Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Amile Jefferson Channels His Inner Zoubek

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 4th, 2014

He knew he had it within him all along. The skinny 6’9” “power” forward from Philadelphia had always played with an infectious sense of energy — the quintessential ‘hype man’ for Duke. But in Amile Jefferson’s freshman season, he primarily logged spot duty minutes at a clip of about 13 minutes per game. Stuck behind senior frontcourt leaders Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Jefferson struggled to get into a groove and find a defined role in Duke’s system. Coming into this year, the 2012 McDonald’s All-American made it his business to add weight to his frame so he could take advantage of a vacuum of low-post talent in the frontcourt.

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K's lessons to heart

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K’s lessons to heart

Without a true post presence on the floor but all his other pieces aligning, Mike Krzyzewski needed either Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee or senior Josh Hairston to anchor the post while flanked by perimeter-oriented forwards Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Given that the Parker/Hood tandem is a highly efficient scoring duo, the center role in Duke’s scheme this year primarily requires competent rebounding, post defense, and communication while anchoring the back line of the defense. While Jefferson will never be the kind of defensive shot-blocking presence as Kansas’ Joel Embiid or Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski, he can arguably check the boxes that Duke desires in a big man.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Has Duke Found the Answer on Defense?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 28th, 2013

Back in late November we wrote about Duke’s historically bad defense. At the time, the Blue Devils were coming off their worst defensive effort of the last 12 years, having given up 90 points on 1.38 points per possession in their home squeaker against Vermont. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski was extremely upset and vowed that great improvement must be made on the defensive end of the floor. Five games later, it’s now a good time to see how much progress Duke’s defense has made in the intervening month of action.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke's Defense In Win Over UCLA (Photo: Mark Dolejs - USA TODAY Sports)

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke’s Defense In Their Win Over UCLA
(Photo: Mark Dolejs – USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s take a more detailed look at the team’s defensive numbers from the first six Duke games through that dreadful Vermont performance on November 24. Then we will compare those statistics to what the Blue Devils have done in their last five games heading into the Christmas break. Here are the key defensive statistics from the first six games:

  • 1.07 - Opponents’ Avg Points Per Possession for All Games
  • 1.08 – Opponents’ Points Per Possession vs. Duke

By applying Ken Pomeroy’s principle of adjusting for competition, we come up with an Adjusted Defensive Rating of 1.05 PPP for Duke’s first six games. That number would currently put Duke’s defense at around #200 in the nation in Pomeroy’s ratings – lousy defense indeed. Now that’s look at the same metric for Duke’s last five games:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Team Preview: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2013

Duke had a successful 2013-14 season but it will be remembered as three seasons in one. Led by the senior trio of Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, Duke got off to the best start in the country, winning its first 15 games against a very tough schedule. Then Kelly went down with a foot injury and the Blue Devils dropped to merely a good team, going 9-4 without him in the lineup. Kelly’s dramatic return in a 79-76 win over eventual ACC champion Miami gave hope to Duke as a national title contender, but they couldn’t quite get there, losing to a superior Louisville team in the Elite Eight.

Duke Preview 2013

Ordinarily, losing three quality starting seniors would indicate a worse season to come, but thanks to a pair of highly regarded new forwards, Duke is expected to remain a national contender. Mike Krzyzewski has also made it clear that a change in style is coming. Duke will not have the veteran post players it had last year, but it will be a much more athletic and deeper team so look for the Blue Devils to push the tempo on both ends of the court. It’s been said that the makeup of this team is similar to Coach K’s 2012 USA Olympic team. That team lacked a true post scorer and was built around versatile play-making forwards on offense and a switching pressure defense. Look for Krzyzewski to use that experience to build this Duke team in the same fashion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 5th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. From the Rumble Seat: Here’s a solid look at Georgia Tech‘s less-publicized backcourt. The Yellow Jackets are known for their strong front line, but the backcourt should get better thanks to the transfer of Trae Golden onto the squad. The backcourt questions hinge on whether Chris Bolden can live up to his big performances last year. His overall stats are pretty hideous, but Bolden torched Duke and Miami for big games. If he can tap into that potential, Brian Gregory’s team may be a lot better than many expect.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Considering Duke‘s recent success, it’s pretty surprising the Blue Devils haven’t won the ACC regular season outright since 2006 (and haven’t even shared the title since 2010). To be fair, the Blue Devils only finished worse than second once (2007), and injuries to starters in 2011 (Kyrie Irving) and 2013 (Ryan Kelly) hurt the team’s chances. But Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston are dangerously close to becoming the first four-year players under Mike Krzyzewski to not win the regular season since 1990.
  3. Washington Post: In the not-shocking headline of the day, Virginia will continue to play Tony Bennett‘s pack-line defense this season. The Cavaliers bring back a lot of talent from last season, which is a new condition for Bennett. This season will actually be very telling in my eyes. If Bennett’s team can make the leap to a top-20 or higher team, all my reservations about his low-tempo system will go on the back burner (mostly, that keeping the score low allows lesser opponents to hang in longer than they should and increases the chance for random events to occur).
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: North Carolina has a ton of talent this season, but plenty of questions to go along with it. The question that no one can answer (at least until they see top competition) is how the hodgepodge frontcourt will fare, or who will wind up playing five this season for the Tar Heels. If North Carolina is going to be the top 10 team that many analysts project, someone has to fill that void at center. Roy Williams needs a competent big man for his secondary break to be at its peak. If one of the bigs doesn’t step up, North Carolina could face a relatively disappointing season this year.
  5. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: If you’re looking for very circumstantial evidence that suggests Syracuse has a good chance at getting back to the Final Four this year, this post is for you. The one buzzkill to note is that while about one team a year is a repeat in the national semifinals, that means three others are not. Regardless the (peripherally related) stats make for a good short read.
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 11th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

College football is officially in the books and that means college hoops takes center stage. It’s going to be a great weekend of action highlighted by two Big Ten showdowns and an ACC battle that will shape the national picture. Good luck deciding which game you are going to watch at 12:00 PM EST tomorrow. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#1 Duke at #21 North Carolina State – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson's defense.

With the injury to Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee will need to muscle up on defense against NC State.

  • The ACC is starting to look like Duke, North Carolina State, Miami, and then everyone else. The big news for the Blue Devils going into Saturday is the loss of forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury for an indefinite period of time. Kelly’s loss appears to be significant for Duke but we really will not know the entire story until Saturday’s game is over. Kelly’s outside shooting and overall scoring threat will be missed, but it may be his size on defense that is missed most. Duke will be left with either freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Harris or junior Josh Hairston to help Mason Plumlee defend the interior. With an extremely athletic front line, NC State will test the Blue Devils’ resolve right away. Expect the Wolfpack to try to overwhelm Plumlee down low by attacking the inside. By doing this, they will attempt to put Plumlee in foul trouble and get to the line. If Plumlee gets into foul trouble, it will be a very long afternoon in Raleigh for the Dukies. The team that plays better defense will win this game.

#9 Minnesota at #4 Indiana– 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (*****)

  • Minnesota made a statement in its blowout win at Illinois this week. They are looking for the Big Ten title and it’s going to take a great team to beat them. What’s most impressive about the win is actually their lack of offensive rebounding. That may seem like a crazy statement but when you consider how good they are on the offensive boards it makes sense. The Gophers lead the country in offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) at 48.5%. They are absolutely dominating that statistic. So when their OR% dipped to 25% against Illinois, their worst performance of the year, and yet they still won by 17 points, it means this team can do a lot more than just grab boards. Shooting 61% eFG proved that. Interestingly enough, however, it could be rebounding that derails the Gophers against Indiana. Minnesota actually struggles on the defensive boards and Indiana is ranked in the top 10 nationally there. With the incredible offensive weapons that Indiana has at its disposal, grabbing a bunch of misses is just salt in its opponents’ wounds. This game is going to be a great spectacle with tremendous match-ups all over the floor. Trevor Mbakwe against Cody Zeller might be the best big man battle we will see all year. If Minnesota can make it two road wins a row against the best in the Big Ten, watch out for Tubby Smith’s team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ryan Kelly’s Foot is the Most Important Foot in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on January 9th, 2013

Ryan Kelly injured his right foot in Duke’s easy win last night over Clemson and didn’t play at all during the second half. Mike Krzyzewski noted that Kelly would not undergo x-rays or any other scan until today. So here are the bald facts: Ryan Kelly hurt his foot and we have no idea how badly it is injured.  He’s hurt this foot before. Right now, anything beyond this is just in the realm of speculation. Kelly could very well be perfectly fine at the moment of this publication. However, if the injury is serious and Kelly misses significant playing time, this could also be a serious blow — a season-changing one — to the top-ranked Blue Devils.

Kelly's Possible Absence Really Hurts Duke's Depth (credit: fayobserver.com)

Kelly’s Possible Absence Really Hurts Duke’s Depth (credit: fayobserver.com)

During his tenure at Duke, Kelly’s ability to play stretch power forward has been a difficult match-up for just about any team in college basketball. This year, the 6’11″ Kelly has made over half of the nearly 50 three-pointers that he has taken. He leads his team in offensive efficiency, rarely turns the ball over, and is an excellent passer for his size. He’s a good (though not great) rebounder, and his ability to get to the foul line on a regular basis and shoot a high percentage from there has given his already versatile offensive game another deadly dimension.  While early in his career Kelly was often criticized for poor defense, the vastly improved senior has helped lead the team to a top-three mark this season in defensive efficiency. The long story made very short is this: Kelly is really good.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Duke’s Ryan Kelly: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by mpatton on November 26th, 2012

Ryan Kelly may be Duke‘s most important player. Just look at the Blue Devils’ tailspin last season when he went down with an injured foot. In Duke’s losses last year Kelly averaged five points a game (not including the two Ls he missed due to injury). In Duke’s wins he averaged over 13 points a game. That’s a striking difference. Kelly’s averages from last season are identical to this season (11.8 points per game and just over five rebounds per game), though he’s seen a dramatic drop in his efficiency from beyond the arc and at the charity stripe. The free throw problem is probably a short-term slump and his three point percentage will also likely rise but remain below last season’s excellent 41% mark. But don’t let identical output and depressed percentages confuse you: Kelly is an improved player whose game has evolved a lot even since last season.

Duke really missed Ryan Kelly at the end of last season. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The most quantifiable change has come in his shot selection. Last year over 40 percent of Kelly’s shots were threes; this year just over 30 percent of his attempts come from distance. Rather than taking low-percentage contested twos, Kelly’s mid-range game is flourishing. At 6’11″, he’s virtually impossible for more athletic wings to guard, instead drawing power forwards to the perimeter where he has the advantage. Instead of settling for threes this season, he’s taken one or two steps inside the arc, where he’s nearly automatic. Kelly also appears to be more comfortable operating out around 12-16 feet from the basket, as his turnovers are down this year, potentially because he isn’t forcing things as much.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Tournament: Semifinals Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 10th, 2012

This is the juciest semifinals the ACC Tournament had to offer: rematch of NC StateNorth Carolina (where it’s likely John Henson will be limited at best) that will seal NC State’s NCAA bid, pride and return to relevance with a win and the DukeFlorida State rubber match (where Ryan Kelly is hurt) featuring the Seminoles playing better basketball.

NC State Gets One More Shot At Its Rival.

I give both underdogs very good odds at winning. NC State could go either way: the team was amped after beating Virginia so this could be a bit of an emotional letdown game, but in a rivalry game I expect the Wolfpack to be in top form. CJ Leslie is playing as well as anyone right now and the Wolfpack have the athleticism to run with the Tar Heels (especially when some of the alternative lineups are on the floor). I expect Kendall Marshall and Henson to get plenty of rest so that’s a lot of those alternative minutes.

Florida State should have a little bit of an edge against Duke sans Kelly. The one thing that will keep Duke in it is Florida State’s recent inability to close games. If the Plumlees get into foul trouble like they did in Tallahassee, we’ll be seeing a whole lot of Josh Hairston. And while the Seminoles have struggled against teams playing small ball, Hairston isn’t exactly a stretch-four like Kelly.

Share this story

ACC Afternoon Five: ACC Tournament Saturday Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 10th, 2012

  1. Miami Herald: The biggest news to break late on Friday was the suspension of Miami‘s leading scorer Durand Scott. Scott has been deemed ineligible by the NCAA due to impermissible benefits and the Hurricanes weren’t informed until around 5:30 PM yesterday.  Without Scott, Miami didn’t have the firepower to beat Florida State and succumbed to their in-state rivals. Scott is the third player to be suspended because of the on-going NCAA investigation at Miami. Reggie Johnson was suspended for a single game before being reinstated and DeQuan Jones missed the first ten games of the season before his reinstatement. While Miami has to hope that Scott will be swiftly reinstated, the timing could literally not be worse: the Hurricanes are right on the edge of the field and Selection Sunday is tomorrow.
  2. Basketball Prospectus: While yesterday’s wisdom held that Miami and North Carolina State each had to win one more game to make it to the Tournament, at least one system already had the Wolfpack and Hurricanes in. While, NC State almost assuredly played themselves into the tournament by toppling Virginia, Miami’s situation is much more interesting. It seems like most folks have Miami pretty squarely out, but the Easy Bubble Solver’s projections offer some cause for optimism in Coral Gables.
  3. ESPN: The big news in Chapel Hill was the awkward fall of North Carolina‘s John Henson. Though x-rays indicated that he didn’t break his left wrist which he was using to brace himself, clear discomfort prevented him from being a factor in the game against Maryland. While there’s no word yet on whether Henson will play today, history is skeptical. Roy Williams hasn’t been shy about his indifference to the ACC Tournament. In 2009, the stacked Tar Heels and eventual national champions lost the conference tournament while Williams held out Ty Lawson who was coming off a toe injury. If Henson really wants to play, the coaching staff will probably allow it, but this game seems to mean little to the folks in Chapel Hill.
  4. News and Observer:  In the inevitable benchmark category, Kendall Marshall‘s 12 assists against Maryland gave the North Carolina guard the single-season ACC record for assists. Now with 311 assist this season, Marshall surpassed Georgia Tech’s Craig “Noodles” Neal. Of course, Marshall still trails Iona‘s Scott Machado for the most assists on the 2012 season. Machado has 117.
  5. Durham Herald-Sun: With Ryan Kelly sitting out this weekend’s tournament with an injury, Duke had to dig a little deeper for some front court help in yesterday’s game. Josh Hairston got the call and responded by playing 17 solid minutes for the Blue Devil’s. His individual statistics aren’t going to blow anyone away, but he seems happy to help his team get the win. Hairston and Duke’s forwards will be tested against the platoons of athletic big men that Florida State sends out . It’s a stern test for Hairston, but one that will only help his team moving forward.
Share this story

Night Line: Duke Looks Vulnerable Heading Into ACC Play

Posted by EJacoby on January 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Over the past month, Duke had won five straight games and quietly risen to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the RPI without skipping a beat. But home victories over the likes of Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro won’t make fans forget about the Devils’ embarrassing 22-point loss at Ohio State earlier in the year, and it would take a strong road performance to erase those memories. Wednesday night showed the Blue Devils get thoroughly outplayed by unranked Temple in downtown Philadelphia, confirming the suspicion that Mike Krzyzewski’s team could be vulnerable both defensively and on the road heading into conference play. Coach K will need to refine his rotation and strengthen his team’s defensive intensity if they want to realistically compete with North Carolina for another ACC title.

Duke Had Major Trouble Defending Temple on Wednesday Night (AP/T. Mihalek)

Perhaps no team played as difficult a non-conference schedule as Duke, which would suggest that they are well prepared for their old familiar foes when conference play begins this weekend. The Blue Devils played Michigan State, Ohio State, Belmont, Michigan, Kansas, Davidson, Tennessee, and Washington as part of one of the most challenging schedules in the country. But Wednesday’s game against Temple was just their second road game (although it was played on one of Villanova’s two home courts, not Temple’s), and they were dominated in both. At Ohio State on November 29, Duke allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60% on two-pointers and 57% on threes, amounting to a horrendous 130.8 efficiency rating for the Buckeyes. On Wednesday night, Temple shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 114.7 efficiency. Considering that Missouri’s 126.5 offensive efficiency is the best in the country, it goes without saying that Duke is allowing its opponents to score way too easily in hostile environments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story