TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 33
February 20, 2010
REMEMBERING REEMA EDITION
duhomme's comments in red.
Matt’s comments in blue.
NORTH CAROLINA-CHAPEL HILL (14-12, 3-8) @ BOSTON COLLEGE (12-13, 3-8)
So, all season long Derrrrrrickkkklcccckkk Favors, as I believe his name is spelled, is supposed to be the latest, greatest player to ever come along. But, despite his lamery, his thirteen and nine were enough to send the ridiculous Hoots back to Chappahhal Heeaaalal with yet another loss. This is actually a tough one: Good recruiter/no coaching v. crappy recruiter/sort of coaching.
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 68, Boston College 67.
There was a great graphic put together by Raycom during the NCCH/GIT game the other night - - incidentally, despite the noisome presence of Brandroid, who was not involved in this one in favor of the far superior Bob Rathbun, Raycom broadcasts circles around ESPN, which has basically become a bad parody of itself. Anyway, here it is - - scoring runs surrendered by the Tools to their opponents this season. Syracuse 22-1 (+21); Kentucky 28-2 (+26); Texas 24-6 (+18); Georgia Tech (the first time) 29-9 (+20); Virginia 18-2 (+16); VPI 26-13 (+13); MDCP 28-9 (+19); Duke 15-6 (+9). Fourth sentence to note that I’m only sorry that Duke had the smallest of those runs, at a mere +9 over the Baby Blue, but those numbers sure do show that Ol’ Roy, while fending off all those Neeba teams crashing down his door to hire him (as he preposterously and inappositely claimed this week on some Atlanta radio show), knows how to keep the opposition scoring. And scoring. And scoring. My word, we’re into the seventh sentence now, and I haven’t had time to note that this is a virtually impossible pick - - survey says: Tools, so I can split the benefit if they win.
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 63, Boston College 61.
GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (18-8, 6-6) @ MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK (18-7, 8-3)
This is exactly the kind of game where Matt pulls ahead for good. Oh, crap, I just gave him a heads-up. My “Do’H” used up my third sentence.
Maryland, College Park 78, Georgia Institute of Technology 75.
Heh - - nice attempt at a reverse-psych fakeout by duhomme, supra. Like I’m going to pick the fading BugThugs (whomping UNC-CH at home doesn’t mean anything) against a UMCP team that is pretty tough at home? Plus, the Twerps have beaten the Jerkets eight straight times, which is the longest current winning streak by any ACC confederate over another - - even if the last such triumph, exactly twelve full days ago (ahhhhhhhhhhh screaming screaming) was just a one-point escape.
Maryland, College Park 85, Georgia Institute of Technology 81.
#23 WAKE FOREST (18-6, 8-4) @ NORTH CAROLINA STATE (14-13, 2-10)
Lid, just so you know, there’s some really good reasons not to spend too much brainpower on this one. Just slightly less than you do on your paying job. Any reason for a real third sentence?
Dino 78, Lameass 70. Oh - -
Wake Forest 78, North Carolina State 70.
In case you’ve ever wondered, or, as seems likely given how intelligent the six of you are, as you already know, Wake Forest’s “hunting group” - - meaning its permanent schedule partners - - are North Carolina State and Georgia Tech. Now, think about how easy a 4-0 that was last season against a 2-14 Georgia Tech squad and a 6-10 Pack unit - - whoops! - - Wake went 2-2. This season, the Deeks can’t win on the road, with just two ACC visit-o-victories, but this will be their third in what I really, really hope will be something like Sweet & Oh So Lowe’s fourth-to-last game at his alma mater without buying a ticket.
Wake Forest 80, North Carolina State 62.
VIRGINIA (14-10, 5-6) @ CLEMSON (18-7, 6-5)
Well, Tony, I like what you have done, but things haven’t gone well lately. And you have no answer to Booker.
Clemson 68, Virginia 65.
I still think that the Cavs have many, many good things ahead of them with Tony Bennett at the helm, but this edition is quickly losing its grip on an NCAA Tournament claim. They’ve dropped four in a row, Florida State just held them to their second-lowest scoring output of the season (50; they posted 49 in a loss to South Florida in their second game of the season), and in the game before that, MDCP posted the highest scoring total by any of the Cavs’ opponents this season (85, shattering the previous mark of 76 by VPI on January 28). Meanwhile, Clemson has won three of four and, if trends hold and the Tigers have indeed righted the ship, will be dancing.
Clemson 75, Virginia 58.
VIRGINIA TECH (21-4, 8-3) @ #6 DUKE (22-4, 10-2)
This one is tough for me. See, my cousin and the flower girl at my wedding was taken away from us in an event in Blacksburg when someone who had no business owning a firearm got his hands on several and ridded this planet of Reema and 31 other people who simply showed up for class and work. If you have seen this article before, either read it again or skip it. But I would appreciate your walking down this path with me again if you have the time. Please?
A bit of background: when Reema died, and it was time to go to her viewing, I wanted to bring something. Anything. That had something to do with her. I went to the basement to look through some of the boxes there. In the very first box I opened, on the very top, was a picture of her from my wedding. One I hadn’t seen in years. Believe in whatever higher power you like. It’s certain someone was giving me an assist. At the wake, her mother, Mona, said Reema always remembered that day and said it was her first performance in what was supposed to be a long career of entertaining people with her wonderful dancing. Her father, Joey, who saw me pull the picture from the pocket of my jacket, said, “You keep that right there.”
I wanted to make a copy of that picture and leave it at the memorial on the Virginia Tech campus during my trip to the VPI campus last year to watch Duke play there. But I couldn’t find it while I was packing. I knew exactly where it was supposed to be. The top drawer of my dresser. But look and look as I might, I couldn’t find it in that drawer. As I was about to go out the door, I looked in that drawer again and it was there. Where it was supposed to be. Got it!
Now, with little time and no color ink in my scanner, I decided to take a flier on getting the job done in my near-Blacksburg hotel once I got there. Well, turns out the clerk could only produce a B&W version, but, get this, he used to work for VPI campus security, and was one of the first officers to respond to the shootings in Norris Hall. He was there. With her (or at least near her) when she was dying.
Come gameday, upon finding a place to park with no sign-related help from campus officials, Matt and I depart to find the memorial. And, believe it or not, we had never met in person before that day. It’s an electronic world. Now, it’s raining, and we’re a good half-mile away from the memorial according the VPI student who gave us directions. I say to Matt, hey, you don’t have to come with me if you don’t want. He responds, “No, this is important.” His words. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. This is the effect Reema has on people who never knew her. In that way, she is not dead.
After a few detours, we get there. The slight and then increasing rain had become a steady shower. The memorial is a semi-circle with each of the victims’ names inscribed on a stone. We found Reema's and I explain to Matt that I have a song I wanted to listen to on my MP3 player. “Kissing Families” by the Silversun Pickups. I had just discovered them days before Reema died and I think it’s the line “It’s everything that is connected and beautiful” that does it for me. Plus, there’s an angry point in the tune which mirrors my feelings about this unnecessary event. So, Matt stands there getting soaked in the rain with me while I run this song at max volume for the next five minutes or so. I had written a note on the copy of the photo from my wedding, telling Reema how beautiful she was that day, how much we missed her, and how she was supposed to be sitting next to me at the game instead of watching from above. Taking a cue from someone else’s visit, I used pieces of gravel that make up part of the border to secure the note in front of her stone. I’m sure the rain soon dissolved the paper, allowing the ink to soak into the ground and stay there forever.
It doesn’t end there. A fan of Dukies.com, who was also at the game, continually asked me if I was going to the memorial, when I was going to the memorial and how was it at the memorial, despite the fact that he had other professional concerns to distract him. This started days before the game, continued in the pre-game warm-ups and days afterward via email. I will always, always appreciate his attention on that difficult day. And guess what? This was also a person I’d never met in person before. Another demonstration that Reema is still with us in a way we just simply can’t see.
Oh, there’s more. Later, I sent this fellow the material I wrote for this site on the first anniversary of her death, which involved a relation between her life and the garden I started the day after she died, the celebration of the departed with annual new growth here on Earth. And he responds by forwarding this incredible poem he got from a friend he considers a sister:
“Strange things about the sun--how often after it has set, and we are able to see it no more, it leaves behind a beauty we can never see while we have it with us.
“About the sun we know this truth, that if it seems to be setting where we are, it is because it is rising somewhere else--rising, and still shinning with its same radiance and warmth.
“We know, too, that in reality it never sets at all; for it is we ourselves who are temporarily turned away from it. Moreover, we are certain that we shall see it again."
Amazing. Sent within minutes. And a celestial analogy of my gardening story. That’s exactly what she brings out in people, even ones who never met her, even now. This isn’t a story about me; it’s about Reema. The hotel clerk who was on the scene. The friend of the site with his, once again, amazing immediate guidance. And Matt walking by my side through mud and rain and standing while I touched the stone with her name engraved on it. And it’s a story about the many of you who have responded in the comments section whenever I have come here to … tell you folks about her. There have been many over the last two years, here are just a few:
Bluedevilruss: “not gonna lie to you it got a little dusty in the apartment here reading your piece about Reema. I thought about that at the game and said a little prayer for you guys. basketball is secondary. just a sport.”
Jamie Koch: “A little dusty indeed.”
Josh: “It was good to read what you wrote about Reema, duhomme.”
Matt: “I'm very humbled - - there's no other word for it - - by what duhomme wrote about me. I think anyone would have done the same.” (Don’t be. What you did was incredible. I don’t know if I could have made that long walk alone. – duhomme)
Jake: “A very heartfelt thanks for your material on Reema. It was lovely and much appreciated. As a father of a daughter her age, it touched me deeply. I know her memory will live on.”
CDG: “duhomme - thank you for sharing something that is intensely personal and probably quite difficult. We have all been privileged to get to know Reema through your moving tribute to her over the past two seasons. I echo Jake and others when I say that despite the unbearable loss, her memory does live on.”
Andrew Hicks: “duhomme, thank you for sharing about Reema, both in this writeup and over the past difficult months, almost two years now. All of us readers of dukies.com continue to remember her, and you.”
Anonymous: “I wanted to say how deeply affected I was…….couldn’t really get it out, but you and your family will always be in my prayers………”
Bluedevilyn: “She dances on, duhomme, she dances on.”
That is just a few, and sorry to those of you I left out. There have been many, many more of you who have gotten to know Reema here. Thank you, all of you, who shared in the loss of this treasure of a person. The one I first met when she reached out for my hand at the age of two because she was afraid to walk down a hill. That’s who I remember (I try!). And a really big thanks to Matt for letting me use this space to talk about her. In this little corner of the internet, her memory lives on. In this way, she is not dead. But I still miss her, and the world is just not as bright as it could be. And never will be. Of course, somewhere else, she dances on . . .
"You know who I am," he said
The speaker was an angel
He coughed and shook his crumpled wings
Closed his eyes and moved his lips
"It's time we should be going"
- - David Bowie
Duke 78, Virginia Tech 74.
I found some of the online reactions to Duke’s win over Miami interesting. Yeah, the first twenty minutes of game action constituted, arguably, the worst half of basketball the team has played all season - - with the first half against Georgetown and the second half against NCSU also contending - - but the second half was one Duke’s best stanzas all year. I don’t believe that any Duke edition since 2003-2004 (maaaaaaaaaybe 2004-2005 - - that was a team that is historically underrated) would have made that comeback. Certainly no Duke team since J.J. Redick relocated beyond the Durham city limits could have pulled it off. Miami has been bad this season, but they are very, very tough at home, and I’m sure everyone noticed that the school pulled out all of the stops - - including bringing Jack McClinton in from his mailing address in the Republic of Turkey.
Massive hat tip, by the way, to Al White for calling that last fact to my attention, and for pointing me to this fantastic link, which shows where many former, uh, persons of interest are playing these days outside this nation’s territorial waters. Wondering what happened to Terrell McIntyre? Sharrod Ford? Sean Singletary? D.J. Strawberry? And those are just the ACC guys. Check that site out for some really interesting info.
Anyway, if you had anything to do with the University of Miami on the hardwood and were tall or fast, you got your jersey retired on Wednesday night, giving rise to a new stat - - how many jerseys Duke has had “retired against it.” This season’s total is, I believe, four. Nice. Miffle treated the game like their own Personal Super Bowl, everyone was there, Rick Barry was there, for crying out loud, the place sounded like one of the best arenas in college basketball when in fact it regularly plays to the sparsest and lamest crowds (with the exception of those at Georgia Tech) in the ACC - - and we’re not supposed to be happy with Duke’s enormous comeback win? Forgive me, but I thought it was awesome.
This won’t be a full recap, with apologies, but I have to do this part:
STAT OF THE GAME: Brian Zoubek’s five steals. How often does a 7-1 center record five steals in a game? Not real often, I contend, even without hard supporting data. Zoubek authored two larcenies in the first half, and then played a massive role in fueling Duke’s second-half surge out of the locker room with three more. He got the first two within 24 seconds of each other, forcing turnovers by Dews and Garrulous Adams, the second of which led to a Duke bucket. He then got yet another 1:06 later, which didn’t lead to points, but his energy was infectious, and in any case, on the possession before this third second-period pilfer, he fed Singler for a beautiful dunk. About a minute later, Zoubek laid in a rebounded Scheyer miss to pull Duke within three, 36-39, and then, exactly sixty seconds of game clock after that, he fed Singler for that three from the left wing that gave Duke a 42-41 lead, cementing a 17-4 Blue Devil run to open the final 20, which consumed exactly 4:46 of the game clock. Amazing. Miami tied it shortly thereafter at 42, and twice pulled to within one point down the stretch, but the Hurryclowns never led again. In large measure, this was because their vaunted zone could not both stop the threat of Zoubek inside and limit three-point looks of astonishing clarity for the Blue Devils from the outside. (My favorite was the one where Nolan found himself with the ball on the right baseline beyond the arc, looked down, looked back up, almost dropped the ball and double-dribbled, probably because he couldn’t believe that no one was within 20 feet of him, then sank the shot with ease.)
Folks, that was a fantastic win against an extremely well-prepared, bizarrely motivated, tough-as-nails-at-home team to give the Blue Devils their fourth ACC road win. I can’t complain.
Congratulations, Duke. Awesome win.
Fresh off that encounter with the Candy Canes, the Blue Devils now face the Hokies of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who are trailing Duke by 1.5 games overall and one in the loss column. VPI, as you probably know, played one of the worst OOC schedules in the nation, and have benefited from a very easy ACC slate as well. They are 6-0 at home and 2-3 on the road in the league, with the away wins coming at Virginia (by five in OT) and at, of course, NCSU, which has one home ACC win all season. (And let’s not get started on THAT particular contest.) They like to make things interesting in Cameron; they won at CIS in January of 2007 by a bucket in overtime and, of course, required Sean Dockery to heave one from about 40 feet or so to beat them in Durham on December 4, 2005 (sigh - - the scheduling), 77-75. In their most recent visit, however, in early January of last season, Duke handily defeated them by a mark of 69-44, as VPI mustered exactly 13 second half points, and the Three Esses all scored in double figures, as did Gerald Henderson.
While that trio of S-men continues to lead Duke this season (and this would be a nice game to cement the increasing suspicion that the Blue Devils are growing stronger, not tiring), Virginia Tech has a trifecta of its own. 6-3 junior and ACC leading scorer Malcolm Delaney (20.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, 3.0 tpg, 1.2 spg, 2.9 pfpg, .397/.843/.317) is having a wonderful season, but as you can see from those stats, he’s missing a lot of shots from the floor. The primary reason that he’s been so good is his ability to drive the bucket and draw contact - - he is applying that scintillating FT% to a whopping 198 FTAs, or 8.2 per game (by comparison, Jon Scheyer leads Duke with 152 and Singler comes next with 117 - - and those guys have been fantastic at forcing favorable whistles). In a related story, Nolan Smith’s defense in the Miami game, particularly in the second half, was amazing. It’s true that Durand Scott, whom Nolan almost exclusively guarded, scored 19 points on 13 shots (making nine), but almost all of his made field goals were heavily contested by Nolan and more than a few were total circus shots. Nolan also limited him to three trips to the line and didn’t allow him to get the Miami offense into any kind of flow at all. It didn’t show up in the box, but Nolan did an outstanding job keeping Scott - - who was quicker than I thought - - in front of him. He will presumably be called upon to do the same to Delaney, and clearly, if Delaney is limited, the Hokie engine doesn’t get them very far. Delaney has four games of 30 or more points this season, and this absolutely needs not to be one of them.
Joining their point guard as big scorers are 6-5 junior Dorenzo Hudson (14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.0 tpg, 2.0 pfpg, .449/.757/.312), who has upped his scoring average from 4.6 ppg a year ago, and 6-7 junior goon Jeff Allen (11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.2 tpg, 2.0 spg - - which is amazing - - 1.2 bpg, 3.5 pfpg in just 26.1 mpg - - which is even more amazing - - .468/.674/.296, 1.23 PPS), who loves to deal out ridiculous fouls in lavish, teeming quantities, often with optional self-ejection feature included. Hudson actually converts more drives from the floor than Delaney does, but is not much of an outside threat. He’ll probably face off with Scheyer on both ends, unless the Bald Bastard of Blacksburg wants to try Delaney on Jon. Both of them foul way too much for such vital components of their team. Speaking of fouling too much, Allen can be guarded relatively easily, struggles against similarly-sized or larger players with good footwork (paging Lance Thomas), and just cannot guard anyone down low without dealing out personals, elbows, taunts, threats, and other improper conduct. What a great guy. I really want to see Allen guarding Zoubek, because as long as BZ can get position on him, fouls will result and Allen will depart, one way or another.
The other two starters include dirty 6-6 junior Terrell Bell (5.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 pfpg, .417/.633/.306), who viciously elbowed Singler in the throat in Blacksburg last season (no call), to the considerable consternation of visiting attendees duhomme and myself, and is just generally a low-talent punk who’s another on-court extension of his head coach’s core-rotten tude. Singler will likely guard him again, and probably plans to show up outfitted like Joe Mauer or Brian McCann just in case. The customary starting lineup - - Surly Seth has run out the same quintet in all but four games this season - - is rounded out by 6-8 sophomore Victor Davila (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 pfpg, .479/.536/.000), who hasn’t made more than one field goal in a game since the Turkeys beat the unranked, hilarious Tools back on February 4. He therefore isn’t much of a threat, and Lance’s energies might be better expended on Allen. Davila won’t have any more of an idea how to stop the Forest Rangers than Allen will, except trying that whole fouling thing.
The only depth comes from the other two Pollys in double figures - - 6-6 junior J.T. Thompson (7.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.8 pfpg in 19.4 mpg, .470/.640/.250), yet another thug who plays defense mostly through intimidation and sports a weak PPS of 1.16, and 6-4 freshman Erick Green (3.4 ppg, 1.1 apg, 0.9 tpg, 1.3 pfpg in 14.4 mpg, .337/.692/.324), a pass-minded point who offers occasional backcourt relief, and also from newly-discovered 6-9 freshman Cadarian Raines (a Star Wars name if I've ever heard one) (1.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.9 bpg in just 8.0 mpg, .321/.500/.000), who made a key block of a weak layup by Wake’s David Weaver to fuel a game-tying possession on the way to the Hokies' Tuesday win over the Dorcs. Raines worries me because Duke does seem to have trouble with those guys who are a little lower on the depth chart, but he’s an inside operator who won’t take the game over.
As you can see from the above, and as should not surprise you for a team masterminded by the Bald Bastard of Blacksburg, all VPI does on defense is foul, foul, foul. They have committed nearly 19 fouls a game (actually 18.9) this season, and against a Duke team that remains tenth in Division I at 75.7% from the donation area, this could come back to haunt the Hokums. And it’s not just the large number of fouls - - after all, Duke commits only slightly fewer at 18.7 per game - - it’s who deals them out. As you might have noticed above, virtually every VPI regular, including every double-digit minute earner except Green, logs at least two personals a game, whereas Duke’s fouls are mostly concentrated among Zoubek (3.4 pfpg), LT (2.9), Plumlee the Elder (2.8) and Plumlee the Younger (2.7). Sure, those are all very important guys for Duke, especially considering the breakout party that Brian has enjoyed over the last two games, and Singler also earns 2.4 zebra nods per outing, but for VPI, everybody gets into the spirit. If Duke drives the bucket and tries to draw contact, they’re going to get whistles, the Bald Bastard is going to have to take some key guys off the court, and the already thin Hokoids will get into their bench and hopefully out of rhythm. The theme of this one should be to attack the rim, and to take threes only when given.
VPI has other weaknesses, too - - they shoot only 42.9% from the floor and an abysmal 31.7% (#262 in the nation) from the arc, and there are only 21 teams in Div I that score a lower percentage of their points from distance. (That group of 21, amusingly, includes North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, and Connecticut - - all teams that Duke has beaten this season, and all three pretty handily, once things got on track at the Crypt.) They don’t block shots and they don’t get a very high ratio of assists on their baskets, which is naturally because of all the scoring that they do at the line. Those visits simply must be limited, especially since their 71.5% FT mark isn’t bad. VPI limits possessions with their (overly) tight man-to-man, and they rebound reasonably well, but they simply cannot keep up with a team that is shooting well from distance - - Duke is now #14 in Division I at 39.5% 3PFG. Again, I don’t think that the three-pointer should be the primary focus here, but if the motion offense is working as well as it was in the second half against Miami, put them up. And, oh yes, drive, draw fouls, and get them out of rhythm.
Duke will be tested in this one, and I’m glad this game is at Cameron, because dopes like Bell, Thompson, and especially Allen (duh) lose their cool at the drop of a dime. This is a great opportunity to enter with a solid, opponent-focused game plan, throw a nice rotation of big men into the mix, and rise to what would be an astoundingly impressive 11-2 ACC record. With only Tulsa and the Tools (sounds like a great name for a band) remaining at home, this is probably the last time Duke will be challenged seriously in Cameron this season. Let’s make the most of it, Blue Devils!
Duke 75, Virginia Tech 65.