TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIV, Episode 1
November 14, 2010
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE DEFENSE BEGINS EDITION
Mattís comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
PRINCETON (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) @ #1 DUKE (0-0, 0-0)
Itís that time again! Yes, Dukies.com: The Apology, coming to a computer screen near you. The regrets, of course and as usual, center on the total failure of this site to update itself in the offseason. Our bad!
Itís like this. Doing 50-some editions - - and we donít mind extra editions in late March and early April, 2010-style, although the 2009 variety was not our bag - - is just exhausting. Sure, sure, this stuff is like a meal at a Chinese restaurant: light, insubstantial, goes down quickly, and youíre hungry for more (from a different site) in less than an hour. But that doesnít mean that what we like to dub the ďmaterialĒ doesnít take forever to put together (our Chinese food metaphor and I must now part company, as I know nothing about the time required to prepare such delicacies), especially if you have some annoying perfectionist involved who insists on analyzing the three-point percentages and defensive efficiency of Deividas Dulkys and Nerdwood Cellar for that Florida State matchup. With NCSU.
Look, Dukeís final game effort for the school's fourth title spoke for itself. It was positively nerve-jangling, right down to the deliberate missed free throw by Zoubek, the vicious illegal backpick thrown on Singler by wild-eyed, hairnet-needing goon Matt Howard, and the . . . ahhhhh. MISSED SHOT by Hayward. Whew. Hey, how did Duke end up playing a road game in the national championship? It could only happen to the Blue Devils. Anyway, sorry for taking seven months of peace and quiet for ourselves.
Of course, the fun wasnít over with that incredible win. Kyle Singler decided to re-up for a fourth season, the Inevitable Degeneration of Roy - - a project shepherded by a joint federal government task force studying the unraveling of a narcissistic, lucky, maniac - - got underway in earnest in Chapel Hill, and, my God, they fired the Nutcracker. Oliver Purnell went off to rebuild DePaul, which is like calling in Bob Dole to assist with Pakistani relief efforts, or some other project expected to take 40 seasons. Bob Dole wouldnít take that job! And Wake Forest finally saw the error of its ways when, in the aftermath of the tragic passing of Skip Prosser, it elevated a thug who had been fired by both West Point and Loyola Maryland to be its head coach, just in order to keep some Neeba-bound timekillers around for another season or two. Didnít pan out - - but at least Wake didnít compound its error by hiring some stiff with the stench of an Association fringe-dweller who couldnít coach his way out of a wet paper bag at Colorado. Oh, wait; it did. And the Bzdelik Era? Off to a bzlzing start with a ten-point loss to the Stetson Hatters in the books, Wakeís first setback in a home opener since the unveiling of the LJVMC. Iím sure that Stetsonís coach, Derek Waugh (JD, Wake Forest, 1996 - - and not a bad guy), had a few mixed feelings about that. Wake is clearly headed for a season of epic horror.
Meanwhile, Mike Krzyzewski continues to load high-powered recruits on the bus, while Olí Roy prepares to Skype them next season in their dorm rooms at Indiana. Sad. For Roy and Tool Nation, of course.
So how did this site feel about last seasonís run through the NCAA Tournament? Well, you were here for everything but detailed reaction to the final game. Most of what I think has already been said - - the Butler game was an officiating travesty, with virtually limitless handchecking and pulling allowed to proceed unmolested by zebraic tweetage; Duke showed remarkable fortitude in disposing of a hometown opponent with a fantastic gameplan; and Haywardís shot wasnít really THAT close to going in (watch some video with different angles if youíre not with me on this last part). Great game, even better result. And that fourth national title banner looks exquisitely sharp in the Cameron rafters. Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, and Jordan Davidson - - THANK YOU. Wow. What a ride.
This yearís schedule looks to me like it was designed for a young team - - but thatís not exactly what Duke has on hand. And that backcourt - - are you kidding me? Singler appears poised to dominate, and I really have only three concerns:
(1) Will Dukeís presumed demolition of the ACC cause complacency?
(2) How will the holdovers from a season ago fare with regard to a near-total change in the offensive attack, going from possession-limiting efficiency to fun and gun?
(3) Who is going to be That Guy who can guard the opposing teamís 6-6 dude who can roll to the hoop for cheap buckets, yet also likes to dwell on the perimeter and fire in some bombs? Everyone has one of this model now, and last season, Dukeís compelling answer to the problem was Lance Thomas. Can Kyle Singler play this part on defense for the Blue Devils? Josh Hairston? Or am I overthinking this?
Weíll have some of the answers shortly, as the schedule is frontloaded this season, but for now, Duke opens against the Tigers of Princeton, that school that some wiseguy from Trinity College ripped off for the look of the Gothic Wonderland so many years ago. (Just kidding, and not so in any case, drones the Duke archivistís office.) No one cares; the Duke campus is more attractive anyway. More pertinently, Duke owns the Tigers in menís basketball, having won 17 of the 18 contests litigated between the parties, dating back to 1936. The lone loss came in December of 1981, when Mike Krzyzewskiís career record at Duke stood at 18-16; itís now at 795-220. The Blue Devils last met the Tigers just shy of three years ago, defeating them 83-61 in the third game of the 2007-2008 season, in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.
Syd Johnson is now in his fourth season at the Princeton helm, and is continuing his quest to return the Tigers to their formerly customary berth atop the Ivy League and in the NCAA Tournament - - where they have not strayed since 2004. Johnson, formerly a pretty good guard himself for the Orange & Black, boasts a strong starting backcourt featuring 5-11 junior Doug Davis (12.7 pg in 2009-2010) and 6-3 senior Dan Mavraides (11.5 ppg), who started every game last season and led the team in boarding at 4.3 bounds per game, the kind of statistic that is impressive for Mavraides and not so great for Princeton, unless featuring a 75-inch-tall guard as your leading Windex man is your idea of tenacious inside play. Since the Tigers graciously played Rutgers in the friendly confines of Jadwin Gym on Friday night (beating the Scarlet Knights for the first time since 2004 - - hmmm), we know that Johnson is rolling out 6-9 sophomore Brendan Connolly, a spare part as a freshman, in the middle, flanked by forwards Kareem Maddox, a 6-8 senior (6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg a year ago) and 6-7 sophomore Ian Hummer (6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg). Hummer, a perennial favorite of Bill Raftery whenever the former goes to the bench for ďa blow,Ē is the latest in a long line of exciting Hummers at Princeton. Ianís father Ed and uncle John were both excellent players for the Tigers. Now, why am I being handed a card that tells me that itís time to signal for the head tap? Come on. The only other three players who touched the hardwood (oh, okay, enough already) against Rutgers were 6-4 freshman T.J. Bray (four minutes), 6-9 sophomore Mack Darrow (the only player other than the five starters to scratch, scoring five points), and 6-10 sophomore Will Barrett.
Lindyís, which is the now the gold standard of preseason annuals as far as Iím concerned, picked Rutgers to finish at 15 in the Galactic East this season, just ahead of that sleeping juggernaut at DePaul that is just waiting for Oliver Purnell to give it some juice. Or a Hummer, or something. And no, I didnít go to Funny School in the offseason; ends up that the tuition was not tax-deductible. Anyway, Lindyís lack of confidence in the Scarlet Knights suggests that Princetonís 78-73 overtime win is less than troubling for Duke partisans - - particularly since Johnson really squeezed the last drop out of (ahem) Hummer, Davis, and Mavraides, who combined for 120 minutes of action. They could be tired on Sunday.
Mavraides garnered a Bootsy with 26 on Friday night and also capped six threes, so he should be the focus of Dukeís new-look backcourt defense, led by Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving. Dukeís official game notes, with which I am not inclined to argue, indicate that both versions of Plumlee currently dwelling in Durham will start in the frontcourt alongside Singler, which should give the smallish (but not stereotypically tiny) Tigers fits on the interior. One has difficulty imagining this game going in the wrong direction.
Iíd like permission to add one final note, for which I am indebted to duhomme, who apparently forgot to include it in his material, left here on a table in the break room next to DNA firmly tying John Swofford to the theft of at least six boxes of our donut supply from the fridge. What percentage of people who talk about ďthe Princeton OffenseĒ actually know what it is? As you are well aware, anyone who has ever engaged in basketball activity within 100 yards of the boundaries of the Princeton campus is statutorily required to employ it for the remainder of his or her natural life - - but what is it? Is Sydney Johnsonís version of it really the same as Pete Carrilís? Or Bill Carmodyís? Or Nerd Sendekís? (Answer: no. It just means that four guys frequently set up outside the arc with the center at the top of the key, and thereís plenty of passing leading to an attempt at a backdoor cut, a post-up by a cutting guard, or a three-pointer - - and typically, the associated defense is a matchup zone.) I am looking forward to seeing how this ďnew lookĒ version of the Blue Devils copes with an attempt to slow them down - - much as Cal Poly Pomona did in the second exhibition game, and much as numerous opponents will do this coming season.
Title defense. We were around for the third one, and are certainly privileged to have been here for the fourth. Number five, anyone? But first, this.
Duke 82, Princeton 55.
[Okay, here we go. Approaching the Dukies.com Washington, D.C. Bureau on the right. Getting out of cab, tipping driver. Signing in through security. Looks like we have new guards. Unlocking door to the office. Flip on main breaker. Good, lights came on, so Matt finally got around the paying the power bill. Writing up the NCAA Tournament last spring in the dark really sucked. Aw man, the interns left empty 40s all over the place. Iím totally not cleaning this up. Whatís this box? Oh, a new wireless router to replace the one that died two seasons ago. Crap. Now I donít have an excuse to not do research. Any mail? A thank-you note from some guy who made $5 mill in Vegas last season by always picking opposite of what I predicted. A-hole. And hereís a note that says, ďSorry about the couch. Ė Rick Pitino.Ē Ewwwwww. Gotta call building maintenance and get *that* removed. Alright, turning on the computer and getting ready for another season of underwhelming material.]
And, with that, weíre back. Along with the rest of college basketball. Most teams couldnít wait around for us before beginning their seasons, but Duke politely did, and we appreciate it. Along with certain events last spring that populated my dresser drawers with a fresh collection of NCAA Championship t-shirts. Since then, things have been sorta quiet around this webpage, but after writing about Duke for as long as the season lasts, plus following some fading program down the road until the end of a different tournament [uncontrollable giggling], we needed some time off. Heck, we didnít even recap the game, but by now you probably know what happened.
Of course, that means you had to go all summer and most of the fall not knowing what I, from my vaunted position, deemed to be the FAIL of the game. The obvious choice would be my taking seven freaking months to get around to it, but there is another. Duke grad and Dukies.com friend The A-Train, who has guest written a time or two, did not see either the last two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Those would be the ones where Duke won to advance to the championship game and then, upon successfully accomplishing the task at hand, picked up some smart-looking trophies and got their picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Why, you wonder, did The A-Train miss out on the best end to a Duke season in nine years? Because he was on vacation in Mexico, a trip he scheduled way back in January, before, in his words, ďthey inserted Zoubek into the starting lineup.Ē Massive, epic FAIL.
Since Duke is playing a game tonight, I reckon we ought to talk about it. Oh, and by the way, if you are looking for an ACC preview, that will be available in another format that may or may not be available yet (Iím always the last to know things around here. Hell, Iím lucky if Iím told when open season for the benefits plan starts.) Also included in that ďotherĒ format will be a detailed analysis (outsourced, of course) of Dukeís performance in their two exhibition games. For now, letís just say the first was a through beat-down of Saint Augustine, whose faith helped him not in the least, and the second was a closer-than-necessary win against California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (where you can get a degree in hotel and restaurant management Ė for real), last yearís D-II champs who for some reason go by the silly name of Cal Poly Pomona. Sounds like the name of a racehorse. In the latter contest, the brickage was so severe from both squads that car alarms were going off in the parking lot throughout the game. (Wow, thatís a weak joke. I havenít upgraded to Bad Shooting Metaphor 3.0 yet. Accounting hasnít decided if I can expense it.)
Where were we? Oh, yes, Duke will now commence with a game that counts on its record, playing hopefully not-so-gracious host to the Tigers of Princeton. By the way, one part of Duke lore is that the Duke family wanted to give the $ to Princeton, except that institution wouldnít change its name, so they found friendly nearby Trinity College, which was willing to oblige. Donít know if that is true, but it would be cool if it was. Hereís another connection: Bill Bradley, probably Princetonís best player ever who went on to become a three-term U.S. Senator from New Jersey and ran for president briefly in the 2000 campaign, originally committed to Duke. However, while recuperating from a broken foot, he got bored and starting looking through catalogues from the schools he turned down, and decided to switch to Princeton.
The Tigers are lead by Sydney Johnson, a Princeton alumnus who was the Ivy League POY in 1997 and now holds the inexplicable title of ďFranklin C. Cappon Ė Edward G. Green í40 Head Coach.Ē Um, whatever. If any of you know exactly what that means, explain away in the comments section. Thatís what itís there for. Well, other stuff, too, but you get what I mean.
As it turns out, after last yearís 22-9 campaign, second place finish in the conference and invite to the CBI, Syd was named Ivy League Coach of the Year, so heís managed to get both honors in the same conference. Neat. Wonder how often thatís happened.
One of the things that makes these early season games so hard is you have no idea what the other team is about. Fortunately, Princeton has done us a solid by playing a game already, a 78-73 OT win over their Route 1 rivals, Rutgers. The first thing that jumps out of the box score is that, even with 16 players on the team, only eight managed to take off their warm-ups during the 45 minutes of action against Rutgers. Of those, the starters played between 37 and 41 minutes, depending on the individual. Only one other play cracked double digits. And, you have to factor in that Ian Hummer (not to be confused with the 70s and 80s keyboard player who worked with Jeff Beck and also composed the theme song to Miami Vice. Yes, that trivia was an attempt to not work blue with such an unfortunate last name) fouled out, meaning his brushes with the rulebook probable necessitated more activity from the bench than normal. Thus, we have learned, this team ainít deep. Duke, on the other hand, is.
Now, Mr. Numbers Guy up there in the blue font will give the details, but there are a few worth mentioning here. Brendan Connolly stands at 6-11 and weighs just north of 250 pounds. So, heís big. He didnít score much against the Scarlet Knights, and probably scared small children in the audience with that 2-9 shooting performance, but he did collect 11 balls that were on the way to the dead letter office. The designated gunner is Dan Mavraides, who was 6-10 when first dialing a one. Gunner-pretend is Douglas David, or David Douglas, or whatever, who forgot to dial a one on most of his long-distance calls, resulting a 2-9 success rate. That makes up the bulk of the outside shooting; the rest of the team combined for three more.
Letís wrap this up. Hopefully there will be many, many more articles to come this season. Clearly the Tigersí strength is in their outside shooting, and Duke has wave after wave of guards to blanket those guys. However, keep in mind that Coach Johnson spent three years under John Thompson THE THIRD!!!! at Georgetown, so he knows a thing or two about sitting on the sidelines and watching Duke head to the losersí circle. Itís just unlikely that will be the case today.
One more item: I feel kind of bad about my lameness over the summer and only putting up one Dumb Media item, so I am going to try to include an item or two in each full edition this season (meaning, not the micro-editions, because it would defeat the purpose of creating that category). Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, letís start with the notion of being able to eat the dinner of choice for that day with mama and baby turkey staring at you from the table. Speaking of the turkey, hey itís registering 108.8 degrees, so it must be time to take it out of the oven and begin the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. (What the hell is wrong with these people?) Thereís really not much to say about this other than it may be the dumbest product ever. Switching holidays here, with Christmas coming up, this is the scariest toy I have ever seen. Hopefully, it comes with a psychiatric counseling coupon for the soon-to-be traumatized children.
With that, welcome back college basketball!
Duke 82, Princeton 61.
2009-2010 Duke National Championship!! Season:
Matt 96-47 (.671)
duhomme 94-49 (.657)
Guests 16-4 (.800)