Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

When Duke and UCLA lock horns for the first time in 11 years tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City (7:30 PM EST, ESPN), plenty of offensive fireworks figure to be on display. These teams are elite offensively with UCLA ranking third nationally in points per game at 89.1 and Duke not too far behind at 86.0. For as potent as these teams are offensively, their defenses leave a lot to be desired. What we have is a recipe for an up-tempo game, lots of points, and a fun viewing experience. There are also plenty of intriguing match-ups in this game when you look at each squad’s style of play. While their statistics are similar, the teams are constructed very differently. Let’s take a look at three key questions that will decide the result of this contest.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Brings His Bruins to MSG to Face Duke Tonight (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

Much has been made of Duke’s defensive issues but defense has also been a problem for Steve Alford’s Bruins, especially when it comes to guarding the all-important three-point line. The Bruins’ 2-3 zone was torched by Missouri in their only loss of the season back on December 7. Missouri made 10 threes which proved to be the primary difference in the game. As a whole, Duke shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent of all Blue Devils’ field goal attempts are triples. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features four lethal perimeter threats and that may be too much for the Bruins to handle. While UCLA’s zone may help contain Duke’s versatile forwards from cutting to the basket, it opens the door for a Blue Devil three-point bombardment. Alford may be forced to extend the zone but his team’s performance will come down to the effort of guards like Norman Powell and a pair of freshmen (Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford) getting out to cover Duke’s shooters.

2. Will Duke be able to prevent UCLA from getting into the paint?

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UConn’s Statistical Profile Suggests a Correction is Coming, But How Far?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 19th, 2013

Entering Wednesday night’s game against Stanford, it may have been easy for UConn fans to forget about “what could have been.” Because while snake-bitten teams like to dream about where they would be with a made shot here or a missed one there, the blessed teams inevitably fail to remember just how thin that line between winning and losing actually was. After all, a win is a win, right? Or in UConn’s case, nine wins was nine wins; hence the top 10 ranking and quickly escalating expectations. But if any Huskies – players, coaches or fans – forgot that their four best victories of the young season came by a total of five points, Wednesday night’s last-second loss surely reminded them that winning and losing can often look — if not feel — very similar. But should there be cause for concern in Storrs? Or would pressing the panic button make me us just as hyper-reactionary as those who anointed Shabazz Napier and company Final Four contenders after the win over Florida? Both are fair questions, but after a clunker of a second half turned in by the Huskies, I’m wondering just how much better this UConn team is than the last.

Thursday's Loss To Stanford Notwithstanding, Shabazz Napier And Ryan Boatright Have Had A Lot To Laugh About So Far This Season. Do Tougher Times Lie Ahead For The Huskies?

Thursday’s Loss To Stanford Notwithstanding, Shabazz Napier And Ryan Boatright Have Had A Lot To Laugh About So Far This Season. Do Tougher Times Lie Ahead For The Huskies?

Last season’s Huskies were far from bad. They went 20-10 (10-8 in the Big East), and finished 47th in KenPom’s final rankings. But much like the current UConn iteration, they didn’t enjoy taking care of business until the final seconds of the game – and often in the five minutes that followed. Kevin Ollie’s first team went 5-2 in overtime contests, and played a total of nine extra periods over the course of the season. Needless to say, their smoke and mirrors stuff didn’t just get started last month.

Last year’s encouraging season elicited hope that better days were ahead. Unfortunately, little besides the raw record has hinted that this team is prepared to reward that optimism. Production is actually down for a number of key regulars — most notably Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun. Boatright actually has a lower offensive rating this season than last, despite shooting an unsustainable 42 percent from three-point range so far (he nailed 33 percent last season). Calhoun’s drop-off has been far more precipitous; his points, rebounds, and assists per game are all down — as are his percentages from the field and three.

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How Shocking Would a Perfect Wichita State Regular Season Be?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 18th, 2013

Last March, they were college basketball’s flavor of the month. This season, the Wichita State Shockers may be spending more than just a few weeks as the taste of the town. With Tuesday night’s 72-67 victory over Alabama now in the books, there’s nothing but clear skies and smooth sailing ahead for Gregg Marshall’s team. Old MVC foil Creighton is now competing in the Big East, and with a concluding schedule that features just one current top-100 team, the prospects of a WSU perfect regular season may have just bounded over that line separating dreams from reality. The Shockers should be favorites, and usually heavy ones, in every one of its contests from here on out. But all that isn’t to say that Wichita State is likely to complete this monumental task. No historian is needed to examine the case of 2012 Murray State; those Racers could tell you how owning a loss-column “0” makes February wins that much more of a chore. Opposing teams play harder, their fans cheer louder, and all the while, the national spotlight grows ever brighter. So, no the job won’t be easy. But pair a tough, talented Shockers team with that manageable remaining schedule, and you at least give the laser-focused Marshall a shot at steering them through unblemished.

Gregg Marshall's Team Improved To 11-0 With A Win In Tuscaloosa Tuesday Night. Don't Hold Your Breath -- It Might Be Awhile Before The Shockers Perfect Beginning Ends.

Gregg Marshall’s Team Improved To 11-0 With A Win In Tuscaloosa Tuesday Night. Don’t Hold Your Breath — It Might Be Awhile Before Anyone Messes With The Shockers’ Perfect Start.

If Wichita State ends up being the last team chasing perfection, and Jameer Nelson and his 2004 St. Joe’s team also happens to take their cues from the 1972 Miami Dolphins, then here are the three dates that appear most primed for a Hawks’ champagne party.

January 11 at Missouri State

The Bears failed to show off on Tuesday night, losing 90-60 at Louisville, but they won’t be the last team this season to depart the Yum! Center humbled. Paul Lusk’s team is still 8-2 on the year, and with five eminently winnable games of their own before January 11, they could easily enter this Saturday night date with the Shockers laced with momentum. The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the MVC preseason poll and have done little wrong to this point, but this would stand as a significantly bigger upset than the two games listed below.

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After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

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What Pomeroy Knows About The Current Top 25 That You Might Not

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 13th, 2013

It’s happened to many a college basketball fan (hopefully not just me). You pull up kenpom.com, just needing to check Doug McDermott’s offensive rating, or Syracuse’s adjusted tempo. You quickly accomplish your goal, but 45 minutes later, Doug McDermott’s offensive rating has morphed, several times over, into a glance at individual seasons similar to Joe Trapani’s 2007 campaign at Vermont. Fortunately, I am not here to discuss John Shurna’s freshman year (one such similar season), and instead, I’ll spare you a bit of KenPom wandering. Via college basketball’s statistical maestro, here are four takeaways in comparing his metrics with the current AP Top 25.

The Folks In The Oakland Zoo Are Probably In Agreement With Ken Pom's Take On Their Panthers; After A 9-0 Start, Pitt Is #4 With Pomeroy, But Still Unranked In The AP Poll

The Folks In The Oakland Zoo Are Probably In Agreement With KenPom’s Take On Their Panthers; After A 9-0 Start, Pitt Is #4 With Pomeroy, But Still Unranked In The AP Poll

Most Overrated/Underrated

KenPom’s ratings are never a perfect match with the polls. Expect the two evaluative systems to converge a bit as the year progresses, but let’s note the teams with the most decisive split of opinion at the moment. On the plus side of things, Pittsburgh sits at #4 in KenPom’s ratings, despite having not yet entered the AP poll. The potentially underrated (at least by AP voters) Panthers were third in “receiving votes” last week after a 9-0 start to the year. One of the teams that beat the Panthers into the poll was the Missouri Tigers, yet they rest some 37 slots below Pitt at #41 in KenPom’s rankings. Mizzou hasn’t done anything wrong yet – the Tigers are also 9-0 and coming off consecutive victories over West Virginia and UCLA – but Pomeroy’s model doesn’t yet view them as an elite squad. Other teams that pollsters are a bit keener on include Colorado (#37), San Diego State (#40), and UConn (#21).

Extremes Of The Youth Movement

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Misperceptions and Missed Perceptions: Reviewing Some Preseason Predictions

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 5th, 2013

With four weeks of basketball now in the books, it’s time to take a quick glance back at some of the things we thought we knew in the preseason. Some notions have proved accurate, but early results have tested a slew of preseason hypotheses that we once felt confident in. Here are a few examples, on both sides of the ledger:

We Thought We Knew…

Andy Enfield Was the New Coach Bringing Exciting Offensive Basketball to LA

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford's And UCLA's First Four Weeks

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford’s And UCLA’s First Four Weeks

We weren’t the only ones who thought it was USC, with Andy Enfield now at the helm – and not UCLA, with new head man Steve Alford — which was going to be lighting up Pac-12 scoreboards in the City of Angels this winter. Back in October, Enfield told his players, “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Well, USC isn’t playing slow – they are 33rd nationally in possessions per game –but they are playing slower than the Bruins, which are six spots ahead of them in that category. And if this first month means anything, perhaps Enfield should have also advised any of his players who enjoy scoring, winning, or both, to plan that transfer across town. USC is 5-3, with just one win against a team in KenPom’s top 230 (!!!) and an offensive efficiency that ranks them 170th nationally. UCLA, on the other hand, is 8-0 and averaging more than 90 PPG behind the 7th-most efficient offense in the country. Now, there is a necessary asterisk here: Alford inherited significantly more talent at his disposal than Enfield did. Even so, it was Enfield – not Alford — who invited the cross-town comparisons. The Dunk City architect better have something besides his mouth working by the time USC visits Pauley Pavilion on January 5; otherwise, his Trojans are firmly at risk of getting run out of Westwood, and contrary to popular belief, there would be nothing slow about it.  

The Complection of the Top of the Big 12

At this point, expecting Kansas to win the Big 12 generally equates to peeping out a Southern California window and looking for the sun in the morning. The Jayhawks may not have played their way out of the preseason expectation to win the Big 12 again this year, but they should have company at the top this time around. Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, post play deficiencies aside, have looked every bit the part of Big 12 title contenders themselves, and many would now peg the Cowboys as Big 12 favorites (including yours truly). Kansas State and Baylor were next in line after the Pokes and Jayhawks a month ago, but the Wildcats have suffered through a miserable opening month, while Baylor has looked as shaky as a 7-1 team with two top-40 victories can look, with two of those wins coming against non-D-I competition and three of the other five earned with a final margin of victory of five points or fewer. Iowa State now looks like the team ready to take a step up in class. The Cyclones, 7-0 with a pair of top-40 victories of their own, could easily enter the Big 12 season undefeated and prepared to further shake up a suddenly unpredictable conference race.

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Winners and Losers from the 15th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2013

The 2013-14 ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a different look this year thanks to realignment, but for the second consecutive year, the event ended in a 6-6 tie. In the end, the Challenge produced one shocking upset, showcased two Duke players heading in opposite directions, and delivered one game that set basketball back a few decades. Here are several glaring winners and losers from this year’s version:

Winners

1)       North Carolina. The most confusing team in the country went into East Lansing and knocked off the top-ranked Spartans, despite only an average night scoring the basketball by Marcus Paige.  Sure, there were injury issues on the Spartans’ side, but the ability of this UNC team to bounce back from puzzling losses to knock off powerhouses (Louisville after a home loss to Belmont; Michigan State after a road loss to UAB) speaks volumes about Roy Williams’ ability to motivate a roster he didn’t envision leaning on when the season began.

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

2)      Quinn Cook. Everyone knew about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Most of the questions about the Blue Devils were about the supporting cast. With Rasheed Sulaimon a no-show (more on that later), the inconsistent Cook of a year ago seemed like a different player as he exploited the Michigan backcourt in a solid win Tuesday night. If Cook can consistently hit his outside shot and remain largely turnover-free, a team that appeared to lean heavily on two players suddenly has more versatility at its disposal. Cook’s 24 points and nine turnovers helped keep Duke’s 13-year non-conference home winning streak alive.

3)      Iowa. Fighting off a tougher-than-expected challenge from Notre Dame with 57 percent shooting was impressive, but even more impressive was that this was the Hawkeyes’ fourth game in six days. Fran McCaffery’s bunch was coming off a solid showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing only an overtime title game to a very good Villanova squad. Iowa has a solid nucleus in Aaron White, Devyn Marble and Jared Uthoff and has already shown its natural ability to score in bunches. Their resolve in fighting off fatigue and a charging Notre Dame team spoke to their toughness. This is definitely a team worth watching in the Big Ten this season.

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Dissecting a College Hoops Revival in the DFW Metroplex

Posted by David Harten on November 6th, 2013

Say what you want about USC vs. UCLA on the west coast, but if you want to see a remarkable arms race between neighboring programs, look to the south. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, SMU began to show the rest of the college basketball world it is finally making a move when the school hired Larry Brown prior to last season. TCU did the same in a more subtle manner, moving to the Big 12 in 2012 and hiring Trent Johnson away from LSU. Quietly, two teams who have been mediocre at best in their respective hoops histories were beginning to make DFW hardwood relevant outside of the Mavericks.

Dallas-Area College Hoops Appears to be on the Rise

Dallas-Area College Hoops Appears to be on the Rise

Johnson’s first season in Fort Worth went as expected, as the Horned Frogs transitioned to a much more difficult conference. Outside of a home upset over Kansas (probably the biggest single upset of the 2012-13 season), TCU tacked on one more win in conference play and trudged to a 2-16 league record. But off the court, Johnson has steadily done his best to push the Horned Frogs toward the middle of the Big 12 pack, which seems like an impossible task for a program that has only been to seven NCAA Tournaments (none since 1998). It started with his first recruiting class, when Johnson landed journeyman guard Trey Zeigler, even if just for the one upcoming season. He also made a splash in recruiting circles by landing Dallas-area center Karviar Shepherd, who ranked as the 69th-best player in the class. To show future recruits their own commitment to building the program, the university has also announced a $45 million renovation to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

Down the road in Dallas, SMU started its road to relevancy by hiring legendary (albeit well-traveled) coach Larry Brown prior to last season. After controversially picking through his roster and cutting certain players, the 73-year old Brown landed his first solid recruiting class with point guard Sterling Brown (ranked no. 82 by Scout.com in the 2013 class), shooting guard Keith Frazier (ranked no. 33) and junior college power forward Yanick Moreira, a consensus top five JuCo prospect. Regardless of his age, Brown has an astute basketball mind that will help the Mustangs drive toward relevance in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. Couple all this with the fact that SMU also pledged a healthy chunk of change to update the basketball facilities – $47 million worth, to be exact – and you have the start of something brewing in Dallas. The Mustangs will need all of this and more to return to their first NCAA Tournament since 1993.

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Five Years Later: Has Longer Three-Point Line Achieved Desired Results?

Posted by BHayes on October 3rd, 2013

With five full seasons of college basketball’s 20-foot, 9-inch three-point line under our belt (formerly 19’9″), now would seem like a good time to take inventory on the impact of the rule change. There was ample debate back in summer 2008 on just how much of a difference the extra foot would make, but believers, and more importantly, the enforcers (the NCAA) trusted that the new line would promote better offensive spacing, and again make the three-pointer an option for only the finest of shooters. Those on the other side of the debate refused to believe that a measly 12 inches would alter a whole lot, with common refrains ranging from “players will be able to adjust very quickly” to “most three-point attempts came from well beyond the arc anyways.” So which group gets to say “I told you so” now? We have a large enough sample size to draw legitimate conclusions, but if we recall the initial objectives of the rule change – increased floor spacing and a decrease in non-shooters attempting the shot —  it’s  hard to argue that the evidence shows anything but mixed results.

Former Blue Devil Greg Paulus Was One Of Many Who Preferred The Three-Point Line Back At 19', 9" ; After Shooting 42% From Three Point Range As A Junior In 2007-08, Paulus Shot Just 34% From Beyond The Arc As A Senior (Photo Credit: Spokeo.com)

Former Blue Devil Greg Paulus Was One Of Many Who Preferred The Three-Point Line Back At 19′, 9″ ; After Shooting 42% From Three Point Range As A Junior In 2007-08, Paulus Shot Just 34% From Beyond The Arc As A Senior (Photo Credit: Spokeo.com)

At the simplest level, the new line served its purpose: Three-point shots have been harder to make since 2008-09. In the last decade, the peak of three-point shooting proficiency came in the final year of the 19’9” line, when players shot 35.02% from distance. That number immediately plummeted to 34.18% in the first year with the new line — a significant drop when you consider that the largest shift in percentage in the five years prior was just .21%. Also worth noting is that the overall percentage in each of the last five years is well below even the lowest percentage (34.49%) in the five years before the change. StatSheet has some wonderful visual representations of this data, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that college players are simply not making as many threes as they did when the line was shorter. No PhD necessary to deduce that they are also taking fewer threes – another desired outcome for the rule book authors back in 2008. Total attempts saw a drastic decline between 2007 and 2008, as the average of 38.25 3FGAs per game fell to just 36.73 in the year after the change. That number has experienced a relative flatline in the four years since – a sharp interruption to a decidedly upward trending graph in the years prior.

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New Study Unearths Spending Inequities Between Athletics and Academics

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 17th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The growing monetary influence of college sports is one of today’s mostly hotly-debated topics. Much of the discussion surrounds the NCAA, and the allegedly outdated and misguided legislation that comprises its controversial amateurism ideal and restricts student athletes from reaping the financial benefits of their athletic achievements. There is a firestorm of protest brewing in that realm, and we could soon reach a tipping point with the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. In fact, NCAA boss Mark Emmert is hoping to chip away at the organization’s shield against compensation for student-athletes by pushing through a stipend payment  – in essence, extra funds on top of grant in aid scholarships – within the next couple of years. And you count on at least a few more messy player ineligibility cases surfacing over that same span, which, inevitably, will ramp up the chorus of scrutiny on the folks in Indianapolis. Ripping the NCAA has become a seasonal exercise – the national media not only relishes the opportunity to poke holes in the organization’s moral mission. It amplifies miniscule and often nebulous procedural issues into long-winded screeds on student-athlete exploitation and “unfair” profiting off unpaid undergraduates.

Emmert Is Trying To Push Through A Stipend For Student-Athletes

That’s the stuff you hear about all the time. What may be less familiar – and there’s good reason for this – is the growing chasm between schools’ athletic and academic financial priorities. In the past decade, as the scramble for favorable television rights arrangements sent programs in a rabid conference-hopping scramble, coaches salaries were sent skyrocketing out of control (particularly in football) and athletic staffs multiplied, the dividing line between “athletic” and “academic” priorities on college campuses has reached an uncomfortable balance. The goal of maintaining academic standards while trying to keep up in the financial arms race that underlies today’s intercollegiate sports world has skewed university spending balances towards athletics.

This is nothing new. But thanks to a comprehensive study at American Institutes for Research in conjunction with the project reform Knight Commission on intercollegiate athletics, we now have a clearer picture on the specifics of how funds are allocated between academic and athletic resources. To no great surprise, our foremost suspicions are correct. Athletes are indeed, far greater financial responsibilities than students for universities. How much greater? According to the  study, universities are spending, on average, anywhere between six-to-12 times more on athletes than non-athletes. In dollars, the disparity is as follows (on average): $164,000 per athlete to $13,390 per student.

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Rick Majerus, Passed Away at 64, Leaves a Remarkable Legacy

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 2nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The stylistic permissiveness of college basketball is one of its best qualities. Unlike the professional game, talent does not always trump tactical wisdom. Athleticism and depth advantages are often negated by disciplined defense and judicious offense. Contrary to what last year’s Kentucky might lead you to believe, you don’t always need the very best players to win. What you need is simple: a comprehensive knowledge of offensive and defensive principles; a brazen disregard for the formalities of coaching etiquette, and an undying thirst to live, breathe and absorb every last bit of college basketball information into your memory. Just ask Rick Majerus.

Few coaches impacted the college game like Majerus did (Photo credit: Getty Images).

When I heard that Majerus, 64, had passed away after a long and well-documented struggle with heart problems – problems that caused him to take a leave absence from St. Louis prior to this season and announce his resignation from the Billiken program weeks after the word – I grieved the loss of not only one of the most entertaining sideline bosses of my sports-watching childhood, but of the greatest technical wizard I have ever seen coach a college basketball game.

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Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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