|A familiar sight: No. 4 Duke's back on top of the Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 22 January 2008 14:52|
``We're not getting ahead of ourselves at all,'' Scheyer said Tuesday. ``We've been successful so far, but we have a long way to go, and for us, to experience the losses we had last year, we know (how quickly) it can change.''
Still, there's a familiar sight on Tobacco Road- the Blue Devils, love them or hate them, are back atop the Atlantic Coast Conference. The only team without a conference loss, Duke (15-1, 3-0) is the league's highest-ranked team, one spot ahead of rival North Carolina.
Winners of five straight, the Blue Devils seem to have taken another step forward after last season's 13-1 start disintegrated into a 22-11 finish that included two four-game losing streaks and its first first-round NCAA tournament exit in a decade. That was a tough-to-swallow season for a program that under coach Mike Krzyzewski has won three national championships and reached 10 Final Fours.
``I think we bought into the fact that we played for Duke, and playing for Duke, you're going to win, because prior to last year Duke did win everything,'' Scheyer said. ``Some of the time, we kind of maybe expected just to win (by) going out there. You can't do that. ... In practice, you have to prepare hard to win games, and I don't think we prepared as hard last year.''
Plenty has changed for these Blue Devils - most notably, the addition of three freshmen to a deeper rotation that has allowed Krzyzewski to incorporate a faster-paced, transition-rooted system in which Duke overcomes a significant lack of low-post bulk with quickness. The Blue Devils lead the ACC and rank third nationally with an average scoring margin of 20.9 points.
``It's been more fun just because transition basketball has been something that I've played my whole life,'' guard Gerald Henderson said. ``Just getting out on the break and stuff like that, we didn't really do that last year, and that's something that we've added.''
The arrival of talented newcomers Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King meant some role shifting. Henderson moved into the lineup as a full-time starter while Scheyer, who averaged 12.2 points while starting all but one game last season, is putting up similar numbers as one of the ACC's top sixth men.
``At the beginning I was a little shocked (at not starting) and I think I struggled the first couple of weeks getting adjusted,'' Scheyer said. ``My attitude was always good. I had complete faith in (Krzyzewski) ... but I felt I've gotten better and better, more in a rhythm as the season has gone on.''
That deeper bench has led to balance: six players average at least nine points, with captain DeMarcus Nelson (14.1 ppg) leading the way, and five players have two or more 20-point games.
``You've seen in different games where some guy will explode,'' Henderson said.
It has all added up to a different feel at venerable Cameron Indoor Stadium, where players say those fresh memories of last season's struggles have made this current run of success even sweeter.
``Last year, we didn't make any jumps. ... We were just kind of coasting all year,'' Henderson said. ``Over the season, obviously, we got better, but nothing where it was like, 'Man, this team, they're getting a lot better' or 'They're ready to do big things.' This year, we're at a higher level than we ever got last year, and we have huge potential still.''