TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 12
December 31, 2009
PIGS FORCE USE OF NEW CALENDARS EDITION
Mattís comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
PENNSYLVANIA (0-8, 0-0 Ivy) @ #7 DUKE (10-1, 0-0)
Happy New Year, everyone! For some reason, Duke decided to keep everyone off the roads and packed into Cameron Indoor Stadium for an - - admittedly early in the evening - - round of holiday festivities. And I happen to think thatís just fine. Besides, if you donít attend Duke games in person these days, how are you going to see them? Yes, once again DirecTV pulled its little two-step of which I, and presumably many other of the organizationís subscribers not located within an Ish Smith free-throw brick (yeah, 34.5% is his free-throw percentage, not a floor-based shooting total - - shouldnít an ACC-caliber point guard have a touch more skill in this area?) of Cameron Indoor, am quite tired. IndirectTV showed the Long Beach State game as available on Fox Sports South - - which should evidently be redubbed Fox Sports Southern Portion of Dukeís West Campus - - but when said channel was called upon at the appropriate time, FAIL! ďNot contractually available,Ē which means, as pointed out here previously, that DirecTV didnít feel like paying Faux Sportsí asking price to broadcast the subject matter in question beyond a 10-meter radius of CIS.
Hey, do you think Mike Krzyzewski and/or the Duke University Athletics Department could step in and do something about this? Iíve heard that this gentleman and this organization have some clout, which is French for ďthe ability to solve stupid problems imposed by thick-headed entities like F***s Sports.Ē So maybe, next time Swoffie wants to negotiate the ACC television contract, or Duke negotiates its own portions of the contract for games that do not involve good Commander Swofferís jurisdiction - - why not stick up for the legions of Duke fans around the country who are not located within the confines of Foxís regional viewing area? And get this - - this will also help the program! One of Krzyzewskiís quite commonly deployed justifications for playing games like the upcoming ďroad contestĒ with Iowa State in Chicago - - which, last I checked, is located in Illinois rather than Iowa - - is that you never know if thereís a twelve-year old Jon Scheyer out there who might go to the game with his family, become interested in Duke, and later stiff the Carp by spurning Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and becoming a Blue Devil. To the extent that this idea has merit, perhaps there was some kid in, say, Los Angeles who wanted to watch Long Beach State play in this one through the use of his family's television. Assume further that this young man has basketball talent in excess of that sported by erstwhile Duke California-based signees Price, Parks, and Burgess. Now, maybe he originally plans to watch the game because he likes Long Beach, but maybe, just maybe, during the game he is impressed by Duke, by Cameron, by whatever, and decides that he wants to play for the Blue Devils someday. And he tells a friend or two. Presto - - that was easy, wasnít it?
Yes, showing Duke games around the country is a good idea. So maybe those in charge at Duke should do something about this increasingly annoying problem, which has, at last count, robbed Blue Devil ďremote viewersĒ of two games so far this season. I might add that anything that can be done to stop ESPNís increasing monopoly over the broadcast of college basketball is a good thing. Yes, Fauxís arrangement with the ACC for Sunday nights (despite the increased and quite hazardous exposure to Brando); the Big Ten Network - - these are all positive things because they donít involve ESPN, which is subtly beginning to impose its will on the sport in various ways, none of which is good for the game, but all of which are good for ESPN.
Amusingly, todayís game *is* on ESPN. Now, if you had a choice this week between two options: (1) watching Duke contend with an intriguing LBSU team that has played what is arguably Div Iís toughest schedule, and offers all sorts of interesting story lines (Monson, the schoolís history as a repository for Tarkanian, Loot, and the Bald Bastard of Blacksburg, a talented young team that might just win the Big West title); and (2) seeing Duke host a winless Pennsylvania team that just relieved its head coach of his duties roughly seventeen days ago, which would you choose? Yes, yes, itís true that no wizard in any sort of charge could have known that Pennsylvania would be so bad. But itís still funny. Dukeís win over LBSU was - - free throw shooting and second-half defensive lapses aside - - quite enjoyable and possibly very helpful to the Blue Devils. Todayís game? Essentially a waste of everyoneís time, although I will enjoy WATCHING A DUKE GAME ON TELEVISION.
The Pennsylvania Quakers have a basketball history that is alternately exciting and fervently boring. It just depends on your perspective. The Quakers play in one of the great arenas in all of sports, the Palestra, which is on the Penn campus just over the Schuylkill River from downtown (d/b/a ďCenter CityĒ) Philadelphia, and theyíre part of the Big Five, the storied group of Philadelphia-based basketball programs (also including Villanova, La Salle, Temple, and St. Josephís) that regularly play each other each season, with occasional lapses, despite their differing conference affiliations. This is a cool arrangement, which means that John Swofford would probably like to destroy if he could. And back in 1979, the Quakers upset a baby blue-clad team from Orange County, North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, on their way to the programís sole Final Four appearance. The Tools, by the way, had never lost an NCAA Tournament game held in the state of North Carolina before then, and have failed to do so ever since. Hereís a fun summary of that game.
As a member of the Ivy League, though, Penn has seen the modern game pass it by to some extent in the thirty years since what Tool fans still call ďBlack Sunday,Ē and thatís sad, because itís highly symbolic of the deterioration of college basketball. While much of the rest of the sport has become polluted by the infusion of dirty money, serial recruiting violations, John Calipari, and Doug Gottlieb, the Ivy League stands as a welcome reminder of a bygone era. The Ivy still does not offer athletic scholarships, and for that reason alone (as well as several others), the Ivy League interests me, and should similarly attract the attention of any true fan of the game. (In my humble opinion!)
But . . . Ivy League basketball hasnít been very interesting lately. Princeton hasnít had a winning season since 2005, and after the retirement of the legendary Pete Carril, the Tigers have experienced instability at the head coaching position. Bill Carmody - - who answered the phone himself when I called the Princeton basketball office in 1997 and was a great guy to talk to - - only stayed for four years, JT III lasted the same amount of time before climbing his way up to Georgetown, and then the school duped itself into hiring no-talent hack Joe Scott. Ugh. Sydney Johnson is trying to bring the Tigers back, but itís been a struggle there lately.
Penn has had similar difficulties. From 1989-2006, the school had a tremendous recruiter and operations manager at the wheel in Fran Dunphy, but in a sickening move that perfectly captures the recent decline of the Ivy in microcosm, Dunphy left for . . . Temple. [sounds of regurgitation] Ohhhhh, Fran - - how *could* you? Given the Big Fiveís mutual affiliation since the mid-fifties, this wasnít all that different from, say, Sid Lowe leaving to coach Wake Forest, except in the same city, and you have to assume that anyone would hire Lowe, and . . . . Hey, look, who gave the Viable Analogy Department off for New Yearís Eve? I think I hear duhomme up on the bridge laughing it up with Al White, but no one of actual utility seems to be present. Drat.
Understandably shaken by this turn of events, the Society of Frienders replaced Dunphy with 1930s jazz musician Glenn Miller. Or was that Glen Miller? It didnít really matter, because just over two weeks ago, following a .500 record in three previous seasons and an 0-7 start to the instant campaign, Pennsylvania put Miller on the Chattanooga Choo Choo and hired former Quakers guard Jerome Allen to take over. (This is sort of the same thing that Princeton did in turning to Syd Johnson, but I expect that just about anyone in the Penn athletics department would resist that comparison.) Allen promptly masterminded a 29-point dump to Davidson at Belk Arena - - by the way, I expect McKillop to have the Wildcats back within another two seasons at maximum, although I still donít get why he didnít make a stronger push for Seth Curry, not that Iím complaining one bit about it - - so, yeah. Here we have a winless litigant with a head coach prosecuting his second career game in that capacity trying to end all of Dukeís OOC home streaks. In all likelihood, that wonít happen.
I didnít follow the situation closely, with apologies, but I imagine that Penn was not jazzed about Millerís win-free opening gambit this year, because the team returned four starters and seemed to have some momentum going into 2009-2010. But 6-9, 245-pound Swedostiff Andreas Schreiber, counted on for (get this!) some inside presence and his excellent cooking, hurt the same shoulder that he separated last season after just two games, and since he doesnít play for the Tar Heels, he wonít be out there today/tonight. Moreover, last seasonís leading scorer and Ivy League ROY, 6-6 junior Tyler Bernardini, also played just two games this time around before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. Itís close to the time when he was supposed to return, but Pennís official game notes donít seem to indicate any such possibility, and if the Quakers like to emulate master gamesman Manboobs Belichick by playing Tiddlywinks with their injury reports, itís escaped my attention.
Two other Quaker players are also hurt, including freshly dented leading rebounder Mike Howlett, so Allen will run out a starting five of 6-1 sophomore Zack Rosen, 6-4 senior Darren Smith, 6-7 junior post Conor Turley, 6-8 junior four-man Jack Eggleston, and 6-6 sophomore swing Rob Belcore. The Quakers shoot .392/.663/.299 as a team, commit 20.9 fouls a game, and werenít rebounding all that well even with Howlett (8.6 rpg) in the lineup. They only score 64.4 ppg, and feature a PPS of 1.17 (Dukeís is 1.33, and frankly, even that isnít that great, cough cough get it together Singler cough cough). Pennsylvania does steal the ball 5.3 times an outing, and theyíre just barely underwater in A/TO, so they have some fundamental basketball abilities, and this may not be a 50-point blowout, especially given the fact that the Blue Devils are playing for the second time in three days and have their ACC opener against Top 25 member Clemson on Sunday.
By the way, I couldnít let this edition pass without whipping out the following gem of an official advisory, taken straight from the University of Pennsylvaniaís game notes:
ďItís Penn, Please
The first time you mention us on-air or in your stories/columns, we ask that you please use our full nameóthe University of Pennsylvania. After that, we ask that you refer to us simply as Penn. We ask that you refrain from calling us ďPennsylvaniaĒ at any time. Thanks for your cooperation!Ē
Oh, that would be my sincere and absolute pleasure, PENNSYLVANIA! And while weíre being so chummy, why donít you guys just get *over* yourselves? You have got to be kidding me. Does an angel lose its wings every time some hapless media member commits the war crime-level gaffe of NOT refraining from calling the school by its actual name? Seriously, if anyone wants to argue that this kind of laughable request does more good than harm, please steer me right in the comments section. Un-beeeeeee-liev-able.
One last Quakernote: Pennsylvania has a .500 program record against the ACC. Thatís interesting. I trust (with a high degree of confidence) that said achievement will meet its end today, and I further trust that it will do so in a way that I find satisfying.
This is exactly the kind of game that screams for the development of the ďsecond team,Ē which may include Miles now, as K was apparently not too happy with the effort of either Plumlee against Long Beach State. Scheyer and Smith do NOT need to log more than 28-30 minutes in this one, although I have no problem with Kyle Singler playing as many minutes as he needs to get his head screwed back on straight after a woeful four-game stretch over which he has shot 39.1% from the floor. It seems that no one can decide what Singler should be - - is he a power forward? Is he a wing forward? Is he a tall third guard? I know that Duke ďdoesnít have positions,Ē but maybe Singler could benefit from one. Just sayiní.
Anyone want to see more of Ryan Kelly? After garnering double-digit minutes in the first four games of the season, heís scored nine points since, and drew a DNP-CD against Wisconsin, which, if it was designed to send him a reinforcing message, may have had the opposite effect. Now, hereís a good game for Kelly to be entrusted with some quality minutes - - about 20 or so. I donít care if he loses his defender on one or more possessions, or takes a few bad shots. Talk to him about that after the game. But unless Duke is getting some sort of extremely unexpected battle royale from Penn, letís see the kid play. Same for Mason - - how long are we going to claim that heís rounding back into form from the wrist injury? If heís rounding back into form, then use a game like this to, you know, help him round back into form.
Seriously, itís nice that Duke blew away LBSU with a three-point barrage, and Zoubeard and Lance Thomas - - possibly the most, shall we say, enigmatic player in recent Duke history - - really contributed even though the 49ers (latest version) had some bruisers, but when the shots arenít falling, we get what happened in Wisconsin. PLAY THE SECOND STRING TODAY, PLEASE.
I am required by Dukies.com law to report that UMCP lost to William and Mary yesterday, 83-77. William had 38 and Mary, no slouch on the hardwood, poured in the remaining 45. Good teaching loss, Sweaty! Maybe ESPN's play-by-play guy will ask Smellmore to comment about this during today's broadcast, if he can successfully interrupt Len's relentless coaching of the Pennsylvania ballers.
Thanks for reading. Go Duke! Happy New Year! All five of you be safe, and yes, Mom - - so will I.
Duke 79, Pennsylvania 49.
Well, these fellows in Durham sure like their basketball games, huh? Nothing like making up for lost time with two games in two days. As a bonus, tonightís action (well, tonight on the East Coast, people living in states that border the Pacific get to take this one in at 3 p.m. Or record it on the DVR and watch it sometime in February. Yes, this is an inside joke.) is actually on a network that is received by more people than can fit inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Yep, as you probably noticed, thanks to Fox Sports
Sucks Southís weird distribution efforts, the Long Beach game was largely unavailable on many major cable systems. Perusing the boards revealed that people whose channel guides claimed to carry the game were unable to view it. I was prepared for an internet feed that would have been about as clear as your sight is after you get shampoo in your eyes but Ö Nope! None of the usual sources were running it. At some point, with about five minutes left in the game, I stumbled across a stream that I really think was produced by a guy who put a 1988-era camcorder in front of his 1974-era television. Imagine watch a game through a kaleidoscope. After getting a healthy dose of tropicamide from a garden hose.
Thus, most of what I know of this contest is courtesy of the always capable Bob Harris and John Roth on the Duke Radio Network, sent over former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevensí ďseries of tubesĒ by www.wsfl.com. Unfortunately, the broadcast was missing the warm, soothing sideline reports of Two Dukies friend and Hollywood legend Matthew Laurance, who, as you may know, departed Duke in late summer to move to Lexington, Ky. Where he, I guess, covers cow-tipping contests. And itís comments just like that which is why he doesnít respond to my emails.
(Hey, if I have to take a break here, itís because the Turds are down eight to William and Mary late in the first half. Ooooo, make that nine at intermission. In the meantime, Iíve got something to warn you about. If you hung around during the offseason, and thereís no shame in not doing so, you might have noticed we had some fun mocking bad advertising. My particular irritation is bad photo-editing, where people donít have shadows or devices not cast reflections. I later realized this was not a function of shrinking budgets at ad firms, but evidence the world is being taken over by evil spirits from another dimension. Now, I have proof that this wicked force is now traversing the globe in its own cruise ship.)
So, whatís Duke done for us lately? Well, they beat yet another group of prospectors. Kind of the typical win, where the Blue Devils put together a big first-half lead, maintain it for a while in the second, then their collective screen-saver comes on, allowing the opposition to make a mildly threatening come-back, requiring Coach K to deliver a verbal Dermabrasion while commercials are aired, the starters have to play too many minutes and the team finally boosts that lead up to a comfortable margin. There were some interesting stats in this one, like Plumlee 1.0 starting, but only playing 13 minutes. And he only had one foul, so thatís not the reason. Andre Dawkins continued his offensive efficiency by having nearly as many points (seven) as minutes (nine). Nolan and Jon were dead even on assists with seven apiece. Someone hung a ďMadison Square GardenĒ sign on the outside of Cameron, totally fooling Singler, who had five makes in 12 attempts. Duke blocked 10 shots (!!!) including four by Plumlee 2.0 in 12 minutes of action (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Now, Iím pretty sure with this kind of turnaround, weíre not doing a stand-alone recap [yes, clutch call, and preach on, good sir - - The Editors], so let me just sneak in Ö
WIN OF THE GAME: Scheyer continuing his NCAA-best assist-to-turnover ratio is darn close, but Treebeard posting a double-double, three blocks, only two fouls and only two turnovers does it for me.
FAIL OF THE GAME: Free-throw shooting, hands down. Thirteen tries, only five successful. Shaking off the holiday rust is one thing, shooting that looks like something recovered from the Titanic is quite another.
So letís hope that doesnít happen today, as Duke plays host to some Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania. Hey, want to have some fun? If you know a Penn grad, at some point say something like, ďOh, the Nittany Lions! I love Joe Paterno!Ē It drives them nuts in an almost unnatural fashion. Or, make comments that imply that itís a state school. They really have a chip on their collective shoulders about that. When they correct you, they usually say, ďIn fact, weíre in the Ivy League.Ē Reply that the Ivy League is technically an athletic conference. Then duck.
Someone else who should have ducked is former Quaker head coach and big band leader Glen Miller (oh, you got me, missing an ďnĒ there), when the pink slip attached to a large rock was hurled his way just a bit more than two weeks ago. Seems Penn AD Steve Bilsky, who in the late 1960s and early 1970s led probably the best Quaker teams in history as a guard, didnít take too kindly to the oh-for-seven record Miller had punched in with by the time mid-December came around. Holidays or not, the dude was sent packing. The interim replacement is Jerome Allen, yet another former Penn player, this time from the last decade of the 20th century, who made his mark on the program already by losing by 29 to Davidís Son. And, no, Curry doesnít play there anymore. But thatís what happens when you make just more than a third of your shot, but let the other team make nearly half theirs. Or get to the free-throw line only nine times. Or get out-rebounded by 13. Or give up 13 made three-pointers. Or have only eight assists. And more turnovers than that.
And, just in case you wondered, if you do all of those things in the same game? Well, youíre screwed. This is a bad team, with a brand-new coach, and Duke should win easily. Really, the most interesting thing to ponder is how long itís been since the Blue Devils faced off against a team that had a player from Sweden.
Duke 85, Pennsylvania 70.