Rushed Reactions: #1 Oregon 82, #4 Duke 68

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 24th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion

Three Key Takeaways.

Dillon Brooks and Oregon jammed their way past Duke. (Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Dillon Brooks and Oregon jammed their way past Duke. (Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. The Oregon Way. Threes and layups. It’s not a new concept by any means, but Oregon sure runs it to perfection. In a seven-man rotation with a true point guard, two versatile bigs and four athletes who can both shoot and attack off the bounce, the Ducks have made an art out of basing their offense around the long ball and the short ball. For the season, they take about 42 percent of their shots at the rim, and roughly 34 percent from three-point range. Tonight, they were even better than those season averages, taking 23 threes (35 percent of their FGAs) and 28 shots that were either dunks or layups (45%), leaving just 13 (20%) of those inefficient two-point jumpers (they went just 3-13 on those attempts).
  2. Fast-Paced and Fun. In a game chock full of versatile and athletic basketball players (Brandon Ingram, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, Elgin Cook, and on down the line), we saw the type of entertaining basketball we expected. In the halfcourt on both ends of the court, offenses effectively shared the ball and sought out offensive mismatches to exploit. Both defenses trapped to try to slow their opponent down and force turnovers. If defenders were beat off the bounce, there were rim protectors (especially on the Oregon side) waiting to attempt to clean up the mistakes. And the dunks. My lord the dunks. Of those 28 Duck dunk or layup attempts we mentioned above, Oregon converted 19 of them, often in spectacular fashion.
  3. Casey Benson. He’s the quiet man on the Duck team. He’s not going to be playing above the rim. He’s not often going to be among the high scorers on his team (tonight’s 11-point effort was just his fifth double-digit scoring effort this season). But man, he just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Tonight, he had one awful first-half turnover, but other than that he was nearly perfect. Benson knocked in three threes, got to the rim for a layup for an additional hoop, handed out eight dimes while facilitating constant ball movement, and generally ran his team to perfection.

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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 21st, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

New Favorite:  #2 Oklahoma. We previously had Oregon as the favorite here,  but we’re going to switch it up and go with the Sooners instead because it is starting to look like Buddy Hield is going to drag his team to Houston and a possible national title one way or the other. There’s reason to be fearful of the Sooners’ chances, though, as they’ve been pressured by a pair of double-digit seeds. In this region, with the top four seeds still alive, would anybody be surprised if anybody made its way to Houston?

Buddy Was Just Doing Buddy Things to Get to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Buddy Was Just Doing Buddy Things to Get to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Horse of Darkness: #3 Texas A&M. This team was dead. Ceased to be. Expired and gone to meet it’s maker. Shuffled off the mortal coil, and all that. And yet somehow, the Aggies pulled off their best Lazarus impression and miraculously moved on to the Sweet Sixteen. Sometimes, miracles like these in early rounds are springboards to national titles: Witness Tyus Edney 21 years ago. Sometimes, it just extends the inevitable a little longer. For about 39 minutes and 22 seconds on Sunday night, A&M was getting run out of the Tourney by Northern Iowa. But somehow, some way, they survived. Will it be a springboard to bigger and better things or is it a sign of an inherent weakness? Poised veterans Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins have been solid, but leading scorers Danuel House and Jalen Jones will need to be more consistent to keep advancing.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): Everything Having to Do With Northern Iowa. At this point, we should just offer up a standing invitation to any halfway decent Northern Iowa team to join the NCAA Tournament, because you just know we are going to be treated to a classic one way or another. The Panthers’ opening round game against Texas was absolutely insane. It wasn’t just the final 10 seconds worth of an Isaiah Taylor game-tying floater and the Paul Jesperson game-winning half-court heave; the whole game was amazing. Those final 10 seconds immediately vaulted up into the top tier of NCAA moments ever. And then Sunday night? Northern Iowa, much to its chagrin, may have topped that one by its involvement in an even more memorable game (for completely different reasons). In any March Madness epic, there is always the transposition of the elation of the winner and the heartbreak of the loser. In a 48-hour span, Northern Iowa felt both ends about as shockingly as possible.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 71, #12 Yale 64

Posted by Chris Stone on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Grayson Allen Led Duke to Coach K's 23rd Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Grayson Allen Led Duke to Coach K’s 23rd Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

  1. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram are a potent one-two punch. After an opening round victory that saw Marshall Plumlee score 23 points, Allen and Ingram accounted for 76 percent of Duke’s offensive production in scoring a combined 54 points in the second round win. With two legitimate number one scoring options, the Blue Devils can weather dips in production from the rest of their roster. They certainly did so today.
  2. Duke still hasn’t sorted out its defensive identity. The Blue Devils’ defense actually delivered in the first half against Yale, holding the Bulldogs to 0.81 points per possession before the intermission. However, after halftime adjustments were made, the Blue Devils struggled to slow their opponent down. The Bulldogs scored 1.15 points per possession in the second half as Duke was forced into the 1-3-1 zone that it had to rely on to knock them off back in November. That’s not necessarily a great sign against a Yale offense that ranks 79th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
  3. Yale’s seniors showed up when they were needed most. While Brandon Sherrod put together a 10-point first half, it took him 10 shots to get there and fellow senior Justin Sears was held scoreless during the first 20 minutes. Sherrod and Sears, though, keyed the Bulldogs second half run, scoring a combined 24 points and pulling down 13 rebounds as Yale pulled within three of the Blue Devils at one point. It was an impressive final outing for both seniors.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 93, #13 UNC-Wilmington 85

Posted by Chris Stone on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will provide immediate reactions to each of the 63 NCAA Tournament games from the First Round to the Championship.

Three Key Takeaways:

Brandon Ingram goes up for a layup during the first half versus UNC-Wilmington. (Credit: AP / Charles Krupa)

Brandon Ingram goes up for a layup during the first half versus UNC-Wilmington. (Credit: AP / Charles Krupa)

  1. Brandon Ingram has arrived. For much of the season, college basketball’s focus has understandably been on the incredible number of talented seniors in the sport. Duke’s Brandon Ingram is ready to take back some of that attention. Ingram has a legitimate shot to overtake LSU’s Ben Simmons as the #1 pick in June’s NBA Draft (with Simmons sitting at home during the NCAA Tournament), and he showed why this afternoon against the Seahawks. Ingram scored 20 points and displayed an array of dribble moves that weren’t in his arsenal even back in November. If the Blue Devils can put together a strong NCAA Tournament run this month, Ingram will remind everyone that the one-and-dones aren’t going away that easily.
  2. Grayson Allen needs to find his shooting stroke. Allen finished with 23 points on 12 shots, but he was just 4-of-12 from the field today against UNC-Wilmington after making 41.7 percent on the season. Allen was quick enough to beat the Seahawks’ guards off the bounce, but that likely won’t hold for the remainder of the Tournament as more talented opponents are tabbed to defend the sophomore guard. The Blue Devils will need to Allen to find his range to make the best of March.
  3. Duke’s defensive woes aren’t going anywhere. The Blue Devils allowed 85 points to the 75th best offense in the country, as UNC-Wilmington scored 1.15 points per possession. This is a concern given that the Seahawks only created 10 turnovers, one of their primary methods of producing points this season. UNCW also made 11 three-pointers and shot 44.1 percent from the field, with an enormous 79 of their points coming in the half-court. If Duke makes that run, it probably won’t be a product of its defense.

Star of the Game: Marshall Plumlee. Ingram showed why he’s NBA-ready, but Plumlee’s presence changed the game for the Blue Devils. The senior blocked two shots and altered a few more during Duke’s 16-2 run to open the second half. Plumlee delivered a huge all-around effort, scoring a career-high 23 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking three shots before fouling out with 2:01 remaining. Marshall Plumlee cares not for your Cinderellas.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.15.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 15th, 2016

It was a weekend for favorites in the ACC as all seven underdogs lost. Two of those victims were higher-ranked schools that fell on the road in close games. In the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, Duke edged Virginia by a point on Grayson Allen’s controversial last-second shot in a game that lived up to the hype. Notre Dame rallied to take down Louisville after trailing by 11 points in the second half, making it consecutive Saturdays when the Irish rallied from double-figure deficits to take down a league heavyweight. The team the Irish conquered last weekend, North Carolina, returned home after a rough three-game road swing for head coach Roy Williams, to dominate Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. In the final contest of the weekend, Florida State missed out on a golden chance to improve its resume when late-game execution faltered against Miami. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Grayson Allen drives in for his controversial game-winner against Virginia. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Grayson Allen drives in for his controversial game-winner against Virginia. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • Best Win: This game turned out to be as competitive and hard-fought of a game as we’ve seen in ACC play this year. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski must be thankful that Virginia‘s Malcolm Brogdon could only guard one of his stars at a single time. The senior was Grayson Allen‘s primary defender for the first 25 minutes of play, holding him to only four points during that time. Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram was busy carrying the Blue Devils’ offense — during an eight-minute stretch of the game that overlapped halftime, he scored 20 of Duke’s 22 points. With 15 minutes to go in the contest, Tony Bennett moved Brogdon over to Ingram, and the star freshman only managed two more points the rest of the way. That move, however, allowed Allen to become Duke’s go-to man down the stretch, culminating in his acrobatic driving buzzer-beater to win the game. Did Allen travel on the play? Replays showed he probably took at least three steps. Did he get fouled on the play? Replays showed two bumps that are normally called on such a drive. Did the officials swallow the whistle? Absolutely! The end result was a huge win for the Blue Devils, regardless of what should have or shouldn’t have been called.

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Is Duke Ready For Its Most Difficult Four-Game Stretch?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 8th, 2016

Duke has experienced multiple runs of success so far in conference play. The Blue Devils started ACC action with three straight victories, and are now on a two-game win streak. But in between those five wins came a stretch where Duke lost four times in five contests, which is why there are still major doubts about Mike Krzyzewski’s team heading into the final four weeks of the regular season. Can the Blue Devils play good enough defense to compete with the nation’s (or even the ACC’s) best teams? Are two of the freshmen (Derryck Thornton and Chase Jeter) making enough progress to be solid contributors in big games? Will a lack of depth eventually wear out the Blue Devil core? Many of those questions may be answered, for better or worse, in the coming two weeks, when the Blue Devils’ schedule gets downright brutal. This week features home games with Louisville (tonight) and Virginia (on Saturday). The following week will see the Blue Devils travel to North Carolina and Louisville. That’s four consecutive games against the league’s top three teams.

Derryck Thornton's return to the starting lineup has given Duke a boost defensively. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Derryck Thornton’s return to the starting lineup has given Duke a boost defensively. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Let’s look at those questions one by one:

Can the Blue Devils play good enough defense?

Currently Duke ranks ninth in the ACC in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.09 points per possession in league play. Led by star Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils only trail Notre Dame in ACC offensive efficiency, meaning they have generally been winning by outscoring the opposition. That feat will get harder in the next four games, as Duke will face the top three rated defenses in the conference. To have success against the league’s best, Krzyzewski needs his team’s man-to-man defense to be good enough to use as a viable alternative to the zone that Duke has often employed this season. Duke’s performance in its last two games may give its veteran coach some hope. Using man-to-man exclusively, Duke held Georgia Tech to 0.84 points per possession in the second half of last Tuesday’s road win. In Saturday’s victory over N.C. State, the Blue Devils played man-to-man for the entire first half, holding the Wolfpack to 0.95 points per possession.

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ACC M5: 01.13.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 13th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Kennedy Meeks is back for North Carolina. He’s not 100 percent yet, but it’s a good sign that he’s back and in stark contrast with those of Amile Jefferson (Duke) and Terry Henderson (NC State). The Tar Heels need the junior big man in the lineup to meet their National Championship aspirations. It also looks increasingly clear that North Carolina is the team to beat in the ACC this season. Miami doesn’t appear far behind, but the road to a conference title will go through Chapel Hill.
  2. Slap the Sign: This is a decent Notre Dame primer, as the Irish are still searching for a leader after the departures of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Demetrius Jackson is very talented but his best games have come in losses rather than wins. The most damning statistic working against the Irish may be that of “good wins.” — their only one so far came against Iowa. All of its other top-50 opponents have resulted in losses. That’s something Mike Brey will have to change to avoid a disappointing conference finish.
  3. Boston College Heights: Dennis Clifford is starting to look like his old self at Boston College. He’s still not consistent (he turns the ball over too much to be efficient), but he’s moving better and will likely be the reason the Eagles beat a team they shouldn’t. Boston College is horrid this season (the only two worse major conference teams worse are St. John’s and Rutgers), but its defense will give it a fighting chance a few times during conference play.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Amile Jefferson’s injury has made Duke worse in the short run because the team has no depth. Mike Krzyzewski has been using a six-man rotation (sometimes seven by playing Chase Jeter for a few minutes) since Jefferson went down. But Duke isn’t known for playing large rotations to begin with, and it’s unlikely that either Luke Kennard or Marshall Plumlee would have seen this sort of time without the starting center’s absence. It’s still hard to tell if this Duke’s team is fool’s gold thanks to nearly all of its recent opponents being helplessly outclassed, but all of that will change at the end of the month when the team travels to Coral Gables.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Why is Pittsburgh getting no love from the national media? The Panthers’ only loss came against a very good Purdue team that’s frankly a nightmare matchup (size plus shooting). Sure, Pitt’s non-conference schedule was nothing to write home about, but it’s odd that Jamie Dixon’s group isn’t getting a little more publicity. Even if they go into the Yum! Center and beat Louisville later this week, many people may blame the inconsistent Cardinals.

EXTRA: GIF power rankings??? Don’t mind if I do. If you only look at one, look at NC State. It’s perfection.

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ACC M5: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 11th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlotte Observer: Andrew Carter takes a deeper look at how this season’s unbalanced schedule will affect the presumed ACC contenders (where’s Clemson?!). First, compliments to the author for including “halcyon” in the lede; second, Virginia‘s hole may look deeper than it is. On the other side of things, Duke‘s shiny record may be more a reflection of an easy start than a strengthened Blue Devils team.
  2. Winston Salem Journal: Want to know a team whose hole is exactly as deep as it looks? Say hello to NC State! After a loss at Wake Forest last night, head coach Mark Gottfried said, “I’ve seen bad teams before. We’re not a bad team.” Unfortunately, his team’s problem is that it can’t shoot. Its defense is typical of a Gottfried-coached team and Cat Barber is a must-watch player, but his roster has way too many offensive holes.
  3. Louisville Courier-Journal: The only disappointing things about Clemson‘s ACC season so far are: 1) the Tigers weren’t able to end their lifetime streak of futility in Chapel Hill; and, 2) Littlejohn Coliseum is being renovated so all their home games are being played 30 miles down the road in Greenville. That second fact makes the Tigers’ win over Louisville even more impressive. Littlejohn often surprises visiting teams with its great atmosphere, but this games wasn’t on campus (not to mention that a certain football game tonight is dominating Clemson fans’ minds). For Louisville, though, this game emphasizes just how much we don’t know about the Cardinals.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: One thing was clear in watching Duke‘s game against Virginia Tech this weekend, which is that it’s not necessarily insane to think Marshall Plumlee is the Blue Devils’ most important player. Certainly, he’s not their best player — Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen are much more important to the team from a production perspective. But Plumlee brings the fire. He throws himself around with reckless abandon and has gone 13-of-14 from the field in his last two games.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: The ACC Tournament will never be the same, as the league has made the decision to sell beer and wine at the event beginning this season. That may not seem like a huge deal (and for many it won’t be), but a beer or three would go a long way, especially on Wednesday and Thursday. The best part of this move is that it brings beer and wine back to  the common people. For years it has been available in the luxury boxes and suites, out of reach of the average fan. No longer!
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Depth and the Devils: The Worries of Duke’s Shrinking Rotation

Posted by Shane McNichol on December 23rd, 2015

Over the last decade, Mike Krzyzewski’s teams at Duke have shifted toward the new era of college basketball. Duke brings in NBA-bound one-and-done players at a much higher rate than it once did, possibly even surpassing John Calipari — the recent king of transcendent freshman — at his own game. Including this season, the Blue Devils have spent the last three years among the 100 youngest teams in America in terms of college basketball experience.

duke experience

This year’s team includes three freshman receiving a heavy dosage of minutes yet appears to rely on more veterans than last year’s group. That would imply that these Blue Devils returned a reasonable amount of production from last year’s National Championship squad, but a little digging reveals that’s not really the case. The four Blue Devils who played the highest percentage of the team’s available minutes last year departed after the season. This year’s team may be slightly older, but the experience they bring is somewhat misleading. Of the seven players to log time in Duke’s most recent game versus Utah, only one player, Matt Jones, received more than 25 percent of Duke’s available minutes last season.

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Evaluating Duke’s First Two Games

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 17th, 2015

It’s always premature to form ironclad opinions based on a team’s first two games of the regular season, especially when the team in question is as young as Duke‘s 2015-16 squad. Throw in the fact that the competition the Blue Devils faced over the weekend was far from stellar, and we still have most of the same questions about Mike Krzyzewski’s current edition that we had before the season began. Nevertheless, here are some observations from Duke’s two home wins over the weekend, a 92-74 victory over Siena on Friday and a 113-75 demolition of Bryant on Saturday night.

Grayson Allen has picked up right where he left off in the 2015 Final Four, averaging 27 points in Duke's opening two games. (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Grayson Allen has picked up right where he left off in the 2015 Final Four, averaging 27 points in Duke’s opening two games. (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

There were two major questions for Duke coming into this season. First, could this year’s highly-touted freshmen class approach the spectacular success achieved by last year’s rookies? And secondly, were Duke’s four returnees capable of elevating their games after mostly exclusive use in the past as role players? To the first question, the newcomers played much better collectively against Bryant than they did in Friday’s opener. Krzyzewski spoke about the differences in their performances between the two games:

“I didn’t think they talked well last night. Part of that, I think it’s your first game at Duke, your first real game. For Brandon [Ingram], it’s his first start. I reminded them that it’s Grayson [Allen]’s first start last night too. It was Marshall [Plumlee]’s first start in two years. We have a lot of young guys. Grayson and Marshall [Plumlee] weren’t into themselves last night, they were trying to help everybody. When you’re young, sometimes your thoughts are just with you instead of talking. Tonight, they talked well. They were consumed with Duke. We saw that they played better. That’s just a learning process that they have to go through.”

Individually, Brandon Ingram scored 15 and 21 points, respectively, in the two games, and exhibited much better shot selection in his second college start on the way to making 4-of-6 threes (he was just 1-of-9 from deep in the opener). He also used his length well to act as a disruptive defensive force, with a combined four steals and three blocks over the two outings. Ingram was also often employed by Krzyzewski as a ball-handler from the top of the arc, a set that will make him even more of a match-up problem for most collegiate forwards. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can Mike Krzyzewski lead another freshmen-heavy team to the Final Four?

Talk about a tough act to follow. After a season that saw Mike Krzyzewski win his 1,000th career game and capture his fifth NCAA title at Duke, it’s hard to imagine a coach ever having a better year. More than that, after spending years and years as the most hated program in the sport, it seems that Duke has achieved a measure of “coolness” lately, especially in the recruiting world. Perhaps it’s a result of Coach K’s decade-long tenure as coach of the USA senior national team and the success of coaching NBA stars to gold medals. Maybe it’s the perception (and reality) that Krzyzewski has embraced the one-and-done era of college basketball. Either way, it’s interesting to see the Duke coach get praise for adapting to the new way of winning in college hoops, yet the inventor of the model, Kentucky’s John Calipari, has been regarded in a much more negative light (as a system manipulator) over the last six years. Each coach has now won a national championship with a starting lineup of mostly freshmen. There were productive veterans around to guide the young stars in both programs’ title runs, and the three main freshmen on both squads were unusually mature — mentally and physically. That’s why it would be unfair to expect Duke’s latest highly acclaimed group of newcomers to match the success of their predecessors. It’s just not ‘normal’ to do what Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow accomplished in their first year, just as it wasn’t for the 2012 Wildcats’ super-frosh — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year's vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach last season's frosh accomplishments. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year’s vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach the exploits of last season’s group of Blue Devil newcomers. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for last year’s Blue Devils, especially on the defensive end. The low point of the year came when Duke suffered back-to-back double digit losses to unranked teams, N.C. State and Miami. They were so bad defensively at that point that Krzyzewski, in a desperate and out-of-character decision, implemented a zone defense that Duke would go on to use more often than ever before in the Coach K era. Eventually, the freshmen learned to execute the man-to-man principles that the great Blue Devils of the past were known for, and the result was one of the best defensive performances we’ve seen in recent NCAA tournaments — Duke’s six opponents only managed to score .93 points per possession, and four of those teams boasted top-21 offenses according to Ken Pomeroy. The experience of last year’s team reminds us of a couple of things when considering the future defensive prowess of this year’s squad. For one, don’t expect the Blue Devils’ freshmen to immediately grasp Duke’s man-to-man principles, which may result in another year of a decent diet of zone mixed in;. Secondly, the possible early struggles of the freshmen on the defensive end don’t mean that dramatic improvement over the course of the year can’t happen again.

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ACC M5: Exhibition Edition 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 4th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke opened its exhibition season last Friday by beating Florida Southern, 112-68, in a match-up of the 2015 Division I and Division II national champions. This is the seventh consecutive year that the Blue Devils have played the defending Division II champion, a tradition that Moccasins’ head coach Mike Donnelly greatly appreciated. He said, after the game: “This game was a lot of fun for us. It is terrific for college basketball at our level, and for the kids it is a great experience. I hope that they [Duke] keep doing it because it is great for everyone involved.” As for Duke’s high-profile group of incoming freshmen, they were led by Derryck Thornton, who notched 22 points and shot 4-of-7 on threes. The Blue Devils’ veteran bigs also had their way with the smaller Mocs, as Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson combined for 27 points (on 11-of-13 shooting) and 21 rebounds in 39 total minutes.
  2. Defending ACC champion Notre Dame also tipped off its preseason schedule with an 87-56 victory over the NAIA’s Saint Francis (IL) last Friday. Twelve different players saw at least 10 minutes of action for the Irish, which dominated the boards (+22 rebound edge) in this game. Mike Brey was particularly happy with the way his team defended, saying, “Yeah we should be able to guard, we got more wingspan in there in the starting group and ball pressure. It’s unbelievable what it does and we’ve got guys who can get out in the passing lanes and do things.” The Irish forced 18 turnovers and held the Fighting Saints to 36.5 percent field goal shooting.
  3. It’s been a rough preseason off the floor for Louisville, so Rick Pitino probably enjoyed having a chance to concentrate solely on basketball for a change, as his Cardinals defeated Bellarmine (KY), 71-55, on Saturday afternoon. The Knights, ranked No. 4 in the preseason Division II NABC Poll, only trailed Louisville by six at the half and drew high praise from Pitino after the game. Louisville’s defense was a pleasant surprise, leading Pitino to comment that he “learned we are further along defensively than I thought. Holding a great shooting and passing team to 32 percent from the field and 22 percent on three-point shooting is excellent for the initial outing.” Sophomore point guard Quentin Snider came off the bench and was impressive with eight assists versus only one turnover in 27 minutes of action.
  4. Syracuse fans can’t be criticized for holding their breath whenever the Orange takes on Division II Le Moyne in an exhibition game. It was just six years ago that the Dolphins pulled the stunner, knocking off a preseason ranked Syracuse squad in the Carrier Dome. There were no such worries on Monday evening, as the Orange took care of business against the small crosstown school in a convincing 97-58 win. Michael Gbinije, who got the start at point guard over Kaleb Joseph, led the way for Jim Boeheim’s team with 21 points and four assists. All eyes in the building were on returning center Dajuan Coleman, suiting up for his first game since January 2014. The big guy delivered an encouraging performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
  5. Florida State was also in action on Monday night and looked rather impressive in its 114-68 blowout of Lynn University, a good Florida-based Division II program. Seven Seminoles scored in double figures, led by senior guard Devon Bookert, who tallied 19 points and made three of his five attempts from three-point range. The four newcomers on the perimeter — JuCo transfer Benji Bell and freshmen Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann and Malik Beasley — combined for 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting from the floor. This could be Leonard Hamilton’s deepest and most athletic team in many years, which may translate into a group that plays the kind of stingy defense that Florida State was known for during its four-year stretch of NCAA appearances from 2009-12. The Seminoles held Lynn to a frigid 29.3 percent shooting from the field.
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