Sports Outside the Beltway

Temple at Duke Roundup

I attended last night’s Blue Devils’ matchup against Temple at Cameron Indoor. To be honest, it was the least enthusiastic I have ever experienced a Crazies’ crowd. Of course, it should be noted that Duke is still on Winter Break, and the student section was filled largely by an older crowd not familiar with the student fans’ numerous rituals. Regardless, the Devils overcame a dreadful start (going down to the Owls 16-4 about 5 minutes into the first half) to pull out a convincing win against Bill Cosby’s alma mater, 73-55.

The most impressive performance of the night belonged to Duke G/F/C Josh McRoberts. Though criticized extensively earlier in the season, McBob is growing into his role as the Devils’ “play-everywhere, do-everything” potential All-American. Over the last four games, McBob is averaging 16.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, and 4 BPG. He also has 7 steals and just 5 turnovers during the same span. That is a stat-line unlike any other forward in the sport today. Without getting too enthusiastic, Duke’s former 6’10″ monster, Shelden Williams, never put together a four game stretch like that, and Williams was certainly never trusted with the job of bringing up the ball. McRoberts’ passing and ballhandling ability is so phenomenal that he would have PG Greg Paulus’ job if McBob weren’t so essential on the interior. Duke’s schedule will be brutal from here on out (they open ACC play against Virginia Tech on Saturday); McRoberts, who is getting better with every possession, will be a household name by the time March rolls around.

As for the rest of the squad, G Demarcus Nelson had a solid game despite missing some layins early. He set a career-high in rebounds with 11, bringing his season average to 5.6 per game. For a 6’4″ shooting guard, Nelson has an uncanny ability to set himself up in the paint and outmuscle much larger players for the boards. Hopefully, he will stay healthy this season; his stellar on-ball defense is going to be essential against the likes of Georgia Tech’s Javaris Crittenton and UVA’s tough guard combo of J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary. G/F Dave McClure was solid as usual. The red-shirt sophomore had 12 boards to go with 6 points and a couple blocks. He looks recovered and confident following his serious knee injury and subsequent surgery. McClure is the prototype of Coach K’s new recruiting style. The coach is no longer looking to sign the top high-school talent that intends to use his program as a bed-and-breakfast walkthrough before jumping to the pros. Players such as McClure, Paulus, Nelson, G Jon Scheyer, and C Brian Zoubek are all four-year players who will grow with the program. Even McRoberts isn’t a lock to leave (though it is, unfortunately, highly probable). Put it all together (the junior Nelson is the oldest contributor on the squad), and this team, with or without McBob, is going to be a force next season. Stay tuned this year and watch them make that leap.

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