TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIV, Episode 7
December 1, 2010
WATCH THOSE KNIVES, BICEPS BOY EDITION
Mattís comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
#6 MICHIGAN STATE (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) @ #1 DUKE (6-0, 0-0)
Duke and Kyle Singler captained a rousing win over Oregon on Saturday in what was very strange - - a Duke game with a Pac-10 feel. You donít get that very often, and my sincerest apologies to Marques Johnson (the former UCLA star who is generally FSNís lead or #2 Pac-10 basketball color man), whose presence I loudly dreaded in the preview material. Johnson has come a long way since the last time I sat through one of his games and listened to him; he was prepared, knew quite a bit about Duke (even if he did make a few mistakes - - I believe I heard a reference to ďVirginia StateĒ of the ACC in there, and St. Patrickís HS is not in West Orange, New Jersey - - the latter is Kyrieís hometown, while St. Pat's is in Elizabeth), and just generally blew away the average clownalyst on ESPN, personified by Elmore and Dykes (both of whom, as a special bonus, openly hate Duke). I appreciated the fact that the Rose Garden did not have some cheap-looking ad hoc floor trotted out just for the game, I loved the MorphoSingler billboards around Portland, and the Ducksí asymmetrical Nike-designed (natch) unis were cool, even if the white-on-white etched lettering for the names is a silly idea because itís not legible from more than handchecking distance away. Sure, sure, Duke played sloppily, had more miscues than assists, and the like - - I honestly didnít and donít care. Like the Marquette game, but even more so, at no time did you really have the impression that Duke would lose. Kyle Singler was unstoppable, and scoring those first five points (on two buckets plus a free throw, beating his little bro both times) really fired up the (!!!) Duke-friendly crowd and served notice that this game made sense in all possible ways except those involving geography. Bootsying the Ducks in ďhisĒ homecoming game must have been pretty sweet - - way to go, Kyle. By the way, Iíd be remiss if I didnít note that E.J. looks even better to me than I thought he was. All-Pac-10 honors candidate next season and as a senior, Iíll bet.
In other news, no one has doped out a way to stop Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith continues to have these weird games where he shoots insanely well from inside the arc, taleast in one half, and makes a couple of spectacular passes (like the alley-oop to Miles Plumlee from halfcourt over the top of the press - - awesome), but doesnít really look comfortable for some reason. Itís interesting but not worrisome. Andre Dawkins - - jeebus!!! Is this guy for real?? Wow. Curry was off in this one, but itís easy to see why Duke opponents are soiling themselves thinking about these two guys - - coming off the bench, for crying out loud. Dawkinsí defense continues to be stellar, too. The Plumlees were, happily, the Plumlees (although Miles continues to deal out too many fouls) and Kelly was competent or better. The scheduling of the game was a positive move and I was extremely pleased, although small criticisms of the team are certainly justified - - but not really any cause for concern. The Blue Devils continued their string of wins in November, by the way, for another season - - their last loss in Turkey Month was to Marquette in 2006. Not bad.
A new day, a new month - - what will tomorrow bring? Well, more beatdowns of the ACC in the Big Ten-Big Ten Challenge, if only the Galactic Coast had more lemmings to parade toward impending hardwood doom. We knew this was going to be ugly, but - - ooooof. I guess The Carp finally got Horseface back for that 2005 title game, huh? Turns out that Hairbag Canít Hit the Side of a Barnes is still not a preseason All-America - - Iím not sure why the delay - - and the rest of that team is looking like a shadow of not just the Toolsí title teams, but, yes, a pale imitation of LAST yearís squad. Yikes. Now, did you figure that the only ACC winners to this point would be Wake Forest and Virginia (beating Minnesota, whose Tar Heel-fueled stay in the Top 25 could be short)? Well, now it will be Dukeís turn to uphold the ACCís honor, or something, and turn back an effort by Michigan State to break that loooooooong nonconference home winning streak sported by the good guys. For various reasons, I was much more worried about the Kansas State game that I am about this one, but then, I was mostly wrong to be concerned before, so take my advice with a dump truck of salt.
Most readers know the story of last seasonís MSU team - - early losses, including another thrashing at the hands of Izzo-owning Rhoid and company, and then naturally a Final Four trip, which latter effort was unhindered by an injury to the teamís starting point guard, 6-0 senior (then a junior) Kalin Lucas. Butler ushered Sparty out of Indianapolis, and the rest is history. Oh, and in the offseason, just about everyone within 10 clicks of the roster got hurt, and Izzo - - Izzo! - - flirted for about a week and a half with the Cleveland Cavsí job. Coming to his senses, he opted to remain in East Lansing.
Assuming a lead role this season in the wake of the departures of forward Raymar Morgan and shooting guard Chris Allen is Lucas (17.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.5 tpg, 1.0 spg, .507/.741/.478), who is a very good shooter, and an okay to good - - but by no means great - - defender. This season, Lucasí shot has been on, and he has shown few signs of his Achilles injury suffered against Maryland, College Park in the second round of the NCAAs last March, but he has looked more than a step slow on defense, and heís turning the ball over at a robust clip. I expect Lucas to struggle attempting to contain Kyrie Irvingís drives in this one, and if he gets into any kind of foul trouble, or gets out of his rhythm on offense in the same manner that Jake Pullen did, this will be a Duke blowout, even though MSU is more balanced on offense than K-State.
Lucas is backed up by 5-11 junior Korie Lucious (7.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.2 tpg, .324/1.000/.280). A very occasional starter last season, Lucious has been back to his accustomed role, exclusively coming off the bench this time around. He does, however, get ďstarterís minutes,Ē and may see a lot of time on the floor in this one as Izzo goes with what I would think to be his best matchups against the Blue Devils. Luciousí defense has also been suspect this season, but unlike Lucas, his shot is trapped somewhere in 2009. Like his elder, he is also passing the ball to wrong-jerseyed persons at a zealous rate. Starting together with Lucas, and providing more scoring punch in the backcourt, is 6-4 senior Durrell Summers (15.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 2.0 tpg, .465/.609/.440). Summers will be an interesting matchup for Nolan Smith when MSU goes big, and will likely see a lot of Andre Dawkins. His defense is nothing to write home about - - MSU really, really misses the wing containment provided by the departed Chris Allen, whom Izzo sacked from the team in August. Allen ended up transferring to play for the Mayor at Iowa State. Guard depth comes courtesy of Michigan Mr. Basketball and 6-2 freshman Keith Appling (6.5 ppg, 1.7 apg, 2.0 tpg, 2.2 pfpg, .455/.933/.500 (5-10)) and 6-5 junior Austin Thornton (3.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.3 apg. 0.7 tpg, .533/1.000/.375). Appling has been terrific from outside, but neither he nor Thornton provides too much muscle or speed, which could be an issue against Duke. Summers is the only one of MSUís five guards who can rebound a lick, which is quite a change from Izzoís normal units of 6-4 to 6-6 guys who can both outrun strong and free safeties - - and board like silkier (huh?) versions of Charles Barkley. Thornton has actually started three games in place of minutes-eating power forward Draymond Green, but I donít expect any such machinations from Izzo in this one. Also on hand for a few relief minutes is energy guy Mike Kebler, a 6-4 senior (0.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg, .000/1.000/.000). No offense at all (and I mean that literally), but we want to see plenty of him.
In the frontcourt, 6-8 junior Delvon Roe (6.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 tpg, 1.0 spg, 2.8 pfpg, .440/.789/.000) has been a disappointment so far. Roe was counted upon to provide wing scoring punch as well as interior rebounding - - heís really the small forward despite standing as tall or taller than his fellow frontcourt colleagues. Heís not a defender either (sensing any theme?), and could be abused to various extents by Singler. For Dukeís purposes, the Spartansí most dangerous player is 6-6 junior Draymond Green (14.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.3 tpg, 2.2 spg, 1.8 bpg, 2.8 pfpg, .580/.545/.500 (8-16)), who, as you can see, is quiiiiiite versatile, and is That Guy Whom Lance Thomas Would Have Guarded a year ago. MSU often capitalizes on the disconnect created by the small forward being 6-8 and the post-dwelling power forward (who, incidentally, also has a reliable outside shot) being 6-6, and for Duke, itís certainly a bit of a problem. Green is almost definite to have a good game in this one, and could go for 20 and 10 if the Blue Devils either arenít careful with him, or decide to lock down the perimeter and space out the Spartans. Come to think of it, this is probably where I would deploy Singler - - who is coming close to becoming a defensive stud - - while tasking Kelly and the Plumlees with guarding Roe; itís not like any of the three trees has a problem with floating outside, on either end of the ball.
The center or third forward position has been quite unsettled; 6-8 sophomore Derrick Nix (0.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, .000/.250/.000) has done just about nothing, including having yet to register a field goal on the season. 6-10 freshman and five-star recruit Adreian Payne (3.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 tpg, .571/.286/.000), a Dayton, Ohio product who chose the Spartans over Kentucky (good move), Kansas, West Virginia and Arizona, has been pushed around by far less heralded offenders, and 6-10 sophomore Garrick Sherman (6.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 tpg, .783/.333/.000) has been drawing the starts in the middle. Sherman isnít very quick or physical, but heís been the best of the subpar post rotation thus far. This matchup is one that Duke can really exploit - - Double Plumlee and Plumlee + Kelly lineups are going to be a nightmare for Izzo and Sparty.
By the way, we (meaning me) would like to announce that Dukies.com scientists have now developed The Official Michigan State University Name Generator (ďMSUNGĒ). Itís easy! Just take the letters D, R, G, N, S, K, and L (the latter two are to be used only in pairs, and in that order), and the software will automatically ensure that no resulting name is longer than two syllables. The letter M will occasionally pop up too, as a random, computer-added variable. Enter your letters into the MSUNG, and presto! You have your own complete Michigan State starting lineup and fully-equipped bench, all ready for several early season laydowns at the hands of the Tar Heels and the requisite ďsurpriseĒ Final Four run. Hereís what the bot spit out for me:
Sounds like a good team. Iím pretty sure that Stingray Narvis is a sinewy wing forward with an inside out game. Ldoofus, by the way, is the stealthy backup point guard with a three-point shot - - and both his assassin-like abilities and the ďdĒ in his last name are silent. Shhhhh. (Special thanks to the always nomenclature-focused Al White for the idea on this invention.)
Michigan State had the look of a typical Izzo team of recent vintage in the preseason, and still does - - lots of potential, but plenty of holes if you look hard enough. In fact, this teamís weaknesses are substantial - - defense, three-point shooting (the stats donít yet show it, but this is, or should be, a less threatening MSU team from the arc than most), free throw shooting, balhandling (including 20 boners against Eastern Michigan, and 17 fumbles against Tennessee Tech), and (perhaps most surprisingly for an Izzo-coached team) rebounding. As you might have gathered from the individual numbers above, several of Spartyís minions have trouble staying on the floor too, whether from a lack of stamina or overly avid whistle collecting. The signs are not that hard to read; MSU only beat Chaminade and rebuilding, Devan Downeyless South Carolina by eight and nine points respectively, the Spartans only very narrowly got by Washington, and Kemba Walker just destroyed all defensive efforts aimed his way as the Connvicts dealt Michigan State its only loss thus far. I donít want to draw comparisons between Duke and Connvicticut, but the Laptops struggled with Green on the interior, stayed even on the glass, and totally sealed off the arc, all of which I expect from the Blue Devils here, with the same ultimate result. It can certainly be done, and by lesser teams than what Duke appears to have on hand this season.
I just donít think that this particular edition of Michigan State has enough to defeat an energized Duke team in Cameron, especially if ballhandling and poor rebounding create transition opportunities, fast breaks, and second chances for the white-jerseyed squad. Green is a definite handful, and the Blue Devils certainly want to guard that wing assiduously as well, but most signs seem to point to a Duke win, perhaps even a very convincing win. In any case, this is a great test against one of college basketballís elite programs and coaches.
Duke 84, Michigan State 72.
Before delving into Dukeís disassembling of Oregon over the weekend (never fear, there wonít be much), a quick schedule note. That game was scheduled for 4 p.m. eastern. However, another Duke team, the one that plays in football games, had already taken the air, at 3:30 p.m. eastern, on ESPNU to play some serial cheaters from down the road on 15-501. Letís just say there might be someone who wants to watch both. I know, I know, there hasnít been much reason to follow Duke football in the last 15 years, but some of us (me) tune in from time to time to see if the decision to hire a fellow who coached BOTH Mannings might be able to make the program more competitive.
Does the athletic department assume everyone owns/rents a DVR? Also, since the basketball was on the West Coast, how was it impossible to move that tipoff a bit later? Of course, since the Oregon Ducks share their on-campus arena with the Portland Trailblazers, there might have been some Nasty Business Association activities that interfered, but, as near as I can tell, there was Sunday available. While weíre at it, why is the Duke home football game with their historical rivals scheduled, for the second time in a row, for the weekend after Thanksgiving, thus ensuring that students wonít be around and guaranteeing a significant contingent of powder-blue partisans in attendance? Folks, the next time you see some pap come out of the university about its ďcommitmentĒ to football, make sure you didnít just take a sip of a beverage lest it come streaming out of your nose.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call ďwriting my way into the material.Ē Sometimes you have to warm up with something mostly unrelated. Which brings us to Dukeís last outing, against the Baby Hueys of Oregon. I guess it was scheduled as a thank-you to Singler for coming back for his senior season, and may have been requested by him. Might have been something he and his brother thought would be cool, and it was. Certainly, at a minimum, it would have been run by him. Krzyzewski, as you may have noticed, almost never plays teams coached by former players/assistants as he seems sensitive to that sort of thing. At any rate, Kyle matched his career high with 30 points, Miles Plumlee reemerged (sort of) with 10 boards but [sigh] fouled out. And the team collectively hit nearly half of the three-pointers they took. You know, there is really no good reason to spend any more time on this distraction and we go straight to Ö
WIN OF THE GAME: The Oregon press. (No one said it always had to be about Duke every time, did they?) It was effective, caused many of Dukeís 19 turnovers and was the first time this season the Blue Devils faced a sustained press. Good experience, although an opponent with more weapons might have been able to use that advantage to truly affect the outcome.
FAIL OF THE GAME: Dukeís reaction to the Oregon press. How, with guys like Smith and Irving on the floor, does this team try to pass over and around the press instead of dribbling through it?
With, that, letís turn our attention to the next opponent, Michigan State, in the form of one of the Big Whatever Ė ACC Challenge games. Interestingly, since the Spartans played the Hoots in this event last year, this is the second time in a row they are playing the defending national champs. That game was a repeat of the national championship game. Now, had Izzoís crew managed, say, 53 points against Butler in the Final Four, they would have faced Duke in the final and this would be the second year in a row we would have a repeat of the championship game. (Whew, thereís that circle of life thing again.) But no, they only put up 50 to Butlerís 52. And then there was a different finale where some other things happened. Good ones.
Have K and Izzo faced off before? Yes, indeed! Twice in this very same made-packaged-and-marketed-by-ESPN product. Back in 2002 and 2003. Then there was the 1999 Final Four game, a tight one that Elton Brand made unnecessarily interesting by trying to run a fast break all by himself and totally knocking Mateen Cleaves into the upper deck of Orange Juice Field in St. Peteís. Yep, I remember that, but if I donít put my car keys in the same place every evening, I have no idea where they are the next day.
Their resume so far this season begins with knocking off Eastern Michigan and South Carolina, which is definitely taking on some serious geography, before heading out to Maui where they lost in the second round to You, Con!, unfortunately requiring a reference to that wonderful, respectable and, even, admirable program (you only need to watch the first part of the video). After that, they took on a chunk of the Pacific Northwest by besting Washington in the consolation game of the Maui Classic before coming home to warm up with a serious beat-down of Tennessee Tech.
Now, in the off-season, Tom Izzo supposedly took an offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers at least somewhat seriously. I never thought he would actually take it, after all, heís been in East Lansing as either an assistant or head coach since 1983. And, I really hoped he wouldnít. College needs more Tom Izzos. Clean program, no headcase players. Doesnít pack the program with one-and-doners, get mediocre results and do it again (see Calipari, John). Doesnít try to frighten everyone watching the game by channeling Satan (see Martin, Frank). Doesnít berate players on the bench when someone on the floor screws up (see Williams, Gary). Doesnít go off on bizarre rants about how his teams sucks but would be awesome if they would only follow his instructions as if they were the word of God (see Williams, Roy). Doesnít cheat (see Coaches, Lots of).
Plus, heís got a good sense of humor. Remember Mike Chappell, who spent a couple of seasons at Duke before transferring to Michigan State? Well, reportedly, one of the reasons Chappell was unhappy at Duke was that he wanted to be a shooting guard at a time when K needed him to help out with a thin frontcourt. Sure enough, after sitting out a year, he dons the green jersey and starts firing away from 25 feet plus. Then becomes really good friends with the managers by spending so much time on the bench next to them. A reporter asks Izzo if Chappellís time had dropped because the coach minded him trying to be a three-point shooter. No, Izzo responded, he minded Mike trying to be a four-point shooter. That was funny. Chappell was playing outside his game by taking shots from Flint, Michigan and Izzo was able to explain it without public shame (see Jarvis, Mike) or silly, stupid coach-speak (see Shanahan, Mike). Yes, we switched sports there.
But back to basketball. While this might be record-to-date-specific, the Spartans are deeper than anyone Duke has faced this year, with nine players spending at least 10 minutes on the floor, and a 10th with eight. No one has logged half an hour. Unlike previous teams, they are emphasizing offense, averaging nearly 80 points per game and hitting nearly half their shots, around 10 percentage points better than the other team on any given night. Wow. Nearly 42 percent success on those long-distance tosses, with five individual players each in the +/- 3 margin of error. Hmm, havenít seen that this year. However, also unlike traditional M-State teams, they donít out-rebound the crap against the opposition. Two more per outing with the schedule so far? That seems to be a key stat. If Duke can expose that with a pair of good Plumlee outings while closing out on the Spartan Archers and cutting off that outside attack, they can pull this off. If this game was in East Lansing (next year, please? Not in Auburn Hills?), Iíd give the edge to the other side. But itís not.
Duke 78, Michigan State 74.
2009-2010 Duke National Championship!! Season:
Matt 96-47 (.671)
duhomme 94-49 (.657)
Guests 16-4 (.800)