Point/CounterPoint Installment #9 – The Curious Dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon …

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In this Installment, Ro & Bermuda Bob discuss the surprising dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon, some history, and the future without him.

Query #1

Wow, what a game changer, was anyone expecting this ??? 

Rowan:         Absolutely not, but reading through most of the stuff on social media it seems that people have all of a sudden remembered episodes where Sulaimon seemed selfish or was frustrated. Whether for being called for a bad Foul or taking an ill advised shot, these are things all the Duke players are guilty of by the way, during their THREE losses.

Prior to this dismissal I hadn’t heard any grumblings about Sulaimon.

Bermuda Bob:         I had not heard much in the way of any foreshadowing of this. I honestly thought he might have transferred after being spurned from a starting position his Sophomore year. If his “problem” is vocalizing frustration, then maybe it was understandably warranted after being subverted a second time by a kid Coach K recruited behind him. I honestly wonder if Rasheed’s mother was able to pick up the phone and ask for a chat with Coach K like Jabari Parker’s mother was, as revealed by Sports Illustrated.

Query #2

There has been some wild speculations on social media, from drugs to team in-fighting.  Are there any thoughts on how we got here ???

Rowan:     We always laude players for buying into a system, accepting their roles, and make villains of players that don’t. Sulaimon had a great Freshman year, but was never given an opportunity to expand on it.

Why ??? Duke started wading into the murky waters of the “one-and-done” phenomenon. For years, Coach K had tried to get these players but they always bypassed him.

Andre Drummond, Kevin Love and John Wall all spurned Duke. So Coach K had to take drastic action to attract these players because turning up wearing all white, driven in a white limousine, were gimmicks that fell short of the mark. He got lucky in the form of Austin Rivers. Kyrie Irving wasn’t a lock to be a “one-and-done” but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it said Duke is “open for business.” Then Jabari Parker happened, followed by JahLil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.

It’s as if Coach K cannot be bothered to develop players anymore. The players have no patience to wait for their turn. Freshmen were given the keys to the program. Players have been transferring from Duke at an alarming rate since 2010. Incidentally that’s the last time Duke won a Championship, and they did it with Upperclassmen.

When Duke recruits kids like Sulaimon, Michael Gbinije, Alex Murphy, and Semi Ojeleye, I can’t imagine they were told that they will be marginalized if Duke can recruit a higher rated player.  So, while I don’t condone Sulaimon’s behaviour, I understand it. If he would have been given certain opportunities maybe he could have been, and become an NBA player, but every season since his Freshman year, it is looking highly unlikely. Hey, maybe he could have even left his Freshman season after all.

Two First Round exits in three years, to lesser teams, is not a great return.

Bermuda Bob:         Rasheed came to Duke for the 2012 Season and blossomed because, I believe, that was the last squad not subverted to “one-and-done” Frosh. In the two seasons previously there was Kyrie Irving and Austin “Da Black Hole” Rivers. Both subverted the Upperclassmen and left the programme bludgeoned and in tatters.

Then, as he comes back from FIBA Under-19 Championship, he discovers that Coach K has embraced yet another “one-and-done” recruit (Jabari Parker) who would be paired inseparably with a transferred player (Rodney Hood). The Starting position he presumed was his, and he had earned the previous season – averaging 11.6 Points and 29.2 minutes per game – was swept away from under him. Then, that pesky Sports Illustrated article, and all it revealed, reared it’s ugly head again.

This year Rasheed must have presumed things would be different. After all, how could 3 of 4 Frosh force him to take a backseat ??? Many presumed, myself included, that he would be paired with Quinn Cook. After all, this was Duke … a programme that developed players and respected Upperclassmen. As the great Italian Philosopher, Rose Castorini of “Moonstruck” fame proclaimed: “… not no more it’s not !!!”

Rasheed was relegated to an ignominious role on the Bench, regardless of memorable performances. Then something happened. I cannot believe that if Coach K was thinking of sacking Rasheed, he would have played him (even if it was sparingly) against Notre Dame.

Maybe Rasheed should have seen the handwriting on the wall like “Silent G,” Alex, and Semi, but then maybe he had too much faith. Faith in the place he was recruited to that may no longer exist.

Query #3

Do you agree that he would have been kicked off or does he deserve another chance ???

Rowan:     For Coach K to actually kick him off the team at this point means that the Junior’s behaviour must have been very detrimental to the team, so he had to leave.

If a player does not accept the role available to him, then he must find another place to play. Even if he justifiably thinks that he is better than certain players in front of him. These feelings fester and eventually manifest themselves in a really negative way, making that player a cancer to the team.

This must hurt for Sulaimon because, based on his Twitter feed, he seems to love being at Duke. His high school coach thought that everything was alright between Sulaimon and his current coach (now previous) so something must have happened after the Notre Dame game.

Maybe it was due to certain double standards because some players were getting beaten like a drum, but played major minutes while other players barely saw the Court after making some small mistakes.

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move on. Hopefully he can find a landing spot that will meet his requirements for a happy existence. I imagine that he is currently a hot commodity so he will be spoilt for choices. Let’s hope it’s second time lucky for him.

Bermuda Bob:         I agree that if his indiscretions warranted dismissal, then it had gotten to a point of no return.   It is not for us to determine if they were, that’s why Coach K is paid the big bucks. I am not a fan of second guessing the dismissal, however, we can surely second guess how he was used and why.

Every Duke fan has heard those famous words about practicing hard and players earning their spot. Well, I might have believed that once, but I don’t any longer. It’s “balderdash” to think that any kid would come to Duke and all-of-a-sudden decide to just coast, especially not since Coach K dipped his toe into the “one-and-done” debacle.

Yes, I said “debacle.” Has the “one-and-done” player produced anything positive since we first heard of it ???   I maintain that it has not. College is where High School “superstars” meet reality and find out if their skills can be honed while getting an education. The last guy to mix both was Jay (then Jason) Williams, who got his degree in 3 years. All other Duke Championships were won by Upperclassmen whose skills were seasoned over the duration of their matriculation.

If the “one-and-done” is the future of college basketball, then college basketball is done as we know it !!!   College is not a “D-League” for NBA wanna-be’s. A Sports Scholarship is a barter of athletic prowess for an education that might not have otherwise been available to the kid. The “one-and-done” is an anathema to everything that was once wonderful about college basketball.

I surely hope a Coach who is interested in what Rasheed has already proved he can produce finds him. A Coach who knows what we don’t right now about Rasheed’s dismissal … Eyes wide open.

Query #4

So what now ???

Rowan:     Coach K likes to play 7-8 players, now he has 7-8 players.  The Detroit Pistons started winning games when they released Josh Smith, maybe this could be the new Duke.  If Grayson Allen is the answer, then he will have to undergo a remarkable metamorphosis by Saturday.

Bermuda Bob:         I have been critical of Coach K for not playing Grayson more. I agree that he will most likely see more time, even if it is due to Foul trouble. I do not believe that you recruit a kid of his caliber and let his spirits wallow on the bench, perfecting his splinter extraction technique. I do not think he will be a liability. I think he has simply not been given enough time to prove himself and feel comfortable in his new place.

What I do worry is that both he and “Plums” only get time due to Foul trouble. “Plums” earned kudos from Coach K for his role in the St. John’s win, but was “rewarded” with only 6 stolen minutes when “Oaks” went down, temporarily gimped. Grayson has played only 98 minutes in 20 games.

Please know one thing … nothing I have said here is intended to be negative towards “Oaks,” “The Chief” or “The Little Big Man.” They are of this new “one-and-done” era thru no fault of their own. It would be wrong to demonize them for the purpose of this conversation.

B8jhDEpIMAANva5.jpg-thumb     Thanks to Zoe Plant for her great creation.

Please feel free, as always, to let us know what YOU think !!!

 

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Point/CounterPoint #8 – After a Disappointing Performance Against Notre Dame

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In this installment Ro Shiell & Bermuda Bob examine the reasons for last night’s loss to Notre Dame and what it means for their future.   

Here goes … 

Query #1

On a night where Justice Winslow, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor were hot, Duke still lost. Where did it go wrong ???

Rowan:     Notre Dame did a better job of adjusting to Duke than Duke did adjusting to them. It didn’t help that Jerian Grant was playing at a premium level either !!!

Bermuda Bob:     I know it sounds blasphemous to say, but the student out-coached the Teacher. Notre Dame was more poised, passed very effectively, and took better shots, shooting 52% to Duke’s 46%. Trifectas were a wash, but Duke lost the battle at the Charity Stripe by 19%. There is your 4 Point differential in a nutshell !!!

 Query #2

What now for Duke ???

Rowan:     They lost to a very good team on the road. Grant just nailed the ACC Player of the Year award, and it is now his to lose. The Blue Devils just need a more effective defensive system that will mask their very obvious weaknesses. Notre Dame is a terrible matchup for Duke because they have quick Guards that exploit Duke’s perimeter defense and interior defense.

Bermuda Bob:     Good coaches have figured out more than one way to handle “Oaks” on Offense. His Defense is questionable. I pointed out plenty of times during the game that he just stood there as if he was afraid to be called for a Foul. Great Centers in history knew how to challenge Shooters in the Lane. He will learn that someday, but not at Duke, just as both Plumlees have !!!

I think Coach K needs to develop a simple Game Plan for each game and commit to it. I’m not too sure these kids can make complicated changes in the heat of a game.

Query #3

One of the rhetoric being floated around is that Duke is still a young team, do you think this is correct ???

Rowan:     Yes this is very true. In an ideal world Duke would take their lumps this season then come back stronger and better the following season, but with this team there is no room for that. Three Freshman have an appointment with Adam Silver in June and I don’t think they want to miss that. Here is the thing, Duke also have 3 Upperclassmen. Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Amile only played 17 minutes and Sulaimon was 1-of-6 on field goals. Cook played a heck of a game though.

Bermuda Bob:     OK, you asked for it !!!   Coach K has succumbed to the “one-and-done” recruit, much to my dismay. Going back to Kyrie Irving, each team has been subverted to a kid who had no intention of staying at Duke more than one season. This year, the Upperclassmen are seemingly in the minority, and possibly all 4 could be gone next year. I worry Grayson may leave, making it 4 kids in 4 years.

As far as the game is concerned, Notre Dame put one Frosh on the floor for 15 minutes. Duke was playing against 2 Seniors, 1 Junior, and 2 Sophomores, starting.   THAT is why they moved the ball so well. THAT is why they looked so much more poised. THAT is why their Defense seemed so much tougher. It’s great that the Duke kids seem to like each other and get along well. Unfortunately, they lack true cohesiveness because they have not played together long enough, and they don’t intend to any longer than they have to !!!

Query #4

Who would you appoint as Duke’s player of the game?

Rowan:     Jahlil Okafor had a great stat line (22 points, 17 rebounds) but I wish Duke would play a more inclusive game, offensively, and not rely too much on the Freshman. He played 36 minutes and was visibly exhausted as Notre Dame wore him down.

Justice Winslow made some key shots but he isn’t himself, maybe due to a current injury, but it was good to see him hitting from the Three Point Line.

Bermuda Bob:     I do not believe in awarding a Game Ball when the team loses. I think Duke’s Guards were stymied and produced mediocre stats. Matt Jones did not score well, but produced 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists, and 1 Steal off the bench. Together, Quinn and Tyus had 6 Rebounds, 4 Assists, and 2 Steals. Oh, by-the-way, Matt only played 21 minutes versus 40 and 38 minutes respectively. Notre Dame’s Guard play was so tremendous, I won’t quote it !!!

I also believe that a Center’s Field Goal Percentage ought to have an asterisk because, while they are often spectacular, his shots are always in the Paint. I can’t recall the last time he shot facing the Basket. You cannot fairly compare his Shooting Percentage to the others who usually shoot facing the Basket and from distance. That’s the job assigned to “Oaks” and he does it well, but one might say he gave away the game from the Charity Stripe shooting 2 of 7.

Justise shot better with 4 of 7 from the Field and 3 of 4 from outside the Arc. It demonstrates that he is healing, and his extension is coming back. It may still be some time before we see the dynamic presence he was early on. I just hope he does not worry about being injured again. It is human nature to cower from what hurt you before.

I’m dismayed that Coach K only used “Plums” for 6 minutes. I don’t get why Amile only got 17 minutes in favour of a relatively ineffective Matt Jones and/or Rasheed. Combined, the three shot 4 of 14 with nothing from outside the Arc. If Coach was trying to accomplish something with this “rotation,” it failed !!!

Query #5

How was the officiating ???

Rowan:     No play stands out to me as overly terrible so I would say it was OK overall.

Bermuda Bob:     I made the comment during the game that the Refs were so faire that they were surely not “homers” like the Officiating Crew for the St. John’s game seemed to be.

I was dismayed to hear that Coach K complained about the physicality of the game these days. Obviously it tires “Oaks,” but it goes both ways. I’d prefer to see fewer Blocking Fouls and more Offensive Fouls.   Kids are playing less hard core Defense these days because of “ticky-tack” touch Fouls.

When so many Fouls are called – and I’m speaking about CBB in general – the Refs become part of the outcome of the game, and that is never right !!!

Query #6

Think Duke can beat Virginia ???

Rowan:     Virginia is very similar to Notre Dame but have arguably the best defense in college basketball. This game will be a make or break game for Duke.  They just played good in a game they lost now they have to play an incredibly good team.

Bermuda Bob:     Well, if I were a betting man, I’d stay away from the game. Virginia is arguably the best defensive team around and their offense is shooting 47%, 40% of their Trifectas, and 75% from the Charity Stripe.

Virginia played a Senior, 5 Juniors, 1 Sophomore, and 2 Frosh against Notre Dame, at Notre Dame, and prevailed by 6 Points !!!

I think that if Duke loses it may very well prove that they (A) they learned nothing from this game, or (B) are incapable of making the changes from what they learned from this game. Neither is encouraging.

Well, that’s it for our debate folks.  Please tell us what you think. 

Editor’s Note:   This debate took place BEFORE the news of Rasheed Su-Su-Sulaimon being released.   We did not know about it and it did not impact our debate.  

 

 

“After Sleeping on It …” Duke Pulls One Out for Coach K’s 1000th Against St. John’s

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Today’s Article is By Bermuda Bob

The stage was set. Madison Square Garden, aka “Cameron North” was packed. Thankfully, Duke wore their blue uniforms. Then, the Tip Off.

Duke worked it’s way to an 11 Point lead by the 12:29 minute mark, then the unthinkable. They were soundly outplayed. Overrun might be more exact. Duke fans were witnessing the unthinkable.

How could St. John’s ruin such a perfectly staged event ???

St. John’s did it by causing 16 Duke TurnOvers, logging 10 Steals, and blocking 4 Shots. They shot 43% and 27% from outside the Arc.

To add insult to injury, Duke was burdened by some of the worst Officiating of the year. The type that makes them look like “Homers” !!!   If you are curious of my contention, just watch the replay of the last shot of the Half at the Buzzer by D’Angelo Harrison. Every SportsCaster in America watching the game saw what every Duke fan saw. The shot was soundly AFTER the Shot Clock.  The Officials simply trotted into their Locker Room, relying on a technicality that they were not required to review the Shot.

The trend would continue. Soon Duke found themselves behind the “Eight Ball,” as if it were all a bad dream.

The bad dream would continue into the 2nd Half.  Bad Fouls, bad calls, overall bad play.

Then, the unthinkable. Marshall Plumlee was inserted and the team took on a completely different look. St. John’s continued to double-team “Oaks” and ignore “Plums,” even after he made his presence he scored with an Assist by Tyus.  This was the turning point !!!

“Plums” would go on to pull down 5 Rebounds, as the deficit began to dwindle with every St. John’s missed shot, and “Plums” pulling down the Rebound.  Momentum changed and Duke used it to their advantage.

Soon, St. John’s would begin to take “Plums” seriously. That took the pressure off of “Oaks” and the rest of the squad.  They began to score and St. John’s suddenly looked spent. The tide had turned and momentum was on Duke’s side.

At the same time, Matt Jones was on the floor for Rasheed.  While the Box Score won’t show it, his pulling down 6 Rebounds, creating 2 Assists, and a Steal made a significant contribution.

Duke would get big scores from Tyus and Quinn, and the game would end in Duke’s favour, 77-68.

This was one of the first times that Duke kept their poise, maintained their focus, and looked like a maturing team.  They are not close to being where they need to be in March, but they have the whole month of February to work on it.  This week will feel like a gauntlet, but it’s also an opportunity get better.

–         Justise needs to get healthy so he can keep the Defenses honest.

–         “Oaks” needs to dribble less.

–         Amile needs to try shooting from that Foul Line Post to keep defenses honest.  Right now his not shooting allows defenses to back down closer to “Oaks.”

–         Tyus needs to continue to do what he’s doing so well, but maybe be a little more selective with his shots for fear of getting hurt like Justise.

–         Quinn needs to continue to lead.

–         Rasheed needs to continue in his very important role coming off the bench.

–         Coach K needs to get “Plums” and Grayson more floor time. I believe that both have plenty to contribute, but need the chance to do so like “Plums” did in this game.

Duke is at Notre Dame on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday night. They will both present an even tougher challenge, but it’s time to “bring it” if they want to slay the demons of past performances.

Thanks for Reading …

Please don’t be a stranger and tell us what you think !!!

In the meantime …

Rock On !!!

 

Coach K Reaches His 1000th Win Mark !!!

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Today’s Article is by Bermuda Bob

Just before the beginning of the season, I profiled Coach K and claimed that college basketball could not have a better standard bearer, thus making him a modern day “Godfather of College Basketball.”

Today, while listening to all the well-wishers, from fellow coaches to past players to each and every person whose life he has touched, I heard the word “family” used so very much.  It reminded me of a quote from the first “Godfather” movie where the Don proclaims that:   “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

So, it begs the question:  If everyone considers themselves part of Coach K’s family, then isn’t that the true measure of the man ???  I surely think so.   Especially when there is rarely a time when he is not with someone who considers themselves part of his family.

My writing partner and co-founder of this site, Rowan Shiell, hails from London.  When we met years ago my first pondering question of him was how he became a Duke fan.  He recalled a time when Duke came to London and he was just so impressed with the man.  Ro’s inclusion in Coach K’s “family” is why we say “Duke Fans are Everywhere” and I can assure you that his little son will grow to be a “family” member as well !!!

We can take each and every accomplishment Coach K has reached, all the honours he has been recognized with, and look at the plethora of trophies in Duke’s Trophy Case, but I maintain that they all pale in comparison.

Being the first to attain 1000 wins is certainly an accomplishment, and one which may very well be attained by a scant few others, but I maintain that having so many consider him “family” means so much more.

I know this to be true, because, while I have never met him, I too consider myself part of that “family” that started back when Mike Kzyzewski made me a Duke fan.

Thanks, Coach … and … Congratulations !!!

Rock On !!!

 

Contributing to our collage of everything about Coach K is another “family” member, Zoe Plant, who is also from the England, and transformed Coach K into a superhero.  

Thank you, Zoe, you’ve certainly captured him in a unique way !!!

Point/CounterPoint Installment #7: After Louisville & PITT … Looking Forward to a Pivotal Week of Games

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Query #1:

We both filed articles on the Duke win over Louisville.   So, now that we have the PITT win to add.  What have we learned about this Duke team as we go forward ???

Rowan:     I have learned that they are very vulnerable but they are resilient at the same time.

Bermuda Bob:     I believe that it is debatable if Coach K can teach Freshmen enough in one season to win it all, even if he is the greatest active CBB coach of all time.   I know that sounds pessimistic, and something a loyal fan ought not be thinking, let alone saying, but I have to be honest.  If you compare this team to each of Duke’s championship teams, there’s something left to be desired.  Polish !!!  This year’s team is very talented but not experienced enough, nor mature enough. They cannot become that overnight, nor in one season.

Query #2:

Who do you think is the player who will have to step up and help “Oaks” in order to get wins next week against St. Johns, Notre Dame, and Virginia ???

Rowan:     I don’t know who that player will be, but so long as someone takes that seat, Duke should be fine. They do need at least two high scorers to take the attention away from Jahlil. Whether it be Cook, Tyus Jones, or Amile Jefferson, I can’t really say. Justice Winslow is slumping at the moment, probably trying to get accustomed to ACC play, but he is due a big game.

Bermuda Bob:     I agree with your premise and presume that the Starters must excel, but I think it’s up to the Bench … ALL of the Bench.  Rasheed needs to continue to score.  Matt needs to find the hole more. “Plums” needs to continue to get better, and Grayson needs to see more floor time !!!   Of course, they all need to defend and stay out of foul trouble.

Query #3:

What do you make of Justice Winslow’s sudden struggles ??? 

Rowan:     Well he has had a few of those block/charges go against him, one too many times. That can get into a player’s head. He has lost a little of his aggression, but as he learns more and gets a feel for the game, he will be fine, hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.

Bermuda Bob:     I believe he is getting beaten up each game. Twice he’s gone down on his shoulder. He’s had his ribs bruised and Coach K has said he needs a bit of time off before St. John’s. I think that he might even feel worse than he lets on. He is less likely to be as mobile as earlier in the season, which is a big part of getting open and scoring. He seems to have been more willing to jack shots up from way outside, but his misses have looked odd to me. Either he has no extension, or he over-extends as if he is over-compensating. I hope he breaks out and becomes the kid who grabbed our hearts right away !!!

Query #4:

Aside from Rasheed, who do you think is the most important player off the Bench ???

Is it a different player for each opponent, or one overall ???

Rowan:     Right now, Rasheed IS the Bench.  He is the most consistent scorer.  Anything else from the other two guys is icing on the cake.  Those two Three Pointers against Louisville by Matt was just what Duke needed at the right time.  When Matt Jones is shooting, Duke is winning, just like Andre Dawkins, you never know which Matt will show up each game.

Bermuda Bob:     I agree on Rasheed, so let’s just consider him a “given.”  I think it is situational. Matt needs the consistency you speak of, especially as he is the next best sub, sometimes having to act as a very small Forward, since Semi has left.  “Plums” may be called on if “Oaks” is in foul trouble, and needs to, then, stay out of foul trouble himself.  I know I seem to be beating a dead horse, but Grayson was recruited to do more than keep Sean Obi company.

Query #5:

Do you think Coach K’s 1000th wins means that much to him, or do you agree with Jay Williams that “It’s irrelevant …” ???

Rowan:     Yes it means everything to him.  Coach K is very much invested in this season, no doubt, but this achievement is no small matter.  There have been some great coaches in college basketball who will never reach these heights.  When you have been doing something as long as Coach K has been in coaching, these things are the crowning glory. It is his legacy.

Bermuda Bob:     I understand your point, but you’ll not hear a lot of that from him.  He, his wife, and his family will glow, but maintain their “even strain” when asked to comment on it.  I’ll be glad when it’s finally over with, as there is a lot of competition ahead and the less distractions the better !!!

Query #6:

Do you think Coach K is going to stick with the “Orange” Zone Defense, going forward ???

Rowan:     Not exclusively.  Last night when PITT made a run in the 2nd Half, Duke was playing a “Man-to-Man” Defense.  Coach K had to revert back to the Zone to stem the flow.  Coach K has always been about “Man-to-Man” and you can’t expect a guy who has been in the business this long to change overnight, however it pays to be less predictable and have more than one option.

Bermuda Bob:     I know what you mean.  One of my favourite pronouncements from the Godfather movies is:  “Never let anyone outside the family know what you’re thinking.”  It applies quite nicely to life, business, and, yes, sports.  Just as Coach K has changed his views about recruits, he can change his views using a Zone !!! The problem arises, inasmuch as playing Zone will not necessarily hone this team’s defensive skills when they need to play “Man-to-Man” … like with a team shooting as well or better than State did.  Hot shooting teams can dismantle even the most stoic Zone defenses.

 Query #7:

C L Brown from ESPN is not convinced Duke is back on track (probably as championship material) until they get through what he calls a true test of St Johns, Notre Dame and Virginia, in the following weeks. Do you think this is true ??? 

Rowan:     This will be a tough week, no doubt, but every game going forward will be tough. They just have to treat each game like their first and last. There is no room left for the faint of heart.

Bermuda Bob:     Yes, this week will tell us plenty about the heart, resiliency, and character of this team.  That’s a lot to ask of Freshmen, but if Quinn and Amile can continue to lead effectively, their raw talents might just be enough.  That said, February is a long season for the shortest month, with even more challenges.  We will know plenty about this team sometime Saturday night.  I’m hoping for the maturation they need to increase exponentially going forward.

 Query #8: 

Rick Pitino says he expects every team to play a Zone against them because that’s Louisville’s weakness, and he wasn’t surprised to see Duke employ this Defense.  Are you buying this ??? 

Rowan:     Then Mr Pitino was one of a handful of people to be aware of this.  Fortunately, he was not able to do anything about it. 

Bermuda Bob:     Hindsight is 20-20 vision. While I never expected to see Coach K call for the “Orange” Defense, considering that he has used it less than 5% of the time in his career, he never ceases to amaze.  Now, as to Coach Pitino’s contention, anyone who saw Louisville play Kentucky, essentially saw almost the exactly same game. They lost against Kentucky too !!!

In today’s “instant information” society, there are fewer and fewer teams who are not totally and utterly prepared for the opposition.   No longer are teams relegated to video tape and Scouting Reports.  They can begin to research their next opponent on-line while travelling home from the game they just finished.  Everyone knew before the Kentucky game was over exactly how to beat the Louisville Cardinals !!!

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“After Sleeping on It …” – Duke Resets the Clock With Louisville Win

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Today’s Article is By Rowan Shiell

If anyone knows Coach Krzyzewski, it would be the folks over at Duke Basketball Report, who have done an excellent job reporting on Duke Basketball over the years.  That is why in the lead up to the Louisville game Al Featherstone had some strong words for the masses trying to lend their voice on how to “fix Duke” after two losses:

“He’s not going to abandon the man-to-man and play zone.  I know that there is a segment of Duke fans who have raised a pro-zone chorus in recent days. Without being insulting, allow me to say, they don’t know what they are talking about.”

Fortunately Rick Pitino must be a subscriber to this site, or knew Coach K well enough to think like this to the detriment of Louisville. Absolutely no one was expecting a Zone Defense from Duke, at least not all game. Coach K has flirted with the Zone occasionally only to revert back to “Man-to-Man” at the slightest blip.

Playing Louisville “Man-to-Man” would have played right into their strengths. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones would have been unstoppable. Beating their defenders off the dribble is their forte, and NC State and Miami exposed Duke as having no rim protector. Plus, Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones can’t keep their assignments in front of them, according to Eamonn Brennan.

The Zone Defense is still a work in progress because, at this point in the season, it is hard to just perfect a play overnight. Plus not all teams are going to shoot as poorly as Louisville did.

“This was the most open we’ve been and we just could not knock down the shot,” Rick Pitino said. “I have said that we are a little offensively challenged from the perimeter, so we’ve got to be meticulous with our paint touches because we’re not a great shooting team.”

Duke didn’t shoot that great either, but it was good to see Tyus Jones in an aggressive mode. He scored 10 Points and had 8 Assists, which meant that Duke didn’t stick to that stagnated offense of feeding Jahil Okafor in the Post and standing around.  In the 1st Half they tried that, and it might have kept the Cardinals in the game, with Okafor struggling under Louisville’s pressure, if Amile Jefferson hadn’t showed up.

The lanky 6’ 9” Forward seemed to have a knack for doing the things the team requires of him. Sometimes it is Rebounding, other times it is Defense. Against Louisville it was scoring.

Jefferson scored a season high 19 Points, missing one Shot out of 7 attempts, and was 7-of-9 from the Free Throw Line. He also tied a season high 31 minutes. He previously had as many minutes against Connecticut, which was another tough victory.

“Coaches put in some new stuff coming into this game and we followed it to a T,” Jefferson said. “We ran a new offense, we had new plays. We did a lot of things differently and it really helped us out today.”

This game showed that Jefferson and Okafor can make a lethal combination in the Paint, and hopefully these new plays will become implemented in Duke’s attack going forward. They didn’t just take advantage of just any Frontcourt. Louisville has one of the best defensive Frontcourts in the ACC.

The Junior’s Offense was a welcome addition seeing as the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, Quinn Cook and Justice Winslow, both had an off night. That’s not to mention that Rasheed Sulaimon, who normally is the sum of the Bench scoring, went scoreless.

One game does not mean Duke’s woes are over, but they held a dangerous opponent to 29% scoring on the road, on a night when they themselves shot 26% on Three Point Shots.

The most telling quote after the ‘Slump’ came from the Duke Captains. Quinn Cook said:

“The beginning of season we had a chip on our shoulder. We got tired of hearing about certain teams. We got tired of hearing about certain players, and thought we had something to prove. But with the success that came, winning all those games, we lost that edge.” 

Early success can make a body become complacent, and that didn’t just stop with the players. When you start the season with a relatively new team, there is no scouting report, or it is done mostly on assumptions. The more games played, the better the Scouting Report. Suffice to say that by the time conference games begun Duke was an open book.

Their strengths and weaknesses were completely transparent yet they were just soldiering, mistakenly thinking that they could continue to win doing the same things.

These two losses may turn out to be a merciless blessing in disguise because they are now open to making necessary adjustments.

“We needed to do something new, we needed a fresh start after those two losses,” Jefferson said. “We said we were 0-0, and we weren’t going to worry about what happened and just start over. We did a lot differently, and it really helped us.” 

The ‘new’ Blue Devils are now 1-0 for anyone keeping score.

“We’re a really young group. A veteran group — you’re not playing well offensively, you already know to hunker down,” Coach K said. “We’ve had to go through losses, and we may have to go through more losses, in order to learn that. But we’re learning it.”

Duke Beats Louisville … “Irrational Exuberance” Prevails !!!

 

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Today’s Article is by Bermuda Bob

In the course of one week … 7 days … Duke fans went from the horror of losing to a team they should have beaten, to being soundly beaten at their beloved Cameron Indoor Stadium, (which caused some to Google noose-tying) to the ecstasy of a win against Louisville, at Louisville.

Then it began.  All the trappings of a programme that had turned itself around all to the delight of the faithful !!!

Unfortunately, those faithful fans rarely look at the big picture, stat sheets, nor the road ahead.  That is college basketball’s version of “irrational exuberance” … a term I borrowed from Alan Greenspan, who created it to describe the “dot.com” trading bubble as Federal Reserve Chairman in 1996.

It has never been more applicable, but this time to Duke fans and many of the knee-jerk sports media.

So, since we describe ourselves as purveyours of “Honest and Unabashed Opinions …” I feel a sincere responsibility to point out as few things that conveniently escaped so many folks …

  1. Duke shot 49% to 25.5% from the Field … and … 27% to 16% from outside the Arc in route to a 63-52 win. Duke also were credited with 13 Assists to 7 by Louisville.
  1. Louisville outrebounded Duke 38-32, with 18 Cardinal Rebounds being Offensive “boards.” Louisville blocked 4 Shots to one by Duke.
  1. Both teams committed 10 TurnOvers, and essentially committed the same amount of Personal Fouls.

Those are the statistics that, I maintain, do not bode well for the Blue Devils, regardless of their win.   The score is assumed to tell the story, and while Duke certainly quieted most the 22,791 Cardinal fans at the Yum Centre in their Duke Blue “away” uniforms, it does not explain the whole story.

  1. Even by the pained admission of a gaunt and pekid Coach Rick Pitino, Louisville is a terribly poor shooting team.  All the Defense in the world will not prevail unless you can put the ball in your own bucket !!!
  1. Coach K proved why he is the greatest active coach by putting aside his complete and utter distain for the Zone Defense, and used it almost exclusively.  A practice he has only used less than 5% of his career.
  1. Duke’s formerly well distributed scoring was replaced by a team high  performance by Amile with 19 points, and the usual 18 points by “Oaks” !!!  Rasheed played 16 minutes off the Bench and did not score.  Quinn was cold as ice, and Justise continued his scoring blight.

So, what does this all mean to me, as opposed to those who are still jumping for joy ???  It means that Duke is still in the same type of trouble that just about everyone thought they were on Friday !!!

Duke is on a quick turn-around and will play PITT at home on Monday night.  The questions about this team ought to continue for a few reasons.

*     Duke’s shooting woes were not ameliorated on Saturday.  They just looked like they were when compared to Louisville, who has consistently shot poorly, especially in big games.  Just ask Kentucky !!!

*     Duke’s defensive woes will not be fixed unless Coach K is willing to admit that the “Man-to-Man” Defense by Freshmen is a non-starter.  I have no doubt that a man of his character and creativity is capable of converting, but let’s just say I have my doubts.  My proof is based in his stoic steadfastness to a short player rotation.  If you doubt me, ask Mike Gbinije, Alex Murphy, Semi Ojeleye, and even Grayson Allen !!!

*     Regardless of which defensive profile Duke shows next, they will continue to have problems in the ForeCourt.  I say that for the same reason as I pointed out Louisville’s 18-5 Offensive Rebound excellence.  When you compare those to the score, versus their terrible shooting, you suddenly realize that most of those “O-Bounds” were put-back scores. That means that Duke continues to give away the BaseLine and allow Back-Door scores at an alarming rate.

*     Anyone that has watched Duke from the beginning of this season knows that every opponent has used up countless bottles of Visiene watching film of Jahlil Okafor.  Each will discount what has not worked, try to learn from what has, and apply it to their squad’s abilities, or inabilities.  One ploy that has worked somewhat is a double team on “Oaks” by “bigs” and a sweep by a Guard when he puts it on the floor.  He is most effective the less he dribbles, so the team needs to take the pressure off of him to score.  They do this by NOT passing in to him and standing around waiting for the dish out to them.  Amile proved this conclusively on Saturday.  Instead of waiting for the double-team on “Oaks,” he made his own scoring opportunities by moving.  The balance of  the team must follow their Captain’s lead !!!

Anyone that knows me, or has ever read any of my stuff knows I believe that the “one-and-done” recruit is an anathema to everything that is good, true, and beautiful about college basketball.   As easy as it would be to look the other way this year, I simply can’t, nor won’t. Coach K has dipped his toe into the “one-and-done” waters thrice before with single players with disastrous results.  This year he has 3 of his 4 Frosh recruits starting.  Regardless of how talented they are … and there is no doubt that they ARE talented … they are still missing important experience.  Even Coach K realizes this when he laments that he is trying to stuff 3-4 years of EXPERIENCE into a single year, thus acknowledging that some may succumb to what I call “deception for dollars.”

If there is anyone who can prove me wrong, it is Coach K.  For now, at the beginning of a grueling ACC season, it will only be done by concentrating on what they learn from the experience of each game …

… and leaving the “irrational exuberance” to the fans and the members of  the media who don’t know any better !!!

A Clear Look at Duke’s Problems after Miami Loss

Miami v Duke

Today’s Article is by Rowan Shiell

“I just have felt since Christmas that there’s something missing with our group, and I’ve said it,” said Coach Krzyzewski. “I’ve said to the press.  I’ve said it to my team, and when you’re still winning, you don’t necessarily believe it completely, but I’ve felt it since Christmas.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to change it.” 

What has changed since Christmas as to why Duke isn’t playing the same ? Is it the time off, or is it the fact that Semi Ojeleye transferred in the middle of December? Could that have anything to do with team chemistry, or is it just a big coincidence that something went missing right after Semi left ?

The difference between a very good team and team with talent is good chemistry … Something that cannot be measured. A good team has players who have a feel for each other, know their weaknesses, and compensates for it. Whereas a team with talent has a bunch of good players “who work their butts off” (see St John’s Red Storm).

Chemistry can be incredibly fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s why a team like Miami could lose at home to teams like Green Bay, then get blown out by Eastern Kentucky, then go to Cameron Indoor Stadium to soundly end Duke’s 41 home games winning streak. A week before that, Virginia, currently ranked #2, and maybe the best playing team in the nation, needed two Overtimes to beat the Hurricanes. They are now playing great winning basketball.

While Semi was on the team, guys were fighting for playing time and staying hungry. They hustled on defense. They communicated on defense. Then someone leaves, and even if he didn’t play that much, his departure alleviated some of the uncertainty, and made players feel established. Suddenly the extra pass wasn’t being made, and that trickles down to the defense, where players stopped talking and were visibly frustrated.

If you knew you are guaranteed to play 35 minutes every game, wouldn’t it be to your best interest to take a few plays off ?

One of the reasons Semi transferred, or maybe the only reason, is that Coach K again shortened his rotation, and went to his norm of playing a maximum 8 players, leaving the Sophomore and Grayson Allen as the odd men out. Prior to Michigan State, no one was playing more than 30 minutes a game.

Everyone played but as the competition improved Coach K went with a set rotation. Even the style of play changed. Now it was mostly Post Jahlil Okafor and throw the ball into him. If he got doubled, then he threw the ball back to the perimeter. Jahlil was the main scoring option of the team. His numbers blew up to the detriment of his teammates. This is an exploitable weakness. Double team Jahlil, but let Duke shoot you out of it. Remember that victory at Wisconsin and how balanced the scoring was ?

When the season started people were saying Duke looked good, but the Offense should run through Okafor. He should touch the ball at least once on Offense. Even this writer believed that, however making the Freshman the main Offensive weapon was not an expected option, unless it was an open audition for the John Wooden award.

His teammates became complacent (Tyus Jones). No more Pick-and-Rolls. It was ball into the Post then everyone stood waiting for the ball to come back out. When it did, the receiver normally jacked a Three Pointer. That worked when they were shooting well, but Three Point Shots don’t always fall.

Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones’ Assist numbers have slowly been declining. That’s because they hardly create plays for teammates any more. Duke needs to get back to playing team ball. Play together on Offense and the cohesiveness will trickle down to the defense.

Against Miami, Fran Francsilla reported that Jim Larranaga wanted to spread the floor then beat Duke’s Guards off the dribble. As soon as one player was beaten there was no secondary defense. At times a guy had a clear path to the hoop, with enough time to update their social media status before the layup !

These are fixable problems and it is still early January.  Not to mention they are only 4 games into the ACC season.  We have to remember that Duke has one of it’s best teams in a long time. Quinn Cook is having his best season at Duke. The Freshmen, Justise Winslow, Jones and Okafor are really talented. Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones are two of the best defensive guards in the ACC. Marshall Plumlee has progressed.

Amile Jefferson is one of the most versatile defenders in college basketball. Individually, these guys are exceptional in their own way, they just need to start playing together again.

Duke needed these two losses, as sometimes you have to fail in order to win, according to Michael Jordan during his Hall of Fame speech. Miami needed to hit rock bottom, getting blown out by Eastern Kentucky, to find themselves. They took a stand against Virginia then resurged against Duke.

Coach Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils are still on that journey and as soon as they collectively draw that line in the sand, they will start rising together as a team. This was never about going undefeated it’s about playing in April.

“I’m not totally surprised with us losing, not tonight, I’m just saying losing because I never felt we were a great team,”  Krzyzewski said after the Miami game. “I felt we were really a good group of kids working our butts off, winning some big games and stuff like that. But we’re not that team yet.” 

 

They key word here is ‘yet’ …

“After Sleeping on It …” Thoughts After the NC State Game

SDBB - Duke ZZZ's

Tonight’s Comments by Bermuda Bob

Duke walked into a historically ugly venue, looking ugly in their black uniforms, and played downright ugly before 19,500 NC State fans who watched their team play anything but ugly.

In short, State outplayed Duke in every aspect of the game …

–         State shot 55% to Duke’s 37% from the Field …

–         State shot 62% to Duke’s 26% outside the Arc …

–         State blocked 10 Shots to only 4 by Duke …

–         State scored 87 points to only 75 by Duke …

Now the rest of the statistics for the game make it look closer than it truly was. State outplayed them in every sense that counted.  To me, there were 4 reasons why Duke lost:

THE PERIMETER defense was non-existent, and made State’s look effective.  In essence, Duke had plenty of great looks but simply couldn’t find the bucket if it were twice it’s size !!! It is an all too familiar nightmare for Duke fans.  Nothing can compensate when your shots are clanging and careening and finding no Net !!!

THE FORECOURT defense continues to allow way too many Back-Door scores, and other scores “down-low” simply does not deny the Baseline. State’s “Bigs” got it done on their side, but Duke did not.

Both Ro and I continue to wonder why Amile is getting abbreviated minutes, even not starting in this game.  The leadership of an upperclassman and Captain doesn’t help the team on the bench.

THE BENCH play of State was stunning. Duke’s was paltry. State’s Bench scored 23 Points in 59 minutes while Duke scored 14 Points in 44 minutes.  State out-rebounded Duke 13 to 9 … logged 8 Assists to Duke’s 3 … and … blocked 6 shots compared to NONE by Duke !!!

“PlumTree” #3 sat all but 5 minutes.  I kept wondering when he was going to (maybe) be tried to augment “Oaks” who was getting consistently double-teamed by a very physical 4-man rotation of Post players.  I understand that Marshall does not pose the offensive threat that “Oaks” does, but he HAS to be used more effectively.   Sitting on the bench while “Oaks” is having his game altered so effectively makes no sense to me, especially with Justise being moved to a perimeter-oriented Power Forward position.

THOSE BLACK UNIFORMS are both hideous and inappropriate for a team that calls itself The Blue Devils.  The official school colours are “Prussian Blue” and White. This is well defined in the university libraries.  We all know that Nike pumps tonnes of money into schools who wear their gear.  That does not give them the right to alter official school colours.  Why Duke allows this is beyond me !!!

In 1975, the iconic book “Dress for Success” was published and is considered the basis for the concept of “Power Dressing,” which is defined as dress intended to make the wearer authoritative and competent.   Showing up at an “away” game in something other than Duke Blue, and especially in a colour that embodies the absence of light, colour and verve, increases the opponent’s advantage on their “home” Court.

Furthermore, contrary to a prevailing thought that black makes one look “tough” is a misnomer. It simply sez that you’re trying to look “tough” like so many other teams who forsake, to Nike and other uniform manufacturers, their school colours as well. Duke is nothing of the sort.

I recently saw a reference that actually claimed that Duke’s official “away” uniform is black and the blue uniform is an alternate.  Really ???

Much lesser schools and even some Duke rivals would never allow such a thing to happen.  It has actually gotten to the point where they believe the black uniforms are cursed because they just don’t represent who Duke is.  I don’t know about being cursed, but I curse plenty at the beginning of every game they are worn.  Just ask my wife !!!

I’m hoping that Duke will get back to doing what they have been doing in the non-conference season when they come home to Cameron and meet Miami on Wednesday night.  They will need to demonstrate that they have straightened out those wrinkles in preparation for Louisville on Saturday.

Thanks for reading …

Please don’t be a stranger and tell us what you think !!!  

In he meantime …

Rock On !!!

“After Sleeping on It …” Thoughts on the Wake Forest Game

SDBB - Duke ZZZ's 

Duke played Wake Forest in their Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Wednesday night.  It was a curious game for Duke, who has played so much better before.  Ro Shiell and Bermuda Bob exchange some ideas on the what’s and why’s of the game “After Sleeping on It.”

Query #1:

What did you learn from the Duke-Wake Forest game ???

Bermuda Bob:                  The score does not reflect the game.  I was pretty disappointed in the Duke squad that showed up tonight.  The Box Score won’t reflect that they looked lethargic – especially “Oaks” even though he logged a “Double-Double” !!!  They committed 14 Turnovers and shot only 44% from both outside the Arc and from the Field.  I think what we learned is that they are still Freshman, who need more games like this one to become a tighter, tougher squad.

Ro Shiell:       I learned that just throwing the ball into the Post to Okafor has made the other Duke players complacent. Wake was ready for Okafor, even saving their best Post Player for the Second Half matchup with the Freshman. Okafor was able to score when Duke started going to the Pick-and-Roll sets. They have to learn to mix it up more. Just Posting Up the big guy and having the other 4 guys stand on the perimeter is limiting, especially if their best offensive rebounder is going to spend more time sitting with the coaches.

The biggest takeaway from this game is not to depend on any one player.

Query #2: 

Who impressed you in this game ???

Bermuda Bob:                  I’m going to begin to sound like a broken record, but Justise “The Chief” Winslow gets my vote.  His performance, which included 7 Rebounds, 3 Assists, and 2 Blocks while scoring 20 Points lifted Duke.   He scored from just about anywhere and his energy seems inexhaustible !!!    It was also Quinn Cook’s leadership that continues to provide a cornerstone for the team.  He, bolstered by the performance of Tyus Jones is a nice combination.

Coach K went with a different type of line up using more of Rasheed and Matt Jones and less of Amile, (18 minutes) almost as if he wasn’t feeling up to snuff.   Both guys performed well combining for 15 Points.

Ro Shiell:      Justice Winslow was “The Man” last night, though everyone else had their moments. Quinn Cook sealed the deal, that’s how the only Senior on the team should behave.

 Query #3

What are you thinking about, going forward ???

Bermuda Bob:                  I’m hoping to see more of the way they played against Wisconsin.  Being ranked #2 nationally, they have a giant bull’s-eye on their backs.  Teams will want to use games like Wake to learn how to beat them !!!  I’d like to see more of Grayson.

I’m worried that when “Plums” hits the floor, the flow stops because he seems more interested in setting those goofy looking Picks than Posting Up.  He’s great at follow ups, but his game needs to be more of an extension of “Oaks” to maintain continuity or the flow of the Offense looks more like a Globetrotter weave.

They have a pesky NC State Sunday and an underrated Miami next Wednesday.  I expect them to play as hard and as energetically as Wake did.  Duke needs these games to strop their game skills as the Conference Season has just begun !!!

Ro Shiell:      There is the old adage that “… if it isn’t broken don’t fix it,” which makes me hesitant to raise this point as Duke is currently undefeated.  In the last 3 games, Duke’s Defense has taken a hit, maybe it is due to the time off, but is it a coincidence that Amile Jefferson has played less than 20 minutes in those games?  Wasn’t he being toted as the most vocal leader on Defense at the start of the season, when they were blowing out teams, even if those teams were from smaller conferences?  

In every game where he has played 25 plus minutes, Duke has blown out their opponents except 2 games, Wisconsin and Connecticut. They definitely needed him in both those games. It isn’t an issue of early Foul Trouble, because he only had one Foul against Wake and 3 against Boston College.

He is one of my favourite players, so maybe those goggles are clouding my vision so I am going ask Bermuda Bob for his take on this.

 Bermuda Bob:                  I share your fondness for Amile from the first time I saw him.  We’ve seen him mature as he began to understand how to control his basketball body.  As I said in my answer earlier, I don’t have a clue as to why he is getting fewer minutes.  When Amile is in, he draws attention away from “Oaks” and gets some of those opponents practically hanging off of him. Of course, they don’t Amile gets the easy “chippy.”

Let’s hope this is a passing part of Amile’s season and just a way for Coach K to test Rasheed and Matt in the event Amile does have Foul Trouble.