It might not be as hard as usual for visiting teams to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.
Duke announced earlier this month that spectators will not be allowed at its home basketball games until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So the Blue Devils won’t have the vocal support of the students who make up the “Cameron Crazies.”
“I’m starting my 41st year here, so I’ve benefited greatly from having that sixth man that [does] create one of the best environments in sport, not just in basketball,” Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said Thursday on an ACC video conference. “Not having that, we’ll see. After we play a couple games, I’ll let you know how good or bad it is.
“Overall, [the crowd is] an advantage for us. But other teams really looked at that as a challenge coming in, to beat Duke in Cameron, because of our fans. And that created some unbelievable games. … So it’ll be interesting to see how our opponents adjust to not having the Cameron Crazies in there also.”
Opponents won’t miss the taunts of the Cameron Crazies.
“Teams are going to go in with an extra level of confidence, knowing that the Cameron Crazies aren’t there,” ACC Network analyst Luke Hancock, a former Hidden Valley High School and Louisville standout, said Wednesday on an ACC Network video conference.
“When you’re trying to throw the ball in and all those fingers are waving at you, it is absolutely an incredible environment. And I guarantee you, not having that fan base there, not having it be that loud, … teams are going to go in there with a chip on their shoulder, saying, ‘This is the year we need to give it to Duke.’”
ACC Network analyst Dalen Cuff said the absence of the Cameron Crazies will be a “huge difference-maker.”
“That’s a massive advantage to have, when you’re playing an opposing team that can’t hear the play calls,” Cuff said. “To have a really young group [on Duke this year] that frankly, … they are not some of the transcendent stars and dominant players we’ve seen in recent years. … So they’re going to have to rely on more of their team defense. And their defense was always helped by playing at home. So everybody in the league isn’t going to be scared to come to Cameron this year.”
Duke, which was picked second behind Virginia in last week’s ACC preseason poll, must replace three NBA draft picks from a 25-6 team that tied for second in the league with a 15-5 ACC mark. Preseason All-ACC first-team pick Jalen Johnson and three other highly touted freshmen have come aboard.
“We have a young team,” said Krzyzewski, whose squad has been ranked No. 9 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. “We’ll have good depth and not as much separation of players, although we hope to get more separation as guys improve.”
Here’s a preseason look at the other ACC foes of Virginia Tech and Virginia.
The Eagles return Steffon Mitchell and two other starters from a team that tied for 10th in the ACC. Three graduate transfers have come aboard.
“We have a very deep team,” coach Jim Christian said. “And obviously this is a year [when] I think depth is going to benefit you because of all the [COVID-19] things you’re going to have to balance to play this season.”
The Tigers welcome back preseason All-ACC first-team pick Aamir Simms and three other starters from a ninth-place squad.
“We can play 10 or 11 guys in most games and feel like there’s not going to be a lot of drop-off, so I’m excited about that,” coach Brad Brownell said.
The defending ACC champs must replace two first-round draft picks. But M.J. Walker and two other starters are back from a 26-5 squad that could have made a big splash had the NCAA Tournament been played.
Preseason ACC freshman of the year Scottie Barnes has come aboard.
“Scottie Barnes, I’m very excited to see, [although to go from] … power forward in high school to become a point guard in college is not easy,” Cuff said. “But I’m not an NBA player — Scottie Barnes is.”
Coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team has been ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP Top 25, will once again play waves of players.
“What an advantage this year to have a system where you play 10, 11, 12 guys,” Hancock said.
The Yellow Jackets have four starters back from a team that finished fifth in the ACC.
“I really love our team,” coach Josh Pastner said. “We’ve got an older bunch.”
The squad’s top three scorers return — guards Michael Devoe and Jose Alvarado and forward Moses Wright. They must replace center James Banks, though.
“I’m high on Georgia Tech’s team, just because they bring back two of the best guards in not just the ACC but in the country,” Cuff said.
The Cardinals lost all five starters, including draft pick Jordan Nwora, from a 24-7 team that tied for second place.
The backcourt of David Johnson and Radford graduate transfer Carlik Jones should be the team’s strong suit.
“We have a couple dynamic playmakers,” coach Chris Mack said.
But center Malik Williams will be sidelined for the next few months with a fractured foot, and San Francisco graduate transfer Charles Minlend has a sprained knee.
“We’ve had some really tough injuries,” Mack said. “We certainly lose a lot of talent in Malik. … We’re going to have to learn some tough lessons at his position defensively.”
“For me, it’s red alert over there until they get a guy like Malik Williams healthy,” Hancock said.
The Hurricanes return preseason All-ACC first-team pick Chris Lykes and two other healthy starters from a team that tied for 10th place. Returning starter Sam Waardenburg is sidelined for this season with a foot injury.
“They have to defend and rebound better … to really compete,” Cuff said.
The Tar Heels welcome back preseason ACC player of the year Garrison Brooks and two other starters from a 14-19 team that tied for last place.
“We had a season last year that left definitely a bad taste in our mouths,” said coach Roy Williams, whose team has been ranked No. 16 in the preseason AP Top 25.
The freshman class includes four McDonald’s All-Americans.
Freshmen Caleb Love and R.J. Davis will take over for first-round draft pick Cole Anthony at point guard.
State returns guard Devon Daniels and two other starters from a team that tied for sixth place.
“To have a veteran guard who we can make the argument [that] at the end of the year was playing our best basketball of any guard we had on our team, I think that’s a major plus,” coach Kevin Keatts said of Daniels.
But the top two scorers, C.J. Bryce and Markell Johnson, must be replaced.
“They seemed to be the identity of that team,” Hancock said.
The Fighting Irish return just two starters from a team that tied for sixth place.
They must replace their leading scorer, All-ACC first-team pick John Mooney, and second-leading scorer T.J. Gibbs.
Pitt has Justin Champagnie and two other starters back from a team that tied for last place.
Ithiel Horton, who sat out last year after transferring from Delaware, should provide a 3-point shooting threat.
“He’s shown that he can shoot the basketball, and that’s something our team definitely needs,” coach Jeff Capel said.
Four starters are back from a team that tied for sixth place, but draft pick Elijah Hughes will be missed.
Buddy Boeheim and Joseph Girard III are among those back.
Two starters are back from a team that tied for last place under ex-coach Danny Manning.
Former East Tennessee State coach Steve Forbes is now at the helm of the Demon Deacons.
“The growing pains is part of it … when you take over a program,” Forbes said. “I went through it at East Tennessee State. We didn’t play well in the first semester my first year there, and it was my fault. I was trying to overcoach. … We have to get to know our team.”