Mike Krzyzewski: No. 1 Duke 'big and athletic'

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 8, 2017 at 7:35 PM
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke is holding a No. 1 national ranking as it begins another season of tremendous expectations.

This is how the Blue Devils like it.

"It's time to actually lock in and get ready," freshman forward Marvin Bagley III said. "We're working together as a team."

Duke opens the season Friday night against visiting Elon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This shapes up as a Duke team with a major presence in the post opposed to recent teams that were generally more guard-dominated.

"We're different in that we're big and athletic," said coach Mike Krzyzewski, who's entering his 38th season at Duke and his 43rd year overall as a head coach. "We're not a team yet, but the development of a team."

It will be the official debut for freshmen Bagley, Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. as they are the core of a top-rated recruiting class.

Duke is No. 1 in the preseason poll for the ninth time in program history and for the second year in a row.

The lone returning starter is senior guard Grayson Allen, who averaged 14.5 points per game last season. He returns to a captain's role after that was stripped from him last season following a game with Elon.

Last December, the matchup between the teams at the Greensboro Coliseum included Allen tripping Elon's Steven Santa Ana. That came on top of a couple of tripping incidents involving Allen the previous season, so he served a one-game team suspension.

More recently, Duke held out freshmen Trevon Duval, Jordan Goldwire and Alex O'Connell from its second exhibition game last weekend because of what Krzyzewski described as tardiness and missed classes. They're back at full status this week, with Duval being a potential starter.

Krzyzewski's all-time record is 1,071-330 after a 28-9 record last season.

Elon, which was 18-14 a year ago, has a veteran cast, including Santa Ana. The Phoenix were picked third in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll, with forward Tyler Seibring a preseason first-team all-conference choice.

"It's fun as a coach to be able to coach an experienced team that understands the value of focusing on things in an incremental way," Elon coach Matt Matheny said.

Elon and Duke have meet in six of the past seven seasons, with the Blue Devils winning each of those. Last year's 72-61 result reflected the closest margin since Elon has been a Division I team.

"It's a great opportunity. We've been fortunate enough to play Duke several times over the last few years," Matheny said. "We want to put our players in incredibly challenging situations and there's no more of a challenge in college basketball than playing Duke at Cameron Indoor.

"What's neat about that is that we have several guys on our team who have done that before. Now we get to prepare for this season, but you start right off the bat (with this game)."

Senior forward Brian Dawkins missed Elon's exhibition game last week because of knee soreness, but he would have played if it was a regular-season game.

"We're extremely motivated," Dawkins said. "This year we have a lot more experience and we've been able to take steps a little bit faster."

Keeping up with Duke won't be easy. The Blue Devils have won their past 17 season openers.

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