Recap: Crazie Talk at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic

The 11th annual Jordan Brand Classic (Photo: Crazie Talk)

Crazie Talk headed down to the Queen City on Saturday for the 2012 edition of the Jordan Brand Classic.  This was our second straight year at the event.  Last year, we had the chance to see three Duke guys play (Austin Rivers, Marshall Plumlee, and Mike Gbinije*) and a TON of other talent, including four members from Kentucky’s national championship squad this year- Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Kyle Wiltjer. The game featured many stars whose names we’ll soon hear called at the NBA Draft in a few months. Needless to say, we decided it’d be worthwhile to check the event out this year.

The Legend. (Photo credit: Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com)

We started out to Charlotte in the afternoon, luckily having better weather this time than the tornadoes we faced last year.  The first game we saw in Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the 7 win & 52 loss Charlotte Bobcats, was the international game, featuring some of the best young talent from around the globe.  Lucas Silva Dias from Brazil (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Federico Mussini (21 points) from Italy led the way for their team to an 89-87 victory in overtime.  I was beyond thrilled to have the chance to watch a 16 year old by the name of Domantas Sabonis though, a member of the losing squad.  He is the youngest son of NBA and international legend Arvydas Sabonis, who I fondly remember watching as a kid. Here’s to hoping he can make it big like his father did.

Next up was the regional game featuring some of North Carolina’s finest.  This game included a number of seniors committed to top programs, including Peter Jurkin (Indiana), Brandon Bolden (Georgetown), and Montay Brandon (FSU), to name a few.  Outside of Brandon, there were also guys going to other ACC schools: Clemson (though Josh Smith did not actually play), Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. The one performance that really stood out to me was that of co-MVP Montrezl Harrell.  Harrell will be heading off to Blacksburg to join Seth Greenberg and the Virginia Tech Hokies next season.  Watch out for him, folks.  He finished with 22 points on 11-14 shooting, 12 boards, and seven blocks, a number of which came in key points in the game, including the opposing squad’s last-second shot to try send it to overtime.  He has the potential to make a huge impact on both sides of the ball next year in the ACC.

Around 7 PM, the All-American game tipped off.  This is the one that everyone came to see.  It’s the game that included the #1 and #2 players in the nation who just on Wednesday announced where they’ll be playing their college ball: Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad.  It also featured four top high school phenoms who will be playing next year in the Triangle area: Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), J.P. Tokoto (UNC), Brice Johnson (UNC), and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).  Noel, Purvis, Tokoto, and Johnson were part of the East squad, while Muhammad and Sulaimon were on the West.

The East got off to a quick start, going up 10-0. J.P. Tokoto led the way early with a couple of nice finishes.  He definitely looked like the most athletic player on the court, at least early on.  The West’s first points actually came off the hands of Brice Johnson.  Johnson must have trained with Tyler Zeller, as he tipped in a missed shot…lol.  Funnily enough, those were Brice’s only “points” of the game.  At times, he really seemed to disappear from the game, and he was the only player not to score in the game.  And despite Tokoto’s strong start, he didn’t do much in the second half, finishing with only 8 points, all of which came in the first 20 minutes of the game.

The first half, though, was very sloppy.  It reminded me quite a bit of the Nike Hoop Summit just one week before, in which the U.S. squad of many of these players was beaten by a team of international phenoms, including Duke recruit Andrew Wiggins.  At the JBC, the teams combined for 22 turnovers in the first half and shot 1-19 from 3.  A bright spot in that stat line was that the lone three came from future Blue Devil Sulaimon, who finished the half with 7 points and 7 rebounds.

A number of players made themselves known in the second half though with some solid play. Alex Poythress (Kentucky commit, former Duke recruit) finished the game with 16 points on 7-8 shooting.  In the end, Sheed’s squad won the game 99-95.  The two MVPs were Shabazz Muhammad (20 points) and Rodney Purvis (22 points).  Muhammad’s had an impressive stretch here against some of the nation’s (and world’s) best. He recently was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and also became the all-time leader in points scored in the Nike Hoop Summit after his 35-point performance.  As he announced last week, he’ll be heading off to Westwood next season, choosing UCLA over Duke and Kentucky.

Purvis and Sulaimon were definitely going at it throughout the game.  You could see a little competition brewing between the two.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they meet again in conference play in the upcoming season.  Sulaimon, for the most part, played well.  He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists.  He did have 4 turnovers though, many of which came on some poor decisions and off-target passes.  It’s important to note that he was playing out of position in this game. The West team was playing without a true point guard, and so Rasheed, a natural 2-guard, took on many of those duties.  (Quick aside: UNC-bound Marcus Paige was supposed to carry that role, but he was absent from the game, recovering from foot surgery.)  The future Duke guard was 3 of 6 from beyond the arc and showed clutch play down the stretch, hitting a big 3-pointer in the game’s closing minutes.

Though Purvis outscored Sulaimon, the West squad got the W. (Photo: Crazie Talk)

Many are quick to compare Rasheed Sulaimon’s game to that of former National Champion and current Trail Blazer Nolan Smith.  I’ll have to admit…their styles of play are eerily similar.  They’re both great shooters who move around on the court well and can create for themselves.  After the game, we met up with Rasheed for a quick interview:

He seems like a great guy who is just excited to put on that Duke jersey and play his heart out each and every game.  You can’t hope for a young man much better than that.

Another senior in the game was Tony Parker, a Duke recruit from Georgia who has been on Duke’s radar for quite some time.  He’ll be deciding between Duke, UCLA, Kansas, Ohio State, and UGA on Friday, so be on the lookout for that announcement.  After the game, he did say that playing for Coach K and a school like Duke with so much rich basketball tradition and great academics is a draw for him, so that does give us a glimmer of hope.

Well, that’s it for us at the Jordan Brand Classic.  Got questions or comments on anything we said?  Let us hear them!

*We’re hearing reports that Michael Gbinije is to transfer from Duke. If that’s the case, we wish him the best of luck wherever he ends up. Thanks for the one year! Stay alert for any updates on this developing story.

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.

Behold! The Future.

It’s not everyday that you get the chance to see two of the top 40 high school basketball teams in the country face off at Cameron Indoor on national TV. It’s an even rarer occurrence when two future Duke stars are leading those two squads. Fortunately for us, we managed to catch the action Friday night as Quinn Cook and the perennial prep juggernaut, Oak Hill Academy, faced off against Marshall Plumlee and a local North Carolina powerhouse, Christ School. Check out our court side highlights below:

As you probably know by now, Quinn Cook is the god brother of one Nolan Smith (you might have heard of him). Quinn, like Nolan, is an extremely quick point guard from the class of 2011 who possesses excellent court vision. Cook could be viewed as a pass-first point guard who still isn’t afraid to take the ball to the bucket if need be. In fact, Quinn led all scorers today with 26 points, the majority of which were in transition. Quinn has already stated that he’d like to inherit the #2 jersey from his god bro, provided that it’s still available next year (hint, hint).

Marshall Plumlee, aka MP3, is the youngest of the 3 Warsaw, Indiana natives. He, like his brothers, will don the Duke blue next year in 2011-12. Thus, Duke University will have successfully harnessed the athletic talents of all three 6’10″+ high-flying big men prior to the end of the world. At least we’ll have graduated by then (hopefully). Unlike his older brothers, however, Marshall is more of a pure, back to the basket center with variety of low post moves at his disposal. We haven’t seen Marshall take as many outside shots as his brothers, and we’re pretty sure that he’s not going to be attempting a Mason Plumlee OMGWTF-Three-Pointer anytime soon. Additionally, Marshall has definitely put on some muscle since the last time we saw him play over the summer. Speaking of which, here are some old highlights from the 2010 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions featuring 2011 commits Marshall Plumlee and Quinn Cook (when we last saw them), along with some footage of 2012 Duke commit Alex Murphy:

Five Questions on Duke vs. UNC

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s finally that time of the year again.  After a Super Bowl weekend full of national anthem gaffes, provocative Groupon commercials, and a whole lot of Greg Jennings puttin’ the team on his back, we can finally focus on what really matters in the world of sports (at least to us). It’s finally time for us to shift our focus back to the hardwood as we approach what arguably is the greatest rivalry in sports: Duke versus UNC.   In anticipation of tonight’s matchup, Crazie-Talk compiled our own “Top 5” questions surrounding the game:

Mason Plumlee, showing off his post game against the Wolfpack (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

1)   Will the real Mason Plumlee please stand up?

One of the keys to a Duke victory is how well Mason Plumlee plays on both sides of the ball.  In Duke’s two losses thus far, the Sophomore Forward has combined for a measly 5 points, coming off of only one made field goal.  The volatile play, coupled with his 38% free-throw rate, remain key challenges that Duke must overcome if they expect to make a deep run in the tournament.  I expect Mason to have a solid shooting performance on Wednesday, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of those baby hooks he pulled against NC State.  But if he doesn’t show improvement in his shooting by mid-March, expect the “Hack-a-Plumlee”  to become a defensive staple among opposing teams.

2)   Can Duke hit free throws?

Though problems at the line primarily involve Duke’s big men, this year’s squad has uncharacteristically underperformed from the charity stripe.   Duke shot 53% from the line while missing 15 free throws in their last game against NC State, a stark contrast from the usually reliable teams of the past.  While the team successfully masked its free-throw deficiency against State, don’t expect for that trend to continue as conference play begins to heat up.  One can simply rewind back to the Derrick Rose-led 2007-2008 Memphis Tigers (or any Clemson team of the last 10 years) to see a prime example of how a talented squad can cripple under lackluster free-throw ability.

After weeks of tenting, K-Ville residents are finally ready for the biggest game of the year (photo courtesy of DukeBlue Planet.com)

3)   Will the three ball drop?

I know, I know—this entire article seems to revolve around shooting.  But on a team without the senior leadership of Zoubek and LT, it’s time to accept the fact that this squad will ultimately rely on its perimeter play.  It’s no secret that this team, similar to previous Blue Devil squads, relies heavily on the 3-point shot.  A good shooting night can lead to a blowout, but a poor performance can plague an entire team into defeat (see: St John’s game).  If Duke wants to beat a talented Carolina team tonight, they’ll need to find a balance in their offense if the 3’s don’t start falling.

4)   Does UNC’s return to the Coaches Top 25 mean anything?

It seems that John Henson and Co. took the “making other peoples’ lives relevant” concept to a whole new level.  As UNC re-enters the top 25,  The Tar Heels coincidentally have finally made themselves relevant again.  Sarcasm aside, this team has improved tremendously from the beginning of the season. Carolina has won three straight ACC games by 20+ points, the first time that has happened since the 05-06 season.  The recent success, which occurred in the midst of Larry Drew II’s sudden departure (validating the concept of ‘addition by subtraction’), hinges on the strong play of Henson, Barnes, and Drew’s replacement, Kendall Marshall.  They are coming into the tonight’s rivalry game with a lot of momentum, so expect a strong performance from UNC.

Larry Drew II, and his turnovers, will be sorely missed on Wednesday (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

5)   Who wins the game?

Had I written this post at the beginning of the year, I would’ve easily given the nod to Duke in this matchup.  The Blue Devils simply had more experience, offensive firepower, and coaching than their counterparts at Chapel Hill.  However, after the world’s most famous toe—no, not you Mrs. Rex Ryan—took away the nation’s most dynamic point guard, the two teams should enter tonight’s game on much more equal footing.  I expect for this game to be much closer than most may predict—a Duke victory with a margin of around 3-5 points.  At the very least, UNC will play much better than they did in last year’s epic fail (see video below).  Watch for the Cameron Crazies, as usual, to push the Blue Devils past the Tar Heels in a very physical matchup between the two rivals.

Prediction: Duke wins 73-70

BONUS QUESTION:

What will Rashad Mccants’s father post on Facebook after the game?

Section 17: The Fall of Sparta

We’ve got a special guest column today coming from Nick Schwartz, a friend of Crazie-Talk and a fellow Cameron Crazie. Nick hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the Michigan Wolverines. In other words, he had twice as many reasons to see the Spartans fall to the Duke Empire on Wednesday night.

Tom Izzo and the Spartans fraternized with the enemy Wednesday afternoon. It didn't help their cause. (Photo property of Crazie-Talk)

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo led his team through KVille on Wednesday to show his guys that the Crazies are just normal human beings.  It apparently did not impress Spartan forward Draymond Green, who tweeted that KVille failed to impress him more than the campout done by the aptly named MSU student section, the Izzone.  Nonetheless, MSU came out looking about as intimidated as any team I’ve seen in Cameron.  The Spartans gave new life to the term “throwing the ball away.”  Thanks to a combination of great Duke ball pressure and likely some Spartan nerves, MSU repeatedly passed the ball to the sidelines without one of the other four Spartans touching it.

Yet Duke was not a whole lot better, committing its own fair share of turnovers and failing to convert many opportunities on the offensive end.  It looked like the headlining game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge might be a long, laborious affair.

Until a certain freshman took over the game.

Kyrie Irving rose to the occasion Wednesday night. (Photo DukeBluePlanet)

As you are probably well aware, Kyrie Irving poured in 31 points, breaking his previous career-high of 17 with an 18-point first half, which included many key 3-point plays.  While Nolan Smith likes to claim Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” as his theme music, on Wednesday night, Smith took backseat to Kyrie “introducing himself” to America on ESPN.

And I couldn’t have been more pleased with what I was watching.

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, for most of my life I’ve had the opportunity to watch consistently solid MSU teams pummel over my beloved Michigan Wolverines.  Like many other Michigan fans, I have developed a love-hate relationship with the teams led by MSU head coach, Tom Izzo.  Izzo was born, went to school, and has almost exclusively coached in Michigan.  From his reign at MSU, beginning in 1995, the Spartans have managed an 18-8 record against Michigan (counting 5 of Michigan’s wins which were later vacated). Going back to the “Flint”stones era of Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell, Izzo has almost always managed to attract the state of Michigan’s top players.  Yet, it is hard to not to root for his teams.  Aside from some of the extracurricular activities of Zach Randolph, Izzo has managed to run a clean and consistent program, attracting and graduating many commendable student-athletes, standing in opposition to many of his peers.  And how can you argue with the style of play?  MSU has developed a reputation for playing strong man-on-man defense, relentless rebounding, and pushing the ball up the court after made baskets.  Izzo has been known have his players perform rebounding drills in shoulder pads.  If only Rich Rodriguez would borrow the idea for his defense.

Izzo’s ability to get the most of his players is astounding.  Pistons fans who remember Cleaves’ brief stint in the NBA can certainly attest that some of Izzo’s most successful players did not get by simply on talent (who does that NOT remind you of, cough, Calipari, cough).  While many Tarheels often jibe at Duke’s lack of stars in the NBA, MSU is much less heard come the All-Star game.

This year’s Spartan team has many similarities to those of the past.  In the likes of Cleaves and Drew Nietzel, point guard Kalin Lucas assumes a leading role.  After a junior year that ended with a ruptured Achilles, the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2009, the same year the Spartans unfortunately fell short in the National Championship, returned and is leading the team in scoring while hitting almost half his shots.  If there is a more established and talented point guard in college basketball than Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen, it is Lucas.  That’s why all signs pointed to this game as a litmus test of Irving’s current status as a very good guard or one of the premiere guards in America.  And unlike most science experiments, the results are without question.

To be fair, for most of the game, Lucas did not even look like the best point guard on his team.  Lucas was overshadowed by his backup, if you can reasonably call him that, Korie Lucious, who led the Spartans with 20 points.  Lucious matched every bit of Irving’s quickness and threw in a barrage of jump shots, drives, and 3-pointers to ensure that the game never got out of hand.

But he's only a freshman, right Kalin? (Photo DukeBluePlanet)

While any win at any time over Michigan State is certainly impressive, the Blue Devils can take some things away from this game.  First of all, the perimeter defense needs to improve.  Korie Lucious and Kalen Lucas were able to penetrate at will and get into the lane.  Fortunately, MSU mostly took advantage of this late in the second half when Duke was in command of the game.  Furthermore, the interior defense could see some improvement.  The Spartans outrebounded Duke, grabbing 15 offensive boards.  The Plumlees often looked lost on defensive switches, leading to some easy baskets by Garrick Sherman, who otherwise did not appear capable of creating his own shot.  Miles will continue to have to focus on stop committing soft fouls if he wants to play a greater role on the team.

On the offensive end, there were times when the Blue Devils shot selection was questionable.  Most notably, Kyle Singler went 5-14 from the field, and seemed to force many jump shots with plenty of time remaining on the shot clock.  At this point in his career, Kyle has essentially earned the right to shoot when he sees fit, but with an offense full of so many options on a night when the running game was relatively quiet, I would hope he remains patient on nights when others are shooting better.

Nevertheless, a win is always win, and against MSU and the second best active coach in college basketball, always a great win.  I was glad when Izzo turned down the opportunity to potentially coach LeBron James in Cleveland, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to see the Coack K and the Blue Devils soundly defeat Izzo’s Spartans.

And who knows, they might find themselves battling it out once again come March.

Thanks again to our friend Nick for writing up this article. Up next, the Blue Devils travel to New Jersey on Saturday to face a familiar foe from last year’s national championship game…

Weighing In: Duke and the FIBA World Championships

Sometimes at Crazie-Talk we get together to discuss a hot story in the Duke-i-verse that merits some serious thought. Once on Coach K’s choice to return to Team USA back in ’09, and once, more recently, when the Blue Devils were turning their swag to 11 en route to the 2010 National Championship.

Today, Jake and Amogh discuss two Duke storylines through the lens of international (read: European) hoops and the veritable Brawl of Basketball: The FIBA World Championships. Enjoy.

Pocius had the floor on his senior night in 2009, but he didn't see much playing time on it in four injury-riddled years. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

On Marty Pocius Being More Successful in Europe

The Lithuanian basketball team rode on the back of a familiar player to the FIBA Final Four.

Martynas Pocius, who played at Duke from 2005 to 2009, has been the firebrand that sparked his country’s team to unexpected heights in basketball’s biggest international event. Today, Pocius faces off against his former coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and the loaded young USA team.

Pocius (pronounced “Poat-zoos” for some reason) had a terrific reputation coming out of prep school in New Hampshire: scoring prowess, incredible leaping ability, and a pair of impeccable calves that soon caught one sweater loving coach’s attention during several ESPN broadcasts. Perhaps Coach Rick will invite Marty stateside for Duke’s game against Saint Louis this December 11. You know, to massage those spectacular calves.

Yet despite all the hype and sweet musculature, Marty never lived up to his 5-star rating at Duke. Or perhaps more accurately, Marty was never dealt the right cards.

The first factor in Pocius’ lukewarm career was injury. Ankle problems limited his effectiveness for two years, culminating in a medical redshirt in 2007-2008. In his fourth academic year, Pocius was technically active, but saw scant minutes off the bench in a Sweet Sixteen season. He decided to forgo his fifth year of eligibility to play professionally—back home in Lithuania. More on that later.

Compounding Pocius’ inconsistent health was (go figure) Duke’s tremendous guard depth. Over his career, Marty was buried in the depth chart behind a formidable group: DeMarcus Nelson, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams. When healthy, fans attributed Marty’s pineriding to a lack of defensive skills and penchant for fouling (not an uncommon criticism for European players, after all). The truth is, if you miss practice at Duke (injured or not), it’s hard to crack the starting lineup. Coach K is pretty consistent on that. It’s even harder if, as in Marty’s case, you have three to five NBA-level guards on your team. Not everyone can play on bad ankles. Not everyone is Brett Favre.

It’s fitting that Pocius’ best performance—14 points on 5-5 shooting in 17 minutes—came in one of the darkest moments of the past decade: Duke’s first round ACC Tournament exit to NC State in 2007. And unlike last year, the team didn’t learn from losing to the lowly Wolfpack—they went ahead and lost to VCU. Even when he won, his team lost.

But enough with the negativity.

One year removed from his Duke career, Marty is thriving in what is clearly his natural habitat—EuroBasket. He averaged 8.1 points per game in sixteen games this past season with BC Zalgiris in Kaunas, Lithuania, a city just 102 kilometers away from Marty’s native Vilnius. (Editor’s Note: Vilnius factors largely in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, a book I’m about to finish. Oh, how FIBA brings it all together…)

In the World Championships, Marty has scored 61 points in 128 minutes of action, acting as a key reserve for a Lithuanian squad that has largely exceeded expectations. In Lithuania’s huge “upset” over (soon to be former) world number one Argentina, Pocius was scintillating: 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting (including two treys) and 4 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action. Stick it, Luis Scola.

While players mature mentally and physically at different stages in their careers, one can’t help but wonder what Marty could’ve accomplished at Duke if he had been injury-free. Or, on a more extraneous note, had he attended a University whose calling card wasn’t tough, American style guard play, he certainly would have played more (again, barring injuries).

(Jonathan Givony of anti-predictive NBA draft site DraftExpress started a tweet war the other day claiming that Coach K had wasted Pocius, before finally admitting that he had never seen Marty play a minute in college. So, all’s well that ends…idiotically?)

Disregarding the woulda coulda shouldas, when this story bottoms out, it’s redemptive and happy. By proving himself in international basketball, Marty also proved he belonged at Duke.

We wish Marty the very best with his career in Europe. As he faces his former mentor tomorrow against Team USA, we anticipate a big performance under the bright lights and fiery eyes of his opponent’s coach.

And just like against the Wolfpack in ’07, we hope he loses. Sorry, bro.

UPDATE: Marty got the start against the United States today, and showed well: 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. However, Kevin Durant was unstoppable, setting an American record with 38 points, and Team USA got the 89-74 victory. Congrats to Marty on a great tournament, he certainly turned a lot of heads. And I know Majerus watched every minute scrupulously.

You can follow Marty’s entertaining Twitter here: @LTUMarty.

Coach K PO'd some media folk the other day, but not these ones. They seem cool. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

The Briefly Noted Saga of Coach K vs. the Israeli-American coach of Russia/Former USSR

OK, OK. I know we’re late to this party. Team USA’s already avenged 1972 beaten Russia in the FIBA quarterfinals. Doug Collins is still righteously pissed off even if his new star in Philly, Andre Iguodala, was part of the “B-deem team” that took out the Bear Nation.

Even if the Russians are not the Soviets (because in Soviet Russia, ball dunk you) and the Cold War is twenty years past, the officiating catastrophe in the 1972 gold medal game between the U.S. and USSR still infuriates a lot of people.

Coach K, a veteran of West Point and former Army Captain, is one of those people.

I’m about 50% tempted to give Coach a mulligan on his faux-pas in calling David Blatt, an American and Israeli citizen, a “Russian” and being offended by Blatt’s innocuous belief that the USSR was the rightful winner of the ’72 game. Only fifty percent because only that much of it was wrong, or even mildly offensive.

Since K has established himself as one of the top coaches in the sport, he hasn’t needed to be a firebrand in the media like he used to be (after all, he ‘loves Dean Smith’ these days). I was surprised by these comments not only because of their inflammatory nature—it should’ve been easy for some assistant to tell the acting American basketball ambassador that Blatt was, in fact, an American (somebody hire Reggie Love). It just seemed out of character for K to be so unsavvy with the press.

But, as any Mad Men fan has learned from Roger Sterling‘s feud with “the Japs,” military allegiances run deep. And although K stated that Blatt’s comments had “absolutely” no effect on his game preparation, I have a feeling this whole thing fired up the old soldier in K, even after he realized his mistake on Blatt’s nationality.

After the game, Coach K sheepishly praised Blatt. He knew he was wrong. The game went over without controversy. The right team won. All good, right?

Not for Adrian Wojnarowski, it wasn’t.

WTF, Woj?

Wojnarowski, a reporter for Yahoo! Sports, originally reported Blatt’s gracious response on this issue. He then went on to write a livid, flamethrowing piece on K’s behavior, calling the comments a “desperate stunt” to motivate his players while “in [a] haste to exploit that old American gash” of the ’72 game.

He goes on to say that K’s “low-rent” actions were an attempt to rile up American public hatred of the Soviets. To Wojnarowski, this somehow proves that K has no faith in his own team. So apparently, not only is K a old fogey bigot, but he’s not even patriotic enough to believe his own team could win. Huh?

I don’t think a doctoral thesis could legitimize that kind of harsh claim, and Wojnarowski certainly does not. Not to mention Woj’s offering of an irrelevant opinion on whether the ’72 squad should have accepted their medals: “This 38-year blood war with that loss has gone on long enough,” and the team should accept their medals graciously. Yeah, I’m sure they haven’t heard that before.

Wojnarowski pulls a low-rent stunt of his own, bringing up the murder of Israeli athletes at the ’72 games as a counterpoint to the “ache for the ages” that the loss to the Soviets was. Dude, what does that have do with Coach K?

The venomous article is a lot to extrapolate from a few off-color comments from a man who led Team USA back to the same gold medal stand that his friends and colleagues were denied in 1972. I understand that Wojnarowski is paid to take such polarized positions, and considering his normally solid work, I was surprised by this sudden take-off on Air Gregg Doyel.

K certainly made a mistake. But not the kinds of mistakes that Wojnarowski claims. I’m tempted to say Kiss the Medals, but Team USA still has Lithuania to take care of.

Crazie-Talk thanks you for reading this article, if you’ve gotten this far. Be sure to keep tabs on two big games at noon EST: Duke Football’s showdown with Wake Forest, and of course, the United States-Lithuania semi-final match.

Go Blue Devils, and Go America.