Welcome back! Sit back, think about those less fortunate, jump in for a ride with Jamar Smith, and away we go.
TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC Volume XI, Episode 5 November 20, 2007
ILLINOIS-URBANA CHAMPAIGN (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) v. #10 DUKE (3-0, 0-0)
That sure didnít take long.Remember way back when, i..e., 7-10 days ago, when I was whining about Mystery Matt and Abby Wanerís peculiar brand of ďtelevisionĒ ďcommentaryĒ?I want to apologize to everyone, because I did it . . . I actually wished for ESPN to come back.And they didnít let me down!Itís 9 P.M., and I race into Dukies.com World Command, note the latest tracking data from NORAD, get a full update on the latest effort to have all entertaining people around the United States go on strike at once (this site - - unaffected), settle into the captainís chair and . . . catch UCLA and Scaryland?
Itís always interesting to have one of those waking nightmares that validates your whole pet theory about, well, whatever you have pet theories about.Suddenly, Iím listening to phallic technocrat Dan Shulman, and they cut away to Dour Doris, doing one of her usual upbeat sideline stories about Darfur or inner city drug addiction, with somber expression to match.Then itís back to Bullethead and DICKIE V, who wants to tell us that Sweaty belongs in the Hall of Fame, which is nothing new, except that a grey-robed, scythe-wielding figure is expectantly hovering near the clock operator, because Dick is so hoarse and raspy that it sounds like heís about to check out for good at the next dead ball (sorry).Somehow, this makes his endlessly reiterated shtick even less tolerable than usual.And then, the mystery begins.With the only question left to be answered whether or not Maryland will break a string of 290 or whatever games with one made three (they do), ESPeeN keeps us peeled to the action, not going to a split screen, nor doing what seems obvious to me, at least - - cutting away from the decided game to one thatís just starting, and that fans are sort of expecting to be able to watch.I mean . . . why?Itís simply too difficult, I guess.Or too logical.
Once the game finally did begin, I got a kick out of McDonough saying that a group of Duke fans in the stands was ďenjoying the first five minutes of this one.ĒKnowing McDonough, I have a feeling that remark meant more than it said, but in any case, count the rest of us out, Sean.At least I can look in the box score and imagine Singler scoring all those points on stickbacks and singlehandedly putting Princeton away before the first media timeout.
Anyway, Iíll associate myself with Icemanís commentary in the recap . . . I feel like I have my basketball team back again.J.J. Redick was one of my favorite players in Duke history, but the teams he was on, with the possible exception of his senior year squad when he created all of the offense, didnít run like this one can - - itís something to behold. 2001. 2001.
Of course, so far weíve only seen that style in action against a Div I newcomer, a possible WAC title contender, and a bad Ivy League team.Big Ten also-ran, anyone?Here you are, in the person of the Illwhini, who, as regular readers of this site (I'm sorry, who?) know (or know that I know, at least) from hearing me blather about it, boast some of the worst fans in the country.At least Bruce Weber runs a real tight ship; just ask guard Jamar Smith, whoís vacationing this season on the Isle of Redshirt after a nettlesome incident where an alcohol-powered Smith dramatically damaged his car, seriously injuring teammate Brian Carlwell.Just another day in the life of UIUC athletics, one supposes, except that Smith then drove his jes' slightly dented ride (the thing looked like it had taken on the Transformers) back to his apartment and retired therein for the evening, leaving the unconscious Carlwell to fend for himself in the passenger seat.Jamarís explanation?Well, he thought Carlwell was dead.Oh.Okay.It really is true what they say: if people have a good explanation for their behavior, almost any action is defensible.Jamar will be back next season; he was not invited to pilot the team bus while he gets his affairs in order.
Last seasonís team would lose to this bunch of Illini, because of the latterís athleticism.Weíd go in expecting a big game from McSomebody, and weíd come away seeing said individual dominated by 6-10 goon Shaun Pruitt, who loved Weberís program so much that he somewhat unwisely declared for the Association draft last spring, then withdrew his name with a little under-the-breath ďheh heh,Ē and all was well.Pruitt is being touted on Illanoy message boards (those that contain coherent posts - - it wasnít easy) today as the answer in this game, but the guy is not really that fantastic, and he is a card-carrying mason at the stripe.Sure, heíll be the best big guy the Blue Devils have faced, and with the wrong defensive approach, heíll score a lot of points and grab many boards.However . . . Iím not sure I see him succeeding.
The rest of the Illwhini, with one exception, are role players who are suddenly starting because Weber lost his golden recruiting touch, in possible karmic retribution for his refusal to do anything but hock up after horrible, bricked three in the 2005 title game against Orange County (N.C.) Vo-Tech.And son of a gun, they still shoot a ton of threes, which is fine by me because Duke always defends that area well, and I donít think this season is going to be any different.The exception I mentioned is 6-8, 220-pound forward Brian Randle, who is pretty burly and athletic; Iím not sure if Singler is up to the task of guarding him just yet, but then . . . thereís the zone.Zone?Yeah, zone!!Itís some amazing new defensive technique.Also, I could see DeMarcus guarding Randle, who often makes himself shorter than he is with weird positioning.Ballhandling is a problem for UIUC, and while McDonough, Raf, and a surprisingly easygoing and even likeable Bilas (yeah, itís me; Iím fine, thanks) made much of Illinoisí ability to ďgo fifteen deep,Ē well, I mean, come on.Sean was probably kidding.No one knows who most of these guys are, and that includes Weber.He will recognize Jon Scheyer on the court, however, and hopefully Jon can remind Bruce why he didnít join the latterís scummy program with a strong performance.Paulus and Smith will be just fine against Sillini crap-o backcourt tandem Trent Meacham and Chet Frazier, even if freshman Demetri McCarney shows promise.
So, can Duke overcome the awesome force of Jordan sitting there in the stands wearing orange?Yeah, I think so.But if they canít, weíll know thereís work to do, and that the Big Ten and Illanoy are actually pretty good.However, UIUC strikes me as the sort of dumb - - make that unsophisticated - - and unpolished group that relies on pure athleticism and not much else.Now that we know that K had to become the Olympic coach to be exposed to (1) the use of depth, (2) zone defense, and (3) the Phoenix Sunsí offense, we also know that this is not last yearís Duke team, which toyed with athletic teams the way a mouse toys with 22-pound cats. So all might be well here. K might have some extra fire after all the Terping that Weber did in the 2004 regional semifinal, too.And thatís just fine with this viewer.Come on, Duke.Lose to Oklahoma State or Marquette in the title game if you must (although the former scenario would mean that Israel Defense Forces colonel and credit card marketing analyst Doug Gottlieb would run his mouth for years), but letís put these nice young men from the Land of Lincoln away.