Kline: I expect that the two guys you mentioned will be extremely important to this team. They are extremely talented all-around players and both can score the basketball ball in various ways. These guys both present match up problems for opponents because they are so athletic long and their versatility as scorers make them tough keep in check. That being said they are both young and though Hood has played a season at Mississippi State, both are fairly inexperienced, Parker having no college experience.
It will be interesting to see their development and how both react when things aren't falling for them. It will be also to see how the older guys respond with both of these guys being seen as "the go-to-guys." Will it become a watching game like with Austin Rivers a couple years ago or will they fit in as a pieces of a bigger picture and hopefully a better picture.
2) A lot of people seem to think Duke is going to really try to push the tempo on the court this year, how do the guys returning fit into an uptempo attack?
Kline: I believe most of the returners fit into that style nicely. Much of the roster is made up of athletic wings and guards who can push the tempo. Quinn Cook has very good court vision and likes to push the ball up the court. He, however, will have to play smarter and not try to force things that are not there. He can't try to put the game on his shoulders, because while he is talented he isn't that kind of player. Guys like Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Rasheed Sulaimon are all guys that can run a more uptempo style. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston aren't necessarily those type players but they will carve out a roll based on experience and expected leadership.
3) In getting more general, what do you think of the Champions Classic and the event being extended into the future?
Kline: I think it is tremendous for college basketball to have these marquee matchups early in the year. Beats college football powerhouses playing cupcakes to start a season. A big part of the appeal is to get fans talking and thinking about college basketball when college football and the NFL are really dominating the sport's mindset right now. And while no one likes to lose an early season game it helps the teams get that early season experience and face top tier talent that will give them a taste of competing for a title later in the year.
4) Has there been any news about Semi Ojeleye and how he has looked so far in practice? Just curious due to him growing up 20 miles south of Lawrence.
Kline: The one big thing I've heard about Ojeleye is that he is athletic. He has thrown down some mammoth dunks in practice and has seen some sport duty in he exhibitions. I think he maybe a year or two away from getting lots of playing time but if he can develop into the kind of defensive player Mike Krzyzewski likes and demands in order to play, he could find a niche on this year's squad. Overall I like his game and think he will be a very good player down the line.
5) How do you envision the season ending for the Blue Devils?
Kline: I am far more conservative on my prognostications about Duke than some others I know. I think they are incredibly talented but I think they have some question marks namely size and can they play defense like Krzyzewski likes them to with the game being called tighter than in recent memory. Duke likes to play a physical brand of defense and my feeling is that will draw a lot of whistles and foul trouble could be a problem for them this year a lot. I also worry about how well this team can be in the half-court with no true post player. If they can't get out and run like they want to how efficient will they be offensively when they have to run those half-court sets. I see Final Four as a possibility but there are no guarantees even with the talent they have.
6) One last question, thoughts on Roy Williams? We're obviously very familiar with him here at Kansas, so I'm curious what the thoughts are from a Duke fan.
Kline: Ole' Roy. Most Duke fans genuinely don't like him because he coaches the program's hated rival. The recent academic and player scandals and his apparent lackadaisical approach to dealing with it hasn't helped. Most, if they really were honest with themselves, would say they think he is a good man just coaching the wrong program. I've never thought he was a great Xs and Os coach, more of a great recruiter and his country bumpkin shtick gets a bit old at times but in general I think he is a loyal guy, a good guy and an okay coach.
As we look forward to the matchup Tuesday against Duke in the Champions Classic, I exchanged questions and answers with Mike Kline, writer at Duke Sports Blog. The questions range from what he expects from this Duke team to his thoughts on facing Roy Williams.