By The Numbers

Just over three weeks ago, the Duke Blue Devils completed their 105th season of college basketball with the fourth national championship in school history. Let’s take a look at thirty-five numbers for each of the Devils’ wins during the magical run that was the 2009-2010 season.

35 victories in the 2009-2010 season. Tied for the 2nd most all time in victories, only behind the 1985-1986 and 1998-1999 squads.


34.7%:  Seth Curry’s percentage from 3 his freshman year at Liberty.  Can’t wait ‘til he joins the lineup next year.  Though he couldn’t play this year as per transfer policy, his impact on the team was nevertheless present.  Seth often played the role of the best player on the other team during practice, and Nolan’s defense improved greatly from having to guard Seth.


33 =16 points + 17 rebounds for Brian Zoubek, February 13th, 2010.  Zoubs’s huge performance propelled the Devils to a 21-point victory over Maryland in Coach K’s 1000th game with Duke.  The game served as a model of what we would come to expect from Z for the rest of the season.


32 – the difference between 82 and 50. This was the largest margin of victory in the rivalry in over 45 years, and the biggest victory against UNC in Cameron’s 75-year history.


31 points poured in by Jon Scheyer in his hometown of Chicago, when the Devils matched up against the Iowa State Cyclones in the United Center on January 6th. Scheyer had over 500 friends and family members in attendance.


30 victories in the Duke whites this season. 3-0 in Madison Square Garden, 1-0 in the United Center, 17-0 at home, 3-0 in the ACC Tournament, and 6-0 in the NCAA Tournament.


29 points for Nolan Smith – a career high –  on March 28th as he led the Devils to victory over the Baylor Bears and back to the Final Four for the first time since ’04. After dedicating the game to his late father, Nolan put together his best performance of the year.


28th nationally in scoring defense were the Devils this year, allowing a mere 61 points per game.  As the adage goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.


27 offensive rebounds for Brian Zoubek in the Big Dance. This was the largest total by any player in postseason play this year. Who was in 2nd for the tourney? None other than Lance Thomas, who finished with 20 offensive boards.


26 days into 2010, Pat Forde claimed that Duke was the one team in the Top 10 that could NOT win it all. Forde must be enjoying his crow right about now.


25 minutes per game for Lance Thomas, 7 more than he had averaged in any previous year.  Lance’s intensity on the court was key to the team’s success, particularly on the defensive end.  LT took 16 charges during the season, the most by anyone on the team.


24 ACC championships during the Coach K era.  The regular season and tournament championships this year pushed the totals to 12 and 12.


23 free throw attempts, 22 made.  As part of the 32-point domination against UNC this year, the Devils shot 95.7% from the line, the 14th best performance from the line in Division I this year (Minimum 85% and 15 made).


22 times this year, Duke held opponents under 60 points.  Two of these instances came on the biggest stage possible, against West Virginia and Butler in Indy.


21 points was the difference between the Blue Devils and the Mountaineers of West Virginia when they faced off in the Final Four.  The point margin was the second largest for a National Semifinal in the modern era, trailing only the Kansas Jayhawks’ 33-point victory over Dwyane Wade and Marquette back in 2003.


20 points scored by the young Andre Dawkins in his fourth game at the college level.  The performance, in which ‘Dre made 6 of 8 from downtown, was his season-high.


19 more rebounds for Brian Zoubek in 2009-2010 than his total count for his first three years at Duke.  He finished with 71 in his freshman campaign, 86 as a sophomore, and 133 as a junior – totaling 290. This year, Big Z cashed in with 309 boards.


18 three pointers made on November 21st, 2009, when Duke defeated Radford at home. The total tied a Duke record.


17 victories in Cameron this year, a feat no other Duke team has accomplished.


16 points was Duke’s average point differential per game, good for fourth best in the country.


15 times in 2009-2010 that Earth (Kyle), Wind (Nolan), and Scheyer each had at least 15 points. Jon, Kyle, and Nolan were the most productive trio in the country.


14 turnovers forced per game by one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. By comparison, opponents forced an average of 11 Duke turnovers per game, a total that was the 18th lowest in the country.


13 times this year Big Z reached double-figures in rebounding, including 4 of the 6 NCAA Tournament games.  We can never say enough how much he meant to this team.


12 times during the regular season #12 scored 20 or more points.  Duke could always look to Kyle throughout the year to carry the team when others’ shots weren’t falling.  He continued that trend into postseason play, scoring 20+ in 5 of the 9 games and 15+ in all but 1.


11 and 1 in Elite Eight games under Coach K. the only blemish to his near-perfect record came in 1998 to Kentucky, who went on to win the National Championship. Since then, Kentucky has failed to return to the Final Four, while Duke has reached the promised land four times, winning the National Championship twice. In K We Trust.

10 straight wins rounded out the 2009-2010 season. Duke finished the season having won 18 of their final 19 games.


points per game – the difference between the sophomore and junior campaigns of Nolan Smith, which was the 2nd best increase in the ACC.


three pointers made by Kyle Singler against Georgia Tech on February 4th. Against the Yellow Jackets, Kyle poured in a career high 30 points.


games the Plumtrees combined for 3 or more blocks.  We’ll look forward to even more production from them next year.


out of those 22 games mentioned above, the Devils held opponents to under 50 points, including one at Littlejohn where the team avenged a 27-point loss from the year before.


Five victories in league play for our baby-blue brethren, compared to the 7 McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster.


Four National Championships for Michael William Krzyzewski, more than any active coach. Only John Wooden has totaled more national championships than our very own Coach K.


Three assists for every one turnover by Jon Scheyer, whose transition from the two slot to the point was nearly flawless. Not only was he adept at the point – he was one of the best point guards in the nation.


2nd in Division I in three point defense . Opponents shot 28.3% from beyond the arc against Duke, the lowest percentage for a Duke team ever.


And last, but not least…

One Shining Moment.

Long Live the Kingler

Delay the Kyle Singler farewell tour until next April. He’s coming baaack…

We’re officially two weeks removed from Duke’s fourth national championship, and already we’ve received good news about the 2010-2011 Blue Devils: Kyle Singler is coming back for his senior season. This post was supposed to be about Kyle’s brilliant performance in the NCAA tournament (save the Baylor game), but we decided to delay it until he made his decision on the NBA. Now that he has made it, we are undoubtedly (and selfishly) happy that he made the choice that he did.

Black eye? No problem. Just a day in the life of the King-ler. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

By averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds in the Final Four, Kyle Singler was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA’s final weekend. Furthermore, Singler played sound defense on West Virginia’s DaSean Butler (10 points, 2-8 shooting) and Butler’s Gordon Hayward (12 points, 2-11 shooting) in the Final Four. He displayed a polished offensive game with an array of three-pointers, floaters and tough layups in traffic along with his consistent intensity on defense and loose balls.

Kyle Singler is both one of the most talented and one of the toughest players to ever put on the Duke uniform. His father, Ed, when discussing Kyle’s draft prospects, said, “[NBA scouts] are not even questioning his heart or character or work ethic and skill level, those are pretty evident when seeing Kyle play.” The injuries from Singler’s tough play have become almost legendary: the elbow he ate from Andre Dawkins in a practice before the Sweet 16 game against Purdue that required stitches; the black eye that he played with in February victories over Miami and Virginia Tech; and who could forget, his dive into ESPN announcer Dan Shulman during the ACC tournament that gave Dickie V sole possession of the broadcast for a whole two minutes. All cliches aside, he really does wear his playing scars like badges of honor.

GoDuke notes that Singler has scored the third most points ever (1767) in Duke history through his junior season. Only two of the greatest Blue Devils of all-time, Jason Williams (2079) and JJ Redick (1805) scored more points before their senior season. Singler could conceivably be the third leading scorer in Duke history by this time next year, a spot currently held by Christian Laettner (2460). Regardless of what he accomplishes next season, Kyle Singler already has one ring, something not even the two highest scorers (Redick and Johnny Dawkins) in Duke history can boast of.

We’re not here to speculate whether Kyle would have been a first-round lock or a possible second-rounder if he declared; we’re also not here to speculate what his draft stock might become. We’re here to appreciate the fact that two of our starters, two of the guys that made up the Big Three, are returning. Next year’s team will undoubtedly be captained by Singler and Nolan Smith. Singler was the No. 6 recruit in a 2007 class whose top 5 recruits were lottery picks in 2008 (remember Kyle’s Oregonian rivalry with Kevin Love?). Whereas those five were all one-and-done, staying all four years speaks volumes about Kyle’s love of college life and his wish to leave a stellar legacy at Duke. It says nothing about his ability to play in the NBA—he will be an NBA player (a damn good one at that). Leave the conjecture about Kyle’s NBA future alone; just appreciate that #12 will be back in Cameron for one more ride.

Let's do it again? (Photo courtesy DukeBluePlanet.com)

The Absolute Champions

Coach K, the seniors and Nolan Smith look on as "One Shining Moment" plays on the big screens in Lucas Oil Stadium (courtesy DukeBluePlanet.com)

Before we discuss Duke’s incredible run to the National Championship this past weekend, let’s rewind a month to March 6th. Moments after defeating rival UNC 82-50, seniors Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and fifth year player Jordan Davidson held court in front of a rabid audience of Cameron Crazies. Donning the fresh ’17-0′ t-shirts designed by Kyle Singler, our seniors recounted favorite memories from their illustrious Duke careers. Lance and Zoubek highlighted the ACC championship last season, and Davidson spoke of how fortunate he was to be on this team at all.

Jon Scheyer, however, took a different approach in his brief speech—he said his best moment was still to come. Would it be the 2010 ACC Tournament? Beating a fantastic Baylor team to reach the Final Four? Making it to the National Title game?

None of these. The Duke Blue Devils won the 2010 National Championship in a thrilling game over Butler—the best final game since Kansas-Memphis ’08 and perhaps one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking championship games of all time. Jon Scheyer’s best moment—and indeed, the best moment for each player on this special team—came on the latest possible date of his career: April 5th, 2010. Almost precisely a month after the victory over UNC.

It was indeed a banner year for Duke. Some of the statistics don’t appear on paper, but they are staggering: 31-0 in our home white jerseys, 35 victories overall and the trophy from every tournament we entered. We took home the Preseason NIT (UNC almost won the actual thing! Almost.), the ACC regular season and tournament crown, the South Regional championship, and the hardwood plank of the National Championship.

Here are some things to think about in remembering this tournament, this team and the young men who made it happen:

  • Jon Scheyer is one of the greatest Blue Devils of all time. Scheyer finished his career in the only appropriate manner—with a national title. His 15 points against Butler gave him 2,077 for his career, putting him at ninth all-time at Duke behind Jason Williams and Gene Banks, who each scored 2,079 points. We have lauded Jon all year on this website. He is the consummate leader by example, doing everything the coaching staff asks of him and quietly exuding the Duke way. In his career, he has been magnificent against UNC in both winning and losing efforts. Jon’s 2009 transition from shooting guard to point guard was so seamless and successful that he was a finalist for the prestigious Bob Cousy Award this season, which honors the nation’s best floor general. Somehow Greivis Vasquez took home that honor over Scheyer (and John Wall and Sherron Collins…). Nonetheless, Jon got the ultimate prize: the National Title, and in his senior season to boot. It’s been quite a ride for Scheyer, who has factored in K’s strategy from the first. Four years after taking a shot to the face from VCU’s Eric Maynor in the NCAA first round, Jonny gets the last laugh over all his detractors. We wish him luck moving forward from this pinnacle of basketball accomplishment. If his nearly flawless leadership, perfect jumper and proclivity to protect the pill doesn’t earn him a bench position on an NBA team, there is something wrong with American pro basketball.
  • Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek developed so much this year. It’s obvious at this point—we could not have won

    this championship without these two senior big men. LT and Z bore the brunt of extreme criticism from Duke fans over their first four years, and many predicted that Miles and Mason would bump them from the starting rotation this season. For the first few weeks of the season, these two still looked lost on the offensive end. But in the past semester, something clicked. We won this championship with rebounding and defense, and Lance and Brian were key in making those statistics the fundamentals of Duke’s success. Zoubek particularly has emerged and become the nation’s best offensive rebounder. His final rebound of Gordon Hayward’s miss was fitting—how else could his career have concluded? Thomas’ contributions this season have also been invaluable. As our best on-ball defender, LT has guarded future pros like Stanley Robinson, Craig Brackins, Ekpe Udoh and Devin Ebanks this season. A few of his plays have been absolutely crucial: his tip dunk and-one against Baylor (pictured at right) was particularly memorable. Unlike Scheyer, Lance and Brian haven’t always been a crucial part of Duke’s gameplan. But this year, when our frontcourt had to step up to support the 3 S’s, these two men answered the call. Without the toughness, selflessness and desire of Brian and Lance, Duke would have stopped dancing long before Indianapolis.

  • Coach K is the G.O.A.T. (of the modern era). Alright, so this is Duke’s fourth national title, all of which have been won by the architect Michael William Krzyzewski. It is presumptuous to call him the greatest basketball coach ever, but I think it’s fair to say that K is the greatest postseason coach since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Coach has led to Duke to 11 of our 15 overall Final Fours, taking the crown in four of them and falling just short numerous times (1999 and 1986 come to mind most clearly). Moreover, K just doesn’t lose when he reaches that critical juncture: he is 11-1 in regional finals, with the Baylor win sealing Duke’s trip to Indianapolis. Although John Wooden is the rightful pharaoh of the college game (and one of the most amazing people in sports history), the Wizard of Westwood only had to win three games to win most of his championships in the 1960s and 70s. It’s safe to say that winning six games over a month is a tougher feat. The New Jersey Nets are right to offer Coach all of their riches. K’s resuscitation of the Duke program in the early 80s, the amazing run in the early 90s and his astounding consistency since is something to hold in awe. Fittingly, the best veteran and the best young coach faced off in the title game—will Brad Stevens be the next Coach K? Steep comparison, of course. Regardless, K has set the standard of coaching success in college basketball. Even if ridiculous publications like the Indy Star denigrate him, all he has to do is open up the Duke trophy case and say “kiss the rings.”
  • It’s nice to win the right way, isn’t it? How cathartic, as true basketball fans, was it to watch two honorable programs play for the national title? In a year where powerful but troubled programs like Kansas and Kentucky were favored to take the championship, it seems like a dose of karma that Duke and Butler—two squeaky clean programs led by no nonsense coaches—were on the game’s biggest stage in April. I don’t want to delve into the nitty gritty details about why those other programs are corrupt (although The Onion did a nice job with Kentucky). But Duke and Butler represented the Platonic ideal of college basketball: two programs that develop players over four years, play team basketball within a system, and think of their teammates as much as they think of themselves. We cannot say enough about the grit and fortitude of the Butler Bulldogs, particularly the unflappable Gordon Hayward. We won the game, but Butler proved that hard work and persistence are just as important as flashy dunks and 5-star recruits.
  • Next year? It might be too early to start buttering ourselves up about next season, but at Duke we like to believe that

    championships come in twos. Although ‘predictions’ about next season are largely unimportant, the Blue Devils will absolutely factor in the title hunt next year. Returning Nolan Smith is a definite, and we await Final Four M.O.P. Kyle Singler’s verdict on his future. The Plumlees will be back, as will Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly. Seth Curry sheds the redshirt next season and he may be the most surprising player of all. Nolan said that one major factor in his incredible improvement this season has been playing against Seth in practice. With a year of practice under his belt, I think that he will be ready to contribute right away, and earn starter’s minutes after Christmas. There’s also no need to belabor our excitement for next season’s incoming recruits: Kyrie Irving, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton were an excellent class even before Carrick Felix committed several weeks ago. Smith, Irving, Curry, Dawkins and Thornton on paper look like Duke’s best backcourt in a decade; it will be up to the Plumtrees, Kelly and Hairston to provide enough bulk down low to keep the Duke train rolling full steam ahead.

But lest we get too excited about next year…here’s Duke’s One Shining Moment. We will never forget this team, this season and the incredible run to a fourth National Title.

GO DUKE.

Answering The Call

Jon and Nolan combined for 42 points in Duke's vengeful romp over West Virginia Saturday night. (courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Just some morning-after thoughts from Duke’s 21-point blowout win over West Virginia last night:

  • Can you believe where we are right now? I mean, really. This has to be one of K’s most masterful coaching jobs. This team was shrouded in doubt coming into the season, with the transfer of Elliot Williams to his hometown school, the departure of Gerald Henderson, and the fact that our big men were big, but unproven. Incredible that what the national media (including ourselves) called ‘not a great, vintage Duke team’ just dragged the Big East’s best up and down the floor. This victory wasn’t really in question at any point in the second half, either: the lead fluctuated between 6-10 before Duke broke it open with around 8 minutes left. I was pulling my hair out at halftime in anticipation of a WVU run—but it never came. And that was thanks to our…
  • DEFENSE. The Mountaineers shot the ball very well in the first half—I got tired of watching us not defend Flowers and Wellington Smith on the perimeter. The eight point halftime margin was nice—and more than I expected. But our defense, which forced 10 Mountaineer turnovers while we gave up the rock just five times, was our driving force tonight. West Virginia has a bunch of great athletes, which is why they had four blocks to our one. But our pressure man-to-man came through again, holding WVU to just 57 points and absolutely deflating a huge yellow-clad audience.
  • Kyle Singler absolutely lit it up. We escaped Baylor without the ACC Tourney MVP scoring a single field goal. But he erupted in the first half, scoring 14 points on some amazing takes to the hole and jumpers. Kyle looked liked an All-American one game after disappearing completely. If Gordon Hayward played his way into the first round against Michigan State, you have to say that Kyle’s 21 on 50% shooting is probably pushing his stock up like the Dow in the 90s.
  • The beard still horrifies Duke opponents. Brian Zoubek had another ‘vintage Z’ performance (is it too early to say that?), scoring six points on three layups, and pulling down 10 boards. Of our stunning 20 assists, Zoubek had three, all on offensive rebounds and kick outs to the perimeter. The nation’s number one offensive rebounder is playing himself into late second round consideration. I mean really, Zoubek could be a 12th man on an NBA roster. With some work, maybe he could be like Todd Macculoch. Wow.
  • Haters where? Most of the national media predicted Duke to lose this one: Parrish, Forde, Katz, O’Neil? Thanks for the newfound respect, we’ll take it. Did anyone predict Duke to blow out the Mountaineers, or for Jordan Davidson to hit the game’s final three pointer? By the way—congrats Jordie for going 100% in the Final Four so far! And a career high! I bet Davidson is glad he came back for the new Masters in Markets & Management Studies program
  • We hope Da’Sean Butler recovers quickly. The young man has been a warrior all season, hitting an astouding six game winning shots, including this miraculous one against Georgetown in the Big East Tourney Final (thanks for beating the Hoyas! You too, Ohio!). Butler is WVU’s best player, and Bob Huggins considers him the best player he’s ever coached. High praise, considering Huggins has mentored guys like Kenyon Martin at Cincy. Butler’s gruesome fall after colliding with Zoubek is apparently a sprained knee, thankfully not an ACL injury. We wish him a quick convalescence because he should be a first round pick.
  • Who the heck is Deniz Kilicli? OK, we found him. Yikes.
  • Also, it should be noted that Cam Thoroughman, who after our 2008 loss to WVU famously said “Oh my god. Are you kidding me?” after being informed that Paulus was a McDonald’s All-American, has no game and couldn’t elicit enough respect from Huggins to play more than one garbage minute yesterday. I can take the barbs from real players like Joe Alexander or Mazzulla (sort of). But Thoroughman should keep his mouth shut.
  • We saw Mr. Jim Scheyer outside Lucas Oil Stadium a few hours before the Butler-Mich. State tip off. I bet he enjoyed his son carve up the Mountaineer defense for 23 points. Wish we’d seen his wife too, though.
  • I’m really glad Miles Plumlee hung on the rim, although the technical call was still questionable. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Andrew Bogut dislocated his elbow last night in a similar play, and we all remember Evan Turner’s back injury earlier in the year. Even if the call was outrageous, Plumlee was smart to hang on the rim and not crash his 6’10” frame to the ground. That’s a Christ School education for you!
  • Does it have to be Butler? I was cheering for the Bulldogs from the upper decks yesterday, and there is so much to like about this team. The national media is begging for a miraculous upset on Monday night. This matchup feels like a literary binary: city/country, David/Goliath, agriculture/industry…any others I’m missing? The fact is, however, we match up very well with America’s Sweetheart: Matt Howard is a 6’8” starting center for anyone under a rock this Final Four. Before our game, I asked a Butler fan exiting the stadium who he’d rather play. He said West Virginia, because Duke has such great size. Good point. Sorry, pal!

Although the Bulldogs are the sentimental favorite and the entire stadium (lingering Spartans and Mountaineers as well) will be cheering against Duke, we feel confident about Monday night. But not overly confident. I’m not sure this kind of situation is precedented—a team in the title game miles away from its home court. We need to take care of business Monday night: I want to see Zoubek hoist the championship plank and roar like the head of the pride. Let’s get this in, Duke!

Indiana Bound

For the first time in six years, Duke is back where it belongs: in the Final Four. After gritty wins against Purdue and Baylor this past weekend, the Devils will be heading to Indianapolis next weekend to face West Virginia in the national semifinals.

While it seems like familiar territory for Coach K, it is just the opposite for each one of the players on this Duke team. None had ever gone past the Sweet Sixteen until this year. Despite being the most maligned number one seed in the tournament, Duke was the only top seed to earn a trip to Indianapolis.

Let’s be honest here. Who would have thought at the beginning of this season that we would be going to the Final Four? We had two scholarship guards on the roster. Our big men were unproven. We had too short of a bench. The Olympics had jaded Coach K, and the game had passed him by. Hell, Pat Forde wrote that Duke was the only top ten team in the country that could not win it all.

But all of that makes this team and this tournament that much more incredible. While this team is not devoid of stars, it excels at playing team basketball. On a night when Kyle Singler failed to make a field goal – for the first time in his three years at Duke – the rest of the team more than made up for him. The King of Jersey, Lance Thomas had an absurd eight offensive rebounds and a tip dunk and-one that was the best play of his four year career. Dre’ Dawk joined the party with two beautiful three-pointers at a crucial juncture in the first half, including a deep shot that cut the halftime deficit to three. Jon Scheyer, who had not shot well at all thus far in the tournament, came up huge with five three pointers and 20 points.

But most impressive was the performance of a Nolan Derek Smith, who had the most phenomenal game of his college career when Duke needed him the most. At around 2:30 pm yesterday, Nolan posted an update to his Twitter account that brought tears to my eyes.

After watching a screening of the Outside The Lines feature on Nolan and his father, former NBA star Derek Smith, on Saturday morning, Nolan dedicated what was arguably the biggest game of his life to his greatest inspiration. And boy, did he deliver. With a game and career high 29 points, all of which came at critical moments throughout the game, Nolan earned South Regional MVP honors and certainly made his father more than proud.

We all know that this journey is not yet over. Duke will face a very tough West Virginia squad on Saturday night. But for now, Crazies, enjoy this moment. This has been the most enjoyable and incredible season I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never been prouder to be a Duke Blue Devil.

As the team returned from Houston at approximately 1:30am last night, hundreds of Crazies welcomed the Final Four bound Devils back home. Check it out.

Crazie Talk will be headed to Indianapolis on Friday! If you’ll be there, let us know on Facebook, or Twitter!

A Historic Day?

I realized this morning where Duke stands going into today’s 5 o’clock tilt with Baylor. On the verge of the program’s first Final Four since 2004. Coach K’s eleventh trip to the promised land in his legendary career. An opportunity for our seniors to reach the climax of their careers on college basketball’s biggest stage.

But the most important aspect may be abstract and intangible, a feeling rather than a statistic. A trip to Indianapolis would redeem the trend of March heartbreak, and silence all the doubters who questioned Duke’s placement in the weak South region.

The experts and pundits question Duke’s ability to handle an athletic and hungry Baylor team, whose first NCAA tournament appearance has been a fantastic success. Moreover, we’re playing them on their turf: Waco, Texas is just four hours from Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Baylor demolished the upstart St. Mary’s Gaels—they look comfortable on that weird raised floor.

This game will not be easy, but we have been building to this moment for four years, ever since LSU’s Garrett Temple shut down JJ Redick and crushed Duke’s hopes of a 2006 title run.

Laettner’s shot eighteen years ago sent Duke to a “-polis” (Minneapolis) which resulted in our second straight national title. Will Duke require more heroics to make it to Indy? Hope not. Let’s put down the Bears and get ready to take care of business in Indy.

Section 17: Reality Check in D.C.

Georgetown did most of the swarming Saturday, forcing 15 Duke turnovers, many of which led to open layups. (courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

After banging out a home win against Florida State on Wednesday, Duke faced a tough test on Saturday afternoon. Seventh ranked Georgetown. 20,000 Hoya fans packing the seats of the Verizon Center. Coach John Thompson III going for his 200th win. And then President Obama decides to show up, sweater-clad VP Biden in tow.

Georgetown came out swinging, and we came out dull.

The Hoyas put on a statistical show en route to an 89-77 win, a margin that could have been 20 had the Hoyas applied defensive pressure in the last minute. The numbers are staggering: nine blocked shots, nine steals, 20 assists, and a ridiculous 74% field goal percentage. The Hoya ‘Big Three’ came to play: Greg Monroe (21 points), Austin Freeman (20 points) and Chris Wright (21 points) dominated Duke with the outside shot, off the dribble and in the paint.

Of those three, Greg Monroe was the absolute star. A former recruit of Coach K, Monroe abused our interior defense in the second half. He showed a variety of moves, including two spin moves with either hand for an easy layup. This seemed to be a statement game for Monroe, who had a horrid showing last season when the Hoyas lost in Cameron. Monroe proved his mettle on the big stage, and got his revenge against Duke.

So what can Duke learn from this difficult loss? Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Defense, Defense, Defense. A graphic popped up late in the CBS broadcast that 89 points was the most Duke has allowed all season. Moreover, it was 17 points above Georgetown’s average offensive output. For a team that is perhaps seven deep, Georgetown’s offense flowed like melted wax over a branding iron. Duke won the previous two games with their defense. We held Clemson to 47 points, its lowest home total in seven years, and prevented Florida State from getting into any offensive rhythm.

So what happened in Washington? Coach K told the media before the game that Georgetown had had a week to prepare, while Duke had played on Wednesday. That’s a good point: Georgetown certainly looked fresher. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Georgetown runs a Princeton style offense, predicated upon quick backdoor cuts and precise passing. Each Hoya is capable of making those passes, and Duke didn’t adapt its on ball defense. We were beat backdoor over and over again. When Coach K went to a zone in the first half, the Hoyas shot over it, nailing five of their six total three pointers. At that point, I considered them to be on a hot streak that would eventually cool. Hardly.

Shooting 75% may seem lucky, but our defense allowed Georgetown to dictate the tempo and get easy shots. Coach K is all about collective responsibility. Accordingly, that was a team losing effort on defense. In order to compete in March, we must be ready for the fast-paced, physical style of teams like Georgetown (and basically any Big East team). In the disaster that is this year’s ACC, we may win despite playing poor defense. But I’d rather hold every team under 60 points, wouldn’t you?

2. Road Woes Continue

As Duke fans, we always expect the other team’s best shot. My parents often lament our losses to normally inferior teams, offering the justification that

Georgetown2

Team defense is the key to wins on the road. (courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

“The Duke game is always their national championship.” In a way, this is true. The four blue letters across our jerseys inspire a hatred and passion that no other program can evoke. Teams (and their fans) want to beat Duke—knock us off our pedestal, if you will.

So nearly every road game will be a fight for Duke; we will get the other team’s best shot. Nonetheless, we usually win anyway. John Roth pointed out in an Jan. 2009 article that Duke had won 77% of their ACC road games since 1998, a mark 14 percentage points better than the ACC’s home winning percentage in that period. Despite the pressure and hatred, Duke usually wins. That is, until this year.

All four of our losses have come in true road environments: Wisconsin’s Kohl Center, Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Colosseum, NC State’s RBC Center (wtf?), and this weekend at the Verizon Center in Washington. Each of these games we have looked tired and sluggish on offense. Our defense—and Nolan Smith’s heroic scoring—beat Clemson in Littlejohn. We only scored 60 points, hardly an offensive juggernaut.

At home and at neutral sites we are one of the most efficient and dynamic offenses in the country. With three legitimate scoring threats in Earth, Wind and Scheyer, Duke can beat teams in a variety of ways. The point production of our Big Three is pretty consistent, with each averaging over 16 points per game.

Scheyer, Smith and Singler need to continue to get their shots on the road. But these games must be a team effort—the comfort of Cameron cannot always be there to bolster the team during bad stretches. One of the main sufferings during the Georgetown game was our apparent greenness with interior defense. Miles and Mason Plumlee got into early foul trouble, leaving Lance Thomas with the burden of trying to contain Greg Monroe without any backup. Zoubek, unable to guard anyone even mildly mobile, only played two minutes. Ryan Kelly also looked like the freshman that he is on the defensive end.

Past Duke teams won road games due to a commitment to team defense. We cannot rely on our three stars entirely away from home. Until Duke learns to play as a seamless unit on offense and defense, the road will continue to be rocky terrain.

3. A Bad Loss?

I had reservations about Saturday’s game, although C-T cautiously predicted a Duke victory (don’t call us homers, we didn’t write the Odyssey). This was a huge game for Georgetown, and you know that Obama’s special appearance sent all those future lawyers and government lackeys into a frenzy. I did not expect to lose—I hardly ever do—but I was prepared for the possibility.

What I was not prepared for was how badly we lost. Coach K said in his post-game comments that Georgetown was “electric”—the team, the fans and the ‘grayed-out’ stadium. As Coach said, we couldn’t match the intensity the Hoyas brought—they played with urgency for 40 minutes.

So what can we take from a game that most Duke fans will want to wipe from their memory?

For one, I was pleased to see the freshmen get some experience playing in a big out of conference road game against a powerful team. None of them ‘lit it up’—Dawkins missed several open threes he would knock down in Cameron, Kelly looked flustered, and Mason was overpowered by Georgetown’s Monroe and Julian Vaughn. But unlike in past years, they stayed on the court. Obviously, the quick whistles of the refs put Miles and Lance on the bench, necessitating more minutes out of Mason and Ryan, and Andre has proved his road worthiness at Wisconsin. Nevertheless, the experience of playing in that pressure-cooker of a stadium will greatly benefit our three first-years in the long run. I was happy to see Coach K use his bench in a more than nominal fashion.

It was also reassuring to watch our guys fight for loose balls to cut a 20 point deficit to 12 in a final run capped off by Mason’s emphatic dunk. Although Georgetown had all but sung the fight song at that point, our guys did not hang their heads and walk toward the locker room. They preserved their dignity and tried to make it at least look like a competitive game.

What did we learn in D.C.? That we have a lot to learn. Let’s rebound this week with a vengeance victory versus Georgia Tech, and get ready to face those bottomfeeders down in Chapel Hill.

Crazie-Talk thanks our readers for sticking with us in these tough times. That’s how Duke fans are. Let’s not start pining for Kyrie Irving just yet, we have a lot of season left to play. Go Duke.