TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 14
January 6, 2010
NOT HURRYCLOWNS, BUT CYCLOWNS EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
#5 DUKE (12-1, 1-0) v. IOWA STATE (10-3, 0-0 Big 12)
It’s off to Iowa State University at Chicago, Illinois (ISU-CI) in this “road” game. You know what? Some of you (read: all of you) are probably tired of my ranting on this particular topic, but I’m no prisoner of small-minded concerns like near-universal boredom with any particular topic. However, in a concession, we’ll try to keep this one quick.
I don’t think anyone disputes that it’s a good idea to play road games. However, I get the feeling that if Duke played an independent schedule, like Notre Dame does in football, the Blue Devils would never go to anyone’s opposing homecourt. And please, let’s retire the canard that eight ACC road games a year is puh-lenty of exposure to hostile atmospheres that helps build character. This season, in addition to the regularly scheduled (wow!!!) road games at Chapel Hill and College Park, Duke plays at Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Clemson (all by January 23, interestingly), Boston College, Miami, and Virginia. Clemson aside, that’s just not a daunting gauntlet of ACC road games. Sure, Doug Flutie, Matt Ryan, and Randy Moss (BZZZZZZT - - does that guy care about anyone but himself? I don’t see him hanging out at too many Marshall games) will all be in attendance at the Count Forum, but Miami and Virginia’s new arenas are universally panned as relatively easy places for opponents to play, the ESA is a joke in terms of intimidating opposing squads, and the major danger at the Leakadome in Atlanta is interior flooding, not angry mobs.
Since that’s not a gauntlet, and since Duke will face hostile crowds for at least a couple more seasons (I think I can feel the tide of national anti-Duke hatred starting to shift a little bit - - can you?) in NCAA Tournament venues, I just don’t see how it can hurt to play true road OOC games. But they’re only allowed if they’re in Neeba arenas such as Madison Square Cameron and the Phone Booth in Washington. And so, every season, we miss a valuable opportunity to improve the toughness of the squad. It’s just a shame.
This game, of course, reminds me of when it was announced a few years back that Duke would play at Iowa in the Big Ten Challenge. Wow! Since I like Iowa quite a bit, and have always wanted to see a game at Carver-Hawkeye, I got all excited . . . until Coach K asked if Iowa would play the game at its, uh, alternate home court in, errr, the largest city in nearby Illinois. For some reason, Iowa said yes, and that was the end of that. The location of this game isn’t nearly as ridiculous, since it’s a one-shot and not a replacement for what should have been a solid character-builder, but it’s still a touch silly. And please, don’t mistake me - - I’m a huge fan of Jon Scheyer, who’s obviously the ACC POY favorite right now, and should draw first-team All-America consideration. The Scheyers (among the nicest people around, by all accounts) have reportedly obtained about 500 tickets for this one, and I’m sure Chris Collins and the head man himself will have plenty of personal acquaintances in attendance as well. I’m very glad that we got Jon a “homecoming game;” it's fantastic. It’s just too bad that Coach K keeps making what I think is a big mistake, or missing big opportunities, and making Duke look foolish in the process.
It is worth noting that if you do play true road OOC games, you should probably make sure that your team does not absolutely smell to high, baby-blue heaven. Try these steps:
(1) DO have a 20-board advantage
(2) DO have the officials completely in your pocket
(3) DO NOT require an extra period of play in order to cap your sole triple
(4) DO NOT put one of the worst ACC backcourts since, well, Boone and Morrison on the wood
(5) DO NOT be coached by an unbalanced individual
One thing (of many) that’s funny about UNC-CH’s absolutely ridiculous loss to CoC is that UNC-CH fans just loooooooooove them some true road OOC games, because it gives them an easy opportunity to diss Duke. (Yet another reason to authorize some true OOC road games - - to take that line of attack away, although perhaps we just shouldn’t care what Toolfans think.) But after this one, how much do you want to bet that all of a sudden, Tool partisoids become a bit less sanguine about playing in hostile gyms outside the cozy confines of their Swoffy-run conference? Yep - - funny. And that sound you hear is fervent, crazed backpedaling among the Bilases of the world. I know it already seems like four lifetimes ago, but remember, at the beginning of the season, nearly every mediot was prepared to defend the concept of a UNC-CH repeat in a deathmatch, if necessary. The ACC championship? Please! That was a foregone conclusion. According to these worthies, all of this wasn’t just a viable proposition, it was a possibility that grabbed you by the lapels, brandished a weapon in the Wizards’ locker room to show you that it was serious, and DEMANDED your attention, by jiminy!
Those predictions don’t look quite so solid now. Rrhoy’s team will probably experience what looks like a resurgence in the ACC season, because of the provisions of the Tool Enabling Act of 1980, which states that ACC coaches are statutorily required to make boneheaded decisions during league play that make the Soiled Pedestrians look much better than they are. See, e.g. Purnell v. Purnell (every year); Gaudio v. Gaudio (about every other year); Bald Bastard v. Bald Bastard (about every other year), et cetera. My goodness, if you really had to, you could even throw another team, and another coach, closer to home, in there. It’s sad when Sweaty is the most reliable threat to Cryolina every season, isn’t it? Honestly, if it weren’t for certain ACC “coaches” inexplicably befouling their pants when facing those harrowing Twinks, Chapel Hill would incur about two to three more conference losses each season. However, this year’s Tool edition is so bad, particularly relative to the preposterous early season expectations with which it was bestowed, that fans of garish Alexander Julian color schemes may be in for quite a shock.
Since a couple of people liked the following sentiment on The Devils’ Den message boards, I’ll repeat myself here for a few cheap laughs - - a real operational coach would defeat the Cremins Juggernaut and beat CoC every time out. But this game shows us that Roid is, at best, an average game manager, who can only win when he’s gifted a prebuilt unit recruited by his disgraced predecessor, or when he flukes into a ref-umbrellaed post man who goes to the line 14 times per game, and stays four years because he has no chance of success in the pros, plus a superquick point guard who hangs around one campaign longer than intended after racking up a DUI in the offseason. Those are the kinds of things that need to happen for Horseface to win. Take some of them away, and you get the mess that you currently have in Chappaheeya. And don’t hand me some rubric about the guy being a great recruiter, either - - this isn’t the season for that particular boast. It’s hard to believe how bad this freshman class, about which we heard so much, actually is. Enjoy next season, Harrison.
I spent a lot of time on the Tools because they’re amusing. And yes, there will be a Clemson recap in the offing, because that was a great effort by Duke and a detailed summary is well-deserved. For the moment, I’ll just say that the Blue Devils’ defense was fantastic, and totally overcame three problems: (1) the unusually bad ballhandling; (2) a poor night from tripleland; and (3) what was, apparently, an inapt contest for the usage of Andre Dawkins. If I was in a cave for the game, and you arrived after it was over and handed me Duke’s A/TO stats, three-point shooting totals, and Dawkins’ minutes, I would have thought the Blue Devils lost. Maybe even lost handily. I would NOT have guessed that Duke authored a 20-plus-point win. I don’t think that Clemson is a Top 25 team, necessarily - - maybe borderline Top 25, but certainly not anything more than that - - but that was still a very impressive win. Nice job to the squad and staff.
As duhomme notes infra, it is weird that Duke has never played Iowa State before. Road game-related issues notwithstanding, Coach K did an excellent job of assembling an OOC schedule with interesting, quality opponents this year - - Mike isn’t responsible for Pennsylvania’s total collapse, and playing LBSU was a really smart arrangement. This is another good one, as are Georgetown and Tulsa to come. Iowa State isn’t ranked, but it’s been a while since the Associated Guess poll (as most of you who read my pap regularly are aware, the other “poll” has no resonance with me whatsoever) made any real sense, at least beyond the Top 10, minus UNC, who never should have been anywhere near it. The Clones, as Iowa Hawkeye fans not-so-affectionately call their in-state rivals, are a good team in a very good conference, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this turns into a dogfight for Duke - - but only if the gameplanning is poor.
ISU head coach Greg McDermott, entering his fourth season, is a pretty decent coach. He spent five years running things at his alma mater Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids, and did very well in the Mo Valley, with three NCAA appearances in his final three seasons. At that juncture, Iowa State got tired of the decline in its basketball fortunes, which included a head coaching merry-go-round from serial cheater (Tim Floyd) to underage partier (Larry Eustachy) to inexplicably-hired incompetent (Wayne Morgan). Enter McDermott, and with a 10-3 start to this season, he’s now evened his record in Ames at 54-54.
The Clowns are on the upswing because of a sterling McDermott recruit, 6-10 junior Craig Brackins, who is the Big 12’s top returning scorer and second-leading returning rebounder (behind Aldrich of Kansas) this season. Brackins, a very versatile forward who can play face-up and back-to-the basket with equal tenacity, could have bolted for the Association after last season, but he hung around, and will now be the latest in quite a line of impressive frontcourt players that the Blue Devils have battled already this young season. Brackins has logged 17.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 bpg, and shot .482/.746/.583 so far this season, and that 58.3% on three-pointers is 14-24, so it’s not like he just occasionally mails one in from distance. Indeed, this is going to be another game with a lot of forestry, because in addition to Brackins, McDermott starts 6-11, 255-pound sophomore Justin Hamilton (4.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 80.6% FG). As you might guess from those stats, Hamilton is a sanitation specialist who does not shoot from beyond breathing distance of the rim, but he fills space and has to be contended with.
In the backcourt, the Cylons sport a three-headed attack of fairly tall guys - - 6-5 junior Lucca Staiger, 6-6 senior juco import and hilariously named Marquis Gilstrap, and 6-4 junior Diante Garrett. Staiger (9.6 ppg, .414/.800./419) is That German Guy who bombs from outside; he’s made 39 treys, which is two more than Duke’s leader in the category - - (surprise!) Jon Scheyer. (Jon’s percentage is slightly higher, however, at 43% even.) Jockstrap is a swingman scorer with pretty impressive season averages of 14.8 ppg and 8.6 rpg, while shooting .478/.693/.382. Garrett is the point guard; he was in the top 40 in Division I last season with five dimes an outing, and has upped that total this season to 5.5 apg, against 1.9 tpg. He scores 8.3 ppg on .477/.625/.400 marksmanship. Depth comes from former Marquette player and 6-3 sophomore Scott Christopherson (8.0 ppg, 1.2 apg, .544/.778./516); substitute point Chris Colvin (3.1 ppg, 2.2 apg), a 6-2 freshman from Chi-town’s Whitney Young High; former Clemson commit, juco import and 6-9 junior La Ron Dendy (7.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, .600 FG%, .476 FT%), and last but not least, Boozer the Younger! Carlos’ little brother, Charles (2.8 ppg, 1.4 apg), is a 6-3 junior and provides scrappiness in ample quantities.
The Funnels are on a four-game winning streak against fairly middling competition (including a sadly downtrodden Iowa squad), and they’ve been a team of skeins thus far, winning six straight to start the year, then dumping three consecutive tilts against Northwestern, Northern Iowa and Berkeley before the current upswing. It’s a little hard to get excited about their wins - - in fact, it’s really hard. Maybe their best-quality victory is over St. Louis, then 4-1 and now 9-5, in a two-game post-Thanksgiving tournament hosted by Illinois-Chicago. Other than that, given how poor Iowa is this season, there isn’t much in the way of a resume here. No, I have it - - the Clowns’ most recent game, a double-OT win over Tom the Bomb Penders’ Houston unit (featuring an excellent pair of 6-4 seniors, Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis, in the backcourt) on Sunday, is their most impressive achievement, but Ken Pomeroy only ranks the Cougars at #90 nationally (Duke is #2 behind Kansas; Iowa State is #63), and that game took place at Hilton Coliseum in Ames. Overall, ISU has a pretty weak 10-3 record.
That weak record explains some of the gaudy stats. Brackins is definitely a very good player against any competition, but I expect Duke to give the wing trio of Garrett, Athletic Supporter, and Staiger more trouble than they’ve had all season. Hamilton mostly eats real estate, and the bench isn’t overly impressive. The Cycloids shoot only 64% from the line, and interestingly enough, Brackins gets to the stripe less often than Duke’s leader (again - - surprise!), one Jon Scheyer. The two teams have asserted an equal number of claims at the stripe at 292 apiece, but Duke is way more than slightly better in converting those tries, at 76.4%, which could be the difference right there. Another issue for ISU is rebounding - - even against that less-than-sterling competition they’ve faced, they have 38.1 bounds a game; Duke has collected 41.2 against much better opposition.
If ISU is going to keep this one close and/or take it home, they have to rely on their three-point shooting ability - - their mark of .42616 from distance is good for sixth in Division I, just ahead of, well, Duke, at .42586, seventh in the country. And you wondered about the five decimal places for a second there; please, just admit it. The problem for McDermott, Brackins, and the Cyclone perimeter players is what all nine of already you know - - Duke rarely gets lit up from outside by teams that one would think might accomplish that feat. Weirdly, Duke is more likely to suffer distance-inflicted indignities from Tahj Holden types than legitimately credentialed snipers. And then there’s the relative wing defense - - Duke is holding opponents to a 28.6% mark from the arc (#24 in Div I), while ISU allows opponents (and again, not particularly good ones) to shoot 32.2% from range (#107 in Div I).
Finally, how will Iowa State respond to the pressure of a Neeba Arena in the big city, the ginormous personality of Jay Bilas doing the game, and other factors? The Clones have not defeated a ranked opponent in one month shy of four years - - and that was the then-25th ranked Colorado Buffaloes, so they just slid under the tag there.
I can see the first half being very close, but unless Duke has a real shooting meltdown in one of these large arenas in which the Blue Devils adore playing, the Blue Devils’ defense, rebounding, and stronger and more balanced offense should lead the way to a win.
Duke 88, Iowa State 70.
Wow, what an awesome group of teams make up this conference this year. First Maryland drops one to William and Mary, meaning the Tribe is now 2-0 against ACC teams, good for tops in the league. Then Bee, See? somehow loses to the state of Maine and then …
Our beloved neighbors in Chapel Hill go and lose to the College of Charleston, captained by former Georgia Tech top boss Bobby Cremins, possibly the only coach in the known universe whose name is painted on the floor at a school that fired him. I guess he negotiated a pretty good severance package. Anyway, back to Monday night’s hilarity, which was fully enjoyed here in the “Dukies.com for President” campaign headquarters. Only two starters for the Hoots scored in double digits (oh, did I mention this contest featured an extra five-minutes of stat-padding opportunities?). One for six from behind the parabola. And, well, let’s play a little game. What if I told you that Team X took 34 free-throws, making 24, and Team Y took only six, making half those. Then I said Team X outrebounded Team Y by 20. THEN, I asked you who won the game. Naturally, you would say, “Team X, of course. It defies all laws of basketball that a team can have those factors in their advantage and lose the game. Unless, I guess, Team X plays such horrific defense a guy with explosives in his underwear could board the team bus unimpeded.”
Okay, enough with the subterfuge. Team X is the Drab Socks, who did manage to have the previously-mentioned stats on their side but still came up short. In part, because they stood around and watched 40.6 percent of the Cougars’ three-pointers sail over their heads and land safely in the warm embrace of iron and twine. Possibly fearing that Cremins’ crew were packing loaners from Gilbert Arenas, they willingly handed the ball over nine times. But it wasn’t all bad. This team of immense size we’ve been hearing about for what seems to be two years was matched in the block column at 10 apiece. By the way, the College of Charleston’s tallest player is 6-9.
Now I know the Hoots are currently without the services of Marcus Ginyard (recently seen in his hometown of Alexandria, Va., wearing a UNC-CH jersey with the words “Marcus Ginyard” on both the front and the back in a desperate attempt to get someone, anyone, to notice who he is) and Will Serious, but there’s no real good reason for them not to come out of that gym without a win. There’s also no reason they should have been ranked in the top 10 with the three losses they already had. With the addition of one more, they’ll probably be penalized by getting dropped to 11.
(By the way, I’m watching the Texas/Arkansas game as I write this. I really hope when Dexter Pittman is through playing basketball that he gets involved with NASCAR.)
There is an ACC team that did decide to win recently, and that was Duke, neutering the Tigers in a most impressive fashion Sunday night. Of course, most of us missed most of the first half, as Wake Forest took eight overtimes to dispatch of Xavier. Unfortunately for Oliver Purr-nel, most of his players were huddled around a T.V. in the locker room watching, and the only two he had available managed a paltry 12 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
After the mid-game break, there was the usual federally mandated early-second-half slack-off, requiring Coach K to call a time-out, during which I’m pretty sure he didn’t serve tea and cookies and ask everyone to read some poetry aloud. As Matt noted in the comments section below the last edition (you can do that?!), cute little Oli for some reason decided to slow the pace against a Duke squad that doesn’t exactly race down the floor on a regular basis. Plus, there was the odd strategy of NOT pressing Duke, despite that this tactic is a big reason Clem’s Son abused the Blue Devils down at Littlejohn last season. Once he deployed it in the second half, Duke had regained control of the game. Plus, because Thomas, Scheyer, Singler and Smith were passing around the press instead of over it, or dribbling through it, in an attempt to create fast break opportunities, the game slowed down even more.
Enough of that, let’s get to …
WIN OF THE GAME: Holding Clemson to 16.7 percent shooting in the first half? Forcing Clemson into more turnovers than they had field goals? Geez, flip a coin. Let’s just say, the defense.
FAIL OF THE GAME: There’s no confirmation that federal stimulus funds are available for foundries that can produce whistles that can withstand what the officials subjected theirs to in the final 20 minutes. That really was one of the most boring halves of basketball I’ve ever seen. An intra-squad scrimmage at Temple would have more highlights.
Before we get to tonight’s game, a quick sidebar. The Washington, D.C., fire department has a boat named after John Glenn. Um, the dude was a pilot and an astronaut. Why is a fireboat named after him?
Back to the subject matter at hand. This game is on the schedule for no logical reason other than the now-institutional illogical effort to have Duke play in as many NBA arenas as possible each season, and trying to work in one in Chicago whenever possible. With no takers from any teams within the boundaries of Illinois itself, Duke turned to neighboring Iowa State, who had no issue with a roughly 358-mile trip to the windy city for a chance to get a piece of the gate. According to the nice game notes provided by the Cyclones, this is the first meeting ever between the two schools. That’s actually kind of hard to believe. Duke’s game notes do not address this issue, so if it’s wrong, well, so what.
There’s a lot of fun connections. The obvious ones are Mike Krzyzewski being a Chicago native, plus Chris Collins and Jon Scheyer being Illinois natives. Chris’ father Doug used to coach the Bulls. But it gets even better. At the time K was offered the Duke job, he was interviewing for the top slot at, yep, Iowa State. And, Carlos Boozer’s younger brother Charles plays for the Clones. Neat, huh?
What has this team done so far? Well, not beaten anyone impressive. Take a look for yourself. They suffered losses at the hands of Northern Iowa (Clone head coach Greg McDermott’s alma mater and former employer) and [sigh] the state of California. On other hand, their starting line-up is pretty big, and they’ve got some size coming off the bench. This team is also gunning away from outside, making nearly eight three-pointers per game and ranking fifth in the nation in artillery percentage (one notch ahead of Duke). So this could be a shootout. In addition, the Sly Clowns collect misplaced shots at a rate slightly better than 38 per game, and have five blocks per game.
The team leader is Craig Brackins, a 6-10, 230 pounder who is known to step outside from time to time, where he is successful more than half the time. Given this team’s long range ability, that zone we’ve been enjoy see Duke employ this season will probably not be in order. And, due to the size and fairly spread out scoring of this crew, doubling down on Brackins isn’t a good idea either. Hopefully, the plan will be to let him do his thing, contain the guards, and hope Singer can shoot in at least one NBA arena.
Duke 81, Iowa State 76.