“After Sleeping on It …” – Duke’s Tale of 2 Very Different Games in the ACC Tournament

SDBB - Duke ZZZ'sMuch to the chagrin of Duke fans everywhere, Duke exited the ACC Tournament much earlier than anyone was happy about.

Here’s how it happened and why …

THURSDAY night, Duke met North Carolina State, a team who had embarrassed them, 87-75, at home, early on in the conference season. This time, it was Duke who would be causing the embarrassment with a 77-53 trouncing of the WolfPack.

The Box Score shows 4 Starters and 2 Bench Players scoring in double-digits, and some seriously great rebounding, led by Justise and Amile. The most interesting aspect is that “Oaks” only played 19 minutes, while “Plums” logged in 21 minutes, scoring 12 Points, and blocking 3 Shots, having his best game at Duke.

Another interesting aspect was that Duke shot only 13 times from outside the Arc, compared to 53 from inside … very much inside when you consider “Plums” logged 6 out of 6 Dunks !!!

There’s why this run-away game was so unique compared to what we would see the next night. Duke moved the ball incredibly well, always finding the free man, even if the ball was passed 4-5-6-7 times. When Duke shares the ball, they play exceptionally well. This, opposed to dumping the ball into “Oaks” and standing around, waiting for him to either score or dish out. Under those circumstances, they don’t move the ball, and are often flatfooted and detached.

On this evening we would also see the future of Duke. Grayson Allen, who had an exemplary game, banging out 12 Points with 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists, and 2 Blocks. His energy and verve on both sides of the Court was great to see !!!

 

THEN there was Friday night, a night that would be the complete opposite of the previous night.

Duke came out sluggish, while Notre Dame came out with a firm, smart, and simple Game Plan. They would not double-team “Oaks” and pretty much allow him to score. Oh, they’d put up some resistance, and even foul-out their Center, but it was as if the were playing “sucker.” “Oaks” would drop in 28 Points on 8 Rebounds and a Block. Plus, his terrible performance from the Charity Stripe was exploited, as yet another team would “Poke the Oak”

The brilliance of the Game Plan was that everyone else was shut down with an excellent perimeter defense. A defense that kept Duke to 18% shooting from outside the Arc. Quinn Cook took just one shot for a Trifecta in the 1st Half, and would try only 7 more in the 2nd Half, scoring only once in total. He literally ran out of time to find his usual rhythm.

Mike Brey, a former Assistant Coach to Coach K from way back, would out-coach his mentor. His players executed the Game Plan to perfection, while Coach K could not get his players to execute anything as they did the previous night. It was a pathetic effort to say the least.

Early on, Coach K (lip read by Jay Bilas) lamented “No one wants to play tonight !!!”

After sleeping on it, it’s pretty obvious that just about every good coach in the country has realized where Duke’s Achilles Tendon is. Each of the losses so far this season were similar. There is no need to shut down “Oaks” because when you allow him to have his way, you lure the rest of the squad into a malaise that’s almost hypnotic.

Sleep-walking, or maybe sleep-standing, players do not achieve … they watch. Sure, “Oaks” is an exceptional player, but one player does not a successful team make. Duke does not have just one exceptional player, but if they are not involved, they fail. Friday night they failed.

During the game, we were lamenting the play, and especially the lack of Defense. Actually, there was no Defense. Ro made the most profound observation in our last article where he observed that: “… Duke’s idea of Defense is to outscore their opponents.”  Nary have truer words been spoken. Duke played little or no defense, and everyone else was shut out from scoring.

Warm up the Bus, it’s time to go home.

Moving forward, it appears as of this writing that Duke may have preserved it’s #1 Seed. If so, they’d most likely be playing in Charlotte. You can bet that many in the media, as well as the opposing #16 Seed coach will want to see history made by being the first to knock off a #1 Seed. Why not, Mercer and Lehigh figured it out, why not another Cinderella ???

If Coach K does not get his team to play as a total team, and that means all 8 guys, they will be warming up the bus a lot sooner again this year. This is not the way you want to go into the Big Dance, but he has 5-6 days to change how he has played these talented kids this season. It would surely be a shame if he were not able to do so.

 

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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 …” Thoughts After the NC State Game

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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 …

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In he meantime …

Rock On !!!