SDBB: Congratulations to The Duke Blue Devils on Winning the 2017 ACC Tournament !!!

By Bermuda Bob

Congratulations are in order for our Duke Blue Devils, who, despite wearing those inappropriate black uniforms, won the 2017 ACC Tournament in Record Setting form.  No other team in ACC history has won four (4) games in a row to win the event.

Duke needed to go thru four (4) very tough opponents …

  • First was Clemson, who they dispatched 79-72 …
  • Next came Louisville, who they prevailed against 81-77 …
  • Next was the “Rubber Game” of the Best Rivalry in Sport, UNC.  They won 93-83 …
  • Last was Notre Dame, who they outlasted 75-69 …

The major aspect that was demonstrated soundly, was the fact that a healthy Duke was “peaking” at the right time after a season that saw them often disappoint causing many fans to wonder about their voracity going into the post-season.  It was indeed a wonderful metamorphosis to behold !!!

Congratulations, and Good Luck in the Big Dance !!!

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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 !!!