Dec. 1, 2004
Boy, the ACC is really loaded this season, as evidenced by Duke being picked fourth in the league's preseason poll. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils were prepared for their showdown against Michigan State on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I was able to view the action firsthand as I broadcast the game for ESPN.
The Dukies showed why they will be in the ACC hunt in their 81-74 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It was a very physical game, a real battle, with players diving for the basketball. It had more intensity than the usual November game. There was lots of enthusiasm and energy.
The Blue Devils will go as far as their backcourt of J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing will take them.
The Blue Devils will scrap and claw all season long. They don't have the lethal weapons they've had in the past, with big names like Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Jason Williams and Co., but they will fight hard and be in close games.
I was impressed with Duke's team defense. It gets an 'A' for fueling the comeback after Duke trailed early against a fired-up Michigan State squad.
It also helps to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the environment is always electric. The fans are the sixth man for the Dukies, and that was the case again versus the Spartans.
The Blue Devils will go as far as their backcourt tandem of J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing will take them. Each scored 29 points against coach Tom Izzo's club.
Redick has improved his all-around game. He's a different player this season -- he's not only an outstanding outside shooter, but he's also willing to attack the basket more. Redick has the sweetest stroke in the nation.
He looks quicker and stronger after losing weight. I believe he will make a run at many postseason honors.
Ewing is one of the most underrated guards in America. He's rarely mentioned among the premier backcourt stars, but he steps on the court and gives it his all and comes through big-time.
The outside shooting ability of Redick and Ewing should also lead to more openings in the passing lanes for big man Shelden Williams. If Duke can get scoring production from Shavlik Randolph inside, watch out.
Duke cannot afford a major injury, though. The depth simply isn't there to overcome that scenario.
Keep an eye on the Dukies. I know that people get on my case for praising them so much. But all I can say is, look at the numbers and you can understand why they're winners, baby! This squad will go after it night in and night out. That was the case against the Spartans.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.