No. 4 Duke hoping added practice time leads to ACC surge

RALEIGH, N.C. — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski isn’t interested in thinking about how his latest group compares to his past teams.

 

Regardless, this year’s team – led by senior Grayson Allen and star freshman Marvin Bagley III – sure looks like a squad set to win another Atlantic Coast Conference championship as the bulk of league play arrives this weekend.

“I’ve never tries to figure that out because you can’t,” Krzyzewski said last week about the year-to-year comparison. “They’re kids, they’re human beings.

“So where are we? Are we good? Are we getting better? I can see we’re better than we were against Boston College. I spend my time just thinking about that, and trying to figure out combinations, how these guys are getting better. Because it’s all new for them. They’ve played 13 games. It’s a lot going on.”

Duke (12-1, 0-1 ACC) has done little to undermine its preseason-favorite status beyond an 89-84 loss at Boston College on Dec. 9. That came after a demanding opening month that included a win against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago, consecutive big second-half comebacks to beat Texas and Florida in the PK80 Invitational, and a win at Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Duke has played just once since the BC loss, allowing Krzyzewski to put his team through refining practice work after having little time for it in November.

The Blue Devils host No. 24 Florida State Saturday, while three other ACC teams are in the Top 25: No. 9 Virginia, reigning national champion North Carolina at No. 13, and No. 15 Miami.

The Tar Heels (11-2) were picked to finish second to Duke and have seen junior Luke Maye (18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds) blossom into a candidate for ACC player of the year. They’re now working to integrate Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, who missed the opener with a neck injury, then 10 more games due to knee surgery.

The 6-foot-8 projected wing starter had 14 points and five rebounds in last weekend’s win against Ohio State, though he said UNC’s upset home loss to Wofford in his debut a game earlier would stay with him.

“I’ll continue to try my best to give maximum effort and contribute in any way I can,” Johnson said. “I’ll get back in the gym. I’ll shoot more. I’ll get my conditioning back up, because a loss like that, to be my first game back, it’s tough.”

 

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