Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 88, #2 Michigan State 81

Posted by Walker Carey on November 14th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage of the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke’s Grayson Allen Led the Blue Devils to a Marquee Victory (USA Today Images)

  1. This should be a game we all want to see again in San Antonio. While not always the most fundamentally sound contest, tonight’s clash between the Blue Devils and Spartans certainly lived up to the hype in terms of star power and excitement. Even though it was played in mid-November, it most certainly had a big game feel. Both the Duke and Michigan State fans that journeyed to the United Center for the showdown made their presence known throughout what was a hotly-contested affair. The only real bummer from the game was that Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III left the game just prior to the 10-minute mark of the first half after taking an inadvertent poke to the eye from teammate Javin DeLaurier. Both squads feature many young contributors, so it is fair to assume they will each get better as the season progresses. At this point, it is difficult to argue that a Final Four or National Championship game between Duke and Michigan State would not once again be appointment viewing. These could be the best two teams in college basketball.
  2. Grayson Allen is once again going to be headline the news all season long. The player a majority of college basketball fans love to hate is back for his senior season — and, if tonight’s performance serves as any indication, that senior season is going to be rather noteworthy. While playing all 40 minutes, Allen led the Blue Devils to victory with a game-high 37 points (11-of-20 FG, 7-of-11 3FG) and came up with big shot after big shot down the stretch when his team needed them most. After a junior year that was marred by another tripping controversy, some nagging injuries and overall inconsistent play, the senior guard is beginning this season by letting his play garner the headlines. Considering Duke’s otherwise young roster, it would be beneficial for Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils if that trend continues throughout the season.
  3. Even in defeat, Michigan State can still take away some positives. The Spartans are certainly disappointed by tonight’s result, but disappointment should not be the only thing they take from this evening’s defeat. Even though he struggled to get in the lane for much of the night against Duke’s size and length, star sophomore Miles Bridges still finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Michigan State also received a lift from its interior, as both freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore Nick Ward battled valiantly with Duke’s frontcourt all night. Jackson finished with 19 points and seven rebounds while showcasing the reasons why he is considered an elite NBA prospect. Ward also chipped in 19 points while using his wide frame to force Duke’s young front line into some foul trouble. A loss is a loss, but this was one that left the Spartans with things they can build upon moving forward.

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Three Takeaways from Weekend #1 in the ACC

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 13th, 2017

The ACC fared well on the opening weekend of college basketball, with only one school suffering a surprising loss as Wake Forest fell to Georgia Southern in Winston-Salem on Friday night. As is usually the case, most of the other league teams opened the season by beating inferior opponents. Here are three takeaways from the league’s first weekend of action.

1) North Carolina: No Joel Berry. No Problem.

Luke Maye was the star in North Carolina’s convincing season opening win over Northern Iowa.
(Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite not having All-America point guard Joel Berry II (broken hand) and another starter — transfer Cameron Johnson (sprained neck) — in the lineup, North Carolina didn’t miss a beat in its 86-69 win over Northern Iowa on Friday night at the Smith Center. Freshman Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods combined for 14 points and three assists while splitting time running the team, but the Tar Heels’ primary playmaking came from the wing as Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams each logged five assists. As long as Berry is out — and maybe even when he returns — Pinson will often initiate the offense.

The most encouraging thing from the Tar Heels’ opener was the surprising performance of their untested frontline. Junior Luke Maye showed that he’s ready for a breakout season after posting 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting. Maybe even more important than Maye’s unforeseen outburst was the play of two relatively unheralded freshman big men, Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley. The post duo combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. If Roy Williams can get that kind of production from his frontcourt, he can afford to maintain his preferred style of inside-out play this season.

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ACC Burning Questions: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2017

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

Burning Question: Can Grayson Allen become the senior leader a young Duke team needs?

With a starting lineup full of potential NBA first-rounders, Duke is receiving a lot of love in national preseason rankings — #1 in the AP and USA Today polls, #2 in the RTC16. But four of those projected stars are freshmen, and Mike Krzyzewski only returns one player of significance from last year’s ACC Tournament championship team. Of course, that player just happens to be the most polarizing figure in college basketball — senior guard Grayson Allen. Just three short years ago, Duke entered the 2014-15 season with a very similar roster makeup and eventually rode freshman stars Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones all the way to an NCAA title. The unheralded but equally important component of that team’s success was the leadership of its lone senior, Quinn Cook. For the Blue Devils to meet their lofty goals this season, Allen will need to channel Cook’s leadership to guide his young teammates in a similar fashion — essentially by having a productive season on the floor and avoiding any further dirty-play incidents.

As the lone senior for Duke, Grayson Allen must provide positive leadership to the talented youngsters on the team, which means he must avoid any more episodes of dirty-play.
(Getty Images)

Allen has been in the college basketball spotlight since his surprising 16-point outburst as a freshman in the 2015 National Championship game. His career at Duke since that night in Indianapolis has experienced many ups and downs. His highs have been very high: an outstanding Final Four performance; consensus Second Team All-American as a sophomore. And his lows have been very low: three separate high-profile tripping incidents; a disappointing injury-riddled junior season. Given such an inconsistent history combined with his naturally reserved demeanor, it’s fair to question whether Allen is effectively capable of providing such leadership. For his part, Krzyzewski wants the senior to lead the team in behavior while off the floor and during stoppages in play. But during live game action, Duke’s coach prefers that Allen worry about his own play in an effort to “hunt his shot.” To free him to do so, Duke is counting on five-star freshman Trevon Duval to run the point guard position. The newcomer needs to improve his outside shot and will have to demonstrate that he can make good decisions at this level, but he’s very explosive off the bounce and thrives in transition — finishing at the rim with strength. Duval’s length and athleticism could also make him a potential demon on the defensive end of the floor. The other rookie starter on the perimeter, Gary Trent, Jr., will be counted on to help Allen provide the kind of space-creating three-point shooting that Duke teams always seem to have. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #7 South Carolina 88, #2 Duke 81

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 19th, 2017

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is in Greenville this weekend.

Celebrate Rakym Felder, you and your teammates just made school history. (Getty)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. After a terrible offensive performance in the first half, South Carolina had another second half explosion. It was a repeat of Friday’s win over Marquette when it scored 54 second half points. Despite holding Duke to 30 points in 33 first half possessions, the Gamecocks were still down seven at the break because they shot 20 percent from the floor. But the change of baskets after intermission did wonders for the South Carolina aim. They connected on 20 of their 28 shots in the second stanza for 71.4 percent shooting. Additionally, the Gamecocks were great at the foul line–icing the game away by making 21-of-23 from the stripe in the second half. South Carolina put up 65 points after intermission in a complete turnaround that propelled the Gamecocks to victory.
  2. Overall, South Carolina did a great job containing Duke’s explosive offense. The Blue Devils looked rattled for much of the first half, committing 13 turnovers. About midway through the opening stanza Frank Martin went to a zone, which stood up the Duke offense and forced many of those miscues. It was more of the same after the break. For the game, South Carolina forced Duke into 18 turnovers and 41.5 percent field goal shooting. The result: South Carolina held one of the nation’s best offenses to 1.07 points per possession and the preseason #1 ranked Blue Devils end the year in disappointing fashion.
  3. Sindarius Thornwell is a bona fide stud. Earlier in the week, Mike Krzyzewski called him one of the nation’s least known great players. Maybe America will know who he is now as the senior forward displayed his versatility on both ends of the floor. He finished with a game-high 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Thornwell, a member of the SEC All-Defensive Team, also deserves praise for his work against Duke’s star Luke Kennard. He was a primary reason that Kennard finished with just 11 points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field. And there’s no question that his play raises the level of his teammates’ confidence as well.

Player of the Game. Sindarius Thornwell. See Above! Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.23.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 23rd, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Before I get started, I hope you caught that SyracuseDuke game last night. The big home win probably puts the Orange on the right side of the bubble for now (although this is far from assured), and John Gillon‘s contested three that banked through was the team’s second game-winner of the month. Duke only has its second half defense to blame for the loss. The Blue Devils played plenty well enough on offense, but allowing Syracuse to go a blistering 18-of-26 from the field in the second half was more than a good night on the glass could overcome. But back to the story at hand: Apparently an upset Syracuse fan called Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner to complain about fans chanting “air ball” at Gillon. Thankfully, Gillon’s 26-point, six-assist performance last night shows he wasn’t too impacted by the vitriol.
  2. Roanoke Times: Clemson may have sold its soul for a football championship (and its fans are likely at peace with that). After Tuesday night’s loss to Virginia Tech, the Tigers are now 1-7 in games decided by five p0ints or fewer in ACC play (they lost another game by six points). That gives Brad Brownell’s club a slight edge over Wake Forest in ranking lowest in ACC “Luck,” according to Ken Pomeroy (the Demon Deacons, by contrast, are 3-4 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer). If in fact Clemson still has its soul, that would imply some regression (or progression) to the mean, which could mean an exciting week in Brooklyn for the Tigers.
  3. Sports Illustrated: This is your annual reminder that the ACC will likely be replacing four Hall of Fame coaches in coming years, not to mention Miami’s Jim Larranaga. The only obvious choice is Jeff Capel almost certainly getting the chance to succeed Mike Krzyzweski at Duke (although given enough time, Chris Collins may have too much success at Northwestern to ignore). It remains to be seen whether North Carolina learned its lesson from hiring Matt Doherty, or whether the Tar Heel Way will take precedence over a surer pick. I don’t see the Tar Heels hiring Texas’ Shaka Smart, but Arizona’s Sean Miller would have a tough time saying no. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin makes perfect sense at Louisville (and he’s criminally underrated nationally). Replacing Jim Boeheim at Syracuse looks simultaneously the easiest and most challenging. There’s a successor already in place (Mike Hopkins), but there’s been no evidence of any momentum to hand over the keys.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Try to avoid the unnecessary aside about North Carolina’s academic scandal (the Raleigh News & Observer covered it better than any paper in the country and was relentless in uncovering new facets of the case). Other than that, I agree wholeheartedly with Al Featherston’s description of the NC State job. It’s a good but not elite job. Hiring Sidney Lowe (and the media narrative following Herb Sendek’s ousting) put the program in a really tough long-term spot. Mark Gottfried dug out of the hole but his team looked totally lost this year. Featherston’s best point is that a lot of luck goes into hiring a basketball coach. NC State could make a great hire (and that includes many people other than Archie Miller — UNC Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts and North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton both come to mind). They could also make another hire that’s a band-aid, or worse.
  5. WRAL Sports Fan: Props to the ACC for ending the asinine process where anyone who contributed $15 could vote for postseason awards. That led to a huge advantage for North Carolina schools. Now each team will be represented by an equal number of people. In a league the size (both in terms of number of teams and geographic area) of the ACC, this makes the most sense.
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Jayson Tatum’s Move to Power Forward Sparked Duke

Posted by Charlie Maikis on February 22nd, 2017

Duke entered this season with high expectations in large part because of several highly-regarded incoming freshmen. Among those touted newcomers was forward Jayson Tatum, a game-changing talent who is poised to become a high-lottery selection in June. Tatum was expected to contribute immediately, in much the same way that recent star Duke freshmen Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram have done. The beginning of his tenure in Durham, though, was anything but smooth. Because of Duke’s abundance of more traditional big men like Amile Jefferson, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, Tatum often found himself on the floor with two other interior players. For a player with legitimate perimeter capabilities but also a preference for operating around the rim, the cramped spacing and clogged driving lanes resulting from this arrangement inhibited both his production as well as Duke’s offense.

Duke’s Jayson Tatum had 19 points and seven rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 99-94 weekend victory over Wake Forest. (Associated Press)

Since a January 23 Big Monday home loss to NC State, Duke’s season has completely turned around. Tatum became the starting power forward alongside Jefferson and a three-guard backcourt in the very next game against Wake Forest, and Duke has won seven straight entering tonight’s game at Syracuse (including six victories against KenPom top-40 units). Tatum followed up his ascent to the starting five with the best game of his young career against Notre Dame a few days later, contributing a double-double of 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. The Irish had considerable trouble defending the freshman, as he proved too strong for VJ Beachem and too quick for Bonzie Colson. Many of his looks came from isolations. With the guards spotting up in positions around the perimeter, Tatum was able to utilize a mid-range post-up and bully his way to the rim without fear of help defense recovering quickly enough. Per Synergy Sports, he scored six points on six isolation plays in that game, a solid number for a relatively inefficient play type.

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Brad Brownell’s Days May be Numbered at Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2017

It’s been six long years since Clemson has been invited to the Big Dance, and based on recent history, we are likely witnessing Brad Brownell’s farewell ACC campaign. Just six weeks ago, the prospect of the Tigers ending their NCAA drought looked promising — a 10-2 mark in non-conference play included four wins over Power Five schools. After a comeback road win over Wake Forest to begin ACC play, however, the bottom has since dropped out. Clemson now rests near the bottom of the ACC with a conference record of 3-9. Saturday’s 64-62 loss at Duke was a typical outcome, as six of the Tigers’ ACC defeats have been by five points or fewer. Now holding an overall record of 13-11 going into tonight’s rematch against Wake Forest, Clemson faces a steep uphill climb to earn an NCAA bid and save Brownell’s job.

Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers suffered yet another close defeat at Duke on Saturday.
(Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

There was considerable discussion of Duke’s emotional state entering Saturday’s meeting with Clemson, tipping off just 38 hours after the Blue Devils’ draining win over rival North Carolina. But Clemson was also dealing with negative vibes stemming from its own gut-wrenching last second loss to Syracuse. In Saturday’s postgame press conference, Brownell commented, “You know, give our kids a lot of credit; we took a major punch in the gut this week on that loss against Syracuse. We’ve been a little snake-bit, but at the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to make the winning plays to change these things.” Mike Krzyzewski echoed Brownell’s view by saying, “I feel bad for Brad’s team because I have watched six of their games. Five that I watched, they could have won easy with one possession. This was another one, and that is the heartbreak of our league.”

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Media Timeout: If It Bleeds, It Leads – Especially If It’s Duke

Posted by Will Tucker on February 7th, 2017

College basketball places huge emphasis on individual games — showdowns between top-ranked teams, annual rivalry clashes, single-elimination tournaments — but it’s important from time to time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The Media Timeout considers how fans and journalists watch, follow and talk about the sport.


For the second time in as many seasons, Duke entered February with five or more losses. Four of those have come in conference play, where Duke sits in the middle of the ACC log jam. What began as a National Title march went way off course over the winter break. First, the Blue Devils lost to Virginia Tech for the first time since 2011, with their best player riding the pine after losing his captaincy. Then they lost head coach Mike Krzyzewski to back surgery and a lengthy recovery. Then they lost access to their own locker room after falling to NC State in Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time since 1995.

Jeff Capel III

Assistant Jeff Capel presided over a rocky 4-3 stretch in Mike Krzyzewski’s absence (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s safe to say Duke has staunched the bleeding after winning back-to-back ACC road games and escaping last-place Pitsburgh over the weekend with Krzyzewski back on the bench. But with plenty of questions remaining ahead of a date with North Carolina this week, it’s also too early to claim that the Blue Devils have righted the ship. In spite of Duke’s undistinguished resume and erratic play, the preseason #1 team remains a fixture in national headlines and ESPN segments. Why? The obvious answer is Grayson Allen, the embattled preseason Player of the Year pick whose volatile play and widespread criticism has delighted those who can’t stand his petulant and, at times, dangerous behavior on the court. But Allen obviously isn’t the first high-profile college player to behave badly, and the gleeful spectacle around his slow unravelling speaks to greater forces at play. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.07.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 7th, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post Standard: Apparently (and unsurprisingly, really) Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Jim Boeheim to congratulate him on his 899th* win (*just kidding, he has 1,000 wins). But more important than his USA Basketball colleague was the reception that Boeheim received from Orange fans. I’m a little worried, though, that he NCAA’s sanctioning of Boeheim will mean that he and Krzyzewski retire sooner than if there was still a reasonable chance of the former catching the latter.
  2. Louisville Courier-Journal: Louisville probably would have lost to Virginia last night regardless of their presence, but the absences of Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel made their odds even lower. The real story here, though, was Rick Pitino‘s reaction when asked about Mathiang’s missing rebounding. After a standard graciousness in losing interview, Pitino then sniped: “I don’t even… Don’t mention his name to me.” Then he ended the interview. It’s certainly possible that Pitino was simply fed up with reporters at that point, but it’s more likely he’s livid with his captain for violating curfew. Pitino needs to strike the right balance, though, because the Cardinals have a chance to cut down some postseason nets if they can get reasonably healthy.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Even for a Mark Gottfried team, NC State‘s defense is atrocious. It’s unfortunate that StatBroadcast no longer exists, as it would be interesting to see non-adjusted efficiency ratings for the Wolfpack. The saddest part of this analysis is that NC State isn’t even the least efficient team in the ACC in conference play. That honor goes to Pittsburgh, which has allowed its conference opponents to shoot 42.5 percent from three and 53.7 percent from inside the arc. Either way, expect Gottfried hot seat chatter to reach fever pitch if this team doesn’t turn things around very quickly.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: My goodness, Florida State put the beatdown on Clemson this weekend. The 48-point victory was so lopsided that the Tigers’ FanSided blog went on a rant about needing better recruiting. I agree fully with the statement that head coach Brad Brownell needs to recruit more talent — that said, the question with this particular coach was always going to be about his ability to attract talent. The Clemson program, when viewed through an impossibly optimistic lens, looks like a sleeping giant. They have plenty of money and national publicity (with even more coming after the CFP National Championship); and they have an awesome, intimate basketball arena. But viewed more realistically, Clemson is awful more often than it is good. It’s a football school, through and through.
  5. Slap the Sign: This article is more than a little dramatic. Notre Dame certainly didn’t have a very good week, but the Irish are a long way from missing the NCAA Tournament. They rank among the top 30 in projected RPI, among the top 30 in KenPom, and are a consensus #6 seed in Bracket Matrix. Notre Dame can’t continue on its current path (1-5 in their last six games), but there’s no reason to think the Irish will either. Against Florida State and at Louisville will be really tough games, but the remaining five should all be wins (with the possible exception of NC State in Raleigh).
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Duke’s Lineup Change: Beginning of Something Special?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 23rd, 2017

With Duke down 11 points after a listless first half against Miami on Saturday night, acting head coach Jeff Capel decided some personnel changes were in order. Starters Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles began the second half on the bench as Duke turned around the game — and maybe its season — with an overwhelming comeback performance to beat the Hurricanes by 12 points. Capel is now 2-2 in his new role, and it already appears that he is willing to shake things up to get his team’s attention. Capel was asked about the lineup change afterward, saying, “We just went with guys that we felt were going to give us energy.” It was something of a gamble for the interim coach — benching two of the team’s three top scorers and an elite freshman — but the results, both from a viewers’ as well as a statistical perspective, were dramatic.

Senior Matt Jones led Duke in its big comeback win over Miami. (Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

To begin the second half against Miami, regular starters Amile Jefferson and Jayson Tatum were joined by senior Matt Jones and freshmen Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden. As a result, the tone of the game immediately changed. Over the first five minutes of the half, the Blue Devils converted five steals into 12 points, the beginning of a 20-0 run that shocked the confident Hurricanes and ultimately finished off the game. Jones was the catalyst, setting the pace defensively and scoring all 13 of his points in the first eight minutes. Jackson was also effective in finishing with 10 points and four assists versus zero turnovers. And with eight points, four rebounds and some impressive defense against Miami’s guards on the pick-and-roll, it was the breakout game from Bolden that Duke has been waiting for. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have Jefferson back (especially on the defensive end) after missing the last two games with a bruised foot.

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