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.

The World Celebrates 903

The buzzer sounds, Duke beats Michigan State, and Coach K is the true G.O.A.T. (photo courtesy BluePlanetShots.com)

Last night, we all watched as Coach K surpassed his former coach and mentor Bobby Knight to become the winningest coach in men’s Division I basketball history. It was an exciting game, a global stage, and a special moment for a man who is always more concerned with his players and his community than with himself.

Perhaps we will reflect on 903 in a more extensive essay at a later date. However, for today, I have collected some of the best coverage of this historic moment from around the internet. Enjoy perusing these links instead of working or studying.

1. Coach K infographic from DukeBluePlanet

Duke basketball’s marketing masterminds are back with this phenomenal infographic detailing Coach K’s accomplishments at Duke. Most astounding figure I saw: Duke has been a top 10 team for 75% of Coach K’s games and in the top 5 for over half.

2. Jay Bilas and Grant Hill reflect on what Coach K has meant in their lives

Two of the most erudite former Dukies hold forth on ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated about how Coach K helped them grow as athletes and as human beings. (warning: Bilas looks kind of like a gremlin in the photo)

3. Seth Davis on the unique relationship between Coach K and his mentor, Bob Knight

Davis can be an idiot sometimes, but he’s put together an incredible story on the relationship that these two legendary coaches share.

4. GoDuke breaks down the 903 wins

The official Duke athletics site charts K’s course as a head coach, from the rough-and-tumble early years to the modern day throne. I have a feeling they’ve had this in the works for a while.

5. Dana O’Neil on Coach K’s career being “so much more” than the wins

O’Neil knows how to pull at our heartstrings.

6. An interesting perspective on the meaning on milestones from NBC Sports

“…[Brad] Stevens will need 27 seasons in which he averages 29 wins per year starting after Coach K retires to catch him, something that doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon.” Coach K’s got this one tidied up for a long time.

7. Shane Ryan on Grantland (save the best for last)

Our Duke sportswriting idol blends personal narrative and spot-on game analysis (Plumlees: ugh) in this near-great piece on the game.

Also glad to see Jay Bilas and all the former players had a good time on the town after the game:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/JayBilas/status/136794571135926273″%5D

 

 

And enjoy an excellent tribute video from DukeBluePlanet to America’s Best Coach.

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:

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…

Section 17: This Ain't Our First Rodeo

Hopefully not the only Championship we get this year (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

A Win is a Win

Looking for their first road win of the season, the Duke Blue Devils packed their bags for the O’Reilly Auto Parts/Reese’s Cups/Progressive Insurance CBE Classic in  Kansas City, MO.  But besides having a floor that resembles a Nascar vehicle, the Sprint Center also provided the boos, the heckling, and general Duke hate that accompanies most road games. What many thought would result into another Duke rout turned into a fierce battle that included all the makings of an NCAA Tournament game.  The Marquette Golden Eagles, at the time a perfect 4-0, came into the game with an upset-minded focus that resonated immediately following tip-off.   Though Duke  jumped out to a 23-9 lead, the Eagles relentlessly chipped away at the Blue Devils and eventually tied the game at 57 in the second half.

Throughout the game, Duke’s main offensive weapon was the talented Mason Plumlee.   The sophomore forward, who seemed due for a breakout game, relied heavily on his athleticism to score 25 points—14 of which came after the Eagles tied the game at 57.  Though he probably won’t be pulling any dream shakes soon , Plumlee finally displayed a decent postgame to complement his freakish athleticism. With the addition of 12 rebounds (6 offensive) and 5 blocks, Mason clearly notched the best game of his young career.

Besides Plumlee, Duke saw most of its offensive production coming from Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.  The two captains combined for 32 points and 15 rebounds, a solid outing that helped push the Blue Devils to a tough win. Nolan (along with Kyrie to a lesser extent) continues to have turnover issues—he had six in this game and four against Colgate.  With Kyrie emerging as Duke’s primary ball handler, a high turnover margin for a scorer like Nolan may mean more playing time for Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, particularly if the two sophomores continue to shoot well from the perimeter.

Another “Neutral” Site Win

Coming off of a tough battle with Marquette, the Blue Devils suited up the next day to face third ranked K-State.  In addition the game’s significance as a battle against another title contender, the matchup marked Coach K’s first opportunity to win his 800th game.

Kyrie owned Pullen almost as badly as Harrison Barnes owned himself against Minnesota. (DukeBluePlanet.com)

Though the Blue Devils looked sluggish and lethargic against Marquette the day before, the crew dominated Kansas State throughout the entire game.   Irving, the game’s star, showed the entire country why exactly scouts labeled him as the second coming of Jay Williams. His statline of 17 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals does not nearly provide enough credit to the sheer ease with which he managed the game.  He attacked the rim at will and led a defensive effort that held Preseason All-American Jacob Pullen to a measly 4 points on 1-12 shooting.

Apart from Irving, the Blue Devil offense manufactured their points through a strong shooting performance from the free throw line and from 3.  Duke converted 50% of its threes vs. K-State’s 17.3%, but more importantly they notched a +13 differential at the free throw line. The Blue Devils also found reason to cheer with the performance of Andre Dawkins. Baby D and Seth Curry complete the most lethal backcourt in the country.  The two continue to shoot well from beyond the arc, but more importantly they play relentless defense—Curry showed flashes of Ed Reed with his five steals.  I should probably also mention that neither player regularly starts, highlighting just how deep this Blue Devil roster is.

As we move forward, I see three areas of improvement for the Blue Devils:

Interior Defense: Though Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee have filled in nicely for Lance and Zoubek, the duo needs to play with more toughness on both ends.  This Wednesday’s match against Michigan State should provide a better gauge of Duke’s strength up front, but the Blue Devils will run into trouble come tournament time if they draw the likes of an Ohio State (Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale)or a Syracuse (Fab Melo and Kris Joseph).

How Nolan adjusts to playing with Kyrie: I have no worries about his scoring or  leadership capability, but what I do notice is an increased tepidness in halfcourt sets when he plays with Irving.  Nolan’s turnover numbers are up, and he took several ill-advised shots in the 2nd half of the K-State game.  He doesn’t seem comfortable playing with Kyrie yet, but I do think that his shot selection will improve over time.  Tom Izzo’s veteran backcourt should test  Nolan’s offensive game, so make sure to watch how MSU’s guards defend him next Wednesday

Mason’s Free Throw Shooting: Could the “Hack-a-Plumlee” turn into a college basketball staple this year?  Probably not, but it is disconcerting to see how poorly Mason’s shooting from the charity stripe.  His FT shooting percentage currently stands at 43%, a Shaq-like figure that screams second half liability on paper.  Mason seems to be struggling with depth on his foul shot, with many of his misses falling short. Hopefully the poor shooting does not turn into a recurring trend, as Plumlee will continue to visit the line more as he develops into a low-post threat.

The Singler Showdown

In the final leg of the Devils’ road trip, the team traveled all the way out to the Great Northwest for Kyle Singler’s homecoming matchup against the Oregon Ducks and his younger brother, E.J. The game was scheduled in large part as a “thank you” gift for Singler staying all 4 years at Duke, in the classic Coach K senior tradition. As for the game itself, it unfortunately didn’t quite match up to the hype level set up by the advertising companies (see 100 foot tall poster of the Singler Bros in Portland). But, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, as the Devils are in the midst of a hellishly tough stretch of games requiring travel around the country.

Big brother bullied little brother all night. #12 tallied 30 points. (Photo DukeBluePlanet.com)

Duke cruised to a 27 point victory Saturday afternoon, despite some sluggish first half play. The game started off with a Mason Plumlee block party while Kyrie simultaneously robbed the Ducks blind by recording 3 steals in just under 3 minutes of play. OUR Singler started off hot, and ended up torching the nets for a 30 point career high-tying night, all in the face of lil’ bro E.J. The only real troublesome aspects of this afternoon’s game were in the 2nd 10 minutes of the 1st half, when Oregon switched to a 3/4 court press with some success. Until Duke collectively calmed down (with some help from a Coach K “inspirational” chewout timeout), the Devils were having trouble breaking the press and were forcing a few too many turnovers for comfort. In the second half, however, all that changed. Duke snipers Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry did some serious duck hunting from long range, scorching the nets and putting the game out of reach once and for all.

We saw a very, very scary second half run this afternoon, demonstrating the damage that our offense can do in a very short period of time. Specifically, Duke’s lead ballooned from 13 to 30 in under 5 minutes with help from Kyrie, Seth, Andre, and Kyle launching bombs from deep. If we shoot that well consistently…wow.

All in all, it was a successful road trip for your Blue Devils, and we managed to bring home the first of hopefully many pieces of hardware this season. Next up is a wounded but still dangerous Michigan State team. But this time, we’ll be facing them in the cozy confines of Cameron. A billion game non-conference home win streak is on the line here, but with the Crazies raucous and the team hungry, we look forward to taking down Sparty.

Home sweet home, indeed.

Congrats to our Blue Devils for a successful road trip, and for bringing home the first title of this young year. Next up is Michigan State, and Crazie-Talk and friends will be lining way too early for front row spots to Wednesday’s game. Arun bought a sleeping bag this Black Friday for a reason…

Countdown to Craziness 2010 Recap

#4 (Photo By Duke Blue Planet)

…Wow.

What an unbelievable event CTC 2010 was. ESPN and the other news crews kept asking if getting in line at 7AM was worth it. Well…you be the judge. We’ll be updating this article for the next few days with pictures and video from our spot front and center in the student section. For now, here’s the highlight reel from an unforgettable Countdown to Craziness. Enjoy:

…and here’s footage from the CTC2010 dunk contest. Andre won it for the 2nd year in a row:

Crazie-Talk made a cameo on the local news, News14 Carolina: