What I Saw: Duke vs. Wisconsin


What I saw wasn’t pretty. The Badgers never trailed, always finding a way to pull ahead every time Duke got close. Using an extremely patient offense, Wisconsin always seem to take the perfect shot, often with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.

So what did I see?

I saw that Duke’s big men were pretty worthless tonight. I’m talking mainly about Zoubek and Thomas. After four years, neither has shown that they belong at this level. These are nice kids, so I hate to be so harsh, but tonight, they had no business being on the floor. Their sole purpose tonight was to take up space on the floor and commit fouls.

For the record, the pair scored zero points, shooting 0-4 from the floor. They grabbed six rebounds, committing six fouls. In reality, it was just sad watching how much they struggled to put the ball in the basket, despite standing directly under it, while Wisconsin’s big men nailed the long-range shots and slammed home the close ones.When people talk about Duke being nonathletic, this is what they are talking about (big men wit no agility).

In the end, this was Duke’s downfall. With the game on the line, Duke became a one-dimensional team, with our ball handlers rolling through screens around the three-point line. If it wasn’t for Dawkins, this could have gotten real ugly at the end.

I saw Jon Scheyer too busy trying to get fouled, he forgot how to take a shot. I get it. He’s trying to get to the line. He’s money from the charity stripe (6-6 tonight), but against Wisconsin, Scheyer kept passing up a cleaner shot in hopes of getting fouled and more often than not, the ref didn’t feel like there was one. My advice going forward…Jon, take your shot. Let the foul calls come to you. Enough with the double pumps. Enough with slamming yourself into the big man. Take the shot. We needed your shot tonight.

Speaking of Scheyer, I saw him again struggle to guard the smaller guard. Tryon Hughes had a field day against the Devils and against Scheyer. He drove into the lane with ease, finding easy lay ups or open big men to hand the ball off to. He finished with 26 points, half of which I could swear came with the shot clock below 10 seconds.

I saw how good Kyle Singler could be. He hit his first seven shots and was Duke’s only scorer in the first half. He showed great ability to go both left and right into the lane. Unfortunately he cooled, hitting only three of his last 10 shots. Of course the problem is, when teams start to focus on him inside the lane, there is no one to get the ball to.

I saw Andre Dawkins become a man. It really is a shame we can’t get this guy a starting spot (impossible because we would have no guards on the bench). When no one was willing/able to make a shot, Dawkins single-handily brought Duke back in it with three-straight threes when the Devils were down 11 with three minutes to go.

I saw Nolan Smith taking too many shots. It’s not that I don’t want him to, but if he’s going to toss it up 17 times, he can’t miss 12 of them. In fact, over his last two games he’s taken a team high 39 shots, but only make 10 baskets. I appreciate the confidence, but the confidence needs to translate into baskets.

I saw Mason Plumlee in a Duke uniform for the first time tonight. He played only ten minutes, mostly in the first half and he looked timid. I can’t blame him though. This was his first college game, on the road against a solid Wisconsin team, with a wrist that is not completely healed. I’m no doctor, but I’d give him a couple weeks and a few more games before we start to know what he’s going to deliver.

I saw only eight players play tonight. The only person missing was Ryan Kelly. I would have loved to see him on the floor just for a little bit. Wisconsin was giving tons of room to our big men up top, but none, other than Kelly, has the ability to hit a deep ball.

I saw a Devils team that couldn’t force a turnover. Wisconsin turned the ball over only four times tonight. This is the other thing that people are talking about when they say Duke is not athletic enough. No one is quick enough to get into a passing lane or sneak in front of a big man. Can you remember a time when Duke has run a successful trap this season?

Overall, what I saw tonight is what we saw a lot of last year, but we kind of knew that didn’t we? With no inside scoring and no defensive speed on the outside, it’s going to be the same story as last year. Wisconsin had big men who could score and a point guard who could drive pass our guards.However, this defeat lies firmly on the shoulders of the big men. They brought nothing to the table tonight.

For the second straight game, Duke’s scoring (except for Dawkins) disappeared in the final 10 minutes.How bad was it? From the 12:15 mark to :25 seconds left in the game, Andre Dawkins was 3-3, the rest of the Duke team (and when I say “rest” I mean Scheyer, Singler and Smith) went 0-12 from the floor.

Again though, that type of shooting says less about those guys and more about the big men. The simple fact is, teams know that Duke won’t dump the ball inside, so there is zero reason to defend inside the paint. After 30 minutes, the Duke guards (and Singler) didn’t even bother to pretend to go inside (in this game and against Connecticut). Miles Plumlee was the only big man to score tonight and all three of his points came off passes when someone else drove in and got doubled team.

This is not acceptable. After four years, are you really telling me neither Lance Thomas or Brian Zoubek have developed a single go-to shot? Can you tell me they can’t figure out how to play the high-low game? When Zoubek gets the ball down low, he looks like America kid who just had a cricket bat handed to him…he doesn’t know what to do with it.

Our big men have two purposes on the floor, rebound and screen. Tonight, they couldn’t even do the latter.

In the end, this is college basketball and a loss is just one loss. Hopefully, the team will learn from it and it will make them better. I still believe the key for Duke will be Mason Plumlee. I still think he’s going to be something special inside. The question is, can he make up for lost time and be the inside guy Duke needs now?