No. 9 Duke opened its season Tuesday in a head-turner win against No. 10 Kentucky. At first, the match was close, with the Wildcats lingering for most of the contest. But the last five minutes the Blue Devils worked their magic through the efforts of freshmen Trevor Keels and Paolo Banchero, with a final jumper in the paint from junior Wendell Moore Jr., securing the win.
Given the tenacity that Duke has played with so far, it is clear that the Blue Devils will play hard all 40 minutes in their Friday game against Army and in their Saturday game against Campbell.
We're back to the program where it all began. Krzyzewski's last season wouldn't be complete without a matchup against the Black Knights. Before there was Krzyzewski's 'Brotherhood,' there was Bob Knight's Army team. Krzyzewski played at Army for four years, serving as a captain during his last season, and playing the point and shooting guard positions before graduating in 1969. When he returned to the basketball world after serving as an officer in the U.S. Army, he briefly held an assistant coaching position at Indiana before being named the head coach at Army, a role in which he executed for five seasons.
Hosting the Black Knights for what will likely be the last time in his tenure as a coach, this match will be a sentimental one. The Black Knights were his first head coaching experience before coming to Durham and though this game will be memorable for Krzyzewski given his history with the team, don't expect him to go soft on his alma mater—the Blue Devils still have a winning season to record.
Campbell coming out strong
Campbell opened its season Tuesday in an impressive 85-50 win against William Peace. The Fighting Camels took the lead in both halves, with junior Jesús Carralero leading the game offensively with 19 points in a limited 14 minutes of playing time.
This showdown from earlier this week proves this team has some grit. Campbell's starting five get the most minutes on the court by a landslide, but its bench has plenty of depth, too, with four players off the bench scoring over five points. What is arguably the Fighting Camels' most vital point is their playing ability in the paint—where they have the chance to prove competitive with the Blue Devils. Against William Peace, Campbell scored 52 points in the paint, four more than Duke's total against Kentucky. It's not likely that this Duke-Campbell confrontation ends with the Fighting Camels on top, but given the numbers this team can put up, don't discredit Campbell too much ahead of gameday.
All three aforementioned teams had its first match Tuesday night. And all three teams won.
Both Army and Campbell competed at home and took away somewhat similar landslide wins, with the former winning 83-52 and the latter winning 85-50. The most unexpected part of either team's night were the faces on the floor who rose above the projected team leaders. For Campbell, the player who showed up the most on the hardwood turned out to be Carralero, who led the team in points and did it an impressive 75% field goal mark. Cedric Henderson, who is expected to be the team's biggest contributor on both ends of the floor, only registered seven points in 25 minutes of playing time.
For Army, senior Josh Caldwell is coming off an impressive previous season. He led the Black Knights offensively and received the title of Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. However, similar to how the Campbell's expected star did not have a big performance, Caldwell also did not end up as player of the game. That title belongs to sophomore Charlie Peterson, who recorded 17 points to Caldwell's 14 while seeing six minutes less on the court.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Though the teams have only seen one regular-season game up to now, the change in roster dynamic may affect how they can pan out against any other opponent. With that, it's no question that both the Black Knights and the Fighting Camels can switch around their playing styles to match their opponents.
The Duke roster has shown quite a bit this week—its playing style, dominating presence on the court and mentality. Yet, perhaps the most crucial piece of information unearthed Tuesday night was neither three of those things, but rather the extent of the team's depth.
"Our guys fought through a lot of adversity. Four of our guys got cramps in the second half—two of them had IVs [Moore and Banchero]...so our bench had to come through," Krzyzewski said at Tuesday night's postgame media conference. "AJ [Griffin] really gave us a big lift. That was one of the keys to the game, and Theo [John]—thank goodness we have him, with his physicality."
Many people watching out for Duke this season have considered whether the team will hold up in more competitive matches if one of their star players faces an injury. With a bench including top reserves Griffin and John, it's no question that the Blue Devils can have a successful season regardless of the adversity they may face on the hardwood.
'Play like Duke'
Looking beyond the two matches this weekend, the Blue Devils have a prominent name to represent—Duke's. Last season was difficult; many games that the Blue Devils believed were within reach ended in their opponent's favor. Yet, with fresh faces on the court, the current Duke team shows great promise. Any Duke fan knows that this season is Krzyzewski's last, but what many might not already know is that the time he put in with this roster is more than any Blue Devil team he has coached in the past decade.
"One thing coach did was bring us in early in the summer," freshman guard Trevor Keels said. "That's how we built our chemistry early…. I think that's what put us different from other teams. Not a lot of people is doing that right there, and that's why I love the guys. They got trust in me, I got trust in them, and everybody just trusts each other."
This Duke team's chemistry is undeniable, and this bond will be what carries them through every game this season, easy or hard until they reach the finish line together.
"We're a great team, and we're going to play together," freshman forward Paolo Banchero said. "We're going to play hard all 40 minutes. We're going to play like Duke."