Duke poised to hit No. 1
DURHAM – Either as players or coaches, Duke’s coaching staff knows what it’s like to play a game with the Blue Devils ranked No.1 in the country.
Duke’s seniors and juniors also know what it’s like, thanks to the 11 weeks the Blue Devils spent ranked No.1 during the 2010-11 season.
This week, everything points toward everyone on Duke’s roster having the experience.
With top-ranked Indiana’s 88-86 overtime loss to Butler on Saturday, No. 2 Duke will certainly move up to No.1 when the new Associated Press poll is compiled and released today.
When Duke hits No. 1 today, it will be the 123rd week the Blue Devils have been the nation’s top-ranked team in the AP poll. Only UCLA (134 weeks) has more. Nearly all of Duke’s time ranked No. 1 (104 weeks entering this season) has come with Mike Krzyzewski as its head coach.
But that doesn’t mean Krzyzewski and his staff want to quash any excitement this year’s players have about being ranked No. 1.
“You want guys to be aware,” Duke associate head coach Chris Collins said following Sunday’s practice. “They know. They see the games and they watch. I think it’s exciting for them. With Coach K and the staff, it’s a position we’ve been in before. Being No. 1 this time of season doesn’t mean anything. But for the guys and the program, it’s a position they want to strive to be in. I’m sure it gets them a little more excited for this week’s games.”
The Blue Devils (9-0) haven’t played since blasting Temple 90-67 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Dec. 8. The players spent last week involved in final exams with sporadic practices and individual workouts mixed in.
Over the weekend, the Blue Devils returned to a regular practice schedule as they prep for games with Cornell on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPNU) and Elon on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPNU).
Collins said the time away helped Duke’s injured players, like senior guard Seth Curry and freshman center Marshall Plumlee.
Duke’s top perimeter threat, Curry was dealing with a painful lower-leg condition before he sprained his ankle during a win over Ohio State on Nov. 29. Curry sat out an 88-50 win over Delaware on Dec. 1 before scoring 23 points in 31 minutes of play against Temple.
He’s had no setbacks since then and should be ready for this week’s two games.
“He’s managed it pretty well,” Collins said of Curry’s right leg discomfort. “This has been real good time for him to rest and get better. It’s been good so far.”
Marshall Plumlee has yet to play a game for Duke since enrolling in summer 2011. He was a healthy redshirt last season and has yet to play this season due to a stress fracture in his foot.
But Plumlee, the younger brother of Duke senior center Mason Plumlee, warmed up with the Blue Devils for the Temple game and could have played. Collins said the plan is to get Marshall Plumlee some minutes as a reserve this week.
“I think he’s going to be ready to go,” Collins said. “He’s been able to practice full speed. We wanted him to get a full week of work in (last week). Barring any setbacks, he should get some minutes on Wednesday.”
That game looks like it will be the first Duke has played as the nation’s No. 1 team since Feb. 26, 2011 when the Blue Devils lost 64-60 at Virginia Tech. That marked the end of Duke’s second stint at No. 1 that season. The Blue Devils were the preseason No.1 and stayed there for 10 consecutive weeks before losing 66-61 at Florida State.
Current seniors Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, along with junior reserves Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston, were active players that season.
The rest of Duke’s players get to experience No.1 for the first time later today since Indiana, which had 44 first-place votes to Duke’s 20 in last week’s poll, is no longer unbeaten.