Duke mailbag: Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Coastal Division tiebreakers, Andre Dawkins and more

Posted by Laura Keeley on November 15, 2013 

Can Mike Krzyzewski land one of his best recruiting classes ever?


Welcome, readers, to the inaugural edition of the Duke NOW mailbag. Thank you for your Twitter submissions (with the hashtag #HeyLaura), Facebook submissions on the Duke NOW page and emails. We’ll do this throughout the football and basketball seasons.

Some questions were asked by multiple people, so, naturally, I just picked one to answer. And I got to most of them, but time and space prevented me from hitting tham all (too popular!) Without further ado…

#HeyLaura What's your prediction for Okafor/Jones tomorrow? — many, including @thouston_92

Not Baylor.

That’s about the only thing I can say for sure. Duke has long been considered the favorite for Jones and Okafor, who have insisted for the past year that they are a package deal (more on that here, from the Peach Jam this summer. Based on the simultaneous timing of their announcements (4 p.m. EST on ESPNU) and social media posts today, I expect the package deal to hold.

So, that leaves either Duke or Kansas. Rumblings have the Jayhawks making a strong, late push for Okafor especially. There is recent precedent for Kansas stealing a guy late (see: Wiggins, Andrew). But will that be enough to overcome Duke’s sustained push (Jones has been Krzyzewski’s only point guard target for two years)? I honestly don’t know. And I’d put money on neither coaching staff knowing, either. So, in absence of literally pulling a guess out of thin air, I’ll just say I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Obviously, a get or a miss would be huge for the program.

Hey Laura, can you lay out the possibilities for the Coastal Division title with the current 4-way tie? — Marvin Davis

Easiest way to explain it is that Duke controls its own destiny. Win the next three games against Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina, and go to the ACC Championship game.

There is not a scenario that involves Duke losing to Miami and winning the division. Thus, Saturday’s game is a must-win.

With games against a ridiculously injured Maryland team and a Virginia team that has given up, it’s unrealistic to expect Virginia Tech to lose again, which would give them a 6-2 record in ACC play (Duke also currently has two ACC losses).

So, everything from here on out represents a rather unlikely scenario.

For two-team tiebreakers, the ACC uses the head-to-head result.

For multiple team tiebreakers, the ACC looks at the head-to-head records of each team against the other tied teams. Once a team is eliminated from the tie, the process restarts. Once just two are left, it goes to head-to-head.

The second step in a multiple-team tiebreak, by the way, is winning percentage within the division. So, in Duke’s case, a loss to North Carolina could potentially be much more problematic than a loss to Wake Forest.

If Duke, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were to all finish 5-3, all three teams would be 1-1 against each other. So, next step, division winning percentage. Georgia Tech has two Coastal losses. Duke already has two Coastal losses — if the third would be to UNC, the Blue Devils would be out. Virginia Tech can finish with no more than two Coastal losses (if Duke was eliminated in that hypothetical scenario, Virginia Tech would win the division).

So you can see where it gets a little hard to project what would happen—too many events depend on other events.

One tiebreak that is clear Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami all finish 5-3 (remember, Duke has to beat the Hurricanes). Duke wins that one, because they beat Virginia Tech.

Sidenote: don’t forget about the winner of this weekend’s Pitt vs. UNC matchup. That team would have three division losses and could become a tiebreaker factor.

But like I said, don’t count on Virginia Tech losing again. That means Duke has to win out.

#HeyLaura any thoughts on how duke shores up the interior D? — @mattyhendrix_

Amile Jefferson has two rebounds and zero blocks in 37 minutes. He can become more of a presence underneath.

Stopping drivers would also help take pressure off of the inside guys. If Sulaimon can earn more minutes, he can certainly help there, with his length. All the guys have to get used to the new emphasis on hand-checking fouls—you can’t touch drivers anymore (which is a good thing—that’s how the game should be played. And really, Duke needs to do a better job taking advantage of this on the offensive end, driving at opponents and causing them trouble).

Like Krzyzewski said after the Kansas loss, Duke isn’t making any trades. They are what they are: quick and athletic. Have to maximize what they have and not dwell about what they don’t.

No doubt the Plumlee brothers have already contributed more than their "family share" for Duke hoops; what can we expect of Marshall at both ends of the court? —Bob Ruprecht

So far, the staff has shown a willingness to give Marshall a shot, putting him in the first half of both games. In five minutes against Davidson, he logged a rebound and block in five minutes. Against Kansas (which was a tight game the whole way), he had a nice assist under the basket in his three minutes. Small contributions, but that’s an improvement over last season when he was a complete nonfactor.

Duke could use front court depth and size, the latter of which Marshall is in the best position to give. I’d expect him to keep seeing spot duty. I doubt he’ll ever threaten Amile’s starting spot, but he can provide energy (and five extra fouls) in small bursts.

What are the chances that all the non-seniors stay another year for Coach K? — Joshua Kivett

All? I’d say zero. You saw how good Jabari is—he is more than NBA ready, and he and his family already have a plan in place for him to complete his degree even if he leaves after this season. He is a pretty unique, humble character, as far as big-time players go, but I’d still be shocked if he passes up his chance at the NBA.

Rodney Hood will also be a strong candidate to go in the lottery and leave early. Depending on how his year goes, Rasheed Sulaimon may test the waters, too.

Any reason why football has gone away from the running game when we need it most, especially times like the second half Saturday when we needed to run the clock and our pass game was struggling? — Kristen Asbury

David Cutcliffe was actually asked about this. He said that teams have been stacking the box, putting more defenders in close to the line of scrimmage in attempts to stop the run. That opens up space in the passing game, which the Blue Devils have tried to exploit (though not to a ton of success in the past two games). Quarterbacks are taught to take what the defense is giving.

That said, Cutcliffe acknowledged that Duke does need to do a better job establishing the run, regardless of what the defense does. That, too, can open the passing game.

What role will Dawkins play this season, and is he ready to go? #HeyLaura — @GeoffreyWGreer

Many questions about Dawkins this week. Two things I’d say:

Remember that the season is two games old.

Remember he is just coming back after taking a year off from organized basketball.

Unlike last year, Duke has depth at the shooting guard position—Thornton, Sulaimon, Jones and Dawkins. Right now, the depth chart at that position looks like that. Defense is obviously a major need from that position (something Dawkins isn’t historically strong at) and, offensively, a player who can drive to the hoop and blend with Jabari and Rodney is top priority.

Can Dawkins earn more playing time as the season goes on? Absolutely. Stay tuned.

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