2011-2012 ACC Preview: #7 Maryland

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected 7th-place finishers, the Maryland Terrapins.

Never fear, the Turtle has been much scarier in years past (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 10-3

Key Wins:
November 18- Maryland 78, Colorado 71
December 4- Maryland 78, Notre Dame 71

Tough Losses:
November 20- Iona 89, Maryland 63
November 29- Illinois 71, Maryland 62

Starting Lineup:[table id=20 /]Last Year Against Duke:
January 9, 2011 at Duke- Duke 71, Maryland 64
February 2, 2011 in College Park- Duke 80, Maryland 62
March 11, 2011 at ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC- Duke 87, Maryland 71

This Year Against Duke:
January 25, 2012 in College Park
February 11, 2012 at Duke

The Good: The Terps boast the leading scorer in the ACC in sophomore Terrell Stoglin, who has averaged 21.5 points per game so far this season. Stoglin has been held under 15 points in just one game this season, and notched 31 and 32 points in crucial victories over Notre Dame and Colorado, respectively. Especially during an intensely competitive conference schedule, it is possible to beat a superior team when you have a player that can score at will.

The Bad: This is a Maryland team that struggles on the defensive end of the floor, and they don’t have nearly enough offensive firepower to offset that. The Terps are one of just two teams in the ACC who have been outscored thus far, the other being the lowly Boston College, who we predicted to finish dead last in the conference this year. To make matters worse, if Maryland can actually take a lead late in the game, they might have trouble keeping it, as they’ve struggled mightily from the line this year. They rank dead last in the ACC this season, shooting just 63.6% from the charity stripe.

The Crazie: The greatest loss Maryland suffered from last year’s team was not a graduated player, but their head coach. The Terrapins entered this season with a new coach for the first time in 22 years following the departure of legendary head coach Gary Williams. New head coach Mark Turgeon entered the fold at Maryland after four straight NCAA tournament bids at Texas A&M, and although he is amply qualified, this is not a program that is used to leadership changes, to say the least. The most interesting thing about this Maryland team does not concern the coaching change, however, but rather how untested this team is. Although it faced a few quality opponents in its non-conference schedule, the Terrapins did not play a single game on the road. They did play four neutral site games, but one of the keys to a winning team in conference play is the ability to play in a hostile environment, which Maryland has not yet had to do this year. This could pose a problem down the road for a team that is already quite inexperienced to begin with.

Player We Love To Hate: Terrell Stoglin is the type of player that Duke hates to face. He is overwhelmingly his team’s primary offensive option, having taken twice as many shots as any other player on Maryland’s team. He is not afraid to take the ball to the rack and gets to the line consistently, but is also not afraid to step out and hit from deep. He has a scorer’s mentality and the capability to drop points on a team in bunches. With a team like Maryland, they’ll only pose a significant threat to upset you if Stoglin takes over the game.

The Bottom Line: This team has been difficult to read because it is widely inexperienced and generally untested, but despite these drawbacks it will benefit by being more talented than a few teams in a depleted ACC this season. It has the ability to beat bad teams and give better teams a run for their money if Stoglin is connecting and their defense learns how to shut somebody down. This team should finish somewhere toward the middle of the pack this year. But unless they overachieve significantly in conference play or make a deep ACC Tournament run they likely will not see an NCAA Tournament bid in large part due to a weak non-conference schedule.

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Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina

The Promised Land: Lance Thomas Makes The Cut

In this crazy messed up world we live in, we can only be sure of one thing—we can find out anything we need to know about anyone from their Twitter bio. So how does Lance Thomas describe himself on Twitter? Let’s take a look:

Lance Thomas aka @slangmagic: The most driven person you will ever meet. Pro ball player. Music junkie. Doberman Pinscher lover.

From watching Lance bang down on the blocks for four years in Cameron, none of us can question his drive, and who are we to say he doesn’t love music and who doesn’t love hanging with a Doberman? But today Lance Thomas made the last piece of that 140-character Twitter puzzle a reality—he is a pro ball player, and not just any pro ball player. He is on an NBA roster.

This picture says 1,000 words about Lance Thomas's drive and determination (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

On the eve of this year’s strike-shortened NBA season, Lance Thomas received the greatest Christmas gift he ever could have asked for when he found out he had made the New Orleans Hornets. His journey to the NBA has been unconventional to say the least, but it perfectly personifies all that made Thomas a great member of the Duke Blue Devils: his grit, his determination, and his intensity. Let’s take a look at how he got here.

Thomas starred at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey throughout high school, leading his team to a state championship his senior season while earning McDonald’s All-American honors. He averaged 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds that year en route to winning his second state title in his time at St. Benedict’s. Thomas committed to Duke in the spring of his senior season, waiting much longer than most other top recruits to sign with a team. He chose to attend Duke instead of staying local and playing college basketball at Rutgers.

Lance Thomas practices the same way he plays- hard. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Lance made an impact at Duke from the time he first stepped on the floor. Although it normally takes big men more time to adjust to the pace of the college game, Thomas impressed Coach K immensely during preseason workouts before his freshman year. His hard work paid off as Thomas was named a starter for the second game he ever played wearing a Duke uniform. He would go on to start games in all four seasons of his Duke career, including 39 of the 40 games in Duke’s 2009-2010 national title run during his senior season.

He was not a low post force during his time at Duke, that is no secret. In fact he never averaged more than 5.3 points per game during his time there, but Lance Thomas was the master of intangibles. While his teammates were scoring points, he was making sure he did the little things—grab rebounds, body up an opponent’s best big man, block shots, hustle, dive on the floor after loose balls and take charges. Those are the plays that would inevitably define Thomas’s career at Duke; that is the reason why when he calls himself “the most driven person you will ever meet,” we know he isn’t lying.

Becoming a national championship was a great accomplishment for Lance, but not where he envisioned the road ending (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Thomas strove to be an NBA basketball player. Playing for Duke is a great first step to take toward reaching that goal, but despite the quickly rising draft prospects of Thomas along with fellow seniors Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek during their 2010 championship run, none of them were drafted that season. When the NBA doesn’t come calling for some Blue Devils, they’re almost certain to receive offers to play in some of the top leagues in Europe. Lance could have jumped the pond like many of his teammates (Kyle Singler and Martynas Pocius in Spain, Jon Scheyer in Israel, DeMarcus Nelson and Daniel Ewing in Ukraine, or David McClure in Lithuania). But Lance Thomas didn’t want to play in Europe, he wanted to play in the NBA. So instead of taking a much larger contract to play for a European team, he gave the league a shot and tried to make a roster as an undrafted free agent. He played that summer in the Orlando league with the Nets, but did not make the preseason roster. Instead of taking his talents overseas to Europe, Thomas kept his dream alive when he was drafted by in the 2nd round the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League (aka the D-League).

Continuing to improve his offensive game in his only full season with the Toros, Lance Thomas averaged 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 46 games. This season did not pass without any additional adversity, however, as Thomas suffered a seizure on the court during a game against the Idaho Stampede on March 26, 2011, ending his season four games early. Luckily for Lance, he was able to make a full recovery and continue to improve his game. Lance’s stellar play in the D-League earned him a spot on the United States’ team for the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Thomas was a key contributor to the US team that eventually earned a bronze medal at the Pan-Am Games, averaging 8.2 points and leading the team with 7.6 rebounds over the tournament’s five games. Thomas also shot 90% from the free-throw line and was the team’s leading scorer in its 94-92 victory over the Dominican Republic in the bronze-medal game.

Thomas returned to the Toros directly following his great performance on the international stage with renewed confidence and the same passion and intensity. This translated well for both Thomas and the Toros, who posted a 3-1 record in its first four games of the 2011 season. Thomas continued to step up his game, posting 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds over those four contests, including an impressive 24 and 16 in a victory over Tulsa. As the D-League season began the NBA lockout was finally drawing to a close. Training camps were set to open the day after the Toros’ fourth game of the year. This is when Lance received his second shot at the NBA, as his call finally came and he got invited to training camp with the New Orleans Hornets.

Thomas was never afraid to show emotion during his time at Duke (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Although he had received the call to training camp, Lance’s greatest hurdle was yet to come. His first preseason game was very promising, however. With much of the Hornet’s roster on a plane from Los Angeles following the Chris Paul trade, Thomas started for the Hornets in their first preseason game. He tallied eight points and seven rebounds in 37 quality minutes. This was the first sign that unlike his last stint with the Nets, Thomas might actually be here to stay. The Hornets’ second preseason game had me a bit more scared. As New Orleans tinkered around with its new pieces, Lance only played eight minutes and did not score. But when the final cuts were made on Saturday afternoon, Thomas was the one with the last laugh.

What will the Hornets gain from Lance Thomas? Let’s keep it realistic, he’s not going to start or even log significant minutes on this team this year. However, when he gets his chance, he is the type of player that always seizes an opportunity. Lance’s career in the NBA hinges on the same things that made his college career so special: the little things. He’s going to have to continue to be that guy that plays defense, rebounds, and fights for loose balls, but at least he won’t be struggling to adjust to a new role on an NBA team, that’s what he’s been doing since he started college.

Lance’s story doesn’t end here, in fact some might say that it is only just beginning. However, making an NBA roster does not guarantee that you are going to stick around. Thomas’s next task is going to be to fight for minutes and to keep a spot on the active roster. Hopefully Thomas’ hard work continues to pay off and he can make a career of it. In the end, it’s only fitting that the NBA’s season starts on Christmas day this year, because I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to wake up on Christmas morning knowing they’ve realized a lifelong dream.

Best of luck to Lance and all of Duke’s NBA players this season from all of us here at Crazie-Talk, and happy holidays to all of our readers! Stay Crazie, my friends.

2011-2012 ACC Preview: #8 Georgia Tech

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected 8th-place finishers, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

As you'll read below, chances are this outside jumper didn't go in (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 7-7

Key Wins:
November 18- Georgia Tech 73, VCU 60
December 7- Georgia Tech 68, Georgia 56

Tough Losses:
December 3- Tulane 57, Georgia Tech 52
December 22- Mercer 65, Georgia Tech 59

Starting Lineup:[table id=19 /]Last Year Against Duke:
February 20, 2011 at Duke- Duke 79, Georgia Tech 57

This Year Against Duke:
January 7, 2012 in Atlanta

The Good: This is one of the best rebounding teams you’ll see in the ACC, and if you can control the glass you’ll be able to keep yourself in games. The Yellow Jackets average 39.3 rebounds per game which is good for 34th in the nation, and rank second in the conference in rebounding margin, outrebounding their opponents by nine boards per game. Their ability to control the glass significantly rebounds opponents’ second-chance opportunities, which is one of the reasons Georgia Tech is third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just under 58 points per game.

The Bad: This team cannot shoot. It can defend, it can rebound, but it cannot shoot. Despite the fact that the Yellow Jackets have shot a very respectable 45.9% from the field this year, they are shooting an abysmal 27.8% clip from beyond the arc. Not a single member of this team’s starting five shoots greater than 31% from 3-point range. This creates a very simple formula for beating Georgia Tech: you jump out on them early, force them to take shots from the perimeter to try and catch up, and you will come away with a win.

The Crazie: For a team that can’t hit the side of a barn door with a 3-pointer, it still boasts the fifth-best field goal percentage in the conference. This is a testament to how efficient Georgia tech is inside. It’s no secret- they will attempt to control the paint to win a basketball game. Glen Rice Jr. only shoots 30.8% from beyond the arc, but he shoots a staggering 65.6% this year on two-point field goals. Brandon Reed shoots 23.8% from long range but 50.0% from inside the arc. This is a team that you will certainly have to defend from the inside out, but if you are playing relaxed interior defense, they can hurt you.

Player We Love To Hate: Glen Rice Jr. Not only do the Cameron Crazies love to pick on players with NBA pedigree that might not live up to their fathers (completely ignoring the amount of NBA pedigree we’ve seen in Cameron from Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Nolan Smith, and Gerald Henderson over the last few years), he also poses the greatest threat to this Duke team. He’s stepped up his scoring game this season, posting 14.7 points per game including 19 or more on four occasions this year. He is also exactly the type of player that this year’s Duke team has trouble defending- a big, stocky wing player that loves to bang around inside. He also rebounds surprisingly well for a player that is only 6-foot-5, pulling down 7.4 boards per game which is good for second on the team.

The Bottom Line: We appear to finally have worked our way out of the ACC’s cellar. This is by no means a bad team, but it is by no means a good team either. In fact, this is one of the most interesting teams in the conference because of the stark contrast between its strengths and its weaknesses. They definitely have the tools to cause teams that are more talented than them trouble, especially when they are playing on their home floor. However, this team is a full step below what you’d consider NCAA tournament material.

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Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina

2011-2012 ACC Preview: #9 Miami

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected 9th-place finishers, the Miami Hurricanes.

It appears that hopeful is all the Miami hopeful can be this season (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 9-4

Key Wins:
December 3- Miami 83, UMass 75
December 17- Miami 93, FAU 90 (2OT)

Tough Losses:
November 25- Ole Miss 64, Miami 61 (OT)

Starting Lineup:[table id=18 /]Last Year Against Duke:
January 2, 2011 at Duke- Duke 74, Miami 63
February 13, 2011 in Miami- Duke 81, Miami 71

This Year Against Duke:
February 5, 2012 at Duke

The Good: Miami has made it through an average non-conference schedule without its best player, junior Reggie Johnson. Though a 7-4 record against mediocre competition is nothing to write home about, the teams hopes to use Johnson’s recent return to the lineup as a springboard to future success. Johnson, who adds a significant presence inside to a team that only has two players taller than 6-foot-6, has averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds in his only two games this season.

The Bad: This team is not prepared for an ACC schedule. It was forced to shuffle around its starting lineup game in and game out due to injuries and inconsistency, and did not face more than a couple significant tests in its non-conference schedule. The Hurricanes were at least able to dispatch of the bad teams it played, though taking Florida Atlantic to double overtime is a bit scary to say the least, but were not particularly competitive against their opponents from major conferences. Let’s keep in mind that Ole Miss, Purdue, Memphis, and West Virginia, who account for Miami’s four losses on the year, are hardly national title contenders. Don’t be surprised if this team is shellshocked when reacting to a more difficult ACC schedule, especially as it faces an upstart Virginia squad and North Carolina in its first two conference tilts, both on the road.

The Crazie: Even with the addition of Johnson back into the lineup, this is an undersized team. Undersized teams can win in the ACC, in fact from our own experience Duke has put together a string of winning ACC and even National Championships with no true low-post presence. But when you’re an undersized team in the ACC that only shoots 41.9% from the field and 38.7% from beyond the arc, your chances are pretty slim. For a team that struggles on the defensive end, it doesn’t have the offensive firepower to compensate.

Player We Love To Hate: Have you heard his name enough already? This Miami team is going to hinge on the inside presence of Reggie Johnson. He will be asked to shoulder a huge burden and play more minutes than most big men should, simply because the Hurricanes cannot rely on a small lineup with a 6-6 power forward. In Miami’s two losses to the Blue Devils last season, Johnson was a force inside, averaging 19 points and eight boards. He is one of those players that knows he needs to step up his game when he plays Duke and does so- keep in mind that he only averaged 11.9 points per game for the entirety of last year. Although he doesn’t have nearly the same quickness or skill set that Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger used to terrorize the Blue Devils earlier this season, his strength and bulking frame could pose a problem for Duke inside.

The Bottom Line: Johnson, along with Malcolm Grant, who earned 3rd-Team All-ACC last season, will establish themselves as two of the more talented players in the conference this year. Normally a team with two All-ACC caliber players shouldn’t have a problem finishing in the top half of the conference, but the rest of Miami’s rotation is so thin that this most likely will not happen. The Hurricanes have too many glaring weaknesses at this point to succeed this year.

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Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina

The Rookies

Howdy, folks! The NBA season is finally upon us, and as Duke fans, we are lucky enough to have plenty of former Blue Devils to watch in the league. However, there are four former Blue Devils who may be playing their first years of professional basketball this year – and I’m here to talk about each one of them. We’ll start with a guy who’s been #1 on the court and #1 in all of our hearts here at Crazie Talk for quite some time – Kyrie Irving.

Cheesin'. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

As the first overall pick in the draft (and Duke’s first overall pick since Elton Brand), Kyrie certainly has high expectations for himself for his rookie year. As we were able to see in person (albeit briefly), Kyrie’s ability to change speeds and use his instincts to control the game make him the best point guard prospect in years and earned him comparisons to none other than Chris Paul.

Irving did pretty well in his preseason debut for the Cavs, collecting 21 points on 4-14 shooting and making a living at the free throw line. He struggled in his second preseason contest, but continued to get to the charity stripe with success. Because of Cleveland’s personnel (or lack thereof), it seems likely that the majority of the Cavs offense will come from Irving penetrating and/or getting to the line, or in transition with Kyrie running the break.

From Tom Reed, of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

 The image of Irving leading the break will become a familiar one this season, as the Cavaliers find ways to manufacture offense. After years of searching for secondary scoring in support of LeBron James, they must generate it by committee in a rebuilding season.

Irving has shown the willingness and fearlessness to play that style. In preseason, he averaged 16 points and got to the line 16 times, converting 14 free throws. But is the 6-2, 180-pounder durable enough to absorb the elbows and forearm shivers that come with repeatedly driving the lane?

[Cleveland forward Antawn] Jamison said Irving is still learning some of the finer points of the position but enjoys watching him run the floor and create offense.

“Young fella is going to be all right,” Jamison said. “I try to get on him and try to find weaknesses. But he is tough and he brings it.”

Although Kyrie came off the bench behind Ramon Sessions during the preseason, expect him to get the starting nod sooner rather than later. The Cavaliers’ best chance of success lies with Irving running the show. While the post-LeBron rebuilding process will take some time, having a guy like Kyrie at the helm makes for a bright, bright future.

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Of course, Kyrie is not Duke’s only alum who plans on making his debut in the NBA next week. One of our favorite Dukies ever – Mr. Nolan Smith – will make his NBA debut with the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday against the Sixers. Unlike Kyrie, who has been forced to learn the ropes himself,  Nolan has had the opportunity to learn  under another former Tobacco Road lead guard – Raymond Felton.

Nolan wears Todd Zafirovski pajamas, too. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

From Joe Freeman, of The Oregonian:

When the Trail Blazers introduced Felton and Smith during a June news conference, they touted the duo as the franchise’s present and future at point guard, proclaiming that they would be a fixture in Portland for years to come. Tonight, when the Utah Jazz visit the Rose Garden in the Blazers’ exhibition opener, Blazers fans will get a first look at what this future holds.

There is a bubbling feeling among the Blazers that the team will be a particularly tight-knit group, that chemistry and togetherness will be trademarks of the lockout-shortened 66-game season. This is particularly evident at point guard, where Felton has pushed ego and competition aside to assume a mentorship role with the rookie Smith.

You should definitely check out the rest of Freeman’s piece on the relationship between Ray and Nolan – but it’s safe to say that Nolan is in a great position to start his career. Currently, he stands to be the backup point, paired with another former Dukie – Elliot Williams – as the backup two guard. Aside from the 27-year old Felton, Portland is young in the backcourt – Smith is 23, Williams is 22, and starting SG Wesley Matthews is 25. That core is only going to get better with time – and we know from first-hand experience that Nolan has consistently gotten better over the years. The Blazers should be a pretty decent team this year, and I’m definitely excited to watch Nolan play and progress this year.

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This guy is a beast. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

If you were to tell me that Lance Thomas would be the first player from Duke’s 2010 National Championship team to play in an NBA game, I would have thought (with good reason) that you were crazy. Lance proved the doubters wrong last week as he made the start for the New Orleans Hornets against the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 7 points and grabbing 8 boards in 30 minutes of action. He was much less effective in the Hornets’ second preseason contest, but he may have a shot at making the regular season roster. Though New Orleans has brought in quite a few bodies to fill the frontcourt – Jason Smith, Gustavo Ayon, Emeka Okafor, and Chris Kaman, among others – Hornets coach Monty Williams has been impressed with Lance’s effort thus far.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“There are no issues. Guys get hit in practice, and you don’t want a small thing to turn into a big thing because we didn’t take a day or two off. We’re going to see what we have tonight. It’s an opportunity to get a look at Quincy and Al-Farouq (Aminu) at the three-spot, and Lance has earned these minutes. He’s played hard every single day in practice. All those guys have.”

As an able defender with size and a relentless motor, Lance could very well turn into a high energy glue guy in the league. Here’s to hoping he makes the final cut in N’Awlins.

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Ah, the lone wolf of the pack – Kyle Singler. As many of you know, Kyle elected to remain in Spaininstead of heading back to Detroit to join the Pistons as their second round draft selection. He signed on with Real Madrid for the remainder of the season, after averaging 15 points in nine games for Alicante.

The Kingler enjoys the rain in Spain. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

While many NBA players returned back to the U.S  from European or Chinese leagues, Singler was one of the few who elected to remain overseas.

From NBA.com:

“I thought here in Spain there was good basketball to be played. There was no rush to go to the NBA and play there,” Singler said. “I wanted to come here and play for Madrid, play for a great club and next year have the opportunity to go to the NBA.”

Moving to the Spanish capital has given Singler the chance to play in the Euroleague, where he debuted Wednesday and scored eight points in 24 minutes in Madrid’s 101-83 win over Partizan.

Singler said the Pistons were eager for him to return.

“I haven’t talked to them very much but when I decided to stay I know they were a little disappointed,” Singler said. “But I wasn’t really focused on that. I was making a decision that was best for me.”

It is great to see Kyle doing so well in Spain; his play will almost certainly earn him a raise when he does elect to return to play for the Pistons. Although he may have to deal with idiot fans like this. Either way, we wish him the best of luck for the rest of the year in Madrid.

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Well folks, that’s all we’ve got for now. We’re really looking forward to following these guys as the NBA season starts – and we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on how they’re doing.

Happy Festivus, everyone!