It’s really not supposed to snow here in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, at least not very often. And yet this makes two Januarys in a row I’ve been here when it snowed.
Most people here seem both fascinated by and afraid of snow. And so while I was working at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the hours before Friday’s Duke-Florida State game, I kept hearing the alarm in the locals’ voices – “It’s getting REALLY bad out there!” _ seeing them check weather cameras on the Internet and generally acting like they were gazelle that just got the scent of lions approaching.
This is understandable, though, because here they just don’t have much in the way of snow-clearing equipment. Snow falls, and lot of services stop in a way they just don’t in other places in the country more used to and better equipped to deal with the white stuff.
At any rate, those “brave” souls who came out to watch two teams ranked in the top 15 in the country didn’t actually see that. No. 7 Duke looked the part, but No. 14 Florida State didn’t in a 73-43 Blue Devil victory.
Like Connecticut, Stanford and Nebraska, Duke is unbeaten in the conference. Admittedly, not all the wins have been pretty – pulling it out of the fire 58-57 at Maryland, for instance – and the Blue Devils have not faced North Carolina yet. (Those matchups are Feb. 8 and 28.) But how good of a team is Duke?
The Blue Devils’ three losses are at Texas A&M (November), at Stanford (December) and against UConn (January). Now, not quite halfway through the conference season, what we’ve seen is a pretty intense Duke defense that’s made life hard on most of its opponents with just a few exceptions.
In ACC play, the Blue Devils are holding teams to 48.7 points per game. And even as clunky as Duke’s offense can look at times, when you play that kind of defense you are very hard to beat.
So who, short of the Tar Heels, might beat Duke in the ACC? Duke still has road trips to Boston College (which is next, on Thursday), Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. The Eagles are 3-1 at home in ACC play after defeating Miami on Sunday, while the Yellowjackets are 4-0 after beating visiting Virginia Tech.
Perhaps those trips might cause the Blue Devils some problems (it goes without saying that the Tar Heels and Blue Devils usually cause each other problems wherever they play.) The home games for the Blue Devils are against Carolina, N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia.
The ACC isn’t in “power mode” this year; many teams are young, or rebuilding, or injury-plagued, or trying to change direction with new coaching, or some combination of those things. After Duke and Carolina, I’m not sure you can always tell that much difference between the other 10. Results like Wake Forest’s 64-57 victory over No. 20 Virginia on Sunday are an example of that.
One of the concerns some observers may have had about Duke was whether the Blue Devils’ 81-48 loss to UConn on Jan. 18 would have any lasting effect on their psyche. It certainly doesn’t appear to have. Duke looked against Florida State the way UConn looked against Duke.
And considering how Duke continues to effectively stifle opposing offenses (UConn, obviously, an exception), it seems likely that the Blue Devils’ defense will stay this consistent. The other thing that’s been so consistent for Duke is the play of Jasmine Thomas, who had 23 points against FSU.
“She’s a handful in a lot of different ways,” Seminoles coach Sue Semraus said. “But the other people around her are stepping up, and I think that is what makes her so much better. Early on she had to do it all herself, and now there’s a lot of people that are stepping up to help her in a lot of different ways and playing their roles.”