TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIV, Episode 9
December 8, 2010
BE BRAVE EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
BRADLEY (4-4, 0-0 Missouri Valley) @ #1 DUKE (8-0, 0-0)
Duke heads back home after a less-than-convincing win against Butler. Unlike the Blue Devils’ previous “close shaves” this season, in this case, I really *did* think that Duke could lose the game. Thankfully, they put together that 12-0 run, and that was the margin of victory. The rest of the game, before and after, was simply trading baskets. Singler didn’t really play well, again, but then, he’s not a fast starter. It’s hard to remember after his NCAA Tournament last year, but there were some people who were suggesting that he get benched at about the 15-game mark last season, just as a motivational tactic. Color me not worried. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving got a goose egg in the first half but then rebounded with a full game’s worth of scoring in the second. What a hitman. Andre Dawkins has now added rebounding to his repertoire, and the Trees were good. Curry struggled a bit, but shooters who come off the bench - - as Curry has almost certainly never done before in his basketball career - - tend to be up and down. P.S., Duke - - nice free-throw shooting! Nolan Smith in particular was strong at the stripe. I’d like to reiterate my desire that every “recruiting guru” be required to tell us what prep players shoot at the line and how well they play defense. This matters a lot more than their ability to make highlight reel dunks and carnival plays when they reach the college level. Just a friendly request.
Bradley was probably supposed to be one of those opponents like Tulsa last season - - hails from a solid conference, possible NCAA Tournament team, etc. I’m fine with it; it’s the Elon and UNC Greensboro games that really need to get the boot off of Duke’s scheduling software, not games against opponents like the Braves or St. Louis. However, as we take a long look down the rest of Duke’s schedule and see no ranked opponents - - not one - - it sure would be nice if we had a home-and-home with Michigan State or Kansas every February instead of the incomprehensibly dumb St. John’s and Temple games. (And although it's not a home-and-home, as if by magic, check this out. I love it! Looks like we could get Kansas twice next season within about 7-10 days.) The sporadic, capricious Georgetown series chose a bad year to take a powder, too. And Kyrie Irving agrees with me, as he’ll be sitting this one out to rest his toe. No problem, kid - - see you about March 10, which is when you’ll next be needed. Oh, relax, I’m just kidding. In any event, it looks like Dawkins will draw his first career start as a result of Irving’s recuperation, and that start is certainly well-earned.
Bradley came into this season with the top scoring trio in the Missouri Valley in 6-0 senior point Sam Maniscalco, 6-6 junior power forward Taylor Brown, and 6-5 senior off guard Andrew Warren (19.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.9 tpg, 1.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.2 pfpg, .421/.875/.426), but as you may be guessing from the fact that I didn’t provide stats for any of the three but Warren, things did not work out as planned. Sadly, Brown never took the court this season after being diagnosed with a heart condition that may end his career, and Maniscalco attempted to play through offseason ankle surgery, and indeed powered the Braves to a win over Southern Cal with a late three and game-clinching free throws just before the buzzer, but he has now shut it down due to too much pain, and will seek a redshirt. Brown was the fourth-leading returning scorer in the Mo Valley and the leading returning rebounder in the conference, while Maniscalco was the leading returning assist man in the league, widely regarded as its best playmaker, and was the sixth-leading returning scorer in the MVC to boot. Brown’s absence forces Warren to guard opposing power forwards, a task for which Warren is not built, and Maniscalco’s setback pushes point guard duties into the hands of 6-2 sophomore Dyricus Simms-Edwards (5.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.4 tpg, .306/.562/.222), who, as you can see, is not the most reliable of shooters, and 6-3 senior Dodie Dunson (11.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.9 tpg, 1.0 spg, .447/.727/.318). Then there’s just the overall depth hit that you take from losing two lock starters; the Braves are now effectively a seven-man team with about three guys playing out of position, and Warren trying to do everything. One-man wrecking crew teams, particularly those without point guards, don’t usually do too well against Duke, which is too defensively disciplined under Krzyzewski (even if you can be forgiven for waiting for that defensive discipline to manifest itself this season, already). Warren is a very good player and might play in the Neeba someday if he bulks up, but just about all of Duke’s attention will be on him in this game, and other than Dunson, no one else really has the firepower to step up.
With Brown regrettably out, 6-8 junior Will Egolf (6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, 1.9 tpg, .377/.667/.000) and 6-8 freshman Jordan Prosser (3.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.2 tpg, 2.0 pfpg, .478/.222/.000) are manning the post. Prosser (incorrectly identified by Lindy’s preseason mag as a senior, in case you read those capsules to brush up on the opponents before Duke’s games) redshirted last year to gather a few clues, and based on his numbers, he’s still hunting. I saved Egolf’s best stat for effect by keeping it out of the parentheses above; in 22.5 minutes per game this season, the gentleman is averaging 4.1 personal fouls. Yes, a game. AWESOME. Yeah, I don’t see Egolf and Prosser staying with the Plumlees and Kelly or giving them any particular trouble in this one.
Of the Braves’ three bench players, the Designated Guy That Wojo and Collins Didn’t Seem to Get to in That Scouting Report is most likely to be 6-3 freshman Walt Lemon (8.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 2.0 tpg, 1.1 spg, 1.9 pfpg, .439/.625/.333), who attended the same high school as Sean Dockery, Julian High in Chicago. Lemon is making the most of the extra playing time caused by the team's health concerns, and is an explosive athlete who scored nearly 20 a game as a prep senior. Additional depth comes from 6-4 sophomore Jake Eastman (1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.8 tpg), for whom I would give you more stats, except that he has yet to score a point this season, and wiry 6-10 junior Anthony Thompson (1.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, .273/.400/.000).
Make no mistake - - Bradley’s stat profile is unattractive. After all, they were expected to struggle on the boards and on defense even before losing Brown and Maniscalco. The Braves have lost four in a row after winning their first four, and those four victories were not particularly impressive, particularly since Maniscalco was still playing the point. Bradley defeated Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville by 11, then beat Northern Illinois, Loyola Marymount, and Southern Cal by a combined six points (by the way, USC, under arch-dick Kevin O’Neill, is up to his usual awful, awful tricks this season - - he’ll be fired within the next two years for sure). Then came the losses, to TCU, Eastern Illinois, Western Carolina, and Utah. While I want to give the Braves credit for playing every kind of directional school there can be in that grouping (what, North by Northeast Nebraska Tech wasn’t available?), as well as facing two geographically confused foes in the “Pacific-12” Utes and the “Big East” Horned Frogs (sooooo much hate for this boundless stupidity), and while it should also be noted that none of their four losses was in double digits . . . look. Kyrie Irving or no Kyrie Irving, Duke should win this game in a rout. I want to see what Tyler Thornton can do with some PT while Irving - - and for that matter, the rest of the starters - - get some serious rest. Oh, and by the way, Len Smellmore alert, and I know there are those of you who don't like Mike Patrick either - - you may want to arrange your own play-by-play and commentary for this one.
Duke 95, Bradley 58.
How about that colossal beat-down of Butler we predicted the other day? They were certainly helpless, as scripted here. Or would have been, if they had read the script. Yes, we both were conservative on the final score and were pretty close, but the game was not exactly the Pamplona Running of the Devils many of us expected based on Butler’s record so far this season. [Sorry for the interruption, but I just have to stop and ask about this one. You came within one point of calling the exact final score, and I was within two points of doing the same. And this is the self-flagellation that results? Damn, and I thought the commenters were tough. --Matt] As regular commenter Andrew Hicks noted (yes, we do read them), where was the team that got crushed by mediocre Louisville? Granted, we can all use a little excitement to liven up the weekend, but that was a bit much for awhile.
Until, of course, Irving decided he’d had enough of that and gave Duke a comfortable lead around mid-way through the second half that everyone else could take part in protecting. If you like three-point shooting, boy this game was for you! And, if you like watching the majority of those shots bounce around the Meadowlands parking lot, denting cars and frightening children, then you got yourself a two-fer. Why Duke traditionally shoots badly in a gym they play in at least once a year is already a mystery. But why they would pick that same structure to launch 26 of their 53 shots is truly befuddling.
Eh, maybe that is a bit negative. After all, Duke was fresh off a game against always-tough Michigan State, which had been preceded by a ridiculously long road trip. Maybe the strategy was to bomb away and hopefully not have to work too hard. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had other ideas. Not included in their game plan was avoiding fouls, a department in which Butler contributed 24, and seeing two starters finish the game sipping a Flurry on the bench. Shockingly, one of those was Matt Howard, normally a clean, finesse player on defense. All those fouls resulted in 29 trips to the wishing well for Duke, where 24 wishes were granted, a strong 82.8 percent success rate.
Alright, I think that’s enough of that. Duke played tired and I watched tired. And speaking of tired …
WIN OF THE GAME: We’ve all marveled at Andre Dawkins’ suddenly well-rounded game, especially on defense. But, dude, eight rebounds? Wow.
FAIL OF THE GAME: Uh, 11 assists compared to 15 turnovers. Yuck. Although there was one bright spot: Seth Curry had three handouts in only 14 minutes of play.
On to the item at hand. Duke is, for whatever reason, is playing the Bradley Braves, a team that won its challenge of the NCAA ban on mascots that are disrespectful to Native Americans (that is a subject far too complicated to go into now) but is on some kind of probationary watchlist. Way to be tough, NCAA!
Since Bradley hails from the Missouri Valley Conference, I guess this is one of those games intended to get Duke accustomed to the type of team they will most likely face in the second round of the NCAA-T. However, if Duke does face a member of the MVC, it ain’t likely to be the Briefs, who are just 4-4 on the season, a total that does not include losing the season-opening exhibition game to Quincy, the coroner ably played by Jack Klugman. The four losses that do count toward their record all occurred in the last four games played, TCU, Eastern Illinois, Western Carolina and Utah. The quadruplet of wins were courtesy of Texas A&M-Kingsville, Northern Illinois, Loyola Marymount and Southern California. When you look at the schedule as a whole, you see a head-rushing display of an almost perfect run through all the compass points.
In other news not likely to make this a pleasant evening for Coach Jim Les and his charges is the fact that only once this year has Bradley scored more than 68 points, and that was in the loss to Quincy and Sam. Les, by the way, has spent the better part of his life around the program as a player and a ball boy when his brother was on the team. He’s had some success, highlighted by a run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006. He also has possibly the longest bio I’ve ever seen for a coach.
So, what happened this year? For starters, they average only 63 points a game, shoot under 40 percent, get outrebounded by nearly 4.5 percentage points and … really there’s no point in going any further. Other than minutes played, Bradley is at a disadvantage in nearly every single statistical category when compared to the opposition. Never seen that before. But they do have players named Dyricus Simms-Edwards, Milos Knezevic (bless you!), Dodie Dunson, Walt Lemon and Will Egolf, although that might be the latest game released for the Wii.
Let’s wrap things up here with some Dumb Media. Now, if you recall, stupid products also count in this category, which means I probably should have given it a better name. At any rate, anyone who owns one of these deserves to get bitten by their dog. And then kick their own ass. Especially since the looks on these two pups demonstrates that the devices are electrified.
Oops, forgot one thing. Irving is hurt and, if he’s going to insist on that sort of thing, the timing couldn’t be better. He’s not needed in this one or on Saturday against the city of St. Louis. Take some time off and heal, Kyrie, and be glad you don’t play for Roy Williams.
Duke 89, Bradley 68.
2009-2010 Duke National Championship!! Season:
Matt 96-47 (.671)
duhomme 94-49 (.657)
Guests 16-4 (.800)