TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 37
February 28, 2010
DON'T LEAVE YOUR ORGANS IN CHARLOTTESVILLE EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
#5 DUKE (24-4, 11-2) @ VIRGINIA (14-12, 5-8)
I thought Duke showed a fair amount of mettle in the Tulsa contest. We’d all like better shooting, but the defense was absolutely peerless. When did Nolan Smith develop into a lockdown? Meanwhile, LT and Kyle Singler are flying down the floor and blocking shots from behind, Lance is containing his man throughout the game, and the recently activated Brian Zoubek is claiming every board in sight. Almost no one gets a clean three off against Duke, and all of the screen-switching that the team’s platoon of versatile defenders does confuses foes with multiple defensive looks. On one possession on Thursday night, Tulsa point Uzoh was guarded in succession by Smith, Scheyer, and Thomas. I like to think of this as the “motion defense,” and it’s humming along smoothly in the last several games. Meanwhile, the offense is doing just fine despite the poor floor percentages, thanks to all the extra looks that the serious glass-crashing by Singler, Thomas, and Zoubek is yielding.
We also got to see extended time for the Plumlees, Dawkins, and to a lesser extent Kelly against the overmatched Golden Hurricane, once the Blue Devils fought off the early second-half tie and went on a tear. Last night, I watched the St. John’s game for the first time - - I was in the middle of some project when it was first aired, and probably still in a bad mood about Wisconsin, so I had followed that one live over the Internet, but never seen it. Same deal with Gardner-Webb, which came ten days later. I’ve now seen both games in their entirety and am ready to conclude that Dawkins - - who was pretty good against St. John’s but absolutely money against GWU, which came after his sister Lacey’s passing - - has simply been depressed. Maybe he was surprised by the caliber and toughness of ACC foes, particularly when he’s on the defensive end, and got into a practice rut from which he’s now recovered. The next step is to get the lid off of the basket - - the field goals that he took against VPI and Tulsa were very solid.
Virginia has lost six in a row as the novelty of Tony Bennett’s defensive-minded approach has worn off, and some of his key players seem to have worn down a bit as well. Three of the Whos’ last four opponents have scored 70 points or more, with the fourth (FSU) just missing by one at 69. Meanwhile, UVA has averaged just 53.7 ppg over its last three games. That 70-point benchmark is important when Virginia is on offense, too - - the Cravs are 11-1 when scoring at least 70 points, and 3-11 when scoring 69 or fewer. It will be the job of the Duke defense to continue its excellent run of late and keep the Ho-Hos’ total in that ballpark.
The Cavaliers are naturally led by 6-6 sophomore Sylven Landesberg (17.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.2 tpg, 0.8 spg, 2.1 pfpg, .1.26 PPS, 444/.822/.407). Landesberg is not a pure shooter, but is very good at creating opportunities for himself off the dribble or in transition. He’s not a great defender and doesn’t have a tremendous handle, but he can score in bunches - - he has nine 20-point games this season. I would imagine that guarding him will be Lance Thomas’ job for Sunday evening, although K may want to start Scheyer on Sylven and see how Jon does; he hasn’t really struggled abundantly guarding faster players this season. Landesberg is coming off of a 27-point torching of the Hurryclowns’ zone at the Conversation Center - - but the rest of the team only contributed 35 points, leading to a big Tuesday loss.
That’s the Virginia season in microcosm, as Bennett has failed to find reliable complementary scoring options. For a while it appeared that regular contributions would come from 6-8 junior Mike Scott (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.7 tpg, .512/.764/.600), but he has been ridiculously inconsistent of late, contributing 15 points against Clemson when the Tiggers successfully shackled Landesberg, but authoring an 0-fer against Miami. Scott is relatively slow and not a threat from any kind of distance; he’ll be Singler’s assignment if LT plays Landesberg.
6-0 sophomore Sammy Zeglinski (9.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.8 tpg, 1.3 spg, .391/.788/.389, 1.16 PPS) has been the third constant in the starting rotation; he was supposed to lose his point guard duties to 6-2 senior Calvin Baker (3.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 tpg, .333/.625.235) at the start of the season, but Baker has struggled mightily, and even considered leaving the program at the semester break. Zeglinski shoots the bulk of his attempts (64.9%) from beyond the arc and scarcely ever visits the line. He’s been overburdened as a defender in the ACC thus far and will really struggle with Nolan Smith’s first step - - but he can pilfer the ball and has excellent basketball instincts. He’s one of those guys that has worn down as the season has progressed, but a marquee opponent like this could always rejuvenate him. Although Baker sometimes starts, Bennett seems to prefer him as a change of pace from Zeglinski. Baker is better with the ball, though, so we could see him in a three-guard look at the opening tip. Backcourt depth comes from 6-4 junior Jeff Jones (7.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, .431/.767/.413, 1.33 PPS), the Wahoos’ most efficient guard, hot-and-cold 6-4 junior Mustapha Farrakhan (6.1 ppg, 1.7 apg, 1.4 tpg,.357/.800/.351) and seldom-used 6-8 freshman Tristan Spurlock (2.2 ppg, .417/.667/.182) and 6-5 senior Lagostiff Solomon Tat (1.2 ppg, .833/.286/.000). Relax, the .833 is 5-for-6 from the floor. And the 28.6% comes from two-of-seven from the line.
Up front joining Scott are, usually in rotation, 7-0 sophomore Senegalostiff Assane Sene (which always reads like an obscenity to me, but is pronounced benignly) (1.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg in just 12.8 mpg, 2.1 pfpg, 0.9 bpg, .333/.611/.000), 6-9 junior Will Sherill (3.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 pfpg in just 16.2 mpg, .366/.500/.298), and 6-9 senior BatonRougeostiff Jerome Meyinsse (5.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.7bpg, 2.5pfpg, .531/.723/.000). Meyinsse has really blossomed under Bennett after years of neglect by Lameao, who for some reason recruited him. However, as you can see, this isn’t a fearsome frontcourt, even including Scott, and Zoubek and one or two Plumlees could rack up some serious stats - - particularly if Zoubek continues his sudden, and unbelievably welcome, hot streak.
Virginia is an excellent free-throw shooting team - - #16 in the country, compared to Duke’s even better #8 - - but the Blue Devils have made 48 more charity heaves than Virginia has attempted; no one but Landesberg ever gets to the line. On the flip side of the coin, the UVa post men deal out a ton of fouls, and while the Cavs steal a lot of balls (they’re #13 in the country in steal percentage), they don’t benefit from too many unforced turnovers, which tends to indicate that they’re not generating an aggressive defensive stance - - they’re just limiting possessions. The Hos get few second chance points due to poor offensive rebounding. And if Landesberg is contained, the Cravs have almost no way to win.
UPDATE: Looks like Landesberg will be contained, as he is injured and won't play. Not that UVa advance sources were coy about it or anything. Well, I can't say I blame them. Duke still might not shoot well, but this should be a 15+-point win if Sylven is indeed Shelven.
On paper, this should be an easy Duke win, but I thought the same thing before the Blue Devils departed Raleigh moving far more quickly than when they arrived, propelled by the proverbial NCSU foot. UFO Hall was always a poor bet for a Duke shooting explosion because it was so ridiculously dark, but this is a brighter arena with fairly good shooting backgrounds. If Duke doesn’t look past the reeling Cavs to the rematches with its hunting group partners next week, and turns in a good defensive performance, this one should go the way we immensely prefer.
Duke 74, Virginia 64.
I can’t really figure out why, but I can’t come up with much to say about the win over Tulsa. Of course, we are all in shock that when Duke played a Thursday night game, the next was scheduled for Sunday, rather than Saturday at 8:30 a.m. I am sure someone will be clearing out their desk at the ACC headquarters come Monday morning for that oversight. Anyway, I have mixed feels about that game. I couldn’t tell if Tulsa’s multiple comebacks were the result of Duke getting lazy or because the ‘Cane was truly surging. Also (and maybe this was just my mood at the time), I usually really enjoy watching two teams that play good defense go at it, but this one sort of bored me.
There were bright spots. In an incredibly physical game with officials who had been told prior to the game that their whistles had been dipped in cyanide, the Blue Devils manned up and gave as good as they got. It was also nice to see an opposing team that knows where the line is that separates physical play from outright thuggery. Someone send a copy of this game to Blacksburg, stat! While the refs probably should have called more fouls, at least they were consistent in their non-activity, rather than letting things go in the first half and then penalizing every hand-check in the second.
Somehow, no one wearing a Duke jersey played more than 35 minutes. And, even when Scheyer was on the floor, Nolan handled the ball a good bit of time, giving Jon a break from that responsibility. Nice. As was the minutes for Dawkins. I think he, like many freshman, has been overwhelmed by the level of play in the ACC, and is also adjusting to playing so many games with (sometimes) short turnarounds. Good to see him on the floor and (!!!!!!!) driving to the basket! I wish I had mentioned to someone around here I would like to see him try that. As for the Plumlees, I still would like to see them attempt more shots.
Yes, when I claim I can’t come up with much to say about a game, I’m still good for three paragraphs. Not to mention …
WIN OF THE GAME: Yesssserrrrreeeee, it’s a hat trick for Treebread. Not just because of yet another double-double. Or that he did that with only 23 minutes on his timecard. It was a series of honest-to-God back to the basket moves the likes we have never seen from him. We have already ordered the plaque for the Dukies.com WIN Wall of Fame.
FAIL OF THE GAME: A serious contender for this honor was Mike Patrick and Lame Lamemore. In a game where nearly anything could be done to an opposing player without penalty, including knocking someone to the floor, these two (I used to like Patrick, but this season he is trying my patience) spent something like five minutes analyzing and replaying a defensive play by Lance Thomas that, yes, probably should have earned him a foul. Guy, that was one of at least 20 similar plays, obvious to everyone else watching the game. But sadly, I must confer this one on myself, for repeatedly calling Tulsa the “Golden Hurricanes,” when it fact they are a single Hurricane. However, the WIN within this FAIL is that Matt restrained himself from busting my chops about it.
On to Virginia. Sorry to keep harping on the same point, but has Duke seen the Thats in person this year, rather than on television? Of course not, silly! Maybe if they were in the same conference, they would have, perhaps even twice a year. Not the case in the Kingdom of Swoff.
Tony Bennett and the Balladiers got off to a nice start to the year before reality set it. Folks, this team last won a game on Feb. 3 against N.C State (BIG SHOCK!). Granted, most of their losses since have been on the floor with some of the better teams in the league, but the Calves haven’t looked good doing it. Honestly, their last competitive effort was an overtime home loss to Weak, proof that, even in defeat, Bennett has 30 times the coaching ability of Deeno.
How to explain the drop-off? Well, by all accounts, the Standards Singer is a pretty sharp guy, and probably figured if he walked in the door and tried to implement every part of his approach to the game from day one, it wouldn’t get through to the players. Thus, he took the basic elements, installed them and then built his way up. In the meantime, however, other coaches in the leagued figured out the Whose were running a fairly simple system and figured out how to get around it. Plus, it’s not like he was left a cabinet full of McDonalds treats, unlike a certain coach down the road from Durham who is currently tearing it up in the ACC.
Typical of Bennett, this team lives and dies by defense. They are fourth in the conference in that stat, allowing only 67 points per game. Even when they get blown out, the opposition doesn’t put up big numbers. That’s because, at least for now, offense is a secondary concern. The dudes with sabers are dead last with 64 points scored in each outing. They also come in at 10th place in rebounding margin, meaning this could be a game in which, once again. Treebeard dominates the glass with his double-fisted ShamWows. Might also be a chance for a Plumlee or two to put a dent in the boxscore.
However, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” do not foul these guys! They are atop what used to be a basketball conference in their successful percentage from that particular part of the floor. Now, they have 219 attempts versus Duke’s 309, but should the officials decide to participate in a charity event sponsored by the Acme Whistle Company were the manufacturer makes a donation every time a “tweet” is heard, the Cavs will be able to match (or best) Duke from the line.
A couple of final notes: Virginia does take care of the basketball, with a turnover to assist ratio that is good, but not as good as Duke’s. But, they rarely block shots, which should mean plenty of opportunities for blue (or black) jerseys to drive to the basket. Then there is the crowd. Generally, game day at Admiral Arena is a good time to take a nap, listen to a recorded book or whisper sweet nothings to someone 20 seats away. Unless Duke is town. Then, a fairly raucous group of students show up and make it difficult for the folks upstairs to watch movies on their iPods.
Duke 68, Virginia 65.