Duke

Five quick observations from Duke’s Blue-White scrimmage

Duke dunk contest evokes ohh’s and ahh’s as team is introduced to fans

Senior Grayson Allen overcomes freshman challengers as he slams his way to the title during "Countdown to Craziness".
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Senior Grayson Allen overcomes freshman challengers as he slams his way to the title during "Countdown to Craziness".

Duke’s Countdown to Craziness featured a lot of things Friday night:

Blue lights, big dunks, crossovers, chase-down blocks and bad dancing. The Blue Devils will have high expectations this season. They come into the season ranked No. 1, according to USA Today’s preseason Top 25 poll.

Here are five observations Duke’s Blue-White scrimmage:

1. Marvin Bagley III is as good as advertised. Bagley came into the season as the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2017. He had previously reclassified from the Class of 2018. There was a lot of hype surrounding the 6-11, 234-pound forward. Bagley can just about do it all. He and Allen will likely be the primary scorers on this season’s team. On one play Allen threw a lob high in the air to Bagley, who caught it with his head nearly at the rim. He finished the scrimmage with 12 points and four rebounds.

2. Duke finally has its pure point guard. Last season, Duke’s Achilles’ heel was at the point-guard position. But it appears the Blue Devils have found a true point guard in Trevon Duval. Duval, who is 6-3, 186 pounds, ran the show for the Blue team. He found open players and drove easily to the basket. He even threw the ball off the backboard to himself and dunked it with one hand. But his best play came with less than 30 seconds left and his team down by one point. He drove past a defender, and as the defense collapsed he found an open Alex O’Connell in the corner for a wide-open 3-pointer. That 3-pointer won the game for the Blue team, 43-41.

However, he did finish with four turnovers.

3. Grayson Allen will be among the best in the country. After a down year, offensively, it appears Allen might be back to the way he played during his sophomore year, when he averaged 21.6 points per game. Allen shot the ball well from the outside and also found lanes to the basket. He and Bagley played on the same team and made a good combo.

Blue Devils' senior captain humbles underclassmen in Blue-White scrimmage at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

4. The Blue Devils don’t lack height. Duke has five players who are 6-10 or taller. At least three are expected to play significant minutes this season. Even its point guard is taller than average, at 6-3. Freshman forward Wendell Carter, who is 6-10, 262-pounds, can clean the glass. So can 6-10, 231-pound Javin DeLaurier, who finished with nine rebounds.

“This team I think has the most combination of size and athleticism that I’ve been on,” Allen said. “Most of the teams that I’ve played on here have ended up going small. Whereas I think this team will go big just because of how much talent we have at the big spot.”

5. Despite the hype, there still are a lot of questions. This team is young and has yet to prove itself. While many of the players played well, this was a scrimmage. It’s a different situation when the lights come on. The expectations surrounding this team are high for the second straight year. The Blue Devils had the No. 1 ranked recruiting class. But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said it best when he talked about being ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls.

“I think it’s an honor for our program, but it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “Everyone who voted, do you know how many times they’ve seen us? Zero.”

The legendary basketball coach uses a comical analogy explaining how he feels about the annual tradition of the media picking top teams.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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