Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!
TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XI, Episode 5
November 21, 2007
#13 DUKE (4-0) v. #11 MARQUETTE (4-0, 0-0 Big East)
Nice game, Duke!!!!!!!! Thereís nothing more satisfying than extending a win streak over an opponent that I, and I hope most of you, canít stand. To give credit where due, though, Illannoy was in some ways better than I expected. Pruitt is really quite the stiff and Randle was in foul trouble due to some silly mistakes on his part and a questionable whistle or two from Pants-Popper Scott Thornleyís crew, but on the whole the Whini game plan was solid, especially early, before Weber issued Executive Thugball Order No. 45231-a. But Dukeís execution was simply better. Last yearís team would have folded when the lead got cut to 44-41, but the Blue Devils just calmly stepped on the gas and built a decisive, putaway lead so quickly that it simply appeared to be the natural order of things. There appears to be very little panic in this squad, and Henderson (strong mid-range game), Nelson (play him 30 minutes instead of 37-38 and he can do just about anything; it really does make a huge difference) and Paulus (Iím not surprised, anyway - - heís healthy and fast again; did the bashers really think that he was mortally slow in high school and yet somehow managed to be a top recruit in the two largest revenue sports?) appear to be completely different players this season.
There were some negatives, of course. Marty got buried again, and McClure didnít play, which I hope is just saving him for the title game, sort of like bringing an injured closer in baseball back by limiting him from making back-to-back appearances. Yeah, the analogy has some problems, but you get where Iím going with it. Scheyer, 32 minutes? Enhhhh - - I donít like it, but Iíll reserve judgment (particularly since K might have been saving the teamís depth for prospective use against Marquette), and Jonís defense looked pretty effective throughout the contest. As far as the whole team goes, good, judicious three-point shooting and outstanding shot selection overall, as well as a level of ball-shepherding that was unimaginable for last yearís squad, were very key in the win. Great job, Duke, and thanks!!
Now, Iím as big an opponent of Ron Mexico as anyone . . . but whoa, those are some expensive doggies. $900,000? Of course I want those poor critters cared for very well too, but did that contract go to some sort of combination of Halliburton and Blackwaterís Veterinary Division? Well, whatever - - Mikeís good for it. Happy Thanksgiving, Mike. Shout out to Oregon for losing to St. Maryís and continuing the Pac-10ís embarrassing string of early-season losses to less-publicized opponents? [deafening roar] Thank you! Finally, thanks to Sean McDonough for being the funniest play-by-play guy on television, in any sport. He has me actually considering watching, say, your average Cincinnati-Louisville game on a regular basis beginning on Mondays in January.
Did someone mention the Big Least? Well, if anyoneís qualified to judge whether or not Paulus and Duke as a whole are totally different from last season, itís Marquette, and their junior backcourt trio of 5-11 Dom James, 6-3 Jerel McNeal, and 6-5 Wesley Matthews. Last seasonís experience with those guys was actually all you needed to know about Dukeís season - - watch the tape of that game, an experience no doubt akin to spending the holidays in federal custody, or (Nick Saban only) battling a nasty case of the Black Death, and youíve got the whole 2006-2007 Duke picture.
In examining Dukeís upcoming sked, if thereís a game that the team is planning on dropping, this one seems to fit the part, as I think Wisconsin has matchup problems against the Blue Devils and Pitt is weak. However, even as well as Marquette is obviously playing, I think you have to temper their win over the OSU Gottliebs with the same sort of skepticism that people who are not Jay Bilas employed in assessing Illanoyís blowout of Consultant Herb and the Sun Devils. (The latterís fan(s), incidentally, currently has/have a brigade of Phoenix-area psychologists and lawyers working through the weekend trying to figure out what the ASU administration was thinking, and if there are any exits in that contract.) Marquette isnít going to shoot 11-17 on threes against Duke, and in this instance, their lack of a convincing frontcourt presence is, of course, right up our alley. Could Zoubek, like, you know, dominate here?
I guess you have to call for a track meet. Duke just looks so much better to me this season that I canít project them to lose yet, but there would be no shame in doing so if James, McNeal, and Matthews are as good as theyíve looked so far. However, thereís a lot better defense in store for them than there was a year ago. A fourth Maui title in four tries? Hey - - could happen. Go Duke!
Duke 93, Marquette 85.
Duke 88, Marquette 84.