Best of the ACC = Average Big East


Can we now finally move the Duke Blue Devils out of the top-10? After getting manhandled by Georgetown, isn’t it clear that this is not one of the top 10 teams in the nation? Hell, there is still little proof this is the best team in the ACC.

And let’s be real clear about this, Duke didn’t lose this game. This had nothing to do with a lack of effort, tired legs or an off shooting night. The Hoyas are a better team. The proof? Duke had zero answers. None.

Of course, Duke will still win a lot of games this year. Duke will probably still win the ACC and Duke will again get a high seed, but unless it gets lucky in the tournament (higher seeds getting knocked off before facing Duke), this is not a championship team, this is not a final four team, this isn’t even a Elite Eight team.

Think I’m being too harsh? I’m not, despite the addition of some new pieces, this Duke team is the same as last year’s Duke team.

NO INSIDE GAME: Just look what Greg Monroe did against our big men. He shot 7-11 (two of those misses were three-point shots), was fouled often (7-10 from the line). Just for kicks, he had five assists.

This season the argument has been, sure we can’t score with our inside game, but defensively we’re playing well. Sure, against lesser front lines, our boys have held their own. However, when facing talent, Duke can’t do anything. First, Monroe abused Lance Thomas for most of the game, rocked the Plumlee’s for a bit, before back-dooring Singler at the end. Duke was helpless.

The problem the past couple years has been the fact Duke has been forced to use Lance Thomas, a skinny 6’8 SF/PF to guard centers. The Plumlee brothers were suppose to allow Lance to move to a more natural position. Yet, here we were, over halfway through the season against a top-1o team and there’s Thomas trying to run around a guy who stands three inches taller, weighing a solid 30 pounds more.

Someone, somewhere explain to me how Duke will be able to handle a Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins or Cole Aldrich? Trust me, it would get ugly.

While Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer can shoot the ball, averaging 36ppg, the problem is, put them up against some speedy guards and there is little they can do. Georgetown’s Wright and Freeman shot an incredible 16-20 from the floor. They did anything they wanted to do. When Duke turned it over, they pushed right past the Devils. When they wanted to drive to the paint, they simply dd.

I mean, it was brutal. Even when Duke started scoring in the second half, I knew there was nothing they could do on the defensive end…which brings me to.

COACH K WAS BRUTALLY OUT-COACHED: I’m sorry, but Coach K’s stubborness showed. Heading into the season, everyone knew Duke still lacked quickness. With so many tall players on the court, the belief was that Duke would start playing some zone…not all the time, but enough. Yet, for most of the season, Duke has played man-to-man.

Tonight, Duke needed a zone and they did for about 90 seconds. Why zone? The Hoyas were beaten Monday by Syracuse, who frustrated them with their classic zone. Now Duke’s zone is n0t the Orange’s zone, but when you’re struggling to shutdown an inside game, old school coaching tells you to roll with the zone.

Duke jumped into the zone at the 5:37 mark in the first half. They forced back-to-back turnovers, but on the Hoyas’ third possession, they hit a three and just like that Duke jumped out of the zone. Again, why? So they hit one three. Stick with it. They were rolling, building a 15-point lead. We needed to slow this game down and frustrate them and we refused.

DUKE IS NOT ATHLETIC ENOUGH TO SCORE AGAINST GOOD TEAMS: The game plan was simple. With Georgetown having no bench worth speaking of, the trick to beating them is getting physical inside with penetration. Too bad Duke doesn’t really have anyone who can do it. Smith can sometimes do it, but when things aren’t going right, he abandons his mid-range jumper.

For all the great things Scheyer does, his limitations show in games like this. A great athlete isn’t just about speed, it’s about being quick enough to crossover. That’s what makes players like John Wall so valuable. With Scheyer, if he drives left, he’s staying left. If he’s goes right, he’s staying right.

When Duke faces good teams, their basic offense is Scheyer take a screen, dribbling halfway in and passing to Singler, who takes a screen and drives halfway in and passes it out to Nolan, who takes a screen and drives halfway in and passes it out. Eventually when time runs short, someone takes a shot.

No drives and dishes. No pick-n-rolls. No give-n-goes. No double screens underneath. No passes inside, followed by any kind of offensive move.

NO IMPACT FROM THE FRESHMAN: It’s becoming clear, Coach K has no faith in any of his freshman. While Dawkins showed flashes at the beginning of the season and Plumlee blew up against Wake Forest, right now, they’re only getting playing time because Duke doesn’t have any other choice.

Against Georgetown, Dawkins missed two wide-open shots against Georgetown. He’s now eight for his last 33 games. In his first seven games, he was 20-36. And it’s not like he did his best against cupcakes. Against Connecticut and Wisconsin (both away from Cameron), Andre shot 6-7 from three.

As for Plumlee, we already hit on this last week. He just doesn’t seem to know what he needs to be doing once the ball in his bands. Great big men know what they’re doing long before the ball reaches them.

The problem is the fact that every year, Duke needs their freshman to step up. Why? Because without even realizing it, Duke has become a school of one-and-done’s. Taylor King? One year and done. Elliot Williams? One year and done. While these guys didn’t dominate as freshman, they would be a well-developed junior and sophomore for the Devils if they weren’t playing somewhere else.

Duke’s rotation is their starting five, a senior (Zoubek) and three freshman. Carolina is basically doing the same thing (except their seven-footer is not a senior) and see how that’s working out for them.

FOULS, FOULS, FOULS: It was comical at the beginning of the season, but it’s just starting to get stupid. The front court isn’t playing defense. They’re fouling. Either the refs hate Duke or the Devils don’t know how to play defense, instead playing D with their hands (and not their feet), often trailing plays.

Past Duke teams dominated because they made more free throws than the opponents attempted. Those days are long gone. Currently, Duke is the second best free throw shooting team in the nation at 77.4%. That’s the good news. The bad news is, the Devils foul early and often. More often than not, Duke’s opponents are in the bonus at the ten minute mark in the first half. That’s unacceptable.

Against Georgetown, Duke committed 29 fouls to the Hoyas 23. Over the last seven games, Duke has won only four of their last seven. In those games, Duke has taken 162 free throws (making 123). Their opponents have taken 160 free throws (hitting 109). Overall, Duke has committed 151 fouls to their opponent’s 143 fouls.

Zoubek in particular has struggled. He has committed four or more fouls in six of Duke’s last seven games. He’s fouled out six times this season (although ironically Duke has won all six). Yet, we need his rebounding, especially his offensive rebounding. He does Duke zero good sitting on the bench.

Duke fans, don’t underestimate what this game has taught us. This was no fluke. Georgetown shot 73.9% from the floor. NC State two weeks ago shot 58% from the floor. The question is, moving forward, what can Coach K do about it, if anything?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have the answer. There is no quick fix. If I had a say (which I don’t), I’d probably say screw the regular season and screw worrying about our tournament seeding. We need to develop Mason and Andre. One is our best athlete, the other could be our best shooter. They’re not going to ever improve playing just 10 minutes per game.

Let’s get them in there and take our lumps. Maybe, just maybe we can develop into a competitive team come tournament. If not, we’ll stick with what we got. We’ll probably win the ACC, probably take the ACC tournament and again end our season in week two of the ACC NCAA tournament.