你好! Around the World in 13 Days and other Shenanigans

Before you ask, yes, we know we’ve been on hiatus for an eternity. Internships, all of us being away from Duke for so long, and life in general does that to you sometimes. Forgive us…pleeeeeeaaase? We’ll do our best to keep you updated with happenings once the school year starts up again! Remember when we brought you this? And this?

Duke hopes to build team chemistry while taking an incredible excursion to China and Dubai. (Photo DukeBluePlanet.com)

In the meantime, as you all know, Duke is currently in the midst of a worldwide tour, stopping in China and Dubai. I can’t say that I’ve been to Kunshan, Shanghai, or anywhere else in China for that matter. But, I did stop in Dubai’s airport once for an 8 hour layover, which pretty much makes me a citizen, right? It sure seemed like forever…that place is straight BALLIN though, and Duke’s gonna have a great time checking out the sights there. Duke as a university is really committed to internationalizing their brand, and what better way to do it than through our most prominent product: Duke Basketball. This is a venture years in the making, starting with Coach K’s own trip to China with the 2008 US Olympic Team. We’ve also done our best to promote Duke basketball to Chinese audiences by broadcasting games in Mandarin (CT’s own John Sheng was the Mandarin play-by-play announcer for Duke’s home game against UVA last year). And of course, we’re building a beautiful new campus in Kunshan.

Anyways, we’re all anxious as ever to see how the Duke basketball team is going to turn out during the 2011-2012 season. While we could simply mope about what could have been in 2011 IF IT WEREN’T FOR A #&!@$&@ TOE, I’d prefer to take the high road and look to the future with hope. In my opinion, this year’s Duke team is among the most unproven in recent memory. That’s sure to generate a lot of anxiety but a lot of eager anticipation and excitement as well. What’s more fun than watching yesterday’s role players grow into tomorrow’s superstars?

Don’t answer that question.

Hard to believe that these guys are all gone. (DukeBluePlanet.com photo)

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that Duke has lost a ton of legendary scoring, leadership, and talent over the last few years. Losing the entire lawfirm of Singler, Smith, and Scheyer not only set us back legally, but we’ve also lost somewhere around eleventy bajillion points of career scoring. And then, this guy left. And then “that dude” stayed. Seth Curry Saved Duke against UNC but couldn’t save us against Arizona (for the love of God, please don’t click on that Arizona link. It just hurts too much).

Alas, that’s how the college basketball gods are sometimes. One day, they put you on the pinnacle of the mountain, and the next, they Sparta Kick you off the edge. Additionally, it’s incredible how quickly momentum can shift in this one-of-a-kind rivalry of ours. Just at the beginning of last season, Duke fans (myself included) felt practically invincible. We had just won a national title in a whirlwind, near-perfect season, while UNC was licking the bottom of rock bottom.

…But then, these guys went back to sweet home California, started rapping, surfing, and whatever else you do in that damned beautiful state. Kendall Marshall quickly rose to prevalence following Larry Drew’s exodus, and the UNC juggernaut was quickly revitalized. To be completely honest, this seems like deja vu all over again. It really does almost seem like our freshman year (2009), when Duke was unproven and UNC returned all of their star power. I just hope it doesn’t turn out like freshman year did. Don’t click that link either.

Somewhere in China, Duke’s returning players probably feel like slapping me. I wouldn’t blame them, because certainly I haven’t yet given them their due. But again, who on our current team has proven himself? Don’t get me wrong, the potential and talent is certainly there, and we’ve seen flashes of it at times. Like I said, ultimately that’s what this worldwide tour and new season is all about: watching 2010-11’s role players ascend into 2011-12’s stars. Off to China we go!

Subzero finishes him. (DukeBluePlanet.com photo)

As a warning, we as fans must learn not to take TOO much out of exhibition games abroad in August. To start with, Duke’s first game against the Chinese Junior National Team took place after a delayed flight, surely leading to lingering jetlag taking its toll. As someone who has made cross-continent trips to nearby India many, many times as a kid, I want you to trust me on this one: Jetlag. Sucks. Nonetheless, the guys played pretty well against a team with some serious size and aggressiveness, winning the first game in Kunshan 77-64. Festivities shifted to Shanghai the following day with similar results, Duke winning 78-66. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll focus my analysis on the individual performances themselves. Keep in mind, however, that there was some seriously delicious Chinese home-cooking going on, complete with rice, dumplings, and extremely questionable calls.

Great. Now we’re gonna get censored over there.

Austin Rivers: Let’s start off with Duke’s newest superstar frosh. He’s the son of Doc Rivers, the high school player of the year, yada yada…you’ve already heard it all. In a nutshell, he’s about where we expect him to be right now. He’s a prolific scorer, and that crossover of his is straight up disgusting. As a slasher, the kid is nearly unstoppable, and he was our leading scorer during the first game with 18. Judging from his first couple of games, though, he’s also making some very freshman-esque mistakes, especially in terms of decision making and on the defensive end. We’ve seen him play before, and when he’s on from long range, he’s on. But, he’s got somewhat of a tendency of wanting to jack threes to shoot himself out of slumps, and in that regard, he needs to work on shot selection. Defensively, he’s also got to learn that if he’s going to shoot those ultra long-range threes, there’s going to be long rebounds that result. Long rebounds lead to opposing fast breaks, and he needs to be the first guy back if he’s the one chucking that long shot. Besides that, he’s certainly got big-time potential and will be one of our top scoring options this year. The force is strong in this one.

Seth Curry: We’ve constantly heard that @sdotcurry’s been the man to beat in Duke’s pre-China practices. His strengths are evident: he’s a Curry. That means you’re going to get an offensive weapon and a crisp jump shooter night in and night out. What we want to see more of is Seth working off the dribble, trying to create his own shot. He showed flashes of brilliance in this regard last year, especially against the Baby Blue, and it would be good to see him maintain it. In the first couple of games, we’ve seen some streaky shooting but also a few pretty teardrop floater moves off the dribble. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to being Duke’s primary PG.

Will he become "that dude"? (DukeBluePlanet)

Ryan Nowitzki Kelly: It’s absolutely way, way, WAY too early to be making that comparison, but from what we’ve seen so far, this kid has straight up stepped up. Yeah, it’s only been two games, but just by looking at Ryan, you can tell that he is a different player. And it’s not just the Zoubeard. RKelly is stronger, faster…smarter? And he’s playing with a certain confidence and edge to his game. During the first couple of games in China, Ryan displayed a vast repertoire of turn around jump shots, fadeaways, post moves, and drives to the bucket. He finished with 21 points on 9-11 shooting against a big, aggressive Chinese front line. His rebounding has improved, too. I don’t think it’s unfair to use Dirk as the very distant, extreme upper limit for this guy. I mean, purely physically, how different are they really? I hope that he can maintain the momentum going into the rest of the exhibitions and into the season, but the potential is there for him to be one of our top offensive options this year. The obvious big question will be how he does against UNC’s imposing frontline of Zeller and Henson. Everything comes down to the rivalry, right?

Andre Dawkins: It seemed like an eternity ago that Dre came in to save the day his freshman year. I mean think about it, what would we have done without this kid in 2009-10? Apparently, Jon Scheyer had a bigger lung capacity and VO2 max than Lance Armstrong or some crap like that, but what would we have done with a two guard rotation that year? I’ll tell you one thing we wouldn’t have done: win the national championship. We’ve all been waiting for Dre to take the next step in his game. Twitteratti and forumites alike have put his ceiling somewhere near Gerald Henderson. The two are both freaky athletes, that’s for sure, with Dre being perhaps a better shooter at this stage and G a better slasher/creator. G made the leap to the league after his breakout junior year…could Dre do anything remotely close to that? I certainly hope so, and as is the case with a lot of the other players on this team, we’ve seen flashes of brilliance in the past. I remember when he nearly single-handedly brought us from the brink against Wisconsin in 2009, hitting 4 threes in the span of a minute or something. He’s also had some vicious dunks and OMFG moments, like when he scored 28 against Bradley last year. From what we’ve seen so far in the exhibition games, that potential is starting to seep through. Andre’s always been known as somewhat of a one-trick pony (three point shooting), so it was nice to see him make some drives to the bucket against China. Defensively, he’s been a liability in the past, but so far, he’s looking pretty good laterally and help-wise. And of course, the dude lost his braces. Trust me, it’s a good feeling to get rid of those damn things. Keep doing your thing, Dre.

Plumlee the Elder needs to have a Zoubekian year. (Photo DukeBluePlanet.com)

The Plumlees: I really shouldn’t lump Miles, Mason, and Marshall together like that, but now with three of them being on the team, it sorta is inevitable. For the past three years, we’ve had our share of #wow moments and #facepalm moments with these high-flying bros from Indiana. The worst thing that could have happened for them last year was Mr. Irving going down with his now-infamous injury, as they really thrived off his oops and trick dribbles. You know what you’re bound to get with these guys, with their rebounding, leaping, and shot blocking ability. We at CT have got some extra pride in Miles, being that he’s the only member of the class of 2012 at Duke these days. In terms of his potential for this year, I think it can be summarized in one word: Zoubekian. As long as he plays to his strengths and avoids fouls on the perimeter, Miles has the ability to become a rebounding and defensive force. Anything offensively is a plus, and from the first couple of exhibition games, we’ve started to see Miles resorting to a few go-to post moves. As for Mason, like almost everyone else on this roster, we’re just waiting for him to “break out” this year. I know I sound like a broken record, but the potential and athleticism are there. Mason just has to be a bit more aggressive and assertive offensively, and if he can work in a few hooks of his own, well, then that’s just peachy. And then there’s Marshall, who hasn’t seen much burn so far in China, but we’ve seen what he could do down the road. He’s probably the best pure post player of the Plumlees, but he seriously needs to be put on a Michael Phelps 8 million calorie diet (minus the illegal substances). Dude’s Henson-esque right now. So far in China, Miles has been the best of the three brothers and has been active on the offensive and defensive ends, getting into double figure scoring too. But guys, for the love of God, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep working on those free throws!

Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton: Josh and Tyler are the remnants of the former Trio, now that Kyrie’s gone. It will be interesting to see how Josh’s role turns out this year, with Duke having a very deep post rotation, just like 2010. From the playing time he’s gotten during the China trip, we can see that he’s bulked up and has worked on his rebounding. I think that Lance Thomas would be a good potential comparison for Josh, since they’re both of similar build and could be labeled as “energy guys.” For Tyler, well, the one and only @ndotsmitty has said that the PG spot was his to lose this year. We’ll see how that goes, since the position is still very much up for grabs, in my opinion. Tyler was surprisingly steady defensively last year as a freshman, and I remember how his defense basically won the home game against Maryland a few months ago. Let’s see if he can keep improving offensively, too.

Mike Gbinije, Alex Murphy, Quinn Cook: The rest of Duke’s strong, five-man freshman class hasn’t seen very much burn during the China trip, especially during the second game. For Quinn Cook, the reason is obvious: he’s still nursing a knee injury suffered in high school. But, it’s cool to see him take over @ndotsmitty’s role as DukeBluePlanet’s lead reporter. All fun aside, Quinn’s a very talented point guard, and we’ve already seen him play in Cameron. He’s a very, very good passer and an excellent scorer too. We wish him the best in his recovery, which should be complete sometime before the beginning of the actual season. Silent G and Alex Murphy are our wings of the future. Gbinije is long, athletic, and has the gifts to be a talented defender someday, along with a solid offensive option. Murphy is our latest Dunleavy clone, following in the footsteps of Singler and wearing his number too. Can’t make too much judgement on these guys, since we’ve only seen Murphy play once a couple of years ago, but the future seems bright.

Todd Zafirovski: What a guy.

The torch has been passed on to these guys. What will their legacy be? (DukeBluePlanet.com photo)

Potential, potential, potential. That’s the theme for this year. So much that’s unproven, so much to look forward to. Unfortunately, we’ve also been dreading this year: it’s our last as undergraduate Crazie-Talkers. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, and without a doubt, I can say that it definitely has been. I’ll take so many wonderful memories away from my time here at Duke, with basketball of course being near the very top. Who knows what will happen next year and where we will be…but one thing’s for sure:

We’ll stay Crazie forever.

More to come during our senior year! Stay tuned to Crazie-Talk for more Duke goodness from the student section


Recap: Crazie-Talk at the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic

Crazie-Talk was in Charlotte for the 10th anniversary of the JBC. (Photo Crazie-Talk)

Crazie-Talk spent the day down in Charlotte today for the Jordan Brand Classic. This was the 10th edition of the big-time high school basketball all-star game, and we were lucky enough to grab a few press passes. After driving down from Durham through some rain, hail, and a couple of tornadoes (not even kidding), we ended up at the beautiful Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. None of us had ever been to the arena, which is just a little over two years old, but we found it to be an absolutely stunning facility. It’s definitely a great place to watch an up-and-coming team like the Bobcats, who are headed by an up-and-coming star in Gerald Henderson. Speaking of G, how happy do you think he is now that Larry Brown’s gone, and now that he’s not hiding down at the end of the bench anymore?

Anyways, back to the events of the day. We showed up a little bit after the start of the JBC International Game, where we saw Duke target Andrew Wiggins tear up the competition. He’s in the high school class of 2014, so we’ll probably be hearing much more from this Canadian baller as the years go on. Wiggins is an athletic SF/PF combo with tremendous upside and is going to make some college team a lot better in the near future. Let’s hope it ends up being Duke.

Next up was the Jordan Brand Regional Game, featuring some of North Carolina’s best home-grown talent. Top NC players such as Deuce Bello, Marquis Rankin, Bernard Sullivan, and Dezmine Wells took the court, as well as Duke’s own Marshall Plumlee. Also featured was Jackson Simmons, UNC’s prized recruit and pretty much the most glorious walk-on ever. Joseph Uchebo, who recently decommitted from NC State (can’t blame him…no more Kool-Aid man) had a game high twenty-one rebounds. Back to Marshall Plumlee, MP3 didn’t have a great game compared to other times that we’ve seen him, but since this was an all-star game (a glorified dunk contest, at that), we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Wait…if this was a glorified dunk contest, then shouldn’t MP3 have won? Hmm…

…Right. Anyways, at 8PM the main event tipped off. You all know by now the big names that played in the game. Anthony Davis, Tony Wroten, James McAdoo, and Rakeem Christmas all had big showings, and McAdoo/Davis ended up winning the MVP awards. Austin Rivers and Mike “Silent G” Gbinije took the floor repping Duke. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of Austin’s better outings, and he ended up finishing with 16 points on 4-15 shooting from the field. Austin’s offensive game is extremely versatile, and he incorporates a variety of outside shots and moves off the dribble into his repertoire. But, we could also already see where he might have some issues next year at Duke. Yes, yes, we realize that this was an all-star game, and the actual gameplay shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and all that. But, even based on the other games we’ve watched him play in, we can see that he has the ability to shoot a team into, or conversely out of, a game. It’s a scary proposition for a Duke team next year in which Rivers will be asked to provide a significant portion of our offensive firepower. But don’t get us wrong, though. When he’s on, he’s on, and sometimes just can’t seem to miss from anywhere on the court. That just wasn’t the case tonight.  Austin Rivers’ offensive prowess will certainly contribute to making next year…interesting. Here are some postgame comments from Austin:

Another Duke commit, Michael Gbinije, also took the floor in tonight’s all-star game. Gbinije, despite being one of the top players in his class, was ineligible for the McDonalds All-American game because of the fact that he’s a 5th year high school senior. You’ve gotta admit though, Mike Gbinije’s been flying a little bit under the radar as of late. Some people that we’ve talked to tend to forget about Mike G, who is the 4th member of Duke’s outstanding recruiting class for next year. We all know about Austin Rivers, the top recruit in the country, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers,  yada yada yada. We know about Quinn Cook, in large part because of his very close relationship with @Ndotsmitty, his god-brother. We know about Marshall Plumlee because, of course, he’s the third in a line of high-jumping, power-dunking, shot-blocking, and sometimes dumb-fouling brothers from Indiana.

We know Duke’s other 3 recruits pretty well. So then, who is Mike Gbinije? This is Mike G:

Gbinije had an efficient outing and showed some flashes of brilliance. He is a versatile player, a good shooter with range beyond the arc, not bad off the dribble, and an above average athlete. A good comparison here might be to a young Gerald Henderson, minus G’s extraterrestrial leaping ability. Still, Gbinije wasn’t afraid to sky on some questionable oops sent his way from the East team PGs. However, we believe that Gbinije is a better shooter than Hendo was coming out of high school, and he stands at around 6’7-6’8 compared to Henderson’s 6’5.  Gbinije is in the process of refining his game and has the physical assets  to become the next in a long, long line of successful Duke wings. He finished with a respectable 10 points coming from a three, an and-one drive to the bucket, and a few mid range jumpers. Nothing eye-popping, but an all-around solid performance. Next to national prep superstars such as Anthony Davis and their gynormous unibrows, it’s understandable how Gbinije could be overshadowed. But remember, as a man named Dwayne Carter once famously said: “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.”

He was, of course, referring to the one and only, Michael “Silent G” Gbinije.

That’ll do it for this recap from the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic. Crazie-Talk will keep you updated on Duke basketball happenings throughout the offseason! Peace.

March Madness Second Round: Winners and Losers

 

Ted Turner finally found a way to make people care about truTV. (Photo via Creative Commons)
The technical terms may have changed, but you get the gist of it: the NCAA “Second Round” is the real first two days of March Madness. Some people take these days off from work, citing “late-winter cough” or “early summer Avian Flu.” Jim Rome decries this annual ritual of the American workforce. Hooter’s celebrates it, offering coupons to those who come in with a desire for boobs Basketball Fever. It’s become an American tradition, like Andy Griffith, apple pie and Reverend Lovejoy.
What matters more than the bracket standings is the teams and players that make their mark on March. Here are some of the major winners and losers from the opening two days.
 
WINNERS!
 
VCU, George Mason, and the CAA
 
VCU showed that they deserved their controversial spot in the First Four, downing Nikola Vucevic and USC 59-46 before stomping the lights out of a convalescent Georgetown team last night. The last time VCU reached the round of 32, it was at our expense, as Eric Maynor dropped a dagger and was immortalized in March Madness lore. Luckily, those wounds were healed by last year’s national championship, and I’m ready to cheer for VCU against a powerful Purdue squad on Sunday.
George Mason lived up to their awesome shirts by downing Villanova with some late game heroics that thrilled Gus Johnson to no end. Their reward is a date with Ohio State–who looked pretty dominating in their win over UTSA–but the George Mason program has some experience shocking the world, having knocked off prohibitive favorite UConn en route to the 2006 Final Four. There are no players left over from that team, and Coach Jim Larranaga has earned his salt, proving ’06 was no fluke. With a combined record of 3-1 in the Tournament (with Old Dominion falling to Butler in the final seconds) the Colonial Athletic Association is setting itself up for more attention from the Selection Committee in coming years. They are definitely winners.
 
The ACC
 
Our beloved east coast conference has been a punching bag for the national media this year. Who’s laughing now? HUH, PUNKS?! Duke, UNC and Florida State all advanced to the round of 32, with the Seminoles being the biggest surprise in a 57-50 win over previously top-20 Texas A&M. Our Blue Devils and the Heels were expected to advance, of course. But it’s heartening to see Leonard Hamilton (probably the ACC’s fourth best coach) break through to the next round. They’ll face off with Notre Dame, and I think with their length and athleticism they stand a chance at beating the Irish, a team that depends on craftiness and finesse.
 
Morehead State’s national recognition
 
Giggle all you want at the irony of Rick Pitino’s vanquishers, Morehead State is for real. DeMonte Harper’s last second three was as pure as glacial melt, and Kenneth Faried probably raised his NBA draft stock by leading his team over the Big East finalist Cardinals. It’s always particularly meaningful when a little known school defeats a in-state powerhouse. Morehead State has the opportunity to advance even further today against Richmond…methinks the Eagles can body up the Spiders and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
 
LOSERS…
 
Tennessee and Bruce Pearl
 
Blue Devil fans had a particular interest in yesterday’s Tennessee-Michigan game, but after halftime, the game wasn’t all that interesting. Michigan thoroughly blasted the Volunteers, winning by 30 in what must be a record for an 8-9 game. Michigan was a bubble team before the Tournament, and now coach John Beilein looks like some kind of mad genius heading in to the Wolverines matchup against Duke. On the otherhand, Bruce Pearl has the NCAA breathing down his neck for repeated recruiting violations, and is probably going to lose his job in the offseason. Sad…I was hoping to see if he ever douse himself in orange paint again.
 
Kalin Lucas and Michigan State
 
UCLA finally mercy-killed Michigan State’s disappointing season, holding on 78-76 after giving up most of a 23 point lead. The Spartans never really coalesced this year, completely disappointing the predictions of many analysts that they would challenge for the NCAA title. Tom Izzo was snakebitten by the defections of lead guards Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, and Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Draymond Green struggled to take the reins as senior stars. Lucas’ storied career ended on a Langdon-esque note, traveling as he tried to race up the court for a final shot. I always liked Lucas, even if the comparisons to Kyrie were always a little generous on his side…
 
St. John’s
 
Steve Lavin brought St. John’s back from the brink of obscurity this year, defeating a number of top teams in Madison Square Garden including top seeds Duke and Pittsburgh. But the Red Storm and its 9 (?!) seniors struggled all year away from home. Cue Thursday night’s 86-71 defeat at the hands of Gonzaga, far from midtown Manhattan in Denver. The Zags stumbled out of the gate this year, hardly impressing anyone after Len Elmore infamously picked them to win the national championship. But the Bulldogs owned the boards and dished out 20 assists to put this one out of reach. I was pretty impressed with the Big East’s performance in the first round, but St. John’s proved it still has some work to do to rejoin the elite of its monstrous conference.
 
That’s all for now, folks. Enjoy the second round, and follow us on Twitter for the latest jokes about John Calipari’s hair gel and stuff like that. Thanks to many of our tweeps for suggesting winners and losers! Here’s your moment of zen…remember the days when we were still worried about Kyrie coming to Duke?
 
 
 
 

Section 17: Road Block in Blacksburg

As the ESPN College GameDay crew cast their game predictions moments before Duke and Virginia Tech tipped last night, Bob Knight—clad in his trademark v-neck sweater—said one word. “Duke.” And proceeded to stare into space.

Duke held a six point lead with eight minutes to go, but Virginia Tech simply wanted it more down the stretch. (Photo: DukeBluePlanet.com)

The General was so close to being right. But the Hokies prevailed 64-60 in a game VT guard Malcolm Delaney called “the biggest of my life.” Delaney didn’t deliver on his promise until 2:02 left in the second half, when he hit his first 3 pointer to give his team a lead it didn’t relinquish.

In lieu of focusing on the heart of the home team, which was considerably large last night, let’s see what we can gather about our performance in our penultimate ACC road game.

  • Without Irving in the lineup, Duke’s post players are ineffective. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are a particular breed of player—winners. But while each of them are usually comfortable taking (and making) big shots, it didn’t happen last night, as the seniors combined to shoot 15-37 from the field. Nolan only had two assists against VT’s stifling perimeter defense. So what does this have to do with Kyrie? Well, Irving made this team great by getting everyone involved, including the Plumlees. Remember Mason’s 25 point performance against Marquette? You can credit Irving’s 7 assists for much of that, as he knows how to set up big men. Nolan and Kyle didn’t demonstrate that skill last night, and our interior play suffered. Particularly when the Plumlees would rather try to tip dunk misses than get an easy putback and Ryan Kelly is bricking threes.
  • It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish…Not just advice from this guy. With 7:33 left in the game, Duke was up 53-47. Greenberg called a timeout, VT settled down and outscored Duke 17 to 7 the rest of the way. How did this happen? Well, our free throw woes didn’t help—Nolan and Mason went 1 for 3 with under 30 seconds to go. But that was after Miles boneheadedly missed a dunk, Kyle missed some tough contested “hero shot” jumpers, and the Hokies somehow outfought Duke for every loose ball. It was a grueling game, and the pressure was certainly more on the home team to win and (maybe) make the Big Dance for the first time in however long. But at Duke, our expectations are higher. When we play teams like VT in the Tournament, we have to step on their throats in the final 8 minutes. That ruthlessness has gotten Coach K the second most wins of all time. And it will get Duke back to the Final Four if we learn it now.
  • We must have a third scorer. Again, the Big 3 would be intact if Irving were in action. Since December, our offensive strategy has been “The Big 2″—Kyle and Nolan—plus whomever felt like stepping up that game. It’s been Curry and Kelly on the offensive end, and Mason and Thornton on defense. We’ve put together some ramshackle wins with Irving on the bench in a cast. Last night, though, it was just the Big 2—Kyle had 22 and Nolan 18. But with the seniors’ inefficient shooting and Seth Curry nowhere to be found, the offensive attack sputtered. This will not do.
  • A number one seed is still possible, no matter what ESPN tells you. Congrats to BYU for winning on the road and all, but I’ll still match our resume with theirs. A top line seed is still within our reach. Texas laid an egg at Colorado yesterday, which is a much more embarrassing loss than ours. Kansas has been inconsistent and could easily lose in the competitive Big 12 Tournament. Ditto Ohio State in the Big Ten tourney, and Pitt in the Big East. Duke? Well, we play in the pitiful ACC. We should beat Clemson, and we have a good shot at North Carolina. If we win those two, we’ll sit at 28-3 and will have won the ACC regular season. We have owned the conference Tournament as well, and nobody takes that more seriously than K. With our out of conference wins looking better with the resurgence of Michigan State, Kansas State and Marquette, our Strength of Schedule will likely climb. And don’t be surprised if Jimmer Fredette somehow shoots 8-35 (gasp!) and BYU drops a game to some West coast rando.
  • Save the Toe. All said and done, we certainly hope Kyrie can come back for the Dance. At least one local yokel writer “wouldn’t be surprised” if he does. Everyone has been rumbling about it on the Twittersphere, including the man himself. Yeah, Kyrie. We’re op(toe)mistic about your comeback too. Mostly because opponents will quake in their Kobes when they think that the 26-3 Duke Blue Devils won 18 of those games without the nation’s best point guard. More importantly, the team would be complete again for the best month of the year.

That’s all from me. I always get wired after losses, and would love for some soothing words from our readers. Leave your thoughts about our beloved Blue Devils in the comments section, or give us a shout on Twitter or Facebook.

Let’s go Duke. Let’s keep working harder.

P.S. Vote for Nolan to win the Cousy Award!

Section 17: Owls Caged

On the day that a national campaign was launched for Nolan Smith to win the National Player of the Year, Kyle Singler—himself a preseason favorite for that award—decided he wanted some of his own press. Singler had a monster night in Duke’s 78-61 victory over the visiting Temple Owls and reminded Duke fans just how much he loves to get buckets.

On a night that Duke needed to prove it deserved its new top ranking, Kyle delivered, making 10 of his 19 shots in a vintage workman’s performance. The ever-observant Bob Knight pointed out on the broadcast that Kyle was looking to get his shots closer to the basket, as his outside shooting had been cold recently. Singler demonstrated his tremendous basketball IQ on most of his buckets, finding the seams in the Temple D to get easy layups or get past his man. And I haven’t seen anyone in the NCAA who utilizes the shot fake as well as he does, particularly when facing up in the midrange. So pretty.

Of course, Kyle didn’t do it all himself. There was a lot to take away from tonight’s win, which Duke secured by outscoring the Owls 47-37 in the second half. Here are some thoughts and observations about what this late season test will mean going forward.

  • Tyler Thornton is something of a secret weapon. When the Duke offense was sputtering in the opening half, TT added an unexpected spark, picking up 6 points on two pretty drives and two free throws. He hounded Temple star Juan Fernandez all night, picking up four fouls but helping hold Fernandez to just 8 points. One benefit of Irving’s absence is the tremendous experience Tyler has gotten in his stead. With or without Kyrie, our postseason chances have improved with Tyler’s steady play since January.
  • Is Andre “Young Threezy” Dawkins back? Dre has been obscured in Seth Curry’s growing shadow over the past 5 games, in which he’s scored a paltry 9 combined points. K seems understandably wary to give him big minutes, and Dre only played 7 tonight. But he capitalized on his opportunities, knocking down two threes—including a NBA ranger in the final minutes. Our partner-in-blogosphere  Seth Curry Saves Duke! has been critical of Dre’s lack of oomph over the past month, and for good reason. He has plenty of talent, and let’s hope he builds off of this encouraging performance moving forward.
  • Mason Plumlee shook off a rough first 10 minutes to post a 6 point and 13 rebound line. We could argue that any points that Mason scores is a bonus. His post game is still underdeveloped, but he works hard on the glass and usually knows how to finish open looks. He’s also become a Zoubek-esque vacuum on the glass, averaging just under 9 caroms on the year. On ESPN the other day, Doug Gottlieb wisely pointed out how important Mason’s contributions are going forward. He’s our only true center and will draw some tough defensive assignments in the Big Dance. He will need to be fierce.
  • Meanwhile, Miles Plumlee is still on the lam. I heard he was spotted in the Yukon Territory over the weekend. We’ll keep you posted.
  • Curry and Kelly are our acting third and fourth options on offense these days. Kelly displayed some nice post moves en route to a 8 point, 7 rebound night, while Curry drilled 3 triples. Nolan and Kyle rightfully take the lion’s share of our shots, but it’s good to see White Delight and Seth make the most of their looks.
  • Hey, we shot 16-17 from the line!
  • Hats off to Temple for a gritty first half, but their depleted roster really showed in the second period. Lavoy Allen, who played with Singler and Smith on the USA Select Team this summer, was a beast in the paint. Apparently he’s Temple’s all-time leading rebounder, and he picked up 13 to go with 17 points in a hostile Cameron environment. And Fran Dunphy can really coach, as evidenced by their excellent offensive efficiency in the first half. I wouldn’t want to see these guys in the Dance, especially if Fernandez wakes up and learns how to shoot again.

Now that the dust has settled, Duke is 26-2, and we look ready for the grueling final stretch. Senior night against Clemson is sandwiched between two road tests at Virginia Tech and UNC. If Duke and the Heels win out, the final matchup could determine whether we have to share the ACC crown. Bring it on. As Geico reminds us, it takes two to tango.

Let’s Go Duke.

Enjoy the final stretches of this topsy-turvy season, Crazie-Talkers. Enjoy the below video we made for NdotSmittyPOY.com along with TheDevilWolf.