RTC Instant Analysis: Mid-Afternoon GamesPosted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010
As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. We’ll be back a couple more times today for some instant analysis/commentary:
- 8 PM for the 4-6 PM games
- 10 PM for the 7 PM and 8 PM games
- Butler Looks More Like Butler. Billed as the rematch of the national title game, it hasn’t taken long this season to learn that Duke is probably better and Butler is probably worse than they were last season. But for much of the game today, Butler was competitive with Duke, and we were happy to see that. Butler didn’t look like Butler in losses against Louisville or Evansville, and the reason for that had to do with defense. It’s hard enough to beat Duke as it is, but you have literally zero chance if you let the guards get off from behind the arc. Butler held the Blue Devils to 31% on 8-26 shooting from deep, which when you consider their numerous options (Singler, Smith, Irving, Curry, Dawkins), is about as good as you can ask for. Still, it was Irving’s mini-explosion with consecutive treys in the second half that gave Duke some separation and allowed the Devils to hang on down the stretch to get the win. Ronald Nored’s return from a concussion was great to see as well, because his on-ball defense is absolutely essential to Butler’s success, and there was no better example of that than when he cleanly stripped Kyrie Irving on the wing when he exposed the ball. We’re not sure that anyone has ever done that to Irving in his entire life before, which shows just how good of a defender Nored is.
- Duke Has So Many Weapons. Coaches preach that defense wins championships, but they privately know that defense only puts you in position to win. You still need to have a diverse set of offensive weapons to cut down the nets. What makes Duke so unique among the many contenders this season is that they have at least five players who can put the ball on the floor and beat you off the dribble in addition to the outside; when that’s combined with the serviceable interior offense of the Plumlees, it gives Coach K a ridiculous amount of effective options to get points when he needs them. No better example of this was when Duke found Kyle Singler, who calmly dribbled himself into a contested 18-footer from the right wing — all net. At the collegiate level, there’s nothing most teams can do about that shot, and Duke has multiple players capable of putting points on the board in those tough spots. Of course Kyrie Irving is the best example of this phenomenon — his 17 second-half points ultimately drove Duke to the win, and it is his God-given ability to switch gears and score the ball anywhere on the floor that makes him nearly impossible to guard.
- Coach K’s 876th All-Time Win. It’s really not even up for debate that Coach K with his four national titles and countless Final Four appearances is the second-best college basketball coach of all-time. With today’s win over Butler, Krzyzewski tied the legendary and controversial Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp with 876 career wins, as he quickly marches toward his mentor/coach Bob Knight’s all-time record of 902 wins. In an early Christmas present for UNC fans, K will mostly likely tie Dean Smith, with 879 wins against Elon on December 20, and pass the legend a week later against UNC-Greensboro. If you want to project it out, given just how good this Duke team is, Kryzyewski will likely break the all-time record early in the NCAA Tournament. Our prediction: the Sweet Sixteen. Of course, the only number that matters to K is five, and we can’t blame him for that mentality — he has an excellent opportunity to win his fifth ring this year.
- Amaker Close But No Cigar. It was a homecoming of sorts for Tommy Amaker at Harvard today as he visited his former school Michigan for a game that he had personally scheduled as the head coach there from 2001-07. For much of the game, it appeared that Amaker would have the last laugh, as he did in his first season when the Crimson beat Michigan 62-51 in Cambridge. However, despite a 12-point lead early in the second half, the Wolverines clamped down on defense and got sixteen second-half points from Stu Douglass (including four threes) to come back and win the game. This will still end up being a “good” loss for Harvard, but the other storyline from this game is that John Beilein’s team may turn out to be better than expected this year. Predicted at the bottom of the Big Ten, the Wolverines already have wins at Clemson, vs. Harvard and close losses to Syracuse and UTEP. We shouldn’t slot them into the Tourney yet, but they’re playing tremendous halfcourt defense and are showing some signs of life.
- Pac-10 Finally Notches a Win. As of this morning, the Pac-10 had an 0-5 record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. California ended the winless streak with a road win at Iowa State this afternoon. Neither team is really very good, but we’re fairly amazed that the Bears’ Mike Montgomery has figured out a way to beat anybody with a lineup that includes some of the players he has at his disposal. In two other B12/P10 games today, Washington put up 61 first-half points at home against Texas Tech, and Oregon State takes on Colorado (simulcast at RTC Live) later tonight. If OSU can eke out a road win tonight, with four games left in the series, things could be interesting. Of the remaining four games scheduled, only Texas’ visit to USC on Sunday would appear to be a game where the Big 12 was favored.