SDBB: Duke Ruins a Nice Sunday Afternoon at PITT, Creating More Questions Than Answers

Questions & Answers

By Bermuda Bob

Ro didn’t get today’s game, so you’re stuck with me and my thoughts on one of the most embarrassing and frustrating outings I can recall in recent Duke history.   As Betty Davis once observed:

“Fasten Your Seatbelts, Were Going to Have a Bumpy Ride” …

Today was a beautifully sunny and unusually warm February Sunday where we live.   We opened the windows to allow the warm natural air into our place to switch-out the winter stuffiness.  It was a welcomed treat.   I wish I could have furthered the treat with an exemplary Duke performance.   It was not to be …

Duke came into Petersen Events Center to meet PITT and all 12 of their players who would contribute to a complete and utter thumping.  Of those 12 were 5 Seniors who were fêted on Senior Afternoon.

PITT needed a win to bolster their resume for the Big Dance and Duke needed to prove that many of their recent wins were not a fluke.   I’m pretty sure the former was accomplished, but I’m not so sure about the latter.

From the very start, PITT would shoot “lights out,” scoring the first 10 points, and never looked back.  They would enjoy as much as a 13 Point lead.   PITT continued their abuse until Brandon Ingram began a run that would bring Duke to within 39-32 at the Half.

PITT started off the 2nd Half just like the 1st … They quickly scored often to return their lead to double digits.  Duke tried to counter but never got closer than a 10 Point margin, then try as they did, tired legs and fatigue reared it’s ugly head as it has in just about every conference season game.  PITT went on a 16-3 run.  Shots were left short on the rim, or long, caroming off the back of the rim, or even caught nothing but air.

Here are the ugly facts of the game:

REBOUNDING:

“Plums” was not allowed to even think of shooting, and he only grabbed 4 Rebounds of Duke’s paltry 20 for the game.  PITT would grab 39 by contrast, 23 of them on the Offensive Boards that often were put backs for scores.

Admittedly, “Plums” was practically always triple teamed.  Unfortunately, he was offered no help.  He was replaced with Chase Jeter, who committed 2 quick Fouls, a Turnover, and a missed shot in another poor outing.  He only lasted 9 minutes in total on the Court.

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Question the Answers

I might as well get this off my chest now.  I must wonder why Sean Obi was not inserted.  He is a wide-bodied proven Rebounder in his previous life at Rice, and while Rice is not Duke, a Rebounder is a Rebounder in any circumstance !!!

I posted an open inquiry on Twitter today during the game, asking jointly Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun, and Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer:

“When are you going to ask Coach K why he refuses to play Obi ???

You’re not afraid, are you ???

Keeley did not reply, but Wiseman, to his credit, did:

“OBJECTION Asked and answered counselor.  He’s not ready to compete at this level in staff’s opinion.  The end.”

I must admit that I believe there is much more to it than such a guarded vanilla response.

PLEASE NOTE:          As I could not find an e-mail address for Mr. Wiseman both on his Twitter site and at his newspaper, I tweeted him, asking for an e-mail response if he objected to our using his quote.   His response was to Block us on Twitter.   We received no e-mail response.  It is an curiously illogical action that causes more questions than were already on the table !!!

I fully understand that Beat Reporters serve at the pleasure of the programme, and that there is always a replacement waiting in the wings.  I also understand respect for Coach K.  I pay attention to wordings.  Mr. Wiseman indicated in his Tweet that it was the opinion of the Staff, so why not a more probative query ???   The Staff is not Coach K, and if they are allowed to comment, they ought to be probed to a respectful degree.

To Mr. Wiseman and Miss KeeleyDon’t the you realize that you are supposed to be the the eyes and ears of the programme for the fans ???  You have the opportunity to be the voice of the fans who read your efforts.   Don’t your readers deserve your best efforts in getting ALL reasonable questions answered ???

Don’t you realize that when you don’t ask probative questions for odd answers, you fuel conjecture, and even conspiracy theories, that often make some modicum of sense ???

Because neither of you have asked probative questions, our readers have wondered things like if  “Coach K’sDog House”  really exists and why a player gets into it.  One reader took it in another direction, wondering if Obi caused Amile’s injury in practice.

Coach K has asserted that he doesn’t have enough players for practice.  The last time I looked, he had 13 players dressing, and one (1) injured.  I may be missing something, but that’s 12 players when only 10 are needed to play a Blue & White game, or Practice !!!

There, you’ve just been given questions that make sense and have easy answers.   See, that’s how it’s done !!!

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Further to the game and the season, Coach K has consistently given Jeter a chance to prove himself, and he has failed on most outings.  So, why didn’t Obi, or even Antonio Vrankovic, get a chance, especially when “Plums” was being so neutralized ???

The most glaring example of Coach K’s resistance to play his Bench, was exemplified by 2 facts:

(1)  At one point in the 2nd Half, with Jeter ineffective, as usual, Ingram played the #5 Spot.

(2)  When the game was obviously lost, he refused to insert anyone, leaving Starters on the Court with a 14 Point differential.

I must admit that I was unsettled to read in the The Chronicle that Coach K commented that:

“We could not muster up anything today.  They’re big in every way …  It’s not like we didn’t expect it. We couldn’t stop it.”

Such reticence is both unsettling and unbecoming, even for the greatest coach of the modern college basketball era, whom I respect greatly.  If you aren’t going to play a kid, why then, did you bother to recruit him and give him a uniform ???

While I’m speaking about Legends, I’ll refer you to another – Dick Vitale, who a few games ago commented that any kid worth recruiting, and being given a uniform, ought to be allowed to contribute 10 minutes a game.  Such logic is refreshing.  As a Senior Statesman of College Basketball, I believe he was trying to convey a message to Coach K.  Apparently, it was either never received, or ignored out of hand.

SCORING:

Duke shot a meager 34.4% from outside the Arc and 37.5% inside … pathetic by any yardstick. They were soundly outscored in the Paint, 24-6, while throwing up 32 Trifectas, making only 11.  By comparison, PITT shot 50% from outside the Arc and 40% inside.  The only statistic where Duke prevailed was at the Charity Stripe where they logged an impressive 93.8% to PITT’s 80%

ET CETERA

Duke committed 13 TurnOvers, and helped themselves with only 10 Assists.

One continuing aspect of Duke’s Offense is that they rarely seem to be running “plays.”  Instead, they depend on ball movement and individual prowess.  So, if everyone is flat, then what do they do next ???  Today was that “next” !!!

It’s time to be frank …

In the last 5 games, Duke has lost to PITT and Louisville, both teams soundly beat them on the Boards … They beat a sub-par Florida State … They beat Virginia on a buzzer beater, and North Carolina on a coaching error … Each by only one (1) Point.

In each and every Duke game, they run out of gas at the 10-minute mark, plus or minus.  The Bench is never used, and only Kennard and Jeter are.  Kennard has had some splendid games, but Jeter has been a first class dud.

Amile is not coming back this year. I believe he will apply for an Injury Red Shirt and anchor next year’s squad along with Matt.  While last year’s hue and cry, after Rasheed was dismissed, was that “8 is Enough” … The same can’t be said for #6 or #7, especially when #7 is a clunker.

We can never forget that when a team brings in Frosh and makes them Starters, unless they are incredibly formidable like last year’s trio, they’re fitness will never be equal to upperclassmen who have had the benefit of the Duke fitness regimen during the entire year.

Playing kids more does not condition them, it wears down their core.  Remember when Interns were required to work an incredible number of hours continuously ???   Well, those practices have been cut back, and safeguards installed because it has been found that tired bodies cause tired minds, and neither can perform to their optimum.

Additionally, while “Plums” has had his moments, it has always been against lesser competition. The worst thing his teammates can do in a game is hit him in the hands with the ball. Nevertheless, I respect him much more than I ever did his brothers.  They were expected to be more than they accomplished, but Marshall had lesser expectations and has become so much more.

Grayson and Brandon are the stars, but they are not superstars.  Neither can put the team on his back and grind out a win.   Matt does his best, but often, like today, he is unable to compensate for Amile, who could compensate for “Plums” when he leaves the Paint to cover someone, or to set one of those goofy Picks around the Arc that often have no affect.

The brightest spots in this year’s team, for me, are Luke and Derryck.  They show promise in their continued improvement.

Lastly, nothing I have said here makes me any less of a die-hard Duke fan of over 35 years, but as such, I believe that I have earned the right to be frank and honest.  Nothing I have said here ought to be construed in any other way.  If someone like me cannot make candid and forthright observations, then who can ???

As for Mr. Wiseman and Miss Keeley, if you don’t like comments, then don’t Tweet as Reporters.  You have no right to either hide behind blocked Tweets, or to refuse to provide an e-mail address.  You owe the reading public the right to reach you if you want them to read what you put up.  A Reporter reports the news for public consumption.  Without consumers, you are out of a job.  I’d gladly switch places with either of you tomorrow !!!

Thank you for allowing me to say my piece.  We appreciate your “read” and welcome your comments either here, or on Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

We promise to never block you unless you are vulgar or ungentlemanly !!!

 

As Always, Rock On !!!

Bermuda Bob

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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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