At long last, Duke basketball has returned.
After a heartbreaking end to an exciting tournament run in April, Blue Devil fans have waited more than five months to rid the taste of defeat from their proverbial mouths. They will finally be able to begin doing so Friday night as Duke holds its annual Countdown to Craziness. The intra-squad scrimmage will mark the beginning of the Blue Devils’ first season under new head coach Jon Scheyer, so expect palpable excitement and a buzzing atmosphere.
As Duke moves into the next phase of the program’s storied history, here are a few aspects of the event to keep an eye on during the 2022 edition of Countdown to Craziness.
A new era
For the first time in 42 years, Duke basketball has a new head coach at the helm. The legendary Mike Krzyzewski announced his plans to retire after one last season on June 2, 2021. That same day, it was announced that Scheyer would be his successor.
Scheyer, of course, played for the Blue Devils for four years and helped lead Duke to the 2010 national championship his senior season. After returning to Durham three years later and spending nine seasons as a part of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff, the 35-year-old will now take over a decorated and historic program looking to lead Duke to its sixth national championship and first since 2015. Though Scheyer has impressed early on in his head coaching career with incredible recruiting success, it is yet to be seen if he will be able to continue the dominance the Blue Devils saw on the court under Krzyzewski. The answer to that uncertainty will begin to unfold Friday when the Northbrook, Ill., native steps on to the court named after his coach, mentor and predecessor for the first time as a head coach.
A patchwork quilt
As has become tradition at Duke, the Countdown to Craziness spotlight will be focused on the freshmen. The aforementioned recruiting success resulted in the top class in the nation led by three top-five recruits and five in the top-30. The first-year stars include 7-foot-1 center Dereck Lively II, 6-foot-7 forward Dariq Whitehead and 7-foot center Kyle Filipowski. With Whitehead likely set to miss the scrimmage after undergoing surgery on his foot in late August and Filipowski still developing, the focus Friday night will fall on Lively II, the talented big from Philadelphia who has all the makings of a future NBA lottery pick.
This year’s Blue Devils are different, though. In addition to the talented freshmen, Duke will roll out myriad graduate transfers and veteran leadership alongside the young guns. The Blue Devils went to the transfer portal to bring in guards Jacob Grandison (Illinois) and Max Johns (Princeton) and a front-court pairing of Ryan Young (Northwestern) and Kale Catchings (Harvard). And, of course, guard and captain Jeremy Roach returns for his junior season with a Preseason All-ACC First Team selection to his name.
This combination of experienced veterans and phenomenal freshmen is critical in the current college basketball landscape, and Duke has it. Countdown to Craziness will be the first showcase of the level of chemistry this group has and if it is just the right team to reach the ultimate goal—number six.
Special Section 17
While the intra-squad scrimmage can show some signs of where Scheyer and his first edition of the Blue Devils stand, what the event is really about is not on Coach K Court, but surrounding it. Section 17 will be packed from wall to wall as the Cameron Crazies celebrate the event named to honor them. While Duke has never been a program in need of revitalization or newfound energy, the crowd will be eager to facilitate the introduction of a new aura around the team. Though he hopes to emulate his predecessor's success, Scheyer will bring a divergence from Krzyzewski. He is young, energetic and engaging, and the Crazies will reflect these qualities Friday night. The best fan base and student section in college basketball resides in a sacred, gothic structure on Duke’s West Campus, and Blue Devil basketball and its rabid fanbase are desperate for more.
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