Point/CounterPoint #16 – After the 2nd Syracuse Game

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In today’s installment, Rowan Shiell and Bermuda Bob cover the 2nd Syracuse game of the season at Cameron.  Then, looking forward to Wednesday’s Senior Night, they take a look at Quinn Cook’s 4-year progression into the player and leader he is today …


Query #1

It may have begun to sound like an echo, so instead of asking what we learned about this squad, let’s ask it differently after this game …

Is there anything that surprised you about this game ???

 Bermuda Bob:

I think we’ve learned as much as we can so far when it comes to everyone’s potential.  The only surprise might be the reason why Coach K is not utilizing Amile.  He played only 14 minutes and we are not hearing a reason for it.  As I’ve noted before, Coach K claims not to have a “dog house,” so if I had one question for him right now, I’d ask why Amile – an upperclassman Co-Captain – is not playing more.


Matt Jones shooting 3-of-5 on three pointers was a pleasant surprise, especially on a night where Quinn cook was off. Jones shoots 38% from downtown on the season and seems to have emerged from a shooting slump back in December. I had all but given up hope of him becoming a confident long distance bomber. Whenever he shoots he seems to over think it. You can see that tiny hesitation, as if he is having an internal debate on whether to shoot or pass, most times when he shoots. This was evident in this game, as it was just catch and release.

I would rather see Jones shoot. It’s not the prettiest of shots, then dribble penetrate because he definitely needs to work on finishing around the basket, or stop over penetrating.  

Query #2

In the last game, “Oaks” and Rakeem Christmas went toe-to-toe and “Oaks” got the better of him.  This game they pretty much played each other statistically even, but Rakeem fouled out with about 10 minutes left in the game.  

Was this match-up as cut-and-dry as the previous one ???

Bermuda Bob:

You will recall how complimentary “Oaks” was after the 1st game.  I thought Christmas came out at “Oaks” trying to come out on top, but he got more than he bargained for from “Oaks” on Offense.  “Oaks” logged 7 Rebounds on each side of the Court for a total of 14.  Some of those Offensive Rebounds were converted to scores on “put-backs” others he got out to the perimeter with a new Shot Clock.  I also think that with Christmas having his hands full, he drew help which opened up Justise on the other side of the Paint.   To borrow a golf term, it was the perfect “ham-and-egg” situation.


Yes Rakeem Christmas strength is Posting Up then shooting over either shoulder. Sadly for him, that is Okafor’s strength as a defender. You can get the better of Okafor in pick and roll situations, but to trying to “out big” him is a definite no-no. Okafor’s only let down in this game is shooting 1-of-7 on Free Throws.

I had read a comment on a Syracuse blog that said if Christmas came into this game thinking that he needed to out do Okafor, then Syracuse would lose big. I think that was indeed the case.

Query #3

Justise “The Chief” Winslow is back in early season form and had a super game.  Presuming he gets the Game Ball, who was the unsung performer in this game ??? 

Bermuda Bob:

I declared “The Chief” my favourite player this year. I think he combines all the great assets of Grant, Shane, Kyle, and Lance.  Once he puts that seemingly emotionless “game face” on, he’s an exciting player to watch on both ends.

As for the “unsung performer” in this game, I’d say it had to be Matt.  He shot 3 of 5 from outside the Arc, and 3 of 7 from inside.  His Defense is getting better every game, especially since he is getting more and more time on the floor.


Justise Winslow is coming into his own, and I suspect that is why Amile Jefferson is playing less. Winslow had a great game and so did Jahlil Okafor.  Matt had a good shooting night, and he also kept Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije in check but my unsung hero is going to be Quinn Cook. Why would I chose a guy that only made I of 8 Three Point attempts ???

Well, because on a bad night he kept shooting. At this Point it is no secret that Quinn Cook’s shooting is a valid part of Duke’s attack. He was off but he had the presence of mind to keep at it. The last thing Duke needs is Cook losing his confidence. He still found a way to score 17 points and did not miss any of his 6 Free Throw attempts.

Query #4

If there is a statistic that is of concern, it’s Free Throws Made.  Duke, as a team is averaging 68.4% with “Oaks,” who is only shooting 52.5%, and 72% without him.  

Going into post-season play, does this concern you ???

Bermuda Bob:

Every time “Oaks” has an outing like this one, 1 of 7 from the Charity Stripe, my wife asks what his problems are, and I go thru the reasons most “Bigs” have problems.  It’s simple, being so tall and with such a wingspan, they finish their standard shooting motion much closer to the height of the rim than we shorter folks do.  Yes, paying attention in Geometry class paid off, who would have ever thunk it ???

I don’t think many basketball fans today will recall Rick Barry.  As an NBA player, he shot somewhere in the vicinity of 92% from the Line … UNDERHANDED !!!   While Barry is a bit shorter at 6’7″ who could argue with such proficiency ???  His reasoning is that it is a much simpler motion which anyone can master quickly, even though Wilt Chamberlain (who actually used the method) and Shaq both thought it made them look like “sissies” !!!

Going into the post-season, what would happen if his missed Free Throws were pivotal in a game and cost Duke a win ???  I’d give it a try if I were he, even if it were just as a diversion.


I think this might be a blessing in disguise. Okafor has one too many holes in his defensive repertoire to stay on the court, in end-of-game situations. So, this may force him to the sidelines.  The problem is his likely replacement and a much better defender, Amile Jefferson, is also a terrible Free Throw shooter.

However, there is the silver lining: with this issue. Duke is currently 26-3. Games don’t suddenly change in March, aside from the win-or-go-home mentality. They have won all these games with this flaw maybe they can continue to win like this. So long as the ball is in Tyus Jones’s or Quinn Cook’s hands, both are shooting around 90%, Duke will be fine.

In this game both made all eight of their attempts.

Query #5

Grayson Allen and “Plums” got single digit minutes but seemed to be on the floor longer than that.  Otherwise, Amile got 12 minutes.  In a game that was won pretty much in the 1st Half, does it disappoint you that these guys did not play longer ??? 

Bermuda Bob:

I know we discuss that having the smaller, but better shooting Matt Jones on the Floor often gives Duke a scoring edge over Amile, but I’m having trouble seeing Amile – a Junior Co-Captain – only getting 12 minutes in a game.  I don’t get it and think there HAS to be something going on that we are not being allowed to be privy to.

That said, I like the energy and grit Grayson brings to the team.  Even with a modicum of more minutes has payed off in his honing his level of comfort on the Floor.    Unfortunately, the adrenaline was flowing a bit to much for “Plums” who came in like a ‘house-on-fire” and got called for two quick Fouls.  I’m sure he earnestly wants to make an impact, but Saturday was not his day.  I think such verve is what happens to a guy who has all the tools, but has never really played substantive minutes.  He’s been recruited over, even after he accepted a Red Shirt year.  I’d like to say he ought to get more minutes, but “Oaks” is going to be needed on the floor, making “Plums” odd man out.


The frustrating thing about college basketball is knowing that how we see the game is not how it is played, or at least how the coaches see the game.  We don’t know what their agenda is, most times, aside from winning the game.  We know Coach K likes to trust his Starters. As we are in March now, there is no time for experiments.

At this point, Jefferson, Plumlee and Allen are the bench and will continue to do so unless something drastic happens.

Query #6

Wednesday is Senior Night against Wake Forest, and that means Duke gets to honour Quinn Cook, the only Senior.  Is this now an achievement, getting to Senior year at Duke, considering that most of this class have been subverted by Freshmen ??? 


The 2011 class brought in 5 players and only one made it to Senior Night.  Four years later, Marshall Plumlee Red Shirted and has another year of eligibility.  Two players, Alex Murphy and Michael Gbinige transferred.  The third player, Austin Rivers is currently in the NBA.

The next class of 2012 was Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. 50% of that class has already left, and Matt Jones is the only player left from the 2013 class of three.

Currently, Grayson Allen is the only player expected back from a 2014 class of four.

Duke is no stranger to early departures, but the majority have always made it to their Senior year. This year Coach K had his first outright dismissal for a non academic reason.

The question we should be asking is: “Are these one year players really worth the hassle considering the results ???  

Right now it is on Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow to show us that this is a worthy cause. Five years ago when Duke won the National Championship, the major contributors were upperclassmen.

In the mean time we should celebrate Quinn Cook’s renaissance season. He has been the main link between the last several classes where Duke has had some bad Post-Season results.  He may have taken the blame for some of it, although it should never have been on him.  He was the leading returning scorer coming into last season when the game was given to first year players, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Cook didn’t once publicly acknowledge this demotion, but by season’s end showed Coach K that he made a mistake when he discounted the Point Guard at the start of the season.

Still, it didn’t stop Coach K from bringing another Point Guard whose ranking demanded that he be a starter. Still, Cook hung around where another player, more than likely, would have transferred. Now he is one of Duke’s most important players on a team 26-3.

That’s how you persevere.

Bermuda Bob

I think the “one-and-done” recruit is an anathema on college basketball.  Many have begun to agree with people like myself who saw the deleterious affects it has had. It devalues the place of education in a young man’s life.   Many players worry that they ought not risk injury by staying in college any more than they have to. The truth be told, many play only about three years and are gone.

Coach K has embraced the “one-and-done” recruits this year and attempted to stuff 3 or 4 years into one. Of course, he’s right-minded, but it’s also impossible. No player can ever be the prayer he can be after 4 years with a coach like Coach K. Inasmuch as the present climate of college basketball is concerned, having ” … to be in it to win it …” is disconcerting, and I hope things change so coaches can keep players thru full matriculation.

Quinn is a rare commodity as a 4-year Senior and the celebration of that on Wednesday night is an important one to highlight. So, Congratulations, Quinny !!!

Your point about Alex, Mike, and Semi … even “Plums,” is one that bothers me greatly. No coach ought to ever recruit a kid he does not think is capable of playing. All of those guys should have been told, early on, if they were not going to be used. Hiding behind the “practice hard” mantra is “baloney” !!!

Accordingly, I believe that players leaving for the reasons Alex, Mike, and Semi had, ought not be made to sit out a year if their talents are desired elsewhere. Restrictions would need to be stern, but not unrealistic.

A scholarship has always been intended to avail a student an opportunity at an education he might not otherwise be afforded. The “barter” is his athletic talents. If the school is not interested in utilizing his talents, then he ought to be able to leave and start over elsewhere, not be penalized for violation he could never commit.

So, with all those behind him, I wish Quinny all the best opportunities in the future … that’s only after he leads Duke to a National Championship to put the crown on his 4-year efforts !!!


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