A nailbiter of a season-opening win against Kansas had the Blue Devils short of breath in New York City Tuesday night. Duke returns home to Durham for its long-awaited home opener against Colorado State Friday evening. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player on each side sure to make an impact:
Duke: Guard/Forward Cassius Stanley:
Stanley brought his Hollywood flair to the Big Apple Tuesday night, electrifying the crowd at Madison Square Garden and sparking Duke with an exceptional performance on both ends of the floor. The freshman was the Blue Devils' most efficient player, converting five of six attempts—two of them powerful second-half dunks—and making his only attempted three-pointer. Although Stanley entered Duke as the lowest-ranked recruit of his class, head coach Mike Krzyzewski played Stanley for 30 minutes against Kansas, second on the team only to Tre Jones’ 39 minutes.
Look for the Los Angeles native to be more aggressive offensively against Colorado State Friday. Stanley played at both the two and three positions Tuesday and could do the same against the Rams. Colorado State is a less formidable opponent than Kansas, and Stanley should be able to find more open looks and build on his efficient performance from Tuesday. Colorado State lacks the athleticism to match up with Stanley—a theme that will be common this year—which will allow him to find success attacking the basket as well as on an abundance of fast break opportunities.
Colorado State: Forward/Center Nico Carvacho
Redshirt senior Nico Carvacho had a strong season opener for the Rams in their season-opening win against Denver Tuesday. The 6-foot-11 Texas native scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 29 minutes. Carvacho came into the season as Colorado State’s all-time leader in rebounds and double-doubles. Last year, Carvacho was a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the nation's best center and was named to the All-Mountain West first team. Those impressive accolades were backed up by Carvacho’s stats, as he averaged 16.1 points and 12.9 rebounds per game by the end of the season.
Duke’s stifling perimeter defense will force Carvacho to play a key role if Colorado State is to be competitive against the Blue Devils. Duke’s interior defense was able to handle Kansas’ size, and how their bigs handle Carvacho will prove if that success was a fluke or a sign of things to come. Carvacho’s physicality, size and experience will pose a challenge for freshman Blue Devils Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt. The Rams’ big man has the ability to expose both of their defensive flaws, especially Hurt’s lack of physicality. Senior Javin DeLaurier struggled with foul trouble all of last year as well as Tuesday against Kansas, so his ability to defend Carvacho without racking up fouls will be paramount if DeLaurier is to overcome his struggles.