Duke basketball debuts on Friday night with Countdown to Craziness

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Countdown to Craziness, Duke’s annual practice and exhibition night celebrating the unofficial tipoff of the Duke basketball season, tips off on Friday night at 8 p.m. inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. The program will introduce the 2017-18 Blue Devils from 8 to 8:25 before the Blue-White scrimmage begins and fans get the chance to see their new team in action for the first time. The event will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra and can be streamed via the WatchESPN app online. With Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden back as the only returning regular rotation players, there will be a lot of new faces for most fans who don’t follow the program feverishly.
Duke enters the 2017-18 college basketball season as the odds-on Vegas favorite.  On Thursday, the Blue Devils were tabbed as the preseason No. 1 team in the country by the USA Today Coaches Poll. While there are a few preseason polls, the coaches’ poll is usually the most reliable now that the sport has entered the one-and-done dominated world. Most media members have not seen these kids play as much as coaches have, so it only makes sense that coaches would have a better feel for the freshmen who have yet to make their debut in front of a televised audience. However, a team like Duke, with eight freshmen, is mostly an unknown quantity on the college basketball level so it remains to be seen just how ready these teenagers are to adjust to the speed and physicality of the next level.
The battle for the No. 1 recruiting class has come down to Duke and Kentucky for the past five years, and landing No. 2-ranked Zion Williamson will be integral to who ends up with the top spot once the dust settles for the 2018 cycle. Williamson and his family visited the Wildcats last weekend and will be in town for Duke’s Countdown to Craziness event this weekend. While Kansas remains as a serious contender for Williamson, as well as Clemson and South Carolina, these highly ranked players end up at Duke or Kentucky more often than not.
Duke will also host a couple of five-star juniors (No. 1-ranked Vernon Carey, No. 5-ranked Matthew Hurt and No. 16-ranked Armando Bacot), as well as five-star 2020 guard R.J. Hampton.
After starting the season 4-0, Duke has hit a rough patch and now has lost three straight. The first loss, to Miami, illuminated a number of playcalling and execution issues with the offense and was the first time the program hadn’t scored a touchdown since 2015 against Boston College. That one was excusable, as the Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the ACC and the country. The following week’s loss to Virginia — the third straight to the Cavaliers — left David Cutcliffe “embarrassed” and caused the entire program to reevaluate what they are doing. Those improvements were evident against Florida State, even in a loss, as the Blue Devils played its closest game against the Seminoles in the 20-game history of the two programs. However, if Duke doesn’t get a win versus a struggling Pittsburgh team this weekend, then all of the work they did after the loss to UVA will be for naught. This Duke team desperately needs a boost and a win over any team, even one having as bad of a season as Pitt, could be just what the doctor ordered to get back on track.