Notre Dame hoops vs. Duke: Q and A with Ball Durham

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 22: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks against against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 22, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 22: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks against against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 22, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

FanSided site expert Kevin Connelly of Ball Durham was nice enough to answer some questions about the Notre Dame opponent on Monday evening, the Duke Blue Devils

1. Are you at all concerned about how Duke seems one dimensional right now?

KC: There is no debating this fact this season, Duke is not a three point shooting team this season. However, the only time it becomes a concern is when the Blue Devils get lazy on offense and don’t work the ball inside with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. There is not one player in the country that can stop either player when they are attacking the rim and when the defense is forced to collapse the paint, then Duke will be able to find Cam Reddish, Jack White, or Alex O’Connell wide open for a three. 

2. Can Duke be successful in March if Cam Reddish continues to be inconsistent from deep?

KC: Duke can be successful in March if Cam Reddish’s struggles continue because of the greatness of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Tre Jones. All three players are elite both offensively and defensively, but it’s the play of Reddish that makes Duke truly unbeatable. However, Reddish is still able to impact the game when his shots aren’t falling. He has a long wingspan and is athletic on defense and it isn’t afraid to throw his body around down low and compete for rebounds with bigger forwards.

3. How did you feel about Tre Jones’ first game back from injury?

While it was a major relief to get Tre Jones back from injury, he did look a little rusty in the first half on Saturday against Georgia Tech. It’s not easy to just go out on the court after two weeks of not being in game action and be as aggressive as you might have been before your injury. That’s what we saw with Jones. However, once he got into the flow of the game, he looked like the normal Tre Jones as Duke broke away from Georgia Tech — thanks to his outstanding defense. 

4. As the ACC becomes more of a zone defense league, what are your thoughts on Barrett in the high post?

Teams are going to play zone against Duke until the team consistently proves it can hit 3-point shots. When attacking a zone, the Blue Devils normally start with Tre Jones at the top of the arc with the ball, Cam Reddish on a wing, Jack White in a corner, Zion Williamson at the free throw line, and RJ Barrett on the other wing. Barrett isn’t shy about launching the 3-point ball and that has caused some problems for Duke. When Barrett is hitting his shots, no one will complain about anything, but more often than not — especially from 3-point range — he isn’t coming close. Barrett is most effective from the elbow down and if you have Barrett at the elbow and Zion on the low block, it would be a nightmare for defenses because Barrett has the ability to take two dribbles and get to the post — or take one dribble and throw a lob to Zion. 

5. Typically freshmen don’t play defense. What makes this year’s freshmen different?

It’s amazing the difference between the Duke freshmen on defense last season and this season. Last year, Coach K had to move to a full time 2-3 zone defense because the freshmen could not play defense. But this year, Duke is one of the best defensive teams in the country and that’s all thanks to Tre Jones. Jones is able to pick up defenders full court and apply hounding pressure on the ball. Jones’ defense allows RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish to consistently be aggressive on whomever they are defending, and if they are to get beat on a play, Zion is at the rim ready to swat any shot attempt. This years freshmen trust each other to pick each other up if someone happens to get beat on a play and it shows on both sides of the ball. 

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6. Is Mike Brey to No. 1 target to succeed Coach K in Durham?

This is a question that everyone wants answered and no one can come up with an answer. The world thought that Jeff Capel would be handed the program, but then he goes off to be the head coach of Pitt. However, I don’t think Mike Brey will replace Coach K, because first of all it would be tough to go from one ACC school to another. Secondly, I think Coach K’s replacement will have played for and coached with K and Brey never played for him. If I had to come up with a short list, it would be Bobby Hurley, Chris Collins, Capel, or Steve Wojciechowski.