Every year about this time, we see the Duke Blue Devils ranked high in the polls. It's just one of those NCAA customs we're so used to. As long as Coach K is at the front of the bench, the Blue Devils are supposed to put on the floor one of the best teams in college basketball.
Currently, the 8-0 Blue Devils are ranked #6 in the AP Poll and #7 in the USA Today/ESPN poll. Chances are good that this is as high as they'll get because this 2007-08 version is not a powerhouse, nor will they challenge for supremacy in the ACC. They're just not that good.
OK, I hear the Cameron Crazies now. "We just beat Wisconsin by 24 points and we beat Marquette in the Maui Invitational."
Right. And you slipped by Davidson by 6 this past Saturday.
The remainder of the month is pretty cushy, with only three games total and two that will have much meaning. Michigan comes to Cameron this Saturday and a December 20 game at Pittsburgh are the big ones. The Devils could win both of those, or lose both. It won't matter. They'll still be ranked in the Top 10. Everybody likes Duke, or, they're being kind to them, at least.
The real action begins on January 13, when the ACC schedule begins. Last year, Duke didn't do well, and while the conference doesn't look that strong, there are some teams that are loaded. Virginia, Maryland, Boston College and North Carolina will each pose a problem to Duke.
Why Duke is not that good? First they're thin, having just lost Junior guard Marty Pocious to season-ending surgery. A swingman, Pocius could play either guard or forward, but won't be missed too badly, as he was averaging only 8 minutes per game. The bench is going to be needed, however, and two starters, Greg Paulus and Lance Thomas, have taken early exits in a number of games. Paulus, the playmaker, is averaging just 3.8 assists per game, while Thomas is only hitting the boards for 2.8 rebounds per contest.
Up front, the Blue Devils are not very big nor experienced. Kyle Singler, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, is, like Thomas, 6-8. They can bring in sophomore 7-1 Brian Zoubek for added height, but he's not very mobile and has seen limited action.
The Blue Devils also rely on the three-pointer quite heavily. Jon Scheyer, Taylor King and Paulus are all shooting over 47% from beyond the arc, but they're heaving up more than 20 per game. Also, the free-throws aren't falling as easily as they could be. Against Marquette the Blue Devils shot 70%. In the win over Davidson, it was 60%.
Duke is a good team, but not one to hang one's March destiny upon. Enjoy the Top Ten ranking for now, because in about 6 weeks, it will be nothing but a fond memory.