College Basketball: Parity In Reverse.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “This ain’t your Fathers team. That expression has never been more true than it is this year in College basketball. Younger fans of the sport (through no fault of their own), have a diluted sense of what the makeup of a really great team consists of. Here’s a hint. It’s not one and does, it’s not even two and done’s.

Everything peaks and College basketball is no exception. The players today might well be faster, though  not necessarily quicker, (yes there is a difference) they may have more athleticism, but  they’re not as team oriented. The era one one and done’s have changed the face of College basketball just as surely as Conference realignment has.

Teams who are led by the over-hyped Freshmen more times than not, will fall far short of what teams of the past accomplished who kept players four years. They don’t develop as a team playing one year, chemistry takes time, Championship chemistry takes even more time. College basketball peaked in the 80′s and early 90′s, it been on a down-hill slide since then.

We’ve all seen the latest Hoops mixtape of the next can’t miss once in a lifetime player, there’s actually about four of them who supposedly come along every year. We’ve all seen the high flying McDonalds dunk contest of a player over and over and over again on Twitter and Youtube. But here’s the thing, a player of adequate size that can jump can dunk a basketball, it’s the easiest shot in basketball. The show is how creative can that player be, not in the shot itself, but if he can take a selfie of himself while dunking, can he jump over someone’s head while slamming it home, it’s basically just a Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brothers type smoke and mirror show. It’s the “look at me, look at what I can do” attitude, the hype, the marketability of oneself, the me, myself and I show.

There’s more to basketball than flashy edited mixtapes and creative dunks. While there’s a place for the powerful dunks, I’m more impressed by 3 pointers, by mid-range games, by that quick first step that creates an advantage. I’m more impressed by a team who knows how to box out, or passing out of a double team. I’m more impressed by a team that understands time, score, circumstances and knowing how to react in those situations. I’m even more impressed with defense.

Most kid’s who come along these days are sorely lacking in fundamentals, they lack defensive skills, they don’t practice free throws, they couldn’t care less about leaning things as simple as in-bounding the ball under pressure or how to beat a full court press or how to apply one themselves. That was clearly evident in this years NCAA Tournament.

This years Tournament revealed several things. None were more evident than a team with experienced Juniors and Seniors are better teams than those who were led by Freshman. They may not have better players but they did have better teams. There are no great teams in College basketball anymore. There are no teams that are dominate, there are no teams who stand head and shoulders above the rest.

If you look at this years Tournament the Championship game was played by a #7 and a #8 seed. Some might call this parity, and in some sense they might be right, but it’s parity for the wrong reasons. If you look closer at those reasons it’s not so much parity as it is the effects of players only staying one year as opposed to teams with upper-classmen. That’s why teams like Wichita St, Mercer and Dayton done so well in the Tournament, while others, like Duke, Kansas, UNC and even Kentucky who in the end fell short.

These teams with a good coach who have upperclassmen are catching up to the blue-bloods, because these teams have chemistry, they have better fundamentals, they play better as a team, they know how to run their offense, they understand defensive principles and aren’t rattled when they fall behind. They continue to play, they are no longer intimidated by the teams with the big name school on the front of their jersey, in short, they just aren’t scared of them anymore.

Kentucky and Connecticut were not the two best teams in basketball this year. Take a look at their schedules, Kentucky wound up in the Championship game with five Freshman,(ala Fab Five) but  struggled all year right up to Tournament time. They had regular season losses to Arkansas (twice), LSU, and South Carolina. You could argue it finally clicked for them or that they got hot at the right time, they did beat some really good teams during the NCAA tournament, but fell short when it counted most. Connecticut also had it’s troubles, losing to Houston, SMU (twice), teams that didn’t make the field of 68, then there was what could be figuratively described as an assault, a beat down at the hands of Louisville by 33 points. I say again, Kentucky and Connecticut were not the best teams. I’ll also say again there are no great teams in College basketball and there hasn’t been for some years now.

College basketball is suffering right now. The viewership for the Final Four was down 11% from last year. For College basketball something has to change. While I understand the one and done era, it’s killing our sport. At the same time I don’t believe in denying someone the right to earn a living, but these over-hyped kids leaving early is clearly not good for College basketball and in some cases, as it turns out, are not good for the one and done kids themselves. I don’t have a good answer as to how to fix this problem, I’m not sure anyone does. But one thing is certain, the #7 seeds, the #8 seeds, even the #14 seeds are catching up. It’s parity in reverse, and this is not how it should be. Something needs to change or College basketball will continue to decline.

Think Your Bracket Was Busted? Take A Look At The Experts, You’ll feel Better, I Promise.

Well, March Madness is over and UConn had it’s “One Shining Moment”. This years tournament destroyed brackets across the country like never before. Teams like Dayton, Mercer,Tennessee and Baylor along with others threw us all a curve ball, but you shouldn’t feel to bad, Michael Jordan never made it in baseball for the same reason. On the other end of it, teams like Duke, Kansas, Ohio St, and Arizona led us astray. In the end it was #8 Kentucky and #7 UConn for all the marbles, ending with the Huskies bringing another title to Storrs.

The so called experts were no exception. The Jay Bilas’s of the world who get paid the big bucks for their knowledge/expertise if you will, may well have scored less than you and me.

Note: These scores were all taken from the ESPN Tournament Challenge.

Jay Bilas:  Pct 62.1Rank 4,174,559 Points 640. Bilas who screams louder than anyone (via his Twitter account) about the NCAA’s exploitation of College athletes, well, his picks were almost as accurate as CNN’s speculation on where the Malaysia Flight 370 went down. Maybe should have spent just a little more time actually studying the teams than barking about what’s wrong with College sports. .

Joe Lunardi: Pct 77.6Rank 2,464,822 Points 680. Lunardi who is great at picking the field of 68 probably should stick to picking who gets in and leave it at that. Know when to walk away Joe. 

Dickie V: Pct 87.9Rank 1,329,735 Points 720. Vitale who takes a lot of heat for what some refer to as his spiel actually did pretty well. Maybe given the numbers we should listen to him more often, or maybe not, it’s your call. 

Fran Franschilla: Pct 46.9Rank 5,847,589 Points 600. Poor Fran did the worst of the lot. As much as he knows about the players/teams from across the pond, maybe he should pay just a little more attention to the teams here. But hey, if you want to know everything about  Bojan Boogdanovic from Croatia then Fran’s your guy.

Colin Cowherd: Pct 62.1Rank 4,174,559 Points 640. Colin, what can you say about Colin? Brash, harsh, rude, loves to give you his picks, and belittles your opinion as if it’s nothing less than ignorant and beneath him, well he didn’t fair so well either. Maybe Colin should do as my Mother use to tell me,  “stop talking so much and try listening a little more”. 

Andy Katz: Pct 77.6Rank 2,464,822 Points 680. You know Andy, he’s the guy who sits at the front desk at ESPN waiting for the phone to ring. He’s basically just the Receptionist there, directing calls to the appropriate people then listening in and tweeting it as if he has breaking news leading you to think he’s out there digging up the stories that only he was privy to. More or less.

Seth Greenberg: Pct 58.2Rank 4,607,678 Points 630. Lets just say taking advice from Greenberg about getting into the NCAA tournament,  much less his picks about who may or may not advance, would be like closing your eyes and throwing a dart at the bracket to pick the winner. Seth might do well to cover the NIT instead, maybe.

I did find Seth Davis’s bracket over on the CBS Bracket Challenge but it didn’t give his Pct, rank, or points. Thought it appears he was no luckier than the rest of the experts, it’s probably just as well. His kiss of death picks are well documented. However if you like, you can look at his bracket here. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/ncaa/men/2014/ncaa_tourney/brackets/experts/seth-davis.html

So… I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, OK, well maybe I do, just a little, but my bracket read like this.

TobaccoRdMayor:  Pct 92.7Rank 805,642 Points 750. Obviously I didn’t come close to winning it, but I did manage to do noticeably better than those listed above and I feel quite certain many of you scored higher than they (the experts) did. 

The lesson here is don’t be persuaded by the Bilas’s or the Cowherd’s of the world or you could wind up being the one laughed at around the water cooler tomorrow at work. You know, like they’re doing right now at ESPN about Franschilla.

 

Duke, The Tournament, Trends, One and Done’s vs 4 Year Players.

Let me begin by saying this is not intended to degrade, insult or otherwise be harsh of any Duke player or the team as a whole, and it’s certainly not intended to question Coach Krzyzewski.

But this article is probably not for Duke fans who wear blinders or think Duke is automatically the best team each year and no matter what happens you continue to insist they are. Loyalty is one thing and it’s great, but it blinds some fans from the truth.

I’ve been a fan of Duke basketball longer than Coach K has been the coach there. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. except that I’ve seen the good years for Duke, I’ve seen the great years for Duke, and I’ve seen years when Duke could not buy a game, losing to teams you may never have heard of. My point is I’ve seen trends in basketball come and go and having watched long enough  to notice when trends are changing.

Those transitions are happening now.

There was a time in College basketball when teams had four year players, (that was the trend) and I can tell you that in no uncertain terms that College basketball was much better then than it is in it’s present form. Yes, I get that the landscape (trend) has changed in basketball on the College level, that one and done phenoms are all the rage, and that most teams and especially the fans drool over them. Most of them are extremely good players but they all have one glaring fault. That fault has never been more evident than it was in this year. That glaring fault is inexperience, level of maturity, and the difference of playing High School/AAU ball where they dominated, as opposed to College ball where it becomes much tougher Never mind the NBA.

Certainly there are exceptions to the rule where there is a player with such freakish athletic skills that can and have gone from High School to the NBA and make an immediate impact, such as Lebron, Kobe, and Garnett. Those players were the extreme exception. There is not one player in College ball who is that type of player right now nor has there been since Lebron. Even with the rule change which has the age limit that entices a kid to go to school for one year, none of them are that player.

So now the trend changed from 4 year players to the one and done phenoms. Lets load up on those and go for broke in one year mentality. Kentucky won a National Championship with them and the hype exploded after that to an even higher degree. That in my opinion was one of the worst things that could have happened to College basketball, not because it was Calipari and Kentucky but what it did to College basketball as a whole, again, that was an exception, there is always an exception.  But what else it did was become an open door for people to start thinking this was the way to go, (the trend) following Kentucky’s National Championship. His next batch of one and done’s fell woefully short, not making the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris.Yes, I understand Kentucky is still in the Tournament this year, barely getting by Wichita St and it remains to see what happens with them the rest of the way. However lets not pretend they, like many other teams who were led by Freshman didn’t struggle all year.

Inside of this trend of  the one and done era all one has to do is take a look at the brackets. Who’s out, and who’s in. Most of the teams with the next can’t miss, sure fire, we win it all Freshman phenom’s are sitting on the March Madness couch. Most of the teams still playing are not led by Freshman. Dayton, Virginia, Iowa St, SDSU, Baylor and others. Only two teams are left that are led by Freshman and one of them only hung on by the thinnest of hairs.

But while the trend for the last few years has been to load up on Freshman phenoms and go for broke all in one year, there has been another trend afoot that has quietly starting to take shape, while we were to busy being wowed by the next batch of over-hyped Freshman phenoms. The smaller teams are learning, they’re gaining ground, again look at the brackets and the teams that made the NCAA field who pulled off big unexpected wins and some who are still playing in the round of 16.

I don’t want to get off topic here but lets look at a few of the Freshman phenoms.

No better place than Jabari Parker to start. Parker was/is an extremely good player and his numbers for the most part will back that up. His upside is very promising on an NBA level, but let’s be honest here. Parker’s game does have weaknesses that were apparent all season long. Parker lacks defensive skills, sure he made some highlight reel blocks at times, and over all played pretty while playing out of his normal position. What he didn’t grasp was defensive rotation. Sometimes screens where set on a teammate and he felled to rotate and would momentarily get lost, by then it was to late, 2 points for the other team. Parker is not the quickest guy in College basketball, nor will he be in the NBA obviously. Parker’s mid-range game also needs work. There were times that little fall away jumper from 8′ to 12′ out mark had NBA written all over it, there were too many times it didn’t, it looked more like a Nissan than a Mercedes. Then there’s his 3 point shoot, which for the most time fell short of the Nissan. To put it quite frankly it wasn’t there, he needs lots of work in that area. All this is not to say Parker wasn’t a very good player, he was, but Parker’s overall game will need to improve to become a star in the NBA. He can go now, but in my honest opinion he would benefit greatly by staying in school at least one more year. At his present level if he enters the NBA this year, he will not make the impact that most seem to think he will. Keep in mind, there is less practice time in the NBA than College because of the amount of games played and much more travel time is involved. In a few years down the road he could become a star in the NBA, but he will not make an immediate impact.

Without going into all the other so called, can’t miss Freshman phenoms (Wiggins, Randle, Gordon and the other 6 or 7 that everyone thought were going to be phenoms) the same things are true for them, the reasons may differ somewhat but in the end they were not what they were billed to be.

We live in a society where we want it now, instantly, and most times especially in basketball it just doesn’t happen that way.  These kids need time to grow, to mature, to hone their skills, but we are to quick to build them up way beyond what’s realistic. It’s not fair to the players who are put on this pedestal and are compared to and called the next Carmelo Anthony, or the next Larry Bird and so on and so on. We need to let these kids be who they are, the first Jabari Paker, the first Andrew Wiggins, and the first Aaron Gordon.

The truth is none of these kids are as good as we the fans and the media build them up to be, they just simply aren’t. But yet every year we do this as surely as sun rises in the East. They are over over-hyped, everyone of them, most are extremely good but they aren’t great, they aren’t the next Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, or Kevin Durant. They are all players who need to stay right where they are, in college unless family and financial reasons dictate otherwise. So many players who have the talent to eventually play in the NBA never make it because they left School to soon, or their little hanger on’s or cool little entourage that keeps whispering in their ear, “go get it man, you’re the guy, you’re the man”, only to make that jump to soon sometimes never to be heard of again. Part of another ugly but realistic trend.

I keep speaking of trends, I spoke of four year players and how basketball was better when that was the norm instead of the exception rather than this new, trendy, sexy if you will, style that Calipari and others have come to make popular. I spoke of how long I’ve been a fan longer than Coach K has been there, I only say that because of trends I’ve witnessed and changes I’ve seen over the years. Things tend to run in cycles and basketball is no exception. For the most part, the one and done teams are falling short. These teams try their best to load up on 5 star players, roll the dice and hope to win it all in one shot like some Vegas high roller, it’s a gamble, it’s a one in 360 shot, the odds are always with the house. It generally doesn’t work, that’s a fact.

Here’s another fact that as I mentioned earlier that has quietly become the trend while we weren’t watching. These Mid-Majors are loading up with 3 star players who stay 4 years while the sexy Schools are loading up with 5 star players going for bust and only have them one year. These smaller, less know Schools who actually have a Coach who can indeed coach, and who have 3 star players who can play and stay 3 and 4 years are better teams than the Schools who load up on one and done’s. They’re more experienced, more mature, the chemistry is unique, thus, playing together well as a unit, a team , rather than pinning all their hopes on Freshman to lead their team.

As much as I love the players that come to Duke, there is one thing that’s we should all remember. Look up there in the rafters, see those four National Championship banners? Not one of them was hung because of a Freshmen lead team

I’m not begrudging the players who leave early, some of their reasons are valid, some are not. I can’t see denying anyone an opportunity to make a living. I don’t like it as a fan, but that’s just how it is.  I don’t pretend to have an answer to the problem of one and done’s be it real or perceived, there are those who don’t see it as a problem and that’s fine, they’re entitled to their opinion. As a College basketball fan I do personally have a problem with it. I see how it hurts the sport I am passionate about, though again, I don’t have an answer for it, not sure anyone does.

But with the current landscape of College basketball, if I’m the Coach and it’s my job to have my team succeed on the court and hopefully off the court, to graduate players, build character, to witness boys grow into men, then, while you as those opposing coach, load up on the over-hyped once in a lifetime 5 star players “who by the way come along every year” if you believe that, then I as the Coach will take the 3 star players who stay four years. Give me four years for my players to grow, learn and gain experience, my team is gonna kick your teams butt come NCAA Tournament time while your sitting on the March Madness Couch, and that equation is much more sustainable, it’s working, you don’t think so? Take another look at the teams left in the Tournament.

This trend is already in progress, all you need do is open your eyes. Examples are Butler making the Championship game not one but two years in a row only to lose to Duke on a shot that was no more than a millimeter off. George Mason making the Final Four just a few years ago, VCU’s success just a couple years ago, and most recently Wichita St ‘s Final Four just last year, and an undefeated regular season and Conference Championship this year and just like Butler almost neat Duke, the Shockers came within a breath of beating Kentucky or they would still be in it.

These teams no longer care about the name on your jersey, they are not afraid of the Duke’s, the Kentucky’s, the Jayhawks or the UNC’s. They care about one thing and one thing only, knocking you out. and a growing number of them have the ability to do that very thing, These teams believe in themselves. They not only believe they can win, they believe they should win. They believe we are in their way, instead of us thinking their in our way. Those days are gone.

The level between a #1 seed and a #14 seed is shrinking every year folks. Sooner or later an #8 to a #14 seeded team is going to win the Tournament, and it going to happen because of some of the reasons I’ve stated above, I think it happens sooner, rather than later, maybe not this year, maybe not next, but it’s going to happen, mark my word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duke’s Tournament Chances.

How far can Duke go in the NCAA Tournament? That’s the $64.00 question, well actually it’s the $68.00 question but you get my point. Will they get hot, and win it all or fall somewhere in the middle, or will the basketball Gods throw us another Lehigh fastball that’s high and tight?

The truth is any of these scenarios could happen to this particular Duke team. As talented as the Blue Devils are it’s been a roller coaster season for Duke. The team is led by Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, a Freshman and a first year transfer, after that you have Rasheed Sulaimon and Marshall Plumlee, both Sophomore’s. The key ingredient here is youth. Sure, we have a couple Junior’s in Quinn Cook and three Seniors in Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton along and Josh Thornton, but the team is led by their under-class men. When that’s the case there are always ups and downs.

In order for Duke to win a National Championship they will have to get hot, on a roll, they can do it, but the cold hard facts are that it’s not likely to happen this year.

Hear’s why.

1- Pick any team in a 68 team field, the odds are against them.

2- Duke is young and it shows much to often.

3- Duke still has trouble out-rebounding other teams.

4- Our Perimeter play defensively, as well as offensively, has been inconsistent. To often they just simply get lost on defense.

5- Duke lacks a big man to anchor down the middle.

6- Different teams play at different tempos. Duke has not adjusted well to the different tempos. They play somewhere in the middle, by that I mean they don’t play at a break neck speed or a very slow half court game. When the opposing team  has play at one end or the other of those speeds Duke has struggled. You have to be able to adapt and win at different speeds.

6- And this may be the most telling line that I’ve heard no one talk about this year where Duke is concerned. In order to win a National Championship you have to string together 6 wins. At no point in the season has Duke done that, not once.

Keep in mind that having not strung together a run of 6 wins during the regular season where you have bad teams mixed in with good teams does not bode well for Duke. Duke drew a pretty good bracket for the Big Dance but the teams will get tougher with each round and the pressure ramps up with each game you advance. With Duke being led by such young players and it’s inconsistency frankly is not a recipe for a title.

Now for some good news, in my opinion Duke did draw as I mentioned earlier what I think is a fairly favorable bracket, not a cakewalk but certainly not the toughest bracket. Starting with Mercer, which I understand has one of those nasty little guards that have given Duke fits in the past, but a game Duke should win easily. then a possible match up with the #2 seed Michigan who Duke has pretty much owned in the past, but, a team that could put an end to Duke’s season. Should they get past the Wolverines they would most likely face a Louisville team that again Duke could beat, but just as easily lose. Also, Wichita St is also in play provided they make it that far. I personally think Duke gets knocked out by Louisville.

So with all Duke has going against them, it’s not impossible for them to get hot, to get on a roll and win the entire thing, stranger things have happened. Anyone can beat anyone else on a given night. But given it’s struggles this year, and having not corrected the problems that have reared it’s ugly head at times this year, I think it will be extremely hard for Duke to win it’s 5th title.

But hey, it’s called March Madness for a reason, it’s all in the hands of the basketball Gods now, and anything can happen, right?

 

 

 

 

 

Duke vs Virginia For ACC Supremacy.

It’s Duke and Virginia in the Championship game, two teams with different styles and the winner will be the team who can impose their will on the other.

Virginia is very adept at going deep into the shot clock and then scoring without panic. They have all the pieces and those pieces work to perfection. They’re not the quickest or most athletic team in the league but they run like a well oiled machine. they are solid and for whatever reason have not gotten the respect they deserve nationally or even inside the ACC, but make no mistake about it, they are for real.They are old school basketball at it’s best.

Virginia’s offense is not only good but their defense has been stellar as well. They’ve held 31 of 33 teams under 50% shooting from the floor this year. That’s no easy task. Tony Bennett has earned Coach Of The Year for good reason, proving himself as one of the best young coaches in the nation. He has put together a team that can beat anyone on a given night. A team that shares the ball and has no qualms about who the star is.

As for Duke, everyone knows their history, everyone knows their coach, one of the all time greats. This is a good Duke team who can also beat anyone on a given night, but by Duke standards has been an up and down season. Duke will need it’s inside game working, but in order for it to work they need their outside shots to fall, when that happens Duke is hard to beat. If not they can lose to anyone on a given night.

Duke will have to have the game at their tempo for them to win, stay out of foul trouble, and with Virginia’s pace Duke will need a few transition points off their defense. Duke was the only team in the ACC to beat Virginia until they slipped up against Maryland in their final regular season game in Overtime.

This game could go either way, but I feel the lower the score the more it favors Virginia. So, it’s for all the marbles, it Duke vs Virginia, and it’s for the ACC Championship. Either way these two teams have and will represent the ACC in fine fashion.

 

 

Syracuse basketball. what goes up must come down.

Sometimes a team runs rough shot over everyone in it’s path. The smack talk, the undefeated talk and the “look at us, look at us” talk goes on and on and on and on. You hear their fans shout from the top of their lungs, were 23-0 24-0  25-0. As the win’s mount so does the decibel level of their fan base.

Enter Syracuse….

The Orange looked like the team to beat, a team that had all the pieces in place and were rolling down hill like the Road-Runner being chased like a bunch of Wile E Coyote’s with no real sense of how to catch them much less beat them.

Then, suddenly…..

Syracuse’s momentum slowed, instead of putting teams away with relative ease things started to tighten up for the Cuse. They play host to Pittsburgh and escape a close game with them 59-54 due to some late game heroics by Tyler Ennis and a missed shot by Lamar Patterson.

Then…after a couple more wins, Duke visits the Carrier Dome and plays Syracuse in an overtime thriller and again the Orange escape with a win on a questionable call that could have gone either way. After another close game with Notre Dame, the Cuse travel to the Pete to play Pittsburgh in a rematch. Once again the Orange find a way to win after a 35 footer from none other than Tyler Ennis again. This game was followed by yet another close one in the Dome against North Carolina State, another game that could have gone either way, yet somehow the Cuse pull it out. But now it seems the Orange are missing something…something’s not quite right.

Enter Boston College….

With Syracuse having survived what seemed like game after game and close brushes with death, the Cuse figured to have an easy game with Boston College that would allow them to regroup,to get their feet back under them  to check the air in their tires.

Then it happened,The wheels come off….

The Eagles with nothing to lose enter the Fortress of Orange and shocked the basketball world by taking down the yet unbeaten but bruised Orange. There had been rumblings for several games, hushed tones,  and quite whispers even within the Syracuse faithful. Most thought the Orange were ripe for picking, but not to lowly Boston College, not to a team that was  7-19, 3-10 at the time.  But it happened, the wheels just came off.

But wait, one other thing is starting to become evident.

There’s a hole in Syracuse’s Zone….

Yes, that’s right, a hole, right square in the middle of the vaulted Syracuse zone and it’s blaring like the trumpet section  of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on opening night.

Meanwhile, the rematch with Duke is looming….

Syracuse licking it’s wounds, enter Cameron Indoor Stadium hoping to put the loss to Boston College behind them. After the first game with Duke, an instant classic, the Orange knew this was going to be a dog fight, and just like the first game between these two giants it didn’t disappoint. The Cuse came in ready to fight, ready to reclaim it’s glory and prove that the loss to Boston College was nothing more than a fluke. The game, just like the first one was another classic, hard fought to the end, that is until it happened.

Jim Boeheim blew his motor….

With the game on the line CJ Fair and a chance to tie the game drove to the baseline. Oddly enough, just as in the first game between these two, Rodney Hood came into the picture. Hood stood between Fair and the basket. There’s contact…. a called charge by Official Tony Greene and Jim Boeheim goes ballistic and then ejected. You know the rest of the story. After the dust settled Duke wins the game.

As if Syracuse hadn’t been through enough, here comes Maryland and yet one more in a line of close games. The Cuse win 57-55 but it was another game that could have gone either way. How much more can Syracuse take? Well, they’re about to find out.

Enter Virginia….

With Syracuse reeling from losses, near losses, injuries and the Mt Vesuvius eruption by their Coach, they must now face Virginia. While everyone was abuzz about the Syracuse and Duke rematch the Wahoo’s had quietly taken a firm hold on first place in the ACC, and with a win over Syracuse, Virginia would claim the regular season title.

In a game most thought would be another barn burner it simply didn’t pan out that way, in the end it came down to an old-fashioned butt whooping. Virginia not only won going away but in doing so threw the Orange into a deeper, darker, pit of a hole.  Virginia won 75-56.

Looking back over Syracuse’s schedule it becomes obvious that the backside was heavy. Syracuse’s non-conference schedule was against teams that are headed to the NIT or worse. When they got into the meat of the schedule they faltered like a fish out of water, losing 3 of their last 4 games.

So what’s next for Syracuse….

Even with the late season struggles of the Orange there is absolutely no doubt they have an extremely good team, a team capable of regrouping and winning the whole thing. If they can get healthy, change tires, and fine tune their engine they have a solid shot at a 2nd National Championship.

If not, it’s exit stage left.

Duke Basketball And Sports Illustrated: A Look Back.

Over the years Duke basketball has a long history with Sports Illustrated. Twenty-three times a Blue Devil player, coach, and or team has had the honor of gracing the cover of sports most heralded magazine. From Gene Banks to Jabari Parker, and Mark Alarie to “Peoples Champ” Nolan Smith, all well deserved. A look back at the covers reads like a Who’s Who of Duke basketball. Each one brings back special memories of favorite players and moments that electrified the fans. There’s to many to list them all but here are a few of the Duke SI covers.

Many of you might not have been born when Gene Banks played for Duke. He was known as Tinker Bell and was one one Duke’s first high flyers Gene Banks-Sports Illustrated Coverand one of the Blue Devils best players as a Freshman in Duke History. He played on Mike Krzyzewski’s first team as Duke’s Head Coach In 1978 Banks was the ACC’s Rookie of the Year. Bank’s hit a last second shot against rival UNC to send the game to overtime and Duke went on to win that game, thus beginning the Krzyzewski era.

 

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mark  Mark Alarie helped lead Duke to Mike Krzyzewski’s first ACC Championship and first Final Four in 1986 where they lost to Louisville.  Alarie was one of eleven players to score more than 2,000 points for Duke University. He played in 133 consecutive games for the Blue Devils and was part of Krzyzewski’s first major recruiting class that helped propel Duke into the National spotlight.

 

 

Who can forget the two epic battles Duke had with the Runnin Rebels of UNLV? Duke was blown unlvoff the court by Jerry Tarkanian’s team in 1990 in the National Championship game. Duke’s loss was the most lop-sided score in a Championship game in NCAA history. Yet the very next year these two met again with a very different outcome. The Runnin Rebels entered the Final Four game with Duke with UNLV having won their first 34 games of the season and 45 straight overall. Duke went on to play Kansas in the National Championship game for the first of Duke’s back to back titles.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Grant Hill was one of Duke’s most loved and talented players who ever donned a Blue Devil uniform. Hill was the 1994 ACC Player of the Year, a two-time NCAA All-American and two-time NCAA Champion. Hill also won National Defensive player of the Year in 1993. His most famous play was perhaps the “pass” which led to the “shot” by teammate grant-hillChristian Laettner in what was billed as “the greatest game ever played” against Kentucky. Hill also won National Defensive player of the Year in 1993. His #33 hangs proudly from the rafters of Cameron.

 

 

 

Christian Laettner, probably the most successful player in Duke history. His last second and big game markshots are the stuff legends are made of. Two time National Champion. He was the lone College player to be selected to play on the original Dream Team that won gold in the 1992 Olympics. At Duke he was one of only four players along with teammates Greg Koubek and Brian Davis to play in four consecutive Final Fours. Laettner to this day still holds numerous NCAA records and of course his famed #32 hangs in the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

 

bobBobby Hurley was a two time National Champion for Duke and the Blue Devils most prominent Point Guard to date. He set records for all time assists at Duke and nationally during his reign. He was a First Team All American in 1993 and helped lead Duke to three Final Fours during his time at Duke as well as back to back Championships. He also was the Final Four “Most Outstanding Player” in 1992. Hurley was named one of the 50 greatest players in ACC history. And yes, his #11 jersey also hangs among the greats in Cameron.

 

Shane Battier helped bring a National Championship to Duke in 2001. He brought home several Defensivse National Player Of The Year awards while doing so. Battier crafted the art of taking charges while at Duke sending shanethe Crazies into a frenzy. He led the Blue Devils to two Final Fours and has long been one of the fan favorites at Cameron. Battier has since gone on to have great success in the NBA. Battier’s #31 Jersey hangs gloriously among others inside Cameron.

 

 

 

 

Jay Williams was another of Duke’s famed Freshman. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year and National Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News. He helped lead the Devils to the 2001 NCAA National jayChampionship, earning NABC Player of the Year honors. He also earned the Naismith and Wooden Awards as College Basketball’s Player of the Year in 2002. Williams might best be remembered for his games against Maryland and the  improbable comeback know as the “Miracle Minute” where he led the Blue Devils back from a second half deficit down 10 points to win with just under a minute to go. William’s #22 jersey does indeed hang’s with the other greats in Cameron.

 

 

 

J.J.Redick, the most prolific three point shooters in NCAA history. His outside shot was unbelievable. He won the ACC Player of the Year award, and the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy for National Player of the Year in jj2005. During his time at Duke, Redick set the mark for the most consecutive free throws made in the ACC with 54. Though that record has since been broken, it was remarkable all the same. By the end of his career at Duke, Redick set the all time record in scoring among the Blue Devils with 2,769 points. J.J. Redick’s #4 jersey looms large against the other retired jerseys in Cameron Indoor.

 

 

Jabari Parker, The last in a long run of great freshman at Duke has set the basketball world on fire and jabhave the Blue Devils poised to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. He has took the basketball world by storm not only with his exceptional skills, but also with how grounded he is for someone of so few years. His legacy is yet to be written at Duke but no one doubts his impact. His numbers to this point have been nothing short of remarkable and he quickly became a fan favorite. The way Coach K has brought him along as a Freshman has been a treat for Duke fans to watch. So it seems only fitting that Krzyzewski and Parker share the cover of Sports Illustrated’s most recent cover.

 

 

 

 

Is Duke Peaking At The Right Time? Only The Basketball Gods Know For Sure.

Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke, has been tagged as a team that peaked to soon and fell flat in the post season, sometimes woefully so. Is this year any different? Will this be the year Duke turns it back around and hangs another Championship banner in Cameron? Is Duke peaking at the right time? So many questions remain.

After winning big games early in the 2011 season and having to deal with the now famous toe injury of Kyrie Irving, Duke was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Arizona. Remember Derrick Williams?

The next year, 2012, Duke once again won big games early on in the season only to lose out to Lehigh in the post season. One of the darkest days in recent years for the Blue Devils. Remember CJ McCollum?

The 2013 season followed pretty much the same pattern. Winning big early, but losing to Louisville to end their Big Dance hopes again. Remember Russ Smith?

This has left some to think, hope, pray or whatever it is you do, that the basketball Gods will intervene and shine it’s glorious light squarely down, ever so brightly on the Blue Devils. The light that in all it’s cosmic wisdom and karma should see fit to majestically allow Duke to have it’s troubles early and peak at just the right time.

Duke did hit bumps in the road early this year. They’ve regrouped and are playing well heading into the latter part of the season. Mike Krzyzewski has tinkered with the starting lineup more this year than any other in his tenure.  They’ve still had defensive and offensive dry spells but for the most part have overcome them since the loss at Clemson, losing only to Syracuse and UNC, both close games that could have gone either way.

The Blue Devils have two games left in the regular season. A road game at Wake Forest, and the rematch with rival UNC at Cameron before starting the ACC Tournament. Many think Duke does indeed have the pieces, the personnel, and that they may in fact be peaking at just the right time. March Madness is just around the corner and the anything can and usually does happen. There’s a break, an opening in the clouds of winter, there’s a light trying to make it’s way through. Will it shine on Duke? Is Duke peaking at the right time?

Only the basketball Gods know for sure.

 

Epic Meltdowns And Yes, Boeheim Makes The List.

After Jim Boeheim’s epic meltdown the other night against Duke, I wondered where it ranked among the all time greatest tongue-lashings. While it’s merely subjective and just for fun, I thought it would be great to look back at a few of the past meltdowns that made the news.

 1- While Boeheim’s hissy fit didn’t threaten bodily harm, this one did. Temple coach John Chaney suddenly appears at the back of the room during (then UMass Coach) John Calipari’s press conference. Chaney was upset about comments Calipari made concerning the officiating of the game and Chaney blows his top

 2- No meltdown list is complete without Bobby Knight. His list of temper tantrums reads like Who’s Who of meltdowns. It took no more than four minutes into a home game with Purdue for Knight started to lose his cool after a foul was called on his PG Steve Alford, 58 seconds later when Officials called another foul on Indiana’s Marty Simmons, Knight picks up a chair and flings it across the court.

 3-  Former Rutgers Coach Mike Rice was apparently a walking meltdown from beginning to end. After video surfaced of him kicking, throwing, and pushing players around it was only a matter of time before Rutgers had to send Rice on his way. I’m sure anger management was somewhere in his future.

 4- Michigan’s Women’s Head Coach Kevin Borseth loses it after his teams poor performance against Wisconsin. The Lady Wolverines blew an 18 point lead to the Badgers and wound up losing the game 69-67. His table pounding, screaming outburst while talking to the media easily makes the list proving even Women’s basketball Coaches are not exempt from lambasting his own team.

 5- Barry Hinson shows his frustration after a 73-65 loss to Murray St. The Southern Illinois Coach  blasts his team with both barrels firing simultaneously. It appears he might have had better luck if he had recruited his own Wife who he feels is a better scorer than his players. He leaves  no player untouched in his post-game interview.

  6- Jim Boeheim’s meltdown might not have been the worst of the lot, but none may have come in a bigger game or a bigger moment. This one happened on National TV during Prime Time. Boeheim tried to defuse the situation at his post-game presser but many feel it cost his team any last chance to win the game. Be that as it may it was still glorious.

I’m sure there are others that should have made the list of epic meltdowns. If you have any better ones please feel free to post them.

I thought someone should write an article about Marshall Plumlee. Someone did.

Marshall, the 3rd of edition of the Plumlee Brothers has started to make his mark for Duke basketball. The player who Mike Krzyzewski plumdogsaid last year was Duke’s 6th best player has started to emerge from the bench. His minutes have increased and is slowly but surely making an impact. Plumlee logged 19 minutes for Duke in the game against Syracuse at Cameron Indoor and had it not been for leg cramps in the 2nd half, he might have seen more action.

Plumlee’s emergence has proven to be just what the Blue Devils needed, a big body down low to help defend, rebound and otherwise disrupt the opposing teams inside game. Against Syracuse his numbers were 2-2 fg’s, 5 rebs, 1 ast, 3 blks and 1 to. He did this while committing no fouls.

More important maybe than his numbers is the fact that Plumlee brought “it” to the game. That “it” being what Krzyzewski said was missing after the loss to UNC. Plumlee played with heart, determination, and in the first half gave Duke a distinct edge against Syracuse helping to put the Cuse in foul trouble. To put it a different way, Plumlee played his butt off and has earned the right to gain more minutes.

If Plumlee can continue to improve it should pay big dividends going forward for Duke heading into the latter part of the season. With only 3 games left against Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and UNC in the regular season, it would seem the perfect time for Plumlee to fine tune his game before heading into the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.