Section 17: Fear the Beard

I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about Brian Zoubek.

"GET OUT OF MY PAINT!"-Brian Zoubek (courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

As the season has progressed, those watching Duke Basketball have heard the three “S” names quite a bit. And with good reason: in Sunday’s hard-fought win against the Virginia Tech, Scheyer, Smith and Singler accounted for 63 of the 67 Blue Devil points. Spectacular, right?

This is delightful and frightening. At the same time. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

Equally spectacular, however, has been senior center Brian Zoubek’s play in the critical final stretch of ACC competition (and his beard). Against the Hokies, Zoubek’s performance on the boards were just as noticeable as Earth, Wind and Scheyer’s shooting. The Z-man grabbed 16 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. When Duke shot, the ball seemed destined for Zoubek’s outstretched paws, which are suddenly are sticky like that receiver in Little Giants.

Zoubek has stuffed the stat sheet in every imaginable way: he hustled for five steals in a road win over Miami, had a monstrous double-double against  Maryland with 16 points and 17 rebounds, and shot 12-17 in the past three games. More importantly, Zoubek’s plays have come at critical junctures in the game. His three point play against Virginia Tech stands out; it gave Duke a five point lead after the under-8 minute official timeout (and accounted for three of the four points scored by Non-‘S’ players).

I have some personal crow to eat as a former Brian Zoubek doubter. I’m sorry, big guy. After his 20+ point performance in the Blue-White game four years ago, many had Z pegged as the ‘next Mike Gminski.’ That never panned out. Injuries have plagued him. Fans have maligned him. And when the Plumlees came to town, I figured Bri-Guy had been replaced and relegated to the bench.

How wrong I was! Zoubek is this team’s glue guy (confirmed by Kyle Singler). He holds his ground without fouling, gets on the floor for loose balls, kicks out O-boards to open shooters, and lets out torrential yells that make opposing forwards look nervously toward their bench.

Crazies have recognized Zoubek with more than just "ZOOOO!" chants. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

Seth Greenberg said it best after another loss in Cameron: “He’s a mountain masquerading as a man. The guy is a huge human being.” I guess he was done calling people buffoons for the day.

I used to scream in anger at Zoubek on the TV.  Now it’s all in delight, big fella. We have a mountain to climb on towards the Final Four, and a bearded one at that.

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Duke returns to action tomorrow night against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Just the one? I guess they’re going for that singular mascot thing, like Stanford. Zoubek will face off with Jerome Jordan, Tulsas’ talented seven footer. But he’s not quite as mountainous as Brian.

Until then, enjoy DukeBluePlanet’s latest Top-5 plays from the win over Greenberg’s testy Virginia Tech team.