Friday, January 6, 2012

Duke looks to bounce back vs. Georgia Tech

Duke is heading to Atlanta this afternoon for Saturday’s ACC opener against Georgia Tech (ESPNU, noon).
While the Yellow Jackets have been underwhelming so far this season – Georgia Tech has lost three games in a row, falling to Mercer (ouch), Fordham (double ouch) and Alabama by 25 points – the game will be an intriguing one for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (12-2) after Wednesday's loss at Temple.

After an intense day of practices and meetings Thursday, it will be an ominous sign if Duke doesn’t come up with a strong performance. Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and, to a lesser extent, Austin Rivers all have something to prove after lackluster efforts against Temple.

And expect the Blue Devils to be especially active on the boards after allowing undersized Temple to outrebound them Wednesday night.

A strong performance Saturday won’t necessarily show Duke has internalized the lessons of Wednesday’s loss to Temple. The Blue Devils will have to demonstrate that in the upcoming weeks when the memories of Temple defeat aren’t as fresh.

Duke had a string of solid performances after its blowout loss at Ohio State. But against Temple, the team seemed to forget about all the progress it had made and what it had been done to make that progress, especially on the defensive end.

In that sense, Georgia Tech is just a first step.

But an important one.

With the ACC season starting, here are three other dates that stand out on the schedule (aside from games against North Carolina, which everyone always circles):

1. Jan. 12 vs. Virginia (ESPN, 9 p.m.). The Cavaliers had as good a non-conference season as anyone in the ACC, losing only once. Virginia can use this game as a measuring stick for its progress.

2. Feb. 2 at Virginia Tech (ESPN/ESPN2, 7 p.m.). Outside the trip to Chapel Hill, this could be the toughest remaining road game for the Blue Devils. Duke has something to prove away from Cameron after its last two performances in hostile environments.

3. Feb. 16 vs. N.C.State (ESPNU, 9 p.m.). The Wolfpack look better under Mark Gottfried, but this game will be important because Duke plays three of its next four on the road. It will want to make sure its house is in order before leaving Cameron for an extended stretch.

-- Jack Daly