it's on.
But as excitement builds for what should be an epic battle between Duke and its rival from Raleigh-N.C. State, what? I'm talking about Shaw, obviously-I think it's time to step back, breathe and take a moment to think about the season ahead.
Here are seven things you should know about the 2006-2007 Blue Devils:
Thanks to parity and a great name, Duke will enter its season with the No. 11 ranking. I mean, this team has already beaten the Blue Devils, a perennial powerhouse, so I guess no one should be concerned at all that there is not one scholarship senior on the roster and only one junior.
It's possible Duke won't face a quality opponent for another month, when it takes on Georgetown Dec. 2. Compound that with the fact 13 of the team's first 16 games will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium-and it might be difficult to tell how good this team can really be until after New Year's. Columbia? Davidson? Kent State? I only wonder if we would be better off in March if we got early experience against teams better known for shooting guards than for shootings in the '70s.
Jamal Boykin says he will be less demonstrably excited when he gets into games this year. Hopefully some of Boykin's enthusiasm for Duke from last year will be picked up by Josh McRoberts (see No. 1). I know I, personally, will miss the trademark floor slap when Duke is up 25.
ESPN will (hopefully) have another on-air-talent-modeled mascot race during its Full Circle coverage of the Duke/UNC game Feb. 7 like it did this week on Monday Night Football . The Dick Vitale mascot will repeatedly tell the crowd that his SAT scores would not have been high enough to get into Duke, despite the size of his giant head; the Rick Majerus mascot will collapse before reaching the finish line, and the dude in the Jay Bilas costume will pick Rameses the ram over the Blue Devil. All will lose to the Digger mascot, however, who will take out the field Randall Simon-style with a giant prop highlighter.
After freshman Brian Zoubek's stellar 27-point performance in the Blue-White game, the Crazies seem ready to ride the 'Bek Bus all the way to Atlanta. How can you go wrong if you're over seven feet tall? Even Gheorghe Muresan got to star in a Billy Crystal movie. But while this might be only the first of many memorable Zoubek performances, keep in mind that in the 2002 Blue-White game, freshman J.J. Redick went 1-for-8 with two points while fellow freshman Shavlik Randolph had 16 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor. Gosh, it's good to see Shav's jersey in the rafters...wait, no.
Greg Paulus has to be healthy for this team to succeed. Period. Nothing says competence in your backcourt like a true freshman point guard who isn't a true point guard. No knock on Scheyer-I think he has a great future ahead of him-but I just like him better off the ball and shooting. I'm pretty sure he likes himself better that way, too.
Josh McRoberts needs to want to be at Duke-and I'm not talking about for the 2007-2008 season. The sophomore, who will most likely leave Durham after this season, must adopt a better attitude and embrace his last year here instead of just waiting around for David Stern to call his name. The Blue Devils need McRoberts to be strong, to create his own shots and not just wait around for those pretty alley-oops.
So, freshmen, start making your tenting groups, because there's only 98 days until the UNC game-and if you don't have a tent by the time you've finished reading this column, you might as well just go back home and wait 'til next year.
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