Duke Wins a Half of Basketball


Its becoming tradition, winning ugly that is. Duke’s done it so much this season, I’m not even phased by it anymore. Tonight, at least four a half, if not more, was an ugly win. Virginia had no business hanging with the No 4 team in the nation, yet there they were, with 6:24 to play, rolling on a 9-0 run, Duke up only by two. Ugly but a W.

Of course, Big Duke Balls likes to look at the big picture and when I say big picture, I’m talking about the basketball landscape. Duke wasn’t the only top team to struggle with their first game in conference. Kentucky fell behind Alabama, Ohio State needed a 37-foot miracle to end Michigan’s awful season and the top two teams in the Big East (Cuse/Nova) came crashing down yesterday. Hell, Maryland went down to Georgia Tech (which made me giddy).

The fact is, these games aren’t easy. Top teams really don’t have much to play for, except for pride and maybe a one spot bump in their NCAA seeding. The underdogs, they got everything to play for. One more defeat and the season is over.


This is the beauty of having a “Big Three,” if one player is off, you still got two other guys who can put up 20+. Tonight, while everyone on the court couldn’t buy a basket in the first half, Nolan Smith personally kept Duke in the game. He had 11 points thanks to the dribble drive. In fact, from 12:23 to 4:34 (that’s eight minutes, folks) he was the only Blue Devil to make a shot.

In the second half, Kyle Singler took over. He scored 12 of Duke’s first 15 points in the second half, doing it in a variety of ways; drives, threes and some offensive rebounding.

Then at the end, with Duke looking to put it away, Jon Scheyer finally hit some shots, after a rough game. He scored seven of Duke’s nine points late, turning a four-point lead into a 13-point cushion. Speaking of Scheyer…

Len Elmore, I love ya, brother. Even though you’re a former Terp, I don’t hold it against you. Yet, my boy Elmore got on a roll tonight about Jon Scheyer’s “tired legs.” You see, Jon missed a couple of open threes and both were short, so Len quickly decided that maybe Scheyer was tired from being overworked all season long. He suggested this throughout the night as Jon failed to find the basket. At one point (and I’m not kidding), he put Scheyer on the first-team ‘All-Fatigued’ team.

To put it mildly, it was getting a bit silly.

Let’s clear this up AGAIN. Jon Scheyer does not have tired legs. He had a off-night. Every player has one, even John Scheyer. Elmore, who called the Maryland game later, never questioned Vasquez’s tired legs, even though the ACC Player of the Year shot 6-21 (2-11 from three), turning it over six times. Malcolm Delaney was an awful 3-15, 0-8 from behind the arc, yet no one is accusing him of tired leg syndrome.

The fact is (like we pointed out just recently), Scheyer’s shooting slump towards the end of the season had everything to do with stupid shots and not exhaustion. If he was tired, then why would his three-point shooting actually go up? It wouldn’t and tired legs don’t just appear, especially after a six-day rest. It was a cold shooting night, so let’s drop the tired leg syndrome. Please.

If anything, this game showed us how important Brian Zoubek is. The senior center picked up two fouls at the 10-minute mark in the first half and sat down. At that point, the rebounding was even at nine a piece. Duke had only one offensive rebound, while Virginia had none. Now keep in mind, Duke is a much bigger team. There is no way this stat should be tied.

Now with Zoubek on the bench with his two fouls, Virginia actually out-rebounded Duke, 12-9 (2-2 on the offensive end). More importantly, the Cavaliers went on a 21-15 run to end the half.

In the second half though, we get a different story. With Zoubek avoiding the fouls, Duke owned the boards, out-rebounding Virginia, 20-12 (including seven offensive boards). Zoubek, who had one rebound in the first 20 minutes, finished with seven for the game. You can just tell that Duke is a better team with him on the floor. They know when they shoot, Zoubek has a good shot of grabbing the board. Also, while he doesn’t take a ton of shots, the guards are starting to get more comfortable with throwing the ball in. In fact, in each of Duke’s first possessions to start a half, both times it was Zoubek taking the shot, after receiving a pass with his back to the basket.

You don’t mind if I go back to Kyle Singler do you? There’s been a lot of talk about Singler’s future in regard to the NBA and he’s done the smart thing and said he’ll make a decision after the season. The fact is, as a junior he should (and probably will) declare. This will allow him to go play in those NBA camps where he’ll get to workout with some of the best. At that point he’ll get a fair assessment about where he could be drafted.

Roaming the Internet, I couldn’t really find any sites that have him coming out this year, so no real projections. So I put my faith in John McIntyre over at The Big Lead and say, Singler is no lottery pick. Although, I could see him landing in the very back-end of the first-round. In reality, I say there is a 60% chance him comes back for his senior season.

Anyhow, that’s not what this is about. My question is, has there been a better player in the ACC over the last six weeks? I know non-bias fan will say Vasquez, but hear me out. Since Duke’s loss to Georgetown, Singler has averaged just over 19ppg, shooting 42% from the floor. While 42% may not impress you, he’s shooting a solid 51% from behind the arc. Even more impressive is the fact he’s reestablished his glass crashing abilities, producing three double-doubles in his last seven games.

Virginia guard, Sammy Zeglinski had one of the worst night’s of basketball I’ve ever seen in my life. He scored zero points against Duke (this of course is one night after scoring 21 against Boston College). Overall, he was 0-9 from the floor, 0-4 from three, failing to get to the free throw line a single time. Worse yet, he turned it over five times, including twice where he stepped out of bounds.

Anyhow, that’s what I got from this game. Duke survives and now it’s on to Miami, although I have a question to ask. With so many upsets in the ACC Tournament, is this helping or hurting Duke’s shot at a No 1 seed? If NC State takes down Georgia Tech, it would mean Duke just needed to beat the No 9, No 12 and the No 11 seed. At least if the Yellow Jackets get to the finals, Duke will get to face an actually tournament team (and even that’s a maybe).

Sorry for the late blog post. I actually have a job and had to DVR the game, stay off the sports sites and watch it when I got home. Although there is something nice about watching basketball without commercials. It took about an hour.

Tomorrow will be another late night post. I’ll watch the game live, but have to head out right afterward. I got a life people.

On a side note. Let’s all welcome Duke’s first 2011 verbal commit…Mike Gbinije (that’s pronounced Ben-na-jay, according to someone at Duke Basketball Report. I’ll write up something about Gbinije later, but what you need to know is, he’s a 6’6 athletic small forward, with plenty of hop and can shoot from long distance. He’s currently ranked as the No 4 junior shooting guard. Now all we need to do is get Try Zeigler for 2010 (and maybe Carrick Felix) and then get Quincy Miller and steal Austin Rivers from UF and we’ll be in a good spot for a long time.