TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 50
March 28, 2010
ELITE EIGHT EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
(3S) #19 BAYLOR (28-7, 11-5 Big 12) v. (1S) #3 DUKE (32-5, 13-3)
Duke’s first half against Purdue was one to forget, except for the last minute, when Kyle Singler hit a nice J.J. Redickesque curl three and stole the ball away from Purdue on the next possession, and Nolan Smith converted a nice second-chance shot from the left elbow just before time expired to give Duke an extremely surprising halftime advantage. The second half, of course, was a different story. Duke suffocated the Boilermaker shooters and was almost unstoppable on offense, shooting 15-26 from the field and 13-16 from the line, and if it weren’t for the amazing midrange game of JaJuan Johnson, the rout would really been on. Purdue’s aggressive man-to-man frankly amazed me; they were indeed playing with a chip on their shoulder, and Kramer, Moore, and Grant in particular all did an excellent job bodying up the Blue Devil scorers whenever they collected the ball. For me, the play of the game came when Jon Scheyer connected on a three - - seemingly his first since Digger’s last lucid interval - - with 17:54 left to put Duke up 31-26, and Painter, sensing a momentum shift, called one of his three remaining timeouts five seconds later. Purdue did rebound to tie the game in short order on two deep shots by E’Twaun Moore, but Scheyer broke that tie and an ensuing deadlock at 35 with tw beautiful drives into the lane, the first resulting in a foul on Keaton Grant and two points at the line, and the second in a beautiful floater into the bucket. Jon’s confidence was back, and from that point on Duke built its lead inexorably with the third prong of its scoring attack back in form. Jon clearly needs to drive the rim when he’s not connecting from outside, and I hope he tries that strategy in case he misses more than a good look or two from the wing in this one. Zoubek collected an awesome 14 boards in 24 minutes, Lance’s defense was excellent despite Johnson’s step-out heroics (his 23 included four late-game points after the outcome had been decided, and most of his jumpers were not capable of being defended), and Miles Plumlee had a heck of an effort with four points and seven boards in 15 minutes. Ryan Kelly showed a nice stroke from the line to close Duke’s scorebook, too, which was certainly a big confidence-builder for him. Once Duke calmed down and took care of the ball - - with just three turnovers in the second half - - the outcome was decided. It’s nice that after this season, we don’t have to hear noise about the “Sweet Sixteen barrier” or how Duke “hasn’t made the Elite Eight since 2004” - - anymore. Great game, Duke.
And now, the Baylor Bears and their zone defense.
Baylor boasts a very formidable backcourt, led by 6-4 junior LaceDarius Dunn (19.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.5 tpg, 1.3 spg, 3.0 pfpg, .451/.859/.424). Dunn is a streak shooter who absolutely must be guarded at all times. This looks like a job for Nolan Smith, who did a very good job of keeping E’Twaun Moore in front of him at all times - - Moore shot 5-15 within the circle and only went to the line twice. Dunn was last contained in a game that mattered by Kansas State (guarded primarily by 6-0 Jacob Pullen) on January 26, when he scored nine points; he’s been in double digits in every game but one (a blowout of Texas Tech) since. He is a remarkably proficient and efficient scorer; in Baylor’s last ten games, he has tallied at least four made threes in seven of them. This is yet another strong challenge - - in this oh-so-weak bracket, right? - - for Duke’s wing defense. The same top-ranked perimeter containment unit that shut down Berkeley’s three-headed attack and held Purdue to 4-15 (26.7%) shooting from behind the arc needs to be on firm display here, because otherwise, Dunn will fill it up. Here’s the good news, though; Dunn rarely goes to the line despite being a very good converter on free tosses, and he is an atrocious ballhandler. Duke needs to force him to handle the ball in the open court, and avoid transition opportunities, where Dunn gets a vast amount of points, either on unmolested drives to the metal or spot-up threes against backpedaling defenses. More good news about Dunn - - he is extremely foul-happy, and can be counted upon to commit several personals at the apex of the zone if Duke forces the issue. Getting Dunn in foul trouble would be just about the strongest play that Duke could make in this game, because Baylor would be pretty lost without him.
5-11 senior Tweety Carter (15.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.5 tpg, 1.3 spg, .437/.788/.389), like Dunn, is another very good three-point shooter, but he’s very small, and could have trouble finding open looks against Nolan Smith, who did an excellent job against Berkeley’s Jerome Randle, a similar player who never could get past Nolan or get away from Duke’s screen-switching activity to find open looks. Carter doesn’t foul much, and he really can’t afford to, because he is the Bears’ only reliable ballhandler. If Nolan drives by Carter with regularity and shows the same kind of near-unguardability that he displayed in the second half against Purdue, he’s going to be in line for some quick conversions in the paint and/or at the donation stripe. When Duke’s on defense, I’m guessing that Scheyer is going to check Carter, who has pretty good speed but doesn’t seem to attempt drivebys too often, preferring to hang out on the wing and wait for the open three after initially setting the offense. Against Kansas State in the Big 12-T, Carter was completely contained by Penis Clemente, scoring just eight points - - and he had four fouls as Clemente sauntered by him on multiple possessions. Carter has shot only four free throws in 104 minutes in the NCAAs so far (making three of them), and in 15 games since the calendar flipped over to February, he has averaged just 2.4 trips to the line per outing. I think that Jon can handle this assignment if he concentrates on ball denial and flashes out quickly to deny the three, a part of his game for which he does not receive nearly enough credit.
6-1 freshman A.J. Walton (3.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 tpg, 1.2 spg, 2.1 pfpg in 17.7 mpg, .511/.558/.472) is Carter’s relief at the point, but despite his quick hands, he fouls quite a bit and gets beaten off the dribble frequently enough to make him a definite downgrade from Carter, who, in a related story, leads the Bears with 36.2 mpg. Walton may be a scorer in the future, but he’s not one now, and his placement on the defensive learning curve means that Duke should really search for holes in the zone if Drew goes to a three-guard set at any time.
6-6 sophomore Fred Ellis (1.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, .293/.833/.333), who mostly received minutes in already-decided games this season, is the final piece in the backcourt, and mostly comes in (if at all) to rest Dunn and/or relieve the former from foul trouble.
In the frontcourt, 6-10 junior Ekpe Udoh (13.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 tpg, 3.7 bpg, 2.4 pfpg, .492/.686/.269), a Michigan transfer, has numbers that may look familiar to you; other than the rebounding, Udoh has basically the same statistical profile as JaJuan Johnson, but he doesn’t have the midrange game down as well as Johnson (obviously) does, nor does he shoot nearly as well. Udoh can be foul-prone, but must be contained in order to put more scoring pressure on the Baylor guards. It seems likely that Udoh will be Lance’s defensive assignment - - Udoh weighs about 25 pounds more than Johnson, but tends to be much more stationary and is likely a very good matchup from Lance and Duke’s perspective. Udoh does not go to the line very often for a big man, averaging only three charity makes an outing, which is fewer than any of the Three-Ess Team. On defense, Udoh will hang out on either the middle line or the back position of the 1-3-1 zone, and it will be the Blue Devils’ job to get him out of position with interior passing and quick cuts to the ball from the weak side.
7-0 senior Texostiff Josh Lomers (6.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.3 tpg, 1.1 bpg, 3.0 pfpg in 17.5 mpg, .692/.711/.000) has played fairly well in the NCAAs, but shouldn’t be an enormous challenge; he does not rebound well and commits a schoolbusload of fouls, which prorates to 6.9 personals over 40 minutes. His offense, as you might suspect, is strictly limited to sanitation; he does rebound well when he’s on the floor, but he usually isn’t present enough to make a difference, and if Duke is running its offensive sets well in this game, as the Blue Devils were in the second half against Purdue, Lomers could be absent for long stretches. Duke’s chief job on defense is just to block him out. When Baylor is without the ball, Lomers will naturally try to contain Zoubek and all pertinent Plumlees from his position at the rear of the zone; he could very well be vulnerable to slashing drives to the bucket, where he might have no choice but to foul to stop Singler, Scheyer, or Smith if they can get by the perimeter defenders.
The fifth starter is 6-10 sophomore Anthony Jones (6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.3 tpg, .416/.667/.328), who weighs in at 195 pounds, or ten more stones than the eleven-inch-lower-altitude Carter. Jones isn’t a shotblocker and hardly ever commits fouls, mostly because he’s one of those suspect defenders that the zone look is designed to disguise. He’s not much of a shooter for a big man - - although he did cap four threes in ten attempts against SHSU and Old Dominion, that was part of an overall 8-21 effort from the floor in both games, and he shot only one bucket, a missed three, against St. Mary’s. Because Jones doesn’t really venture inside that often for close-in looks on offense (his two-point shooting percentage of .459 is worse than any of the three Baylor guards who see time), this seems like a nice matchup for Singler. When Duke has the ball, they’ll want to go right at Jones, whose positioning is not ideal and who tends to make like a matador a bit too often.
6-7 sophomore Quincy Acy (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 tpg, 2.3 pfpg in 23.1 mpg, .697/.718/.000) is the top, and only significant, frontcourt reserve. Like Lomers, he’s a sanitation engineer with no game more than two feet away from the basket, and also like Lomers, although he has rebounded well on offense, he doesn’t stay on the floor all that often, so he’s usually not a decisive factor. However, he, too needs to be blocked out to avoid easy putbacks. On defense, Acy, who usually seems to be in for Lomers or Jones, will collapse on the big men and probably be the primary defender who runs out to guard Singler when the ball goes over to Kyle on the wing, a very favorable matchup for Duke.
That’s pretty much Baylor’s rotation, and although the Bears have managed to keep up their energy and intensity against the three double-digit seeds that they’ve played thus far, if Duke can attack the zone with side-to-side cuts, direct drives off of screens and plenty of backdoor motion, it’s going to lead to individual fouls and a possible depth crisis for Scott Drew and company.
In the Bears’ loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament, Jacob Pullen and Denis the Penis Clemente combined for 49 points, suggesting that this defense can be had. Baylor’s zone is variously described as a 2-3 zone or a 1-3-1 zone, but one thing that many commentators have not mentioned is the reason for the zone’s existence - - it disguises significant defensive deficiencies. Dunn, in particular, is not a good defender; his footwork is poor, and he deals out three fouls a game. Lace actually fouled out (curtains?) against Sam Houston State in the first round and had four personals against Old Dominion in the second. Hmmm. Tweety Carter isn’t noted as a lockdown containment specialist, either, and Lomers deals out gobs of fouls while Jones waves at opposing ballhandlers from a safe distance. Duke can thank the Hurryclowns for showing them what an active, energetic zone defense looks like - - in fact, this team closely resembles Miami in its defensive sets, and is actually quite close to an across-the-board taller version of Miffle, except that the Bears do not have a breakdown point guard like Durand Scott leading the attack. Given that the two Miami games are relatively fresh in Duke’s memory, I think Duke might have some ideas as to how to break this scheme down successfully.
Baylor is getting a lot of press in anticipation of this matchup, and rightly so - - the story of the program’s amazing renaissance under Scott Drew following the 2003 Patrick Dennehy tragedy and outrageous behavior of the despicable Dave Bliss is incredible, and Drew is obviously another member of a pretty “special” family. But the picks of an “upset” by the various usual suspects-experts-perverts are mostly based on the Bears’ totaling of St. Mary’s - - which wasn’t really that surprising since the Gaels did not seem prepared for a zone, did not make intelligent shot selections in the first half, and Omar Samhan had a terrible game. For whatever it’s worth (and I understand that it may not be much), St. Mary’s actually outscored Baylor in the second half. Perhaps more pertinently, Baylor did not exactly blow away in-state compatriot Sam Houston State or Old Dominion - - the Bears were tied with the Bearkats with 2:30 remaining in the game, and were baffled by SHSU’s triangle-and-two defense (HMMMM) against Dunn and Carter, who only got off three and eight shots, respectively, in a combined 69 minutes. Against ODU, Baylor was up by just one point, 62-61, with 4:41 remaining before taking control and garnering an eight-point win, extended by four deliberately induced free throws.
It strikes me that Duke should probably press in this game. As mentioned above, Carter is the only sure ballhandler on the roster - - the rest of the Bears range from average rock-shepherds to atrocious boner authors. The Bears rank a very middling (at best) #164 in turnover percentage this season, and also failed to force many opposing errors - - they were a whopping #309 in opponents’ turnover percentage. Against Kansas State’s active defense in the Big 12 Tournament, a game that the Wildcats won, 82-75, the Bears coughed up the roundball 18 times, including five miscues by Udoh and six by Carter. Although Duke has not forced as many turnovers this season as in years past, the Blue Devils can still play that kind of basketball - - and with only one steady ballhandler on the roster for Drew and his squad, that could be an area of emphasis here. As alluded to above, Baylor was also relatively mediocre, for a premier-conference team, at getting to the line, ranking only #210 in that category nationally. (Duke was better, although still not sterling, at #141 - - but Duke was #98 in Division I in terms of limiting its opponents’ opportunities at the stripe, so those numbers combine fairly well for the Blue Devils.)
One thing that I have seen virtually no one mention is Duke’s game against Iowa State in early January in Chicago. Sure, that was close to three months ago, which might limit its relevance, and as I’m sure everyone will fondly recall, a substantial portion of it went unseen due to Bristol’s insistence on catching every timeout in full as Cornell went down to the wire and nearly beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Hey, wait a second - - about events of that time period and their predictive pertinence . . . ? In any case, the Iowa State game is interesting in retrospect because it provided Duke with a (relatively rare) look at the Big 12, and the Cyclones featured a roster similar in many ways to Baylor’s - - a 6-10 and 6-11 starting frontcourt, and guards standing 6-6, 6-5, and 6-4, two of them very athletic. ISU had numerous problems that led to a disappointing season, but Baylor didn’t beat them any worse than Duke did - - in fact, both teams defeated the Clones by the same 21-point margin, with almost the same score, and Baylor’s victory came at home instead of at a friendly neutral site, like Duke’s win.
You know, I don’t usually do this, but I think I sense a potential Duke blowout - - that’s a blowout by Duke - - in the offing. Threes could rain down over the Baylor zone, the Bears could deal out way too many fouls, and the highly-dependent three-point offense of Dunn and Carter could very well be contained by the Blue Devils’ arcland defense. Add in Baylor’s lack of depth, their failure to beat a team not from the Southland, CAA, or WCC other than an insanely stupid Texas team since March 2, and the fact that they did not exactly crush Sam Houston State and Old Dominion - - and sprinkle in a dose of Krzyzewski’s record in regional finals, where he has lost only once in his career (and that was after his team sadly blew a 17-point lead with just under ten minutes left), and this could be a surprising breakout performance for the Blue Devils. I also continue to think that the Iowa State game is instructive. Sure, Baylor’s on a mission, but so is Duke, and I believe that the Bears’ energy will be matched by that coming from the Blue Devils in this one. There have been many games this season when Baylor has run up against teams with strong defenses and either lost (leading to a 4-4 conference road record) or come close, and if either Dunn or Carter is off from outside, let alone both, then Udoh has to shoulder a significant portion of the scoring load, which isn’t ideally suited to his game. I understand that the Big 12 was tough this season, but Wake - - Wake!! - - beat Texas and Georgia Tech beat Oklahoma State. Missouri’s run came to a relatively easy end at the hands of West Virginia, Kansas State barely survived Xavier before being ousted brilliantly by Butler, Texas A&M couldn’t stop Purdue, and we all know what happened to Kansas at the hands of Northern Iowa. (Texas Tech, the conference’s only other postseason entrant, lost in two overtimes at Mississippi in the NIT quarters.) I don’t know if the Big 12 was really as tough as everyone thought it was this season, and I just sense one of those games where Duke would really have to cooperate - - as they did in the first half on Friday night - - to allow the opposition to seize the advantage. I’ll pick a closer result, but as long as Duke’s wing defense keeps its stiff upper lip, I tend to think that the Blue Devils are going to come out on top in this one - - especially if Jon Scheyer has actually reacquainted himself with his jump shot and Nolan and Singler continue to play as well as they did in the second half against Purdue. Come on, Devils.
Duke 75, Baylor 69.
Well, I guess if Duke is going to insist on soldiering on for at least one more day in this tournament, then we will too, huh? But not before crossing our arms and giving a Robert DeNiro-type nod of the head in admiration of Duke’s all-around dismantling of the Drumsticks Friday evening. If I told you in advance Duke would shoot 24 percent in the first half but lead by one at the break, your intelligent reply would have been something along the lines of, “How? Will they keep Purdue to 30 percent, include 0-6 from behind the arc?” And you would have been quite correct.
This was yet another game where the Blue Devils made the most of a height advantage, which this time amounted to a dominant 48-37 edge on the Pyrex. Fourteen misplaced shots were collected by Treebeard, in addition to the seven located by Plumlee and the eight rescued by Singler. Speaking of Kyle, it was him in the beginning and then Smith later on who kept Duke in the game until Scheyer decided that what they were doing looked like fun, goshdarnit, and decided to join in. It helped that during half-time Jon found his shot, which he had accidentally put in the duffle bag with his back-up sneakers a couple of weeks ago.
The only real downside was that the two freshmen who have gotten meaningful time this season are starting to, well, look like freshmen. Plumlee 2.0 and Dawkins spent nine and four minutes on the floor, respectively, but neither took a shot. In fact, other than minutes played, Andre did not fill in a single column on the stats sheet. With the three Essays performing the way they have, this has not been the worst thing in the world, but it does turn Duke effectively into a six-man team.
Of course, by this point of the season, I’d do anything to be part of a six-person writing team. And today I don’t have the advantage of padding my material with a story about two demented snacks-perts in the elevator. Oh, bother. Well, let’s go ahead on dispense with the usual …
WIN OF THE GAME: The overall attitude. During the first half, in contrast to my numerous declarations that “Duke is going to totally blow it,” the individuals actually responsible for affecting the outcome of the game never looked the slightest bit uneasy or like they were rushing things. This team doesn’t assume it will win, it expects to. There is a very important distinction between the two.
FAIL OF THEGAME: The 11 first-half turnovers. If Purdue could shoot whatsoever, they could have easily had a double-digit lead in the first half. RUNNER-UP FAIL: That I missed the fact that the first names of two of Purdue’s starters are JaJuan and E'Twaun, thus depriving myself of several minutes worth of mirth and silliness.
So, Duke takes the court today to face YET ANOTHER team of Bears, this time hailing from Baylor University. First off, expect a decent crowd urging on the Fuzzy Ones, as Baylor is about three hours away from Houston. While your average Texan probably does not have strong pro- Baylor feelings (or any kind of Baylor awareness), that’s close enough for students, faculty and staff to have snagged tickets suddenly unneeded by Purdue and St. Mary’s fans. Add in the as-per-usual anti-Duke sentiment and, well, you get the idea.
What do we know about Baylor? According to Wikipedia, it is the largest Baptist university in the world, but you might recall earlier in the season that same webpage had FDR making diplomatic nominations years after his demise. Speaking of politics, if yours lean at all left of, say, extreme far right, Baylor’s location in Waco, Texas is not for you. First off, the son of a former president, who then defied all odds by getting elected president himself (and is single-handedly responsible for Saturday Night Live remaining on the air) maintains a ranch nearby. If that wasn’t enough, the president of Baylor is none other than … [opening the envelope] … Kenneth Starr!!!!! That’s right! This guy! The very same one who declared Bill Clinton to be guilty of high crimes and BJ’s. Who discovered Clinton violated that line in the oath of office where the president-elect swears, “I will not get some strange from a chick who isn’t totally hot.” The one who ignored plea after plea from the White House senior staff, who were saying, “Dude, cut him some slack. Have you seen his wife?”
Well, Starr’s not there yet. He doesn’t actually take the reins until June. Oh, and get this. Where did Starr get his law degree? Here’s a hint: same school as Richard Nixon. (And I just found out Nixon was raised as a Quaker.)
In addition to all that thrilling trivia, Baylor has a basketball team that plays in the Big 12, one of the last remaining numerically named conference that has a name that matches (exactly!) the number of members it has. They had a good enough season to earn an at-large bid, since their pre-NCAAs season ended at the hand of Kansas State, which isn’t terribly important since those fellows aren’t around anymore. The Beers had a strange loss to Alabama, but that was back around turkey day. They also lost to Colorado, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kansas St (in the regular season this time) and Kansas. That was their only meeting with the team that was the top seed in the NCAA-T, because apparently conferences where you don’t play each other twice is allllll the rage.
Currently calling the shots from the sidelines at Baylor is Scott Drew. If that name sounds familiar, yes, his father is the head honcho at Valpo (that rhymed!) and his brother is not only an assistant there but played in the Needs Basketball-players Absurdity (NBA).
I am going to refrain from saying anything about the Kentucky/West Virginia game until it is over, because I don’t want to tempt fate. I will note that I have a contact who shook hands with Calipari and Hugsandkisses before the game and this was the result.
As for the Baylor Starrs, if you were tired of the last several editions on this website continually declaring Duke had a serious size advantage against the opposition, then this is your lucky day. The Buds’ starting lineup includes, get this, a 6-10 player, another 6-10 player and, not to be outdone, a 7-0 player. Thus, is not a game where Duke’s size will be an advantage, it will be most seriously needed to neutralize that being employed by the Suds. AND PLEASE STOP FOULING MILES AND BRIAN!!! Because this team makes 73 percent from the 501-c-3 line, although, hmmm, they only have 14 successful donations per game. In general, that usually means (I really think that was redundant) they don’t do the things that get them fouled. Interestingly, with all that size, the Drafts just only out-rebounded the opposition by five in conference play. Ooooh. On the other hand, they do average nearly seven shots per outing. So I guess they are using their size for something.
Other general stats show that the defense is okay, holding opposing teams to just less than 40 percent shooting, but allowing one out of every three long distance calls to be successfully completed. The Coors also commit more turnovers than the teams they have faced off against. That is NOT a good sign for anyone wanting this team to beat Duke.
Hey, I just had an idea that will allow me to be just as annoying as the T.V. guys. One of the networks has a corporate-sponsored “Keys to the Game” that the on-air talent announces before the game, then re-visit numerous times. I like to cook, so periodically I think I’ll declare the “Essential Ingredient of the Game.” In this case, it will be turnovers. If Duke can force many, which means they are taking possessions away from the Drafts, that will take pressure off the frontcourt from having to deal with players their own size for the first time since the last meeting with Florida State. And it looks like the Pull-Tabs are the kind of squad who will cooperate.
One final note: I was remiss in making fun of certain Purdue players’ names. Sorry to say, I will do so again with Baylor, but at least this time will note the opportunity in advance so you all can have some fun with them in the comments section. The 40s feature the following: LaceDarius Dunn, Ekpe Udoh (U-Doh!!!), Dragan, Sekelia, Quincy Acy, Givon Crump (wow, that sounds painful) and … [drumroll, please. and click on this link to hear a cheesy one] … Tweety Carter.
Duke 74, Baylor 71.