Amile Jefferson Channels His Inner Zoubek

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 4th, 2014

He knew he had it within him all along. The skinny 6’9” “power” forward from Philadelphia had always played with an infectious sense of energy — the quintessential ‘hype man’ for Duke. But in Amile Jefferson’s freshman season, he primarily logged spot duty minutes at a clip of about 13 minutes per game. Stuck behind senior frontcourt leaders Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Jefferson struggled to get into a groove and find a defined role in Duke’s system. Coming into this year, the 2012 McDonald’s All-American made it his business to add weight to his frame so he could take advantage of a vacuum of low-post talent in the frontcourt.

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K's lessons to heart

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K’s lessons to heart

Without a true post presence on the floor but all his other pieces aligning, Mike Krzyzewski needed either Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee or senior Josh Hairston to anchor the post while flanked by perimeter-oriented forwards Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Given that the Parker/Hood tandem is a highly efficient scoring duo, the center role in Duke’s scheme this year primarily requires competent rebounding, post defense, and communication while anchoring the back line of the defense. While Jefferson will never be the kind of defensive shot-blocking presence as Kansas’ Joel Embiid or Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski, he can arguably check the boxes that Duke desires in a big man.

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From Punching Bag to Prize Fighter: Mason Plumlee’s Journey to the NBA

Posted by mpatton on April 24th, 2013

When he arrived at Duke, Mason Plumlee – despite his obvious upside — was actually ranked below teammate Ryan Kelly, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Kelly was ranked #14 in the class, while Plumlee was #18. Even more fascinating to look back at are Plumlee’s Draft Express archives. Coming out of his first season at Duke, the scouting service looked for Plumlee to continue to develop as a stretch four! To be fair, he did hit 21 threes in 38 games in his prep senior season (unfortunately his shooting percentage is unavailable), but Plumlee’s transformation from a flat-shooting, athletic, potential-stretch four to one of the premier post players in college basketball is a compelling story.

Miles Plumlee (AP Photo)

Mason Plumlee underwent a compelling transformation at Duke (AP Photo).

During his freshman year Plumlee was buried behind Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and older brother Miles Plumlee. He still contributed significant minutes to the 2010 national championship team, but he was raw in the purest sense of the word. His sophomore efficiency profile, with two glaring exceptions, actually started looking a lot like the NPOY candidate we saw this year. The two massive improvements Plumlee made since that season were in terms of volume and taking care of the basketball. But obviously, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Mason Plumlee was a very different player as a senior than he was as a sophomore.

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Night Line: Duke Resembling Its 2010 Championship Team?

Posted by EJacoby on November 25th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The Maui Invitational finals played to an instant classic last night, with Duke leaving the island as champions yet again. Coach K and the Blue Devils are now a perfect 15-0 in their five trips to Maui. Duke has won the first seven games of this season, and a team that nearly lost its season-opener at home to Belmont is starting to establish an identity. Upon further review, the 2011-’12 Blue Devils might just begin to resemble the 2009-’10 team that cut down the nets as NCAA Tournament champions. Just to be clear — no, this is not to say that Duke is the title favorite this season — teams like Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UConn may be better built for long-term success. But the 2010 Blue Devils were a surprise champion, and this Duke team has a similar make-up.

Duke Doesn't Look Like a National Champ, But It Didn't in 2010 Either (Kemper Lesnik/B. Spurlock)

Duke started five upperclassmen (Smith, Scheyer, Singler, Thomas, Zoubek) in 2010 and turned to their bench for youth and energy. This year’s team starts four upperclassmen (Curry, Dawkins, Kelly, Mason Plumlee) and brings sophomore Tyler Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook off the bench, along with senior Miles Plumlee, to provide a spark. The biggest difference here is that freshman Austin Rivers is starting on the wing where the 2010 team had a junior leader, Kyle Singler, filling that role. But Rivers (14.4 PPG) is so far having a similar scoring impact on the game that Singler (17.7 PPG) did, and the rookie will no doubt continue to improve as the season goes along. While this year’s backcourt of Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are not the big-name stars or volume scorers that Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer were, the two have seen tremendous improvements from last season and are playing at a very high level. This year’s team makes up for the small backcourt-scoring gap with Mason Plumlee’s offensive contributions down low. Plumlee averages 11.4 points per game so far, while no inside player averaged more than 5.6 PPG for the champions.

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Duke’s Post Players: Has Reality Caught Up with Perception?

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

For the last ten years, fairly or unfairly, Duke has had the perception of being all backcourt all the time. Long gone are the days where Christian Laettner, Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer graced the court in Durham. In describing his recruitment decision to attend Michigan last week, Mitch McGary let it all out: “all [Duke’s] big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Josh McRoberts' Relative Lack of Success at Duke Still Haunts the Blue Devils

Duke Hoop Blog looked at this perception, which moves closer to reality as the memory of its last dominant big man, Shelden Williams, fades out of casual fan memory. The author comes to the conclusion that the Williams/Redick era is the answer, and I see his argument. But I don’t think it’s that simple, or even the biggest factor in Duke’s relative decrease in a post presence over the last ten years. I think the real argument is much more complex and is a combination of four main factors:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Team Preview: Duke

Posted by mpatton on November 2nd, 2011

And then there were two.

Duke is a very tough team to project this season. The Blue Devils lost their top three players (Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving) from last season, but there’s still plenty of talent and a Hall of Fame coach on the sideline in Durham. Thoughtful preseason rankings slot Duke anywhere from fourth to ninth nationally, which seem very reasonable for where Duke could finish the season — not necessarily where it should start.

The team’s two major questions are, “who will run the offense?” and “will any of the frontcourt players finally live up to his potential?” Duke’s relative success depends almost solely on these questions. Of course, one thing we forget is that both questions also faced the Blue Devils when Kyrie Irving went down after the Butler game last year. To that point Nolan Smith had not played much point guard since the first half of the 2009-10 season. During Duke’s National Championship year Mike Krzyzewski moved Smith to the off-ball position, ceding the point guard spot to Jon Scheyer. If not for Brian Zoubek’s miraculous ascension from unproductive bench-warmer to one of Duke’s most important pieces, the guard switch would have garnered much more attention. Smith excelled while working off the ball and Scheyer limited Duke’s turnovers to the absolute minimum.

Duke Needs Seth Curry to Take Over as Floor General This Year.

But once Kyrie Irving’s foot problem arose last season, Duke was again left without a quarterback. The best choice was to move Smith back to the point, although Krzyzewski experimented with Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry there briefly as well. The result was Smith leading the ACC in scoring and nearly leading the conference in assists. Of course Smith was a special player. His career arc only answers the question that it’s possible for Seth Curry to step up and lead Duke. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Perfect Storm Leads to St. John’s Rout of Duke and Raises Questions About the Blue Devils

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2011

It was a game with a result that was shocking not so much for the fact that St. John’s beat Duke, but the manner in which they did so. Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, the Red Storm had lost five of six after raising expectations with a win over Georgetown at the beginning of an unprecedented stretch of eight consecutive games against top 25 teams. That skid had threatened to put a damper on all the hype that had accompanied Steve Lavin‘s arrival in New York City and his much-ballyhooed incoming freshman class, but for one afternoon all of that was forgotten as the Red Storm put on as dominant of a performance against such a high caliber opponent as any St. John’s team has had since the days when they were still called the politically incorrect Redmen, Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines, and Walter Berry and Chris Mullin donned the uniform. Today, the newest generation of St. John’s players turned in a performance that certainly made Carnesecca and Berry (both in attendance today) proud.

St. John's Brought Back Ancient Memories This Afternoon

Behind a full court press than left Duke looking sloppy and some hot shooting, the Red Storm ran away with a 93-78 victory that was not as close as the 15-point final margin indicates. In front of a sellout crowd of 19,353 at Madison Square Garden that was nearly 50-50 in terms of allegiance to Duke or St. John’s, the Red Storm played their best basketball of the season and took advantage of the Blue Devils playing their worst. Even though Mike Krzyzewski seemed to imply in his post-game press conference that this game was an isolated incident, it does raise questions about the defending champions. On one hand we can probably discount Duke’s 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range (and 1-for-19 before a late hot streak after the game was out of reach made the final numbers more respectable) as an aberration, but there were several other aspects of the game that should not be dismissed as easily.

  • Duke’s lack of athleticism: Last season Doug Gottlieb caught some heat from Coach K for calling the Blue Devils “alarmingly unathletic.” While it may not have been the politically correct thing to say, there was some truth to the statement. Outside of perhaps Mason Plumlee, none of the current Blue Devils will amaze any NBA scout with their athleticism. This doesn’t mean that Duke isn’t athletic enough to win the title (their biggest losses from last year’s championship team are Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, who were probably the two least athletic players in last year’s starting line-up), but it does mean that this Duke team isn’t going to blow any elite team off the court with their athletes, and, in certain situations like today when their shots are not falling, they are vulnerable to inferior teams.
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That’s Debatable: Impact of Kyrie Irving’s Injury on Duke

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com

This Week’s Topic: News was released yesterday that Duke superstar point guard Kyrie Irving could be out from a month to the rest of the season with a toe injury.  How will this impact the nation’s #1 team and its team chemistry?  Does this mean that the way-too-early undefeated season talk is now ludicrous?  Give us your thoughts.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

An injury to the starting point guard of the best team in the nation? Yes. That matters. The argument could be made that Kyrie Irving had been the best player on the Duke team in the early going, and now without him for the near future, or potentially the whole season, the Blue Devils will have adjust their roles on the fly. Luckily for Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has a couple of excellent guards in reserve – look no further than sophomore Andre Dawkins’ excellent first performance in the absence of Irving – but while the loss of Irving in the short term could be dealt with, the potential loss of Irving for the season would be a blow to their national title hopes. Sure, Duke still has enough talent on that roster to remain the favorite for the national title, but anytime you lose one of the most dynamic players in the country, that’s an awful blow. Until more is known, the Devils will need to plan for the rest of their season as if Irving will be unavailable, with their backcourt taking on new roles and new minutes, but if there is anywhere around the country where the potential loss of such a player is manageable, it is in Durham.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

The way-too-early undefeated talk was always ludicrous, but that’s why it’s fun.  The truth is: Duke is a very good, arguably great, team that’s won eight good games.  To go undefeated they’d have to win 32 more in a row.  That alone is ludicrous.  Talk shouldn’t get serious until February.  I don’t think Irving’s injury will hurt “undefeated” chances unless he’s out for longer than a month.  Right now Duke is looking at cupcake city until Miami (home) on January 2.  Miami is a pretty good, although inconsistent, team, but I don’t think they’re good enough to go into Cameron and win with or without Irving.  He seamlessly integrated into the offense to start the season, and I think he can do it again.  If anything this could help Duke’s team mature: especially guys like Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee.  Curry especially could see a lot of extra time at the point spot, which should make the team run better without Irving (so far they’ve struggled at times without his presence).  Duke won’t be better without Irving, that’s ridiculous.  But the time without him could really help some of the role players improve with in-game experience.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

It doesn’t matter much if he’s out for a month or two. If Kyrie Irving is out for the entire season, the primary impact will be on Duke’s NCAA title chances. They’ll still win the ACC and probably get a top seed in the tournament but the loss of Irving will be felt in the later rounds when they run into similarly talented opponents. The schedule between now and the end of January isn’t tough at all, even without Irving. The toughest games are road trips to Florida State and NC State, two games in which the Blue Devils will still be strong favorites. As has been pointed out by many, Duke does not play a currently ranked team for the rest of the season though I have a feeling North Carolina and possibly Temple will find their way back into the rankings at some point. In all likelihood, Coach K will turn to Andre Dawkins as his fifth starter and shift Nolan Smith over to point guard. That shouldn’t be a problem for the experienced Smith, already averaging five assists per game. As for the undefeated talk, I’ve maintained it has been ludicrous from the beginning. Duke is not some otherworldly team. They are the best but they’re going to lose at some point during the regular season. I don’t know who will beat them but it’s going to happen. This is college basketball where anything can happen on any given night.

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The Cases For & Against a Duke Unbeaten Season

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

If you haven’t heard, this year’s Duke team is pretty darn good.  The defending national champions are loaded with talent on every area of the court and they’ve looked mighty impressive in the pre-conference slate against an impressive cast of characters — #5 Kansas State, #6 Michigan State, Marquette and defending runner-up, Butler.  As great teams are expected to do, they’ve  handled the contenders and destroyed the pretenders on their way to an 8-0 record. According to Ken Pomeroy’s latest figures, the Blue Devils have the most efficient offense in the nation and the fifth-most efficient defense — their efficiency margin of 36.8 points per 100 possessions is the best around, and they’ve been doing it against a schedule that rates in the top 25 through the first month of the season.  On most nights, the talented combination of playmakers featuring the versatile trio of Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will be enough to secure another win for Coach K’s team; on the rare night when the offense sputters, the Blue Devil defense will keep the game close until the last few possessions, and Duke will have arguably the best point guard in the game handling the rock in crunch time. What’s not to like?

One of the Few Things Coach K Hasn't Done is Go Unbeaten

With the usually-reliable ACC looking like a mangled mess of mediocrity outside of Durham this year, some of the early-season buzz has already noted that Duke has gotten through the toughest part of its 2010-11 regular season schedule.  Liberally allowing for many of those good-not-great teams (i.e., Virginia Tech, UNC, Maryland, BC, etc.) to put it together and make the NCAA Tournament this year, Duke will have at most between 6-10 remaining games against quality competition the rest of the way, making for an interesting barstool debate over whether the Devils can run the table this season.  The argument goes as such:

  1. The remaining nonconference schedule is manageable.  Even considering the ACC as down (see #2), there are seven more non-conference games on the slate.  The next four — Bradley, St. Louis, Elon, UNC-Greensboro — are home or quasi-home games that Duke should have no trouble with.  Two others — UAB and Temple — are also home games that they typically win, although they’ll need to perform well against the Owls.  The last — a roadie to play St. John’s in another familiar environment, Madison Square Garden — is interesting on its face but will ultimately depend on how much Steve Lavin’s team progresses over the next two months.
  2. The ACC is down, way down.  In a typical year the best team in the ACC can expect to be put through the ringer with trips to Maryland, UNC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, etc., pending.  Duke has all of those road games on the schedule, but already half of those teams have lost home games this year, and all of them will eventually.  The essential point is that if you’re not good enough to generally protect your home court against the likes of Stetson, Virginia or even Florida, you’re not likely to do so against Duke, an outfit that prides itself on road conference wins.
  3. Duke is not a team that is prone to many letdowns.  There are some schools that for whatever reason do not seem to take the regular season as seriously as they do the postseason.  Michigan State comes to mind immediately, but there are others.  Coach K has never been one of those coaches — in fact, a common critique through the mid-late 2000s was that he wore his teams down by overworking them during the regular season so that they had nothing left in the tank for the NCAAs.  Still, the Devils more than any other team and regardless of personnel tend to come strong all year long.  It’s difficult to catch them snoozing, one of the key recipes for a team to pull a major upset. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Instant Analysis: Noon Games (12.04.10)

Posted by nvr1983 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. You can expect posts around the following times:

  • 3 PM for the Noon and 1 PM games
  • 5 PM for the 2 PM and 3 PM games
  • 10 PM for the 7 PM and 8 PM games

If you have any thoughts (agreeing or disagreeing) about what we say, leave a comment and we will respond.

Instant Analysis

  1. Tyler Zeller was phenomenal (27 points including 8/13 FG and 11/12 FT, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks) today admittedly against a weak Kentucky interior defense (we will get to that in a bit), but he has shown that when healthy, which has been pretty rarely while he has been in Chapel Hill, he is one of the premier interior players in the ACC. The combination of Zeller and John Henson, who has developed nicely as well as he added a few low-post moves during the off-season even if he didn’t add on any pounds, could make the Tar Heels competitive for 2nd place in the ACC (read: everybody in the ACC except Duke). If Zeller keeps playing this way and can avoid injuring himself (again), he should be a lottery pick after this season.
  2. Neither Kentucky nor UNC is ready for prime-time yet. Both teams have serious deficiencies–Kentucky on the inside and UNC at point guard–that will limit them to being Sweet 16 teams at best. Kentucky’s problem can be solved, or at least mitigated, by the possibility that Enes Kanter could regain his eligibility especially in light of the NCAA’s decision on Cam Newton. If the NCAA does not rule in favor of the Wildcat, they will need some of their athletic, but less physical interior players to pick up the slack, which I don’t think they can do on a consistent basis. On the other sideline, Roy Williams has to figure out what to do at point guard. Larry Drew II isn’t going to cut it in March and while Kendall Marshall had stretches where he looked like he could be their starting point guard today he also had stretches where he looked like a lost intramural team point guard. As for Reggie Bullock, he could be a very good point guard some day, but that day is not in the near future. The Tar Heels showed that they could be a dangerous team especially if Barnes ever gets on track, but their lack of reliable point guard play will hold them back from being a 1st- or even 2nd-tier team.
  3. Having already commented on the UNC guards I would be remiss not to comment on Brandon Knight. The Wildcats will have to address their inside issues, which may be alleviated by Kanter, but they will also need Brandon Knight to continue to mature. He puts up solid numbers (15 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists) today and looked much better than he did in Maui, but he need to work on his decision-making (6 turnover today against those 3 assists) and he was playing was against shaky opposing guards today. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the SEC is weak this year (again) so Knight will not be playing against quality guards that often so we won’t have a good barometer of how Knight has progressed until the NCAA Tournament. Advancing deep in March with a freshman point guard is incredibly difficult particularly without experienced players around him, but John Calipari and Big Blue Nation will be counting on Knight to deliver in March.
  4. Harrison Barnes is still a work-in-progress. Although he showed flashed of brilliance like the 7 points in a row capped by an emphatic put-back dunk in the first half, his play is too inconsistent (5 points the rest of the game) for Tar Heel fans to rely on. As we mentioned on Twitter earlier, there is no question that he has all the physical basketball skills you could ask for, but I still get the feeling that he is missing “it” (the ability to translate those skills into production on the court). It’s quite possible that he could develop into a dynamic player this season and will still be a top 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft because of his athleticism, but I don’t think he will become a 1st team All-ACC player this season much less a 1st team All-American.
  5. Despite their lack of star power on the inside don’t forget to put Georgetown on the short list of title contenders. Their inside players might not put up big numbers and they might be at a significant disadvantage when they play against a team with excellent interior players, but they do just enough to let their guards, who are fantastic, win the games. I’m not saying they are going to duplicate what Duke did last season, but John Thompson III can point to what the Blue Devils did last year with excellent play from their perimeter players and their inside players (particularly Brian Zoubek) doing what they need to do (rebound and play solid defense) as an example of what his team can aim for.
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Behind the Numbers: New Duke, Same As the Old Duke?

Posted by KCarpenter on November 17th, 2010


Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.

Last year, as you are probably aware, Duke won it all. They enter this season as the easy top pick in all the national polls and the consensus favorite to cut down the nets in the early spring of 2011. With Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith sticking around for one last hurrah, a sensational recruiting class starring the incredibly skilled Kyrie Irving, and Coach K masterminding things as usual, picking Duke as the best team in the country is pretty easy. Duke is going to be very, very good this year. Here’s the real question, though: Will this year’s incarnation of the Blue Devils be as good as last year’s? The consensus seems to be yes, but there is reason to  lend an ear to dissenting voices crying out from the wilderness.

The reason has to do with offensive efficiency and may need a little explaining. Last year Duke was easily the most efficient team in the land on offense. They did this not by shooting the lights out (though they shot well), but by each player making sure they did other things to help their team on offense. Let me clarify: when I talk about “offensive efficiency,” I am talking very specifically about the Dean Oliver conception of it, which is a simple measure of how well a team scores per possession given a key Four Factors. The Factors are effective field goal percentage, turnovers per possession, offensive rebounding, and free throw rate. So while Duke was only moderately good at shooting the basketball last season (#92 in D-I), they made their opportunities count by rarely turning over the ball (#15 in D-I) and rebounding their misses at an astounding rate (40.3% of misses, good for #7 in D-I). The low turnovers and superb offensive rebounding are what made Duke’s offense so efficient and deadly, despite good-but-not-great shooting and a very average rate of getting to the free throw line (#158 in D-I for those who care).

Duke May Miss This Big Guy More Than Expected This Season

So, here is where we get to the trouble: Duke’s success at preventing turnovers and getting offensive rebounds, which strongly drove Duke’s overall success, depended largely on the efforts of two players. Those players, in case you can’t guess, are the departed Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, to whom the Blue Devils are probably more indebted to than they realize.

Obviously, while Scheyer was the team’s leading scorer and his scoring contributions will be missed, his value to Duke went far beyond points. Scheyer was the team’s primary ball-handler and play-maker and did this ball-handling and play-making virtually mistake-free, which is astonishing. Despite having the most opportunities for a turnover, Scheyer coughed up the ball less than any other player on the team. Now while Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler should rightfully be credited for their skill at taking care of the ball, let’s be clear: Scheyer’s mistake-free play-making will be missed, and as good as Kyrie Irving is, it’s highly unlikely that a freshman point guard will be able to match Scheyer in this regard. It’s in fact very likely that the Blue Devils will turn the ball over a lot more than last season.

And if it’s very likely that turnovers will go up, it’s almost certain that offensive rebounds will go down. The incredible success of Duke at offensive rebounding is almost entirely owed to Zoubek, who not only led the ACC in having a name that sounds the most like a Pokemon but also was the best offensive rebounder in college basketball. By way of example: Duke had eleven offensive rebounds in the championship game against Butler, and Zoubek had six of those. This type of performance from the 7’1 big man was the norm. Now, Zoubek is gone, and his heirs in the frontcourt have yet to display anywhere near his level of skill at yanking down misses. While Zoubek grabbed 21.4% of the Blue Devils’ misses, the next best rebounder, Miles Plumlee, managed to grab only 11.1%. Mason Plumlee’s 9.1% and Ryan Kelly’s astonishingly poor 2.9% don’t offer much cause for hope either. These numbers considered, it seems very unlikely that Duke will be able to match last year’s incredible effort on the offensive boards.

Turnovers will probably increase and offensive rebounds will probably decrease, which means offensive efficiency is facing a drop, even if Duke somehow manages to keep up its world-class defense and replace all other lost offensive production. Now, am I saying Duke is going to be bad? No, I’m not. Duke will be very good, but unless a couple things happen, they won’t be in the same class as the national champion 2009-10 team. What we are probably looking at is something closer to  the 2007-08, or 2008-09 vintage Duke, which is good for about the same regular season record but with a few more particularly surprising losses and a much shorter postseason. That said, here are some other things that could happen: Duke’s shooting this year could be so good that drops in offensive rebounding and a rise in turnovers could be totally offset. Kyrie Irving and the other rookies could be even better than John Wall and the Kentucky freshmen were last year, making everyone forget  about Scheyer and Zoubek. Either of those things could happen. The conclusion is this, though — lots of things go right for Duke and I never count Coach K out, but the improbable is improbable, the unlikely remains unlikely, and “could” isn’t the same as “will.” That’s as true in Cameron Indoor as anywhere else in America, so let’s pack up our laurel wreaths and anointing oils until 2011.

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RTC Live: Princeton @ #1 Duke

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2010

Game #10RTC Live is pleased to make our first trip into the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University this afternoon.

The Duke home opener is always a special day in Durham, but today’s game commands even more attention than usual. An extra banner hangs from the ceiling of Cameron Indoor Stadium, and this team enters with pressure its predecessor didn’t have: expectations of another national title. Questions do exist for Mike Krzyzewski’s team, though. Can Kyle Singler improve, or was last year his ceiling? How do Duke’s young guards fill in for Jon Scheyer? Will Seth Curry live up to the hype? How much playing time will Coach K give freshman Kyrie Irving? And was Brian Zoubek one of the most underrated players in college basketball in 2009-10? The preseason #1 Duke Blue Devils will have their first opportunity to answer those questions against the unranked Princeton Tigers. Princeton enters today’s game after an overtime win against Rutgers to open the season on Friday. The Tigers’ first win against a major conference opponent since 2004 was largely the work of senior Dan Mavraides, who had 26 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 41 minutes of play. Princeton’s 6’11 center, Brendan Connolly, added 7 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, and needs to replicate that performance if the Tigers hope to keep Duke’s big men in check. If you can’t be in Cameron for the game, join up here and let RTC Live be there for you.

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2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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