Baby Blue Looks Black and Blue


Wow. Wow. Wow. It’s the only word I  can come up with. I alm0st had pity on the Tar Heel players…almost.

The Duke Blue Devils wrapped up a perfect season (17-0) in Cameron Indoor Stadium, by crushing North Carolina, 82-50. It was the greatest ass-kicking of Carolina in my lifetime and it ended a very frustrating and embarrassing 4-game losing streak to UNC at home.

Everything worked for Duke tonight, like it has all season long at home. Nothing worked for Carolina, just like everywhere all season long. The fact is, Carolina should be embarrassed. Yes, I know they have injury issues, but there is still plenty of talent on that floor wearing baby blue. Yet, everyone knew at the first TV timeout this game was…O.V.E.R. Hell, eight minutes in and Duke had a 20-point lead.


After struggling for most of the season, Kyle Singler is now playing his best ball and at the right time too. Tonight, he scored 25 easily and i say easily because he sort of put on the breaks in the second half, helping to get other teammates involved. The biggest improvement has come from the three-point line. Since February 4th, he’s hit 30-63 (48%) from three. There are two reasons for the improvement.

First, Coach K did a better job of trying to free up Singler with back screens and double screens. Also, early in the season, Singler was running off high screens into the paint, looking for drives or mid-range shots. The change simply moved his “spot” to behind the three line.

Second, Singler has done a better job of driving the lane from the three line. Defenders are now leaning off him, worried about his drive, thus opening up the shot from deep.

While some think I was premature to hand Vasquez the ACC Player of the Year award, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how important Scheyer has been to this team. Tonight, he had a solid game, scoring 20 (although on 4-14 shooting), dishing out seven assists and turning the ball over zero times (that will help the conference leading assist-to-turnover ratio.

Whatever the reason is (he’s healthy, he’s finally starting to understand, whatever), Brian is a force in the middle right now. He scored eight and grabbed 13 boards tonight, which is more amazing when you consider he did nothing after the 10-minute mark in the second half. He only played 20 freaking minutes. Carolina as a team, only out-rebounded Zoubek 24-13.

While you might not be overwhelmed by his scoring, it’s about production value. He scored eight on 4-4 shooting. Since becoming a starter in the first Maryland game, he’s 22-31 from the floor. That’s 71%. The last time I checked, that’s a pretty good shooting percentage.

The best had to be in the second half, with Zeller on his back, he dribbled right, swung left and throw up a hook from the side. Swoosh. Jesus, we’ve all been waiting four years for this guy to create his own shot.

While Lance Thomas didn’t have a big night, two points, six boards, fouling out way too early, I’m not about to forget to mention him in his last night in Cameron. On the defensive side, it is his abilities that allow Duke to do what it does.

The Devils are all about switching. You want to run a screen? Fine, we’ll just switch off. One reason Duke can do this is because everyone is 6’4 or bigger. However, it helps to have a player like Lance, who’s long and tall and athletic enough to switch from a center to a forward and even to a guard.

I know, I know, Lance Thomas is technically the glue guy. It’s suppose to be a supporting player, not a star, who does the little stuff, but I’m changing the definition at least for now. While Singler and Scheyer have had their up’s and down’s this season, Nolan just keeps doing his thing…scoring (20 tonight), passing (5 assists) and not turning the ball over (none tonight). This is an overlooked stat for Smith. He’s turned it over only once or less in nine of his last 13 games.

We’re not going to get too excited. We’re not about to rush out and print up some “Dawkins, All-American” bumper stickers, but the kid is starting to get some of his confidence back. He’s hit two baskets in three straight games (6-10 overall).

It wasn’t all golden shits tonight. The Plumlee’s again struggled on the defensive end, particularly in the simple task of getting back in transition.

Here’s the problem. Often when Duke misses a shot and they failed to get the rebound, both Mason and Miles have a habit of standing around, looking for a sneaky steal. Of course meanwhile, the person they’re suppose to be guarding is racing down the court.

Now Mason has been known to get one of these steals every other game, but it’s not worth it. Get back! If North Carolina wants to find anything positive tonight, both Henson and Zeller actually looked good when they faced the two Plumlee brothers.

FAVORITE STAT OF THE NIGHT: Duke’s FT shooitng, 22-23. Carolina, who actually took more, was just 17-26.

SECOND FAVORITE STAT OF THE NIGHT: Duke could have scored nothing in the second half and still won by three.

FAVORITE TWITTER OF THE NIGHT: Quincy Miller, a Duke target for next year (and one of the best high school players in the nation), was in Louisville tonight, but he was watching the Duke game, twice posting about the Duke/UNC game.

John Henson. The guy gets a dunk and actually talks trash to Miles Plumlee. Carolina was down by 29 at the time. And you wonder why they’re on the NIT Bubble.

Dick Vitale (I’m a big fan, mostly because I grew up in Sarasota as a teenager and young adult) had plenty to say tonight about North Carolina’s troubles. Yet the one person he laid zero blame on was Coach Roy Williams.

Sorry, Dick…but this team gave up long before the injury bug took a big bite. That’s the coaches fault. That’s Roy’s fault. He also never, ever made an adjustment from his “style.” What makes Coach K so great is his ability to adjust to the line up he has. He’s got Jay Williams, no problem, Duke is a dribble-drive offense. No true point guard, again no problem, we’ll become a motion team.

That’s it, folks. It’s on to Greensboro. Duke has to be considered the heavy favorite. Sure they don’t play as well on the road, but that can be said about all the ACC teams. Hell, Maryland was only up one with 38 seconds to go at Virginia, who’s lost like 35 in a row (give or take a few loses).

The fact is, Duke is a superior neutral court team. They’re 3-0 this season, with two of those wins coming against teams ranked in the top-15 at the time. Duke has also proven itself in this tournament, winning it eight out of the last 11 times.