A ho-hum, workmanlike victory tonight for the Duke Blue Devils against North Carolina Greensboro. The outcome was never in any doubt, as Duke opened up an early lead and never looked back, winning by 34 when it was all said and done.
Let’s not waste any time and get right into my DIRTY DOZEN.
1. THE THREE HORSEMEN - Last year, Duke’s basic problem was, they kept finding themselves playing three on five. Singler, Scheyer and Henderson were where the points came from. Good teams could exploit this though . Heading into this season the question is, with Henderson gone, would Duke become a two-headed team (Singler & Scheyer)? The answer is…I still don’t know.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying every person in a Duke uniform needs to be a scoring machine, but other people need to be, at the very least, a scoring threat. Unfortunately, the two players I thought that could step in and be those threats didn’t play tonight (Mason Plumlee & Nolan Smith), so this question really couldn’t be answered tonight.
However, what I did see was Singler and Scheyer get the ball rolling early, before getting their teammates involved later. The pair took nine of Duke’s first 14 shots. For the game, they took 25 shots, which was roughly 40% of Duke’s attempts. Of course they probably should have shot more since they were responsible for 60% of the made baskets.
2. TIME TO BE A MAN - Last year was a disappointment for Miles Plumlee. After getting some early playing time, he disappeared in ACC play. This off-season he put on 15 pounds of muscle and it showed on the board. He’s grabbed nine rebounds, hitting 4-10 shots. Last year he looked unsure of where he should be and what his role was. Against UNCG, he looked confident on both ends. Not only did he lead the team in rebounds, he also led in blocks (three), while his 10 field goal attempts tied him for second with Scheyer.
2. BOYZ TO MEN - When it comes to freshman in college basketball these days, there is no time for growing pains. Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins looked good tonight, especially on the offensive end. They combined for 6-11 from the floor. Both looked confident, taking only one shot that I would consider a bad shot.
Dawkins, who is certainly the more important of the two this season, so he will need to cut down on the fouls. He committed four fouls in only 15 minutes on the floor. He is too important. He needs to be available at all times to be in the game.
3. DEFENSE, ZONE OR MAN? – Duke looked decent in the zone. They played roughly 15 in zone and UNCG struggled to hit the long ball or sneak into the paint. However, in the man D, the Devils struggled, particularly early in the second half. Sure we can blame it on the fact they were up 20+ against a weaker opponent, but that excuse can only get them so far. For the game, the Spartans shot 40%, but Duke only forced 14 turnovers. That’s not good enough against a bad UNCG team.
4. GRAB THE ROCK - We’re going to be watching the rebounding stats all season long. With so much size on the court, there is no reason why this team can’t dominate on the board. Think about it…since Duke last went to the Final Four in 2004, they have not finished better than 6th in the ACC in rebounding. Grabbing boards is everything. We’re talking about a sport where over half the shots don’t go into the basket. You prevent your opponent from taking another shot, while giving yourself another is everything in college basketball.
Tonight, against a smaller Spartans team, Duke did a fantastic job, out rebounding UNCG by 24 (44-20). Of course we’re going to start caring when they start facing “BCS” competition.
5. CRYZ STARTING LINEUP - We’re you as shocked as me to see Olek in the starting lineup? Sure it won’t be the norm once Nolan’s back in the lineup, but it’s nice to see the coaches have confidence in the human spark plug. He performed well. Knocking in three shots (all three I believe were dunks), grabbing six board (three offensive).
6. THE LEADER - While we’ll learn soon enough whether Kyle Singler is ready to be THE MAN, he certainly looked like one tonight. He led the team in attempts and points, but most importantly, he didn’t live off the three. He drove and took two-thirds of his shots in the paint.The question down the road will be, with the game on the line, will Singler be able to put the ball in his own hands and make something happen?
7. HOW ABOUT A BREAK COACH? - I know we were short-handed tonight, but when you’re winning by 20-30 points all night, do Singler and Scheyer really need to play 38 and 37 minutes on opening night? It’s a marathon, Coach, we need these guys fresh and ready at the end too. There was no harm putting these guys on the pine, up 30 with five minutes to play.
8. PLAY TALL - It’s early and it was against a smaller team, but Zoubek finally looked like a seven-footer. Don’t get me wrong, he still showed tendency of making himself smaller and no one is going to confuse his “quickness” with a track star, but hitting 6-7 from the floor is a good start.
9. MINUS A PLUMLEE – I really was looking forward to watching Mason tonight. He’s such a key to this team’s success. Right now, we have no clue when he’ll return. At the very least, the injury wasn’t on his shooting hand, so that’s a positive. Since he’s not having surgery, I would predict that he’ll be out 4-6 weeks. If it’s six, then he should return for Duke’s first conference game against Clemson in January.
10. ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER RATE – How about 4-0. Not bad. Despite being the only guard in the starting lineup, Scheyer did not turn the ball over a single time. In fact, despite having only two guards in the entire lineup, Duke only turned the ball over 13 times (half of which I think were travels). Scheyer certainly doesn’t have the speed to be a great point man, but he has the smarts and the senior has the experience to not turn over the rock.
11. ODD NUMBERS – Duke started four players who stood 6’7 or taller, while the Spartans had no one taller than 6’6. No wonder we out rebounded them.
12. DOWN & OUT - Despite the victory, it was still a disappointing night thanks to Harrison Barnes commitment to Carolina. It’s going to be a while before I get over the sting of that one.