ATB: Coach K Catches Dean — Carolina Fans Look Away in HorrorPosted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2010
The Lede. Happy Holidays, everyone. As we dive headfirst into Christmas week spent with our loved ones and hope that you’re doing the same wherever you live, the college basketball landscape looks a little peaked. After an unimpressive exams period of games last week, the bulk of this week’s games occur over the next three nights, and after that we’ll hit a four-day interregnum where most coaches allow players to take short breaks to enjoy the holiday season with their families. Tonight involved a very light slate of games but things will progressively improve until Wednesday when we’ll have a solid mid-week lineup to consider.
Your Watercooler Moment. Coach K Ties Dean at 879. With tonight’s blowout victory over Elon, Mike Krzyzewski tied his longtime rival eight miles away in Chapel Hill, Dean Smith, for the #2 spot on the all-time wins list in Division I basketball. There have been a lot of these lately; in fact, Coach K just tied and passed Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp a couple of short weeks ago, but if you ask anyone over thirty who has lived on Tobacco Road, you know that this one (and the next one where K will pass Smith) means a little more. Prior to Krzyzewski’s arrival at Duke in the early 80s, the Blue Devil program was a nice little place for basketball. They’d been to some Final Fours and had some very good teams over the years, but they were not considered an elite program anywhere near Smith’s Tar Heel program or even NC State a few more miles down I-40. K set his sights directly on matching and surpassing the talent level and existing success of the program in Chapel Hill, and within a little more than a decade he’d already been to a slew of Final Fours and won back-to-back titles (Smith matched K in 1993). Nobody in his right mind could have ever imagined that the midwesterner with the funny name at the private school in Durham could ever overtake the folksy Kansan at the public school in Chapel Hill in terms of success and stature, but Duke’s win over Elon tonight is just one more huge prong in an argument that’s long been settled: when it comes to K & Dean, Krzyzewski is the better coach, and history will quite possibly judge him as the second-best of all-time behind John Wooden. Sorry, Heels fans, but it’s true.
Upset of the Night. Jacksonville 71, Florida 68 (OT). A strange game scheduled at a strange time (1 PM) on a Monday afternoon after students have gone home, but a somewhat predictable result. Can we just go ahead and put Florida in as one of our first-round victims in the NCAA Tourney this coming March? This Gator team is a carbon copy of all the other underachievers that Billy Donovan has had in his decade-plus in Gainesville. Just switch out Kenny Boynton for Anthony Roberson and Chandler Parsons for Matt Bonner, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Donovan has only had one class in his entire tenure at Florida who actually defended their tails off and had a legitimate post presence inside — the ballyhooed Oh-Four class that happened to win a couple of national titles in 2006 and 2007. Almost every other team has relied way too much on spotty guard play with questionable decision-making skills. You can go all the way back to White Chocolate in the late 90s if you want, but the style of players are the same. Bottom line for the 2010-11 Gators: Erving Walker and Boynton shoot way too much considering how inefficient they are with the ball, and there’s no single big man among Parsons, Alex Tyus or Vernon Macklin who can guarantee you points inside when you need them. Sorry, Gator fans, but we’ve seen this Florida team too many times before.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- John Shurna. It’s not often that someone shoots 60% in a game (9-15) and his conversion rate declines, but that’s what happened with Northwestern star John Shurna tonight as he came in dropping a 64.3% and ended the night at 63.6%. With another impressive 26/6/4 stls evening, the guy is just on fire right now. His season averages of 25/5/3 APG/3 SPG are all-american caliber numbers, and the only criticism that can be levied against the 6’8 forward is that he’s doing it against inferior competition (NW’s schedule has been delectably creampuffish so far). Tomorrow night’s game against the long, athletic players on St. John’s will be somewhat instructive with how he responds.
- Kemba Watch. Kemba, you’re killing us. For the third straight game, the dynamic Husky point guard was well under the 30 PPG average he carried through the first month of the season. His 20/5/4 assts/3 stls was plenty enough for his team to beat Coppin State convincingly, but his season scoring average is now down to 27.2 PPG and we’re starting to fret. He needs to explode for forty against Harvard on Wednesday because we don’t think that next Monday’s game against Pittsburgh will be a great scoring game for him (in two games against the Panthers, he’s averaged only 10 PPG).
- Fab Was Actually, Gulp, Fab. We’ve certainly done our share of ripping the 7’0 Syracuse freshman this year, so it’s only fair that we praise him when he has a good game. In nineteen minutes against Morgan State tonight, Melo put up nine points but, more impressively, he also blocked four shots (a third of his season total). This is where Jim Boeheim is hoping to get production out of the still-awkward player — if he can play regular minutes at the base of the zone and make it very difficult for cutters to find lanes to the hole, the SU perimeter defenders become all the more difficult from whom to create space.
- Creighton’s Beastly Transfer. Creighton center Gregory Echinique has had an impressive couple of games since becoming eligible over the weekend as a transfer student from Rutgers. In just under twenty minutes a contest in two appearances, he’s averaging 14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.5 BPG and he’s already gotten to the line 23 times (making 14). The bottom line is that the 6’9, 270-pounder appears to be a difference-maker in the paint, and with the MVC looking like a one-bid league with no dominant team this season, Creighton might be positioned to make a run if Echinique’s presence can shore up their defensive struggles.
- Virginia’s Tip-In. When you hire a defensive-minded coach like Tony Bennett, you expect that low-scoring ball control nights will occasionally happen — still, UVa should feel lucky to have survived the upset bid from a 1-7 Norfolk State team tonight. After getting fouled down a single point with 4.8 seconds remaining, the Wahoos’ Assane Sene tipped in the second miss to save his team from the embarrassment of a huge upset. It was only Sene’s sixth field goal of the season, but perhaps none all season will be as important as that one.
- Memphis’ Youth Not Served (Yet). With tonight’s five-point victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Josh Pastner’s Tigers continue to struggle as they work five first-year players in their eight- or nine-man rotation. When Pastner says that his team is 9-1, though, which is only one win away from perfect at 10-0, he’s smart enough to know that the competition his young cats have been beating doesn’t even amount to CUSA quality, much less NCAA Tournament level. On Thursday night, Memphis will welcome an experienced and disciplined team in Georgetown to the FedEx Forum — if they can play inspired and intelligent basketball, they’ll have a chance to knock off a top ten team. If not, it could be very ugly, as the Hoyas are a team that feasts on sloppy play and poor decision-making. As far as we’re concerned, Memphis’ first semester final exam takes place that night.
- MSG Holiday Festival. We realize there are a lot of great matchups in MSG every winter, what with the 2kSports CvC, the PNIT and the other various made-for-television events that occur there. Next year we’ll even add the Champions Classic games to the lineup at the World’s Greatest Arena. We feel that selling a trip to New York during Christmas week shouldn’t be very tough, but St. John’s inviting Northwestern, St. Francis (NY) and Davidson to the Holiday Festival this year simply isn’t an all-star lineup (no offense to the unbeaten Wildcats, of course). Still, this event at one time convinced teams like Kentucky to bring its hordes of fans to the Big Apple for the holidays — with Steve Lavin managing the schedule now, let’s make this a marquee event during an otherwise blah week, ok?
- Last Five Minutes of St. John’s-Davidson. One reason for the above problem is that better teams need to be invited to the holiday festival. Tonight SJU and Davidson spent the entire last five minutes of the game bricking themselves into oblivion — the Wildcats finished the game 0-5 with a turnover, while the Johnnies were 0-3 with two miscues. The only saving grace for St. John’s was Dwight Hardy was able to hit three of four foul shots in the last sixteen seconds to cement the win.
Tweet of the Night. This one was actually from late last night, but it was well worth it as Butler’s Ronald Nored presented the world with some humorous wordplay upon his arrival in Hawaii. In the future, he may want to check the spelling of the flowery garland presented upon one’s arrival to the islands (“lei”), though, lest he cause significant confusion that has the Butler media relations folks scrambling to explain his TMI faux pas.