TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 24
January 30, 2010
WHAT THE DEUCE IS A HOYA EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
#8 DUKE (17-3, 5-2) @ #7 GEORGETOWN (15-4, 5-3)
I thought Duke’s win over Florida State was very impressive. There was some message-board carping about the low point total, but against a team of that defensive caliber, 70 points was a pretty good output, particularly from threeland; it was nice to see Scheyer find his stroke. I took some notes during the game, but want to get the rest of this posted, so I promise - - yes, and it’s worth the paper it’s written on, but I’ll step up - - to recap the game no later than Monday. One thing, which I’ll reiterate at the end of the matchup analysis below: the sooner that Kyle Singler stops with the 1994-1995 Cherokee Parks impression, complete with rim-shattering brickbombs from just outside sensor range, the sooner that Duke can really reach its potential. Just STOP, Kyle. Ten threes?? Be real. And please, more Plumlees. Unsurprisingly, I loved every minute of Dawkins’ contributions.
Okay, now THIS is an OOC road game that makes sense. It offers a good opponent with excellent tradition; an arena that will not be completely filled with Duke fans (although there will be a sizeable contingent), but with hostile partisans supporting the Blue & Gray; and a reasonable facsimile of a third-round NCAA game. Believe me, we were just as dumbfounded as you were when we learned that Duke renewed the imbecilic series with St. John’s after previously deciding to cancel it, but this series is superb. I could quibble with the decision not to give the Blue Devils a few days off with a break in the ACC action, but Krzyzewski simply doesn’t believe in that, and as a result, I see nothing wrong with using the time to good advantage.
Can you imagine if JT III met Larry Drew II? Some sort of serious duel would doubtless ensue, with points scored recorded by onlookers using Roman numerals. And there would be plenty of turnovers and player transfers. The latest to flee the Georgetown regime and Thompson’s less than cuddly embrace was 6-8 junior Minskostiff Nikita Mescheriakov, leaving the Hoyoids with only nine scholarship players. With three freshmen on the roster, two that play, but with another year of experience under the youngish team’s belt, this group is probably about equal to the squad that Duke beat back by nine points in Cameron a year ago.
The starting five is certainly talented, although the defensive deficiencies that plagued the Doggies a year ago have certainly not evaporated - - just ask Syracuse, which scored at will after spotting George’s Town that early big lead on Monday night. The backcourt features 6-1 junior point Chris Wright (14.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.5 tpg, 1.5 spg, 2.1 pfpg, .498/.803/.379), a local product who is his team’s sole playmaker this season following the graduation of Jessie Sapp. Wright is very athletic and quick, is an above-average defender, and has improved his shot from all angles this season; he will probably be Nolan Smith’s responsibility to guard, and may struggle if Thompson decides to use him to check Scheyer. Wright doesn’t take advantage of his skills enough; he’s 25-66 beyond the triple arc and 53-66 from the line, placing his three-point frequency at almost exactly Andre Dawkins’ level - - in, obviously, a lot more playing time - - and his free throw activity ranks just below that of Nolan Smith, and well below that of Scheyer and Singler. There’s a lot to like about Wright’s game, and if he were 6-4 I’d be very concerned, but if Duke can continue its recent string of strong defensive performance, they ought to be able to contain him.
The other members of the three-headed backcourt are 6-4 junior and leading scorer Austin Freeman (16.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1/1 A/TO, .524/.870/.473) and 6-2 senior Jason Clark (10.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1/1 A/TO, 2.5 pfpg, .462/.767/.440). Clark was supposed to repeat his role as the top reserve, with Freeman sliding from the three to the two to accommodate a larger frontcourt, but unexpectedly uninspired efforts from a couple of expected breakout forwards have instead propelled Clark into the starting lineup, which Thompson has kept intact all season. Freeman is a stocky dude who has played 33.7 mpg this season despite lingering concerns about his conditioning; it has fallen to him to replace much of the production of early Association departee DaJuan Summers. Freeman gets to the line even less than Wright does (47-54), but has canned 35 of his 74 triples, which is definitely legit. He’ll venture inside when needed, and if he has a weakness other than a tendency to wear down in the second half, it’s his defense. He presents an interesting matchup dilemma for the Blue Devils, who might try Singler or Thomas on him instead of Scheyer. When Dawkins is in, this will probably be his assignment. Freeman is the one player I’m pretty sure will have a good game for Georgetown in this one, scoring at or above his average. Duke simply has to keep him away from the arc at all costs, and can’t afford to send him to the line much either. Clark also doesn’t shoot many free throws, but leads the Hoyons with 91 3PFGAs, and that percentage sure isn’t bad. He’s a step slow and might be a good defensive assignment for Scheyer from the Duke perspective; when Duke has the ball, my guess is that Clark will check Jon rather than Nolan - - I don’t think he has the lateral quickness needed to keep up with Smith, who could have a breakout game if the Hoyas try to zone, freeing up the lane for drives.
In the frontcourt, 6-9 junior Julian Vaughn (8.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1/1 A/TO, 1.8 bpg, .559/.537/.250) joins 6-11 sophomore Greg Monroe (14.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.2 tpg, 1.6 bpg, 2.4 pfpg, .493/.627/.294), well known to Duke fans as That Guy that we didn’t get. I’ve never been that wistful about not landing Monroe, whose game seems to have mental holes, aptly demonstrated by the technical foul he earned in Cameron last season while sitting on the bench. With 15:07 remaining in the second half and Duke up 46-42 after peeing away a double-digit lead, Hoya freshman Henry Sims was whistled for a blocking foul, and zebra John Cahill, after signaling Sims’ activities to the scorers’ table, turned and T-ed up Monroe, who had earlier made a huge production out of being called for a moving screen. Naturally, JT MCMXCVIII and Monroe whined and carped, later blamed the Hoyas’ loss on the call, and some reporter for the Washington Post claimed that a faceless soul “in a Steelers hat” behind the G’Town bench was the actual barker that attracted Cahill’s attention, but it was probably just that bimbo Tracy Palmer breaking out of her restricted calling circle and annoying everyone with her yapping about the Terrible Towels. How’d that work out this season, Trace? Anyway, count on Monroe getting away with all sorts of misdemeanors without musical interruption on Saturday in some sort of makeup call for last season. Meanwhile, Monroe still commits a ton of silly fouls, doesn’t work as hard as he can on defense, is a poor free throw shooter, coughs up the ball at a spectacular rate, and, yeah, I don’t miss him. And at least this is not a DeJuan Blair situation where the Duke program for some reason ignored a talented kid who wanted to go to Duke but couldn’t get noticed; it’s (sort of) the opposite.
Joining Monroe in the post is Vaughn, who did nothing but bang around in the lane last year, but was the starter from day one this time around when 6-10 now-sophomore Sims (2.0 ppg in 8.7 mpg) and 6-6 freshman Hollis Thompson (3.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, .414/.563/.345) failed to claim their projected spots in the starting five. In fact, Sims hardly plays (although Duke’s size may force him into this one), while Thompson and 6-8 freshman reed Jerrelle Bennimon (1.3 ppg and 1.8 rpg in 9.9 mpg) are the only reserves who draw consistent time in Thompson the Littler’s seven-man rotation. Vaughn is - - how you say - - not a finesse player, and if Lance is going to have one of his huge defensive parties, he may be better used on Austin Freeman while Singler minds Vaughn, who’s just not a huge scoring threat as long as everyone blocks out reasonably well. On edit, sorry - - I forgot to mention that Lance was or is questionable for the game, but John Watson over at TDD, as well as our own secret source (sauce?), is reporting that Lance is fine and will play.
Georgetown’s season fell apart a year ago after a 12-3 start largely because the Apparent Bulldogs couldn’t play any defense. Summers and Sapp were probably the best defenders on the squad, too, so it’s not like this team has really improved its profile and become a lockdown unit. The Hoyas are punching in on the defensive efficiency clock at #32 in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy (Duke is #13), but their schedule hasn’t really been that hard; there was plenty of OOC candy, they have not yet played Louisville, West Virginia, or Notre Dame (the Irish have the fourth-most efficient offense in Division I), and then there was that ridiculous 46-45 win over Temple that s almost certainly still throwing misleading curveballs into the stats. Like many recent Duke opponents, Thompson’s team depends on forcing a slow tempo to win, and is not comfortable in track meets. In addition, the Hoyas graciously allow opponents to maintain control of their belongings (#295 in Div I in average steals per possession), but helpfully turn the ball over on about 22% of their possessions (#237 in the country). This spells “press” to me - - especially since Wright, Freeman and Clark depend heavily on sets to get open threes; they don’t shoot nearly as often when tightly or even normatively contested. Obviously, a huge key is guarding Monroe competently; I still think the G’Town sophomore is contact-averse, and he is pretty much of a troweler at the line, so don’t be too bummed if Zoubek and Miles pile up the fouls guarding him. Incidentally, I’d really like to see the Mason - - and the Miles - - of the Wake Forest game return in this one, because Mason could make Monroe’s head spin, and I think he will get frustrated when confronted with 15 fouls to be dealt.
This will by no means be an easy game for Duke; in fact, it provides quite a test. The Blue Devils are arguably in the toughest portion of their schedule at the moment, a four-game stretch culminating with welcoming the BugThugs to Cameron next Thursday, but they’ve already won the first two of those, so a loss here, assuming that it’s not some silly blowout and provides positive building blocks for improvement, is absolutely nothing to get upset about.
Fans were told not to bring backpacks, Republicans, or unconstitutional Supreme Court decisions to the game because of visiting “dignitaries,” which means that either Jay Leno or perhaps just the president will be in attendance.
This one is all in the coaching. I’m sure we’ll have some sort of Big East/ACC hybrid officiating crew, probably featuring alcohol-marinated hobbit Tim Higgins and/or tireless contact-allowance specialist Mike Eades, so expect plenty of pounding to go unnoticed. This, of course, is less of a problem for Duke than in seasons past, but a Monroe unchecked by whistlage is dangerous. Georgetown is just a middling free throw shooting team because Monroe goes to the line almost twice as much as anyone else, and the Heyas lost to Syracuse because they couldn’t get anything going against Boeheim’s 2-3. What’s the connection? Well, the zone is a good strategy against this team because of its stripe inefficiency, but it’s also risky because of the outside shooting of Freeman, Clark and Wright. Actually, I like the overplay better in this situation - - getting out on the shooters, disrupting the offensive rhythm that Thompson adores, and denying the feeds to Monroe is probably the best strategy. Meanwhile, if anyone on Duke is hot in shooting the ball, it could be a long afternoon for JT eye-eye-eye and the Georgetown faithful. By the way, I’m glad Kyle Singler took my advice and didn’t shoot so many threes against Florida State. I say again - - HOW ABOUT DRIVING WITH THE BALL? The Hoyas simply do not have a player equipped to guard KS in this game if he wants to bother to ask permission to approach the witness, as well as the metal.
Listen, plausible arguments can be made for either result, but I usually like Duke in these matchups against low-scoring teams, and if the Three-S crew shoots well, and Monroe goes mental again, this one could swing Duke’s way in a hurry. More likely this will be a more measured game with some lead changes and momentum swings, but if the forestry unit can put together some positive contributions, and the Duke defense denies the three, the Blue Devils have to be the favorite. In any case, great game on paper. Go Duke!!
Duke 79, Georgetown 74.
(Before I get started, let me give a shout-out to Sister duhomme, who on Friday, Jan. 29, gave birth to a baby boy. Welcome to the world, little guy.)
Back to the matter at hand, Hey, hey, Duke, go ahead and play some more basketball games. In fact, how about stepping outside of the conference this weekend? And, while we’re at it, let’s get the rest of the conference involved in hardwood action, with a couple taking Duke’s lead in exploring non-ACC action. But against far less impressive opposition (see below).
But first! We have the wonderful disassembling of Lamelton and his crew from Lower Alabama the other evening. Of course, the starting time had to be delayed as ESPN could not possibly break away from the last several minutes of Villanova’s 20+ lead over Notre Dame. Somehow, CBS can break away in the early part of the second half of a blowout to switch us over to a closer game (and, no, I don’t mean in the tournament. During the regular season) but the World-Wide Feeler is under a federal mandate to stay with every second of, in this case, the 7:00 broadcast, including the Wildcats running out the last 30 seconds of the shotclock, players and coaches exchanging handshakes and Bilas packing away his lavalier mic.
Okay, so I made the last one up, but I needed to fill some space. Oooooh, U-Con got whipped by unranked Providence. Sorry, got distracted. Back to Duke, one of the things that is getting overlooked this year, probably because of alllllll the attention paid to …
DAN SHULMAN: “Solomon Alabi didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15.”
… Thanks, Dan. I didn’t know that. Anyway, because of all the attention paid to the Duke backcourt, and whether they are hitting their shots or not, the team defense as a whole has not gotten the attention it deserves. Yes, main course Plumlee, second helping Plumlee, Treebeard and Thomas haven’t been scoring machines lately, but their effort defensively is a big reason Duke is winning games. I mean, 22 turnovers by the Seminoles? Ten steals by Duke? Keeping the visitors to just less than 35 percent shooting for the game? The only disappointing stat was …
DAN SHULMAN: “You know, Solomon Alabi didn’t play basketball until he was 15 years old. He played SOCCER before that.”
… Yeah, you already said that. Umm, where was I? Oh, the rebounding was a bit of a downer, but, as Lame’s Hams had 10 more than Duke, but keep in mind, between the two squads, there were 64 misplaced shots to go after. Given Florida State’s size, and Duke’s habit of having frontcourt players out of rebounding position, that seems fine. Then there was the wonderful return to playing, and scoring, by …
DAN SHULMAN: “Solomon Alabi was 15 before he started playing basketball. Before that, he played SOCcer.”
… Dude, seriously, shut the F up. It’s bad enough you had to repeat that barely interesting tidbit every two minutes during the game Wednesday night, but you don’t need to invade my material today as some kind of serial borer. Okay, I was about to mention that …
DAN SHULMAN: “Solomon Alabi …” [duhomme hits the mute button on his material.]
Whew, enough of that. What I was trying to say is, welcome back Andre Dawkins! Not a tremendous number of minutes, but a nifty looking shot (we’ve all missed the sight of that) and a confiscation of Florida State property to boot.
At this point, it is getting kind of late, and I had grand plans to make a cream of potato and asparagus soup. Translation: probably will order Chinese. That means it’s time for …
WIN OF THE GAME: Scheyer paying his past-due balance to ATT’s long-distance plan and nailing four of six when dialing a 1 before the shot. When he comes here to Washington today, will he get hit with roaming charges? Let’s hope not.
FAIL OF THE GAME: On the other side of the ledger, Singler is two months delinquent on his Sprint bill, and attempted 10 calls, only three of which were successful. He is just so much more effective driving to the basket, with or without the ball. I really wish he would figure this out. Because, despite his horrible telecom experience, and getting half his claims of charitable donations rejected by the IRS, he scored 20 points. By doing the stuff mentioned three sentences earlier.
Speaking of the IRS, the Blue Devils now turn their collective attention to a building not too far from that warm, fuzzy and customer-friendly agency here in Our Nation’s Capital. Yes, sir, that would be the What’s (look it up) of Georgetown University, currently captained by John Thompson XXXIV, who has about half his father’s coaching ability and probably one-third of his father’s ability to speak coherently. And, given the telephone-related comments above, it is certainly convenient that Duke is playing in a building that is burdened with the name of a national provider of such service. The Yet Another Team Whose Nickname Does Not Match Their Mascot See North Carolina-Chapel Hill If You Don’t Know What I Mean fellows from the western end of D.C. are coming off a pretty bad whipping at the hands of some orange people from upstate N.Y. Other than that, there are only three other losses, including a weird drop to Old Dominion in the actual, honest-to-God, on-campus auditorium the Rocks (look that one up too) play in occasionally.
When these two armies faced off last year, Duke went small, won, and G-Town was never the same. So far this year, this is a team that does not score a lot of points, but plays some good defense, holding teams to the low 60s. However, they outrebound the other side by fewer than four per outing. Not a good sign for them given the way this edition of Blue Devils go after the ball. Turnovers and assists? Just about even. Also not a fun way to approach Duke. They don’t make a ton of three-pointers (6.3 per game), but give up almost the same number. That might be the key here. The Devils’ perimeter defense has been as good, if not better, that the denial in the paint. If the iron men can keep the pronouns below that, and knock down eight or more, this will be a win. Physical and close, but eventually satisfying. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are 54 other ACC teams playing this weekend who need me to be wrong.
Duke 74, Georgetown 70.
KENTUCKY STATE (4-12, 4-10 Division II Southern Intercollegiate) @ #22 GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (15-5, 4-3)
Pfffffffffffffffff - - are you serious??? Now, all 22 of you (it’s been a good week), raise your right hand if you knew that a “Kentucky State” existed, let alone fielded a basketball team, and I see a few hands, so I’m demanding strict proof of the same at trial, as a Pennsylvania litigator would say, if we could only find one. Paul Hewitt, though? All over it, and I’m breaking the three-sentence rule here to announce that the Thorobreds, who play in the Division II SIAC and are located in Frankfort, are coached by Clarence Moore, whom we ACC coverers (huh?) all remember as the seventh man for GIT’s fluke 2004 national runner-up team - - the one with Schenschostiff, B.J. The Elder, Jarrett Jerk, Anthony McHenry, Marvin Lewis and Will Bynum. Fifth sentence to note that actually, that was a pretty good team; the fluke was that Hewitt didn’t manage to slow them down. And the sixth sentence will be used to mention that Kentucky State has a really nice website that is, as it happens, far more attractive and user friendly than the Institute’s; go figure!
Georgia Tech 999, Kentucky State 100.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The National Collegiate Athletic Association today announced the discovery of a new performance-enhancing substance being employed by certain programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The substance in question is the move by coaches to attempt to fool the tournament selection committee by arranging certain wins with games against silly teams that Duke basketball website writers will completely ignore. Infractions Subcommittee Chairman Mike Oxbigg said, “Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Kentucky State, and we’ve begun an investigation to determine whether this is an actual school or simply a group of six-graders that half-assed coach at Georgia Tech rounded up on the playground.”
Georgia Institute of Technology 587, Kentucky State 3.
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (4-18, 0-0 Independents) @ NORTH CAROLINA STATE (13-8, 2-5)
Unlike many coaches in the ACC, I can clearly perceive the devious mind of El Sid. Here he is, all ready to wrap up the season after beating Duke in his team's designated Personal Super Bowl game, and yet he still needs a couple more wins to guarantee that he gets to keep the red jacket when he’s fired at the end of next season. Getting blown out by Scaryland at Unnecessary Arena won’t do, nor will that laughable loss to UNC-CH in one of the worst exhibitions of basketball that I’ve ever seen, but this will work just fine.
North Carolina State 4, North Carolina Central 2.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The National Collegiate Athletic Association today found more evidence of ACC coaches artificially inflating their teams’ winning percentage with ridiculous mid-season OOC opponents. According to NCAA spokesman Hugh Jassell, “An informal poll of people who predict the outcome of ACC games on websites revealed that they like it better when lame coaches simply treat the holes in the conference schedule as a bye week.”
North Carolina State 97, North Carolina Central 7.
FLORIDA STATE (15-5, 3-3) @ BOSTON COLLEGE (12-9, 3-4)
The Noids’ performance in Durham made clear that FSU has enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament, but with the exception of Alibi, who made constant excuses and could always account for his whereabouts until he was 15, everyone on Listless Len’s roster is ridiculously inconsistent, led by Captain Capricious, Chris Singleton. Now, add in the looooooooooong road trip up to a village of Newton and Brookline, and it would not surprise me at all to see the Nulls play a zero-sum game in this one. Meanwhile, the Beagles have won two of three and could have taken that game at VPI with a different bounce or two of the orange, so I’ll go against the grain and say that they pull a mild upset here.
Boston College 74, Florida State 72.
There really is no point in picking Bee, See? to win at all this year. Although, Florida State has been quite erratic this year …
DAN SHULMAN: “Solomon Alabi didn’t …” [duhomme changes the channel on his material.]
Florida State, 73, Boston College 68.
VIRGINIA TECH (16-3, 3-2) @ MIAMI (FLORIDA) (15-5, 1-5)
The Bald Bastard of Blacksburg, coming off yet another win, this time in overtime at Led Zeppelin’s Bass Player Arena, where the Cavs have still not yet begun to fight, gets to run his record to 4-2 against the ACC cellar-dwellers. At this rate, it will only take five more conference wins to get the Chokies into the NCAA Tournament, rarefied atmosphere within which they decidedly do not belong. Meanwhile, Jeff Allen (ejected as per his standard practice due to a flagrant personal foul whistled by no less a personage than Karl Hess, early in the second half against UVa) and Frank Haith (generally odorous coaching) race to see who can exit the room - - and the league - - the fastest.
Virginia Tech 65, Miami (Florida) 63.
Nice win by the Turks at UVA the other night, and I’m sorry I bailed on the game the second time they got down by double digits. By the way, if you didn’t know, Virginia Tech, like many public universities, receives federal funds and can only stay eligible if Jeff Allen is ejected from a game at least once per season. Job done.
Virginia Tech 68, Miami (Florida) 65.
MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK (14-5, 4-1) @ CLEMSON (15-6, 3-4)
In a stupid, gratuitous turn of events, Sweaty’s Squadron sits atop the ACC standings thanks to the league’s easiest schedule. The Twerps have beaten visiting Florida State, and defeated BeeCee, NCSU, and Miami, but lost to the best team they’ve played, Wake Forest. Meanwhile, Sir Purr finds himself on the business end of a three-game losing streak, and better win this one in front of the Portajohn crowd so that he can save (1) his team’s season and (2) all of our collective sanity, by preventing ridiculous UMCP from going four games over .500.
Clemson 75, Maryland, College Park 74.
Oooooooh, this is a tough one. Is league-leading Maryland and sure-fire-first-round-NBA-draft-pick-Geeeeevus-Worthless for real? Or did someone sneak calendars with the number “2010” into the Clemson locker room?
Clemson 71, Maryland, College Park 69.
VIRGINIA (12-6, 3-2) @ NORTH CAROLINA-CHAPEL HILL (13-7, 2-3)
The Hos have started their descent and are on final approach to ACC mediocrity; remember that they’ve played a league schedule rivaled in breeziness only by the Turtles’ risible “gauntlet.” However, It Is Written that Rrhoid shall now reach .500 in league action as the bluehairs sit on their hands and whisper praise for their baby blue-clad heroes. Don’t get me wrong; the Cravs have enough to get by the Tools, who are just simply awful, but RoadVirginia is one phenomenon that will take Tony Bennett more than a season or two to exorcize.
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 74, Virginia 68.
As Matt duly noted recently, the Who’s? are pretty bad on the road. He also got the Hoots’ win in Raleigh correct, probably by ignoring all the advice from the Dukies.com government relations office. This will most likely be a game where Coach Yokel’s IMMENSELY SCARY size makes a difference.
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 80, Virginia 70.