Team of the 2000s: #4 – Duke

Posted by nvr1983 on August 17th, 2009


Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier “Team of the 2000s” posts, we felt that the top-tier programs fell into a few clear clusters. There was some debate amongst the RTC braintrust about where certain teams fell within those clusters so we can understand if you disagree with where a team is ranked (that’s what the comment section is for). Teams in the top five either have made it to every NCAA tournament this decade (a sign of at least being respectable every season) or have a 2nd championship to bolster their case.

#4 – Duke


Overview. This will be the most controversial selection on the list because it is Duke. Love them or hate them (and I’m pretty sure that most college basketball fans hate them), the Blue Devils remain the standard that other programs are judged against. That is not to say that they are the best program of the decade (there are still three teams ahead of them), but much like the New York Yankees, who are experiencing a similar title “drought,” every fanbase judges their success against what the guys in Durham are doing. To be completely honest, I ranked Duke lower than any of the other voters, but in the end their consistency (particularly during the regular season) won out and put them ahead of some of the other elite programs. The case for Duke being ranked above the teams below it in our countdown: 82.6% (regular season winning percentage–Gonzaga is the only other team to crack 80% and they don’t play in the ACC); 7 post-season and 4 regular season ACC titles (just an absurd number when you are competing against UNC although UNC’s inconsistency helped inflate this); 10 NCAA tournament trips (look at the above summary to see how often many excellent programs have missed the NCAA tournament this decade); 8 Sweet 16 appearances (maybe Duke hasn’t been that successful during the 2nd weekend, but they have gotten there more than anybody else); and 1 national title (more on this in a bit). The case against the Blue Devils? I alluded to it earlier, as Coach K’s teams have struggled mightily in the NCAA second weekend making it to the Final 4 “just” two out of the eight times they made it to the Sweet 16. In addition, Duke’s absence of a 2nd title prevents it from claiming a spot in the top 3. Out of the team’s below it, Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans have the best argument, but Duke’s vastly superior winning percentage (82.6% vs. 72.1%) and huge edge in conference titles combined with playing in a better conference (the ACC may be down, but you never see an abomination like this come out of the ACC) and NCAA-best 8 trips to the Sweet 16 (versus 6 for the Spartans) are just enough to make up for Michigan State’s edge in Final 4 appearances (4-2 although both teams were only able to seal the deal once).

battier j-will duhon

Pinnacle. As it is with any team that won a single title this decade, the choice here is simple: the 2001 title. After coming up just short with one of the most talented teams in recent history in 1999, Coach K reloaded with a class featuring Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer. Although not quite as dominant as the group that left just before they came in (Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette – I know he was a year after the other two, but I wasn’t going to include Chris Burgess in there), the former was able to do something the latter failed to do – win a title.  Together with Shane Battier, who led the Blue Devils emotionally and in taking flops, this group made it to the Sweet 16 in 2000 before being upset by Florida. The following year the Blue Devils were able to give Coach K his 3rd title, but not before surviving three marginally tough games (vs. USC in the Elite 8, vs. Maryland in the national semifinals, and vs. Arizona in the championship game) to claim the title. The defining moment of that title game was Dunleavy Jr.’s 3-point barrage (three 3-pointers during an 11-2 run) that re-established Duke’s control of the game. One thing that will stick with Blue Devil fans forever though is their four games against Maryland, which were some of the best college basketball games you will ever see, the most memorable being the 10-point comeback in the last minute at College Park (although we are willing to debate with someone who argues that the 22-point comeback in the national semifinals might be better).

[Warning: Maryland fans may want to avoid this video.]

Tailspin. Other than the two UNC titles? The 2006-07 season. A rather mediocre Duke team went 22-11 in a season that included two separate four-game losing streaks. The latter of those losing streaks came to finish the season with the final insult coming courtesy of Eric Maynor and VCU. Much has been made on this site and others about the lack of elite talent in Durham lately, but fielding a team whose four best players were DeMarcus Nelson (junior),  Josh McRoberts (sophomore), Greg Paulus (sophomore), and Jon Scheyer (freshman)… you are in big trouble. The primary explanation for this was that outside of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, the Blue Devils had a long string of McDonald’s All-American busts from 2002 on, with Shavlik Randolph, who left prior to that, being the most famous example.

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B+. Duke is still Duke and can land 5-star recruits, but it’s not like it was at the end of the last decade when Duke had its choice of McDonald’s All-Americans. Back then, one of the big controversies was if Coach K made the right choice taking Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Casey Jacobsen (for the younger generation of readers trust us when we say they were both actually very good college basketball players). Now it is a big deal when Duke lands the #3 shooting guard in next year’s class instead of John Wall. Duke will still be able to get a couple of top-notch recruits every year because of their tradition (it goes back to before Coach K, youngsters), Notre Dame-like TV deal with ESPN, Coach K’s stature, and the fact that it’s one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country (mothers like to brag about the Duke degree even if it is for the infamous Sociology major). However, the Blue Devils have fallen a notch below UNC in the hearts and minds of elite recruits and that will only get worse when Coach K retires (gasp!) as their is no clear successor in line for his throne.

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08.11.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2009

With the rate of news coming out these days, this’ll feel a little more like slow breaks…

  • Academic Headstart.  This got almost no play over the weekend, but it should have because it has the smell of something that ends up being more important than anyone previously thought.  The NCAA Basketball Academic Enhancement Group (chaired by Derrick Rose?) recommended a requirement that each school should make an academic assessment of its incoming freshmen each season to determine whether the student-athlete is adequately prepared for college-level schoolwork.  If they are not (presumably using some objective measure other than the Jim Harrick, Jr., test), then they’ll be required to take six hours of classes over the summer (‘bridge’ summer coursework data shows a higher incidence of long-term academic success).  The big carrot is that, while they’re in summer school (and all players can attend if they like), they can work out for up to eight hours/week in athletic activities.  The catch, however, is that they must pass at least three of those hours to gain eligibility for the fall semester.  Should this recommendation come to pass (and it probably will), each school will have to balance a  fine line between the player assessment and player eligibility.  God forbid that the next Michael Beasley gets his high school grades and test scores in order, shows up at his school amidst great fanfare, only to fail college algebra over the summer and have to sit until December because the coach wanted those eight hours per week of court time.  It’s an interesting dilemma and it imposes a certain level of accountability on the schools themselves to take the academic side of things more seriously, which is a good thing.  Props to the NCAA for getting creative here. 
  • Vegas Watch ACC Preview.  We’ll be sure to come back to this when we put up our conference previews later this fall, but we wanted to make sure that you guys alll have a chance to read the first installment in a really innovative series of posts breaking down each of the BCS conferences.  VW ran several regressions on the last three seasons to determine a fairly accurate predictor for future success using Pomeroy ratings, returning minutes and production and incoming recruiting rankings.  Looking at the projected 2010 rankings, it appears that those riding the Terrapin bandwagon have reason to believe, as Maryland is projected third, while those of us who were high on Georgia Tech (even prior to losing K. Holsey) may want to re-think that a little bit before October.  Keep an eye on this series because it’s fascinating stuff. 
  • Deron Washington Hurdles into Eternity.  If, for some reason, you haven’t seen what Virginia Tech has done with its new practice facility yet…  It’s really too bad that Syracuse football doesn’t play Virginia Tech this year, or Paulus would have a fair opportunity to exact some revenge (he’s the third-string QB for the Orange as of this week). 

deron washington over paulus

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Coach K Considering a Return to Team USA Sideline

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2009

After bringing back the gold from Beijing and watching his Duke teams slide back to the pack, it was widely assumed that Coach K would hand over the reigns to Team USA so he could focus on his Blue Devils. However, Krzyzewski announced late last week that he was interested in coaching Team USA in London in 2012. Although he did not say definitively whether or not he would be pursuing the position, it seems unlikely that he would need to do much campaigning to keep his spot as head coach with the success of the team and the apparent lack of disharmony on the team despite several big names playing sparingly. For us, there are two big questions about the situation:

(1) How will this affect the Duke program?

It will probably hurt them. I don’t really buy the notion that coaching Team USA gets Coach K’s face out there in front of more 5-star guys. I can’t imagine any high school basketball players not knowing about Duke and Coach K. Coaching Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James will certainly give you more street cred than coaching Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, but I’m assuming most recruits are aware of the fact that Carmelo and LeBron were really, really, really good before Coach K decided how to tinker with the rotation and their minutes. The bigger impact on Duke will be the absence of Coach K from the recruiting trail. Committing to Team USA will mean that Coach K won’t be on the summer circuit and the guys at ABCD and every other crazy camp out there won’t see him in the stands. While Coach K and the Duke name are still able to land highly touted recruits like Paulus, McRoberts, and Shavlik Randolph (yes, they were all projected to be stars coming out of high school) in recent years he has been unable to land some major targets that he used to land (John Wall comes to mind although it could be argued that it is that he is simply against having one-and-dones).

(2) If Krzyzewski does not seek the position, which coach would be the most likely to replace him on the sideline?

Our top choices would be Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari (no entrance exams required here), Mike D’Antoni and Gregg Popovich. Other than D’Antoni and Popovich, I can’t think of another suitable NBA coach who would be willing to give up his summers to coach a bunch of players that he might be coaching against during the regular season. If Coach K turns down a chance to repeat in London, the question is who Team USA would target as its top choice. Given the standardized test fiasco at Memphis it’s unlikely that Team USA would go with Calipari if other comparable coaches were available. Boeheim is probably the logical choice after serving as an assistant under Coach K, but personally I would like to see Pitino employ a pressing defense with the athletes and depth Team USA could field that would destroy international teams (despite what Malcolm Gladwell thinks).

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The Greg Paulus World Tour Is Headed To Syracuse

Posted by nvr1983 on May 14th, 2009

After a month of speculation about where he would go, Greg Paulus has announced that he will be heading to Syracuse next year to play football. We are already discussed the situation that Paulus will be walking into next year, but before Paulus can officially put his pads back on he will have to get a NCAA waiver allowing him to play one season of football. We’re not familiar with how the NCAA handles these situations since they don’t usually play out where someone transfers to another school to play a 2nd sport, but it seems pretty likely that they will grant him an exemption since it would be really bad press if they did not grant him the waiver. We can only hope that Paulus somehow leads Syracuse to a bowl game where he plays against Duke, a perennial ACC cellar-dweller (admittedly improved in the past few years) who told the former Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year that he could play wide receiver.


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05.07.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2009

As we anxiously await John Wall’s FINAL DECISION


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Paulus World Tour T-Shirts… Get Yours Now!

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2009

(h/t ESPN Page 2)

This Greg Paulus football story has gotten a lot of play in the national media the past few weeks as the former HS all-american quarterback has jetted around the nation working out with the Green Bay Packers, Michigan, Syracuse and Nebraska.  The guys at Page 2 (remember when that was cool?) have come up with a t-shirt to commemmorate Greg’s spring/summer world tour.  Good stuff.


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04.28.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on April 28th, 2009

It’s been a light few days, but we’re here to get you caught up on the few things surfacing…

  • Florida’s Alex Tyus was transferring, now he’s not.  This confused us until we remembered that he learned from Donovan two-step from the master himself. 
  • Bruce Pearl’s romantic overtures know no bounds… not even the head football coach’s wife (not that we blame him). 
  • Oddly, USC is no longer recruiting big man Renardo Sidney (who moved to LA three yrs ago for marketing purposes).  Now he may be heading back home to Mississippi St?  Stay tuned on this one.
  • Will Syracuse be the one-year football destination for Greg Paulus?
  • The NBA’s early entry deadline was Sunday – here are a few of the last-minute entries:  Mississippi St.’s Jarvis Varnado (no agent), UConn’s Ater Majok (no agent), Tennessee’s Tyler Smith (no agent), USC’s Taj Gibson (no agent) and BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari (no agent). 
  • Returning:  Iowa St.’s Craig Brackins (a major coup), Michigan’s Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.
  • Gary Parrish doesn’t believe that Davidson will recapture the Curry magic for quite some time. 
  • It’s hard to believe this didn’t happen now that the FBI has brought charges against Karen Sypher for attempting to extort Rick Pitino for $10M, two cars, a paid-off house and college tuition.  Wow.  Regardless, we have to agree with Goodman when he says nothing good is ultimately coming from all of this.
  • He was only “holding it” for someone named “Luck.”  Welcome to Nevada basketball in the post-Mark Fox era.
  • Wichita St.’s Gregg Marshall got a one-year contract extension (to 2015) after an improved second year at the school.
  • Good to see the NCAA gumshoes going after the big boys like Northeastern, who received two years probation on Friday.
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Greg Paulus Is. . .I Can’t Explain It. Just Look at the Picture.

Posted by nvr1983 on April 24th, 2009


That sound you just heard is from all the heads exploding along Tobacco Road. Apparently this was part of the UNC barnstorming tour, but I have no idea what Paulus was thinking. At first, I thought it might be his brother Mike (preposterous, but not much more than Greg Paulus in Carolina Blue), a QB at UNC, but he doesn’t look like Greg.

(h/t to 850 The Buzz)

Update: After looking at this picture a little more closely (and not posting at 3 AM), I’m beginning to think this is a Photoshop job. Paulus couldn’t possibly be dumb enough to pose for a picture like this wearing UNC clothing, right?

Update: According to our friends at 850 The Buzz, the picture is real and the baby was completely fine posing with the others players, but as soon as Paulus held her she started to cry.

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Report: Paulus to Syracuse

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2009

After weeks of speculation about where he would end up (Michigan? Duke? Green Bay?!?), it appears that former Duke point guard Greg Paulus has made a decision about where he will be playing next year. The former Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year has decided to go from the hardwood of Cameron Indoor Stadium for the FieldTurf of the Carrier Dome next year. [Ed. Note: Interestingly Cameron Indoor, which is well known for its small size and the heat that Dick Vitale whines about on every telecast, has air-conditioning. The Carrier Dome (as in the HVAC company) does not.]

Unlike at Duke where he lost his starting point guard job as a senior, Paulus (a native of Manlius, NY just outside of Syracuse) will likely step into a position where he should compete for the starting spot on a team that went 3-9 last year, but did manage to win at Notre Dame (one of the colleges that recruited Paulus as a QB out of high school). Although Syracuse football coach Doug Marrone named Ryan Nassib as his starting QB less than a month ago, I think Marrone may let a National High School Football Player of the Year compete for the job.


Assuming that Paulus enrolls at Syracuse, it raises an interesting question of how Syracuse (a basketball school even during the days of Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison) will embrace one of the most despised players in college basketball. Based on their wholesale acceptance of Eric Devendorf, I think the fans at Syracuse will take to Paulus, who is less demonstrative (and doesn’t have any accusations of violence against women to his name) especially if he can make their football team respectable again.

Bonus Question: How many games will Paulus play at QB before he gets sacked and someone performs a mock tea-bagging? I’m going with game #2 at Penn State on September 12th. Fortunately, I don’t see anybody on the Syracuse schedule that is a big enough rival of Syracuse to have a repeat of this.

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04.16.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2009

We’re trying to sort through some laptop issues as well as a long-term strategic analysis of the site, so bear with us as we’re only doing semi-regular updates this week…

  • Georgetown should be in much better position to make a nice run in the Big East next season as BE FrOY Greg Monroe has decided to return for his sophomore season.
  • Oklahoma’s Willie Warren will also return for his encore year.  It’s getting easier to fill out potential 2009-10 all-america lists now. 
  • Notre Dame’s 09-10 success might hinge on the shoulders of Luke Harangody’s decision, of which he is currently waffling about.  He is expected to test the waters, but he’s uncertain about what his threshold will be to return.
  • Staying in the Big East, Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn removed all doubt by signing with an agent.  We’ll never understand why marginal prospects with the option of returning to school make such a poor decision by closing off that option so early.
  • Greg Paulus has received a scholarship offer to play at Michigan next year in football.  Others are probably coming.  Who would have guessed this kind of post-graduate recruiting war in a different sport would start over a Duke PG?
  • Former national champion UCLA PG Cameron Dollar will leave Lorenzo Romar’s UW staff to take the head job at Seattle University, as it continues its transition into D1 basketball. 
  • John Calipari’s Kentucky gig is off to a quick start as he evaluates returning talent and continues recruiting (even if he doesn’t have office keys yet). 
  • Gary Parrish writes an interesting article about the coaching carousel, and how schools like Arizona, Georgia and Memphis got a little burned by overplaying their hand(s) and ill preparation.  Interesting piece.
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