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> Alison Bales feature

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> Keturah Jackson and Brittany Mitch feature

> Duke benefits from national team’s visit

> Team preview

USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll

1 Maryland (34-4)
2 North Carolina (33-2)

3 Oklahoma (31-5)
4 Stanford (26-8)
5 Tennessee (31-5)
6 Duke (31-4)
7 Ohio State (29-3)
8 Connecticut (32-5)
9 Georgia (23-9)
10 LSU (31-4)
11 Rutgers (27-5)
12 Arizona State (25-7)
13 Purdue (26-7)
14 Texas A&M (23-9)
15 Vanderbilt (21-11)
16 Kentucky (22-9)
17 Michigan State (24-10)
18 Baylor (26-7)
19 DePaul (27-7)
20 New Mexico (22-10)
21 California (18-12)
22 Southern California (19-12)
23 UCLA (21-11)
24 Brigham Young (26-6)
25 Washington (19-11)

Only three ACC teams earned rankings, but to have three in the top 6 is impressive.

No big surprises in the top ten. It’s going to be a fun year of women’s college basketball.

More prognostication.

Duke prepared itself for the absence of Monique Currie this season as Lindsey Harding and Abby Waner are more than capable of taking care of things on the perimeter. The biggest loss may be Mistie Bass Williams in the paint. Chante Black and Alison Bales have shown they can be a force inside, but without Bass, they’ll have to do it night-in and night-out.

Courtesy our friends at Duke, here are a ton of quotes from today’s media day at Cameron Indoor.

Coach Goestenkors on…

On the team right now:

We’re young and we’re learning a good bit. We’re beginning to find our identity. I think it’s going to take us some time. It’s a little different out there without Monique [Currie] and Mistie [Williams] and Jess Foley. Monique was such a vocal leader for us. Mo was always really hard on people, but in a good way, and really steady. So we’re finding different players who contribute in similar ways. Nobody’s going to take there place, but other people are beginning to step up. I think we’re going to see that over the course of the season. It’s really a time for a lot of growth for a lot of individuals.

On what she wants players to take from the NCAA Championship game in 2006:

Certainly, the experience. What it takes to get to the Final Four and to the Championship game, and the feeling we had at the end of that game. To use as fire and as motivation to get back to the Final Four and the Championship game.

On Chante Black:

Chante [Black] got hurt in the second practice of the year. She hasn’t practiced with us since then, so we’re probably going to look much different, because she was probably our most improved player. With her not practicing, we’ll look different than once we get her back in the lineup.

On Brittany Mitch:

Brittany Mitch is going to be a major contributor for us. She’s somebody who’s 6’2”, who plays inside or out. She’s playing both positions for us right now. She’s a good shooter; she’s probably our best passer and has excellent vision. I think her height helps her with that. And just a great understanding of the game. So she’s going to see major minutes and will push for a starting spot, which is really good.

On Carrem Gay:

Carrem [Gay] is one of our better athletes. She’s coming along. She’s that four player that we need to be able to defend players like [UNC forward] Camille Little, that can step out and shoot the three and can penetrate, as well. So she’s doing a good job for us, as well. She’s still got a ways to go. She was out the entire summer with shoulder surgery, so she’s behind right now, but I think she’ll catch up.

On Emily Waner:

Emily Waner is a tough kid. I expect her to play many more minutes than she played last year. She’s going to be, I think, a key contributor for us; because she is our best three point shooter.

On expectations from Wanisha Smith and Abby Waner:

We’re counting on both of them to play major minutes for us, to play key roles for us, to really step into the spotlight for us. I think they’re both excited and anxious to take on that role. Both Abby and Wanisha need to increase their scoring output for us, but really we all do. I talked to the team yesterday about the fact that I think that Alison Bales needs to shoot a minimum of 10 shots a game, every game. We haven’t gone over everybody’s roles yet, but certain roles are becoming very clear.

[Wanisha and I] talked about not judging her [last] season based on the last several games of the season in the NCAA tournament. She really had a good season. She had some key buckets for us in big, big games; she just had a tough tournament run. I also talked to her about really helping her replace Monique Currie. She’s already a better defensive player than Monique was. She’s that strong, physical type of player mentally, and physically she’s a tough kid.

At least what we’re looking at initially with Lindsey and Abby and Wanisha, all of them have played point, and all three of them have played the wing position. So we feel good about having any of the three bring the ball down the floor depending on what the match-ups are, any of them looking to run the wing, as well, coming off the screen or getting the ball inside. We feel like we’re pretty versatile on the perimeter, with players that can play any of the three positions.

On Alison Bales:

Ali looks very, very good. She’s playing the way now that she played at the end of the season in the tournament last year, which is important for us. She’s going to be a go-to player for us. We’re having our individual meetings now, and I talked to her about how J.J. Redick was known as a three-point shooter early in his career. As people began to defend him at the three-point line, he really worked on his game, and developed his mid-range game, and began to take it to the basket and become more aggressive. We need for her to do the same thing. She can’t just settle and want to be a great shooter; she needs to be a great player. She’s much better when she’s aggressive.

With greatness comes great responsibility. She showed the nation what she was capable of last year during the tournament, and now she needs to do it on an ongoing basis, day in and day out. She’s being much more aggressive than she was last year, except in the tournament. We are on her constantly. She knows she needs to touch the ball, to get in the paint, and when she does to put the ball up.

On their expected style of play this season:

We’re still going to look to push the ball, but we’re going to be very post-oriented when we have our big lineup, with Alison Bales and Chante Black. There’s not another post combination in the country with that kind of size, so we want to take advantage of it. I think we’ve been very guard-oriented over the past several years, and now I think one of our greatest advantages is our post play.

On adding freshman Joy Cheek and Bridgette Mitchell to the rotation:

They may be, eventually. They’re both going to help us, I know that. I’m not sure where they’re going to be in the rotation, yet. I talked to Joy about being our next Mistie [Williams] in that she’s an undersized post, but she’s very strong, loves contact, very physical. I think she’s got a lot of the same skills that Mistie had, and is more skilled offensively than Mistie in that she can shoot the three, as well.

If anyone remembers Peppi Browne, Bridgette reminds me of Peppi Browne, just all over the place. She might do the exact wrong thing to do but somehow she ends up with the basketball because she works so hard, and great things seems to happen when she’s on the floor. Especially on the defensive end, she’s somebody who can defend the one, two or the three, gets out really well on the break. She’s a freshman. She’s still learning our offenses and where she’s supposed to be and gaining confidence.

On freshmen getting playing time early on:

Definitely. In the exhibitions and any game we can get them in, I want to see what they have and have them feel comfortable in the game situation.

>Alison Bales

On using the end of last season as motivation:

I think anytime you lose at the end of the season it gives you motivation for the next year and you know you have to work that much harder. Being a senior, that’s even more reason for me. It’s my last year.

On being aggressive consistently:

I think that the way I was played in the NCAA Tournament was the way I needed to be playing all the time. I think I proved to the coaches, my teammates and myself that I can do that. I think this year I have to come out like I finished the season last year, or even better.

On leadership:

Lindsey [Harding] and I are the captains this year and Coach G has been working a lot with us on developing our leadership styles. Both of us are very nice, positive leaders and I think she’s been working with us to become more of the force that she needs and not making her do all the yelling. We have to talk to our teammates a lot, but not just when we’re cheering them on. We’ve talked about how we all have to be brutally honest with each other and that’s the kind of relationship we have. We all trust each other and know that we want the best for each other.

On confidence:

Personally the end of last season did build my confidence because I know I can play that way on a regular basis. More than that, it makes me want to work even harder to prove that we deserve to be there in every game.

>Lindsey Harding

On how it benefits to play teams like UNC and Maryland:

I think we had six or seven teams in the ACC go to the NCAA Tournament, so that’s what we’re playing to in the championship. We couldn’t be any more prepared for the postseason playing these teams. There are a lot of teams that we forget about like Virginia and Miami. There are a lot of teams that prepare us other than UNC and Maryland.

On how playing against quality players helps the teams prepare:

Certain teams we play, they may have a really good post. So Coach will say, play her like you played the post from Langhorne, for example. We have a lot of different looks that we see in the tournament that we see in the ACC.

On the rivalry between Duke and Maryland:

It’s a good thing and a bad thing. When you’re so familiar with a team you know their tendencies but it’s also bad because they know yours as well. I guess there is a small rivalry between us and Maryland because of that. They won two and we won two but they won the two that we wanted to win. We have a team that has nothing to lose; they have a team that has to defend everything they won last year.

On getting caught looking ahead:

I’ve never done that because I remember my freshman year when we did that and almost lost. We can’t do that and I think that we know that. The media is going to pump up certain games but we know that before we get to those games, we have other teams to play to the full extent.

>Abby Waner

How do you think playing in the ACC prepares you for the NCAA Tournament?

Well, we had three teams that were in the Final Four last year, so I think playing against each other throughout the year really prepares us for the tournament because you are playing against the best. Also, there is a good variety of teams, of different styles of teams within the ACC so you get ready for anything you might face in the NCAA Tournament. I think that when you practice against the best you’ll perform the best, and that’s what we do all year long.

Could you talk about the potential of having three teams like UNC, Maryland, and Duke back in the Final Four again?

I think that anything’s possible. If you’re looking at Maryland, they are stacked just like they were last year. UNC has always been a great team, and we’re always going to be a great team as well. So I think that between the three of us there’s always a solid chance that one of the three or even all of the three will make it to the Final Four again, but then again you never know. There are other teams as well across the country that will be good this year such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Stanford. So, granted it was very ACC heavy last year, but there will also be some other competition as well.

Within the ACC, Coach G said teams like Virginia and NC State could be dark horses. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Yes, exactly. I think that with the ACC being so top heavy with UNC, Maryland, and us it is so easy to overlook those other teams such as Virginia and NC State. They’re probably going to surprise some people this year. That’s again a tribute to the ACC that it is such a tough schedule all the way through even beyond those top couple teams.

>Wanisha Smith

Coach G was talking about how the end of the season last year you were struggling shooting-wise, and you were getting pretty hard on yourself. Are you feeling a little bit better about that?

Yeah, I mean my perspective is totally different. I know after the game, probably for like a month, I took it really hard because it was one of the worst times to have a bad game. You know, it’s over and I’m not one of those people who holds it to myself for too long. I’ve been here all summer working hard so I’m excited about what’s going to happen next year.

So you spent the whole summer here?

Yes.

Working hard?

Yes, working very hard.

>Keturah Jackson

What was wrong with your ankle?

There was a lot of scar tissue and I had a chipped bone on the inside of my right ankle. Now, I feel like I’m running at about 80%, and I think that as time progresses I can work myself to 100%. As far as pain, there is little to no pain at all. The only time I have pain is when I’m on defense and I have to react to the offender. That’s where I feel like the 20% is missing.

I know you didn’t get to play last year, and I know you were injured a lot. How much practice did you get in?

I still practiced pretty much up until my injury at the end of November. I didn’t practice a lot between November and December, but once January came around I started back practicing. I practiced from then on out. So, I still practiced even though I didn’t play.

Obviously in your first year you really grow a lot as a player. Where did you feel like your growth was?

Just in knowing what to expect from the coaches and knowing what the coaches expect from you. A lot of times when you’re a freshman you make mistakes, and you kind of tend to because you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing, but the most important thing to our coaches that they stress is to be aggressive in whatever you do. Even if you’re not in the right position if you’re aggressive something good may be able to come out of it. So just staying aggressive, finishing the play, and not giving up on it.

So did you spend all summer here?

Yes, I spent all summer here.

Well, you were still rehabbing though right?

The first half I did some agility to try and strengthen my ankle. Then I had the surgery. And from then on I was in rehab just trying to work my way back into shape and strengthen my ankle.

>Joy Cheek

I know a lot of girls on the team have been injured. Do you have any injuries?

Well, I wear a shoulder brace on my other shoulder, but it really doesn’t stop me. I have to do a lot of rehab and stuff, but that’s the only thing for my other shoulder.

I know that post is going to be really big this year, and you’re going to have to come in and do a lot. How is the learning of all the new sets going?

It can be overwhelming, but not that often for our post players like Ali and Chante. Our coaches are really helping and even our guards. They understand that I’m in here learning a lot of new things whether it’s plays or defensive concepts, so I’m just taking it all in, being a sponge, and paying attention.

Ali has never really struck me as someone with a really mean, forceful personality, so what is she like as a leader?

We actually have been telling her this year that we need her to have that little mean streak. I know sometimes, like I talked to her yesterday, in practice she gives me that look like, “Come on Joy, you’ve got to get it together,” which I like because you need that from someone like Ali who’s a big part of our team and who we need to score and be that leader for us. I think that this year she’ll really surprise some people with how she is leading our team, and I think she’s really doing a good job with it.

What are you seeing from her play? What are you learning from her and what is it like battling with her?

She’s a tough player. She’s 6’7” and I’m 6’1” so she has a lot of advantage on me. Just to learn from what she does, the moves she does, and how she sees the court as a post player, passing and communicating. You can really learn a lot from a person like Ali who’s been here before you.

>Chante Black

You guys are obviously going to be more post oriented then you were last year. What have you seen in you and Ali’s performances so far? Do you think you two are really going to be able to dominate this year?

Definitely. We are both two, tall post players. You don’t really get a chance to see a 6’5” and a 6’7” post player play together, so that will be something new for this season. There’s no doubt that we should dominate over the other teams.

What do you think it gives Duke when Ali plays like that?

I mean anytime you have a player that is playing with confidence and shooting her shot and just playing like nobody can stop her is definitely going to help the team and motivate them, uplift them, and give them an edge because you can’t be stopped. Hopefully, that will lead to a win.

Fresh off his trip to New York to promote his new book, Coach K and the Blue Devils kick off practice today without the hoopla of “Midnight Madness” in what will be one of the more unpredictable Duke seasons in recent memory.

A team without seniors but heavy on athleticism will give the coaching staff plenty of incentive to build on a high-pressure defense, and run teams out of the gym. There will be bumps along the way–this team isn’t going to be undefeated when March comes around–but this is precisely the kind of situation in which Krzyzewski-coached teams thrive.

Keep an eye out for the progress of Greg Paulus; the defensive confidence of Martynas Pocius (and if you’re a certain former Utah coach, stop staring at his damn calves); and the acclimation of the entire freshmen class.

Should be a fun season…

~

Coach G’s squad kicks things off at 7 p.m. with high expectations and the motivation of overcoming last season’s frustrating finish with the realization of a still-elusive goal: the program’s first national championship.

Returning three starters, the best sophomore in America, and the nation’s seventh-best recruiting class, Coach G’s fifteenth season at the helm promises to be another great one.

The ACC is as competitive as it has ever been, however, as Maryland is a consensus No. 1 pick by the pundits, and the Tar Heels are not far behind. Duke is not expected to be a slouch, however, as it is tabbed anywhere from 6 to 8 in most national polls.

Stacy Lieberman of ESPN recently came out with her preseason top 25 women’s basketball teams. Like most polls, the Blue Devils are listed in the middle of the pack in the top 10.

And per usual, Maryland is listed atop the prognostication.

Courtesy GoDuke.com:

> Lindy’s Magazine

1. Maryland
2. North Carolina
3. Stanford
4. Connecticut
5. Tennessee
6. Oklahoma
7. Duke
8. Georgia
9. Rutgers
10.Ohio State

> Athlon Magazine

1. North Carolina
2. Maryland
3. Oklahoma
4. Stanford
5. Ohio State
6. Duke
7. Tennessee
8. Georgia
9. LSU
10. Baylor

> Slam Magazine

1. Maryland
2. North Carolina
3. Ohio State
4. Oklahoma
5. Tennessee
6. Stanford
7. Rutgers
8. Duke
9. Connecticut
10. Georgia

> Street & Smith’s

1. Maryland
2. North Carolina
3. Oklahoma
4. Stanford
5. Tennessee
6. Ohio State
7. Duke
8. Connecticut
9. Texas A&M
10.Georgia

> CBS Sportsline

1. Maryland
2. Oklahoma
3. Stanford
4. Tennessee
5. Ohio State
6. North Carolina
7. Connecticut
8. Duke
9. LSU
10. Georgia

ACC should be decently competitive this season. 😉

Courtesy your friendly moderators at TheDevilsDen.com, we’d like to welcome you to Sound and the Fury, which will aim to provide an analytical supplement to the message boards that have become the sports home for 25,000-plus fans of Duke University’s athletic teams.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Like Faulkner’s classic novel, Sound and the Fury will be filled with the views, takes and (hopefully) the insights of various individuals–though the affiliation with Faulkner’s book will end there.

So why start a blog?

The message boards provide a wonderful community-based forum in which fans can interact with “insiders.” Sometimes the most sought after analysis and information in message boards is difficult to find. This blog will hopefully ameliorate the ability of locating the information Duke fans want to find, and will further provide a vehicle for which that information can be delivered in a more thorough manner.

In-game analysis and immediate post-game analysis, and more efficient responses to the news and notes of the day can be expected with this new extenstion of The Devil’s Den, as well.

This is all about better serving the TDD readership, and hopefully, this blog will be a valuable complement to the main website that will benefit our collective interest in Duke athletics.

We look forward to the conversation, and look forward to your feedback.