J.D. King of Duke Basketball Report was nice enough to have a Q&A with me on Wednesday’s game. We discussed a bunch of topics regarding Duke, Syracuse, the Blue Devils’ talented freshmen and, of course, Wednesday’s game at the Carrier Dome.
TNIAAM: It’s been such an up and down season so far for Duke. What’s it been like being around the team and covering it? Coach K’s absence, Grayson Allen’s tripping…
JK: It’s been a weird year. I’m not sure Duke has ever had a year quite like it. It’s just been completely weird.
The injuries can be overcome and I do think, whatever they did, Duke seems to have helped Grayson through his issues. Wake Forest tried their best to provoke him and he just walked away. I really don’t know, but he seems to have gotten past it. I hope so. Aside from the media circus, there’s universal agreement on one thing: he’s a good kid.
TNIAAM: It seems like Jayson Tatum is finally starting to find his groove. Should SU fans, and the rest of the country, be worried?
JK: He reminds me a bit of Justise Winslow in that at power forward, he’s a mismatch for most teams. He can really shoot, his penetration is improving and so is his judgment.
One of Duke’s earlier problems was basically too many alpha males. He’s learned how to work with the other guys, when to subordinate his game and when to step up. He and Kennard make a really tough pair to stop. And when Allen is feeling good that’s three guys who are really tough to control.
He’d worry me. On the other hand, he’s a freshman.
TNIAAM: What’s going on with Harry Giles? Is his knee still bothering him? Are Duke fans disappointed with him?
JK: I’d say more disappointed for him. Every program would love to have a kid like Giles and I’m not talking about his talent. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, he works his ass off and in every possible way, other than being totally sound, he’s a huge asset.
And we watch a lot closer than you guys do of course. We see something new every game. You might see four minutes a game; we see a midrange jumper and flashes of incredible quickness.
TNIAAM: Is it just me, or does it feel like this Duke roster is built to pick apart a 2-3 zone? So many shooters, rebounders and guys who can play the high-post.
JK: Well there are a lot of shooters of course but that depends on the shots going in. When they do, Duke is really hard to beat. But since Amile Jefferson’s foot injury, Duke relies more on the outside game and you know, some days they go in and some days they don’t.
TNIAAM: Does anything about Syracuse worry you? It’s obviously a huge game for SU, and Duke could afford to lose. Any let down?
JK: Well Syracuse has had an up-and-down season too, right? Before expansion, we honestly didn’t pay that much attention to Syracuse. We knew about the zone, of course, but not the nuances.
Since you guys joined the ACC, we’ve become a lot more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the program.
I know that your team, like Duke has immense pride, and a win here would be a major boost for an NCAA bid. So I expect a typical Duke-Syracuse game. It’s become a pretty good rivalry hasn’t it?
TNIAAM: And finally, a prediction?
JK:: Duke 79, Syracuse 74.
What do you think about the matchup between Syracuse and Duke? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!