TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 19
January 17, 2010
HEY! YOU'RE ACTING LIKE A DEEK EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
Duke’s win over the forces of the Nutcracker was pretty impressive, especially if you consider only the second half. As most of you know, the Blue Devils have a tendency to be a one-half team with more frequency than fans would probably like, but I think it’s always preferable to close strong rather than run out to a big lead, then stave off a furious deuxičme-stanza comeback courtesy of the opposition. Right, BugThugs?
A few thoughts . . . .
DUKE MVP: Nolan Smith, who tallied 24 on 9-14 shooting (plus 6-7 from the line) that including a variety of dazzling drives right into the middle of the Sugar Plum Fairies’ defense. Nolan also had four assists, three steals, forced hardly any bad shots, and contributed stellar defense on Biko Paris, who was limited to four points, two assists and five boners - - which probably qualifies him for a Viagra ad where he converses with himself through the use of a mirror.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kyle Singler looked uncomfortable in the first half, then really came alive in the second, scoring 15 points on 5-9 floor shooting and 5-7 from the line, while rounding up a double-double via the collection of ten boards. I have not been the most unbridled fan of Singler’s defense this season, but in the second half, he was stellar. He and Lance Thomas combined to take Trapper Joe, M.D. out of the game completely (8 points on 2-7 shooting). Incidentally, Lance, Scheyer, Miles, and Mason took turns on Rakim Sanders and Corey Raji, who combined for five points on 2-11 shooting in 48 minutes. Duke’s defense was just outstanding.
NEEDS WORK: Well, the three-point shooting was obviously disappointing at 1-12, but the Beagles (I *knew* there was a poke-fun name for BC that I kept forgetting when writing the preview), but BeeCee only landed one itself. Plus, Duke knew to stop shooting from distance and just drive - - very mature and impressive decisionmaking there on the part of the staff and players. The only other problem in the game was Mr. February, who Bootsied (actually, a tie-Bootsy) with 20 points, beating his previous career high of 17, which (contrary to what I mistakenly said in the preview) came not against Duke, but in a win over the Tools last season. I had forgotten about that fun game. Guarding Jackson were Nolan, Scheyer, and Singler - - the defense that Duke played generated a ton of rotation and help-side defense, so it wasn’t consistent, and I think the Yankee great exploited that. Oh, I should also mention that Mason shot 2-10, and emphasize that this wasn’t a really huge deal. He kept beating his man, going up strong, and then shooting everything too hard. All in all, not something that’s likely to be repeated.
GOOD STAT: If you’re only going to hit one three, then shoot only twelve. Meanwhile, Duke put the game away at the line by shooting 22-27. The outstanding rebound margin, courtesy of Zoubek (who continues to be a highly, highly efficient boardsman) and Singler, also deserves mention.
BAD STAT: Oh, I don’t know - - probably the 11/10 A/TO ratio. Scheyer went 4/1, so the rest of the team was 7/9/ Also, 21 is way too many personals, although no one earned an assistant coaching position.
BAD MATT: I’m not ashamed to admit that The Nutcracker surprised the heck out of me with 35 combined minutes from Dallas Elmore and Evan Ravenel, guys who didn’t even make my preview (the ultimate bag over the head for any ACC player). Sure enough, RavenElmore were a lot more effective than the Nondynamic Duo of Raji and Sanders.
STRIPE GRIPES: This was a badly officiated game, although the ineptitude was quiet rather than in-your-face, and did not determine the outcome. Jamie Luckie is always someone I cringe to see, Ed Corbett is a nonentity who just goes with the flow of the other two zebrons, and Mike Eades’ specialty - - on full display here - - is to park himself under the basket on an improbable number of possessions, then do his taxes in his head while various forms of battery and molestation proceeded unfettered beneath the metal. This got comical in the second half in particular; on at least two occasions Eads had to be roused from his endline slumber by the whistle of the trail official calling something right under Eades’ nostrils. There was also one of those ridiculous Loose Ball Scrums Where Twelve Fouls Are Committed, But It Ends Up Being a Held Ball, and Singler’s technical for reaching over the baseline was unwarranted and looked to be incorrect as well, although ESPN didn’t favor us with too many views.
DENOUNCING THE ANNOUNCING: No denouncing for this one. We are definitely not in the business of claiming any influence over the great and mighty at this little site, but did you notice that ESPN has suddenly begun split-screening everything? Interesting. Good call, by the way. Wish I’d thought of it, and wish about a million other people had too.
Bob Knight, as usual, put on a clinic. Good heavens, is he a pleasure to listen to, particularly given the other choices: miserably failed coaches (Digger, Fraschilla the Junk-Flasher, Lavin, Raftery, and even Vitale to some extent, although I have a soft spot for Dickie V and he genuinely seems to be a good person), former Razorback scrubs (Dykes), and Jay Bilas - - who actually has stepped up his game lately. Knight had great insights, was clearly enjoying himself, made several funny jokes, and was just so refreshing. Too bad about the temper issues that forced him from Indiana, but he’s certainly, in my mind anyway, rehabilitating himself with this announcing gig. And every time I see him on an ESPN game, I think of him saying that the game shouldn’t tolerate, in effect, Calipari. YES. Rece Davis, for his part, left the studio and did a superb job as the PBP man. Bristol should use this team more often. Much more often. Finally, if you enjoyed the Knight-Krzyzewski conversation like I did, that was just an excerpt of a larger 20-minute piece. Great stuff.
BOTTOM LINE: Middling first half, but some excellent gameplan adjustments in the second 20 led to a very solid win. If the Nutcracker hadn’t snapped up Mr. February, you can imagine where this team would be. Or does he only come alive against Duke?
TEN WORDS: Blue Devils see second half surge, dance circles around Nutcracker.
NEXT UP: Here we go.
Wake Forest joins Duke in Cameron in what was such a spotlight game that everyone else had to be evacuated into Saturday to make room. For the game and Brando’s exploding ego, that is.
This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season, even though it’s well past time for a realignment of the “hunting groups” so that Duke and the Deeks face off twice every season. I could probably scrape by in my life without the guaranteed two meetings with Sweaty’s Squadron every season; couldn’t you? The matchups were good last year, although Duke got hosed in Winston on the infamous Gerald Henderson “traveling call” by the legendary Mike Wood, followed by the blown overplay coverage on Wake’s ensuing inbounds play, leading to a two-point Wake win on a last-second James Johnson bucket. Duke then got revenge with a nice ten-point win in Cameron, staving off an aggressive Wake comeback to seal up the win. On both occasions, I thought Duke was the better team.
Henderson doesn’t live in Durham anymore, of course (nice to see him in the stands against the Fairies, though), but Wake suffered more serious losses over the past offseason when Jeff Teague and James Johnson bolted for the Association. Harvey Hale, one of those guys who is a threat to score ridiculous distance buckets, left too. That was 46% of the Wake offense, and Goonio compensated by putting together a pretty delightful assortment of baked goods for the Dorcs’ OOC schedule - - but he did balance that out with three true road games, against Purdue (loss), Gonzaga (narrow win) and UNC-Wilmington (11-point win that wasn’t really that convincing). In the ACC thus far, the Crazed Churchmen have defeated NCSU at home with ease, lost at Miami by a point, and were quite lucky to hold off Scaryland on Tuesday night by two points in OT.
Edwards James Almost has blended three returning starters, a former starter, and two solid newcomers to form the nucleus of this year’s team.
6-9 sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu (17.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 3.2 tpg, 1.4 spg, 1.4 bpg, .481/.686/.290, 1.40 PPS) made the right decision in coming back for another season, although he probably projects to be a better Association player than Teague for sure, and maybe even better than Johnson. Aminu just killed the Twerps earlier in the week, notching 24 and 13 In 42 minutes, which raises hopes that he might be a little drained for this one. Stopping him will be difficult; this is obviously the designated Lance Thomas Matchup for the game, but LT can’t count on help from the Plumlees and Zoubek, since they will be occupied with the assortment of redwoods that Gaudy has assembled. Luckily, however, those guys aren’t nearly as talented as Aminu, even if there are three of them. 7-0 senior stiff Chas the Spas McFarland (6.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .367/.600/.000) is the kind of dude who might have given Duke problems in the past with easy putbacks and such, but with Duke’s three-headed attack of large guys down low, he doesn’t figure to be a huge presence in this one - - but never say never. Mostly, McFarland will eat space, look goofy, and deal out fouls, which is helpful. To Duke.
The third returning starter is 6-4 senior L.D. Williams (9.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.1 spg, .529/.721/.150), who will never be a shooter and is, as those stats suggest, by far Wake’s best defender. Williams is a superb on-ball defender, a really good defensive rebounder, and a member of last season’s All-ACC Defensive team. On the flip side, he doesn’t pass well, does not take over a game on offense real often, and has very limited shooting range. He’s the Deeks’ second most-reliable charity tosser, but he has just 43 FTAs on the season, which puts him well below the Three Esses in Duke’s lineup, and just ten tries ahead of Miles Plumlee. Williams seems most likely to record more impact in this one on the defensive end, probably guarding Scheyer. 6-0 senior point Ishmael Smith, a dirty punk whom I’ve never been able to stand, is the starting playmaker, returning to that role after a one-season cameo off the bench, where he was actually more effective. This season, the chameleonic Smith (13.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.0 apg, 2.7 tpg, 1.8 spg, .434/.439/.219) has reinvented himself yet again, this time as a scoring point in the mold of Ballpuncher and Teague, although with far less talent than either and a better attitude than Ballpuncher, at least. Smith is very fast and has very high stamina - - he recorded 42 minutes in that game against the Droplets on Tuesday and still looked fresh at the end, although his shot selection throughout the game was atrocious. Smith drives a lot and does not shoot from distance with great frequency - - he was okay from range in his first two years (35.4% 3PFG as a freshman, then 33.8% as a sophomore), but fell to 24.1% last season and is at a pretty dismal 21.9% (7-32) this time out. And of course, you know about his troubles from the line - - after capping 46.2% as a rookie, he fell to an almost comical 29.1% in his second season, then skyrocketed to 78.9% of the bench (yeah, I don’t get it either) in 2008-2009. This season, his FT% is suspect once again, looking like a doppelganger of his overall floor shooting mark. The key to guarding Smith, which will probably be Nolan Smith’s job, is not to let him drive by, because he either goes straight to the rack for a high-percentage shot or dishes to Aminu or one of the big doofs. On the other side, Ishues has never impressed me as a lockdown defender, so if Nolan is moving around like he did against the Beagles, a large portion of the game could turn on the Smith-Smith battle - - in addition to how well Scheyer is able to operate against the quick, just slightly shorter Williams.
Goonio rounds out his lineup this season with a pair of talented freshmen, 6-7 Ari Stewart (7.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .437/.600/.409) and 6-2 freshman C. J. Harris (12.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 tpg, 0.7 spg, .486/.854/.413), the third guard and the only real backup to Smith, as Williams is simply not a creator with the ball. Harris hasn’t been real strong shepherding the orange himself, and Stewart is a turnover machine for a forward, but the two are the team’s three-point strafers (19 made triples for Harris, and 18 for Stewart, which still isn’t very many compared to 45 for Scheyer, 26 apiece for Nolan and Andre Dawkins, and 25 for Singler), and Weak Florist would be offensively overmatched without the two of them providing that dimension. Harris has been starting with Stewart coming off the bench. The additional contributors are 6-4 junior Gary Clark (4.8 ppg, 0.9 spg, .531/.800/.455), a legitimate threat on long looks, and a duo of 6-11 condundra, senior David Weaver (3.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .442/.765/.250) and sophomore Tony Woods (3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, .488/.391). You might remember that Weaver poured in nine points in 19 minutes against the Blue Devils last season in Winston-Salem, which was silly. He drew a token start against UMCP but was yanked after four minutes. Weaver is a very smart kid and a top-notch defender in the past, while McFarland is, uh, not (a good defender), so Weaver may see more time than that in this one.
To sum up, may I present (hey, thanks!) three reasons why I think Duke will win this game.
(1) Doesn’t it seem like Duke is due for a three-point outburst? Yes, I agree - - although Wake is very strong in defending the longball, allowing opponents to shoot just 25.9% from the arc. That’s good enough for second in Division I behind UNC-Wilmington; Duke is ninth in the category, holding its foes to an even 28.0% from the suburbs. The problem for Wake is not just that Duke is due after two horrible games from artillery range; it’s that they have no real way of keeping up in a shootout. This wouldn’t be a real concern if this game were at Joel, where Duke historically does not shoot well, but in Cameron, I can easily envision a triplefest from Duke that will be hard for the Deacs to match.
(2) Wake is not a good free-throw shooting team. Aminu gets to the stripe the most, followed by Harris and then McFarland, and it’s only Harris’ 84.5% donation rate that keeps the team average where it is - - 66.1%, 246th in Division I. The backcourt of Smith and Williams doesn’t get to the line much, and when they do, there’s Ish’s carnival act in the offing - - although he’s That Guy who will make 11-13 in this game just to make us all mad. Assuming that doesn’t happen, compounding the problem for Wake is that Duke is a very good free throw shooting team - - back in fourth place in Division I with a 77.1% mark - - and the Deeks can’t wait to send the Blue Devils to the line. Wake deals out an awesome 20.1 personals per contest - - 2.9 pfpg for Aminu and McFarland, 2.7 for Harris, 2.3 for Weaver, and 2.1 for Stewart to go with 3.0 for Williams. Smith is the only significant Wake player who doesn’t dole out the cheapies, mostly because he just doesn’t bother. The potential for a parade of Duke free throws is high.
(3) Wake rebounds well, but they’re just average in offensive efficiency and sport a terrible 1/1.2 A/TO mark as a team. Take Smith out of that mix by limiting his penetration and/or mixing in some zone looks, and you start requiring the Preachers to beat you from outside, and it matters a lot less what Aminu does. This is how Maryland almost won the game in Winston on Tuesday - - Aminu got his points (and how!), but Smith was forced into an 8-23 shooting night and, if anyone competent was to be found in charge on the Garyland sidelines, the Twerps could well have emerged with an upset road win.
Duke-Wake games are usually really difficult to analyze (although more so in Joel than in Cameron), part of which, I suspect, is due to a significant investment of time over the years by Gaudy-o (as an assistant to the late Skip Prosser and then his successor) to figuring out how to gameplan for Duke. (Goonio shows no such similar interest in preparing for UNC-CH, but whatever.) In Cameron, though, I tend to feel more secure about these games, and it seems as though Duke is able to feed off the crowd energy and perform against Wake in CIS at a very high level - - rescuing the 2005 season with an amazing performance, for example, or notching 101 points a year ago. I think Duke takes this one, but there will be a few surprises along the way.
Duke 92, Wake Forest 82.
Now, what in the news is funnier these days? The on-going legal troubles for Goofy Gilbert Areen-Ass? NBC executives making programming decisions that are best described as a dog that keeps running in a circle and biting its own tail? The fact that they made those decisions while the two guys they screwed over are STILL ON THE AIR and ripping them for it every night? (This is the funniest Conan has been in decades.) Or, is it U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declaring himself the judge of who is black enough? I don’t really know, and could probably write 1,000 words on each item. But won’t.
Because we have Duke’s enjoyable win over a ballet troupe to talk about. Anyone else enjoy that two-hour seminar on interior defense by Professor Knight? No sarcasm, I certainly did. Although, I’m not sure why he continually referred to Rece Davis as a broadcaster, as if his own act of wearing earphones and speaking words into a microphone, words that were sent via numerous transmitting technologies to be received by television sets nationwide didn’t categorize him as the same. Plus, on occasion, his visage was delivered in the same way.
Anyway, when was the last time you saw Duke look so completely different after halftime? Since Wednesday, carpenters have been working hard to refinish the cabinets in the Blue Devil locker room after Coach K’s “discussion” during intermission peeled the varnish off all wooden structures. In fact, this photo of Kyle Singer was leaked to us by an unnamed source. The offense in the first 20 was fine, but the defense, not so much, as the Birdies were able to have their way inside whenever they wanted. Here is the result of Krzyzewski’s, um, “suggestions” during the mid-game break. BeeCee’s first half shooting: 50 percent. Second half: 36.4 percent. I guess whatever he said worked.
And, boy, howdy, was Singler a demon on defense in the second chapter. He was only credited with three steals, but was responsible for several more. Treebeard had 11 rebounds in 16 minutes of time, five offensive, six defensive. Now, do the math. That is nearly one rebound per minute, split pretty much evenly on each end of the floor. Which means that he pulled down a misguide shot on almost every possession he was out there. Even better, he rarely brought the ball down low. In other good news, Dawkins got to stay in the game for 17 minutes, despite his tendency to kind of stand around on offense and several plays where he got completely burned on defense. THIS is the kind of thing that needs to continue. Not his mistakes, but Coach K letting him stay active and learn from the action on the floor. I suspect someone who runs the team has gotten concerned about a possible (yet another) transfer.
Having said that, it must be time for …
WIN OF THE GAME: Duke shot 1-12 from … sorry, I’ve run out of silly terms … the three-point line. Why is 8.3 percent a WIN? Because the team hasn’t been hitting them recently, wasn’t on Wednesday, and dialed down the attempts. And did other things, like drive to the basket. Rather than jacking up 45 of the long-range shots. Quite relieving.
BONUS WIN OF THE GAME: I really want to thank all the readers who joined in sending some attaboy comments in Matt’s direction for his Stephen Hawking-esque work with the player and team stats. And yes, CDG, I do remember when we used to do that for EVERY ACC game and still have night terrors as a result.
FAIL OF THE GAME: Coach K taking on the Chronicle, yet again. This time because of a columnist who suggested Singler be benched. From the Duke post-game notes, here’s what Krzyzewski said:
“… I thought Kyle [Singler] played really well. There were some suggestions in the student newspaper that we shouldn’t start him tonight. The first day back and we read in a student newspaper and it’s benching our guy. Welcome back I guess. Unbelievable. For those people in support of Kyle should be really happy. He had a hell of game. He had a double-double without going to the bench.”
Yes, it wasn’t a particularly well-written piece, and didn’t really seem to think things through. Should Singer just not start? Not play at all? Or play fewer minutes? (A position fully endorsed by the Dukies.com political action committee.) It’s not clear. But does a guy with three rings really need to spend any part of his press conference repressing the activity of freely expressing an opinion. In my opinion, nope. Hey, coach, you know how many times you’ve told the students to cheer for the team, not against the opposition? You might try it, too. FAIL.
Now, on to tonight’s action. Duke decided to pull a solo act on Sunday night, while the rest of the conference packed Saturday afternoon with a number of close games, several which we actually got right. The one I didn’t mind getting wrong was the Bees from Atlanta taking a trip to Chappah Heeeel and beating ESPN’s pre-season favorite to go undefeated on the season and win each game by 150 points. For the second game in a row, a coach who normally evacuates his bowels at the mere sight of anything colored light blue managed to have his team build a nice lead and … actually win the game. Not that he didn’t try to toss it away, G-Tek was fully in control with a 20-point margin before choking and having to trade baskets for the last two minutes. Lest you think he used some masterful coaching powers to salt this one away, let me introduced Dukies.com Exhibit 1, a quotation from the post-game press conference:
“They made plays down the stretch," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said of his team. "It wasn't about Xs and Os.”
When I ran that through the new B.S. To English Translator 5000 that Matt gave me as my Christmas bonus (very handy here our nation’s capital), I get the following result:
“It’s a good thing my players took over and showed some grit, because I was TOTALLY clueless about what to do and actually lost consciousness for a good chunk of the second half.”
We also blew the Virginia Tech game, not surprising as they were playing Florida State, a meeting of two of the hardest team to understand year in and year out. At this point, our record on the season is nearly as bad as Coach Yokels, which means on Monday we’ll still be ranked somewhere in the Associated Press Top 25 Basketball Poll despite all evidence that we shouldn’t be.
Oops, I’m supposed to talking (typing?) about the Blue Devils hosting the Evil Ministers and their Proactiv spokesman/head coach. Last year, these teams met twice (wait, you can do that? What a concept for conference play). The first get-together, in Winston Salem, was one of those typical Duke losses were the team plays under the lingering effects of anesthesia for most of the game, spots the other team a nice double-digit lead, then manages to get close, tie the game and then loses in part because of strange turnover. (If you don’t recall, Gerald Henderson got a rebound, landed on a Wake player who was lying on the floor, but was called for travelling. The right call? I don’t know. But if the rulebook actually reads that way it shouldn’t.)
This is what I consider a Dilemma Game (we’re good at naming things around here). On one hand, as a fan of team for seems like several decades, I want to see them claw back from a deficit and win a tough one on the road. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for the fellows to get used to the idea they can dork around for 30-some minutes and then pull it out at the end with a “Guns of Navarone” barrage from outside and/or playing the kind of defense they were instructed during game preparation. In a national championship game, sure, win however you want. But in a mid-winter meeting with a conference foe, there could be lessons to be learned from a game like that.
And learned they were. When it was Duke’s turn to welcome Fred Flintstone’s dog and his litter into Cameron, the Devils led several times by more than 20 before PREDICTABLY letting them come back and needing a late game run to win by 10, at 101-91.
Time to talk about this year’s first meeting. The Deeks padded their early season OOC sked with such Krispy Kreme offerings as Winston Salem State, Elon and High Point, the school that periodically quoted Non-Alumnus Duke Fan graduated from. As with many of the teams this time of the year, it’s hard to look at their season stats and figure out how they match up with a quality opponent. Against this relatively Weak crew of sparring partners, the Dopes are making close to half their shots, while keeping the other side to just over a third. However, the average scoring margin is barely more than 10 per game. The rebounding margin of seven shouldn’t scare anyone. Neither does more turnovers than assists. Also, they LOVE to foul, averaging 20 per session, almost even with the players they guard. When they file their applications to the IRS to be considered a 501(c)(3) for tax purposes, they are successful a mediocre 66.1 percent of the time.
What they do have is a fast guard, you know, the type Duke has had trouble with for several years, in Ishmael Smith, who also has the honor of being mentioned in the first sentence of Moby Dick (yeah, cheap joke, but it’s getting late. Plus, all the best interns I had in the Dukies.com Washington, D.C. bureau last season went pro early. I replaced them with what experts said was the best intern class in the country, but none of them can make a three-point joke and keep turning over computer files to the opposition). We just saw this movie, as BeeCee’s Biko Paris Hilton (getting cheaper) shredded the Duke defense for easy passes inside, resulting in even easier dunks. While I was hoping for a move to a zone defense to cut down on his, as well as Reggie Bar’s penetration, instead Duke came out in the second half with Singler playing kind of a one-man zone, dropping down and either intercepting or disrupting passes.
However, given Weep’s relatively modest outside shooting (fewer than five successful toll-calls per game), zone may be called for more tonight. Assuming the officiating crew isn’t in federal court pleading guilty to pointing their whistles at each other in the locker room over a gambling debt, and show up to do their jobs, Duke’s edge from the coupon line may be all the difference the team needs.
Duke 82, Wake Forest 74.