Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
  2. The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
  3. Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 03.21.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 21st, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. CBSSports.com: Potentially huge news dropping from Dennis Dodd Wednesday, as he reports that the NCAA has notified Syracuse of an ongoing investigation into the Orange basketball program. The NCAA wouldn’t comment, but if Dodd’s source is correct this could be big: “Throw a dart at the [NCAA] Manual [and you would hit a violation by Syracuse].” Jim Boeheim swept aside the allegations with his usual surliness, but this definitely brings back his recent insinuations of a nearing retirement.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: It’s a few days old at this point, but Andrew Carter’s look at fouls in the ACC is worth your time. He reviewed foul discrepancies among different teams, but primarily focused on the overall decrease in fouls called over the last 12 years. Unsurprisingly Duke and North Carolina lead the ACC in foul differential. A popular conspiracy is that this shows the league’s bias toward the two powerhouse programs, but bias doesn’t have to be intentional: better teams are often awarded the benefit of the doubt (reputations go a long way with 50/50 calls), and, in some cases, they can deserve it. The more interesting part of Carter’s article is about the overall decline in fouls called, decreasing from 20.0 fouls a game (per team) in 2000-01 to only 16.8 fouls a game this season. The game is much more physical now and, for better or for worse, the overall game is much different because of it.
  3. Baltimore Sun: A big problem in the NIT can be getting teams hyped for the games. This is especially true for the top seeds, like Maryland or Virginia, where getting excited about not making the NCAA Tournament is a lot to ask from its players. But Maryland’s guys — at least Dez Well and Charles Mitchell — appear to be out for a championship. One interesting side effect to watch is how Maryland’s fans respond. While they didn’t show up in droves for the Niagara game, if this team makes its purpose to win the NIT, it can definitely energize the fan base. Also, no matter what the stage, winning a postseason tournament is an impressive feat that will prepare the younger Terrapins well going forward.
  4. Durham Herald-Sun: The last couple of weeks Rasheed Sulaimon has come off the bench for Duke in favor of Tyler Thornton. It appeared Sulaimon had hit the infamous freshman wall and his struggling shot was starting to affect his defense too. But after an excellent first half against Maryland — really, he was the only really effective Duke player for the first 20 minutes (Plumlee wasn’t bad) — Mike Krzyzewski is giving him the starting spot back. Ironically the move comes after the loss to Maryland; it was a loss where Coach K stuck to his guns and started Thornton again in the second half, not playing Sulaimon in the first five minutes. But as Duke’s most athletic wing, Sulaimon can shoot or get to the rim. He’ll be crucial for that point where Duke inevitably runs into an athletic backcourt in the next couple of weeks.
  5. Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech will be taking Maryland’s spot in the Barclays Center Classic this fall. This was the tournament’s first year, headlined by Kentucky’s close win over Maryland way back on November 9. Next November, the Yellow Jackets will join Penn State, Ole Miss and St. John’s in the new Brooklyn arena. While trending upwards, Brian Gregory’s team will be in for a challenge (but a winnable one) early in the season — especially if it draws St. John’s, who will likely have the NYC-area crowd on its side.

EXTRA: I don’t like to do this, but this article is worthy of some ridicule. I’m hoping it’s a subtle trolling of Triangle teams from Triad-based Yes Weekly, but Brian Clarey’s piece is cringe-worthy. First he insults NC State fans: “The NC State University Wolfpack acts as an outlier in this equation, generating a solid coalition of fans but not nearly the degree of passion evoked by the Tobacco Road rivalry.” That has to be sarcastic trolling, right? Then he goes after Duke with buzzwords of “elitism”, “privilege”, and “favoritism” before closing metaphorically by likening the university (and its basketball team) to a “trust-fund baby.” Finally, he touches on North Carolina’s recent academic scandal before launching into actual coverage of the ACC Tournament. Bravo?

Share this story

ACC M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 15th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Props to Brett Strelow for finding useful information from the hideous headliner for ESPN’s Rivalry Week. Strelow focused on Tyler Thornton, paralleling the short defensive-minded Duke point guard to another short defensive-minded Duke point guard Steve Wojciechowski. The story commented on Thornton possibly becoming a coach (something I hadn’t thought about before but would make a lot of sense) as well as Mike Krzyzewski fighting North Carolina’s small line-up (and foul trouble) with Thornton at the four. All in all, it was a terrible game, but there’s a lot of good stuff here. As an aside, this shouldn’t be a story. After the game, Coach K ran out on the court to keep his players and security off the court (there was a weird clock situation where it didn’t start and then started late), not to stop the fans from rushing the court.
  2. Riddick and Reynolds: James Curle took the ACC to task for wasting its last shot at a somewhat normal schedule before conference expansion truly takes hold. This year, for the first time since adding Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami, the ACC had more home and homes than single game series. But the schedule is just as unbalanced as ever. Duke only plays two of its seven home and homes on either the first or second half of its schedule, meaning only Maryland and Miami get Duke on both sides of the halfway point in conference play. It seems like the conference would take advantage of the 18-game season, but no.
  3. Gobbler Country: It’s no secret Virginia Tech‘s basketball team is struggling. A lot of that blame lies with Jim Weaver, the athletic director, for firing Seth Greenberg a month after the season ended. The justification–which unlike the timing and method made sense–was that Greenberg’s staff turnover wasn’t sustainable. But it’s starting to look like the turnover is as much a result of Weaver’s cheapness as Greenberg’s abrasiveness. That’s an issue. And will hamper Virginia Tech now and in the future. You have to invest in a coach and a staff to succeed year in and year out in college basketball. If Virginia Tech won’t pay up, Weaver can’t expect top-flight results. End of story.
  4. The Virginian-Pilot: In case you haven’t been watching Charlottesville closely, Joe Harris has been phenomenal. Like first-team All-ACC phenomenal. He’s got the Cavaliers in sole possession of third place in the ACC (with some help from the ACC’s aforementioned unbalanced schedule) and in surprising contention for a bid to the Big Dance. He’s doing it with great shooting that’s finally broken free of his streakiness of past.
  5. NBC Sports: Miami isn’t used to the big-time on the hardwood, and the Hurricanes clearly need some work on sologans (though Michigan’s “We On” wasn’t much better). They went with “40 Minutes of L” with a picture of Jim Larranaga. The obvious problems are the Hurricanes don’t run Nolan Richardson’s defense and that “L” will always be associated with losing.
Share this story

ACC M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Grantland: Shane Ryan gave an update on college basketball as a whole but not surprisingly focused on the ACC. His main league points: (1) Duke is one of two dominant teams this year, along with Michigan; (2) NC State‘s ceiling is the Sweet Sixteen; and (3) Maryland looks like the second best team in the conference. My only caveats: (1) I want to see Duke win an ugly game in a hostile environment before getting too deep into “dominant” talk; (2) NC State has shown the ability to play better defense and make the Sweet Sixteen with a worse team and anything can happen at the Big Dance; and (3) Virginia Tech wasn’t really a test and we shouldn’t judge the Terrapins too concretely until the next six games happen.
  2. College Basketball Talk: Eric Angevine talked with Marcus Paige about the Tar Heels’ loss to Virginia. Paige was very complimentary of the Cavaliers on offense and defense. He pointed to Virginia’s fighting through screens and the pack-line’s ability to take away driving lanes as big parts to its defensive success. The Cavaliers not needing help on screens clearly flustered everyone on North Carolina’s team to no end (aside from Reggie Bullock, who had a great night). But the Tar Heels won’t see many defenses like that going forward, so that’s not as troubling as the number of wide open shots Virginia had thanks to running players off those screens.
  3. Charlotte Observer: Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton used to play for the same AAU team in middle school. Duke’s point guard pair’s longtime friendship definitely helps with team chemistry. It also probably played a big role in Cook’s dramatic improvement as a defender (seriously, watch some Duke tape from last year… he was one of Duke’s biggest defensive liabilities). Not to beat a dead horse, but there’s a closeness that pervades this Duke team that simply wasn’t there last year. That really close bond is also why Josh Hairston sees so many more minutes than the new, more talented, freshmen.
  4. Florida Today: Terry Whisnant is Florida State‘s best shooter. He’s part of the slew of combo guards Leonard Hamilton uses on a frequent basis, adjusting the rotation based on match-ups and who’s hot. It sounds like Whisnant would like more time, but understands his current role on the team. If the Seminoles start showing big improvements and get a couple of statement wins under their belts, that understanding may be a little less bitter. Regardless, if you’re looking for the man most likely to pull a Deividas Dulkys impersonation this season, Whisnant is your man.
  5. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Akil Mitchell was questionable for Sunday’s North Carolina – Virginia game thanks to a sprained ankle he suffered in practice. But Mitchell clearly didn’t want to watch from the sidelines, either. He gutted out the game, and played very well regardless. Interestingly, Mitchell wanted to keep his injury a secret before game time. He went as far as to tell his mother to remove a Facebook status discussing the injury. Now that the adrenaline and anti-inflammatories have worn off, don’t be surprised if Mitchell takes the next game off to let his ankle get better. But I’ll bet it was totally worth it to knock off the Tar Heels for the first time in the John Paul Jones Arena.
Share this story

Duke Guards Feast on the Attention Placed on Mason Plumlee Inside

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Temple-Duke game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“How good can this team become coach?” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski did not want to answer that question. Superstitious perhaps, or having coached nearly 38 seasons in Division I, he knows how quickly a team’s prospects can change. “I have had some pretty good teams… [“one or two” someone whispered)] …we’ve done ok.” Anyone who had watched Duke dismantle Temple to the tune of 90-67 on Saturday afternoon had to know the #2 Blue Devils were better than “ok.” Previews of this match-up dwelled on the role Temple’s guards played in the Owls’ 78-73 win last season, and the Owls’ prospects would rise or fall on guard play again. Both teams play three guards, but the similarity ends there. Duke’s guards look like… guards. Quinn Cook is 6’ 1” and 175 pounds. Seth Curry, who still wears a boot while not on the court to protect his ankle injured in Duke’s win over Ohio State, stands at 6’ 2” and 185 pounds. Rasheed Sulaimon (dubbed “Sulaimon the Great” by a member of the press after the freshman hit his first three of the game standing about four feet behind the three point line) is a 6’ 4”, 185-pound beanstalk. Tyler Thornton is a 6’ 1”, 190-pound “sixth man,” and the only other guard on the roster.

Despite a lingering ankle injury, Duke’s Seth Curry launches a three from well behind the three-point line. He made this second half attempt.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy favors taller, thicker wings who move seamlessly between point guard and small forward. Will Cummings, a 6’ 2” sophomore who plays the point for Temple this season, is the only one of the seven players listed on the Temple roster as a “guard” or more appropriately “guard/forward” who could pass for a Duke mold guard. Khalif Wyatt, at 6’ 4” and 210 pounds, and Scootie Randall, 6’ 6” and 225 pounds, are “Philly guards,” whose build and style of play reminds fans of the Big 5 of Diante Christmas and Ramone Moore, two of the wings developed by Dunphy since he moved over from Penn four seasons ago. They are all built like safeties and each is as likely to roll off a screen, catch and shoot a three, as he is to put the ball on the deck and drive the lane for a layup. Christmas, Moore, Wyatt and Randall, along with 6’ 5”, 220-pound transfer Dalton Pepper, grew up in Philadelphia or in one of the surrounding Delaware Valley suburbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Tomahawk Nation:  It may be getting closer to panic time in Tallahassee. One day after the football team claimed an ACC title to match the basketball team’s from last season, Leonard Hamilton’s team’s performance indicated that the chances of it returning the favor are growing quite slim. Florida State fell at home to Mercer yesterday, 61-56, marking Mercer’s first victory over the Seminoles since 1954. For the Seminoles, a preseason top 25 team, it was their second incredibly inexcusable home defeat that may have lasting implications come March. The defense returned to levels more typical of recent Florida State teams (it has been a major culprit this season), but the offense, despite Leonard Hamilton going 11 deep, failed to get anything productive going, and mustered just one point down the stretch in their final three possessions. Going into a match-up Wednesday with intrastate rival Florida, who has dominated its opponents this season, the prognosis is certainly troubling for FSU.
  2. A much more positive surprise in the ACC this season has been the strong play of Virginia Tech, who remained undefeated after upsetting 15th-ranked Oklahoma State this weekend. Playing no small role in this surprising start is senior guard Erick Green. In this fantastic Jeff Goodman article, Green acknowledges that he would have left Blacksburg if not for the hiring of new coach James Johnson, who had played a major role in recruiting Green to Virginia Tech. Green is having a huge senior season, averaging about 25 points per game and catalyzing the Hokies’ new up-tempo offense, which Green credits as a large part of their success. While Virginia Tech may not be able to sustain this run of play indefinitely, they will definitely be a much larger factor than expected in the conference this season.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  Following their blowout loss to top-ranked Indiana, North Carolina hoped to respond positively in their Saturday match-up with UAB. While the Tar Heels were extremely impressive offensively, with Dexter Strickland moving to point guard and Leslie McDonald entering the starting lineup in the wake of Marcus Paige’s injury, their defense left much to be desired according to head coach Roy Williams. During a timeout early in the second half, Williams implored his team to step up their defensive intensity during a tirade that got the team’s attention. With UNC’s highly inconsistent performance so far this season, Williams certainly hopes that the Tar Heels can provide offense similar to that of Saturday’s game (102 points) while also heightening their defensive intensity.
  4. Devils in Durham:  As everyone surely knows, second-ranked Duke is off to a phenomenal start this season. But one player that has likely been overlooked in the wake of the excellent performances of Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon, among others, is junior point guard Tyler Thornton. Inserted into the starting lineup to replace the injured Seth Curry on Saturday against Delaware, Thornton stuffed the stat sheet in spots other than the points column-providing 10 assists and three steals. Coach K appreciates Thornton’s defensive intensity and has lauded his acceptance of a generally reduced role in the wake of Cook’s improving play. Thornton’s contributions are typically not of the flashy variety, but since he is “such an easy guy to play with,” according to Krzyzewski, he will definitely play a pivotal role in Duke’s team success this season, particularly with his devotion to tenacious defense.
  5. In what could be Maryland‘s last appearance in the BB&T Classic played in the nation’s capital, the Terrapins, in their penultimate season in the ACC, are quietly making a case to be mentioned amongst the conference’s elite teams this season. While Maryland struggled offensively in a 69-62 victory over suburban rival George Mason, their defense was able to put together a strong performance. Dez Wells continued his phenomenal play, scoring 25 points, while also reaffirming a commitment to defense inspired by watching films of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Wells insisted that he wants to guard the best player every game, since a great player is also great on defense as well. If Wells and Maryland can continue this defensive commitment, they will be an extremely scary squad during ACC play, particularly if their offense can improve.
Share this story

Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Freeze Frame: Evaluating Kentucky’s Pick and Roll Offense Against Duke

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2012

Duke led the Kentucky Wildcats by as many as 14 points on Tuesday night before the Cats chipped away within striking distance with under three minutes to go. With the lead cut to just three points, Kentucky went to its staple offensive set — a high on-ball screen from center Nerlens Noel for point guard Archie Goodwin. However, with the Wildcats mounting a comeback and precious minutes ticking off the clock, Duke defended the play well and shut down Goodwin’s options. For this play to be successful, two things need to happen: 1) Noel needs to set a solid screen on the on-ball defender and roll quickly to the basket, and 2) Goodwin needs good penetration into the lane. Neither of these happened, leaving Kentucky to take contested shots and leave the Georgia Dome with a loss.

Duke 64 – Kentucky 61, 2:47 remaining in the game: 

High on ball screen to set up the pick and roll.

Goodwin begins the offense at the top of the key, and Noel sets the screen. Because of Noel’s athleticism, he rolls straight to the basket looking for a lob. Notice Kentucky’s spacing in this set as the Cats’ two best shooters — Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays — set up on the wing. If their man leaves to play help defense on Goodwin they are lined up for an open shot to tie up this game. Poythress lines up in the corner, looking to make a cut straight towards the basket for an offensive rebound or if his man leaves to help. But make no mistake, this play is designed for Goodwin to penetrate as scoring option number one and Noel to look for the lob as scoring option number two.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Duke vs. Kentucky, Redux

Posted by mpatton on November 13th, 2012

The Shot is part of college basketball’s canon. Basketball fans regardless of age know The Shot from its prominent place during March Madness, both in promos and commercials. Duke and Kentucky fans — at least the ones old enough to do so — remember where they were when it happened. They still remember that bitterest taste of defeat when victory seemed secure and the inconceivable high brought on by the most unlikely of victories. Kentucky fans remember the Christian Laettner stomp from earlier in that game, which, in another universe, meant Kentucky winning while Duke’s star center looked on from the locker room. A couple of decades and a self-deprecating charity performance have somewhat repaired Laettner’s standing with the Big Blue Nation. Somewhat. But there’s still a remarkable tension between two schools that haven’t played in over 10 years, which makes this game more than just two top 10 teams facing off early in the season.

Is Rasheed Sulaimon enough to turn Duke’s perimeter defense around? (photo: Duke photography)

Ironically, the players have far less historical weight attached to the game. No doubt Duke and Kentucky players alike know about The Shot, and some of the fan intensity between the two fan bases probably has worn off on the men who will decide the game. But fans hold onto the past much more than players, most of whom chose their school because they thought it was the best “fit” (because of facilities, coaches, branding or academics). Many players weren’t yet alive to see the storied game, and the ones who were breathing probably weren’t walking.

But this game is huge for Duke. This is a game to prove — both to critics and themselves — that last year was an anomaly and they can handle the task of defending an athletic perimeter. It’s a chance to grab a marquee win that will look very good come Selection Sunday. And it’s a chance to put the Blue Devils on the list of legitimate national title contenders. For Kentucky the stakes are a little lower. The team is already considered a contender — though that’s largely thanks to John Calipari‘s track record with top recruits than anything this group has actually done — and his team is very young. No one expects Kentucky to be at its best this early. Even for Calipari that expectation is unreasonable. But this is still a chance at a statement win.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas - 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #22 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#22 – Where An Unsung Hero Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

Share this story

ACC Summer Recess: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by mpatton on August 8th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Duke.

Where They Stand Now

Duke fans are still reeling from an embarrassing upset bid from CJ McCollum and the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh, but the sour ending to the team’s season overshadowed a very strong year. The Blue Devils showcased the most flaws  it has had since the 2006-07 Duke team that went 22-11, but they managed to keep winning games. They beat a loaded North Carolina team on the road; they finished second in the conference; and, they won a loaded Maui Invitational. Ryan Kelly‘s late season injury stagnated one of the country’s best offenses, leaving Duke with a decent offense and mediocre defense for its last three games. Long story short, the Blue Devils managed to overachieve and disappoint last season.

Mason Plumlee is the Anchor to Duke’s Young, Potentially Great Front Line.

Who’s Leaving

Austin Rivers went to the NBA, Miles Plumlee graduated, Michael Gbinije transferred to Syracuse, and Andre Dawkins will redshirt. Despite frequent deserved criticism during his playing career, the eldest Plumlee’s strength and athleticism in workouts earned him a guaranteed contract with the Pacers. Gbinije saw very little playing time his freshman season, and with the additions of Rasheed Sulaimon and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy, he may not have seen much more next year. Gbinije’s lack of playing time puzzled many Duke fans because his length and athleticism were exactly what Duke’s perimeter defense needed. Fans concerns are probably overreactions: Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t have a history of sticking with experienced guys over more talented freshmen.

Rivers’ departure is harder to evaluate. On paper, it’s terrible. Rivers was the only playmaker on last year’s team. Without consistent play at point guard, Coach K relied on the freshman to create his own shot a lot of the time. However, Rivers’ season had its detractors. While the heat he took for being selfish was over the top, comments Seth Curry made earlier this summer to Shawn Krest certainly point to a lack of chemistry on last year’s team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story