So far, youthful Duke is the best around

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to The Wilson Times.


Three games into the year, and Duke basketball has established itself as the best team in the country. While they came into the year as Vegas favorites and were No. 1 in both the preseason Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches’ Polls, there were still a lot of questions surrounding just how well this team, mostly made up of freshmen and sophomores, would adjust to playing on the biggest stage. At the United Center on Tuesday night in front of an NBA-sized crowd and an even bigger audience on television, the Blue Devils bested Michigan State by seven points in a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Grayson Allen’s 37 points, a new career high, paced all scorers and were a big reason why his younger teammates were not intimidated by the bright lights. Freshmen Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter finished the game with double-doubles (it was Duval’s second in a row and Carter’s first) and sophomore Javin DeLaurier filled up the statline.


While the play of the team has been impressive, there’s still a long ways to go until the Final Four in San Antonio. Because of the youth of this team, it’s almost certain they won’t reach their full potential until the end of the season, and that should terrify the rest of the college basketball world.


For the final 30 minutes of the game against Michigan State, Duke played without its most skilled player in freshman Marvin Bagley. The 6-foot-11 big man was averaging 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in his first two games and had already corralled five offensive rebounds by the time DeLaurier scraped his eye and sent him to the bench, then the locker room and then the bench. All indications are that holding Bagley out for the second half was precautionary in nature and the team expects him back in action as early as this Friday night against Southern.


Allen hit 7 of his 11 shots from three-point range in the win over Michigan State and is hitting over 65 percent of his attempts from deep. It’s a torrential pace, and one he’s not likely to keep up for an entire season, but it’s certainly fun to watch the senior playing like he was in his sophomore All-American campaign. Having a true point guard like Trevon Duval to get Allen the ball in catch-and-shoot situations, where Allen is most comfortable, has helped his accuracy. But it’s clear that the senior guard is the healthiest he’s been in the last two seasons.


RJ Barrett announced his college decision last Friday evening, choosing Duke over his other two final suitors, Kentucky and Oregon. It marks the second year in a row that Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel have landed the No. 1-ranked recruit (Marvin Bagley ended last year at No. 1) and is the third top-six player the Blue Devils have inked so far in the class. Their focus now turns to No. 2-ranked Zion Williamson as Duke hopes to sign an even more highly ranked group than they did in 2017.


With two games remaining in their season, Duke still is looking for two more victories to get to 6-6 and definitively be eligible for a bowl game. It won’t be easy, as David Cutcliffe’s group hosts Georgia Tech’s high-powered triple option offense this Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium and then head off to Winston-Salem to try and knock off a suddenly tough program in Wake Forest. The offense continues to struggle putting up points, although they did find the end zone three times against Army last weekend.


Duke will be honoring 21 members of its senior class on Saturday inside Wallace Wade Stadium as Tinashe Bere, Parker Boehme, Gabe Brandner, Bronson Bruneau, Zavier Carmichael, Quay Chambers, Austin Davis, Danny Doyle, Colin Duffy, Bryon Fields Jr., William Holmquist, Will Kline, Sterling Korona, Evan Lisle, Franklin McNeill III, Zach Muniz, Mike Ramsay, Alonzo Saxton II, Taariq Shabazz, Collin Wareham and Shaun Wilson will be honored on field before kickoff. Redshirt senior captains Davis, Fields Jr. and Ramsay join Wilson and Brandner as major contributors to the program the last handful of years and will certainly be missed as Duke looks to get back to a Coastal Division championship next season.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.