TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIV, Episode 10
December 11, 2010
TIME TO REKINDLE THE DEBATE OVER WHAT A BILLIKEN IS EDITION
Mattís comments in blue.
duhomme's selection in red.
Al Whiteís comments in orange.
SAINT LOUIS (3-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10) @ #1 DUKE (9-0, 0-0)
Duke crushed Bradley in the second half as Andre Dawkins refused to be denied. What a performance! Yet another Bootsy by a Duke player, making three already this season. Bradley coach Jim Les confirmed after the game that he deliberately packed in a zone to prevent Duke from capitalizing on his teamís height disadvantage, and with Singler dorking around in the first half and Nolan Smith unable to hit water while jumping from a boat, forcing the Blue Devils to take perimeter shots seemed to be working, at least in terms of keeping the score closer than we all might have preferred. But in the second stanza, Singler woke up, Nolan started really feeling the new point guard gig with some nice feeds inside, Miles Plumlee dominated down low, and Dawkins was pretty much unstoppable, coming just one made three shy of the single-game Duke record of nine, shared by, appropriately enough, Shane Battier and J.J. Redick. Terrific Blue Devil stats for the game included the team shooting line of .500/.800/.455, the 22-9 A/TO ratio, and the minute distribution; Coach K used his bench just about impeccably in this one. Good to see Josh Hairston earning double-digit minutes, and Tyler Thornton wasnít too far behind with eight. Seth Curry found his shot again and also distributed well (four assists against just one miscue), and Singler played outstanding defense on Bradley scoring whiz Andrew Warren, limiting him to seven points on nine shots. All in all, considering the sudden lack of Kyrie Irving, this wasnít a game to dispel you of the notion that Duke is still the best team (or one of the five best teams, if youíre not feeling charitable) in the nation.
As for Irving, most readers are probably aware that he had his foot placed in a hard cast Friday, which seems to indicate that surgery is not being considered as an option at this time, since you generally wouldnít want to waste the time and energy creating and then cutting through a hard cast a few days later. Just reading the tea leaves here, but my guess is that rest and rehab is going to be the strategy, with a possible return sometime in February. Thatís uninformed speculation on my part; weíll see.
Somewhat like Bradley, the Saint Louis Billikens probably sound a bit better as an opponent on paper than they look in real life, particularly after splitting their first six games, only one of which was on the road. They hail from what I consider to be a power conference (anyone designating the A-10 as a ďmid-majorĒ league really needs to just stop it already), and they were generally picked to finish fifth this season . . . but that was before two starters, 6-9 junior center Willie Reed and 5-10 junior off guard Kwamain Mitchell, were excused from their enrollment at the university. And since this isnít Kentucky or Connvicticut, this also meant that they had to stop playing basketball for the school as well. What was all the fuss about? Well, those pesky privacy laws diverted any inquiries, but suffice it to say that an on-campus assault last spring was linked to two members of the basketball team, at least in the opinion of the victim. A few months later, Reed and Mitchell received their pink slips. Choose your own adventure and draw your own conclusions.
Without Reed and Mitchell, the Bills rely on 6-3 junior Kyle Cassity (11.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.0 tpg, 1.2 spg, .667/.625/.562) and 6-2 freshman Mike McCall (9.0 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 tpg, 2.3 pfpg, .447/.875/.429) for scoring punch. They are backed by 6-2 freshman Jordair Jett (great name, if almost assuredly inspired by you-know-who) (7.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.7 tpg, 2.0 spg, .475/.429/.333), nominal starter and 6-3 sophomore Christian Salecich (2.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.7 tpg, .176/.600/.091), as well as 6-1 junior Paul Eckerle (4.8 ppg, .615/1.000/.700 (7-10)). McCall and Jett have both been pretty impressive sharing time at the point, an area of needed improvement after the Bills ranked #12 in the league and worse than the midpoint nationally last season with just 12.6 assists per game. Cassity was a remorse-free gunner last season, but seems to have developed much more of an all-around game in his third season.
On the interior, 6-11 freshman Rob Loe (8.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.8 tpg, 3.2 pfpg, .386/.800/.350), who drew some recruiting interest from ACC and Galactic East schools, joins 6-8 sophomore Cody Ellis (7.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 tpg, 2.2 pfpg, .389/.571/.333). Loeís relatively loe rebounding numbers and high fouling propensities clearly indicate his defensive liabilities, while Ellis canít hit free throws and, for a guy who scored in double digits last season and made the leagueís all-newcomer team, hasnít followed up strong, at least not yet. St. Louis was outmuscled on the boards by its most recent opponent, the Portland Pilots (who are actually pretty good this season), 31-23, and thatís not a good sign. Loe and Ellis are backed up by 6-5 swingman Dwayne Evans (6.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.7 pfpg, .483/.556/.000), by far the teamís best natural rebounder, and 6-6 junior postman Brian Conklin (Chris Cooper) (5.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg, .565/.467/1.000), who was Jason Bourneís ill-fated boss before things went sideways with Operation Treadstone. 6-7 sophomore shotblocker Corey Remekun (4.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.2 tpg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg, .444/.533/.000) rounds out the frontcourt.
Then, of course, thereís Rick Majerus. The stories of Majerusí, shall we say, bizarre conduct as the coach of the Running Utes are legion. Take this set of charming anecdotes, and if thatís not enough for you, do a Deadspin search, but ensure that you have not eaten and do not plan to do so for several days before (and after) reading the ensuing link. And donít ever, ever, ever, accept a towel from this man. As an ESPN analyst between his resignation at Utah and his renaissance at St. Louis, Majerus was Bobby Knight before there was Bobby Knight, offering actual basketball knowledge instead of Dick Vitale-style chirping (which, as some readers will recall, I actually donít mind) or Elmore/Dykes-vintage, content-free blather (which I very much do). When he did Duke games, he was always dangerous; you knew heíd be pleasuring himself during the broadcast, but the real question was what the object of his affections might be - - multiple generations of McRoberts women, or Marty Pociusí body parts? Disappointingly, thereís no story out there from sources at the Worldwide Trailer of Rick inviting Brad Nessler up to his hotel room, then answering the door wearing only an overworked, soon-to-be-discarded towel. Of course, this was all before Rick lost 150 pounds as part of a strict fitness regimen, so maybe his behavior has gotten a little less coarse as well. Oh, relax, Iím just kidding- - the guyís as great-looking and stylish, as well as rotund, as ever. Hereís a recent picture of him from St. Louisí Midnight Madness celebration.
The Billikens are not very good this season, but they havenít been blown out in their three losses (by two to Austin Peay, by another bucket to Georgia, and by nine at Portland, which latter game was not played in the Rose Garden). They have two Div I wins, over Tennessee State in a rout and over IUPUI by three; they also defeated Division VI Rockhurst. They rank in the 300s nationally in both offensive rebounding percentage (garnering a scoreside board on just 26.6% of their possessions) and free throw shooting (a miserable 60.9%), and they allow ridiculously abundant percentages of shot attempts by the other team to find their marks. Jett and Loe can be counted upon to touch the ball on most possessions, and Cassity is shooting out of his mind, but all of that will have made the Duke scouting report, and the backcourt is too small and slow to cover Smith, Dawkins and Curry, while the frontcourt doesnít have enough later quickness or bulk to hang with Singler and the Trees. This game should not be very competitive. Al White? Over to you.
Duke 85, Saint Louis 65.
Duke 84, Saint Louis 62.
The Devils host the Billikens of Saint Louis in the second game of the sans Kyrie stretch of their schedule. I am not a doctor and don't even play one on TV, but I have to believe that, unless he needs surgery, Kyrie will heal in ten weeks or less. That should give him enough time to lead Duke to a fifth national title.
Of course, there are contrary views. As many of you no doubt saw, UNC grad Seth Davis tweeted the other day (Seth tweets a lot, even when he is not on screen) that there is a 55% chance that Kyrie will be out for the season. Seth didn't bother to inform us whether this view came from his examination of the kid's MRI or a Rasmussen poll of likely Republican orthopedists, so maybe we should just take this as yet another example of Seth's strange penchant to rain on the Duke basketball parade every single chance he gets.
Toe ligament sprains are nasty little buggers, but Drederick's son is being treated in one of the great medical facilities in the world, is a superbly conditioned teenager and will do no doubt be a perfect patient. We'll apparently know more in the next week, but I put the over/under for Kyrie's return at nine weeks, based on a hunch and not a twit's tweet.
If there was ever a Duke team that could thrive without a star player, it is this deep, star-studded roster. This team will still feature a superb backcourt, with emerging superstar Dawkins II taking the pressure off Nolan and with Seth and Tyler providing solid support off the bench. It will be surprising if Seth doesn't use this opportunity to step his game up considerably. The weakest part of this Devil squad's game against tough competition is going to be interior defense (why oh why wasn't Zoub redshirted?). The absence of Kyrie could affect that issue negatively due to less onball pressure, but the more critical difference is that he won't be there to score at will in the second half of games and offset any points that the interior defenders give up. The Plumlees and Kelly have already improved considerably defensively from last year, and there is no reason that they can't tighten up even more.
The Billikens have a poor 3-3 record against poor competition, featuring losses to Austin Powers Peay and Portland (U. of). However, the Billsters do have a clever coach in the Round Mound of Renown himself, Rick Majerus. I have somehow missed seeing any Billiken games this season, so I can't wait to see what kind of shape Majerus, now 62, is in.
Majerus' life is the improbable story of a gym rat with no basketball talent whose love of the game and hard work created a place in the Marquette program under Al McGuire and led to a lucrative and fairly successful college coaching career. Duke fans will fondly remember Round Rick as the author of a win for his Utah Utes against Coach Gut and the 'Tawn Tools in the Final Four in 1998. That Ute team, led by Andre Miller, lost to Orlando Tubberson Smith's Kentucky Wildcats in the final. (It is a bit painful to think of 1998 right now. If Duke's superstar freshman Elton Brand had not broken his foot in December of that season, that season would most likely have been title number 3.)
Burned out from his coachaholic ways and boundless appetite, Rick left coaching in 2004 for a stint as an ESPN analyst. Always eminently quotable, three of his crazy utterances stick out in this fan's memory --
- "There are McRoberts' mother and grandmother. They're both tens."
- "Look at Pocius's calves."
- "I'm not a big Gay guy" (referring to Rudy Gay; no word as to whether Rudy's success in the NBA has converted Rick into a big Gay guy).
Maybe some day Dickie Vee will actually retire, baybee, and Rotund Rickie M. can become the clown emeritus at the worldwide trailer.
As always, I'll rely on Matt to provide the exhaustive analysis of the Billiken personnel. One thing is for sure. They aren't going to be a match for these Devils.
Duke 77, Saint Louis 54.