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Inside The Chart – Duke

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Josh Pastner is lamenting the end of the Mike Krzyzewski era – because it signals the end of an era for him as well.

Across seven seasons at Memphis and six at Georgia Tech, the 44-year-old Pastner has always been the youngest coach in his conference.  Whether Conference USA, the American, or the ACC, Pastner always had first dibs at the fountain of youth.

That changes next year when Krzyzewski passes the torch to his successor, associate head coach Jon Scheyer, 10 years Pastner’s junior.

“That’ll be the first time I’ll be the second youngest coach in the league,” Pastner said.

(Fun fact:  Pastner recruited Scheyer as an assistant at the University of Arizona.  He even hosted him on his official visit. Unfortunately for Pastner, the visit took place right after Arizona was shocked by Illinois in the Elite Eight, leading to a funereal atmosphere in Tucson that weekend. Scheyer committed to Duke.)

For now, Pastner and Georgia Tech (6-6, 0-2 ACC) will look for a rejuvenation of a different kind after falling 67-64 to Louisville on Sunday.  It won’t come easy. The Yellow Jackets now face No. 2 Duke (11-1, 1-0 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they’ll search for their first win since 2004.  Enjoy the top five notes from my chart in preparation for the 100th all-time meeting between the Jackets and Blue Devils (9 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Khalid Moore dropped a pair of threes for Tech last season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (photo by Sara Davis)

 

After opting out of the NCAA Tournament last year – officially or unofficially, snapping a streak of 24 straight NCAA appearances – Duke seems poised for another deep run this year.  While most of the attention goes to their raft of highly-rated freshmen, it’s a junior who may be the key to the Blue Devils’ postseason success.

After injuries limited him as a freshman, 6-7 Wendell Moore Jr. (17.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, 58.6 pct. FG, 41.3 pct. 3pt.) has grown into a versatile, ACC Player of Year-caliber performer.  The lefty thrives off dribble handoffs and side ball screens, where he can rise for jumpers against drop coverage or turn the corner and attack downhill.  Tech got a taste of Moore’s talent last year when he finished with a team-high 20 points, eight rebounds and four steals at McCamish Pavilion.

Along with 6-5 freshman Trevor Keels (12.7 ppg), 6-2 sophomore Jeremy Roach (9.0 ppg) and 6-6 freshman A.J. Griffin (6.7 ppg), Duke has a variety of spacers and shooters who can re-attack and find the open man.  Pay attention to Griffin, arguably Duke’s best shooter who gives them versatility as a small-ball “4.”

“They keep things simple,” Pastner said by way of compliment. “We can’t get on skates and get stretched out.”

The Blue Devils enter Tuesday ranked sixth nationally in KenPom offensive efficiency, but they also haven’t played since Dec. 22 due to a COVID pause.  Krzyzewski said his team’s first full practice wasn’t until Monday.

Could that create an opportunity for Tech?

“Hopefully they’re rusty the full game, and we can sneak up and get a win,” Pastner said.

*****

Khalid Moore played AAU ball for Mike Krzyzewski’s nephew.  The senior was coached on the New York Rens by Andy Borman, a former Duke walk-on.  Moore drilled a pair of threes at Cameron Indoor last year, tying a career high.

*****

Michael Devoe was backcourt mates at Montverde Academy with former Duke guard R.J. Barrett, but the Orlando, Fla., native hasn’t quite found the touch against his teammate’s old school.  The senior shot just 1-of-10 from three-point range against the Blue Devils last year, and in four career games against Duke Devoe has only connected on 17.6 percent of his threes (3-of-17).  He’s averaging 42.6 percent for his career in ACC play.

Michael Devoe 3pt.%

  • Career vs. Duke:  17.6%
  • vs. rest of ACC: 44.3%

Duke plays passing lanes as actively as any team in the ACC, leading to a KenPom defensive efficiency ranking of 22nd nationally (Louisville also ranked 22nd when the Jackets played them Sunday).  Tech will need to have strong pivots, absorb contact in the paint, and make authoritative passes to avoid the kind of live ball turnovers that Duke metabolizes into fast break points.  Live ball turnovers helped fuel Louisville’s second-half comeback on Sunday.

Jordan Meka got his first career start Sunday against Louisville, (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Jordan Meka hails from Yaounde, Cameroon, the same hometown as Philadelphia 76ers all-star Joel Embiid.  Yaounde has a population of 2.7 million, roughly equivalent to Chicago, which doesn’t exactly make it a quaint village.

Still, Meka has a connection to his hometown’s most famous basketball export: his mother works in the same government office in Yaounde as Embiid’s Mom.  She watched him earn his first career start, and score his first career points, against Louisville on Sunday.  The game tipped off at midnight Yaounde time.

He’ll have a chance to contribute again at Cameroon – check that, Cameron – Indoor.  Even with the expected return of Saba Gigiberia and the possible return of Rodney Howard, Meka’s bounciness and pick-and-roll defense could be vital against Duke’s bigs.  Paolo Banchero, Duke’s 6-10 next lottery-pick-in-waiting, leads all power-conference freshmen in scoring (17.1 ppg) and poured in a team-high 23 in Duke’s ACC opener against Virginia Tech.  Banchero plays like a modern “5” man, with a deft mid-range game and an ability to athletically finish around the rim.  He’s also a dexterous dribbler who can act as both a ball handler and screen-setter in Duke’s two-man game.

Williams, on the other hand, is a throwback center at 7-1 and 250 pounds, giving the Blue Devils a hard-to-move target on pindowns and drop-offs.  He was somewhat neutralized by Virginia Tech’s small-ball lineup, but he overpowered Georgia Tech for 20 points on 9-of-9 shooting at McCamish last year.

*****

Mike Krzyzewski first coached against Georgia Tech February 4, 1981, in an 82-68 win over the Yellow Jackets at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Tech fans got introduced to him much earlier than that.

Georgia Tech actually faced Mike Krzyzewski as a player at Army – February 17, 1968 at Alexander.  The 10-10 Yellow Jackets upset the Cadets 60-55 to snap a 12-game Army win streak.  Krzyzewski was a junior guard for then-head coach Bob Knight.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you in Durham.

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