Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament | Tags: 2010 Champions, Duke vs. Butler, National Title
I never thought it would happen. I’m not going to lie. At the beginning of this season, I never thought this team was good enough. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were good, but not national title good. Hell, just prior to the tournament I wrote a post about why Duke won’t win the championship.
I was wrong. There is no shame in admitting it. At the very least, a lot of people were too.
I’m going to be posting more on this team, the tournament and the future later this week, but for this post, I just want to focus on this game.
WHAT DID I SEE?
THAT FINAL SHOT
Could you imagine if that went in? If that ball found its way into the basket, Gordan Hayward would have been the king of college basketball folklore. You could forget all about Mario Chalmers, Keith Smart and Lorenzo Charles. Those guys would have had nothing on Heyward if he made that shot. It would have been the half-court shot that slayed the dragon.
Could you imagine? Hell, if Hollywood wrote an ending like that (with the ball going in for the win), I would have dismissed it as being too cheesy. Luckily for Blue Devil nation, it didn’t.
KYLE SINGLER PROBABLY PLAYED HIS LAST GAME…
At least it was a good one. Outside of the Baylor game, Singler has been a stud in the tournament and tonight, he was Duke’s best player. He finished with 19 points, nine boards, two assists and three blocks. Every time Duke needed a basket, he nailed it.
How clutch was he?
You know in baseball, people often gave A-Rod a hard time because he always hit his bombs when the Yankees were up big and never in the clutch? I’m not exactly sure what is the basketball equivalent to that, but let me throw some numbers at you.
Singler made seven shots tonight. In all seven shots, Duke never led by more than two points when he made the shot. In fact, Duke trailed three times when Kyle made his shot, tied once, led by one once and was up two, twice.
For the record, Singler missed six shots. Duke was never trailing when he missed those shots. They were tied once, up one once, up two twice and up four twice.
I do believe this will be Singler’s last game in a Duke uniform. I suspect he’ll declare, but won’t take an agent. But like Henderson last year, he will decide to go. With this great tournament, he has probably moved himself up to the middle of the first-round, just outside of a lottery pick.
As a Duke fan, I obviously want him back. With him, Duke is the preseason No 1 team next year. The question is, how much better is he going to get? Sure he could get moved up a few spots, but he’s never going to be a top-five pick. At the very least, if he gets drafted in the back-half of the first round, he’ll end up on a decent team, instead of a team like the Clippers.
I just think this championship seals the deal. Of course I’ve been wrong so many times before, so there’s that. As of this writing, he says he’s undecided. (more…)
No matter what happens tonight, Butler reaching the title game is a huge boost for college basketball. The reality is, now any coach on any team in any conference can say to their players, “let’s win a championship.”
Of course this is not true in college football, where the Butler’s can go undefeated and left out of any shot at the title.
This is why college basketball is great.
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament | Tags: Duke vs. West Virginia, Final Four
Normally when I look at match ups, I like to put each player up against another player on the opposite side and just figure it out, one-on-one (PG vs PG., SF vs. SF, C vs. C, you get the picture). The problem is, you can’t do that with West Virginia, not with that tricky 1-3-1 zone. There is no point in talking about how Joe Mazzulla will do defending Nolan Smith because he won’t be defending Nolan Smith for much of the game.
So tomorrow I’ll talk about how Duke matches up against the 1-3-1 zone. Today I’m going to analyze the match ups of Duke defending the West Virginia offense.
NOLAN SMITH ON JOE MAZZULLA
Two years ago, freshman Joe Mazzulla went ‘Red Dawn’ on the Blue Devils, nearly knocking out a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists). Of course, he was being guarded by Greg Paulus. No more. While Mazzulla will be running the point, Nolan Smith will be locked on Mazzolla all night.
Look for Smith to go “white on rice” against Mazzolla before and around mid-court, but once the Mountaineers get settled into their half-court, I suspect Smith might back off. In fact, Smith is the perfect guy to use a double-down in the post.
The simple fact is, Mazzola doesn’t like to shoot the three. Sure he hit one against Kentucky, but that was his first three of the entire freaking season. He’s taken only 15 three-point shots over the last two years thanks to an injured shoulder. Let’s just be honest, if Duke loses because of Mazzolla’s outside shooting, then more power to them.
The other key is, Mazzolla is only effective going to his left. That’s it. Smith can ignore his right hand. Pretend likes it is not there. Stop him going to his left, especially late in the shot clock and you got Joe stopped.
JON SCHEYER ON DA’SEAN BUTLER
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Singler stuck on Butler, but that would then force Scheyer down low with Ebanks, who stands four inches above Jon. Butler is West Virginia’s most dangerous scorer and certainly the most clutch shooter in all of college basketball. Yet, you don’t ever hear his name come up during dinner time when the conversation turns to the NBA draft. Everyone talks NBA draft during dinner, right?
The fact is, Butler is a jump shooter. Sure his ability to drive has improved his senior year, but 40% of his shots are still three-point shots. The kid likes to put the ball up deep and so far 35% of them find their way into the peach basket. Not great, but not bad.
While Scheyer won’t make anyone’s All-defensive team (although he did make it on my All-Jewish defensive team), he does a fine job of moving his feet and keeping non-point guards in front of him. He’s still vulnerable to a quick dribble-drive guard, but that’s why you move Jon away from Mazzolla and onto Butler. Ta-da!
While Butler will sometimes go inside with his back to the basket against smaller shooting guards, Jon isn’t small, so look for Da’Sean to do a lot of catch and shoot. If the catch and shoot is coming off a screen, then the defender coming off the screener needs to stay in front of Butler. If not, Scheyer needs to be sure to get his hand in Butler’s face. He’s not going to shut him down, but if he can force him to take 17 shots to get his 17 points instead of 11 or 12, then L’Chaim!
You might remember the original from classless Makhtar Ndiaye.
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament, Duke Recap | Tags: Duke vs Baylor, Elite Eight
Let’s pretend for a second that I told you before today’s game that Kyle Singler would go 0-10 from the floor tonight, yet Duke would still win. Be honest, you’d probably would have punched me in the face, right?
Yet, here we are. The Duke Blue Devils took over late against Baylor, putting the game away on a 15-3 run late, and just like that, Duke is headed back to the Final Four for the first time since J.J. Redick was a sophomore.
In the end, there were 4 reasons for Duke’s win tonight. Let’s get on them.
WHAT DID I SEE?
REASON #1 – RAINING THREE
Like we said this morning, if Duke was going to win, they would have to hit open threes. The simple fact was, Baylor’s 2-3 zone would give them open looks. Duke came through. They finished the game hitting 11-23 from three, but five of those misses belong to Singler. Scheyer and Smith combined to shoot 9-16, while Dawkins delivered two huge threes in the first half.
REASON #2 – NOLAN’S MID-RANGE
Again, I talked about the mid-range shot this morning. Baylor likes to block shots. The Blue Devils would need to pull up in the middle before reaching the trees and hit 8-10 foot jumpers. Tonight, Nolan Smith did just that. He hit five mid-range jumpers. More often than not, they were runners into the lane.
Now Baylor got their blocks, but they were all shots inside on Duke’s big men. They blocked none of Smith’s shots and none of Scheyer’s shots. They did swipe away one of Singler’s shots. (more…)
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament, Duke Game | Tags: Duke vs Baylor, Keys to Victory, Prediction
With Kentucky out, your Duke Blue Devils are the sole number one seed left in the tournament. Stunning, isn’t it?
Actually, I’m not surprised that West Virginia beat Kentucky. In fact, I had the Mountaineers going to the Final Four. Of course I also had Kansas and Syracuse in Indianapolis, so there’s that. We’ll just ignore that half of the bracket.
Now if you remember, I also had Baylor going to, beating Duke in the Elite Eight. Well, here we are and I’m starting to feel like that was a mistake. Duke can win this thing. They can win the whole damn thing. Of course they need to beat Baylor. How are they going to do that? Here are my five keys to the game.
No 1 – HIT THREES
So far, Duke has been able to survive missing three-point shots…lots of them. The Baylor Bears will play a 2-3 zone, with man-to-man principles. This means Baylor attacks the ball, as oppose to just covering an area. The key on the perimeter will be Duke’s ability to swing the ball from side to side.
While you’ll hear a lot of talk regarding Baylor’s ability to defend the three, if you look at their loses this season, the one common thread is that some teams have (although not many) found success hitting threes. In fact, in their last two loses, the opponents hit 22-44 from behind the three-line.
Duke’s advantage is that it has three guys all capable of launching (four if you count Dawkins). The trick though is to not always take the very first “sort-of” open look. Baylor’s guards, Dunn and Carter will get above the three-line, hoping to force you to take shots in spots where you don’t usually launch it from.
Duke will need to utilize the extra pass. With Baylor swarming towards the ball, I can guarantee you that either Scheyer, Singler or Smith will have an open look if they make that final pass.
Also, because of the length of Baylor’s front court, it’s nearly impossible to shot threes from the corners. However, when you look at the shot charts of games that Baylor has lost, they tend to give up threes from the top of the key and the elbows. The elbows in particular are spots where Duke’s shooters like to shoot.
The Blue Devils need to hit these shots. A cold night will send Baylor to the Final Four. (more…)
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament, Duke Recap | Tags: Duke vs. Purdue, Sweet 16
Whatever Coach K said at halftime, I could use that kind of motivation at lunch at work everyday.
After a brutal first half, clearly the ugliest basketball I’ve seen all season, Duke came out rolling in the second half to put away the Boilermakers and advance to the Elite Eight. It will be Duke’s first trip to the regional finals since Luol Deng was a freshman many moons ago.
For me, my blood pressure went through the roof in that first 19:30 seconds of the game. I had past Duke tournament failures dancing in my head. Jon Scheyer’s shooting slump was bringing back bad memories of J.J. Redick’s epic Sweet 16 flops. I had little faith this was going to turn out good. Thank God what I think doesn’t really matter. Having said that…
WHAT DID I SEE?
DUKE’S BIG THREE WON, 58-57
That’s right folks…in the only battle of 3 on 3 in the Sweet 16, Duke’s big three (Singler, Scheyer and Smith) beat Purdue tonight, outscoring the Boilermakers, 58-57. And like so many games this season, the big three each had their own moments that were key to victory.
KYLE SINGLER: The man was the only person in a white uniform who could hit a shot in the first half. While the rest of the team was just 3-19, Kyle was able to knock down 4-10, including three 3-pt shots. He personally kept Duke in this game (although Purdue missing a ton of open shots helped as well). While in the second half, he won’t get the headlines, let’s not forget, he continued to roll early in the second period. In fact, he scored 18 of Duke’s first 42 points tonight.
NOLAN SMITH: Halfway through the second half, the Devils were starting to hit some shots, but they were unable to pull away. Then Nolan Smith took over. He scored three straight baskets that included two drives and one three-point shot. It gave Duke a nine-point cushion, its largest of the game. This was the first time the Duke faithful realized they were going to take this one. Actually, I shouldn’t speak for everyone. It was the first time I realized Duke could/would win this one.
JON SCHEYER: The man was cold. I mean, ice-cold. After a 1-11 performance against California, he started off tonight’s game 0-7. The last time he hit a shot, President Obama was still a state senator. Yet, the shooter kept shooting and one went in at the 18:17 mark. But that was nothing. With Duke up 11 with five to play, Scheyer took back-to-back possessions to the rim, rolling in crazy “Scheyer” shots to seal the deal.
When it was all said and done, after a 1-18 slump, Jon finished this game hitting 4-8 from the floor. I’m not willing to declare the slump officially over, but at least he can head into the Sunday game with some confidence. (more…)
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament, Duke Recap | Tags: Duke vs. California, Round Two
Wow, what a freaking four days of basketball. I’m exhausted. with Kansas going down and with so many lower seeds advancing to the Sweet 16, it certainly has been the best four days of basketball that I’ve seen in a long, long time. I was planning on doing a whole write up about the first two rounds, but I need a break. I’ll jump on it by Wednesday.
Did I forget to mention Duke? I did, didn’t I? What can I say, the Blue Devils continue to fly under the radar after an impressive win against the PAC-10 regular season champ, California.
With so many upsets, with so many big performances by players from small schools, with so many last seconds shots going in or just missing, with Kentucky and Syracuse blowing away the competition, the Devils just did their job this week and it barely registered.
They were never threatened, there was never any doubt, yet I’ll be willing to bet you’ll barely hear a word about your Devils.
And I think that’s exactly how we all want it.
SO WHAT DID I SEE TONIGHT?
Two days after Nolan Smith struggled against Arkansas-Pine Buff, Duke’s junior guard dominated. He dominated on offense. he dominated on defense. Let’s start with the latter.
The Bears were known for their run-and-gun offense. A roster loaded with guys who were willing and able to shoot from almost anywhere past the mid-court line. For Duke, the man who needed to be stopped was diminutive point guard, Jerome Randle.
After hitting three of his first four shots tonight, Nolan Smith locked down on Randle, holding him to 2-8 the rest of the way. He was 2-6 from three and never sniffed the free throw line.
Of course none of this should be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Smith’s D has been a pleasant surprise all season and will be key to any deep run by Duke.
On the offensive end, the thing about Nolan is, you’ll know right away if he’s going to have a stud game or not. He just has a tendency to start burning hot or ice-cold and he doesn’t change throughout the game. Tonight, he scored 20, on 9-18 shooting. (more…)
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament, Duke Recap | Tags: Duke vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
The Duke Blue Devils did what they had to do. They took care of business early, giving no chance to an overmatched 16-seed.
Of course, this was expected, but if you’re like me, you have memories of Belmont two seasons ago stuck in your head. I wanted a whipping and was happy to see one, although I was a bit surprise to see that Duke couldn’t top 80 tonight. Oh well.
SO WHAT DID I SEE?
DUKE GOES INSIDE
Because of the size advantage, the Blue Devils made a concentrated effort to get the ball down low to both Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. The pair took 10 shots, almost all coming from the category of “creating your own shot.”
Seriously though, is it me or is there something part amazing and part frustrating to see Zoubek posting the ball up, turning around and hitting beautiful jumpers? Where has this been? Maybe that career-long foot injury really was bad.
The same goes for Thomas. Was I the only one who nearly wet himself when Lance dunked a basketball?
Don’t look now Duke fans, but Kyle Singler is playing himself into a nice draft spot in next year’s NBA draft. Over the past six weeks, Singler has been one of the best players in the nation. Yes, I said “nation.” In his last 10 games, he’s scored 20+ seven times. He’s grabbed at least 10 rebounds four times, producing four double-doubles. In three of those double-doubles, he produced 20/10.
He’s finally, after struggling all season long, starting to figure out his role as a small forward. He’s hitting the long ball, but is also getting dirty down below (he averages nearly three offensive rebounds per game).
I’m not predicting that he’s headed to the NBA, but if he continues to play like this, it’s going to be hard for him not to. (more…)
Filed under: 2010 NCAA Tournament | Tags: Final Four, Predictions, Title Game
After a boring first weekend with very few upsets, all hell seems to have broken loose in the second weekend. Two No 1 seeds, go down, including my beloved Duke Blue Devils who are unable to handle Baylor’s size deep in the heart of Texas. Even more shocking, I have the most talented team in the land, Kentucky, falling to a bunch of Badgers.
On the other side, both Syracuse and Kansas advance, while Georgetown upsets Ohio State. Of course it’s only an upset if you haven’t been paying attention. In the end, my final four has two Big 12 teams battling it out against two Big East teams. It makes perfect sense since these two conferences were the strongest this season.
HERE’S HOW IT WILL ARRIVE:
- MONDAY: Round One Predictions
- TUESDAY: Round Two Predictions
- WEDNESDAY: Sweet 16 & Elite 8 Predictions
- Thursday: Final 4 & Title Game Predictions
(1) Kansas over (1) Syracuse
It’s reason number one that the teams probably should be re-seeded in the Final Four. With apologizes to Kentucky, the two best teams in the nation will face off in the semifinals instead of the finals. With Duke out, it would be hard not to cheer for Jim Boeheim and his band of overachievers. Yet, the Jayhawks have that look of a champion, as well as a solid big man, a penetrating point guard and outside shooters who can abuse even the best zones.
(2) West Virginia over (3) Baylor
By this point, the Baylor Bears have become everyone’s little engine that could, but the Mountaineers have been rolling, playing with a giant chip on their shoulder after missing out on a number one seed. It also doesn’t hurt that they have the talent too in Butler, Jones and Ebanks.
(1) Kansas over (3) West Virginia
All this week, every expert out there keeps saying that anyone can win this. They all say, there is no “great team” out there. Um, Kansas is a great team. They’re 32-2. They won the Big 12 regular season. It wasn’t even close. They won by four games. They won the conference tournament, something the mighty Tar Heels couldn’t even do last year. So what they’re not beating everyone by 30 points…32 wins is 32 wins. By the time this tournament is over, it will be 38.