In the latest AP Poll, Duke rose 6 spots to 11 despite a loss. Their loss was to currently top ranked Syracuse and many people were impressed by Duke’s performance. One of the most impressed was AP voter, Ron Morris. In Morris’ ballot, Duke was ranked fourth, their highest ranking of the week. I was able to get in contact with Ron Morris over email and he gave me some great insight on his vote.
He first told me about his recent voting history with Duke, “You should know I did not have Duke ranked in my top 25 for two weeks, then moved the Blue Devils to No. 17 the previous week, and to No. 4 this week.” He was one of 25 voters who gave Duke a top 10 vote, after Duke did not receive one the week before.
Why did Ron Morris put Duke fourth? “My figuring is that there are clearly a top three teams in the country . . . Syracuse, Arizona and Florida. After that, you can shake up the next 15-20 teams and not find a whole lot of difference. Winning at Pittsburgh and taking Syracuse to overtime in the same week made me believe Duke is at the top of that second-tier group, although I am still concerned that Duke really only has two quality wins this season (Michigan at home and Pittsburgh on the road).” While many others are not as high on Duke as Morris, Duke has clearly joined the top group of college basketball teams.
What does Ron Morris see in Duke’s future? “I also believe Syracuse exposed a major weakness in Duke's game --- interior defense. While the perimeter defense has improved greatly over the past three weeks, Duke really has no answers against mobile, big inside players. The question then becomes can Duke continue to make 15 or so 3-pointers a game to counter that weakness.” It will be interesting to see whether Duke can overcome these shortcomings, but Morris’ poll makes it seems like he believes they will.