ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde, who covers college football and basketball and writes a popular “Forde Minutes” column each week during both seasons, was kind enough to answer a series of questions about Duke’s potential come March and a variety of other topics.
The Q&A took place before the Blue Devils defeated Boston College in Chestnut Hill, but after the win over Georgia Tech the previous Thursday.
Here’s the full transcript:
The Chronicle: Duke obviously looked bad against Georgetown, but the return to Cameron Indoor Stadium seems to have done the team some good. What do you make of this Duke team after last night [Thursday's] win over Georgia Tech?
Pat Forde: I believe Duke is good. But really good? I have my doubts. Really, what I have are the same questions I’ve had the past few years: Is there enough interior talent, overall depth and athleticism to achieve like the great Duke teams of days gone by? I see three guys playing huge minutes, four guys combining to be OK (but far from overpowering) inside and enough opponents that seem to run faster and jump higher.
I’ve been bitten by the Blue Devils come March the past couple years—I bought in to thinking they could make a Final Four, and they have not come close. So I will need some convincing this time around.
TC: The general consensus here is that this season, the ACC has a handful of teams that could make the NCAA Tournament but few, if any, that can make a deep run. What ACC teams do you think have the potential to make some noise in March?
PF: Well, I think there is a difference between a “deep run” and “some noise.” I understand that this might just be semantics, but I can foresee some noise but I don’t know about any deep runs. Duke might be the best team in the ACC, and Duke doesn’t look like a Final Four team to me. The league looks like it has a lot of pretty good and very little really good. Which is unusual.
TC: The best teams Duke has played out of conference are Georgetown and Wisconsin, both on the road, and the Blue Devils dropped both games. Are those teams legitimate contenders? The Hoyas definitely looked legit last weekend, but followed up their beatdown of Duke with their fourth Big East loss at definite non-powerhouse USF.
PF: Georgetown is very good. Wisconsin is at least good, and maybe very good. Those are quality losses. Losing to them does not hurt Duke’s overall profile much at all.
TC: Aside from John Wall and Kentucky (and Texas to some degree), it seems like the teams at the top of the rankings this year just wouldn’t measure up to last year’s best teams (i.e. this Kentucky team to last year’s North Carolina, Oklahoma, Villanova, UConn ). Even Duke fits the trend–the Blue Devils might go deeper into the NCAA Tournament this year than last, but there’s no way this team is better without Gerald Henderson than with him. Is this just a general down year for college basketball?
PF: I’d say this is a down year across the board, yes. Just one of those things where the number of players lost to the NBA more than offsets the incoming talent and the improving talent. It’s not a vintage year.
TC: I spoke to a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers at the Duke-Georgetown game and he was raving about Kyle Singler’s pro potential, even while Singler had a tough game against the Hoyas. What NBA player would you compare Singler to?
PF: He is an extremely poor man’s Larry Bird. Repeat: EXTREMELY POOR MAN’S. He does not post or rebound as well as Bird or shoot as well as Bird, and he’s nowhere near the passer—but he has some of his versatility and toughness. He can score from a lot of places on the floor and in a lot of ways, and he likes crunch time.
TC: 96 teams in the NCAA Tournament—for or against?
PF: Completely, totally and passionately against.
TC: On a completely unrelated topic, you cover college football for ESPN.com just as you do basketball. Did you think David Cutcliffe was gone to Tennessee? And what does it mean for the program that he stayed, even though this recruiting class wasn’t ranked that highly around the country?
PF: I did not think Cutcliffe was gone. Never got any hint from anyone at UT that he was the leading candidate, or even the fall-back candidate when others started withdrawing. I believe Cutcliffe is very good and might have been a fine choice at Tennessee, but he seems like a great fit at Duke and it’s good that he stayed.