ACC M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: If you don’t read anything else today, read this Tommy Tomlinson piece on Dean Smith. It’s well-written and heartbreaking.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In more upbeat news, Wake Forest knocked off Duke at the Joel last night. This was the first time since 2009 that the Demon Deacons have beaten Duke, North Carolina and NC State at home. It shouldn’t be enough to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job, but it does give Travis McKie some return on his four-year investment in the program. Duke’s offense sputtered against Wake Forest’s zone down the stretch, allowing the Demon Deacons to effectively close out the game on a late 17-0 run. Another side note is that Coach K experienced some dizziness during the game and opted for Steve Wojciechowski to take his place at the press conference podium after the loss.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: If you ever wonder why Patrick Stevens gets paid the big bucks, it’s because he’s a saint for breaking out all the possible iterations of the ACC Tournament heading into the final weekend. While the scenarios are complex, they’re slowly narrowing. The top of the league is much more set than the bottom (at this point, all of the byes and double-byes are clinched). But Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are a complete mess.
  4. Washington Post: Drama in College Park. as Charles Mitchell got into a heated discussion with assistant Scott Spinelli. The explosion feels out of character, as Mitchell normally appears to be an easy-going guy on the bench. Suffice to say that it will be handled in house.
  5. USA Today: Man, a lot of people who had Syracuse as an overall #1 seed last week are singing a different tune this week. I won’t get on board that train, although the Orange are certainly not doing themselves seeding favors or otherwise by losing to Georgia Tech.
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Renewing The Rivalry: Previewing Duke vs. North Carolina

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Lathan Wells on February 12th, 2014

After the first week and a half of ACC conference play, Duke and North Carolina were struggling with a combined 1-5 record and fans had to wonder if the ACC’s two flagship programs were headed for disaster. Just four weeks later, these are two of the hottest teams around. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are a combined 13-2 over that stretch, with the only losses for Duke at Syracuse and at UNC at Virginia. Of course that means that we could be in for another Duke vs. North Carolina classic in Chapel Hill tonight (9:00 PM ET – ESPN). In many ways this game should resemble most of their contests – intense, fast-paced, with several swings of momentum. Also as usual, it looks like it will be a match-up of Duke’s quickness and three-point marksmanship versus North Carolina’s size and inside power. Duke will look to extend an odd trend where the Blue Devils have won the last seven times the team’s first meeting of the year is at the Smith Center, and the road team has won 11 of the last 20 regular season meetings.

Roy Williams and Coach K bring contrasting squads together tonight in renewing their rivalry (credit: gettysports)

Roy Williams and Coach K bring contrasting squads together tonight in renewing their rivalry (credit: gettysports)

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key questions for tonight’s game, as RTC’s Brad Jenkins and Lathan Wells go back and forth on what each team needs to do to win.

Brad Jenkins: Given North Carolina’s lack of perimeter depth and the fact that Duke is second in the country in three point shooting (42.0%), featuring six different players who have made at least 20 threes this season, how can the Tar Heels keep the Blue Devils from shooting them right out of their own gym tonight?

Lathan Wells: North Carolina’s perimeter defense has been impressive in conference play, and it really starts with J.P. Tokoto and Marcus Paige.  Tokoto often draws the team’s best or most versatile perimeter threat, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shadowing Rodney Hood in this contest. Paige will be tasked with guarding whoever is at the point, presumably Quinn Cook. The Tar Heels have done a good job of rotating to and closing out on shooters, but foul trouble would doom their ability to combat the multitude of outside options Duke will run at them. The backcourt starters will have to play a lot of minutes to keep Duke’s long-range attempts heavily contested. While North Carolina is trying to figure out how to stymie Duke’s perimeter game, how are the Blue Devils going to slow down a reinvigorated James Michael McAdoo?

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ACC M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Rasheed Sulaimon has been one of the more interesting players to follow in the conference this season. He was a presumed star in Duke’s rotation after a strong freshman campaign before spending much of the start of the season on the bench. Then he became the go-to player for Duke’s second rotation as the Blue Devils righted the ship. Now, he’s tentatively taken over the starting point guard role while Quinn Cook is struggling through a slump. As a freshman Sulaimon showed a knack for finding the open man, so his new role fits. Suddenly Duke is less reliant on Cook to run the offense, which only makes the team more dangerous over the next couple of months.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article really surprised me. I know Syracuse‘s 22-game winning streak is a big deal, but I had no idea that it ranked so highly among unbeaten starts in league history. Syracuse is already tied for the third-best start ever in the ACC. The rest of the list? 1980-81 Virginia started 22-0 on its way to the Final Four (Ralph Sampson’s sophomore campaign); 1972-73 NC State’s unbeaten season on probation (David Thompson’s sophomore year); and 1956-57 North Carolina unbeaten year, which won the national title, 54-53 (in three overtimes!), over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: I’m on board with Jerry Ratcliffe’s general premise that the ACC isn’t getting its due (thanks to a horrible bottom of the conference), but let the record show that Florida State isn’t underperforming. They’ve played a hellacious league schedule and still have a reasonable chance for an at-large bid. It’s tough to expect better than that after last year’s disaster. Go ahead and add Clemson (tentatively), Pittsburgh and Miami to the list of ACC teams playing better than expected. North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College are certainly on the wrong side of expectations, but as a whole the ACC’s chronicles of woe are mostly thanks to overzealous preseason expectations.
  4. WRAL Sports Fan: Put me down as a second to Adam Gold’s idea for an ACC double-header of Duke-Syracuse and North Carolina-Louisville during the weekend of next season’s Super Bowl. Hell, why not throw in Virginia and Pittsburgh for those who prefer a slower game. While you’re at it, put me down for whatever it takes for the Blue Devils and Orange to face off twice a year while they have their respective Hall of Famers still at the helm.
  5. Bleacher Report: Here comes another interview with PJ Hairston. He’s learned a valuable lesson: Don’t read message boards. Probably the most interesting quote in this piece was from Hairston’s assistant coach, Hollis Price, after Hairston dove for a loose ball in practice: “That’s a credit to Roy Williams and the things he instilled in him,” said Price, laughing. “But I told him, ‘P.J., you’re not in college anymore. You’ve got to protect your money, especially in practice.” And you wonder why elite college coaches don’t always pan out at the next level?
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Heading to New York, Duke Looking for Answers on Defense

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 27th, 2013

Duke’s 91-90 victory over Vermont Sunday night may be the most disappointing win Mike Krzyzewski has ever had during his long tenure patrolling the sidelines in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It wasn’t so much that the underdog Catamounts almost pulled off the biggest upset in over 30 years in Cameron, but it was how easily the Blue Devils made it for them to do so. To say Duke’s defense was bad is an understatement. It was historically bad.

Coach K Critical of Team's Defensive Effort vs Vermont (Photo:cbssports.com)

Coach K Critical of Team’s Defensive Effort vs Vermont.
(cbssports.com)

Going back to 2003, when Ken Pomeroy began tracking advanced statistics, only twice before has a visiting team come in to Durham and posted an offensive efficiency of over 1.25 points per possession. The 2009 eventual national champion North Carolina squad posted a 1.28 PPP in a 101-87 UNC win. Then in 2012, the Tar Heels did it again, beating Duke 88-70 while scoring 1.26 points per trip. While Vermont is never going to be confused with either of those North Carolina teams that were #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the Catamounts blew those numbers away. Unbelievably, Vermont shredded Duke for 90 points in a 65-possession game. That works out to an astounding 1.39 points per possession. Not only is that the highest allowed in Cameron in the last 12 years, it’s the highest number against Duke anywhere during that time. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Team Preview: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2013

Duke had a successful 2013-14 season but it will be remembered as three seasons in one. Led by the senior trio of Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, Duke got off to the best start in the country, winning its first 15 games against a very tough schedule. Then Kelly went down with a foot injury and the Blue Devils dropped to merely a good team, going 9-4 without him in the lineup. Kelly’s dramatic return in a 79-76 win over eventual ACC champion Miami gave hope to Duke as a national title contender, but they couldn’t quite get there, losing to a superior Louisville team in the Elite Eight.

Duke Preview 2013

Ordinarily, losing three quality starting seniors would indicate a worse season to come, but thanks to a pair of highly regarded new forwards, Duke is expected to remain a national contender. Mike Krzyzewski has also made it clear that a change in style is coming. Duke will not have the veteran post players it had last year, but it will be a much more athletic and deeper team so look for the Blue Devils to push the tempo on both ends of the court. It’s been said that the makeup of this team is similar to Coach K’s 2012 USA Olympic team. That team lacked a true post scorer and was built around versatile play-making forwards on offense and a switching pressure defense. Look for Krzyzewski to use that experience to build this Duke team in the same fashion.

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Duke Looking to Run Early and Often With This Year’s Roster

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 26th, 2013

Duke’s roster this season is merely a shell of its former self. Gone is the backbone of the team, gone are the three seniors, gone are the leaders, gone are 47.9 PPG. You get the point. Duke lost its three leading scorers and a huge part of its 30-win Elite Eight team. Yet people are excited about the prospects of this team, even perhaps more excited than last season. Duke returns both its junior floor general, Quinn Cook, and its sophomore shooting guard and McDonald’s All-American, Rasheed Sulaimon. Another two McDonald’s All-Americans return in sophomore forward Amile Jefferson and redshirt sophomore center Marshall Plumlee. Where Duke changes up the offensive schemes and flips the script is with the two future NBA swingmen on the roster, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and blue-chip freshman Jabari Parker.

Quinn Cook calls Duke's new offense 'a point guard's dream' (USA Today)

Quinn Cook calls Duke’s new offense ‘a point guard’s dream’ (USA Today)

Don’t be mistaken, though, Duke is still Duke. They will continue to have shooters spotting up around the arc for open looks: postgraduate sniper Andre Dawkins, freshman Matt Jones, Sulaimon, Cook, and even senior perimeter stopper Tyler Thornton all can and will fire away with a green light from deep. But as ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan pointed out in a recent excerpt about Duke, Mike Krzyzewski above all adapts to his team’s strengths. And with a team full of athletic and versatile players like Parker, Sulaimon, Hood, and Jefferson, Krzyzewski has this year’s team poised to run early and often. “Last year’s team couldn’t run like this team can now,” senior captain Thornton exclaimed.

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New-Look ACC Ready to Proclaim Itself Best Conference Ever… But Is It?

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2013

The 2013-14 Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball season is a mere three weeks away, but the buzz about the conference’s potential began in early July when Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame officially became members. The staggering history among the conference’s basketball programs was thus enhanced, and talk about the dynastic possibilities of the ACC in the present and years to come has been touched on by just about every coach in the league. The coaching legend that is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski famously exclaimed on May 24 that the inception of the three teams previously aligned with the Big East into the fold would mean, “We’re going to be a 10-bid conference. We’re going to be the best conference in the history of the game. It’s exciting to be part of that.”

The Greatest Collection of College Basketball Coaching Talent Ever? (credit: ESPN/T. Bell)

The Greatest Collection of College Basketball Coaching Talent Ever? (credit: ESPN/T. Bell)

Now that’s a bold proclamation, even from someone with the sterling resume of Krzyzewski. After delving into a variety of metrics, though, it becomes clear that this league is something special this year (and will be that much more formidable in 2014-15 when reigning national champion Louisville joins the fold), even relative to what is considered some of the greatest college basketball conferences ever assembled. But if metrics exist to suggest the current ACC belongs among the elite of the elite, then that means there are metrics that can be used to track its progress as the season moves along to see how it stacks up with the other all-time greats.

One such measuring stick is the number of teams included in the NCAA Tournament, a perennial sign not only of a conference’s strength from within, but also how it handles non-conference foes during the regular season. The record for most teams selected for an NCAA Tournament happened as recently as 2011, when the Big East (interesting, right?) placed 11 of its 16 squads in the Big Dance. However, only three of those teams made it as far as the Elite Eight (although one was the eventual national champion, Connecticut). Looking at this year’s ACC, it’s difficult to project anywhere close to 11 NCAA participants, but being battle-tested in conference play proved to be a boon to the Big East two years ago. Could the same happen with the ACC this year? Some of the presumed middle-of-the-pack teams, such as an NC State team forced to replace a bevy of talent, for example, must rise to become a force for the league to boast the fantastic depth it claims it will have.

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Extra Practice Time Allows Duke a Leisurely Trip to NYC

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 16th, 2013

With the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s college basketball season rapidly approaching, coaches are all striving to find ways to bond and unite their teams. This season, the NCAA was kind enough to grant college teams an extra few weeks of practice time, allowing for preseason workout regimens to begin in late September and allowing for players and coaches to become better acquainted with one another earlier than in years past. With the ACC now expanding its ranks to include Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, all coaches are looking to use that time to gain a leg up.

Duke Players at NYC's Historic Rucker Park Courts (credit: GoDuke.com)

Duke Players at NYC’s Historic Rucker Park Courts (credit: GoDuke.com)

That competitive edge is not always gained strictly through practice and weightlifting sessions. Often, it’s the extra time spent hanging out together that helps a team gel, whether through playing video games in the hotel or extra face time with the coach. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, always one looking for ways to bring his team together as a unit, used the opportunity this preseason to take his Blue Devils on a Columbus Day weekend trip called “Duke Elevate” to New York City.  According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, among other things, the team visited the Apollo Theatre, the 9/11 Memorial, Broadway, West Point, and the Museum of Modern Art. While a cynic might say Coach K is trying to impress culture on young men who just want to refine their games on the hardwood in hopes of making it to the next level, a realist might argue that it’s these times away from the gym, yet still together as a team, that often forge the best collective units. The NCAA disallowed international travel in the month of October this year, but traveling to see some of our country’s most impressive sights in the Big Apple is a pretty good Plan B.

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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by RTC on October 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. The month of Midnight Madness celebrations continued over the weekend, with a number of schools choosing to reveal their 2013-14 teams to the public on Friday night. The most prominent basketball school of this weekend’s group was Marquette, entertaining some 4,000 fans at the Al McGuire Center for Marquette Madness. The event trotted out the tried-and-true Madness standards: a three-point shooting contest (won by Jake Thomas), a dunk contest (won by Deonte Burton), etc., but one unique aspect of this version was that the school also handed out a “Lifetime Achievement Award” as part of the proceedings. Chris Otule, a Golden Eagles center who has played a full season in only two of his five years in Milwaukee and was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, was the recipient (see the tribute video here). Otule earned substantial national recognition in 2010 when it was learned that he was playing major college basketball with only one working eye (he’s been blind in his left eye since birth), but he also has become something of a hard-luck case due to the three significant injuries (two broken feet and a torn ACL) that he has suffered during his career at Marquette. By all accounts a genuinely nice guy, let’s hope that his final year in Marquette is productive and injury-free.
  2. News came out last week that longtime Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, will retire from his post overseeing the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports. The 76-year old’s decision to retire, though, comes at a time when the school’s revenue-producing programs — football, basketball and baseball — are all suffering through relatively tough times. Notwithstanding the football Longhorns’ upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on Saturday, the team had lost badly to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season, and rumors are swirling about the security of Mack Brown’s head coaching job there. Similarly for basketball, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns were just picked to finish as the eighth-place team in a 10-team league (only ahead of the hoops disasters known as Texas Tech and TCU), raising significant questions as to how a program and coach who makes so much money and has access to so much local talent could have gotten itself in such a mess. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the political and operational realities of Dodds’ retirement, ultimately concluding that the new AD will certainly have some hurdles to overcome upon arrival at his new job. And apparently, Louisville’s Tom Jurich is not interested.
  3. While on the subject of athletic directors, the AP reported on Friday that a group of 65 ADs attached their names in support of a nine-page memorandum sent to a legal team convening in Chicago later this month to discuss updating the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). Tired of dealing with agents, runners and other interested hangers-on associating with student-athletes in their revenue programs, the group requests that the penalties attached to violations of the UAAA contain higher fines and additional prison time. Specifically, they ask that changes to the law must “increase the incentives for and ease of prosecuting violators,” offering a number of recommendations to make it easier to catch the wrongdoers. Perhaps the strongest part of this proposed legislation is the idea of classifying someone as an agent for purposes of the law regardless of whether they are registered as one — although difficult to implement, this could help with the runner/go-between problem that has become all too familiar in recent years.
  4. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie may have jumped the gun in revealing his school’s latest APR score on Friday, but who can blame him given that his team was forced to miss the NCAA Tournament last season because of prior years’ academic troubles. The second-year coach proudly told the media: “We got a thousand. If you want to wait until May, you can find out in May. But it’s a thousand.” The “thousand” he mentions equates to a perfect score on the APR metric, which basically means that all of UConn’s student-athletes in the basketball program are in good academic standing and on track to graduate. According to Ollie, the program has emphasized the importance of education through accountability (i.e., players run if they miss class, etc.), which of course is all fine and well. But perhaps more than anything else, this improvement to a perfect score shows that the APR can be gamed like any other arbitrary metric if a school simply takes it seriously and correspondingly incents the players to do the bare minimum in the classroom.
  5. One of the interesting aspects to the NCAA’s new rule allowing practice to start in September is that coaches are limited to only 30 practice sessions in those 42 days between September 27 and November 8. Not only does the extra time between sessions let coaches ease into their practice plans and teaching points a little more thoughtfully, but it also allows teams to do some other character-building exercises that they simply wouldn’t have had time for under the old model. Case in point: Duke‘s four-day trip to New York over the weekend. On Saturday, Coach K transported his charges to West Point, his alma mater and site of his first head coaching job, allowing the Blue Devils to take in the pride and spectacle of the school responsible for educating the nation’s future military leaders. By all indications the players loved the experience, and one might suspect that if the Blue Devils go on to enjoy a great upcoming season, they’ll reflect often on this preseason trip to New York as the bonding experience where things started to come together. Have a great holiday, everyone.
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Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Morning Five: 05.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With the news coming out at mid-week that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has agreed to coach the men’s basketball national team for three more years, the inevitable corollary question was how much longer is he planning to remain on the sidelines in Durham. Armed with his “lifetime” contract at Duke, he can presumably stay for as long as he wants, but the 66-year old legend said on Thursday that he won’t retire before the Olympics run is over in Summer 2016. That means he’s got a minimum of three more full seasons at Duke left, and the truth is that he probably will stick around even longer than that. His reasoning is that in order to stay sharp with the demands of the Team USA job, he needs to be coaching full-time the rest of the year. It’s a fair point. There’s also these little things called 1,000 wins (he’s 43 away) and five national titles (which would put him alone in second place all-time), which are without question drivers for the uber-accomplished coach who embraces competition (as a side note, he thinks the new and improved ACC will be the “best ever.”) 
  2. While on the subject of K and his ongoing role with Team USA, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner must have been working with the FBI to mine the RTC email boxes yesterday, as the very subject of “Duke: Better or Worse Off?” came up and was bandied about throughout the day. Glockner lays out a solid analysis that pretty much comes to the same conclusion that we had internally: Duke’s overall performance has dropped a notch in the period since Krzyzewski took over as the head coach of Team USA, but it’s specious at best to argue that the downtick has been a result of his focus on that team. Rather, our stance mirrors Glockner’s somewhat in that the corresponding one-and-done era (which began in 2006 as well) hasn’t helped Duke quite as much as it has some other schools, and to put it frankly, Duke’s recruiting (like everyone else’s) has taken a hit over the last five years in large part because of the Calipari Effect. While it’s certainly true that Duke’s 2010 national championship takes a lot of the sting out of a number of other earlier-than-anticipated exits from the NCAA Tournament, the fact of that matter from our view is that K by and large isn’t getting quite the quality of depth of talent as he was recruiting 15 years ago. A single Final Four in the last nine seasons is the longest such drought of his career, but it’s not because of USA Basketball — it’s because there have been too many Jon Scheyers and not enough Kyrie Irvings.
  3. The NBA Draft has been on everyone’s minds lately, with the lottery going off in favor of Cleveland earlier this week and a number of talented collegians vying for the #1 overall pick on June 27. Yesterday CBSSports.com produced an interesting historical perspective of how each team in the Western Conference has drafted over the last 15 years. For example, the San Antonio Spurs have tended to go with foreign players (48% of selections), while the Los Angeles Lakers have used more than a quarter of its selections (28%) on mid-major picks. The analysis comes replete with colorful pie charts, which shows that the guys over there have finally figured out how to use Tableau. For your Memorial Day weekend pleasure, they’ll be releasing the Eastern Conference rundowns later today. Check it out.
  4. Hopefully we’re at a point of stasis with respect to major conference realignment, but the mids are still actively crawling up the ladder at every available opportunity. Yesterday Elon University, a rising star in the academic world, announced that its athletic programs will leave the Southern Conference to join the CAA beginning next summer. The Phoenix have only been Division I participants since 1997, and this is already the school’s third conference affiliation — it was originally with the Big South followed by the SoCon and now the CAA — at this rate, Elon will be joining the ACC sometime around 2025. The men’s basketball program has enjoyed only two winning seasons since joining the big leagues, but one of those was last year when Mike Matheny’s squad went 13-5 in conference play and 21-12 overall. With a heavy emphasis on placement of alumni in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern corridor, this is a very good move for the profile of the school.
  5. The last time we saw Eric Devendorf, he was standing on a press row table at Madison Square Garden after hitting  a “game-winning” buzzer-beater in the Big East Tournamant Game That Would Never End, also known as the six-overtime Big East quarterfinals thriller between the Orange and UConn Huskies. Of course, that’s not completely true, as Devo played in five more games that season; but the indelible image of the Orange’s 14th-leading all-time scorer was that moment. He was brash, loud-mouthed, cocky, but wildly entertaining — sorta like the SU version of Marshall Henderson. Well, if you’ve missed him after he headed overseas to play professionally after that season, you’re in luck — Devendorf is back in the Syracuse area doing a Friday night radio show with popular local ESPN affiliate host Mike Bristol. We can’t say that we’re going to be taking time out of our schedules to find him on the dial tonight, but maybe you will. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone.
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Team USA Will Not Regret Its Decision to Keep Coach K For Another Olympic Run

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 23rd, 2013

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

Coaching the biggest basketball superstars on planet earth into one cohesive group with a compacted practice schedule and unflinchingly mountainous expectations, among other obstacles, is not as easy as it seems. With minimal exceptions, every player is accustomed to being “the guy” on his own NBA team, where the frequency and type of shots taken are, for better or worse, monitored liberally – superstars are going to get their shots up whether you like it or not. When you mash these egos together on one, putatively dominant, practically unwieldy Team USA squad, vast philosophical and schematic adjustments melding is required. Ego-massaging is another part of the gig. Reduced shots and individual credit-basking glory is part of the cost of doing business. It’s an entirely different style and breed of basketball, this quirky thing we like to call international play, and without the right head coach in place, things can get out of hand pretty quickly. Matter of fact, Before Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski arrived on the scene, they did: In 2002, a George Karl-coached Team USA became the first American team composed of NBA players to lose in international competition when it fell to Argentina in the preliminary rounds and finished sixth at the FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis. Two years later, then under Larry Brown, team USA lost a convincing semifinal game to Argentina at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The days of Dream Team dominance and universal hoops royalty were slipping away. USA basketball needed a new face and culture and identity to offer a different spin on the stale and out-of-touch approach demonstrated by previous NBA coaches. It needed Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Making another run at Olympic glory, and picking up Coach K to lead the charge, is a wise move by Colangelo (Getty Images).

Making another run at Olympic glory, and picking up Coach K to lead the charge, is a wise move by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo (Getty Images).

You know the rest: after an initial bronze medal toe-stub at the 2006 World Championships, USA polished off two Olympic gold medals and a 2010 FIBA World Championship with a second-tier layer of then-rising stars, not once losing a game over four years. Coach K has accomplished everything he set out to do during his reign as USA Basketball’s transformative leader – blend a group of ball-dominant stars into one functioning whole not once or twice but for three sizably important world events, restore the rightful preeminence of the red, white and blue’s international hardwood stature, forcefully remind the rest of the world that yes, there is good basketball being played in Europe and China and South America, but no, you don’t have Kevin Durant ripping threes on the wing, and LeBron James guarding centers and point guards on the same possession, and Chris Paul whipping cross-court passes with pinpoint accuracy. This is USA Basketball, unbeatable and dominant and good. Mostly just good. Beijing 2012 restored the customary USA-headed international hoops hierarchy, and Coach K – who still, in case you forgot, kind of has a pretty good thing going right now in Durham – had ground off every bit of tread on the international tires. It was time to move on. Pass the torch. Recruiting and leading Duke to annual national championship contention is prohibitively exhausting on its own; the added onus of Team USA must have been a terribly draining, but hugely fulfilling, experience. Enough was enough.

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