If only the NCAA Tournament could be played in Durham.
Your Duke Blue Devils rebounded nicely from that embarrassing loss to Georgetown with an easy 19-point win over Georgia Tech. The Devils are now 13-0 at home, 5-0 in the conference (at home). They’re winning their home games by an average of 28 points per game. Only St John’s manged to not lose by double digits (they lost by nine). In conference, Duke is winning by 18ppg.
Most importantly, Duke is 1-0 in February. Celebration time!
SO WHAT DID I SEE?
Kyle Singler should find a way to sprain his wrist more often. For about 18 minutes, it looked like Singler’s season long slump would continue. He was 1-5 from the floor 18 minutes into the game. Then he went down hard and sprained his already injured wrist. Despite this, he came back in for Duke’s last possession in the first half and hit a three from the corner…and just like that, the slump ended.
Okay, I may be getting waaaaay ahead of myself, but it was sure nice to see Singler have his first great shooting game in a long time. He shot 8-12 the rest of way, but shockingly, he was only 1-7 from inside the three for the game, but 8-10 from outside.
So what does this mean going forward? Nothing…yet. Yes, one great game has ended many slumps over the history of basketball, but like we always say when something great happens at a home game, go do it on the road now.
A new wrinkle. After the Georgetown loss, I really thought Coach K would shake things up, maybe start both Plumlee’s. So I was surprised to see no lineup changes. Yet, Duke was running a different style of offense. Being that I am nowhere near an expert on basketball offense, I can say it look like a variation of Duke’s motion offense, that had Singler rolling off the picks up higher and out to the three-point line. For much of this season, he has rolled inside the key, with little positive results.
Ugly Basketball, again. Is it me or is ACC basketball getting brutal? This game featured 52 fouls, many coming early and often. Both teams were hit hard and both teams were in the bonus less than eight minutes into the game. Tech though was easily hit the hardest. Not because more fouls were called on them, but the fact it knocked out their two big men early. Lawal picked up two quick fouls in less than 35 seconds, while Favors got three with 10 minutes left to play in the first half.
Coach Paul Hewitt said the fouls made no difference. I appreciate his thoughts, but he’s wrong. The Yellow Jackets are not the same team with Lawal and Favors sitting on the bench. Nolan in particular took advantage of it in the second half, driving on and around a standing Favors, trying to avoid a fourth and fifth foul.
Now maybe someone smarter can tell me, is the game that much rougher or are the refs making love to their whistles? Watching from home on a hi-def 48′ inch TV, so many fouls looked like tic-tac fouls. The first two of the game, one against Miles, the other against Tech’s Lawal, didn’t even look like fouls at all. Brian Zoubek got four (again) tonight, but I could swear three were bullsh*t.
Again, don’t get me wrong, both teams had a lot to complain about.
Luckily Duke is the best in the nation in free throw percentage, but…tonight, what the hell? Duke was 24-36 from the line tonight (only 67%) and in fact, down the stretch, missed five straight (and six of seven). If Duke is to have any shot at anything this season, that percentage needs to live at 75%. In every single game.
Good to see Mason on the floor, getting a solid 18 minutes. We talked about this after the Georgetown game. No matter what he can do and not do, he needs to play. Duke has a ceiling if he doesn’t get better and that ceiling is not the Final Four.I’m not saying it is with Mason, but if he can get better here in the last month and a half, then Duke’s ceiling can only go higher.
Tonight, he did some good things (a three, a dunk), but he left a lot to be desired. First, he again gets “stuck” with the ball (I’m going to have to post some video of this later this week). Watch him. He only really touched it out on the three line. Yet, every time he gets it, he literally holds the ball for 3-5 seconds, waiting to figure out what to do. Once he hit that three. Another he drove and threw down a monster dunk. He also turned it over (or nearly turned it over) a couple times, thanks to bad passes.
The man is oozing with God-given ability. I truly believe he’s going to be something special. Right now though, he’s still playing “behind” the action. He needs to play within the flow of the game and the offense. When the ball gets in his hand, the offense stops.
Also, one rebound? Come on, man. You’re 6’11. You should be out rebounding Jordan Davidson.
Speaking of Davidson…did you see that monster board in the first half?
Andre Dawkins. DNP. Word is, he’s not doing enough in practice to earn playing time. I’m not there, so I can’t comment on it. But if this is how the season is going to be with him, what a shame. Duke’s not going far in the tournament if Jordan Davidson is our only guard option off the bench.
Glenn Rice Jr., you’re better than that.
Playing off the screen. If you watched the game, I’m sure you remember Lance Thomas’ basket in the first half, coming off that high screen for Scheyer on the baseline (I believe Singler had the ball up top). It just goes to show what Duke is missing with its big men.
Jay Bilas said it best in the game. There is no better play to get yourself open than to set a screen. In that play, Thomas did, his man followed Scheyer out, leaving Thomas open for a easy lay up…and all I can think of was…man, where has this been?
The Devils run a ton of motion, using their big men as screens. Yet, because of their offensive inabilities, they can’t take advantage of it. Think about it, how many times have you seen Thomas, Zoubek or a Plumlee screen and then slide into the open spot in the paint, but the ball never comes in?
The fact is, none have shown they could do anything with the ball once it got in there.That’s the weakness of Duke’s game.
Stat you should care about. Despite the win, Duke allowed Tech to shoot roughly 50% from the floor tonight. It’s the third time in six games Duke has allowed their opponent to hit 50% or more of their shots.
What’s Next? On we go into February, the black hole of Duke basketball (recently). This is where the season starts. Granted, we’re not predicting a national title for this club, but they have a real good opportunity to finish strong this season.
Duke has nine games left, five of which are on the road. Yet in all nine games, Duke will be the favorite to win them all…in fact, heavy favorites in many. Three of their next four are on the road, but those three are against Boston College, North Carolina and Miami, the three worst teams in the ACC.
If this team is as good as they say they are…then there is no excuse to lose any of them.