Luke Winn, Not Loving Duke

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Luke Winn over at CNNSI, has his Fifty Thoughts on Selection Sunday. Oddly enough, many of his thoughts tend to focus on Duke and how they’re not going to be successful this tournament. Shall we:

"4. The No. 1 with the most favorable No. 2 pairing … is Pitt, in the East. The Panthers were slotted opposite the one two-seed that has absolutely no answer for DeJuan Blair: Duke. The nation’s best rebounder should have a field day if he meets the Blue Devils. The secret to Blair’s rebounding prowess, he told us, is that “I pretend that every rebound is a million dollars.” He could become a very rich man in the Elite Eight."

According to Luke, because Blair in a great rebounder, so Duke won’t be able to get rebounds at all, thus not win? Granted, Blair is a great rebounder, but as a team, Pittsburgh only grabs under three rebounds more a game than Duke. Besides, didn’t Pittsburgh need a last second three to defeat Duke last season (with the same basic lineup)? Yes, Pittsburgh can win this game, but let’s not call it easy.

"7. One Vegas-related observation … is that Duke is a curiously high-valued team in the eyes of the oddsmakers. I’m not expecting the Blue Devils to get past the Sweet 16, and yet LVSC thinks they have an equally strong shot as Memphis does of winning the national title."

Currently, Vegas has Duke at 10-1. Only Luke would be so impressed with a Memphis team that has basically beaten up Division II opponents in conference play. Duke and Memphis have played one similar opponent; Xavier. Memphis lost, Duke rolled. I’m not saying Duke is better now, I’m just saying, it’s not that far fetched.

"14. The safest Sweet 16 upset pick … is No. 3 Villanova over No. 2 Duke, in Boston. Nova is the overlooked power coming out of the Big East, but it happens to have the league’s best set of guards. Scottie Reynolds, who powered the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 last season as a No. 12 seed, is an accomplished tourney scorer and he, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding are too much for the Blue Devils to handle."

It’s almost like he hasn’t watched a Duke game this year. As much as I can appreciate how good players like Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes and Redding are, are they really better than Henderson, Singler and Scheyer? So much so, the Blue Devils don’t even get a mention?

Now we have no problem with a reporter picking Duke to bow out early. Over the last few years, Duke has done nothing to deserve a ‘late-tournament run’ prediction from any expert, but later he delivers some stats that he believes are key to tournament success, throwing a wrench in his own predictions.

"37. Statistics that matter, part I: Defensive efficiency is a better predictor of tourney success than offensive efficiency, and Memphis has, by far, the nation’s most efficient D. The Tigers allow just 0.794 points per possession. By contrast, Oklahoma, the other two-seed playing in Kansas City, allows 0.935."

Duke’s D is ranked 7th and they did that against teams like Carolina, Wake and Clemson. Memphis did it against…wait, who is in Conference USA?

"38. Statistics that matter, part II: All of the national title winners since 2005 have finished in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. There are only six teams who fit that profile this year, and only one of them happens to be a No. 1 seed. They are: UConn, Gonzaga, Duke, West Virginia, Missouri and Kansas."

So Duke is the only #2 seed who is in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but they are the easiest number two? I don’t get it. Where’s the mighty Villanova team that is going to roll over Duke?

In reality, we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. This is the same guy who has failed to give us anything relevent about Duke all year long in his Power Rankings.