With most of America tuning into the London Olympics — brought to you in living color on tape delay — college basketball is considerably off the radar of most sports and Olympics fans alike. But there are still a few connections to the sport we love during the Olympics fortnight, and one of those is St. Mary’s star guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s representation as the lone one of only two collegians participating in this year’s basketball competition [ed. note: as noted in the comments, Andrew Lawrence of College of Charleston is the other]. A member of the Australian squad that dropped its first game on Sunday, 75-71, to Brazil, Dellavedova provided six points and three assists in 27 valuable minutes of action. The rising senior will no doubt use his experience in London this summer to prepare for what could be an All-American campaign in 2012-13. Another player with recent collegiate ties is quite obviously the 2011-12 NPOY Anthony Davis, who only saw spot action in Team USA’s convincing win over France Sunday, with three point and three rebounds in eight minutes on the floor. His head coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyezewski, was recently “got” by Deron Williams while stretching out his back in a yoga pose at a team practice. Funny, at first glance, we thought he was just instructing his stars on the finer details of how to slap the floor on defense.
While on the topic of Davis, Coach K, and the game that just won’t quit even 20 years later, it appears that the Kentucky superstar (born in March 1993) found some recent time in London for shenanigans with Public Enemy #1 in Lexington, Christian Laettner. The duo decided to re-enact the infamous “Laettner Stomp” on Wildcats forward Aminu Timberlake, only this time the roles were reversed. Of course, this does nothing to exorcise any lingering demons that UK fans may have toward the Duke superstar, but in the last calendar year Laettner has shown up in Rupp Arena to act as a “villain” — even going so far as mopping up the floor — and now this? Maybe in his middle aged years, he just really, really wants to be liked.
One current UK villain is Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — perhaps you’ve heard of him. Like him or hate him, he could always coach young players, though. Some of his motivational techniques are legendary, but he’s always been skilled in relating to his athletes by making comparisons to current NBA stars. In one such example as reported by the Courier Journal, Cardinal sophomore Kevin Ware has reconstructed his admittedly broken jump shot by reviewing frame-by-frame comps with Celtics star Ray Allen’s perfect form. It goes without saying that knocking down Js in practice during July is incredibly different than doing so in Madison Square Garden in March, but if Ware can provide scoring punch from the wing next season, the Cards’ might actually be the team to beat.
Although we don’t believe any sea changes are coming where elite recruits start to eschew high major programs in favor of mid-majors where they can become stars right away, the idea that the next group of Damian Lillards could go middie is interesting in the context of the transfer epidemic and the reality that high draft picks can come from anywhere. In just the past four NBA Drafts, lottery picks have come from Davidson (Stephen Curry), Butler (Gordon Hayward), Fresno State (Paul George), BYU (Jimmer Fredette), and Weber State (Lillard) — the average is a little more than one per year these days, so it’s definitely an attainable goal for players who find themselves somewhat off the beaten basketball path.
Could former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antonibe signaling his interest in exploring college coaching through some of his latest comments made while at the London Games? The long-time professional coach whose unique offensively-oriented style of play would certainly find a willing suitor if he were indeed available, but he said that there’s a sense of “fun” and “energy” surrounding the college game and experience, which is more or less the exact difference between going to an NBA game versus an elite college basketball game. The two things simply are not comparable in most cases.
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).
As previously mentioned on RTC (and every other decent site that covers basketball), the NBA held its draft lottery last night. Among the luminaries in attendance were the Basketball Jesus himself Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade of “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” fame, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Mitch Richmond, Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg, and some lady who has Sacramento Kings season tickets.
As most of you know by now, the Chicago Bulls defied their 1.7% odds to steal the #1 pick. Rounding out the top 3 were the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. The losers of the draft were the Seattle Oklahoma City Supersonics who fell from the #2 spot to #4, which I think they deserved after last year (still bitter despite a NBA record 42-win turnaround and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals).
The top 2 are essentially set in stone although the Bulls lack of an interior scoring presence (not you Joakim) and lack of an elite point guard (sorry, Kirk) means they could go either direction. The Heat will get the “leftovers”. I’m guessing that Pat Riley (still the GM, right?) is hoping that the coachless Bulls take Michael Beasley because it seems like Beasley and Shawn Marion would clash in terms of their inside-outside styles and type of play so he would prefer Derrick Rose, who could be absolutely ridiculous paired with Wade and Marion.
We’ll be putting up draft previews over the next couple of days, but until then we’ll just offer a few thoughts:
(1) If I was the Bulls GM (if Reinsdorf or any one in the organization is reading this, please contact me), I would go with Rose. Even though they lack a great inside scoring threat, I think it’s a lot easier to find a serviceable PF than PG. I also think the impact of a great PG is bigger as Chris Paul and the other great recent vintage PGs have shown everyone the past few years. The Bulls have a lot of talented NBA-quality young guards (Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefolosha) along with a couple talented unproven youngsters (JamesOn Curry and Shannon Brown). While some analysts may argue that this is a reason to get a big man, I would argue they should take Rose (better than any of the current guards) and make a big package of these young guys to try to get another inside presence to compliment Andre Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Drew Gooden, and Tyrus Thomas along with the team’s only “star” Luol Deng. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post. . .
(2) I wonder if Mike D’Antoni is starting to think he should have asked the Knicks for more money. He could have had almost the perfect team for his offense if he went to Chicago even before they had the chance to select Rose. I also wonder how D’Antoni is going to handle being on a team that uses its draft pick to select a player instead of selling it for money.
(3) Hoiberg looked like he was going to throw the cancer patient’s teddy bear when the Timberwolves ended up with the #3 pick (falling outside of the Beasley-Rose jackpot). That would have made an even better YouTube moment than it already was (around the 2:20 mark of the clip below).
A couple quick, early links on the NBA Draft:
(1) As always, Chad Ford has a mock draft up with a brief analysis. I swear he must have enough spare time during the year to come up with mock drafts for every possible team draft order combination.
(3) If you want to hate John Hollinger and his ridiculous unproven stats, check out his Pro Potential analysis (ESPN Insider access required). For those of you without access here are a couple of gems:
- Michael Beasley at #1 followed by. . .Blake Griffin at #2 and Danny Green at #4.
- 11 of the top 25 are freshman, which isn’t surprising, but that does not include several notable freshman who didn’t make the list: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, DeAndre Jordan, Donte Green, and Eric Gordon.
- The list of freshman that Hollinger considers to have more pro potential than those five heralded freshman: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Dar Tucker (DePaul), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), and Matt Howard (Butler). The fact that I decided to list the schools these guys play at should tell you how far off the radar most of these guys are as NBA prospects. Hollinger offers an impassioned defense of his system, but I don’t buy it.
With several big-name programs going down on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, we thought it was worthwhile to take a look back at their season and try to evaluate whether it was a success or failure (hence, the name of the post). We’re only going to take a look at the programs that are typically expected to compete for titles. So if you’re looking for a post about Coppin State, you’re out of luck.
To start things off we’ll take a look at Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.
Where they left off: Coming off an embarrassing 1st round loss to Eric Maynor and Virginia Commonwealth and the early departure of Josh McRoberts, the Blue Devils were not expected to be their typical dominant self this year (preseason AP #13). As noted by resident Duke hater rtmsf, Duke has not had its typical monopolyover top recruits the past few years. Coming into the season, I expected the Blue Devils to go no further than the Sweet 16 as they did not have any low-post presence at all and lacked a true star (DeMarcus Nelson was as close as they came).
Story of the Season: As the season started, Krzyzewski unleashed a startling offensive set essentially playing 5 perimeter players the entire game. Given his numerous talented perimeter players and total absence of talented inside players, it seemed like a reasonable if unusual strategy. Using this offense that Krzyzewski took from Team USA assistant coach (and Phoenix Suns head coach) Mike D’Antoni, the Blue Devils climbed as high as #2 in the AP rankings. However, even as they piled up the wins their lack of an interior game on offense and defense was evident. The Blue Devils showed that they could compete with any team in the country on a given night with wins at then #1 UNC (without Ty Lawson), #5 Wisconsin (82-58), at #23 Davidson, and #24 Marquette. However, they also showed their vulnerability during back-to-back losses at Wake Forest and Miami (FL). In the end, the Blue Devils fell apart again at the end of the seasonlosing 3 of their last 5 with a narrow escape over 15th-seeded Belmont in the 1st round before falling to 7th-seeded West Virginia in the 2nd round.
The Verdict: We are hesitant to consider any season in which a team ranked #2 late in the season then loses 3 of its last 5, barely survives in the first-round against a 15 seed and loses in the 2nd round a success, but given the extremely low expectations for Duke coming into the season and the fact that they had nobody who could play inside (Zoubek? Seriously?) we have to give Coach K and his boys a “success” vote by the narrowest of margins. While they failed to play their best ball at the biggest moment (March), they played well throughout the season and did much better than we expected (not counting the NCAA tournament). Obviously, this is a big exception, but we prefer to look at the season as a whole especially when dealing with a team we never expected to make a serious title run.
Outlook: The Blue Devils certainly had some bright spots this season with the emergence of Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson as solid players who should contribute for the next few years (as long as they don’t do anything stupid and jump early). However, with the loss of Greg Monroe to Georgetown and no highly touted big men on the way, it looks like Duke will be stuck with their current system for the foreseeable future. The question is whether Coach K can turn it around and start landing some of the studs that he used to now that the NBA is forcing kids to go to college for at least a year. Unless Coach K can do this or land one solid inside player, Duke haters will likely be able to rejoice around this time each March for the next few years.
rtmsf Update: It should surprise no one that we have a slightly different take than our counterpart with respect to the Devils’ season. His viewpoint is that this was a successful year for Duke, given low preseason expectations. But how low were those expectations? He points out that Duke was preseason #13 in the AP poll, and nearly every preseason mag had the Devils in the Sweet 16. As usual, Duke came out of the gate with a bang, blowing out Wisconsin and positioning itself securely in the top 10 for the rest of the season (all but two weeks). There was even the usual mid-February talk of another #1 seed for Coach K’s crew. So while the preseason expectations were slightly lower than usual, the in-season expectations for Duke were considerably higher. To that degree, looking at Duke’s March success, we consider a #2 seed barely sneaking by a #15 seed and then getting outmuscled by a Bob Huggins team in Round 2 to be a huge disappointment. It’s Duke, for Chrissakes, not Villanova! Anything less than a F4 is a disappointing season, and the last two Marches in Durham have been nothing short of disgraceful.
nvr1983 update to the update: I guess I should probably stop using the royal we when I write articles since there appears to be some dissension within the RTC ranks. As I noted in my original post, I wouldn’t consider this season a huge success, which is why I stated it was a success by “the narrowest of margins”. Perhaps, I should have went with an A-F system where I would have given the Blue Devils a C. As for rtmsf’s argument that the in-season expectations being higher than usual for Duke this year, I would argue that he’s out of his f-ing mind. Everybody who watched them play this year knew it was a vastly flawed team and I don’t know of a single person who picked them to go to the Final 4. He also notes that the expectation was a trip to the Sweet 16. I think coming up 1 round short of the preseason expectation isn’t that big of a failure particularly when the Sweet 16 is close enough to the peak of the NCAA tournament performance Bell curve that losing a round earlier isn’t a huge deviation from the expectation. Stealing a point from Billy Beane, I would also argue that post-season performance isn’t necessarily representative of their overall performance especially with relatively low expectations (that they performed close to) and the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament.