Math 9314: Into the Trenches

Two hard-fought conference victories later, Duke sits atop the ACC as the only undefeated team. Despite trailing throughout the first half against both Virginia and Clemson, the Blue Devils were able to rally and overcome the adversity they faced. As Duke continues to grind out close victories and its top non-conference foes continue to win and rise in the rankings, the Blue Devils’ strength of schedule this year continues to look even more remarkable. Let’s take a look back at Duke’s past two victories using our motion chart and advanced metrics and see what the box scores from these games did not tell you:

Mason put his running hook to the test against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Virginia:
Duke was able to eek out a close win against Virginia, but its safe to say that they were letting the Cavaliers play their game. Virginia slowed down the tempo of the game and kept the pace steady in half-court sets, and it showed for Duke statistically. The Blue Devils’ 61 points accounted for Duke’s lowest scoring output of the year, and it was just the first time all year they had won a game when scoring fewer than 68 points. The highest GameScore for Duke against Virginia was a mere 8.6 for Mason Plumlee, who shot an efficient 5-of-6 from the field but left quite a few points at the foul line, shooting just 2-for-10 on the game. With 12 points, Plumlee was Duke’s leading scorer, accounting for the lowest point total for Duke’s leading scorer since Tom Emma and Vince Taylor led the way with 12 apiece in a Duke loss to Maryland on January 9, 1982 in Mike Krzyzewski’s second year as the Blue Devils’ head coach. The final score of the game was 40-36. Duke scored 10 points in the second half. However, Duke’s consistency showed through against Virginia, with four players scoring in double figures the GameScores were reasonably consistent. Six of the eight Duke players that saw the floor against Virginia had GameScores between 5.1 and 8.6. It wasn’t pretty, but it was definitely a team effort out there.

You'd probably find this picture in the dictionary under "swag". (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Clemson:
Although it took a little time to get started up, Duke returned to its usual form in a 73-66 win over Clemson. Andre Dawkins led the way for the Blue Devils with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5-for-9 from behind the arc. With a tremendous GameScore of 20.0, this was the first time Dawkins had scored above 6.9 in a game in nearly a full month. The last time he accomplished that was in Duke’s win over UNC-Greensboro on December 19. But while Dawkins success was quite visible through his scoring output, some might argue that he was nearly overshadowed by the play of Miles Plumlee. Miles scored just six points, but pulled down 14 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end, in just 23 minutes. This accounted for an Oreb% of 29.81%, which statistically speaking is practically off the charts. As he continues to come on strong in the midst of his senior year, Miles can’t help but remind us of another Duke player from not too long ago. And in case you don’t remember, things turned out quite wellfor that team. Meanwhile, against Clemson Mason Plumlee played his usual Mason Plumlee game, scoring 12 points and adding seven rebounds on just an 18.55% Usage%. Mason’s performance was good for a GameScore of 9.8 as he continues to show consistency on the offensive end.

Can you say "dunk face"? (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

What We Learned:
Andre Dawkins is back in an upswing-After struggling for most of December and the beginning of January to the point where he often looked invisible on the floor, Dawkins is beginning to find his form again. After playing what Coach K called “his best defensive performance of the season” against Virginia, Dre exploded against Clemson in one of those classic “Andre Dawkins can’t miss a shot” games. Dawkins is playing some of the quality basketball we saw from him in the early part of the season, and at this point we just hope he can keep it up. He has the potential to be one of the greatest weapons in the ACC off the bench.

This team continues to fade in and out, but at some point it just has to click- It seems as though every player on this team has gone through its fair share of ups and downs this season with the exception of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Though that is not ideal, it is good to see who is stepping up at this point in the season. The beginning of the season was all about Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly and then Austin Rivers began to take over in December, but now with Seth and Austin struggling Miles Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Andre Dawkins are picking up their slack. You have to think that sometime soon Rivers and Curry will get back on top of their games, and if everyone else can continue to produce this team has the potential to be very scary down the stretch.

Section 17: Punching Back

Duke won a hard-fought battle in Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday, defeating Clemson 73-66 to remain the lone unbeaten team in ACC play.

Andre had no trouble dominating in Littlejohn Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Clemson started the game off with a quick 6-0 run that might have led many a Duke fan to flashback to February 4th, 2009, when Clemson beat the living daylights out of Duke in the very same building. The quick start from Clemson led Coach K to pull a wholesale five-for-five substitution – something he’s rarely ever done – to jump start the squad. The Devils punched back with a 15-2 run of their own. Andre Dawkins then proceeded to proverbially “make it rain”, draining five three pointers  and throwing down a monstrous dunk for good measure.

Duke nursed a four point lead at the break and played much of the second half with a decent lead, but Clemson simply did not go away. The Tigers closed the gap to four on a K.J McDaniels jumper to make it 65-61, but Dawkins drilled a three-pointer on the next possession to put the game, as Chick Hearn would say, in the refrigerator.

A few more thoughts on the game, in bullet form:

  • Coming off of a great win at home against a strong Virginia team, Duke could have laid an egg (like, ahem, some other squad) on the road this weekend. It was great to see this young team walk into what could have been a bear trap, take a few punches, and fight right back.
  • Andre stepped up with his best performance since the win against Michigan State. And this game followed what Coach K called the “best defensive game of his career” against Virginia. The biggest issue to date with Andre has been consistency – on both ends of the floor. If Dre can provide offensive firepower and play good quality defensive minutes off the bench night in and night out – this team will improve that much more.
  • Speaking of consistency: Austin Rivers has struggled to score consistently during the past few games. Rivers scored a season-low four points on 2-7 shooting. Some of his recent struggles can be attributed to the fact that he has been matched up with taller players on the opposing team, but for the most part, Rivers has simply not shot the ball well. In five games so far in 2012, Rivers has shot a combined 16-44 from the floor – good for 36.3%. Let’s hope he can break out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later.
  • It’s a shame that none of our three stud shooting guards – Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins – have been “on” on the same night thus far. All it takes is for two of the three to be on the same page – and Duke becomes nearly unstoppable. Taking it the opposite way – if only one, or worse, none of them are shooting well, Duke is in deep trouble. The Temple and Ohio State losses are cases in point.
  • Miles Plumlee had a great game on Sunday – and continues to contribute in a really positive way for this team. He collected 14 boards on Sunday night, six on the offensive end. Although he was responsible for four turnovers, it’s encouraging to see Miles make a concerted effort to get on the glass and extend possessions on offense.
  • Speaking of Plumlees – Mason had another solid game, posting up 12 points and 7 boards. But most importantly – Mason went 4-4 from the free throw line. Let’s repeat that, shall we? Mason went 4-4 from the free throw line. That means he didn’t miss. He’s made his last nine free throws (!!!!) on the road, while making only four of his last fifteen in Cameron. Maybe it’s our fault?
  • Quinn Cook (#nohim) was great in his third consecutive start, registering 10 points and 2 assists and showing a lot of promise.
  • Karl Hess is a clown. The flagrant called on Miles was just ridiculous. There’s really not much you can say – especially after watching the replay.
  • Marshall Plumlee’s interview skills continue to impress. It was hard to imagine anyone taking the DBP spotlight away from the one and only Nolan Smith, but Marshall has quietly become one of the best DBP video hosts – ever. Check out his latest offering below, with quotes from Miles and Dre on their great performances last night. 
That’s all we’ve got for now. Check back with us for more stuff later on this week, including a look ahead to Thursday’s matchup with Wake Forest. Go Duke, and #GTHC.

 

Around the ACC: Week 2

ACC action is now in full swing, and we just capped off the first full week of exciting games. We’ll be examining Duke’s victory over Clemson later today, but for now let’s look into the best games in the past week of ACC action.

January 10- Florida State @ Virginia Tech
Florida State 63, Virginia Tech 59
The Hokies dropped their second straight conference game with a 63-59 loss at home against Florida State. Bernard James led the way for the Seminoles with 18 points and 15 rebounds while Ian Miller added 15 points of his own off the bench. Erick Green carried the load for Virginia Tech, scoring a game-high 21 points but shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor. The Hokies were able to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit, but were ultimately doomed by their poor shooting. Virginia Tech shot just 30.5% from the field on the game. With the score at 61-59 with 17.8 seconds to play, the Hokies had a chance to tie the game, but Green was unable to convert. Two Florida State free throws sealed the victory, rebounding from a crushing 79-59 loss on the road to Clemson to open their ACC schedule.

January 11- Wake Forest @ Maryland
Maryland 70, Wake Forest 64
The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead, going into the half up 40-24, but Wake Forest was able to make a game of it in the second half. Guard Terrell Stoglin, who is the ACC’s leading scorer, came off the bench for just the second time this year and led Maryland with 20 points. However, these points came at a cost, as he shot just 6-of-18 from the field on the night. Travis McKie led the way for the Demon Deacons, tying a career-high 25 points. Wake Forest was able to pull within six at 60-54 with 5:35 remaining in the game, but could not get the deficit to any less than four in the game’s final moments as the Terps escaped with a win.

Mason Plumlee added this electrifying jam to this season's highlight reel against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

January 12- Virginia @ Duke
Duke 61, Virginia 58
Despite a slow start and a late Virginia surge, Duke utilized a balanced scoring effort to knock of the 16th-ranked Cavaliers by a score of 61-58. Mason Plumlee was the Blue Devils’ top scorer with just 12 points, as Duke had four players in double figures on the game. After falling behind early, Duke was able to rally back and take a four-point lead into the half. Virginia controlled the pace throughout the game, employing its typical slow and steady half-court sets. The Blue Devils came out firing in the second half, expanding their lead to 53-42 with just under 10 minutes to play. Virginia hung around, as Mike Scott led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Scott was significantly less effective in the second half than he was in the game’s opening minutes, scoring just seven points after halftime. Duke shot 52.2% from the floor on the game against the toughest defense in the ACC. Meanwhile they held Virginia to just 39.3% shooting from the field. Although Duke led throughout the second half, the Cavaliers were able to pull within three in the game’s waning moments and actually had multiple chances to tie the game, but could not convert on their long-range shots. The loss snapped Virginia’s previous 12-game winning streak.

January 12- Clemson @ Boston College
Boston College 59, Clemson 57
Many thought that Boston College wouldn’t win a game in ACC play this season. They proved the critics wrong in just their second ACC contest, winning a hard-fought home game 59-57 over Clemson. The Eagles were able to pull off the upset despite turning the ball over 15 times and getting out-rebounded by the Tigers 32-21 for the game. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for Boston College. Guard Lonnie Jackson added 14 points of his own for the Eagles while Andre Young led Clemson with 12. The game was tight throughout, with both sides jockeying for position through the second half. Clifford broke the 56-56 tie when he nailed a jumper with 42 seconds remaining. Milton Jennings had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line for Clemson with just 8.7 seconds remaining, but he missed one of his two free throws and the Tigers did not earn another chance.

January 14- North Carolina @ Florida State
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57
We wrote a little bit on this game here immediately following its conclusion, but it was so nice we just had to write it twice. Florida State absolutely manhandled North Carolina in Tallahassee en route to a 90-57 win. The Seminoles had the upper hand from the opening tip as the Tar Heels shot just 37.3% for the game. Deividas Dulkys, who was averaging just 6.2 points per game for Florida State, ripped off a career-high 32 on 12-of-14 from the field, including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc. With the Seminoles holding a 30-point lead for most of the second half, this game was no contest to say the least.

January 14- Virginia Tech @ Boston College
Boston College 61, Virginia Tech 59
Did I mention that Boston College wasn’t supposed to win an ACC game this year? Well they didn’t win just one last week, they won two. The Eagles pulled off the second-biggest upset of the week in the conference, going on the road to Blacksburg, one of the toughest places to play in the ACC, and knocking off the Hokies by a score of 61-59. Virginia Tech dropped to 0-3 on the year in the ACC with the loss, and it looks as though their NCAA tournament chances are already beginning to fade. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for the Eagles while Virginia Tech was without its leading scorer, Erick Green. Forward Victor Davila picked up some of the slack, leading the Hokies with 14 points. The game close throughout, but Boston College was able to open up a 57-47 lead with just 3:40 to play. Virginia Tech was never really able to cut back into the lead, drawing to within two on Jarell Eddie’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. With the Eagles second-straight conference victory they improved to 7-10 on the season.

[table id=30 /]

UNC-Florida State: By The Numbers

I’m not going to lie- Florida State’s drubbing of North Carolina this afternoon was one of the more joyful experiences I’ve had in recent memory. The Tar Heels looked completely lost on the floor as Florida State poured in buckets from all over the floor and North Carolina had no answer. Some fantastic statistics stood out, so let’s take a look at this game by the numbers:

99- Points scored by Seminoles guard Deividas Dulkys in Florida State’s first 15 games this season. Dulkys was averaging 6.2 points per game entering their matchup against North Carolina.

32- Points Dulkys scored against North Carolina. Dulkys had not scored more than six points in a given game since November 26 and was in danger of losing his starting spot.

2- Shot from the field Dulkys missed all game. He shot 12-of-14 from the field including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc.

22- Turnovers on the afternoon for North Carolina, the most turnovers they’ve had in a game all season.

+8- The rebounding margin on the afternoon for Florida State. North Carolina came into the game as the top rebounding team in the nation.

19- Percent shooting for North Carolina from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels made just four 3-pointers on 21 attempts.

8- Assists for the Tar Heels on the afternoon.

9.9- Assists by North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall per game this season.

3- Rebounds by John Henson on the afternoon. Henson is averaging 10.1 rebounds per game this year, which is tops in the ACC. The last time Henson recorded three rebounds in a game was during his sophomore year against Rutgers on December 28, 2010.

44.4- Shooting percentage from 3-point range for the Seminoles. Florida State is ranked dead last in the ACC in long range shooting this season, shooting just a 30.2% clip from beyond the arc before this game. They had not shot 44% from deep since they lost to UConn on November 26, 2011.

90- Points for Florida State on the game, their highest scoring output this season. The Seminoles had not scored 90 points in a game since their 97-63 victory over Stetson on December 15, 2010.

30-8- Run by the Seminoles to start the second half. Florida State only went into the locker room at halftime up eight, but exploded to go up 30 with 11:28 remaining in the game. For Tar Heel nation and apparently Tyler Zeller, it was all over but the crying from there.

42- Days since North Carolina’s last road game. After traveling to Lexington and falling to the Kentucky Wildcats 73-72, the Tar Heels enjoyed nine straight contests at home. Their lack of tests on the road certainly showed this afternoon.

14.2- Number of seconds remaining in the game when Roy Williams pulled his team off the floor. Williams left the floor as well, escaping the ensuing mob.

5- UNC walk-ons, a group that refers to themselves as “Blue Steel”, remaining on the court after the rest of their team left. After playing out the remaining seconds of the game, they had no choice but to face the ensuing stampede.

Hope you had as much fun watching this game as I did. Stay Crazie, my friends.

Duke and Virginia: What to Watch For

A few weeks ago we took a look at Virginia in our ACC preview, and now it’s time for the Cavaliers to come to Cameron to take on Duke. Although the Blue Devils have been the victors of their last 39 games at home, this is not an opponent to take lightly. Virginia comes into the game with a stellar 14-1 record, won the first conference game, and are ranked 16th in the AP top 25. This should be the toughest test Duke faces at home all season before the Tar Heels come to town on March 3rd. The Blue Devils have struggled in their past two outings, so let’s see what they’ll need to do to beat the Cavaliers tonight.

1. Push the tempo
Virginia is a team that likes to play slow, and when I say slow, I mean slow. They are at their best when they grind out defensive games (The Hoos are ranked ninth in the nation in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. Duke is ranked fiftieth). Duke needs to do everything it can to keep Virginia on its toes and uncomfortable as possible, and that means push the ball. Inserting Quinn Cook into the starting lineup recently should help that. Cook’s quickness and playmaking ability allows Duke to move at a faster pace on the floor than when Tyler Thornton or Seth Curry are running the point. When it all comes down to it, Duke scores 82.1 points per game and Virginia allows 50.5 points a game– something’s gotta give. Duke has only won one game this year when it scored fewer than 70 points, so they are going to need to keep the game moving and push Virginia to do the same.

Mike Scott will be a tough matchup for the Blue Devils (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2. Lock down Mike Scott
In a year where Duke and North Carolina are considered to be the upper echelon teams in the ACC, it’s hard to think the Conference Player of the Year will be anyone but a Blue Devil or a Tar Heel. But right now it seems as though Virginia’s Mike Scott is one of the frontrunners for the award. Scott is the go-to-guy in Virginia’s offense, averaging 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this season. Most recently he paced the Cavaliers with 23 points and eight rebounds in their 52-51 victory over Miami on January 7th. Scott is a dangerous scorer and will look to take advantage of the Blue Devils inside. Duke has struggled with interior defense at times this season. If they want to enhance their chances of winning tomorrow, they need to make someone other than Mike Scott beat them.

3. Jump out to an early lead
There’s no better way to make Virginia play a more up-tempo game than forcing them to play from behind early. This was one area where Duke succeeded against Georgia Tech (though they would later relinquish the large lead they had built up in the early stages of the game). The first eight minutes of the game will be crucial ones for the Blue Devils, and will set the tone for the remainder of the contest. If Duke can knock down its shots and jump out to an early lead, it will put Virginia on its toes, but if the Cavaliers stay with the Blue Devils early or jump out to an early lead of their own, we could be in store for a long night in Cameron.

The Plumlee brothers have excelled in the paint as of late (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

4. Control the paint
There’s no two ways about it- Virginia is not a very big team. They have a 7-foot center in their starting lineup, but they have just one other player on their roster that is larger than 6-foot-8. At 6-8 himself, Mike Scott can play like a big man, but the size differential remains nonetheless. Duke needs to take opportunities to feed the ball down low to Miles and Mason Plumlee, who have played fantastic basketball while Duke has struggled as of late. The unsurprising chemistry between the brothers has really started to kick in, and facing a smaller Virginia lineup, they need to assert themselves early and often.

5. Austin Rivers needs to step up
Big players step up in big games, and after struggling in his past three contests you feel like Rivers might be due to break out tonight. It would certainly be a coming-out party for him to explode in a game in front of the home fans against another top 25 team. You can talk about Austin Rivers’ ego all you want, but fact is he is one of the hardest working basketball players in the country, so you know that after three straight subpar performances he is chomping at the bit to show the country what he can really do. If Duke can get the Austin Rivers we saw in December, they will be tough to take down on their home floor.

 

 

Bold Prediction:
The best homecourt advantage in college basketball will rear its head tonight. Duke keeps Virginia at a distance for much of the game, with Mason Plumlee pacing the Devils between the blocks.

Duke 75, Virginia 65

Mailbag: Austin Rivers, Recruiting Updates, and the Best DBP Videos Ever

Happy FDOC, Crazies! Welcome to our first ever mailbag, where we asked you to tweet us some of your most burning Duke basketball questions. Special thanks to all who submitted their queries – we couldn’t have done this without you.

This team has grown a lot since winning the Maui Invitational. #nomee (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Q: What happened to the dominant team we saw in Hawaii? – @AyeJayTwo 

I think we’re not looking as “dominant” as we were in Hawaii because we’re starting to face teams that can really exploit our weaknesses, namely big, athletic guards/SFs who can take our guards off the dribble. That, and we’re starting to play legitimate road games, unlike a certain team 8 miles down the road. From Dec 6-Jan 10, UNC has played 9 home games. In. A. Row. But I digress. We’re 13-2 after a crazy beginning of the season, and we have a very young squad. Even in Hawaii, I don’t think we were ever a dominant team, since it did take quite a bit of luck to take down Kansas. Unfortunately, unless this team has a defensive renaissance, many of our upcoming games will likely be closer than we’d like them to be. [Arun]

Q: Can Duke win it all with Austin playing small forward where he is struggling and having to play against much bigger guys? – @bluedevilrayne 

I’m assuming that you’re suggesting that we shift Austin to the two. The problem with shifting Austin to his natural position at the shooting guard spot is that Seth Curry is already occupying it. We’ve got quite a bit of natural two guard talent on the team right now, with Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins, and since it looks like Coach K is giving Quinn Cook the reins at the point guard spot, Seth Curry will need to stay at the two (since he’s obviously not big enough to be a wing). In my opinion, if we want to have our best scoring/point guard options on the floor, then Cook, Curry, and Rivers need to be on the floor. So back to your question…can we win it all with Austin playing small forward against bigger guys? I’d say yes, but unfortunately, I think this is the best option we have, since we really can’t afford to shift him and consequently lose a huge chunk of our scoring. Of course, there’s also the possibility that we bring in Mike G to the 3 spot, shift Austin to the two, and alternate between Seth/Quinn at the PG. But again, we can’t afford to eliminate Seth’s scoring ability by taking him off the floor for an extended period of time. However, I think that Austin’s gradually becoming a better defender, and he definitely has the physical abilities to be a good one. Let’s just give him some time. [Arun]

Silent G has shown glimpses of awesomeness so far. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Q: Why do Josh and Michael not play more? They are our only true [small forwards]. Throw out the 3 guard crap!@dukies2012 

That’s an interesting question to pose. Really, it comes down to a matter of offense vs. defense. The coaching staff feels that the 3 guard line-up, with whoever it may be on the court, provides better mismatches on the offensive end. There are a plethora of guards on the roster. Any combination of them in the game gives the team great chances to score, and that cannot be overlooked (see Arun’s response to the previous question). At this point in the season, Hairston and Gbinije haven’t quite shown themselves to be huge offensive threats, though both have shown some spurts of success on that end. However, the Temple game showed that the team needs to improve its perimeter defense.  The tail end of the Georgia Tech game also showed that, as Glen Rice Jr. was almost scoring at will. That’s where someone like Gbinije could step in. He has the speed, size, and wingspan needed to excel in stopping that type of player. Hairston is also great on defense, but he is more of a power forward than a small forward and should get his minutes working down low. Now, as a Duke fan, you might be looking ahead to the two dates with Carolina this season and asking yourself who’s going to guard someone like say…Harrison Barnes? Barnes is almost an automatic mismatch, it seems. At this point, it’s unclear, but that certainly could be a role that Gbinije takes on. As the first game with UNC nears, be on the watch for more from us on topics like this. [Scott]

Q: Is anyone working with Rivers on his mid-range game? – @jameezy9

Austin’s been in a bit of a slump lately, no denying that. 9 of 29 shooting in the last 3 games isn’t quite what we’ve come to expect from him, nor is it what he expects out of himself. I can’t say for sure if a coach is working with him on his mid-range game, but it’s likely the case. We can already see how Austin’s made strides in his court vision and passing ability in the few games so far this season, and his mid-range shooting is just another area of his game he will improve. He’s a workhorse and seeks the best out of himself. Just take a look to his Twitter account. His bio reads “Creator of M.o.a.M,” or “Man on a Mission.” And after returning home from the Temple loss, Austin went right back to the gym:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/AustinRivers25/status/154765449668722689″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/AustinRivers25/status/154793716555591680″%5D

In time, the mid-range success will come. Remember, he’s still getting adjusted to the college level and has played only a few games at Duke. The success he’s had so far is definitely a reason to smile. Where Austin may be most effective for the Blue Devils this year though is driving to the basket. No doubt he is the best on the team at getting to the hoop. After that, it’s up to him to decide whether he should finish at the rim or dish it out to someone else if the defense collapses. Again, he’s improved drastically in this area of the game, and look for him only to get better. [Scott]

Q: What’s the 411 on Amile Jefferson? What kind of player is he? Thanks! – @C_Henderson76

Amile Jefferson is a big combo forward from Philly who has stayed steady in the top 25 of most recruiting databases. Scout.com currently lists him as the fourth best power forward in the class of 2012; his measurements stand at 6’9” and 200 lbs. In order to be a highly effective forward in the NCAA, Amile will likely have to add some weight, but that’s not an uncommon goal for players of his height in high school. Not everyone can look like Jared Sullinger right away.

As far as Duke’s involvement with Amile, don’t expect us to land this particular five star prospect. Just last week, Philly.com reported that his final five schools, in no particular order of preference, are Villanova, Temple, Kentucky, Ohio State, and NC State. This would be a coup for the Wolfpack, who have recruited him hard but haven’t had too much success luring talent from the Northeast since Julius Hodge.

However, Amile and his family have made it clear that  “have long been enamored with the Blue Devils”, and word is that he was recently extended an official scholarship offer. Furthermore, according to reports, Coach K and Coach Collins were in Philadelphia on Tuesday night to watch Amile’s Friends Central squad take on Westtown.  [Jake]

Q: What has happened to Duke and Tony Parker?  – @Zak_Spi10
Things aren’t very clear with Tony Parker. According to Scout, he has offers from Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA. Kentucky is entering the contest as well, and Georgetown is coming on strong. I worry about Duke’s chances with Parker. He could develop into a Shelden Williams-type role of bruising rebounder and low block presence–something we haven’t had since, well, Shelden Williams. But our lack of success recruiting this type of player does not bode well considering the competition. Ohio State can pitch their bevy of big men successes, as can Georgetown somewhat. And you can never count out the Kentucky/LeBron/Drake nexus.
My guess is that Parker ends up at Ohio State and Duke moves onto bigger and better things in the coming years, like budding stars Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. [Jake]

Q: “Wouldn’t improving FT shooting be a relatively easy skill for certain Plumlees to improve?” – @WhySharksMatter
The simple answer to this question is yes, free throw shooting should be a fairly easy skill for the Plumlee brothers to improve. But interestingly enough, over the past few games both Miles and Mason have started to exhibit improvement in their free throw shooting. Mason has struggled more from the line this year, shooting 42.2% from the charity stripe to date, but has gone 8/12 from the line in Duke’s past four games. Though that is not ideal, it is an improvement, and as one 80’s rocker once said, two out of three ain’t bad. But it is has been MIles who has made a more prominent improvement in his free throw shooting this year. Although his numbers don’t look fantastic (68.3% on the year), he is shooting 73.7% from the line in Duke’s past 10 games, which is completely respectable for a big man. As Miles continues to assert his presence down low and polish his quickly-improving offensive game, look for him to earn more trips to the line. [Dan]

Q: “What videos comprise the DBP Final 4 of best DBP videos ever?”@dukeblueplanet

This might be the hardest question in our mailbag to answer. DukeBluePlanet has produced 325 videos over the past five years, so narrowing it down to four is a tall order. Feel free to disagree with me on any of my choices, but this is what I’d have to say were the top four in my book:

Honorable Mention: Kyle Gets Buckets
Though the shots were not as impressive as the sequel, Kyle Gets Buckets was the seed that sprung the beautiful flower that was Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0. You wouldn’t have any of the magic that was Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0 without the original, so we need to take a moment and pay homage to the idea that started it all.
4. Top Plays/Senior Night vs. UNC (2010)
Not only does this video show the top plays from one of the most memorable (and cathartic) games in recent Duke history, but it has extra bonus footage of Duke players speaking after the game in their Senior Night celebration. The 82-50 victory is one of the defining moments of Duke’s 2010 national championship season, and it was great to see seniors like Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek speak after such a thrilling win. If a movie critic were to review this video, they might call it the feel-good story of the year. At least I can’t think of anything that brings me a warm and fuzzy feeling more than a 32 point win over North Carolina on Senior Night.
3. A Saturday With Showtime (2009)
The premise of this video is quite simple: you take an ordinary video camera, you hand it to one of the most entertaining figures in the history of Duke basketball, and legends are made. With a trip to Cameron, a glimpse at the freshman version of Ryan Kelly, and a Target run with Nolan and Todd Zafirovski, every second of this video is absolutely priceless. Not to mention everyone loves watching Nolan Smith rock out in his car to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
2. Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0 (2011)
With just 831,000 views, Kyle Got Buckets 2.0 went viral in just a matter of days and is the has the second most views of any DukeBluePlanet video in history. Kyle Got Buckets 2.0 captures the ability of former Duke star Kyle Singler to do what he does best- get buckets. Whether he’s hanging around Kville, jumping off the high dive (which I personally believe is the most underrated shot in the video), or nailing the famous Chapel shot, Kyle gets buckets wherever he goes. Fun fact about the Chapel shot, it took him a grand total of five attempts to make two shots from the top of the 210-foot tall steeple. I’ll give you all a moment to handle your amazement.
1. Duke’s Shining Moment (2010)
Nothing can get better than this. It’s a fact. I enjoy watching CBS’s One Shining Moment video every year after the national championship game, but to see the entire video dedicated to Duke’s championship run is beyond incredible. The video captures the greatest moments of Duke’s run to the Final Four, some of which get lost in translation when looking at the 2010 season, with a prime example being the Blue Devils’ huge victory over Baylor in the Elite 8. Unfortunately there’s not too much I can do to put this video into words, but the feeling that it instills in a Duke fan viewing it is simply indescribable.

Duke in the NBA Update

Last month we looked at former Blue Devils’ movement in NBA free agency and Dukies that were just starting their first NBA season. With the NBA season well underway and the current Blue Devils taking a few days off between their matchup against Georgia Tech and their ACC home opener against Virginia, let’s examine how our former Blue Devils in the pros are faring so far.

Irving's success at Duke has translated to the NBA (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

We have to start with Kyrie Irving, who was the top overall pick in last year’s NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and has started off his rookie year on the right foot. Irving has started all eight games for the Cavs, who sit at 4-4, and is averaging 15.0 points and 5.1 assists per game. His breakout performance thus far was on January 3 against Charlotte, when he scored 20 points on 8-of-10 from the floor and dished out six assists in just 22 minutes. Kyrie has produced for Cleveland thus far, but is taking 12.9 shots per game and is only shooting 43.7% from the floor. He’d like to see that figure increase, but I don’t think anyone would call this a subpar start for a rookie point guard that couldn’t spend the offseason with his team due to the lockout. The Cavaliers are impressed with Irving’s progress, commending him for his leadership qualities, which is not something a rookie typically exhibits in the early going. They expect him to continue to grow into an extremely productive NBA player.

Smith's transition to professional basketball has been a slow one (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Duke’s other NBA rookie this season, Nolan Smith, has played limited minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers. Smith has appeared in four of Portland’s eight games this season, averaging 6.5 minutes and 3.8 points per game. Nolan made his presence felt last Friday night in a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns, logging 14 minutes and scoring six points and adding three assists. Despite the early retirement of Brandon Roy, Smith is at a disadvantage due to the Trail Blazer’s deep and talented guard rotation. Most of the backcourt minutes are split between Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford, and Raymond Felton, all of whom are established NBA guards. This leaves Smith and fellow former Blue Devil Elliot Williamson the outside looking in at times.

Luol Deng will be in charge of guarding LeBron James come playoff time (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Luol Deng has continued to be a consistent weapon for the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are off to an 8-2 start and are arguably the best team in the NBA. Deng is putting up his usual stellar numbers– 15.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on a team with a lot of weapons. He has also been huge on the defensive end for Chicago, and consistently has to match up with the best offensive threats in the NBA. Just today Yahoo Sports published an article proclaiming Deng as “the most underrated player in the NBA“. Deng hopes to make his first All-Star team this season, but would surely settle for an NBA championship ring with the Bulls.

Deng’s Bulls teammate, Carlos Boozer is another reason for Chicago’s success in the early going. Boozer has put up a very respectable 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds this season– not bad for a player that many thought would be a victim of Chicago’s amnesty clause this offseason. He has proved to be a reliable inside threat this year, scoring double digits in all but one of Chicago’s game. His best performance of the year came last Friday, when Boozer posted 20 points and 13 rebounds in a Bulls victory over the Orlando Magic.

The line's a couple feet farther back, but Redick has made his living in the NBA from deep (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Speaking of the Orlando Magic, JJ Redick has appeared in all nine of Orlando’s games this year, scoring 11.1 points per game. He continues to develop a more versatile game, as he has actually struggled a bit from beyond the arc this season. Redick is shooting just 35.7% from 3-point range on the year, down from 39.7% in 2010-2011. He has still asserted himself off the bench as a threat to score in bunches, however. Redick had 21 points in Orlando’s victory over the Toronto Raptors on New Year’s Day and 20 points in a Magic win over the Rockets on December 26. Redick often teams up in the backcourt with his former Duke backcourt teammate Chris Duhon, who is Orlando’s backup point guard. Duhon is averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 assists per game in 19.4 minutes per game this year.

Some things never change- Henderson still throws some vicious dunks down in the NBA (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Another pair of Duke teammates are producing for the Charlotte Bobcats this year. Gerald Henderson has stepped up his game thus far, averaging 14.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Meanwhile, Corey Maggettehas been effective as well, posting 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The Bobcats have struggled on the year with a record of just 2-7. Maggette was also recently injured, and will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a strained hamstring.

Shane Battier was considered one of the top prizes of the NBA’s free agent frenzy. He found a new home this offseason with the Miami Heat and is playing a more limited role in South Beach than he is used to. Shane is playing a career-low 21.3 minutes per game for Miami and is mainly used as a defensive stopper. He is averaging just four points per game and has made just one start for the Heat this season. Clearly there’s not much pressure for him to score with guys named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on his team.

Elton Brand is making the most of his minutes with the upstart Philadelphia 76ers. Though his time on the court has decreased due to the amount of young talent around him, Brand has helped the Sixers to a 6-2 start, their best in quite some time. Elton has played 27.6 minutes per game for Philadelphia this season, which is the least he has played in his entire career. He has contributed 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this year and still has some moves down in the post, but you can tell his history of injuries is really starting to catch up with him. Brand has just one double-double this season, coming on January 4 in a Sixers win over New Orleans when he scored 12 points and added 12 rebounds.

Grant Hill decided to return for a 17th NBA season with the Phoenix Suns, and although he too is playing a more limited role, his age doesn’t seem to be slowing him down too much. Hill has played 26.4 minutes per game for the Suns this year but has started every game for Phoenix. He is posting 9.8 points per game on the year, but it is safe to say Hill’s glory days are behind him as well. With the amount of time he has missed in his career due to injury, some are quite surprised that he is still able to play at age 39.

The landlord now resides in New Jersey, as Shelden Williams has been tearing down boards for the Nets this season. Williams, who is playing for his seventh NBA team in just his ninth year in the league, has made two starts for New Jersey this season, averaging 4.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. His best performance came in a 101-90 loss to the Miami Heat last Saturday in which Shelden scored eight points and pulled down 13 rebounds in 31 minutes of action. He did have some struggles in a recent game against the Indiana Pacers, where he went 1-for-9 from the field and dunked on himself. I think I’ll leave you at that.