Blue-Blooded Devils

By Josh Herwitt - October 21, 2007

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- After suffering a shocking upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to VCU last season, there was a lot of talk following the 2006-07 campaign about how Duke's run as one of the nation's elite programs had finally come to an end.

But one disappointing season shouldn't change the entire perception of a program, especially not the Blue Devils', and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has certainly learned that better than anyone else in his 33 years of coaching college basketball.

"We have good players," Krzyzewski assured. "I'm not saying we have great players, but we have really good players. And if we can keep them all healthy and get them to feel comfortable with our system, we have a chance to be a very good team."

The Blue Devils will be without 6-foot-10 forward Josh McRoberts, who left Durham to enter the NBA Draft last spring, leaving a void in the middle that will be filled most likely by sophomore Brian Zoubek, who is expected to be ready for the season despite being slowed for much of the offseason with a fractured foot that he suffered back in July.

And while Zoubek figures to be an important piece for Duke this season, and with a lineup that runs eight and nine deep -- something that Krzyzewski doesn't often have after using a six- and seven-man rotation all throughout last year -- expect the Blue Devils to run the floor more often and pressure opposing teams in the backcourt throughout the season.

"Depth is huge for us," Krzyzewski said matter-of-factly.

So is free throw shooting, which seemed to plague Duke toward the end of last season in trying to close games out. The Blue Devils, in fact, managed to shoot only 68.9 percent from the charity stripe last year, a rather unKrzyzewski-like statistic from a coach that has always prided his teams on discipline and the fundamentals of the game.

"When you're a team that has a small margin for error between winning and losing, that's huge," he said. "We lost a few games [last year] because of missed layups or free throws. Guys can hit them, and we're trying to do that more."

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 04:15 PM on October 21, 2007

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