Duke basketball: What we learned from the exhibition blowout

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball appeared in sync this weekend, but does that mean anything?

The Duke Blue Devils played their only exhibition game this year with a showdown against Winston-Salem State on Saturday. So what exactly did we learn about this year’s Duke basketball squad? Absolutely nothing.

This game was over as soon as it started. Duke jumped out to an early lead and then continued piling it on, resulting in a 68-point victory.

An unfair Duke basketball fight

With all due respect to Winston-Salem State, the Division II program had no business being on the same court as this Duke basketball team. These teams could play 100 times, and the Blue Devils would win every single one by a substantial margin. The difference in size, talent, and athleticism was glaring.

Duke was much bigger, stronger, and more athletic at every position.

The reason I say we didn’t learn much of anything from this game is that the Blue Devils won’t enjoy that degree of size and athleticism advantage for the rest of the year. In other words, it wasn’t easy to judge whether or not Duke’s style of play would translate into success in the regular season.

The Blue Devils did not roll out some amazing offense. Instead, they dominated by being much bigger and more talented than the opponent.

It was encouraging, though, to see the Blue Devils shoot the ball well from the outside since 3-point shooting has been somewhat of a liability for Duke over the last few seasons. They got off to a hot shooting start, connecting on seven of their first nine attempts from downtown, and finished with 11 made 3-pointers on 27 attempts.

Most of the outside shots that the Blue Devils attempted were wide-open. It’s a good sign they knocked down so many, but those same shots likely won’t be quite as open when they face Kentucky in the season opener.

What is still a question is how effective the Blue Devil defense will be this year. Duke struggled to get stops and consistently defend a season ago.

It’s good that the Blue Devils held Winston-Salem State to just 38 points, but it mainly was their size and athleticism that led to the dominant defensive performance. The visitors could hardly run any offense at all as Duke’s pressure completely took them out of what they wanted to do. They also aren’t used to finishing over a 7-foot center like Mark Williams.

The Rams didn’t have any player who could break the Blue Devils down off the dribble. They ended up having to settle for long-distance shots or off-balance shots around the basket. Duke will have tremendous size, length, and athleticism on the defensive end this year, but we will have to wait until the Champions Classic to know how disruptive this squad can be on that end of the floor.

Perhaps the most encouraging takeaway from the game was Duke’s ball movement and versatility on offense. Four of the five Blue Devil starters can bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offense. That could make them an incredibly dynamic group in transition.

The Blue Devils attacked early in the shot clock and wasted no time going after mismatches. They have the speed and the necessary playmakers to be a high-octane team on offense this year. Duke also did an excellent job of moving the ball and getting the right shots on offense. The Blue Devils had a total of 26 assists.

Due to the significant size and talent disparity, the game did not offer much insight on just how great this year’s Duke basketball team can be. However, there is no doubt these Blue Devils will be much more physical and ready to compete at the highest level. They have great size and athleticism across the board and have multiple playmakers on offense.

Ranking each Duke basketball player in the Blue-White games. dark. Next

This team also seems to have good chemistry, as the pieces should fit together better than they did last season. We are now just one week away from Duke basketball’s Nov. 9 heavyweight matchup against Kentucky in Madison Square Garden.