TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIV, Episode 17
January 30, 2011
PLEASE CANCEL THIS BLESSED SERIES ALREADY EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
Frimmer Jedette’s comments in white.
#3 DUKE (19-1, 6-1) @ ST. JOHN’S (11-8, 4-5 Big East)
Here we go.
Matt’s Usual Rant Concerning The Asinine Nature of this Game:
Following an impressive win at home over Boston College - - a team that is already better under Steve Donahue than it was going to be had The Nutcracker continued his reign in Middlesex County, Mass - - Duke heads to Cameron North for an almost criminally unnecessary, stupid foray that has absolutely no “upside,” as people these days are fond of saying. For more, please consult the following handy chart:
Fact Weighs in Favor of this Game or Against?
Low RPI benefit Against
Red Storm routinely blow, and do so blow yet again Against
Playing against thug-fested team Against
Coached by a tool with a grudge Against
Who blames Duke for him getting canned at UCLA Against
The crowd will be pro-Duke, so this is no road test Against
But there will still be plenty of nasty St. John’s fans Against
St. John’s will try to hurt Duke’s players Against
If Singler or Smith gets hurt, the season’s over Against
Blue Devils get no “bye” like everyone else in the ACC Against
There are other ways to get Duke into MSG Against
Over the past two seasons, Mike Krzyzewski has done something that many people, including, but not limited to, me thought he would never do - - adapt. Dean Smith couldn’t adapt, and chose retirement. Krzyzewski, by contrast, has suddenly shown himself willing to alter his views on various fundamental tenets about which he has been inflexible for years. He now mixes in zone looks; he makes use of his bench; he recruits kids from North Carolina; he ignores imbecilic recruiting “expert” nonsense and makes his own judgments about players, particularly the ones who will almost certainly stay at Duke for four years; and after years of acting like it was an afterthought, he now values rebounding as a sine qua non. I don’t know how much of this is due to his experiences coaching the Olympic team in 2008, but I suspect that there’s a connection. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Krzyzewski’s willingness to compromise a bit on some of these aspects of his approach to coaching college basketball resulted in the 2010 national championship.
Handily, these changes on Krzyzewski’s part eliminated most of my areas of philosophical disagreement with him. He sure as sherbet didn’t do it because of what I think, but I still derive a measure of personal satisfaction from seeing these alterations in Duke basketball. And since I’m human, I must add that I also derive a measure of amusement at the expense of Coach K’s unswerving Internet defenders, particularly the ones who stepped up the rhetoric during the mostly awful seasons ending in 2007, 2008, and 2009. He was doing nothing wrong during that time, you see, but when he made a series of changes in his system during the 2010 season, Duke just happened to win a “surprise” national championship. It puts those people in a box, and I enjoy it.
Despite this new era in which I have far less about which to criticize Krzyzewski than I used to, one ginormous area of disagreement remains. See Figure 2.
CRITERIA NECESSARY FOR DUKE TO PLAY A TRUE OOC ROAD GAME
Forced to do so by Big Ten Challenge True OOC road game
Opponent happens to play in NBA arena Promptly sign home-and-home series
Hey, what about Marquette? Apparently not on the radar
I get more disagreement about this than about virtually any other of my deeply-held beliefs about Duke basketball, and I respect that. But I don’t particularly understand opposing viewpoints. True OOC road games do nothing but help the development of Duke over the course of a season. Last season’s defeat at Wisconsin and shellacking at Georgetown were important, particularly the game at Wisconsin. (The Georgetown beatdown was probably just a total anomaly, but Duke seemed shocked by the crowd and that may have been of assistance later.) They built character. Those who believe that Duke doesn’t need to schedule true road games usually fall back on the following arguments:
(1) As a program, Duke is leet and can schedule as it likes.
My response: So what? It’s a lost opportunity.
(2) The Tools do things like play at Penn and at Rutgers, and what does it get them?
My response: Well, for one thing, it gives them ammunition to use against Duke, as they are able to point the finger at us and say (and not without justification) that Duke is scared to play on the road. The Tools’ approach to OOC road games under Ol’ Crybaby, I suspect, reflexively animates much of Duke fans’ belief that Coach K does it right in this area.
(3) Duke needs to play in MSG, the United Center, and the Meadowlands in order to bolster recruiting.
My response: So if Duke played Villanova at the Pavilion on Villanova’s campus, instead of playing at the How Stupid Does It Get When You're on Your FOURTH Shillname in Fifteen Years Arena, there would be no way for the present-day analogues of Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek to get to the games? Ridiculous. And in any event, I’m not suggesting that Duke abandon the annual one-off contests at the Meadowlands and so forth. Just supplement them with trips to, say, Michigan State and Kansas on a semi-regular basis.
(4) Duke loses revenue on home-and-home series because Cameron is relatively small.
My response: No sale. Duke’s men’s basketball team is an enormous profit center for the University - - a university that, by the way, doesn’t need, by any stretch of the imagination, to make money off of its athletic programs. Of course, Duke won’t release the numbers, but I suspect that Duke men’s basketball comes very close to covering the cost of every other athletic program that the school sponsors. In some seasons, like last year, Duke men’s basketball might very well not only turn a profit standing alone, but be so profitable that the entire athletic department is in the black.
Having a game in Cameron instead of the Meadowlands one season, then returning that game with a true road OOC venture the next year, won’t change that.
(5) Other teams don’t want to come to Cameron.
My response: Bull. As a matter of fact, they do. Bill Self has reportedly been trying to set up a home-and-home between Kansas and Duke for years. Sure, a few clowns (like, say, Steve Lavin circa 1998) will get tired of coming to Cameron every other year and getting destroyed (like Steve Lavin circa 1998 - - good lord, was that a fantastic game). But they’re not in the majority and don’t matter.
(6) We get enough road tests in the ACC.
My response: But other “large conference” teams get more road tests in total, since we are one of the few among these teams that maniacally refuses to schedule a true OOC road game (with the Neeba Arena Exception). And moreover, even with the PSBAD phenomenon in full effect, we really only get tested three, maybe four times per season on the road in the ACC, depending, of course, on whom the ACC office deigns to allow us to play. We’re only assured of two tough road games, at the Twinks and at the Twerps. And as a result, more road tests would be nice.
(7) With the extra spots in the schedule, Mike Krzyzewski is trying to simulate an NCAA Tournament atmosphere, leaving no time for sojourns into OOC arenas.
My response: By playing in a large arena full of mostly Duke fans? Yeah, that doesn’t resemble too many of Duke's recent NCAA Tournament games of which I’m aware.
Bottom Line This For Me, Please
I suspect that Coach K and I will never agree on this issue, and since he has no idea who I am and I still love the team and the program, and since I am very happy with him right now for many other reasons, I can deal. I just hate to see Duke bank its whole OOC schedule on the strength of three teams, then watch two of them (e.g., KSU and Michigan State) totally collapse, making Duke’s chances at garnering a #1 seed lower. Yeah, although it’s early, Duke probably controls its own destiny for a #1 seed. But if we had played Kansas this year, or Texas, or Ohio State, particularly away, we’d be set in the RPI barring a real meltdown, and we’d probably be mentally tougher as well.
So What’s the Problem with Playing St. John’s?
The first chart above pretty much explains it. This game is a no-win scenario for Duke no matter how you analyze it. I attended the last iteration of this game in 2009, and both Nolan and Kyle were banged up near the end of the game. That would not be something we’re looking for here. And really, the best use of this break in the ACC schedule is to rest. I also don’t feel like dignifying the loathsome Lavin by engaging with him.
So, How Good or Bad is St. John’s?
They’re mediocre, which is what you’d expect from a roster of guys who have been around since the Korean War, coached by an arrogant doofus who worries more about his hair gel than actual game coaching - - which works out, since he understands hair gel.
Of course, St. John’s is also in the Big East, and anyone will tell you that the Big East is the skeeriest conference in the country this season, so when you see that the Crimson Disturbance has lost five of six, you have to note that all six of those games came against Top 25 teams. Their other losses came to St. Mary’s (California), Fordham and St. Bonaventure, all by five points or fewer.
Their Last Game?
A 77-52 destruction administered by Georgetown at the Phone Booth in Washington. However, the Johnnies previously beat the Hoyas at MSG. They did a somewhat similar tango with Notre Dame, losing at the JACC in South Bend by 15, then beating the Irish by 18 at MSG all of eight days later. (Wait, did the Big East outsource its schedule-making to Swofford’s minions?)
Projected Starters and Pithy Comments
D.J. Kennedy, 6-5 SR SF/WF - - has eaten Duke alive in the past, and has been playing basketball in Jamaica and the Garden since the first moon landing
Justin Brownlee, 6-7 SR PF - - journeyman former juco has taken over in the post because Lavin apparently has something against Sean Evans and Dele Coker is slower than most tricycles
Dwayne Polee, Jr., 6-7 FR PF - - Lavin’s first recruit and last season’s Los Angeles (of course) Player of the Year pretty much gives ten minutes here and there and comes out for Justin Burrell
Paris Horne - - 6-3 SR SG - - has struggled against Duke, but scares me; shooting 51.0% from the floor and 39.3% from the arc, but hasn’t been that prolific
Malik Boothe, 5-9 SR PG - - will be eaten alive by Nolan on defense and is not a resource offensively
Justin Burrell, 6-8 SR PF - - large dude who is the “sixth man,” but gets “starter’s minutes”; 6.7 ppg and 5.4 rpg this year
Malik Stith, 5-11 SO PG - - one Malik backs up another; both on the small side, to say the least
Dwight Hardy, 6-2 SR SG - - has started here and there and bombs away to little effect
Sean Evans, 6-8 SR PF - - lots of guys at the same position on this squad; really ought to start against Duke
Dele Coker, 6-10 SR C - - in Lavin’s doghouse for some undoubtedly goofy reason
Most Likely to Bootsy:
Horne (28 points required).
St. John’s’s Likely Gameplan:
Smear on lots of hair gel. Have ESPN nerds show hot wife in stands on Camera Three. Discuss area dining. Say nothing of value.
Two or Three Sabermetric Stats about St. John's:
- The Scarlet Squall is #283 (of 345) in 3PFG% at 31.2%, and #301 at defending the three, with the opposition shooting 37.7%.
- Only seven teams in Division I get a smaller percentage of their shots from three-point land. Kennedy, Horne, and Boothe have respectable percentages, but they rarely shoot it.
Two Weird or (Un)Cool Tidbits:
- Sellout at the Garden! The last time, uh, “St. John’s” sold out the garden, they defeated a team named (you guessed it) Duke, 72-71, behind Marcus Hatten’s 29.
- The staffs will be wearing sneakers to show their support for the efforts of American Cancer Society.
Hopefully, the Blue Devils will build off of their momentum from that very nice home win over BeeCee and take care of business here, get out of town with no one hurt, and resume ACC action. This is just an awful, awful, awful series. Seth Curry’s breakout against the Beagles was fantastic, and Ryan Kelly has turned into an intriguing additional offensive option.
Who Is Blathering Over The Sound of the Game?
CBS, Lundquist and Kellogg. That should be fine. Lundquist is actually one of the better PBP guys working college basketball these days. “Laettner . . . YES!!!” Thanks, Verne.
Bottom Line This (Again) For Me, Please:
Duke needs to get a strong, fast offensive attack going, run out to an early lead to take the St. John’s elements of the crowd out of it (that was mostly a joke), and stave off any comeback. Hitting the offensive glass hard will be key, since only Burrell is a strong performer in that department for the Maroon Monsoon.
The Missing Link(s):
St. John’s roster.
St. John’s stats.
St. John’s Vincentian Fathers-issued propaganda.
Duke 73, St. John’s 56.
Other ACC Action:
@ Virginia Polytechnic 75, Miami (Florida) 70.
Maryland, College Park 80, @Georgia Institute of Technology 74.