What I Saw: Duke vs. St. John's


Okay. That one word really can sum up what I saw and what I’m feeling after watching Duke beat St. John’s Saturday afternoon. The Devils were pretty much in control for most of the game (up 16 at halftime), letting the Red Storm get back within four with about five and a half to play, but eventually pulled away to win by nine.

Again, I’m okay with this outcome because I felt like Duke played…okay.

Let me explain and tell you what I saw:

I saw that the big three again took most of the shots. It’s time for me just to accept the simple fact that Duke will primarily be a three-man team again this year. For the record, Duke has taken 503 shots this season. The big three (Scheyer, Smith, Singler) have taken a stunning 297 of those shots (and that’s with Nolan missing two games this season). Three players are accounting for 59% of Duke’s attempts.I’m not a math wizard, but that’s a lot and that’s not a good thing.

Last year, the big three (Singler, Scheyer and Henderson) took 60% of the team’s shot. While the lack of diversity in the offense did end up costing Duke in the NCAA Tournament, it was good enough to lead Duke to another 30+ win season and the ACC tournament crown. That’s because while those three took 60% of the shots, they did manage to contribute to 58% of the scoring.

This year’s version of the big three are taking 59% of the shots, but they’re responsible for only 52% of the scoring. A lot of shots, but not enough are finding its way into the hole.

Against St. John’s, the big three accounted for a stunning 66% (43 of 65 shots). For the record, the other seven players tonight, were 13-22 from the floor. Just saying.

I saw Duke’s Big’s play better, although I’m not ready to nominate them All-ACC quite yet (joking). While the brother Plumlee’s got the start, Coach K clearly was more comfortable with the seniors (Zoubek and Thomas). The obvious answer is simple…defense. While Thomas and Zoubek probably couldn’t beat your grandmother one-on-one, they can be disruptive in the paint and they can get nasty on the boards, especially in Cameron.

Tonight, Zoubek/Thomas  combined for 48 minutes, grabbing 15 boards (7 offensive) and actually scored 22 combined points (11 each) on 9-12 shooting. Those are great numbers (although a few more boards wouldn’t hurt). The Plumlee’s only combined for 16 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing six boards.

I still feel like in the long run, Duke’s best option will be the have the brothers on the court. However, against the Storm, Zoubek and Thomas were more disruptive, especially against hefty St John’s forward, Sean Evans, who was eating the Plumlee’s alive early on.

Anyhow, I’m going to have much, much more on the Duke big men later in the week.

I saw Scheyer get another six assists, while not turning the ball over at all…again. I’m sorry, but this stat is pretty amazing. This was the fifth time this season Scheyer has not turned the ball over one time, not once. He has an astonishing 10.1/1 assist-to-turnover rate. That’s 41 assists to 4 turnovers. Currently, he’s sixth in the ACC in assists.

I saw that Jon Scheyer read this blog. Actually, I have no proof that he has ever heard of this blog, but he certainly took my advice. After the Wisconsin defeat, I suggested that Scheyer needed to stop trying to get fouled when taking his shot and just take his shot. Against St. John’s, he did exactly that. I can recall only one time where he did one of those double-pump, slam his body into a defender, hoping to get fouled. While he still only hit 4-14, we’re not too stressed, that’s about par for Scheyer this year.

I saw Andre Dawkins disappear, at least for a day. He didn’t actually disappear, playing 21 minutes, but he just never got into the flow of the game. He took only five shots, hitting only one. If I had one bit of advice for the rookie, it would be…get aggressive. He’s a stud shooter, but he’s also athletic enough to create his own shot. It doesn’t appear he has the confidence yet to take the ball and make something happen. Duke’s chance of making it deep into the tournament this year would improve greatly if Dawkins didn’t resign himself to just floating around the three-point line. Duke needs a fourth scorer and he can be that guy almost every night.

Random question of the Day: Why did we give a scholarship to Olek Czyz? While he started in place of Nolan Smith for the first two games, he hasn’t sniffed the court in Duke’s last four and it appears he won’t again this season, unless it’s mop up duty in blowouts. It’s a question I asked back when he first received the offer and I still haven’t figured out the answer.

It’s one thing to have a player not work out, but this is Duke. When did Duke start wasting scholarships on a kid who will never start and will be lucky to ever be in the regular rotation? That’s what walk-ons are for. I don’t want to tear the kid down, if anything, I’m questioning the coaching staff? Again, we’re Duke, coached by Coach K, three-time National Champion.  I just don’t see the reasoning. Sorry.

Stat that may only impress me: Brian Zoubek has more offensive rebounds (34) than defensive rebounds (29). He’s currently second in the ACC in offensive rebounds

Overall, we’re still in a ‘wait and see’ mode. It looks like we have exactly what we had last year, maybe even less, when you consider that Nolan Smith, despite his improvement, is not and can never be Gerald Henderson.

If you’re looking for something positive moving forward, keep in mind, Duke is a solid 7-1 despite the fact our three best players have actually struggled to shoot the ball. Singler, Scheyer and Smith have combined to shoot only 40% from the floor. Those numbers you would have to think will improve.

On other note…I got to watch the North Carolina/Kentucky game and I know I’m not the only person who walked away overwhelmed by John Wall’s ability. He is so damn quick with the ball, but his crossover is down-right brutal. Any Duke fan has to be saying to themselves…if only.

You saw just how valuable he was when went out with the cramps, UNC was able to chip away at that lead. Even when he came back, he just wasn’t moving at the same speed as he was in the first half. Props to the Tar Heels for the great comeback, but props for a young Kentucky team for holding on for the win.

If I was a coach (which I would never be allowed to be) and I had to game plan a way to beat Kentucky, it would be…

1) Don’t let Wall beat me. I know, easier said than done. However, don’t let him have his points. If Kentucky is going to beat me, it’s going to be because John Wall dished out about 15 assists. If they’re going to beat me, it will be thanks to players like Bledsoe, Miller and Dodson were raining threes. UNC was able to come back this weekend (besides Wall’s cramps) because Kentucky couldn’t hit those open threes anymore. The trick though, would have to be…

2) Play zones, the whole game. I would rotate between a box-and-1, triangle-and-2 and a basic 2-3 Syracuse Orange. You have to, have to, have to keep him out of the lane. When a basket is made, you guard him the full court, make him work for every dribble. A frustrated point guard is a bad point guard. If he tries to drive into the lane, drop everyone, and I mean everyone, into the paint. Don’t let me get a clean shot, don’t let him dish for an easy duck to the big men. Force him to pass the ball back out every time. If Kentucky shoots 35 threes, that’s a good thing.

3) Foul DeMarcus Cousins every time he touches the ball. This is a man who makes a living three-feet from the basket. He shoots nearly 55% from the floor. However, he only makes 51% of his free throws. Bring in the scrubs from the bench and hack away.

4) Slow down. Again, it comes down to frustration. Make a Caliapri-led team play defense for 35+ seconds and you’ll find a good shot. However, make sure…

5) You run when you miss. I was most impressed with Kentucky’s great ability to grab a missed shot and sling it out the Wall, who was already sprinting down court. I couldn’t count the number of fast-break baskets UK got behind the Carolina defense. However, while Kentucky deserves plenty of praise for this, it’s not like Carolina is known for their defense. I saw more often than not when the Tar Heels missed a shot, the guards would run into the paint, even though they had almost zero chance of a rebound.

If you’re going to face Kentucky, you’re going to have to rely on your tall guys to get those boards. As soon as the ball is up, your guards need to be back. Too often, the UNC guards were back-peddling as Wall simply drove pass them.

6) Finally, hit your three’s and make your free throws. Will Graves hit 4-7, the rest of the Tar Heels went 3-13. Kentucky only shot 63% from the foul stripe, but UNC was only 7-13, including a couple front ends of a 1-and-1.

Do all that and you might have a chance to beat Kentucky.