TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 13
January 3, 2010
FEELING KITTENISH? EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
#21 CLEMSON (12-2, 0-0) @ #7 DUKE (11-1, 0-0)
Some things are just not easily done. It’s not easy to outshoot Gil Arenas - - with or without a basketball. Like some sixth-rate stiff who used to play for Paul Hewitt was going to stop him? Like House of Pain was gonna do anything? It’s also extraordinarily difficult to outpace Mike Leach in the implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques. Out-psychoing Urban Meyer? Tough. Charging Doug Gottlieb with an over-the-limit fee on his (or someone’s) credit card - - hard. And if you really want a challenge, just try getting between Len Smellmore and his vehement, lungs-swelling hatred of the Duke Blue Devils within 48 hours after Scaryland loses to a pair of married royals who are planning a big family.
But none of this - - not even the part involving Gottlieb - - is more difficult than predicting the results of any given contest involving the Clemson men's basketball team, as long as they’re not playing the Tar Heels, of course. Against Duke, and against virtually anyone else, the Tiggers walk this world in multiple guises, and who knows which one will show up on any given night? Don’t ask me - - I’m still trying to find a way out of this shed that Mike Leach ordered me into. Anyone out there? Hello?
Outrageous Ollie Purnell is a big part of this. The man can look like a genius (this usually happens either against Duke, or when the Poohs are threatening to allow the NCAA Tournament to go on without them). He can also look blitheringly stupid - - I’ll never get over that extra-innings affair a few seasons back when he captained the blowing, not once, but twice, of solid-seeming leads that would have erased one of sports’ most ridiculous streaks. I think you know the one I mean.
Poor Nell has another enigma on the potboiler in Pickens County. As all eleven of you reading this - - including the two wards of the state - - are aware, the Orange and Purple lost about 35 points of scoring in the offseason when K.C. Rivers and Raymond Sykes exhausted their eligibility, Sykes after eight solid seasons, and Oglesby decided to beat the heat for Europe, where no one ever yells at you for taking threes from halfcourt, and matador defense is cheered madly by fervent fans. So it’s a bit of a new crew in Death Valley, although the Purssys dodged a huge bullet when Trevor Booker decided to stay out of the Association draft, despite the wagonloads of mail that Duke fans hand-delivered to his residence urging the contrary.
So we have the 6-7 senior Booker back, and to make matters worse for those of us who are justifiably afraid of this man, he brought his younger brother along. 6-8, 235-pound freshman Devin B. has been flexing in and out of the starting lineup thus far, depending on the opponents’ makeup. Lindy’s annual preview describes Booker the Younger as “bullish,” although I don’t see what his opinion on the stock market has to do with anything. Also holding forth in the frontcourt is 6-8 junior Jerai Grant, who has a chance to step right in and replace Sykes, his virtual clone. Then there’s 6-9 freshman Milton Jennings, a Burger Boy, and 7-2 sophomore Bucharostiff Catalin Baciu, the ACC’s tallest and slowest man. In fact, we’ve just received word that Baciu is already on his way over to Cameron, even though the team stayed at the Washington Duke.
As far as the backcourt, some sage observers of Purnell’s Pussies expressed the unabashed opinion in the wake of Oglesby’s emigration that a new chapter in Addition by Subtraction Theory had just been authored. But it was Oglesby and Rivers strafing from outside last season that enabled Booker to operate against single coverage down low; returning 6-2 junior point Demontez Stitt and his change-of-pace sidekick, 5-9 sophomore Andre Young, are middling three-point shooters at best, and don’t figure to offer the Tiggers the same level of balance. 6-6 freshman Noel Johnson, who dorked around with Southern Cal but was granted an immediate release from his commitment to the Trojans under the well-known, oft-invoked Yea Verily, Kevin O’Neill Approacheth Clause and 6-6 “senior” and former Elden Campbell/Dale Davis supporting cast member Harry Potter will try to provide wing offense, but I think this is going to be Clemson’s Achilles heel all season. The real savior may be 6-5 sophomore Tanner Smith, who showed flashes in limited action last season, frequently when Purnell got tired of Oglesby’s clowning. That’s pretty much the rotation. As a team - - sit down immediately, please - - the Tigers do not shoot well from the donation line, and they haven’t shown anything from the arc yet, although they are shooting well (duck, Jarvis!) from the field. They are ripping away over 11 steals a game, however - - a pretty impressive total. All of that aggressiveness may be taking its toll, though, as the zebras have been filling the air with whistles whenever Clemson gets within sensor range. Apart from the Bookers, the Tigers are mostly reedy and wiry, unless Grant ever gets it together down low. And even Trevor B. can be defended if no one has to respect the perimeter.
Purnell’s Pals have played a middling schedule, taking the wood to Presbyterian (don’t miss, Deon!), Liberty, North Carolina-Greensboro, Winthrop, South Carolina, Furman, ECU, WCU, Charleston, Sen. Richard Burr, Liddy Dole, Eric Robert Rudolph, Bernie Madoff, Madoff's homies at Butner, Mark Sanford’s call girl ring, and just about anyone else you can think of who is domiciled in the bi-state area. (And in an excellent rebuttal, the Fact-Checking Team reminds me that Liddy lives in a suite at the Watergate, just as she did when playing U.S. Senator for a single term.) Wow - - what a murderers’ row!!! Hopefully Ollie served up some tasty OOC fare from Chez Chris Hobbs to serve as a counterweight to all that cheese, but - - well, you’ve read this space before, right? Clemson attempted to jam an entire season of RPI-building vitamin supplement into that cool new three-gamer in Anaheim, but they lost to Texas A&M by nine, had a tough fight against Long Beach State, and nipped Butler by half a bucket. Then they played Illannoy and unsuccessfully tried to stave off a Duke-in-the-2001-Final-Four-versus-Sweaty sort of comeback from the Carp and Company, eventually notching a depressing two-point loss. More recently, after their annual Christmas Season Pastry Tour against many of the baked goods mentioned supra, the Tiggers just played a really weird game last Tuesday against South Carolina State. The Bulldogs weren’t exactly overwhelmed by the hostile atmosphere in Portajohn, shooting 50% and capping seven threes while outboarding Clemson - - think about that for a second; this is a MEAC team - - 30-27 and finally capitulating on last-minute free throws. Unnnnnnnnnimpressive!
Meanwhile, Duke comes off one of the most exciting games the Blue Devils have had since finally beating Connecticut, in which Duke simply pounded the hapless PennSYLVANIA Quakers, who lived up to their name in getting outscored by nearly 60 and also managing to be doubled up in the process. Ouch.
I enjoyed seeing Kyle Singler’s return to action after a long absence, and Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith continued to shine. When a guy has 11 dimes and four boners and sees his A/TO ratio go down, he's probably having a credible season at the point. Meanwhile, the Plumlees responded to Coach K’s motivational tactics by putting up solid (Miles) and career breakout (Mason) numbers. Zoubeard didn’t exactly embarrass himself either, and wonder of wonders, no Blue Devil so much as played 30 minutes. No, you’re not the only one in recovery after receiving that news. By the way, remember last edition, when I implied that Lance Thomas was one of the most maddeningly inconsistent players in Duke history?? Well. Stopped clocks and all that.
Games down at Clemson (I’ve just blocked out last season’s trip from my memory banks) frequently offer a few problems for the Blue Devils, and no worries - - thanks to some trademark Swoffordry in the schedule, Duke heads into Littlejohn in about three weeks. Sigh. At least it’s a home-and-home, right? But in Cameron, Duke is usually very motivated against the Tigers, and I just don’t see enough on the wing for the Kitties right now. Bookending Bookers aside, it’s hard to visualize Duke seriously threatened by a Clemson team struggling with the likes of South Carolina State and the Illwhini. We’ll hear the usual bombast from Tim Bloato about how athletic Clemson’s wings are, but that nice mix of zone looks that Duke is tossing into its repertoire this year (a thoroughly underdiscussed shift in strategy by Krzyzewski, and I include myself as a violator) is going to confuse the Tigers, and if Trevor Booker doesn’t go off, this one promises to get ugly. There is, after all, a rather atypical two-game losing streak at the hands of the Tigers (both in Clemson - - ahhhh, the Swofford Era) for Duke to break here, and Clemson has not won at Cameron in its last twelve tries. Duke will honor the school's first ACC title team, the 1960 squad, at halftime, and this is a three-day-early celebration of our wonderful arena's 70th birthday, so . . . let's capitalize on the good vibes and put together a good one here.
Realistically, I'm on the lookout for a close game ending in solid Duke win in a surprisingly offense-filled struggle between two strong defensive teams.
Duke 84, Clemson 77.
Everyone ready for some ACC action? For Duke, anyway. Virginia is in Cancun playing Seton Hall for some reason this weekend, and ridiculous BeeCee allowed the state of Maine to come into their arena and hand them a 52-51 loss. In fact, a quick look at the schedule will inform you that the Blue Devils are the only league team playing a league opponent on either Saturday or Sunday. Everyone else has a mix of Pepperdine, Xavier, Florida, UNC Greensboro and Charlotte. It is January, right?
And, of course, this time of the year means the canning of YET ANOTHER head coach for the Washington, D.C. – based NFL shop. Probably by the time tonight’s Duke v Clemson game tips off. Yep, head coaches they can get rid of. Offensive team name, not so much. In other local sports news, noted NBA weirdo Gilbert Arenas, who may use the same media consultant as Roy Williams, is preparing for his next career as president of the NRA. The first news was that the Wizards had reported to the league that Aren-ass had stored unloaded guns in his locker. The excuse being that he didn’t want his new-born daughter to get a hold of them. Now, he does deserve some credit for not purchasing one of these gems, but the story doesn’t really hold up. First off, ol’ Gil, one assumes that if these guns were in your home, they were for home protection, right? So they don’t do you a lot of good if they’re housed in a downtown basketball and concert facility named after a telecom company currently engaged in a serious ad war with AT&T. Also, ever heard of a safe? Trigger locks? Storing the guns at a friend’s house? Selling them? Not to mention, all the news stories on this say he moved the guns after the birth of his “latest” child. Which implies he already had others, that, I guess, he didn’t love as much.
We had fun with this for a few days until The New York Post reported that law enforcement officials are investigating whether Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton, whom you may remember was one of a long parade of heralded Paul Hewitt recruits who were used as part of an underachieving team, both had guns in the locker room and PULLED THEM ON EACH OTHER! Over a gambling debt. Um, Gilby, if the gun was truly unloaded, why did you point it at someone? Were you going to chuck it at him like the bad guys always did with Superman after they ran out of bullets? And what if Critter’s gun was loaded? And he fired? You’d have been sort of SOL there, huh? Also, why is an NBA locker room better armed than a team of elite Marines? Is this the new team poster? Are the players angling to have the team’s name changed back to “The Bullets”?
But, hey, enough of that, we have a Duke game to discuss. In their most recent trip to the hardwood, the Blue Devils squeaked out a 114 to 55 win over Pennsylvania, a score almost perfectly predicted by both Matt and myself in the last edition. Duke shot an amazing 60 percent from the floor, while holding the Quackers to 33.9. Plumlee 2.0 scored an impressive 18 points, while older bro 1.0 used his squirt bottle of Windex 10 times in only 17 minutes. Scheyer had an eye-popping 11 assists, thought that feat was somewhat dented by four boo-boos. Singler ran a disk defragmentation utility on his shot, thus increasing its efficiency, and made six of 10. Nice to see.
Not nice to see, or hear, was Len “Anybody But Duke” El-less, calling the game in his typical pedantic style. We were treated to only lengthy lecture, for what seemed like 10 minutes, when a Pennsylvania player shot an air ball somewhere around mid-way through the second half, and Duke in command of the game. The fans, as they are wont to do, started up the “Air Ball” chant, which offended Lenny to his very core. Apparently there is some rule that when the scoring margin reaches a certain point, fans of the winning team are supposed to sit quietly. Reportedly, Elmoron called Dean Dome security to have them remove all the Duke partisans from the stands, but they just couldn’t get there in time.
But he wasn’t through, he had to invent something else to lecture us about. With probably less than five minutes left in the game, Pennsylvania player Conor Turley fouled out of the game, and Duke used the stoppage in action to replace the remaining starters, who had clearly earned the standing ovation they received. But noooooooo, Lame had to insinuate they fans might be cheering the departure of Turley. And you, know, given that they were no longer going to have to suffer his shaved head and foot-long beard, they really couldn’t be blamed for that. Hell, he made me reminisce about the Wooly Willy toy I had as a child. But, see, they weren’t, Picket Fence Mouth. When Duke fans want to harsh on someone who fouls out, they do the “Ahhhhhh, See Ya!” chant. You should know this since you are, for whatever reason, assigned to 90 percent of Duke’s home games each year.
Then there was the weird rambling about how Andre Dawkins “hasn’t come back” since the death of his sister. While watching Dawkins put together a 10-point game. A little bit of checking showed me that, since the funeral, Andre has either been in double-digits or within striking distance in each game. Dude, don’t make stuff up just so you can keep the mouth-meter running. And, frankly, trying to connect a player’s performance to a tragedy is a disgusting way to conduct a television broadcast.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s pause for a minute for …
WIN OF THE GAME: Jack Eggleston, who suffered a cut over his eye, getting a field dressing that made him look like the fife player from the “Spirit of ’76” painting.
FAIL OF THE GAME: The fact that I had no idea Denzel Washington’s son is a walk-on player for Pennsylvania (if any members of the athletic department are reading, yes, that’s the fourth time I used the full name of your state), thus depriving me of all kinds of movie-related references that would have really padded my material in the last edition. Damn.
BONUS DOUBLE FAIL: Having veteran Duke men’s basketball announcer Art Chandler read a live (and lame) ad for the ESPN college basketball encyclopedia. And then mention that he got to keep a copy. I’ve seen eulogies delivered with more enthusiasm.
Alrighty, did Duke play Clemson last year? Yep. A thoroughly thrilling affair almost exactly 11 months ago when the Devils scored a torrid 47 points (for the whole game) while amassing an awesome seven assists versus 17 turnovers. Shot 30.8 percent for game, only made three three-pointers. I know that sounds bad, BUT they were out-rebounded by 11. Plus, if you traveled back in time and kidnapped Gerald Henderson, making him unavailable for the game, the rest of the team scores 31 points on the evening. Strong!
On the season, Clemson’s sked has been pretty similar to Duke’s, minus the five trips to Madison Square Cameron (thanks, Matt!). They have made their way through most of the in-state system, playing the University of South Carolina, South Carolina State and Furman, winning all three. They have two losses; the first to Texas A&M in Anaheim, where local officials are still plucking basketballs out of the Pacific after the Tiggers’ 33.9 percent shooting performance. The next one came in Littlejohn against Illinois. If you were paying attention during the ACC-Big 11 challenge, the Pussycats raced out to a 74-0 lead and then gave up the next 76 points, while not scoring, to lose by two. Oh, just kidding. The Illinitwits came back from 23 points down. It just sounded better the other way.
You know, I hate to sell you all short, but I’m not feeling well, so let’s just get to the chase, brass tacks or down-to-the-lick-log. Pick one. This Clemson crew makes nearly half their shots and rebounds like fiends, nearly 40 per game. Just over five blocks each time they play. Their free-throw shooting is … ehhhhh … okay, at 62.6 percent. On the other hand, they have had five (FIVE!!!!) different players foul out in just fourteen games, and keep in mind Treebeard is not a member of the squad. How’s the defense? Hmmm, 40.6 shooting allowed, not entirely scary given the level of the competition. On the other, other hand, they do put just more than 80 points on the scoreboard on the average playing night.
Duke’s toughest opponent yet? Maybe, although Whisky makes a case. If this game were being held in the lower Carolina, I’d be tempted to go with the Orange. In Cameron, with more students back, the home team should pull it out in one that will have you calling the pharmacy for a refill on your a-fib pills.
Duke 81, Clemson 79.