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While the college basketball season is still two months away, the Duke Blue Devils ran through three opponents in the middle of August in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, dispatching Ryerson University 86-67, University of Toronto 96-60 and McGill University 103-58 over a four-day stretch.
Due to injuries the makeup of the team didn’t look anything like the lineup that will open the season with exhibition games in October, it was impressive to see what a very young and depleted squad was able to do against other college talent. One of the biggest takeaways of the three games was 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman Zion Williamson showing everyone that he’s much more than just a dunker and that his weight will not be a problem. While he was playing out of position as a small forward for much of the trip, Williamson will slide down to more of a stretch 4/traditional power forward role once Tre Jones (point guard), Cam Reddish (small forward) and Alex O’Connell (shooting guard/small forward) are back healthy.
INJURIES AND RECOVERIES
Reddish and Jones were held out of action during the Canadian trip, but both maintained in postgame interviews that if this would have been real game action, they would’ve been playing. Mostly precautionary, Jones and Reddish are expected to be ready to go when the Blue Devils take on Kentucky in the highly anticipated season opener on Nov. 6 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Duke’s full 2018-19 schedule was released Thursday, with the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the schedule finally being announced. Duke opens ACC play against Clemson on Saturday, Jan. 5. Other games of note have the Blue Devils playing against North Carolina at home on Wednesday, Feb. 20 and going to Chapel Hill on Saturday, March 9; hosting Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 19, and going to Charlottesville on Saturday, Feb. 9, and hosting N.C. State a week later on Saturday, Feb. 16. The nonconference portion of the schedule has the Blue Devils welcoming Indiana to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday, Nov. 27 right after a trip to Lahaina, Hawaii, for the Maui Invitational earlier in November.
FOOTBALL SEASON IN FULL SWING
The Blue Devils already have two Power 5 wins under their belt after taking down Army in the season opener at home and then holding a dangerous Northwestern offense to just seven points in week 2 on the road. But the second win of the year was costly for the Blue Devils, as third-year starting quarterback Daniel Jones went out late in the third quarter with a fractured left clavicle and Preseason All-America cornerback Mark Gilbert left in the second quarter with a left hip injury. Both players underwent surgery on Sunday with Jones out indefinitely, but expected to return after he recovers, and Gilbert out for the entire season.
NEXT MAN UP
Redshirt junior Quentin Harris will step in as the starter at quarterback with Daniel Jones out, although Harris has little experience to speak of. That could be a good thing as Duke heads to take on Baylor, but will more than likely lead to some rough patches for the Blue Devils’ offense. It remains to be seen what other players will miss the Baylor game, as safety Jeremy McDuffie is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered last year, center Zach Harmon was unable to finish the Northwestern game and wide receiver Aaron Young unable to go against Northwestern with a hamstring injury.
STARTING TO TURN HEADS
Most advanced statistical measures now have Duke finishing the season with at least eight wins, although the injuries have not been accounted for in calculations just yet. If the Blue Devils can get the win over Baylor this week, they return home to take on North Carolina Central before taking on Top 25 team Virginia Tech. Fortunately, as the players look to recover from their injuries, Duke’s bye comes in week 6 before the team heads on the road to take on Georgia Tech. If they can beat Baylor, Duke will start the season 3-0 for the second consecutive year, but the program will hope not to repeat last year’s six-game losing streak after a 4-0 start to the season before having to frantically win their last two games to achieve bowl eligibility for the fourth time in five seasons.
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.