After the Boston College Eagles fell to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Tuesday evening, the team and the fanbase look to Saturday afternoon’s game against Duke. We sat down with Ben Swain, of Sports Channel 8 fame, to discuss BC’s matchup with Duke.
1. Obviously one of the biggest stories of the year surrounds Grayson Allen, and his "indefinite" suspension that only lasted one game. What is the scuttlebutt amongst Duke followers and supporters? Do they think that the suspension was too lenient, or fair?
I’m sure most Duke fans probably think one game was too harsh just like non-Duke fans feel like it was too lenient. The punishment was always going to be about Grayson Allen getting the message about controlling his temper on the basketball court and was never going to be about “being fair” to fans or media. In the Duke basketball program, being publicly stripped of your captaincy is one step shy of being dismissed from the team, and that’s plenty to get the point across. Having said that, I’m confident the suspension would have been longer than a game if Krzyzewski wasn’t stepping aside for back surgery on Friday. There was no way that he was going to put that decision on Jeff Capel, which meant that Allen would have been out for 1 game or out for 4 weeks, so it was a no brainer to play him last night before handing the team over to Capel.
Of note, since so many seem to be very concerned with Allen’s rehabilitation, he was different last night. There were two plays where he pulled up instead of recklessly going in to challenge for a loose ball, so for the moment, it seems like he’s learned to control himself. Fran Fraschilla had the best comment on Allen saying “He has a competition problem”, which couldn’t be more accurate. In a pre-season scrimmage, Allen dove for a loose ball and nearly ended Amile Jefferson’s season by diving right into his knees. Against a teammate. In a practice. The guy is just wired so differently, and hopefully he’s really found a way to control his actions. He is literally the real life Bobby Boucher.
2. Duke drew some attention when it lost to Va. Tech to open ACC play. Yet Duke absolutely destroyed Ga. Tech Wednesday evening. Obviously there's a little bit of a difference in the competitiveness of those teams, but what was the difference in those two games?
Duke had 7 assists against Virginia Tech and 24 against Georgia Tech, and that was the difference. Lost in all of the Grayson Allen trip-talk, the word “selfish” was thrown around in post-game locker room interviews for a few weeks which was a tremendous red flag that most were distracted from seeing. Duke moved the ball beautifully against Georgia Tech and had the most balanced scoring output of the season to show for it. It also helped to be healthy, which really changed the substitution patterns. Matt Jones went from starting point guard to 8th guy off of the bench, and Allen and Frank Jackson took on most of the point guard duties. Jackson’s been hampered by an injury for about a month, but looked very healthy last night. Harry Giles also got his first career start and earned a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Marques Bolden was able to play more than he’s played all year. They looked like a different team last night vs. Georgia Tech.
3. Other than Grayson Allen, who is someone that BC fans should familiarize themselves with going into Saturday'sgame?
Luke Kennard. He’s been Duke’s best player, and potentially the ACC’s best player. He’s at the point right now where it’s surprising when he misses a shot, and while he’s known as a shooter, he can score on all three levels. Other players are going to get the headlines, but for coaches who watch film, it’s Kennard that gives them heartburn.
4. What is the best case/worst case scenario for Duke?
The best case is definitely a national championship. They have the talent. They have the experience. The worst case … I see them as a lock for the Sweet 16 but there are enough good teams out there in college basketball this year where they can lose to a 4 seed. As we’ve seen in the ACC, it’s a strange year.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
Duke is a better team than Boston College and should win comfortably, but you definitely wonder what the impact will be of not having a guy who is arguably the best coach in college basketball history on the sideline if things don’t go as planned. Jeff Capel is an elite recruiter and a former head coach who’s taken a team to the Elite 8, but he’s not Mike Krzyzewski, because no one is Mike Krzyzewski. If BC can make things difficult enough for Duke to fold without Coach K on the bench, that’s really the only way I see the Eagles winning this game on the road. It will take some help.
Ben Swain works at Sports Channel 8 in North Carolina. His Twitter handle is @TheBenSwain. Thanks to Ben for sitting down with us!