Tales From The Tent: Day 12/13/14- You Win Some, You Lose Some

My fellow Crazies, after a long wait it is finally that time of year- it’s tenting season. I will be bringing you a step by step account of my tenting experience for the next six weeks to give you an inside look at the most sacred tradition at Duke University- tenting.

14 days down
28 to go
12 first year students
1 dream

The second week of tenting claimed two more members of our tent. One was forced to drop due to the pressures of pledging. He was the only member left that was pledging and was not pledging the same fraternity as I was. We began the process with six members of our tent pledging, one of whom dropped during the first week, and now we were down to four. A second member of our group also was forced to stop tenting at the end of this week because she had been accepted to a program that travels to Costa Rica over our spring break this year. The Carolina game is the first day of our spring break, so she would be unable to attend. It didn’t make much sense for her to continue tenting, to say the least. So we welcomed two new members to our tent in their place, two girls that live on my floor in Giles. With that there had already been 15 people that were members of Tent FF in the first two weeks.

As our second week of tenting drew to a close, we could tell it was going to be a long tenting season. The amount of juggling and multitasking I was forced to endure was starting to take its toll on me. Sleep was not really much of an option at this point- on any given night if I wasn’t up late pledging, I was sleeping in the tent. Though the second week of tenting was unseasonably mild (temperatures in Durham were often in the mid-60’s and even touched 70 degrees at some points), the weather was starting to cool down and a February chill was returning to the air. When you’re forced to put up with the obscene time commitments associated with schoolwork, tenting, and for some of us pledging, a lack of sleep can come back to haunt you. One by one over the course of the week, members of my tent began to get sick. I suppose that when you’re overworked to begin with, sleeping outside in the cold doesn’t really help. I had been battling a lingering cold for the better part of tenting and it really started to catch up with me over the course of this weekend. It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to sleep at all, let alone in the tent, and it was around then when symptoms of viral conjunctivitis (aka pink-eye) began to set in. This would knock me out of the tent for a few days as I recovered and waited to become less contagious.

Friday night was possibly when I was at the worst point in this sickness. My throat was sore, my voice was gone, I was exhausted, and to make matters worse, I had a tent shift from 7-9 that night. The sun had gone down and it was starting to feel really cold. I was feeling like crap and it was a Friday night so I wasn’t going to get any work done, so I went inside the tent and decide to sleep through the rest of my shift. I wake up around 8:30 and check my phone, only to find a strange email from a person I don’t know. I opened it:

Hi Daniel,

Someone turned in a MacBook computer that I believe belongs to you. I’m sure you have been looking for it. It was left in the Center for Living parking lot. I’m not sure how it got there, but we have it here at Duke Integrative Medicine. The battery was dead when we got it, so I took it home to charge it and find out who it belonged to. I saw your name and email when I turned it on. So you can come pick it up at the front desk at your convenience. We will be open tomorrow from 9:00am – 2:30pm. Feel free to call before you arrive. Take care.

What came next was one of the strangest mixtures of joy and confusion that I’ve ever encountered. My thoughts raced as I tried my best to fathom that I was actually going to see my computer again, but there were still so many things that didn’t make sense to me.

  1. I had never been to Duke Integrative Medicine before. In fact, I didn’t even know where it was located.
  2. The e-mail said nothing about the other items that were stolen from me. Does that mean that they were all together or was my computer just sitting in a parking lot by itself.
  3. If that was the case, if someone was going to take my stuff why would they leave what was far and away the most valuable item?
  4. If they were going to ditch my computer somewhere, why would someone leave my computer at a medical clinic on campus?
  5. I had never been to Duke Integrative Medicine before.

So the next morning, after a quick trip to student health to confirm that I had pink-eye (which of course was viral, so they could do nothing for it), I headed over with a friend to Duke Integrative Medicine. It was actually on campus, but a little bit more on the outskirts than I had ever traveled before. We pulled up to the building and I was able to confirm that I had never seen this place in my life. I ventured inside and approached the front desk, and of course the woman there knew who I was. I’m operating under the assumption that I was probably the only person walking in there asking for a computer that morning. The woman who had emailed me was not there, but would later tell me that the computer was found by itself in the parking lot, and there was no sign of my bookbag, camera, or keys. I would later discover that the computer was never used during the week it was out of my possession and there was not so much as a scratch on it. It was a Festivus miracle, of sorts, and the only reason why it was slightly inconvenient was because I had given up hope of ever seeing it again and bought another computer. But in the grand scheme of the things, returning that would be far less inconvenient than what I might have been faced with otherwise.

Some surprises are the good kind and some aren’t as good, and unfortunately for us that was the best surprise we would encounter all weekend. It was much less pleasant when Duke surprised us by dropping a second home game at Cameron the next day, falling to Miami 78-74 in overtime.

Duke had no answer for Reggie Johnson inside, especially in the first half (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

It was a tale of two halves for Duke, allowing Miami to jump all over them inside during the first half to build up a 14-point halftime advantage. The lead would be as many as 16 in the second half before the Blue Devils came alive. They played inspired basketball down the stretch, knocking down shots from all over the floor and getting crucial defensive stops, something they had been unable to do virtually all season. As they continued to shave the lead down the stadium was rocking and the Crazies brought the noise. They were able to briefly take the lead with just a few minutes remaining in the game, but Miami fought back to keep within striking distance. When it was all said and done, Austin Rivers had two shots at the line. Duke was trailing by one with just over 20 seconds to go in regulation when Rivers missed the front end and knocked down the second. The Hurricanes had the chance to win the game on their next possession, but Miles Plumlee stepped up on the defensive end and shut down Miami’s Reggie Johnson- they didn’t even get a shot off.

Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook stepped up as leaders on the floor against Miami (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Overtime was another story for the Duke, as they fell behind early and trailed by as many as six points halfway through the period. For a team that spent so much time clawing its way back into the game, you’d have thought that they didn’t have the energy to finish this one off. But it appeared that we were refusing to lose. A three by Ryan Kelly and a jam by Mason Plumlee later, it was back to a one-point game, and Quinn Cook (who had been playing the game of his life, by the way) found himself with a chance to give Duke the lead back with 27 seconds left. He missed both free throws, but Duke would get the ball back when Johnson missed two free throws of his own. We would have one more chance to steal this game away, but Quinn threw up some kinda of inexplicable runner in the lane on our last possession and Miami pulled down the board. They would take the game 78-74 after Duke missed its last sixfree throw attempts in regulation and overtime.

With the first Carolina game looming just days away, many took mixed feelings away from this loss. Yes, the team had dropped another game at home to a serviceable, but inferior opponent, but it had also just played its best half of basketball we’d seen all year (discounting overtime). We were all a bit worried for what we might see this team bring to Chapel Hill later that week, but at this point all we could do was just wait and see. It was just one of those weekends. You win some, you lose some.

Be sure to check out the rest of Dan’s tenting diary! Links galore below:

Pre-tenting: It Begins
Day 1: Welcome to K-Ville
Day 2: From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Day 4/5: Into The Storm
Day 7: Losing Momentum
Day 9: The Other Side of Duke Basketball
Day 12/13/14: You Win Some, You Lose Some
Day 15: The First Taste
Day 18: Insanity
Day 26: When One Comeback Isn’t Enough
Day 29/30: I’ve Been Dreaming Of A White Tenting
Day 35/36: Taking Out The Trash
Day 40: It Gets Personal
Day 41: One Force, One Fight
Day 42: Go To Hell Carolina

Tales From The Tent: Day 9- The Other Side of Duke Basketball

My fellow Crazies, after a long wait it is finally that time of year- it’s tenting season. I will be bringing you a step by step account of my tenting experience for the next six weeks to give you an inside look at the most sacred tradition at Duke University- tenting.

9 days down
32 to go
12 first year students
1 dream

A week into tenting and pledging, I was tired, stressed, and computerless, but Duke basketball (and tenting) never stops, so neither do I. Fresh off our first successful tenting game, it was time to turn around and do it all over again. For our second tenting game, we set out to watch the Duke women’s team take on UConn in a marquee matchup of top-5 teams. This was the first of two women’s game we would have to attend for tenting purposes.

I had been to a few women’s game already this year, but for most of my friends it was their first experience with the Duke women’s team. In my spare time I serve as one of the women’s basketball beat writers for The Chronicle, so I had already covered the team quite a bit over the course of the year and was familiar with their players and style. For those of my friends who were seeing the team play for the first time, it was not the best representation of how good this team is. Duke shot 24.6% on the game and only made 17 field goals en route to a 61-45 loss, despite committing just 14 turnovers on the game. The team would rebound to win its next three games.

The student section was a moderate size for the game, but overall it was quite disappointing. For a university with such a rich and deep tradition for basketball, the support that Duke’s women’s team gets is quite atrocious, in my opinion. Earlier this season, Duke’s fanbase caught the national headlines for decreased attendance at men’s basketball games (numbers which were slightly misreported, by the way), but the general apathy among the student body for the women’s team is quite unsettling. Duke is a basketball school, not a men’s basketball school, so why don’t we start acting like it? The team has only averaged 5,320 fans per game this year, while other comprable programs consistently draw bigger crowds. When the Blue Devils traveled on the road to face Kentucky, they played in front of a crowd of 14,508 at Rupp Arena.

The worst part about it is, people here generally understand how good this team is, they just choose to ignore it. This is arguably the best team on campus we’re talking about! This is an issue that the team has not chosen to deal with as well. Head coach Joanne P. McCallie said that one of the things she want to do when she took the job at Duke was to increase attendance, and that has simply not happened. In fact, all of the attention the team got from the student body when Gail Goestenkors was at the helm has essentially been erased. Everyone here says “it’s just women’s basketball”, but this is one of the best teams in the country, and they play against top competition every season. Five teams in the ACC are currently ranked, not to mention Duke squares off with UConn on an annual basis. But for some reason students just don’t get it, and I can’t help but feel like you can chalk it up to anything more than pure sexist bullshit.

But anyway, that’s my diatribe about attendance at women’s basketball games. Once again all 12 of us attended the game, and it was disappointing that Duke did not put forth its best effort against one of the most talented teams in the nation. I’ve had the pleasure of covering this team up close and personal for most of the season, and am confident that they have the tools to make a very deep tournament run this season. They are also some of the nicest athletes I’ve corresponded with during my time as a journalist at Duke. They truly appreciate any support the student body can give them, and I am convinced that they deserve much more than they are getting right now.

I applaud the line monitors for making two women’s games a part of the tenting schedule for the year, but simply putting the games on a schedule is not going to assure students will start to care or even attend the game. The way line monitors check to see if you attended a game is by tracking a student’s ID to make sure they swiped in. Students can just as easily walk through the student entrance and swipe in and then walk straight out the other side as they can stay for the game, and for the women’s games in particular that is what a lot of people do, and it’s simply wrong. If anything, this calls for some sort of a change in the system, but above all I think it’s about time that other students here started to realize that they are lucky enough to have not one, but two incredibly talented basketball teams to watch this season.

As I walked back to my tent and by the time I was inside I was fuming, mostly because of the general lack of respect but also because I just watched a team shoot under 25% from the floor. I thought about everything I had set out to accomplish through tenting, everything that my neighbors in K-Ville were willing to sacrifice to get into one men’s basketball game, and clearly the reward is worth making these sacrifices. But most Duke students aren’t willing to walk up just before game time and take a couple hours out of their lives to watch one of the best women’s teams in the country play? That’s just sad.

Be sure to check out the rest of Dan’s tenting diary! Links galore below:

Pre-tenting: It Begins
Day 1: Welcome to K-Ville
Day 2: From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Day 4/5: Into The Storm
Day 7: Losing Momentum
Day 9: The Other Side of Duke Basketball
Day 12/13/14: You Win Some, You Lose Some
Day 15: The First Taste
Day 18: Insanity
Day 26: When One Comeback Isn’t Enough
Day 29/30: I’ve Been Dreaming Of A White Tenting
Day 35/36: Taking Out The Trash
Day 40: It Gets Personal
Day 41: One Force, One Fight
Day 42: Go To Hell Carolina

Tales From The Tent: Day 7- Losing Momentum

My fellow Crazies, after a long wait it is finally that time of year- it’s tenting season. I will be bringing you a step by step account of my tenting experience for the next six weeks to give you an inside look at the most sacred tradition at Duke University- tenting.

7 days down
34 to go
12 first year students
1 dream

So I know what you’re thinking…the opening of my tenting diary ran about three weeks ago, so how are we only at day seven now? The obvious answer is I got behind on my tenting diaries, but it wasn’t due to pledging or school. In fact, there’s a pretty good reason for it. It’s a long story, in fact it will take multiple posts to complete, but here goes nothing:

Our first week of tenting was finally drawing to a close. After surviving the elements, our first roster substitution, and the perils of scheduling for our first seven days, it was time for us to enter the next phase of tenting- games. As I outlined in my overview of the tenting rules, tenting is about much more than being in the tent day and night. For tents like us that began on the first night of the black or blue tenting period, our tent number (which is our spot in line) is determined purely by game attendance. For blue tents, there are six home games (four men’s and two women’s) that count toward our tent number. There are twelve members in each tent, and for every member that attends a game, your tent receives a point. You do the math- that’s a total of 72 possible points over the course of three weeks. For the eight other blue tents that started the first night with us, the next three weeks would determine the order of tents 12 through 19. Our goal was to have every tent member at every game so we could be first in line behind the black tents.

Our first tenting game was January 28 when Duke was set to take on St. John’s. The morning started like many other had over the course of our first week- with a tent check. The siren rang around 6:45 a.m., painfully early for a Saturday morning, but this wasn’t just any Saturday morning- it was game day. I had been sleeping in the tent the previous night, so I emerged from my tent after about three hours of sleep with five of my tentmates and passed the check. After we passed the check, we were given grace until after the game, but for most of us that didn’t mean we could simply leave. Game days during tenting season are interesting because they are where the practices of lining and tenting collide.

Lining for normal games is a common practice for Duke students, and the rules are simple: you register at any point on a game day with a group of two to six people and receive a group number, and from that point onward half of your group has to be in K-Ville. The twist though, during tenting season, line monitors are adamant that there is a difference between being in line and being in your tent. Many groups will register the night before an ACC game, but in order to do that they will be forced to leave the “comfort” of their tents and sleep on the sidewalk in front of Cameron. Many die-hards that aren’t currently tenting will choose to participate in this as well, but in a way tenting actually puts you at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to lining.

So after the check we immediately moved ourselves over to the sidewalk and registered in line. Many took this opportunity to get some extra sleep, bringing their sleeping bags along with them. By registering all six of us into two separate groups, all twelve members of our tent were guaranteed to make it into the first tenting game. I know it seemed like we had quite a bit of time to kill before gametime, but keep in mind that this was a 12:00 p.m. tip, so we’re used to being in line for longer periods of time. For this game the doors would open at 10:30 a.m., so it was just a few hours to kill. Luckily, there was some excitement in K-Ville to keep us awake and entertained. Around 7:30 K-Ville came alive when a group of pledges from another fraternity came to perform their pledge task for the day- create an awesome pregame atmosphere in K-Ville. They succeeded, breaking out two large speakers and blasting some music to get the blood flowing. Not to mention they brought cornhole, and who doesn’t love a good game of cornhole. As the morning wore on people began to mill around and get ready for the game as the line grew. Before I knew it, I was in the midst of the best pregame atmosphere I’d encountered all year. There was a certain electricity in the air, but no pressure. We were all just there to have a good time.

Andre Dawkins added 14 points in Duke's win over St. John's (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

After an exciting morning capped off by a free Bojangles breakfast courtesy of the line monitors, it was time to go get Crazie. The doors to Cameron opened as students flooded in. After our usual 90 minute wait in the stands, the game finally got underway and Duke jumped out to a huge lead in the first half. They were firing on all cylinders, and it looked as though they were mounting an emphatic response after their home loss to Florida State. Not only did the team look great in the first half, but St. John’s was certainly one of the most entertaining teams we had faced this season. Their roster was like a list of examples of what not to name your firstborn son, headlined by guys named Gods’gift Achiuwa and Sir’Dominic Pointer (who immediately became a crowd favorite and actually flipped the Crazies the double bird after he fouled out). The team struggled mightily in the second half, however, mostly on the defensive end. St. John’s Moe Harkless went off in the second half en route to 30 points and 13 rebounds. The Red Storm were able to close the gap to single digits, but it was too little too late as the Blue Devils escaped with an 83-76 win. After the game Coach K was clearly upset with the team’s performance in the second half, as he should have been. The team was equally disappointed with its defensive effort in the past, and treated the game almost like it was another loss.

Speaking of losses…here comes the part of the story where you start to figure out what set me back so far in my tenting diaries. I was in the midst one of my busier days of the year on the day of the St. John’s game, but it was all about to come to a grinding halt. I had spent most of the morning working on a feature for The Chronicle, where I serve as one of the beat writers for the women’s basketball team. I had spent most of the week compiling interviews for it, and it was set to run first thing Monday morning. I had scheduled to have it copy edited at the office directly following the game, so as soon as the game let out I went over to my tent to grab my stuff and head over. Only problem was, my bag wasn’t there. After spending a solid 15 minutes searching the tent to see if it had ended up getting moved around by one of my tentmates before the game, there was still no sign of it. I went outside to start calling other members of my tent to see if someone had picked it up by mistake, but it was to no avail. My bookbag had been stolen out of my tent from K-Ville during a Duke game. Not only was my bag gone, but my laptop, camera, and keys to my room were inside it as well.

So there’s your explanation as to why it’s taken me so long to get back to writing, and unfortunately why there are very limited pictures left over from these days. If you think this is the last you will hear of this story, think again, there is certainly more. Luckily I was able to carry on for the rest of that day without a computer and did not have any schoolwork that was due on it, though my feature was lost and would never see its day in print. There was nothing left to do, so all I could do was sit in the chair outside of my tent in utter disbelief. What I had previous thought was impossible had happened- someone had violated the sanctity of K-Ville. It was a bitter ending to an otherwise eventful day.

Be sure to check out the rest of Dan’s tenting diary! Links galore below:

Pre-tenting: It Begins
Day 1: Welcome to K-Ville
Day 2: From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Day 4/5: Into The Storm
Day 7: Losing Momentum
Day 9: The Other Side of Duke Basketball
Day 12/13/14: You Win Some, You Lose, Some
Day 15: The First Taste
Day 18: Insanity
Day 26: When One Comeback Isn’t Enough
Day 29/30: I’ve Been Dreaming Of A White Tenting
Day 35/36: Taking Out The Trash
Day 40: It Gets Personal
Day 41: One Force, One Fight
Day 42: Go To Hell Carolina

Section 17: Legendary

Eight miles. Two powerhouses. 92 years. Nine national championships. Thirty-six ACC tournament championships. A 38-37 head to head matchup favoring Duke before Wednesday night.  College basketball doesn’t get much better than this.

Austin goes for three of his game high 29 points against Harrison "The Black Falcon" Barnes. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

On Wednesday night, Duke and Carolina lived up to the hype – and then some – in an epic matchup that will go down as one of the best games in the history of this storied rivalry.

And what a game it was. Duke executed its offense to perfection for much of the first half, scoring at a torrid pace while keeping UNC at bay. Tyler Zeller seemed like the only Heel interested in scoring, carrying the load on offense while characters like Harrison Barnes remained completely invisible.

Just as our good friend Shane over at Grantland put it– it was beautiful, but it was also terrifying. Obviously we weren’t expected to win this game. But to be playing this well – or rather, shooting this well – was completely unexpected. Had the night that we had all been waiting for – the night where Duke finally puts it all together – finally arrived?

Yes and no. In a blur of a finish in the first half, Carolina somehow managed to lead by three at the half. Mental errors, miscues, and a few missed shots gave UNC a small window of opportunity, and they capitalized. Momentum was on their side. Duke needed to recover, and recover fast. Conventional logic would imply that the result of the game would depend on how Duke started the second half.

But of course, this was Duke and Carolina. Conventional logic doesn’t always apply.

Prince Harrison Barnes woke up from his game-long slumber and the combination of Henson and Zeller absolutely dominated the glass. 45-40. Then 50-42. Another Barnes layup made it 54-44. The Dean Dome was electric, the crowd amped up, and the Heels were on fire. Prince Harry and Austin traded baskets (threes, for the most part) but Duke was going to need one hell of a defensive effort to get back into this thing. Those stops didn’t seem to come. For the better part of ten game minutes, Duke and Carolina traded baskets, the lead fluctuating from eight to twelve, Duke unable to make a dent in what seemed like an insurmountable lead. With 5:29 left in the half, Kendall Marshall drove into the lane and connected with freshman James Michael McAdoo for an emphatic dunk. 77-66. The nail in the coffin. This one was going to hurt (hell, it already hurt) – because we had played so damn well.

Don't even know how to caption this photo. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Fast forward to the 2:30 mark in the second half. Coming out of a Carolina time out, K ran a play to get Ryan Kelly open at the top of the key. Airball. But wait – the refs rule that Henson had tipped the ball – and Duke would get another chance at chipping away at the 82-72 deficit.

To relive these final two minutes, check out the incredible video put together by @DukeBluePlanet on what was to become quite the comeback.

Tyler Thornton, the unsung hero of Maui, spots up for a three. 82-75. We had cut it down to seven before, only to give up another basket on the other end. But out of nowhere, Mason Plumlee somehow ends up with the ball. He gets the ball to Tyler, who throws the ball over Ryan Kelly’s head – what the hell is going on? Boom. Seth Curry drains a three. 82-78. We’ve got a ball game.

Now, more than ever, we need a stop. Duke fans everywhere – including myself – are willing to barter anything with the basketball gods. And they deliver. Barnes drives into the lane, one-on-four, and Ryan draws a huge charge. Schadenfreude.

The next trip down the floor, Ryan is feeling it – but his three attempt hits the back rim. Henson grabs the long rebound – WAIT. Ryan gets his own board and realizes that no UNC player makes an attempt to defend him. He buries the 15-footer. 82-80.

And now the crowd is back into it. They go to Zeller on the next play – as they should have done all game – who draws a cheap foul on Mase. Somehow he bricks the first – and now we can taste it. He drills the second, but Duke has the ball and all the time in the world. 83-80.

We’ve got momentum on our side, but Duke’s offense stalls. Coach K calls his final timeout with 20.3 seconds left. The past fifteen minutes – only two minutes in game time – have been an eternity. Carolina had the game in hand – but as Austin Rivers would say postgame, “we never gave up…Coach K kept believing in us and telling us that we could do it.”

The play is designed for Kelly, whose errant three is somehow tipped in by Zeller. It’s ruled a two. One of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen in a basketball game – especially since Zeller had no reason to touch the ball. 83-82.

Zeller is fouled immediately and heads to the line. He makes the first. Misses the second, and Mason comes down with the board. He looks to get the ball to one person and one person only: Austin Rivers.

He brings the ball up, calling for a Mason Plumlee screen. He moves to his right, drawing Zeller off the switch. Rivers with the jabstep. Zeller backs away, anticipating a drive towards the basket. What is he doing? He’s taking too long. This is unreal. Seth is in the right corner, screaming, “Go! Go! Go!” as the seconds tick away. One dribble, and he sets his feet.

Disbelief. Shock. Confusion. Elation. Pure, unadulterated joy. All in one moment.

One thousand words. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Zero. Game over. A collective roar of victory resounds through the grounds of East and West campuses. The celebrations in the Dean Dome and on the Main Quad begin. Legendary is really the only way to describe it.

Benches burned, illicitly, of course, on East campus, as freshmen experiencing their first win over UNC. But they quickly make their way over to West, where the recently maligned Cameron Crazies have gathered to revel and celebrate their beloved Blue Devils. This party quickly makes its way to Cameron, as word spreads that the team will make their triumphant return just past midnight.

Austin received quite the warm welcome as he made his way through the raucous crowd. He’s been called selfish, arrogant, and cocky. But on this night, he’s all smiles – celebrating with his team on what he called the “best day of his life”.

Coach K has been vocal about this team this season, especially their inconsistent effort, poor defense, and the lack of a true leader. Wednesday night was a huge step in the right direction. They fought, they defended against one of the best teams and the country, and most importantly, they played their hearts out. Austin became a Duke legend – and grew into the leader that this team truly needs.

Of course, this team still has a great deal of work to do to become a contender for a Final Four, but we can always talk about that later. Right now, this win feels pretty damn good.

Let’s go Duke.

Sizing Up the Canes: A Conversation with Category 6

Tomorrow, Duke will meet Miami in Cameron Indoor for the first time this season. We got to speak with a few guys at Category 6, a site dedicated to Hurricanes athletics, to get a better idea of what to expect from the U. We answered a few of their questions as well – you can check them out here.

Crazie-Talk: What’s different about this year’s Miami squad – as compared to last year?

Category 6: First off there are new players.  Most notable is Kenny Kadji, who has at times played like an all conference player. He’s 6’11 and athletic, and can even step out and hit the three. Trey McKinney Jones is a solid G/F who can knock down jumpers, defend and pass. And finally Shane Larkin is the “true” point guard Miami has not had in some time.  His presence allows Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant to play off the ball and focus more on scoring.
The biggest difference however, is the coaching. Coach Larranaga seems to keep his players in it better then Coach Haith did. While we wish Coach Haith luck at Mizzou his tenure was marked by the ‘Canes inability to close out close games. As far as X’s and O’s Miami has changed primarily zone to man-to-man on defense this year, with occasional “scramble” (half court traps) mixed in.

CT: What do the Hurricanes do best? Where do they struggle the most?

Category 6:  The ‘Canes are at their best when they play balanced offensively. They have a number of guys (most notably Scott, Grant, Kadji, Reggie Johnson, and McKinney-Jones) who can score in double figures. They struggle at times rebounding (even since Johnson’s return) and for whatever reason they have let a number of players have monster games against them individually by not closing out on long-distance shooters. Fortunately, the ‘Canes have improved on that area of the game during their recent run. Still, Duke has the ability to hit the 3 in bunches, so Miami will have to be aggressive and active to have a  chance to keep the game close.

CT:  Malcolm Grant and Durant Scott lead the team in scoring at around 13 points per game. Other than those two, who should Duke worry about the most?

Category 6: Kenny Kadji is more then capable of going for 20. As mentioned he is an athletic 6’11 250 pound forward/center who can score  in the post, face up and drive, or nail threes. If Kadji gets going hes very very hard to defend. What’s scariest is he seems to be improving as the season progresses in all aspects of his game. (he sat out the last two seasons with injuries and having transferred from UF).

Beside Kadji, Shane Larkin is capable of having a big game on both ends of the floor. Larkin has had some freshman moments but he is a blur taking it to the hoop or picking pockets. Additionally Austin Rivers and Larkin were high school rivals, so he may be extra fired up to face his old adversary.

CT:  How has Larranaga done in his first year? Was he an upgrade over Haith? How do you feel about Haith’s immediate success at Missouri?

Category 6: I think almost all UM fans are thrilled with Coach L. In fact the athletic department extended his contract through 2019. We do feel he is an upgrade.  The team seems a bit more organized. Turnovers are down.  Miami has been handicapped with suspensions, and injuries since the summer.  Larranaga has done an incredible job weathering it all and keeping the ‘Canes focused. Coach Haith is a total class act, so we wish him the best. We did not agree with everything he did basketball-wise at UM, but he recruited well and left Coach L a lot of talent to work with. He also inherited a ton of talent at Missouri which may explain some of his success.

CT: Duke hasn’t been dominant in Cameron this season. Do the ‘Canes have what it takes to beat Duke on Sunday?

Category 6: Absolutely. Miami has experience, talent, and an excellent coaching staff. Durand Scott comes in playing the best basketball of his career the last few games. That being said, “hasn’t been dominant” means what? Duke actually lost a game? LOL. We know Duke will come to play, especially at home, and Miami will need to play its best game of the year to pull off the big upset.
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Thanks to the guys at Category 6 for the Q&A! We sincerely hope that they lose tomorrow.