I recently had the fortunate opportunity to interview Jeff Goodman, well-known analyst and writer in the College Hoops world. We talked mainly about Duke, including his early involvement in a Duke site many years ago, all the way to what he expects of Duke this upcoming season.
Is it true you used to be a contributor for a Duke website years back? If so, how did that come about and how was it?
Yes. When I got into basketball recruiting, I was working for Scout.com and wasn’t making a ton of money (that’s an understatement) so I made a few extra bucks by working on a freelance basis for Duke, UNC and NC State sites. It was pretty easy, because I was already talking to all the top players anyway. I just needed to get more specific info about each of those schools when I spoke to the recruits.
The 2018-19 squad, featuring Zion and RJ, is often talked about as the biggest failure on Coach K’s record. What do you think about that? And what do you believe was the ultimate downfall in the NCAAT?
When you look back on it, people are going to consider every Duke team that didn’t get to the Final Four a failure. I mean, look at the team with Jayson Tatum. They had Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen and were knocked out by South Carolina in the second round. But yes – a team with Zion, RJ, Cam and Tre Jones was expected to get to the Final Four and maybe even win it all. But they were flawed when it came to perimeter shooting, and I thought K should have done a better job of keeping Cam happy and engaged throughout the season.
If the pandemic never occurred, where would you see 2019-20 Duke finishing in the NCAAT?
I think Duke was a Final Four contender, but just not sure I saw them reeling off six straight and cutting down the nets last season. They were just too inconsistent to me. I loved the inside-out duo of Tre Jones and Vernon Carey, but you just really never knew what you were going to get for the most part from everyone else.
What is your outlook on the 2020-21 Duke Basketball team?
Probably the same as overall college basketball. A question mark. Obviously, they bring in a lot of talent. But it’s just so difficult to judge these days, especially with young teams that haven’t had all summer to develop chemistry – both with their teammates and also the coaches. Younger teams will be further behind, and that’s why I have teams like Baylor, Villanova, Gonzaga and Iowa at the top of my preseason poll.
They are also veteran teams that already have chemistry and roles established. A guy like Jeremy Roach will be incredibly important and we just don’t know what he was able to do this past season, how far behind he is with picking up Coach K’s system as opposed to, say, someone like Villanova point guard Collin Gillispie – who is a senior and knows the system and virtually all of his teammates.
What ceiling do you give the 20-21 Duke team?
Ceiling is basically always national title for Duke. They bring in another talented recruiting class. Basically a half-dozen Top 50 freshmen. The key will be which one emerges as a star. I’m going with Jalen Johnson. I think he’s got the entire package. He’s a smart player, skilled and can basically do everything on the court. But they will also need Roach to be one of the top PG’s in the country. I’m a fan, but again – he’s a got a tough task as a freshman point guard in the current climate.
Who has been your all time favorite Duke recruit to scout and interact with?
My all-time favorite was Greg Paulus. I first met him when he was probably 14 or 15 and he was considered by many as the best point guard in the country. He chose to play Duke over offers to play both point guard and quarterback at Notre Dame. He was so loyal to Duke and K despite the fact that things didn’t work out for him at Duke like he and so many thought. I always respected him for that.
You never hear him saying he regrets anything. He could have gone the football route instead, and then after he finished playing at Duke, he went and played quarterback at Syracuse after not throwing the football for four years. I don’t know. I just have a ton of respect for him and how he handled everything. Plus, he’s a terrific kid (I know he’s not a kid anymore, but I’ll always think of him as a kid).
As of right, what do you think the 2020-2021 season looks like, and will we ultimately get a NCAAT?
I think we’ll have a season, but I’m not all that optimistic that teams are going to get in more than 20 or so games. The NCAA wihll do whatever it takes to hold a tournament (it has $900 million reasons to make sure of it), but the two words I have used thus far — and it’s no one’s fault – is shit show. Teams are have to have to adapt and I just don’t want to see a lot of complaining throughout the season. Let’s hope for 20 games, an NCAA tournament and call it a win for everyone.
Big thanks to Jeff Goodman for the interview. You can follow me on Twitter at @UpdateDuke for more Duke content.