TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
(EXCITING ROUND OF 64 ACTION EDITION!!!!!!11)
University at Albany, State University of New York (15M) (24-10, 9-7 A-East) v. #6 DUKE (2M) (27-5, 14-4)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Spectrum Two)
March 22, 2013
First, I know you're dying to hear my thoughts on Duke's draw. Well, you won't find any outrage, genuine or manufactured, from this quarter. The Blue Devils played a tough schedule, earning them the top RPI and SOS, but it was heavily frontloaded, and (in a shocker of all shockers!!!) the Selectostiffs sent an unmistakable message: we will reward you for playing, and playing well, on the road. Since Duke played well in exactly one tough road game all season (against NCCH), they didn't earn many points in this area. (This just supports my lonely, but insistent argument that Krzyzewski has got to schedule at least one tough true road game out of conference every season. The rationale for doing so is already supported by a host of reasons, but if the Stiffies are going to incorporate that as a factor, however small, in their seeding decisions, I think that's a pretty loud bell going off that means that it's finally time to stop ducking, like cowards, true OOC road games.) And sure, Duke played the Mildcats of Kensucky in Atlanta, which was a virtual road game, but . . . why not just play a freaking true road game, Mike?? I know, I know - - gate. Recruit access. "A neutral court better simulates a tournament atmosphere." These stupid arguments don't get any better with age, sadly. Can you imagine it would boost Duke's quality of schedule (as in, into the stratosphere) each season if Duke signed exactly two contracts: one to play a home-and-home with Michigan State every season, and the other, to play a home-and-home with Kansas every season, with the two alternating so that Duke played only one of them on the road each season? Yeah. Anyway.
It used to be that Duke could point desperately to the ACC sked and claim that it played soooooo many tough road games in-conference that playing tiresome extraleague road games wasn't necessary. And that brings me to the other message that the Selection Spetznaz sent this season: they effectively viewed the ACC as a second-tier conference. And guess what? They were right!! The ACC was horrible this season, as we all know. NCSU was lucky to get an eight seed. Virginia and Big Ten Charter Member Maryland, College Park did not, by any stretch of the imagination, deserve bids. Miami could have received a one seed, but the relative weakness of the conference held it down to the two line, and Duke, if anything, had a weaker case for a one. As Al White rightly pointed out in the comments to the last edition, the Tools were actually the biggest victims of the Committee's herd mentality on this issue, receiving an eight seed when (and you won't hear me say this very often) they were pretty clearly a six seed in this field. Believe me, I'm not complaining about the hilarious move of sending Rrhoid into the arms of Jayhawks fans who hate his living guts - - in Kansas City, no less!! - - for their presumed second-round matchup. It's really, really funny. I'm just saying that everyone in the ACC was treated about right, except the Pack were a seed or two higher than they should be, and the Tools were a seed or two lower. Duke and Miffle were treated correctly and there was no case for any other ACC team to make the field. And hey, take solace in this: Future ACC got four more teams in: Syracuse, Pitt (which didn't stay long), Notre Dame and of course Louisville. Tell me again how trading MDCP for Louisville was a bad thing?
As for Duke's draw, there was lots of carping and whining among DOOFS (Duke's Overzealous Online Fans) frequenting the usual cyberwatercoolers about getting Creighton in the second round, which means that we'll probably get Cincinnati, because DOOFS are seldom right about much. In any event, Creighton poses little real threat, if you ask me, but . . . one game at a time, please. Then there's Michigan State in the prospective third round. So what? The Stiffs try to line Duke and Michigan State up as often as they can, because they love the titanic coaching battle, and they also love the typical tough makeup of Michigan State versus the typical creampuff mentality of most Duke teams. If we don't want to see Michigan State or Michigan State-like teams in our bracket, we should get tougher. Maybe Jay Bias can help! And then playing Louisville . . . whatever. That was mostly dictated by geographic considerations, and aggravated by the fact that Miami was also a two seed. I mean, sure, we'd all rather have Gonzaga as our one seed, but speaking as someone who doesn't take anything for granted after last season's debacle, I'll be thrilled if we end up lacing 'em up with the Cards for a second time, this time in Indianapolis for the right to got the Final Four.
Next, how's the tourney going so far? Well, the "First Four" had one really good game, another fair-to-good game and two lousy ones, and Tournament Thursday was decent - - not terrific, but good. There wasn't the mass bracket chaos that many apparently expected, but that could come Friday; I just hope that Duke's not a part of it. (Heh heh.) Wichita State upset Pitt in an early eight-nine game, but that was nothing. Two twelves (of course) beat five seeds (more on that in a moment), and then there was the awesome spectacle of Amaker and Harvard sending home #3 seed (and Chuck Barkley Final Four selection) New Mexico. Whoops! Rounding out the interesting action, Davidson almost, almost, beat Marquette and Southern gave Gonzaga quite a scare, reinforcing my belief that the Zags are, as usual, a mirage. But we'll see. Now, about those 12/5 upsets: of course there is almost always one, and usually two of these every season, and this year, they had a common theme. Just as it dismissed the ACC, the Scummittee also blew off the Pac-12. Normally, you won't find me defending the Pac-12, but with the exception of UCLA, the league has grown considerably less odious, even nonodious, in recent seasons (for example: Arizona actually has a coach that I like, which is incredible), and I really like what Dana Altman has done at Oregon, plus I'm a big fan of E.J. Singler. (Is there some reason why we didn't make every effort to sign him, by the way, as opposed to taking every Plumlee in sight?) Berkeley has Mike Montgomery and even Southern Cal jettisoned universally repellent prick Kevin O'Neill this season, so for the most part, the league's coaches are decent people. (Yeah, Sendek is still not a good coach, but he's a nice guy from what I can tell.) Anyway, it will be interesting to see if the ACC responds to its dissing (which appears to be deserved) as well as the Pac-12 did, because from here, it looks like the latter snubbage was not merited. Oregon just clowned Oklahoma State, in a game that I thoroughly enjoyed, and Berkeley held on in a close one to defeat UNLV. In the 12 brackets I filled out, I think I had those outcomes on 11 of 12 cards apiece, so I'm pleased, even more so than I usually am when the Committee is proven to be stupid.
So now we move on to Friday . . . oh, but don't think I'm not going to give props to both Robert and Morris for knocking off the defending "champs" the other night in first-round (peals of laughter) NIT action!!! Nice job, Colonials, and I *love* the court-storming. Back to the drawing board, Calamari! It will be fun to see whom he forces to leave this time around, since he's facing a glut of mercenaries relative to available scholarships. Oh, please please please let them have another season like this again next year. Sheesh, even Ol' Roy and the Twinks followed up their 2009 title with an NIT run that reached the finals before Dayton mercifully restored order. A first-round exit at the hands of Bob Morris?? That's honestly hilarious. Hopefully, Ashley Judd is so saddened by this that she turns her attention to politics immediately.
NOW we move on to Friday.
Albany is a relatively recent entrant in the Division I sweepstakes, joining in 1999, and has been a member of the America East Conference since 2001. The A-East has been in a bit of a transition phase over the past decade or so; Albany signed on (with Binghamton and Stony Brook) as a replacement for Drexel/Delaware/Towson/Hofstra, who all departed for the Colonial in 2001, followed by founding member Northeastern in 2005. Boston University, one of the league's four remaining founding members, will take its act to the Patriot League beginning in July, and will be replaced by Massachusetts-Lowell, leaving Albany and its New York-based compatriots with Maryland, Baltimore County; UML; Hartford; and the three founding members who are still around: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.
This season looked like a nice march to an America East title for Albany, but leading scorer (and seventh-leading scorer in the nation) Gerardo Suero made a goofy decision to turn pro (he wasn't drafted and now plays for the Dominican Republic's national team), and second-leading scorer Logan Aronhalt (yup, the same) decided to transfer to Scaryland, where he was last spotted failing to beat NCCH in the ACC semifinals, and is now toiling in the NIT while the team he abandoned made the NCAAs. (Isn't it nice how Turgid somehow managed to replace Terrell Stoglin and Ashton Pankey with a guy who transferred in as a graduate student in Aronhalt, and a guy who was able to transfer immediately in from Xavier in Dez Wells because, I guess, he was acquitted of sexual assault charges, which of course immunizes you from a shirt? Anyway, enjoy the NIT, guys.) These changes relegated Albany to a 9-7 regular season record in the A-East, but they made a nice conference tournament run and won the league crown on Vermont's homecourt.
Early media analyses claim that Duke will enjoy some huge size advantage in this one, but that's between totally misleading and outright false, depending on how ardent you like to get about mediots. Yes, starting senior guards Mike Black (14.0 ppg) and Jacob Iati (12.1 ppg) are 6-0 and a generously listed 5-10, respectively, but it's not as thought Cook and Curry typically dominate opponents with their "length" on either end, and that's where most of the height advantage for the Blue Devils resides. In fact, Rasheed Sulaimon, who is making a welcome return to the starting lineup in this one, will be guarding a player two inches taller than he is, in the person of either 6-6 junior Gary Johnson (3.5 ppg) or 6-6 sophomore Sam Rowley (9.0 ppg, team-leading 6.3 rpg). True, Johnson or Rowley will be guarding Kelly, but since Kyle Singler graduated, doesn't it scare you when an opposing player (most recently the aforementioned Dez Wells) is listed at 6-6? It terrifies me, and here we have two of them. Don't look know, but THIS MEANS WE WILL NEED TO HAVE SOME COACHING IN THIS GAME. Yes! Coaching! That mysterious attribute that missed the Durham-Greensboro bus last week. Meanwhile, in the post, Mason will be checked by 6-10 junior John Puk (5.4 ppg), an inexperienced lost-post defender with stamina issues who deals out 2.8 pfpg. (Rowley is no stranger to the siren call of the whistle himself, with an awesome 3.3 personals per game to his debit.) In other words, Mason, quite Puk-ing around and dominate this dude.
Albany has pretty good three-point percentages but they are not prolific in their distance shooting; they prefer a slowdown offense. Luckily for Duke, there is no equivalent to C.J. McCollum (nor a Holden Greiner) on the roster in terms of athleticism, and the Great Danes are also no great shakes in the boardsmanship department. (Whew!) They turn the ball over a lot, and are not much for blocked shots or steals. On the other hand, they are an outstanding free throw shooting team, and they have a fair amount of depth.
There is no reason why Duke shouldn't win by 15-20 or more in this game. They seem to like playing at Spectrum Two, the crowd should be in their favor, and while the dominating height disparity you may have read about doesn't really exist, Duke can and should reduce the overplay just a touch to force Black and Iati to get creative and take low-percentage shots. Accomplish that, and the Danes can't win. I should also mention that while Will Brown, Albany's coach, seems to be a nice man, he's no Dr. Brett Reed (who is?), so Krzyzewski and his legacy can breathe easy.
I will probably be unavailable during game action, but please, if you're watching, feel free to add your contemporaneous comments (or your pre- or postgame analyses) below.
Hey - - how about a win?
Duke 82, Albany 61.