Math 9314: Conference Play Gets Underway

As we enter the new year, January brings us many things. It brings us hopes and dreams, resolutions both kept and unkept, and college basketball. Lots of college basketball. January marks the beginning of conference play, where the intensity ramps up and every game is a test for a team’s NCAA tournament resumè. The young Blue Devils seemed like they weren’t quite ready for this transition, enduring two difficult road games in the past week. As we know, Duke was upset by Temple in Philadelphia but rebounded in its ACC-opener with a hard-fought victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Let’s take a quick look behind the numbers using our advanced metrics and see what that box scores from these games did not tell you:

Temple:
This game was all about the brothers Plumlee, but it was Miles, not Mason, who got it going early and often for Duke. Miles poured in 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting in just 19 minutes for his most productive game of the season. Miles’s GameScore of 16.6 was his season-high and was only outdone by younger brother Mason, who posted a GameScore of 18.2. Though he struggled early, Mason finally got it going down the stretch and finished with 16 points on 7-of-13 from the floor. But Mason’s biggest contribution was on the glass, posting an Oreb% of 30.17% and leading Duke with seven offensive rebounds. This means that when Mason was on the floor and Duke put up a shot, he would pull in an offensive rebound on 30.17% of these rebounding opportunities. Miles added three more offensive rebounds and recorded an Oreb% of 21.78% on the game. Unfortunately, other than the Plumlees’ performance, it was Terrible, Terrible, Terrible at Temple. Our advanced metrics actually reveal to us that Duke’s performance against Temple was even worse than it looked. The Blue Devils next highest GameScore came from freshman Michael Gbinije with 5.7- keep in mind that Gbinije only played eight minutes in the game. Gbinije was productive when he was on the floor, knocking down both of his shots for five points. After Mason Plumlee, the next highest GameScore from a Duke starter was Austin Rivers’ 3.5, thanks to his 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Rounding out Duke’s starting lineup was a 3.1 GameScore from Ryan Kelly, a 2.8 from Seth Curry, and a whopping 0.3 from Tyler Thornton. At risk of making myself (and I’m sure many readers) physically ill from these statistics, I’m going to slowly back away from the Temple game and pretend it never happened. But rest assured, when your team has three players with efficiency ratings over 3.5 and one of them played just eight minutes, yeah you’re in trouble. With this bad a performance, it’s surprising that Duke only lost by five points and actually had a chance to win this game.

Kelly's 21 points was his highest scoring effort this season (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Georgia Tech:
Duke’s hard-fought victory on the road against Georgia Tech served as a small step in the right direction. The Blue Devils were paced by Ryan Kelly, who scored 21 points on just four shots from the floor, posting an impressive GameScore of 20.9. Kelly’s GameScore was the highest posted by a Duke player since Quinn Cook’s21.8 against Western Michigan. Kelly’s Usage% of 20.94% was hardly indicative of his role in Duke’s half-court sets, however, as 14 of the 18 shots he took on the day came from the foul line. Mason Plumlee added another solid game, achieving a GameScore of 12.5 thanks to his nine points and eight rebounds. Curry added 15 points but was hardly efficient in doing so, taking 12 shots from the floor and posting a Usage% of 31.11%. His high usage reflected poorly in his GameScore of 8.7. In his first career start, Quinn Cook recorded a respectable GameScore of 7.5 thanks to his 10 points and five assists. Tyler Thornton, who was replaced by Cook in the starting lineup, had posted a GameScore above 7.5 on just one occasion in his six starts. Thornton’s GameScore was just 2.9 against Georgia Tech.

Mason's consistency might be the most surprising of his improvements this year (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

What We Learned:
Mason Plumlee is a workhorse— This is something that most of us already knew, but his consistency has been a great surprise this year. Plumlee has posted GameScores above 10 in eight of his last nine games. He finds ways to be a productive contributor even when he is not scoring, averaging 10.1 rebounds per game over that stretch. The Plumlees have had a history of showing flashes of brilliance but being dreadfully inconsistent, but it appears they are finally beginning to break that mold. Mason’s GameScores of 12.5 and 18.2 in the Blue Devils two most recent games, games in which the team did not play particularly well, shows that he is becoming a player Duke can rely on to produce night in and night out.

Rivers has struggled in Duke's past three games and has forced some tough shots (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Austin Rivers is struggling once again– Scoring just 20 points on 6-of-21 shooting in his last two games combined, Rivers is just not feeling it out there. We are seeing glimpses of November’s Austin Riverswho would drive the lane and force tough shots. He also hasn’t had his usual shooting touch from beyond the arc as of late, shooting just 2-of-8 from deep in Duke’s past three games. Rivers’ GameScores have been 3.9, 3.5, and 3.3 in the Blue Devils last three contests against Pennsylvania, Temple, and Georgia Tech respectively. These are his lowest totals since Duke faced Kansas in the final of the Maui Invitational six weeks ago. This seems to be the latest in a series of ups and downs this season for Rivers, but there doesn’t seem to be a larger issue here. It simply appears he’s been a bit off his game. We hope he’s due for a breakout performance very soon, especially with a tough Virginia team coming to Cameron for Duke’s ACC home opener on January 12th.

Georgia Tech was a great test for Duke, who will have to grind out many more close games in tough environments as the conference schedule continues. Hopefully the Blue Devils continue to make the right adjustments moving forward. Stay Crazie, my friends.

Later this week, Crazie Talk will have its first-ever mailbag where our writers answer Duke basketball questions submitted by our readers. Have any thoughts or questions? Submit them to us by sending them to crazietalk@gmail.com or tweet them @crazietalker with hashtag #askCT.

The Beat Goes On

Hello, Crazie-Talkers.

Yes, it’s been a while since our last entry, and for that we apologize. The collective insanity during finals period on Duke’s campus submerged our staff in a heap of exams, papers and presentations. This writer endured European blizzards and faulty airlines before finally making it back to the United States from a semester abroad. Lamentably—but necessarily—Crazie-Talk had to take a hiatus. Now that the holidays are culminating in days of college football and snow blankets the East Coast, we have returned to provide some more fun-filled coverage of the team we all freak out about.

But enough idle chitchat. The nation’s best college basketball team has produced loads of news in the normally dull period of mid-December, and here I am to recap it:

  • Kyrie Irving—whose 31 points felled Michigan State—fell himself against Butler, and the Duke nation stood up in support of his mysteriously injured toe.
  • In his absence, Nolan, Kyle and Andre have stepped up to lead the team to home court annihilations of Bradley, St. Louis and Elon. Nolan is putting up All-American numbers and looks prepared to build his point guard resume in the coming months.
  • Our legendary coach stands poised to win his 880th game against a winless UNC-Greensboro team on Wednesday, which will move him into second place on the all-time wins list. In the process, Coach K will pass Dean Smith, his former Tobacco Road nemesis—an event that has reignited the rivalry discourse months before Duke and UNC meet on the floor (at least Roy approves!).
  • Our 2011 recruiting class has shined in early season action. Austin Rivers is putting up absurd numbers, including several huge statistical performances in the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers. And now that Rivers has gotten the Dick Vitale seal of scintillation, I guess we can officially get excited about him (even if his team only managed fourth place). Austin was a celebrity at the tournament that he’s dominated throughout high school, and the national hype is growing to levels normally reserved for people like Greg Oden. Freshman scoring records, prepare to fall.
  • Marshall Plumlee won the dunk contest at City of Palms with some basketball/soccer hybrid tricks reminiscent of his brother’s work in the CTC Dunk show. The Perky Plumlee Big Man Academy should be opening soon.
  • Quinn Cook took home the MVP at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii, as his Oak Hill Warriors defeated Monteverde 58-44 in a battle of high school hoops powerhouses. Quinn had 22 points in the defensive grinder, and knocked down three of his team’s four triples.
  • Mike Gbinije looks fundamentally sound in these highlights from the Chick-fil-A Classic in South Carolina. (MG comes in at 1:22 in the video).

So December has been kind to Duke in all things not involving toes. The speculation about Kyrie’s potential return to the team is already turned to eleven; another “serious” prognostication would just add to the chatter. But what we do know is that our remaining regular season schedule looks horrible on paper. Of our opponents, only Maryland is listed on Ken Pomeroy’s current Top 25, and Duke is the only ACC team in the ESPN or AP polls. If we can stay afloat on the road—which is never easy, regardless of the conference’s weakness this year—Coach K should rack up a bunch of wins in January and February. The Irving Question will persist until a real answer is given, but we have a lot of ACC hide to tan until that day arrives.

Anyway, Happy Holidays, everyone. C-T will be back in force when the crew returns for the spring semester. Until then, enjoy the smooth sounds of Kyrie, Josh and Tyler singing Christmas music next to the locker room tree.

Deviled Eggs: Countdown to Craziness Edition, October 11th, 2010

This Monday, we’re doing a special Countdown To Craziness edition of our weekly Deviled Eggs. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re unbelievably hyped for this Friday and for the season to get underway! Stay tuned to Crazie Talk for more CTC coverage, and keep an eye out for highlights from front and center in Section 17 later this week.

Who knows what Nolan has planned for this year's CTC? (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

Approximately 189 days ago, Gordon Hayward threw up a last second, Hoosier-esque, half court heave that arced through the air at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for seemingly an eternity. By this point, Crazie Talkers Amogh and Jake, over in the Duke student section, had probably spontaneously combusted out of sheer nerves. The collective nation held its breath, knowing that if this prayer of a shot managed to find its way through the net, it would undoubtedly become the greatest college basketball moment and one of the most memorable sports moments in history. Movies would be made, Butler basketball jersey sales would instantaneously skyrocket, and the hearts of four thousand Duke students eagerly watching in Cameron Indoor back at home would simultaneously shatter.

…of course, we all know how it actually turned out.

For you see, one day in middle school, Gordon Hayward decided to go watch the movie Hoosiers with his bros, skipping one very important math class in the process…y’know, that one class where you learn how to use a protractor? Thus, he miscalculated the x-axis launch trajectory of the shot by less than .5 of a degree, and the ball graciously bounced off the backboard and the front of the rim. “Poor” Gordon. Remember kids: Be cool…stay in school.

The 2009-10 college basketball season ended with a bang, Duke University went up in flames (the good kind), and your Blue Devils won the NCAA championship. Seems like forever ago, huh?

That’s cool and all, but I’m sure you’re asking, “Arun, what the hell does any of this have to do with Countdown to Craziness?” Well, let me remind you, my impatient little bloggers, that any great story with a great ending has to have a great beginning, too. And that’s just what Countdown to Craziness (CTC, for you cool kids) is. Almost a year ago today, the 09-10 Duke basketball season started off with it’s shiny, (not-so) new “Midnight Madness” event.

…Alright, so we didn’t have a big name in the music industry performing live…well, sort of. And yeah, we weren’t unveiling a championship banner.  Oh, and there definitely wasn’t…this.

But there was still much fun to be had in and around Cameron. And the best part? We were front and center for it all (been there for two years straight, actually)! And that’s why I’m here writing this today. Let me help you relive the glorious start to our glorious 09-10 season, as well as assist you in elevating your hype level so that it can, perhaps, match mine! Good luck with that…

So, without further ado, here’s this week’s Countdown to Craziness edition of Deviled Eggs! The first three Eggs are about last year’s event, while the following three focus on this Friday’s. As always, thanks to Dave Bradley of Duke Blue Planet for all the great footage and pics.

Cool truck, bro. (Courtesy DukeBluePlanet.com)

1) Counting Down the Top 10 at CTC

Let’s start things off with an overview of some of the best moments from last year’s CTC. We got our first look at Andre, Ryan, and Mason, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. And of course, The Beard was unleashed.

2) Alarmingly (Un)athletic

Yeah right. Last year’s dunk contest was absolutely ridiculous, and we can expect more of the same this year…but without Olek, unfortunately. I wonder who the judges will be for this year’s event? Maybe Duke’s best dunker of the last decade can make a guest appearance…

3) Schedule of Events

From GoDuke.com, here is the event schedule from last year’s CTC. I’d assume that we’d stick to the same schedule and most of these same events will  probably be making a return. CTC, as well as other schools‘ various Midnight Madness events, will be broadcast on ESPNU. Look for an updated schedule of events to be released sometime this week.

***UPDATE***  This year’s schedule of events can be found here.

4) “Are You Not Entertained?!”

Next up, we’ve got an article talking about how Duke University Improv will again be involved with this years CTC event. For those who don’t know, Duke University Improv (DUI) is Duke’s premier improvisational comedy troupe known for YouTube smash hits such as “My New Haircut, Asian Edition” and “Jon Scheyer in 75 seconds“. As you might have guessed, they’re pretty good friends of the basketball team and have worked together with them to deliver hilarious and sometimes…peculiar…videos.

5) Welcome Blue Devils Past, Present, and Future

Blue Devil dignitaries will surely fill the house on Friday night. You can anticipate last year’s squad returning home to Cameron to get their hard-earned championship rings. You can also expect Duke’s future stars to be in attendance, including 2011 commits Mike Gbinije, Marshall Plumlee, and the newest Blue Devil, Austin Rivers.

6) The Fourth Banner

Hopefully it's not gonna hang like that though. (Courtesy DukeBluePlanet.com)

‘Nuff said. It’s gonna be a beautiful sight.

That’s all we’ve got for this special Countdown to Craziness edition of Deviled Eggs. Hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed writing it. The show starts this Friday at 7:30PM, with festivities aplenty before then. If you can’t make it to Cameron in person, Crazie Talk will have highlights up on YouTube soon after the event ends.

Deviled Eggs: September 27th, 2010

Every Monday morning, Crazie Talk culls Duke basketball news, articles, and videos into a half dozen of the best “Deviled Eggs” on the interwebs.

Here are this week’s best:

#33 Fires Up the Homecoming Crowd (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

1. Grant Hill: All-Star, Philanthropist, Alumnus, Producer

Duke legend Grant Hill was on campus this weekend to partake in the Duke homecoming festivities. After being introduced by Coach Cutcliffe at the homecoming rally this past Friday, the high-flying former #33 talked about his love for the university and its traditions. But that’s not the only reason he was in Durham. Hill has been working on producing a full-length motion picture about Duke’s legendary track and field coach, Al Buehler. Coach B was instrumental in helping desegregate track and field in the US and bringing international notoriety to Duke’s track program. Coach Buehler still teaches a class here at Duke (the same one that Grant Hill took while he was here), and still has an office on the first floor of Cameron.

2. Cameras Covering Cameron

Can’t really say too much about this particular topic, aside from the fact that Duke Basketball, the Cameron Crazies, the Inferno, and Crazie Talk will soon be headed to a newsstand near you! We had a pretty cool experience last Wednesday at a certain photo-shoot. Keep your eyes peeled! Just sayin’.

3. Gbinije’s Gballin’

Here’s a new video of 2011 Duke commit Michael Gbinije working hard on the summer AAU circuit. We can definitely see him fitting in well at the wing position with his versatile talents on the court. In the mixtape, it looks like he even did a pretty good job of shutting down Kyrie Irving’s former St. Patrick’s teammate and top 5 recruit, Michael Gilchrist. We’re looking forward next year to seeing this guy get gbuckets.

4. Officially Counting Down to Craziness

It’s baaaaaack! Everyone’s favorite midnight madness event will be here in less than 3 weeks! Tickets have officially gone on sale for those of you who can’t join us front and center in Section 17. And sorry…we don’t take bribes. Get ’em quick before they’re gone! It’s bound to be quite a show, highlighted by that beautiful fourth banner dropping from the rafters. We’re planning on recording it all for you from courtside! Duke University Improv’s sure to have some ridiculous videos again. But, personally I think it’ll be pretty hard to top last year in ridiculousness

5. The Museum of…Duke Domination

We’re pretty intrigued by the construction at the new Duke Basketball museum. I guess the fourth title really helped facilitate a rearranging of hardware. I’m only wondering if all this is really worth it since we’re only going to have to shift everything around again after this season…if you catch  my drift…

6. Tyler Thornton on “The Trio”

Last but not least, we have an article by GoDuke.com’s Al Featherston on Duke’s “other” freshman point guard, Tyler Thornton. You might expect that Thornton would have been pretty sour about being “recruited over” by our superstar frosh point guard Kyrie Irving. On the contrary. Thornton apparently played a major role in Irving’s recruitment and embraces the idea of having a future NBA PG to go up against in practice every day. Thornton also prides himself on his defense, so we think he’ll fit right in at Duke.

That’s it for this edition of Deviled Eggs. Wish us luck with midterm week…but we’ll be back soon! The season starts up in…what? Seriously? 18 DAYS? #Hyped