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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