TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XI, Episode 2
November 12, 2007
Still warming up this space. We'll fill it for Maui. Think of us as picketing with the WGA members, or something - - oh, the heck with it. Sit back and enjoy. If you dare.
Mattís comments in blue.
Robís selection in green.
Well! That certainly was refreshing, wasnít it? I mean, seriously. A Duke team trapping and pressing and running and fastbreaking and just generally MOVING on offense? Unheard of - - at least in recent memory. Frankly, I think the 2001 team last exhibited the kind of motion that we saw on Friday night - - and that squad is always a welcome comparator, for obvious reasons. I was particularly impressed with the freshmen; not only their individual skills shone through, but also their seamless integration into the offense. I think that Coach K might have been genuinely embarrassed at last seasonís poor performance, and is on a mission to erase all traces of it. Hey, I am on board!!
So not only does Singler have an inside-outside game, but so does Taylor King? That works. Nolan Smith looked every bit the fast point guard he was advertised to be - - and, in a nota bene for the Paulus-Bashers, he was also beaten a few times on penetration. IT HAPPENS. Get over it. I mumbled something in Fridayís edition about Scheyer being much more effective off the bench, and boy, did that turn out to be unerringly (I was surprised too) accurate - - great game. Lance Thomas finally tracked down his evil, foul-prone clone, who kept tricking Lance last year by telling him the wrong game times and showing up himself instead - - and eliminated him. On Friday, that was the actual guy! That was the dude Rutgers wanted before they were distracted by other attentions, like having a renascent football program! (Not a problem at Duke.) Hail and well met, Lance. I think I even spotted Brian Zoubek rebounding down low with authority. Nelson, Henderson, Paulus, and St. Marty all played (yes, Marty got 12 minutes) very well. How about that 57.1 three-point shooting percentage? Yeah, yeah - - that canít continue. Probably true, but when you consider that Paulus and Nelson were 2-8 combined, itís still impressive. Free throw shooting was another bright spot, as was the 1990s-esque 27 assists on 39 made baskets. Strong.
Negatives? Not many, beyond probably having to temper expectations given the fact that this was a transitional Division I opponent, but hey - - Florida barely beat NDSU on the same night, and vaunted UCLA struggled with Portland State. Oh, and from this site's perspective, I committed the first of this season's series of boners more painful than failing to follow the disclaimers in a Cialis ad by neglecting to mention that McClure would not play - - he is apparently questionable for Mondayís game as well. Finally, while I enjoy Abby Wanerís play on the court, her commentary on the ACC Select ďbroadcastĒ was a little too - - chatty? Iím not sure. She could get better with time if she wants to pursue that down the road, and it was a nice idea to have her on. The play-by-play guy, however, sounded about as interested as your average supermarket cashier paging someone for a price check, and was utterly spellbound by the Cameron Craziesí brand-new, earth-orbit-breaking practice of cheering when an opponent got up after going to the deck with an injury. Yeah, that actually has happened before, dude. And no, that wasnít me calling/slurring the action, even though I think the guy (also hampered by rocks in his mouth and a raging sinus infection of some variety) said his name was Matt, as two of you pointed out over e-mail. Isnít it odd to be looking forward to the dulcet vocal tones of an ESPN crew? Iím sure that feeling wonít last long.
New Mexico State is a very interesting opponent, because first of all, as noted before the jump, Duke has never played the Aggies before - - in fact, Duke has never played the University of New Mexico either. Strange. But then, Duke has a very small portfolio of contests against WAC/MWC teams in its history, due no doubt to simple travel logistics. I like the choice of opponent, though, because the Aggies are no creampuff; they went 25-9 last season and won the WAC tourney before falling to Texas, 79-67, in the first round of the NCAAs. Hm. 25-9? Thatís pretty impressive at first glance.
A second look, however, reveals a few problems that probably forecast a comfy second win for the Blue Devils. First, NMSU managed to litigate no fewer than 20 games at its home court, the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, going 19-1; they were 6-7 on the road and 0-1 in neutral court tilts (the NCAA loss to Prick Barnes and hirelings). Second, the team lost between two and four starters, depending on how you denote some of the midseason changes in the Aggiesí lineup last year, and while some of those guys were probably best left behind, some of them were key contributors, like second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Tyrone Nelson. Tyrone, not the most cerebral of individuals, was invited to forward his mail to another location after pleading nolo contendere to charges of robbing a pizza delivery man - - always a ready source of loads of cash, as this council is aware. Or was Tyrone just jonesing for some deep dish? Unanswered. Perhaps most importantly, former Ag coach Reggie Theus fled back to the NBA in silly fashion after deigning to spend a couple of seasons with us down at the collegiate level, leaving the job to former Louisville assistant Marvin Menzies - - who is an interesting guy. He's been in coaching forever and didn't really make his mark as a player; he graduated from UCLA with a degree in econ, just like Bill Walton. What a HORRRRRRRIBLE joke that was. Sorry.
There are some elements of continuity for NMSU, namely WAC Tournament MVP Justin Hawkins, a 6-7 senior forward, and WAC all-defensive player Fred Peete, a 6-4 guard who notched 9.5 ppg and a little under a steal and a half per contest last season. Pittsburgh product Herb Pope, a 6-8, 235-pound freshman and a top 50 recruit by most estimations, did not play in the Aggiesí opener at Ohio, and Iím going to guess (the NMSU site is of little help in the news department) heís still recovering from a series of gunshot wounds suffered in some sort of unspecified dustup back in March. No, he wasnít delivering any pies in Tyrone Nelsonís neighborhood. 6-2 sophomore Jonathan Gibson starts in the backcourt and is the nominal point guard - - an area of series weakness for Menzies. The most interesting thing about the Aggies, and perhaps the most pertinent for Duke, is that they start two guys that they deem to be centers, 7-0 pasta variety Martin Iti (yes, that guy, the Aussie who used to play for UNC Charlotte) and 6-9 Brazostiff Hatila Passos.
The Aggiesí size promises to provide some immediate answers to the following questions - - can Duke cope without relying on a true big man as a key cog in its offense (Zoubek is clearly ticketed for complementary minutes, and thatís fine)? How does an up-tempo attack succeed against a more plodding, halfcourt offense with two big guys? (The moratorium on the ultragoofy adjectonoun ďbigĒ is still in effect.) On the other hand, Hawkins, Peete, Gibson and 6-4 junior Paris Carter shot worse and more often than Imperial Stormtroopers (and I donít care what Obi-Wan had to say about the Sand People - - can you imagine how bad THEIR perimeter shooting was??) against the Bobcats, a smooth 80-72 victory for Ohio U., and Iti and Passos only grasped the ball often enough to put up eight shots combined, so maybe we wonít exactly find out. However, thereís some size on the opposite bench, thereís some skill in Hawkins and Peete, Menzies is a smart guy, and the overall NMSU talent level is certainly higher than that of N.C. Central, so letís see how Duke handles this one before we can really get a sense of this seasonís promising opening.
Duke 84, New Mexico State 68.
Duke 92, New Mexico State 64.