Duke Basketball Playbook 2022-2023


I WANT TO READ ABOUT THE MOST RECENT GAME

Duke Basketball Playbook (DBP) (Season 14 Issue Zero)

Pre-Season Edition
“This is my team,” Jeremy Roach takes up the mantle of team captain in his junior season. 
Photo credit: Alyssa Ting | The Chronicle 

Last season’s DBP ended with:

Next Year – Going Out With Coach K or Hanging In With Coach Scheyer?

“This week, when I asked Bill whether he wanted to go out with Coach K, or do the DBP next year, he said he wasn’t ready to decide.  For me, it’s been a 13-year joy to work with Bill (and now Jeanne and Laramie – go to dukebasketballplaybook.com for our history in a single page).  It wouldn’t be the same without him.

“So to all you Tinkerbell fans out there, do you believe Bill will return with Cliffsnotes next season??”

BILL RETURNS!!!

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Jon Scheyer is one of my favorite Duke players. Because of his legendary scoring in his high school career, he entered college dubbed by the press as “Jewish Jordan” and was graduated as an accomplished point guard, whose heady all-round skills helped Duke win the 2010 NCAA Championship. Whom, of all Duke players ever, would you want on the line to ice a game (Laettner, J.J. Redick, & Scheyer)? It is no surprise that Coach K selected Jon from amongst all his ex-players to be his replacement. He is smart and handles pressure well. I expect Coach Scheyer will continue to recruit the right players and put competitors on the floor who mirror his traits as a player.

This team appears to shoot free throws and the three better than some recent squads (both were Scheyer attributes).  

ALANALYSIS

There may never have been a season like this in the history of Duke basketball.  Coach K had already been Duke’s head coach for five years and been to the NCAA Championship game before new coach Jon Scheyer was born (August 24, 1987).  

You get insight into Scheyer from his high school decision and career.  Scheyer refused to transfer from his small high school to a basketball powerhouse high school.  Little Glendale North in the Chicago suburbs relied on his scoring.  (He once scored 21 points in 73 seconds in the State Championship game).  At Duke, Scheyer transformed into the multitalented point guard (quarterback) of the 2010 National championship team.

The 2022-2023 Blue Devils have exactly one returning player who played significant minutes during the 2021-2022 season, junior Jeremy Roach.  Also returning is Jaylen Blakes, a backup sophomore point guard who averaged only 0.5 assists per game in his mop-up 4.5 minutes per game (93 minutes total) last season.

On the other hand, Duke has the top-ranked incoming freshman class, as well as four graduate transfers for experience and depth.  The freshmen are so highly regarded that Duke, with a new coach and only one returning veteran, is ranked 7th in the pre-season polls.  

Here is what we have to chew on so far as we draw closer to the season opener on Monday, November 7 against Jacksonville.  Countdown to Craziness (October 21, 2022) featured a 16-minute intra-squad scrimmage that was great to watch, but less than informative.  On October 29, the Blue Devils flew to Houston for a controlled scrimmage against the Houston Cougars (ranked 3rd in pre-season polls), which was not televised or broadcast.  No box score was disseminated, but word of mouth was the currency of the sports writers.  Finally, on November 2, 2022, the young Blue Devils faced off in a televised exhibition game against Fayetteville State (Div. II).  

Duke’s pre-season has been so far without Dariq Whitehead and Derek Lively, who are rated as the two highest ranked freshmen in the country this season.  Whitehead broke his foot early in the pre-season and is still in a boot, weeks away from returning.  I have watched him a couple of times and am very impressed.   [Here is what I wrote about him last year after the Nike Summit game: “6’6” listed as a small forward.  He is my new favorite player in the world!  He is a tenacious and aggressive defender (and showed it in the all-star game!!!).  He has an outstanding handle, using it to penetrate and dish … when he wasn’t drilling jump shots from deep and mid-range.  He scored 17 points (5-7 from behind the arc)”]  Duke has announced that Whitehead has grown to 6’8” and that Kyle Fillipowski has reached 7’0”.

Lively’s playing condition will be evaluated each morning and the staff isn’t predicting when he will be cleared to play.  There is much speculation that Lively will play on Monday against Jacksonville.

Duke v Fayetteville State on November 2, 2022

The Blue Devils started grad transfer Ryan Young (from Northwestern) at center, freshmen Kyle Fillipowski and Mark Mitchell at forward, with junior Jeremy Roach and freshman Tyrese Proctor in the backcourt.  The two reserves who played starter minutes were grad transfer (from Illinois) Jacob Grandison and returning sophomore Jaylen Blakes.  The first half was more informative than the sloppier second half (with many players on the court who I predict will not be part of the rotation when the fat is on the fire).  Duke led 50-22 at half.  Jeremy led in minutes played with 16; Mitchell and Proctor played 14.5 minutes; Young played 13 minutes; Fillipowski 12.5; and Grandison almost 12.  

The perimeter defense was amazingly good for this early in the season and is my most positive take away from the pre-season.  Fayetteville State was held to 22 points in the first half and 23 in the final stanza. We know Roach can defend and will run the team (8 assists against a single turnover).  Jeremy will be Duke’s most important player (especially if he can perform at the point as his coach did in 2010).  

Proctor, who turned 18 last April, is worth analysis.  He has been a star on the Australian Under-21 team and played on the World team in the Nike Summit last year (Whitehead, Lively and Fillipowski were on the American team in that game).  Proctor is 6’ 5” and a lightning quick one-on-one defender.  Mark Mitchell (6’8” power forward) was a star on offense, whose defense looked as good as Proctor’s.  Mitchell is Proctor’s equal for speed, and he is a scorer as well (he led Duke’s first-half scoring with 13 points on 4-6 from the floor, including 0-1 from deep; and 5-5 from the stripe).  Add Whitehead and Lively, and this could be the starting five.

Scheyer played two Bigs at times (Young and Fillipowski) and sometimes a faster team with just one big (briefly it was Mark Mitchell).  Duke’s substantial size advantage limits analysis.  Young had 10 first-half points (12 for the game). Kyle hit one 3, had a two-handed slam and 4 boards.  He is very smooth for 6’ 11”.  Both will play substantial minutes.

Jacob Grandison shot 41% from deep last season for Illinois, and he kept it up last night, leading Duke in scoring with 17 (6-9 from the field including 3-6 from deep and 2-2 from the line).  Against Fayetteville, Jacob  scored 10 in the first half on deep shots and attacking the basket. I predict he will play a lot!

Jaylen Blakes got a long run in the second half after an impressive first half.  He is fast and hustles every second.  Whether he gets big minutes during the season will depend on how he looks when he gets opportunities (and how the other backcourt players perform).  Scheyer is evaluating to see if Jaylen merits inclusion in the rotation.

Duke was 11-11 shooting foul shots!  Indeed, the only troubling statistic is that Duke gave up 9 offensive rebounds to Fayetteville State in the first half (14 for the game).  Scheyer mentioned the need to improve rebounding in his post-game press conference.

Duke’s “Closed Scrimmage” Against the Houston Cougars on October 29

Because Houston is expected to be a powerhouse this season (ranked #3 pre-season), the scrimmage is a better test of where the young Blue Devils are in team development.  A recent development from the NCAA, the “closed scrimmage” has no television cameras or fans; just the statistics released to the press.  Duke, using essentially the same rotation as in the exhibition game, was beaten rather soundly, 61-50, while shooting poorly (15 for 41, including 2-17 from 3land).  Ryan Young was 3-3 and Mark Mitchell 3-4 from the field, which means the remaining Blue Devils were 9-34.  A good reminder for this young team not to be mesmerized by its press clippings.

Season Starts

Jacksonville, followed by USC Upstate on Friday, November 11.  The first real test will come on Tuesday, November 15 against Kansas in Indianapolis in the State Farm Champions Classic.  

Other November highlights include the Phil Knight Legacy in Portland Oregon (first round on Thanksgiving: Oregon State; second round on Friday versus the winner of Florida v Xavier, and the finals on Sunday) followed by a visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium by Ohio State in the ACC-Big 10 challenge on November 30.  Should be a fun and informative month! ….stay tuned

Next Play:  Jon Scheyer’s First Game as Duke’s official head coach on November 7 versus Jacksonville!!!

Here we go! Jon Scheyer’s first season as head coach.
Photo credit: Samantha Owusu | The Chronicle 
Duke Basketball standing roster for 2022-2023 (pre transfers/additions) 
Photo credit: @Duke_Recruiting

Duke 71 v. Jacksonville 44 (Season 14; Issue 1) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”(November 7, 2022)

Roach & Scheyer: Running the team, from court and bench. 
Photo Credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Head Coach Jon Scheyer: “I just took a moment before going out there. What an opportunity, what a moment. This is a place I’ve grown up in, playing, coaching, and to be here as a head coach, I was not going to be anywhere other than this moment right now. And hopefully I can do that, going forward through the ups and downs. But for me tonight, that was my main focus.”  

And an impressive 71-44 debut it was with his young team dominating Jacksonville from the very first alley-oop slam dunk by an impressive Mark Mitchell.

To the best of my memory, the only thing I recollect about Jacksonville University’s basketball team was when Artis Gilmore led them to the 1970 finals of the NCAA Tournament at Maryland’s Cole Field House where they lost to favored UCLA 80-69. I happened to be sitting behind the UCLA bench at that game, and the Bruins two All-American forwards, Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe, had their hands full with Gilmore. Coach Wooden just kept a tight grip on his rolled-up program and gave a “what me worry, you guys are playing him, figure out how to neutralize this guy” look at his over-matched stars before finally calling a timeout, calming them down, and employing a full court press that made it difficult for the Jacksonville guards to get the ball to their 7’1’’ star. 

Fortunately, there was no Artis Gilmore on this Jacksonville team. He was one of only a few players who could have saved the Dolphins tonight in an impressive debut of Scheyer’s young squad.

Jeremy Roach, the sole returning starter from last year’s Final Four team is the only captain, and the acknowledged leader, of this Duke team. He demonstrated as much tonight. However, Duke was not at full strength.  Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively, the two most highly rated freshmen, are injured and did not play but are expected to do so shortly. 

The rest of the players all had their moments, none more than Mark Mitchell as a virtual Swiss Army Knife player who does a lot of things and does them very well. Seven foot Kyle Filipowski, who just turned 19 yesterday, played to his height and more;  Graduate transfer center Ryan Young, while not as impressive athletically,has a more sophisticated understanding of post play which should become beneficial to the big men. Ryan scored 12 points, finishing 6-of-6 from the field with seven rebounds, six offensive.  Kyle scored 10 with 12 rebounds.  Sophomore Jaylen Blakes has made a giant leap in skill level from last year and, more importantly, clearly has the coaches confidence as a ‘pit bull competitor’.

The entire team seems to accept that it is DEFENSE FIRST philosophy. Time will tell how this team progresses, but it was a most impressive start.

Miscellaneous Notes:

Johnny Tar Heel thinks that Duke was more impressive tonight than North Carolina was in beating N.C. Wilmington. Duke is now 91-27 all-time in season openers, having won 22 consecutive. In season openers that occur at home, Duke has won 30 consecutive times.

Duke new head coach, who made his head coaching debut, is the 20th head coach in  Duke’s history. 

ALANALYSIS:

The Jon Scheyer-era opened as expected, with Duke’s superior athletes overwhelming Jacksonville, but the Blue Devils were still sufficiently tested,  considering the new coach and 11 new players.  However, it is worth noting that Duke’s two most heralded freshmen, Derek Lively and Dariq Whitehead, are still injured and did not play.  Scheyer said at the post-game press conference that each would be available “sooner rather than later.” We will know more about this team when the Blue Devils journey to Indianapolis on November 15 to play Kansas.   Here is what we learned from the opener:

STARTING LINEUP

Duke started the same five as in the controlled scrimmage against Houston and as in the exhibition game against Fayetteville State: Ryan Young (grad transfer from Northwestern) and freshman 7-footer Kyle Fillipowski in the front court, with team captain Jeremy Roach and Australian freshman Tyrese Proctor at guard.  6’8” Freshman Mark Mitchell was a revelation both on the wing and in the interior.

ROTATION

Duke essentially played only 7 players; five others made brief cameos at garbage time (Duke led by 25 with just a couple of minutes left to play).  The two reserves who played almost starter minutes were Jacob Grandison (grad transfer from Illinois) and returning sophomore Jaylen Blakes.  Interestingly, Duke had the best production when there was only one freshman on the court (either Mitchell or Fillipowski).  That freshman was on the floor with grad transfers Young and Grandison, plus Roach and Blakes (the only two returning players from last year).

Jaden Schutt, a freshman, played 3 minutes in mop-up time, without scoring.  The big news for me, unmentioned by the announcers, was the 2:03 minute appearance by Christian Reeves, a 7-foot freshman.  Reeves had been scheduled to redshirt this year, but… apparently not.  In the past, he would have automatically lost a year of eligibility when he entered the game. Note however: the NCAA rule may be changing to allow the redshirt later in the year (NCAA already made that the football rule). The decision to play Reeves may have been a result of his excellent play in the 16-minute intra-squad scrimmage at Countdown to Craziness.

THE DEFENSE

It is hard to find fault with a defense that allows only  44 points in the entire game, and truly only about 12 points in the second half.  With 7:21 left in the game, Jacksonville had scored only 10 second-half points.  Jacksonville finally earned points # 11 and 12 with less than 1:51 left (before Jacksonville scored 6 points during the remaining garbage time).   

Duke simply played excellent defense based on outstanding hustle and admirable effort.  Proctor, Roach, Blakes, and Mitchell were glue on the perimeter.   Duke looked out of sync and a bit slow in the first half while attempting to defend ball screens and drives and control Jacksonville’s offensive rebounding. The Blue Devil halftime adjustments, however, completely destroyed Jacksonville’s offense.  The Bigs took control of the backboards in the closing stanza. Great coaching!  

THE OFFENSE

Ball movement and good passing were keys to the Blue Devils’ efficient offense.  Scheyer, I think you see that on the court, the way we shared the ball. We ended up with 12 turnovers, but we had 19 assists.”   Duke was 10-29 from deep but Grandison, Proctor and Schutt were 0-9.  The starters and Blakes were 10-20 (Roach 4-7; Mitchell 2-5; Fillipowski 2-5; and Blakes 2-3). 4-10 from the two Bigs, Fillipowski and Mitchell, is encouraging. Duke was really 10-20 (50%) which is  great distance shooting.  The three who were 0-9, dragging the  percentage down are really good shooters, so it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Duke led by 29 with 2:03 to go (67-41).  

In the first half, Jacksonville had cut the lead to 3 (25-22) with 6:42 to play when Roach and Mitchell led Duke on a 10-0 run to its 42-26 halftime lead. Mitchell (11), Roach (16) and Blakes (6) scored 35 of Duke’s 42 first-half points.

Here are the relevant statistics:

  • Roach (31:56), scored all of his 16 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. This was a tie for his third highest-scoring career game (19 points is Jeremy’s career high). He was 0-1 from the foul line, and 0-3 with 0 points in the second half.  However, while Duke needs Roach to be a scoring threat, that is not his most important value.  Scheyer, “Jeremy Roach really set the tone for us. That’s what we need him to do all year long. … Overall though, Jeremy just had a great floor game. Forget about the scoring and the passing. I just thought his presence and his poise were really key for us tonight.” 
  • Ryan Young (31:54), 12 on 6-6, 0-1 stripe; 7 boards (5 offense), 3 steals, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers.  He has been a hustling force on the interior and (for me, anyway) a pleasant surprise so far.
  • Mark Mitchell (29:34), 18 on 7-14 including 2-5 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe. 2 assists, a steal, and a block, with 0 turnovers.  11 in the first half on 5-10 including 0-1 from deep plus  1-1 from the stripe.  He has been the eye-opening surprise of the early going on both ends of the floor.  He has shown no weaknesses so far.  Mark wears # 25, which is a retired number (Art Heyman’s number).  Heyman was a freshman when I was a senior and was the first overall NBA draft choice after he graduated in 1963. Mitchell obtained permission from the Heyman family to wear it.
  • Kyle Fillipowski (25:29), Coach Scheyer, “we’ve emphasized, defend and rebound. And I thought he was a great example of that tonight. He started off probably missing a few shots he normally would hit, and he just stuck with it and made some big-time rebounds. And a couple of them translated into easy baskets on the other end.”  Kyle became only the fourth Duke freshman ever to record a double-double in a season opener — 12 boards, 10 points 4-8, including 2-5 from deep, 0-0 from the line.  2 blocks, 3 assists, but 3 turnovers.
  • Tyrese Proctor (25:35), 2 points – 0-8 including 0-4 (2-2 from the stripe); 4 boards, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers, plus a steal.  He is a good shooter; this was just an off shooting night for him.  He never let his bad shooting impact his defense or ball handling.  I predict he will be a scorer for the Devils this season.
  • Jacob Grandison (24:26), 2 on 1-4, including 0-3 from deep.  Grandison shot 41% from behind the arc last year for the Fightin’ Illini.  As with Proctor, this was a good shooter having a bad night.
  • Jaylen Blakes (21:18), 8 points on 2-3 from deep in the first half and 2-4 from the stripe in the second half, to go with 3 boards, an assist, and a turnover.  Jaylen has displayed great quickness and hustle in his bid for inclusion in the rotation.  Monday was a good step forward.

GOING FORWARD

Duke’s next critical challenge will be to establish Derek Lively and Dariq Whitehead in the rotation and in the starting lineup.  Be patient, this will take some time.  Lively may indeed play on Friday and will almost certainly be ready for Kansas.  It would be desirable for Lively to have at least some court time prior to Kansas on November 15.  Whitehead (and Lively) were each dancing up a storm at Countdown to Craziness, so cannot be that far from playing.   Personally, I am eager to see Whitehead and compare to his high school all-star performance that so captivated me last year.

Kansas is the first game we evaluate Duke against a national contender.  Then, over Thanksgiving the Blue Devils will play 3 games against Big Time opponents in Portland (Phil Knight Classic) followed by hosting Ohio State in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.  What a great November!

Mark Mitchell ferociously drives for a score.
Photo Credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics

Next Play:  USC Upstate on Friday, November 11 in Cameron at 6:30 p.m.   ACCN.


Duke 84 v. USC UpState 38 (Season 14; Issue 2) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (November 11, 2022)

Lively makes an emphatic return to the Court 
Photo Credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

I don’t know what you can really tell from early basketball games. Stetson beat Florida State; College of Charleston gave # 1 UNC more than the ‘Heels could handle for about 32 minutes; Duke clobbered both Jacksonville and USC Upstate. 

Even later in the year a great game is no guarantee of a deep tournament run..  After Duke rather easily beat UNC at Chapel Hill, not many people thought Carolina would not only beat Duke, but also barely be beaten in the NCAA championship game.

It is a shame that we don’t get to see the young players mature.  Surely, they would benefit from physical and mental maturation that comes with a few more years of college.  Had Laetner left after his freshman year, Duke would never have won two NCAA championships – and never known the joys of “THE SHOT” of a lifetime!  Laetner himself would never have played in the Olympics on the Dream Team.  Grant Hill would never have had the thrill of the pass that led to “THE SHOT”.  Hurley would never have had the satisfaction of beating UNLV in 1991 after having been humiliated in 1990 by 30 points.

But I digress. Duke, as usual, shows promise –perhaps the deepest talent of any team since the 1991-92. I know what I like to see in young players – smart playmakers who know when their team needs someone to make a play, and then makes it.  So far, that is Roach and Mitchell, perhaps Lively and Grandison, and the most improved player, Blakes. We have not yet seen Whitehead, the much ballyhooed freshman. 7-foot Fillipowski is talented but needs to get stronger. Grad transfer Young can teach the other centers about post moves.  Only Proctor has not shown much as a shooting guard, but he has a good resume.

Don Henson, my old tennis coach, told me early on that there were 3 levels of shotmaking – in practice, in a match, and on a big point.  The same is applicable to basketball.

Somehow I feel that Scheyer’s biggest coaching challenge will be deciding who to play with whom – and when.  

ALANALYSIS:

It is hard to get an accurate read on this year’s edition of the Blue Devils because in each game (an exhibition and two regular season games, so far) Duke’s athletes have been simply bigger, faster, quicker, and measurably better than the players on the other team.  The first meaningful evaluation will come on Tuesday, November 15 (the day after tomorrow) when Duke meets 5th ranked Kansas (the 2021-2022 National Champions) in the State Farm Classic in Indianapolis.  This should pit two teams full of talented players seeking a big early season win, and supply that realistic evaluation we have been seeking. 

Derek Lively II

I thought the most meaningful event in Duke’s slaughter (84-38) of the University of South Carolina Upstate was the first appearance of Derek Lively II, the 7’1” freshman who was rated #1 in the class coming out of high school.  Derek hurt his calf in an early practice this season, causing him to miss the scrimmage at Countdown to Craziness, the closed scrimmage against Houston, the exhibition game against Fayetteville State, as well as both regular season games.  Even though Derek appeared far from his best form, his return to the court is very good news for the 2022-23 Blue Devils.  In almost 15 minutes, Derek scored 4 points on a pair of dramatic dunks, while grabbing two boards, and blocking two Upstate shots (the only Duke player with more than a single block), while also making a steal.  Coach Scheyer said, “His biggest thing is just getting back in game shape. You know, he has a live body. Got those dunks running the floor. That’s something he can really do, and it allows us to play very fast. He [Derek] and Ryan [Young], they can also play together. They’re a heck of a one-two punch with both of those guys in the game. They play differently but they complement each other very well. And I think that going against each other has made them each better, and ready to contribute in a big way.”   

Derek made his first appearance of the season with 15:39 remaining in the first half and played for approximately 4 minutes before a respite.  Duke was fighting back from a 7-0 opening deficit and Lively delivered immediately with an opening splash.  The Blue Devils still trailed 7-5 when Derek set a screen for Roach, and then rolled to the basket where Jeremy hit him for a powerful dunk to tie the game.  On virtually the next play, Derek released his defensive position and sped down court where Roach made a perfect pass  to Derek for another power slam and a 9-7 lead.  Derek impressed with a steal and some good quick defense.  He returned to the game for another 3 minutes from 7:40 to go until 4:43 left in the first half, getting 2 blocks — one without leaving his feet!

At one point, Duke had 3 freshmen on the court up front (Lively at 7’1”, 7’ 0” Fillipowski, and 6’8” Mark Mitchell) with Roach and Blakes in the backcourt.  The announcers said that lineup would be the 8th biggest starting team lineup in the NBA.  Derek was back in the game with 2:04 to go in the first half. He corralled a rebound, but at 55 seconds before halftime, Lively got tangled up on a subsequent rebound attempt and came up gimpy.  That was a scary moment, as Livelywas removed immediately and did not return in the first half.  In all, he played 8:28 in the first half, scoring 4, on 2-2 shooting (dunks), plus a rebound, a steal, and 2 blocks – but two turnovers.

Happily, Derek returned to play at the 16-minute mark of the final stanza, and played 3:20 (committing one foul), leaving the game with 12:40 left in the half.  Lively re-entered again at 9:31 and grabbed a rebound before committing his second foul and leaving the game for the final time with 6:36 remaining.  He did not look as good in his 6:22 of second-half playing time as he had in the opening period.  When Lively exited the game for the final time, the Blue Devils led 77-34.

The Rotation

Jeremy Roach (25:21) scored 10 points (3-8, including 2-6 from 3land, plus 2-4 from the stripe.  Great floor game included 8 assists (only 2 turnovers), 2 steals, and a block.

Mark Mitchell (23: 38) scored 13 points (6-10, including 1-1 from deep) to go with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. Only a single turnover.

Kyle Fillipowski (20:41) led Duke in scoring with 15 points (4-11, including 0-1 from behind the arc, plus 7-8 from the foul line).  Kyle notched his second double double of this 2 game season, adding 10 boards, an assist, two steals and a block. 0 turnovers.

Jaylen Blakes (19:39) scored 6 points (2-4 from the field, including 1-1 from deep, plus 1-2 from the stripe).  Jaylen is firmly in the rotation, playing excellent defense and showing exemplary hustle.  He added 2 boards, 2 steals, and a block without a turnover.

Jacob Grandison (19:33) was a double-figure scorer with 12 (5-9, including 2-6 from 3land).  Jacob added 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and an assist (2 turnovers).

Tyrese Proctor (19:08) is still trying to find a comfort zone.  He is a heralded player, who was anticipated to play well and be a starter, but Tyrese has shot the ball terribly (0-8 in the first game; just 2 points on foul shots).  And only 3 points in this game (1-4, including 0-1 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe). However, he is a very capable defender.  He had 3 assists without a turnover and made a steal.

Ryan Young (17:33) also scored in double figures even though his playing time was slightly reduced from the previous games when Derek Lively had been unavailable.  Ryan scored 11 (4-8 from the field and 3-4 from the stripe) and pulled down 8 boards and blocked a shot.

Derek Lively II, (14:52) scored 4 points on 2-2 (dunks), pulled down 2 rebounds, plus contributed a steal and 2 blocks.  Welcome back, Mr. Lively.

Jaden Schutt (12:33) another freshman, played double-figure minutes for the first time at Duke.  His previous appearances have been unimpressive cameos, but he was better in this game.  Jaden scored 5 points (1-4, including 1-3 from deep and 2-4 from the stripe) to go with 3 rebounds and a block.  However, I doubt he has shown enough yet to be in the rotation.

The Defense

Scheyer sounded pleased with the Duke defense. “We played a good defensive performance, out rebounding them, holding [Jordan] Gainey to five points. He’s a really good player.  I thought Jacob Grandison and Jaylen Blakes’ energy brought defensive intensity. They really sparked us; from there we were off and running. The big thing for us is turning our defense into offense. 

“We’ve spent a lot of time on defense. That has been our main focus, and I think we’re in a good spot. They [USC Upstate] had six assists and 23 turnovers – I thought we were really disruptive. … We have Jaylen Blakes, Jeremy Roach, Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor, and guys that can really defend the ball, and then we have a big frontcourt. We’re learning how to play physical without fouling. I think we have the makings of being a good defensive team.”

Playing excellent defense against USC Upstate and Jacksonville is not the same as trying to contain nationally ranked Kansas.  It will be interesting to evaluate the defense – indeed the team – after the next game.

Next Play:  Kansas on Tuesday, November 15 at the State Farm Classic in Indianapolis at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Roach is Duke’s high flying valuable leader
Photo Credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics
Mitchel is the biggest pleasant surprise of the season so far.
Photo Credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics

Duke  v. Kansas (Season 14; Issue 3) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (November 15, 2022)

Tyrese finally plays a superb half!  Duke needs a point guard who can give Jeremy a rest now and then.  If Proctor plays as he did in the second half, he could be it.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

After the first two games of the 2022-23, I wrote: “I don’t know what you can really tell from early season basketball games.” Well, now we can tell that  Duke’s young squad understands they aren’t in high school anymore. The best college teams (Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Gonzaga, North Carolina) play like men, the games are forty minutes long.  and every opponent wants to beat Duke. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils did not play well to start or finish the game, so they lost. But for about the middle thirty minutes the young Duke team gave the veteran Jayhawks all they could handle. The remaining ten minutes were signs of immaturity.

Fillipowski had a third game of double-doubles (17 pts. & 14 rebounds) and showed considerable tenacity and fight; Roach was Roach 3.0; Proctor was more impressive than in the first two games; Mitchell was somewhat neutralized; Lively was not as impactful as expected; Young appeared overwhelmed athletically; Blakes and Grandison were nonfactors.

Defense has been a priority with Duke’s teams for decades. It is somewhat disconcerting that this team could not stop Jaelen Wilson from scoring 25 points and then freshman Gradey Dick from finishing off the game for Kansas in impressive fashion. Time will tell whether or not this young squad learned some painful lessons and matures into a team that is more than the sum of their considerable talents, or whether they are more focused individually upon impressing NBA scouts.  Whatever the case, it will be fun watching this talented group play and develop.

ALANALYSIS:

Predictably, both coach and experienced commentators correctly said and wrote that early season games (even losses) against elite competition is how young teams improve.  Coach Scheyer: “There’s no question that’s the best form of learning. Just being in these moments, there’s no way to simulate it. That doesn’t mean I’m happy or I’m enjoying this loss by any means. You have to hate it and learn from it, grow from it.”  

An in-depth analysis is part of how the experience of playing an elite team helps a young team grow.  

THE DEFENSE

The Blue Devil defense is a work in progress, and it showed, especially in the first half, while Duke tried to adjust to the speed of the Kansas game in contrast to their several past games against less-than-elite opponents.  Mark Mitchell had more trouble than we saw in the first games, as did Jeremy Roach.  I thought the best Blue Devil defenders were Tyrese Proctor and Kyle Fillipowski; each had good success keeping the Kansas player in front and preventing penetration.  They switched seamlessly.

Derek Lively II is still adjusting to playing again.  While he did show flashes of what Duke hopes he will become, the rust was obvious.  Kansas had 21 assists for the game while Duke had 8. The Jayhawks penetrated the Duke defense with skill and enthusiasm.  Still, Duke forced 15 turnovers (many were simply bad Kansas passes), but blocked only 2 shots (0 by the starters).  Ryan is too slow to defend efficiently at this level.  I predict his playing time will shrink as Derek approaches game-shape and gains experience.  These weaknesses are real but need to be considered in concert with some terrific switching and individual defense.  In short, while the weakness against such a good team was real, this edition of the Blue Devils did demonstrate the makings of an excellent defensive team. 

OFFENSE

Duke had only 8 assists, but committed 18 turnovers, a disappointing number of which were indisputably offensive fouls (lowering-the-shoulder charges) on drives. Duke shot just 9% from 3land in the first half (1-11); 14% for the game (3-21).  The second half was very different from the opening stanza, and I believe an in depth look at the closing period is the most revealing evaluation of Duke’s offense in this game.  Both Proctor and Mitchell played well after fruitless first halves (neither scored in the opening stanza), while Fillipowski was close to dominant for long stretches – especially in the second half.

First Half

Jeremy kept Duke in the game, scoring 11 of his 16 points.  Kyle scored 7, Jaylen 5 and Ryan 4.  Derek had the other 2 points for Duke’s 29 first half points.  It was ragged for sure.  Duke had 11 turnovers against 2 assists.  The Jayhawks blocked 7 Duke shots and Duke committed 9 first half fouls (too many charges).  Duke should have been down by far more than 4 points.

Second Half

Four Duke players played almost the entire second half (Mitchell 20:00; Roach 19:37; Proctor 18:50; and Fillipowski 18:38). Ryan Young (8:50) and Lively (10:58) divided the center position.  Young had 2 points, a rebound, and 3 turnovers, while Lively scored 2 points, grabbed a pair of rebounds, blocked a shot, and had an assist.  Duke could not keep up with Kansas when Young was the center (explains why Ryan logged less than 9 second half minutes).  Both Scheyer (“I thought we got tired” in his post-game press conference), and I, believe that Duke’s collapse in the last 4:37 was caused, in part, by Blue Devil fatigue.  

I thought the fatigue really really caught up with Roach especially.  Roach was so great until he wasn’t.  He also played the whole game (minus 23 seconds — he was out for just enough time for Duke to turn the ball over).  Scheyer sent him right back into the game.  Offensive foul at 1:23; missed front end of a 1-and-1 with 48  seconds left.  Tired.

    First 15 Minutes

Scheyer, “I thought our guys showed great heart, great resiliency in that second half to gain the lead. And really made some big-time plays.”  Duke took over the momentum and made the important crucial plays.  Kyle was absolutely dominant (10 points and 9 rebounds), while Proctor (9 points and 3 assists without a turnover) and Mitchell (7 points and 3 boards) combined with Kyle to help Duke forge a 59-54 lead with 4:37 to go. However, “Winning Time” was a pure disaster for the Blue Devils.  Neither Fillipowski, Proctor, Mitchell nor Lively scored in the final 4:37 of the game!

    Final Four Minutes and Thirty Seven Seconds

Duke was outscored 15-5 in this stretch, with Roach scoring all of 5 Duke points – a clutch three-pointer with 2:02 to go, cutting the Kansas lead to one, and a layup with 15  seconds left, cutting the Jayhawk lead to an unfortunately still insurmountable 3 points (67-64).  But with the game on the line, Duke, including Roach, made bad play after bad play to (quoting Jimmy Breslin) “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”:

4:08 remaining, Kansas scores to cut the Duke lead to 59-56;

3:44 Kyle misses a 3 pointer;

3:02 Roach misses a jump shot;

2:54 Kyle turns it over on a bad pass;

2:28 Mitchell turns it over (a really bad turnover; Duke just died from there on);

2:22 Gradey Dick (Star Kansas freshman) hit a 3 over a less than enthusiastic closeout from Kyle. Moving leisurely, he simply did not get close enough to contest Dick’s shot.  Kansas takes the lead at 61-59;

2:02 Roach’s clutch-answering 3 – Duke regains its last  lead at 62-61;

1:39 Dick makes a backdoor cut that led to a dunk when Proctor got caught watching the ball and losing his man, giving the lead back to Kansas 63-62.  Kansas never trailed again.

1:23 Roach turnover (offensive foul)

1:04 Dick scores on a drive (I think past Proctor) Kansas 65-62;

0:48 Roach misses the crucial front end of a 1 and 1; if he had made them both it would have been back to a 1-point Duke deficit instead of the 3-point deficit;

0:22 Kansas fast break for a layup past a foul by Lively.  Even though Kansas misses the free throw, the Jayhawks then lead 67-62;

0:15 Roach lays one up 67 -64 (but too little; too late, with only 15 ticks left – as Duke was then forced to foul);

0:09 Kansas hits the final 2 free throws for the final 69-64 score.

The Rotation

Duke played 8 men in the first half, but only six in the second half (+ Blakes, who played only 3 late second-half minutes after logging 15 minutes in the first half.  Scheyer believes Blakes is the steal maven, and Duke’s last hope in the game was for Blakes to make a steal or two).

Jeremy Roach (39:37) scored 16 points (6-17, including 1-5 from deep, plus 3-4 from the line.  That miss was crucial – the front end of a 1-and-1 with Duke trailing by 3 with only 48 seconds remaining in the game).  Roach had 5 of his shots blocked and turned the ball over 3 times (including offensive fouls), with only a single assist.  Jeremy acknowledged in the post-game presser how Kansas’s terrific defense contributed to his in-game struggles.  I thought he was ‘plumb tuckered out’ in those last crucial minutes.

Kyle Fillipowski (33:03) had his third double-double in as many games.  He grabbed 14 rebounds while scoring 17 points to lead the Blue Devils in scoring.  He was Duke’s best player against Kansas (6-18 from the field, including 1-6 from behind the arc, and 4-4 from the stripe).  He also showed a welcome aggressiveness. 

Mark Mitchell (30:30) scored 7 points, all in the second half. .   In his 10:30 first-half minutes he took only one shot (0-1) and had trouble acclimating to the speed and tenacity of the Kansas defense.  Then he came alive in the second half, shooting 3-6 from the field, including 1-2 from the stripe.  However, he collected only 2 rebounds, committing 2 fouls and 2 turnovers in the entire game.

Tyrese Proctor (28:09) scored all of his 9 points in the second half, after an 0-2 scoreless first half with 3 turnovers.  He did get (as Jay Bilas recounted) untracked with an excellent second half. Tyrese finally looked like the international star he is. He played 18:09 of the second half (3-7 from the field, including 1-3 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 3 assists, without a turnover, and 2 rebounds.

Derek Lively II (20:29) scored 4 points (2-3 from the field) to go with 5 boards (4 were offense), a block, and an assist.  He was clearly not used to the speed of such a high-level game but is slowly returning to form.  Duke needs him to live up to his high school reputation.

Ryan Young (19:37) scored 6 points on 3-4 from the field.  He grabbed 2 boards but committed 4 turnovers.  I thought he was unable to adjust to Kansas’s speed on defense, nor to defend against the Jayhawk drives and post moves.

Jaylen Blakes (18:24, but only 3:07 in the second half) scored 5 points, all in the first half (1-5 from the field including 0-2 from behind the arc and 3-3 from the stripe).  He had 3 boards but seemed almost too excited to be effective.

Jacob Grandison (10:11, all in the first half) didn’t score (0-4, including 0-3 from 3land) to go with a rebound and a turnover.  His absence on the floor in the second half was significant. Grandison obviously played so poorly in the first half that Scheyer lost confidence in him for the second half.  As a result, four starters played virtually the entire second half.  (Blakes came in at the end when Duke desperately needed steals — only for 3 minutes).  Duke’s lack of a bench in the closing period contributed to the exhaustion of the team at “winning time”.

SUMMING UP

Optimistic news: Dariq Whitehead was in uniform and in the pregame layup drill line.  He will not play against Delaware on Friday but might see his first action next Monday (November 21) against Bellarmine in Cameron.  

Duke gets another opportunity to play against elite competition in the Phil Knight Legacy in Portland, OR –  on Thanksgiving at 3 pm against Oregon State, followed by a Friday (November 25) game against the winner of the 1st round Florida v Xavier.  The tournament championship game on Sunday (should Duke win twice and qualify) could be against Gonzaga.  All good games for in-depth evaluation and for Duke to demonstrate major improvement.

Next Play:  Delaware on Friday, November 18 in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on TV RSN.

Jeremy drives to the basket for either a spectacular layup or an offensive foul.
Photo Credit: ACC Network
Kyle was simply dominant on both ends of the court. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Duke 92 v. Delaware 58 (Season 14; Issue 4) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Tyrese settling in
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

After playing the perennial powerhouse Kansas, how do you take a game against a team named the Blue Hens seriously? Well, they are actually a well-coached team, which Duke found out in the minutes before the half when their lead was cut to 6 points. The second half the Blue Devils talent, depth, and size reasserted itself.

It was the first game Duke had all of their players available as both Lively and Whitehead were in, although not ready to display their “A” games. That’s expected, of course, given  their health. Whitehead finished with six points on 3-of-11 shooting in 15 minutes. He didn’t commit any turnovers. “I feel great,” Whitehead said. “I just feel like I need to get another game to get it back going with game speed, game repetition, stuff like that. But body wise I feel great.” Lively played just 15 minutes before fouling out. In addition, tying for the team lead with four assists, he scored five points and grabbed two rebounds. He also played a turnover-free game.

Duke fans should be prepared to be patient while the young players get healthy, mature, and get used to playing together, cohesively, against older players. They are not in high school anymore.

The success of this team will also depend on Coach Scheyer making the correct decisions regarding  which players to play—and when.

ALANALYSIS:

The most significant takeaway from Duke’s game against the Delaware Blue Hens is that Dariq Whitehead played in his first game since he broke his foot in August. He logged more than 15 minutes, and Scheyer smiled in the post game press conference noting that the team fed Dariq as if they were welcoming him back; he actually hoisted up the second most shots – 11 attempts.  His skill and physical gifts were obvious, even if he was, as expected, a bit rusty.

The second most significant takeaway was Duke’s potential backup point guards, Tyrese Proctor and Jaylen Blakes, playing terrific games, giving Coach Scheyer and Duke fans a hope that Jeremy Roach won’t have to play every minute in every game against elite competition.

Duke got some of its mojo back after the disappointing last 4:37 in the loss to Kansas!

The Defense

The last half of the opening period was not good news for the Blue Devil defense. In the last 9:30 of the first half, Delaware scored 20 points (that’s a rate of over 100 points per game) to Duke’s 13. With 5:38 left in the first half, Duke had been playing well and led by 13 (35-22). Suddenly, Duke stopped defending, and Delaware started scoring in bunches. With 3:02 left in the half, the Blue Hens trailed by only 5 points, having outscored Duke 11-3 in 2:36.  Duke led 42-36 at halftime, a too slim lead against an overmatched opponent.

In the second half, the Blue Devils limited Delaware to 22 points on 9 field goals in 26 shots, including 0-9 from deep.  The Blue Hens scored the last 4 points of the game at garbage time.  You could say Duke gave up only 18 second-half points. Duke forced 11 second-half turnovers (7 steals) and blocked a pair of shots.  Tellingly, Duke’s defensive pressure held the Blue Hens to only 2 assists on their 9 hoops.  The Blue Devils never let up on defense and simply took the Delaware hearts and spirit out of the game.

Scheyer On Duke’s defense and in-game adjustments: 

“I think the biggest thing is just the fact that we were solid in the second half. We were pretty spread out there in that first half. Probably a good amount of that’s on me, I wanted us to pick up, and I think that led to gambling and looking for steals. That’s not our defense, we need to be solid, disciplined, and with our size, protecting the paint. Give them credit, they hit some tough threes in that first half.  I thought we did a much better job of being disciplined, controlling the ball, and having an awareness for protecting our rim.” 

For the game, the Blue Devils had 8 steals (Dariq Whitehead had 2; Jeremy also had 2, while Mark, Kyle, Tyrese and Jaylen each had one) and 5 blocks (Kyle had 3; Derek and Ryan had one each)

The Offense

The Blue Devil offense was good for the first 10 and a half minutes of the first half before bogging down into missed shots, offensive fouls, and other turnovers.  Even so, Proctor had a scintillating first half, scoring 9 first-half points (3-6, including 1-2 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 7 boards and 3 assists.

The second half was a clinic, as Duke scored and defended at the highest level; Duke outscored the Blue Hens 50-22, shooting 48% (18-38, including 3-7 from behind the arc and 11-12 from the foul line.  At garbage time, the Blue Devils emptied their bench and led by 38 points (92-54) with 1:18 to go before Delaware scored their last 4 points.

Duke had 18 assists and only 10 turnovers, shooting 50 % from the field (34-68, including 6-14 from deep – Kyle was 2-5; Jaylen, 2-3; Jacob, 1-1; and Tyrese, 1-2 — and 18-21 from the foul line).  

Filipowski led the closing stanza surge with 11 second-half points (4-7 from the field, including 1-2 from deep and 2-3 from the foul line) and 5 rebounds (8 for the game; his first collegiate game without a double double.)  Mark Mitchell came alive, scoring 10 second half points (3-4 from the field and 4-4 from the foul line), while Jeremy Roach scored 7 of his 9 points in the closing period (2-5 from the field; 0-1 from 3land; and 3-3 from the stripe), but Jeremy did not have a single assist in the entire game. 

The Rotation

Jeremy Roach (28:45) scored 9 points (2-9, including 0-1 from deep and 5-5 from the foul line).  Jeremy did not have his best statistical game with 2 turnovers and 0 assists.  However, his defense on Delaware star Jameer Nelson, Jr. was superb and included 2 steals.  Coach Scheyer praised his game, “ I thought he did a really good job of running our team and making others better. For Jeremy, it’s about the little plays. I thought tonight he really was just making the winning plays…that play, the charge, which ended up [a foul] as he was in the cylinder, putting his body in the line, and then that offensive rebound. Those little plays that add up to winning! He has to set the tone for us every night with that, and I liked what he did there, especially in the second half coming out from halftime.”

Tyrese Proctor (27:49) had his best game of the young season, scoring 13 points (5-10, including 1-2 from 3land and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with an astonishing 10 rebounds (his first double double; is Kyle jealous?) and 4 assists.  After starting the season with subpar play, Tyrese has scored 22 points in his last 3 halves and is now,  therefore, solidly in the starting lineup. An ecstatic Scheyer gushed, “you could just tell pregame he was moving in a different way. He’s sped up his game; he’s worked on that. I thought he was a really determined driver, getting in the paint tonight. And then, 10 rebounds! He took a huge charge on [Jameer] Nelson for his third foul. Then, his scoring early – and did a good job of sharing and passing early, really set the tone for our team.”

Kyle Filipowski (25:14) was Duke’s highest scorer and quite possibly the Blue Devils’ best player (again).  Kyle scored 18 points (7-13, including 2-5 from behind the arc and 2-3 from the foul line) and ably defended Duke’s defensive back board (7 defensive rebounds of his 8 total) and 3 blocks.   He is so long, coordinated, and quick that he is very difficult to defend.

Mark Mitchell (23:00) scored an efficient 12 points on 6 shots (4-6 from the field, no attempts from behind the arc and 4-4 from the foul line).  He grabbed 3 boards, handed out an assist (a sweet one) and made a steal.  Two turnovers.

Jacob Grandison (19:20) had a hot shooting game after playing only 10 minutes against Kansas (he never played in the Kansas second half).  Jacob was Duke’s fourth double-figure scorer with 10 points on perfect shooting (4-4 from the field, including 1-1 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe) to go with 4 boards and a pair of assists without a turnover.  Scheyer appreciated Grandison’s maturity, “He didn’t play as much on Tuesday. … [However, Grandison] didn’t put his head down. He’s worked really hard for two days. I thought he was just absolutely terrific tonight. I’m really proud of the response and effort from our team.” 

Jaylen Blakes (17:48) demonstrated what a valuable reserve he is, injecting the Blue Devils with his special brand of high energy and disrupting defense.  He also carried his weight on offense against the Blue Hens, scoring 9 points (3-6 from the field, including 2-3 from 3land and 1-2 from the foul line) and handing out 4 assists.  He also garnered 3 boards and a steal (a beauty for an uncontested layup).

Ryan Young (16:05) scored 6 points (3-4 from the field) to go with 6 boards, 3 assists and a block.  He is very effective against this level of competition.

Dariq Whitehead (15:44) made his first appearance this year, and that might be the most important fact of this game. Dariq is not shy; he took the second most shots for Duke (11; Kyle took 13) Despite the obvious rust, Dariq scored 6 points (3-11, including 0-2 from behind the arc) to go with 2 rebounds and 2 steals.  Whitehead has an imposing body and is cat quick.  Our young coach agrees, “Dariq did well. He hasn’t even had a week of practice under his belt. We knew there will be some rust, but I think you can see his athleticism, his body, and he’s really a smart player. He’s very smart. He knows how to move without the ball and play offense… I really liked his effort. We were hoping to get him 15 minutes tonight. And we did get him 15 minutes and so happy with that result.” 

Kyle Filipowski added, “I’ve known Dariq and been playing with him since fourth grade. So, just being able to play with him again, seeing him do what he does best. It might not have been the best performance, but he’s getting there and it’s great to see him back out on the court.”

Dereck Lively II (15:02) fouled out in his brief appearance while scoring 5 points (2-3 from the field and 1-2 from the foul line).  He is very quick and defensive minded (but has to learn how the refs call college games).  A key statistic to demonstrate Dereck’s value, he had 4 assists from the post as well as 2 rebounds and a block.  You can see the rust receding.

Summing Up

Duke has one more game against unranked competition before heading to Portland OR for 3 Big games, in the Phil Knight Legacy, where they’ll be up against stiffer competition.   

Next Play:  Bellarmine on Monday, November 21 in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on TV ACCN.  BTW, Bellarmine beat Louisville by a point on November 9, and lost a close game to Clemson last night; never underestimate a “lesser” team.

Great Expectations: Dariq returns from Injury
Photo credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics
Roach and Grandison consult, as each provided valuable minutes in this game.
Photo credit: Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics

Duke 74 v. Bellarmine 57 (Season 14; Issue 5) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (November 21, 2022)


Jaylen Blakes has earned Scheyer’s praise  for anchoring Duke’s bench. Photo credit: Duke Athletics
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Bellarmine is no cupcake opponent. Most bigtime basketball teams won’t schedule them because their “pass first” offense is too difficult to play against. The Blue Devils met the challenge by playing some of their best defense and offense of the year, with three players contributing double digits and eight players logging an assist.  Duke needed it all because the final score was deceiving. The Blue Devils had difficulty expanding a ten-point lead for most of the game. However, a combination of Duke’s athleticism and length made a challenging evening for the Knights, forcing them to rely on backdoor cuts and difficult looks to get within single digits.

Coach Scheyer played nine players for at least ten minutes. Once again, Kyle Filipowski led all scorers (with 18 points in 20 minutes) and Jacob Grandison (with 16 points in 27 minutes). Interestingly enough, Lively and Whitehead scored only two points each as they are clearly behind the others due to injuries. Blakely continues to impress with his high-energy play. All the other Duke players also had their moments – especially Filipowski, whose offense and feistiness are reminiscent of Christian Laettner. It remains to be seen how Kyle holds up against bigger, stronger opponents. 

The depth of this squad will come in handy as the season grinds on. Jon Scheyer and his coaching staff have had an impressive start to the season.

Other Comments:

Virginia beat Houston and North Carolina appears to be hitting their groove. The rest of the ACC has not been impressive.

ALANALYSIS:

I had and still have a good feeling about Duke’s performance against Bellarmine for several different reasons, not all of which made it to the various commentators’ accounts of the game.   Most importantly, the Blue Devils have discovered an excellent point guard to supplement Jeremy Roach while they are on the floor together, and to give Roach the necessary rest so he can be at his best when the game winds down, or ratchets up to “winning time”.  I am, of course, talking about the 6’5” young (turned 18 last April Fool’s day) Australian, Tyrese Proctor, who was to be a high school senior this year, had enough credits to graduate, and therefore was able to reclassify to play with this year’s edition – I think after Keels leaving for the NBA opened the possibility of Tyrese winning a starter’s position. It is turning out to be a great decision because he just might be Duke’s best freshman in a fabulous freshman class. (I will get to Kyle in a moment). Proctor has an infectious confidence that breeds trust from his teammates and coaches.  Tyrese has incredible athleticism to go with his spirit and determination, as proven by his rebounding ability, unusual for a guard (8 last night to tie Kyle for the most on the team) and his shot blocking (led Duke with 2 against Bellarmine).  Tyrese is a key component who will grow as the team grows.  Exciting to watch.

A second dramatic reason to feel good is the play of freshman phenom, Kyle Filipowski.  He played only half of the game against Bellarmine, and led Duke in scoring with 18 points, and tied with Proctor for the rebounding lead with 8 (the stat sheet said 8, but I thought he had more because he grabbed every rebound in the last minutes of the game at both ends).  He is an unusually good ball handler and passer, and he can score at all 3 levels – behind the arc, mid-range, or in the post, and he is an excellent offensive rebounder.  After having said all that, his commitment to growth is dramatic on the defensive end as well.  Scheyer said as much because few 7 footers apply themselves to defending the perimeter.  Kyle has done so and he can guard the opposition guards on the perimeter as well as their Bigs in the post.  So far, he has been a revelation.

Finally, there is the bench-spark combination of Jacob Grandison and Jaylen Blakes.  Grandison languished against Kansas, playing only 10 first-half minutes, without scoring.  Since then, Jacob has been on a tear.  Against Bellarmine, he led the Duke bench with 16 points on fabulous shooting (6-9 from the field, including 4-7 from 3land).  Blakes was not expected to be in the rotation, but he has demonstrated blinding speed and a larcenous streak when defending.  His improvement has been dramatic and he has now earned a spot in the rotation.

On the defensive end, Lively is earning his keep with his quickness, high basketball IQ, and length.  This edition of the Blue Devils has the potential to be an excellent defensive team.  How much of that potential will be realized is probably the most important factor in the overall success of the 2022-23 Duke team.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (33:01) had a superb floor game on offense and played excellent defense, though he was occasionally beaten on backdoor cuts.  More important than his 10 points (4-10 from the field, including 2-4 from deep) were his 5 assists, against only a single turnover.  Everyone – commentators and coaches acknowledge that Jeremy is Duke’s most important player!

Tyrese Proctor (30:56) has become a valued starter in the Blue Devil lineup.  Even on a poor shooting night (his only shot attempts were 9 from behind the arc; 2-9 for 6 points), Coach Scheyer had him in the game longer than all of his other players besides Roach.  Tyrese is a wonderful athlete as proven by his 8 rebounds (tied with 7’0” Filipowski for team lead), 2 blocked shots (to lead Duke in blocks), and 2 assists.  He runs the team when Jeremy is not on the floor.

Jacob Grandison (26:21) played the most minutes besides the two guards, even though he did not start.  Simple rule of basketball, if your shot is going in, you will be on the court longer.  Grandison was a star, scoring 16 points on dazzling shooting (6-9, including 4-7 from behind the arc).  Coach S praised Jacob and Jaylen Blakes as a great bench that might make Duke be even better than when the starters are on the floor, “Jaylen, and Jacob, they just bring a certain energy. They play the right way. They’re all about winning. Each game for Jaylen and Jacob, it can be rebound, bucket, deflection, they’re winners. And I feel good when they’re on the court. It can be when they’re in, we get better. And that’s something not a lot of teams have when you go to your bench, you can get better. For us, we have that.”

Dereck Lively (23:12) is logging more minutes than in his first few games back from injury, and his presence makes the interior defense imposing because of his length and quickness.  He is still not scoring (1-2 from the field for 2 points), but  he grabbed 5 boards, had a blocked shot, and 2 assists (one was a fabulous over the head pass out of the post to Mitchell in the corner for an open 3).  Coach is pleased even though he knows Dereck is not completely in game shape yet as he continues recovering from his injury, “Dereck every single game has taken big time strides going forward.  The next step is to when you are open, shoot it; when you have a guy closing, drive it.”

Mark Mitchell (21:15) had an excellent all-around game, though he was beaten more than once on backdoor cuts.  Mark scored 8 points (3-6 from the field, including 2-4 from deep) to go with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, a (sensational) steal, and a blocked shot.  He is an excellent one-on-one defender.

Kyle Filipowski (20:36) played only half the game (we wonder why), but led Duke in scoring with an efficient 18 points on only 8 shots (4-8, including 3-5 from behind the arc and a gaudy 7-8 from the foul line;) and grabbed a team-high 8 boards (tied with Tyrese).  He continues to be Duke’s unstoppable best player. 

Jaylen Blakes (19:17) scored 8 points (3-6 from the field, including 1-3 from 3land and 1-1 from the foul line), while grabbing a pair of rebounds and handing out 2 assists.  Scheyer appreciates Jaylen, “Jaylen is everything that Duke basketball is about. … when we started recruiting Jaylen, I didn’t know I’d be the head coach.” [Even though he played sparingly last year], “he got better. You didn’t necessarily get to see him all the time get better, but he worked his butt off every day, had a great attitude. He competed against Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore, every single day. And now, here he is making a big impact.”

Ryan Young (15:26) is a great backup for Lively II.  As Dereck improves, Ryan plays a bit less.  He scored 4 points (1-1 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe), to go with 7 valuable rebounds and an assist.

Dariq Whitehead (9:56) played less in his second game back than he did in his first one.  His rust is apparent but so is his unmistakable talent.  He scored 2 on a layup, but missed his other 3 shots (all of which were from behind the arc). His almost-10 minutes were divided into very short stretches.  He is not yet, but I predict he will be a genuine force before the season ends (think AJ from last year).

SUMMING UP

The trip to Portland will give us much to evaluate.  It will be the Blue Devils second road trip.  Scheyer: “We know it’s going to be three high-level games, no matter what the outcome is. I’m excited and I just want to go for it. I think we learned a lot in the Kansas game; we can’t go into it tentative or unsure, we need to go after it and then see what happens.” 

Duke has played excellent offense so far this year (except those last 4:37 against Kansas).  Against Bellarmine, the Blue Devils had 18 assists on 25 made field goals. Duke was also 10-11 from the foul line! Kyle was 7-8 for Duke’s only miss. The Coach: “We have made some really unselfish plays, sharing the ball. … the quality of shot is something we talk about consistently. And tonight …  we had great quality in our shot selection.” 

We will learn more about this 2022-23 team in Portland.   Good coaching requires creating the right way to win against different opponents.  Scheyer emphasizes that there are many ways to win, “It won’t be the same strategy on Friday.  Each game is different.” 

I said I had a good feeling about this Bellarmine game, and I admit to having a good feeling about this season’s team. Their improvement is palpable, and you can feel the good vibes from the players.

Next Play: Phil Knight Legacy Tournament in Portland Or! 

  • Thursday November 24 (Thanksgiving Day) at 3:00 p.m. vs. Oregon State on ESPN;
  • Friday, November 25, if Duke beats Oregon State, the Blue Devils will play the winner of Xavier v. Florida  at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN; or if Duke has lost to Oregon State, the Blue Devils play the loser of Xavier v. Florida at 6:00 p.m., on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. 
  • Sunday November 27 has 4 games scheduled: championship game at 3:30 on ABC; Third Place game at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. The fifth place and 7th place games will be played but no details have yet been released.

DBP edition covering the Duke games played on November 24 and 25 will be disseminated on Saturday, November 26, a post-tournament edition will cover Sunday’s game and be sent out early next week.

The freshmen are learning and improving.  They are good.  This photo depicts who everyone understands is Duke’s most important player, Jeremy Roach!!!
Photo credit: Duke Athletics
Jacob Grandison has found his shot, which makes the Duke bench efficient and dangerous.
Photo credit: Duke Athletics

Duke 54 v. Oregon State 51; Duke 71 v. Xavier 64 (Season 14; Issue 6) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. Games #6 and 7 (November 24 and 25, 2022)

Jeremy’s bravura performance was simply dazzling.  Photo credit: Duke Athletics
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

DUKE – OREGON STATE

A disappointing effort. Duke couldn’t throw a basketball from a boat in the middle of the ocean and hit water. I thought the most interesting move was Coach Scheyer finishing the game with the two veterans,Young and Grandison, on the floor with the youngest player,Filipowski; they all delivered at winning time. Kyle also made the defensive play of the game! In a defensive switch, he ended up with the point guard, stayed in front of him on a drive, and stole the ball in the lane. In addition, he hit the go-ahead three. So far, he is the most versatile and valuable freshman.

DUKE – XAVIER

Different day, different Duke team. The Blue Devils scored 71 points hitting 50 percent from the floor, including 5-11 on threes. The big difference was the play of Duke’s point guard Jeremy Roach, who had 21 on 9-15 (2-4 from deep). More importantly, when Duke needed a play, which happened often because Xavier just didn’t quit, Roach consistently made big plays, and not just scoring plays either. He also had 4 rebounds, 5 assists & 2 steals. When Roach plays like this, Duke can compete with any team!

It was also a better balanced team effort.  Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Young didn’t carry the team this time, as they did Thursday against Oregon State. The scoring was much better distributed: Filipowski had 12, while Young had 8. Filipowski had 4 rebounds while Young added 6. And Mark Mitchell, who was essentially a non-factor Thursday, sure was excellent against Xavier. He put a lot of pressure on Xavier’s defense and finished with 16. Blakes was an energizer bunny both days. Whitehead showed more signs of improvement and finished with 5 points.  Lively was a major factor defensively. His shot-blocking skills are becoming quite formidable, but point-blank dunks are his only sure shots and his 0-4 foul shooting makes him a liability in close games. Unless Proctor starts to score more consistently, he appears to be a candidate for the odd man out.

Other comments:

North Carolina, which has been ranked first in most polls but has not been playing that way, was beaten by Iowa State. They can and will play better.

ALANALYSIS:

What an interesting and complex first two games of the tournament!  Lots of unexpected early season results across the country (UNC got a scare from the University of Portland Pilots and then lost to Iowa State).  The complexity of Duke’s offensive disaster against Oregon State, their heart and effort against Xavier, and Duke’s consistent defense, make us want to pay close attention  in the championship game on Sunday and see how Duke deals with the Purdue Boilermakers (ranked #24) and their huge (7’4” 295 lb.) center, Zach Edey, who is averaging 23 ppg. In the semi-final late on Friday night, Gonzaga (#6) clearly had no answer for Edey, the Boilermaker offense in general,  or for their defense for that matter, losing 84-66.  The post-tournament DBP will have a full analysis of what we have learned of the 2022-23 Blue Devils from their string of Phil Knight Legacy games.

This 2-game edition of the DBP will cover the defense, the Jekyll-Hyde offense against Oregon State, and the steadfast effort that beat a good Xavier team.  The “Rotation” will cover both games for each player ordered by playing time against Xavier.

The Defense

Duke’s calling card this season will be defense.  Duke has held each of their seven opponents this season to less than 70 points, and five to less than 60. The Blue Devils held Xavier to a season-low 64 points – the Musketeers were averaging 85.8 points entering the game. Moreover, Duke held Xavier’s leading scorer, Jack Nunge (a 7’1” bruiser of a center, who can efficiently score the 3), to a season-low five points (1-of-13 shooting). Nunge’s previous scoring low this season was 14 points, vs. Indiana. 

Mark Mitchell in the post Xavier game press conference: “I think yesterday we didn’t have our best performance. I think today we tried to come in and lock in on the scouting report. We knew [Nunge] was their most important player, we just tried to come in and shut him down and do everything we could to stop him.” And they did!

Against Oregon State, the defense gave up only 51 points in the game – 27 in the first half and 24 in the closing period.  Duke allowed 5 (of 13) from deep in the first half, but only 1-8 in the second half.  The Blue Devils forced 11 turnovers (but could not really disrupt the Beaver offense).

The defense has been simply outstanding at “winning time”.look at this stat!:  After Duke holding Oregon State without a field goal for the final 5:03 of regulation, the Blue Devils did not give up a point to Xavier in the game’s final 5:51!  As Scheyer pointed out, scoring the crucial hoop is not sufficient by itself because, “you, of course, have to follow it up with a stop, and we did that enough times to get some separation and never let them really get the lead, which was a big deal.”  It was a profound contrast to the Kansas game. 

Good overall defense; maybe even very good, but not yet great. Duke gave up points in the paint, mostly on drives.  While the defense is still a work in progress, the potential for Duke to be outstanding defensively this season is palpable. As Scheyer exulted after the Xavier win, “And the last huddle, I think there was 3:30 on the clock, they were the ones talking. Our guys were, ‘Hey we’ve been here before, we know what to do’. And they came out, all five guys were locked in, and I thought we came up with some big-time rebounds.”

The Offense

Jeremy Roach played both a brilliant Dr. Jekyll (against Xavier) and a despicable Edward Hyde (versus Oregon State).  Consequently, Duke was a disaster on offense against the Beavers, and an efficient commando unit against Xavier.  Let us note that Scheyer has been a brilliant bench coach, getting the most out of his somewhat inconsistent team to reach the championship game of the Legacy tournament.

Oregon State

Duke shot 26.7% from the field (17% from behind the arc) for the game – which constitutes a flat disaster.  It is the lowest percentage of shooting in Duke basketball history for a game won by the Blue Devils.  Duke outscored the Beavers 29-27 in the first half, when Jeremy Roach hit his only 3 pointer with 15 seconds left in the first half.  While the Blue Devils achieved just minimal production in the opening period, the second half was even worse.  Duke only scored 25 second-half points (6 – 29 from the field, including a clanking 1-14 from 3land.  The “one” of the 1-14 was Kyle Filipowski’s to tie the score at 45 with 8:22 left in the game).

    The Good

By some stroke of luck, Duke found a way to win while playing terribly.  In the final 7:35, the Blue Devils outscored the Beavers 9-4.  Roach broke the tie with a jump shot (47-45 with 7:32 to go); Kyle Filipowski made 1-2 from the line, and after a flurry of Duke and Beaver misses, also made 2-2 from the stripe (Duke led by 50-47 with 3:23 remaining). After the Beavers made 2 free throws (foul by Tyrese Proctor), Kyle scored on a splendid offensive rebound (52-49 with 34 seconds left in the game); The Beavers made 2 more foul shots with 16 seconds left (foul, again by Tyrese – Duke still led 52-51).  Jacob Grandison had been 0-4 from the field when he was fouled with 11 seconds remaining.  He made them both for the final score – 54-51. The defense forced the Beavers into a difficult shot that missed, which preserved  Duke’s win.

In the second half, Ryan Young and Kyle kept Duke in the game when literally no other Blue Devil was scoring.  Filipowski played 16:43 second-half minutes, scoring 13 points (3-7, including 1-3 from behind the arc and 6-7 from the stripe) to go with 8 rebounds, an assist and a steal.  The steal was a highlight!  Kyle was switched onto guarding Jordan Pope, Oregon State’s star freshman point guard on the perimeter.  Pope drove and Kyle not only stayed in front of him, but stole Pope’s dribble!  And Kyle may not have been Duke’s best player in the second half.  Ryan Young logged 17:38 in the closing period (Dereck Lively played only 2:22 in the second half) scoring 7 points (2-3 from the field and 3-4 from the stripe) to go with an eye-opening 11 second-half rebounds (7 offensive !!!) and a block.  He dominated the glass.

    The Worse than Merely Bad

An in-depth dive into that frustrating but hard-fought second half is illuminating. Duke’s second-half offense had the worst outside shooting since I started watching as a freshman in 1956.  Jeremy played all 20 second-half minutes, scoring only the go-ahead basket (2 points on 1-8 shooting, including 0-4 from behind the arc).  Worse, Roach failed to record a single second-half assist, all while committing 3 turnovers.  Tyrese Proctor was even less productive in his 15:03 – 0-5 from the field, including 0-4 from 3land, without getting to the foul line.  And, Tyrese committed 3 fouls and a turnover!  Blessedly, both Tyrese and Jeremy played excellent defense. Jaylen Blakes replaced Tyrese, logging 6:48 (valuable for his disruptive defense, but also without a statistic).  To add to Duke’s shooting woes, Mark Mitchell was 0-3, including 0-2 from deep in his 3:51 of second-half playing time, while Jacob Grandison was 0-2 in his 13:04 of second-half playing time. In 4:31, Dariq Whitehead was 0-1. Omitting inside shooters Ryan, Kyle, and Dereck, the other 6 Duke players were a combined 1-19, including 0-11 from deep. Moreover, Duke’s transition game, based on disruptive defense, was non-existent because there was no disruption. — It left this commentator speechless.

Xavier

Jeremy set the tone, re-establishing himself with a bravura performance, after his dismal Oregon State game.  When Jeremy is bravura, Duke is bravura.  Mark Mitchell came alive, and Kyle was a stalwart.  It was a very good performance, but it is troubling that  there are still so many in the rotation who are not living up to their offensive potential, or who are inconsistent.  Tyrese has struggled, but occasionally has broken out.  Grandison has vacillated between sensational and irrelevant.  Blakes has energy, but not a high shooting percentage, whether it is on his drives or his deep shots.  But you can see his potential. 

 Lively has not yet come close to finding his offense.  I saw him twice last year, and he was a deadly accurate shooter from the foul line region. In two all-star games, he was 8-8. When he is a scoring threat from the high post, his passing gets even better.  He will get back there, but he may have a long path.  Dariq could be Duke’s best player, but he is coming back slowly.  He is shooting from deep but has not yet reestablished his handle and ability to drive efficiently.  

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach vs Xavier (35:22) had his best game since coming to Duke!  It is significant that it came after one of his worst,  in the tournament opener against Oregon State. He backed up that poor effort with one for the ages!   He scored 21 points (9-15, including 2-4 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe) to go with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.   Scheyer understood how Jeremy’s great game is so important for this team’s development: “I thought just the poise in key moments, Jeremy put us on his back and said ‘alright’. Whether it’s for him or for somebody else, he got some really good looks, really good quality looks. … We need him, what did he play today — 35 minutes? We need him to score, to create, to defend the other team’s best player. . … And the thing that I loved for him today was that he was just him. And when he’s that way, to me, he’s the best guard in the country! He controlled the whole game, created for others. He had five assists, I actually thought he could’ve had eight, nine assists, we missed a couple bunnies that he dumped off. … I think this is what we’ll see going forward from Jeremy.” 

Jeremy Roach vs Oregon State (35:34) did not have his usual stellar game, scoring 7 points (3-14, including 1-7 from behind the arc, without attempting a free throw) while handing out 4 assists and making 2 steals.  However, Jeremy committed 4 turnovers and 3 personal fouls, while snaring only a single rebound.

Kyle Filipowski vs Xavier (32:59) had a good scoring first half (10 points) and a good rebounding second half (only 2 points but 4 key defensive boards). He scored a total 12 points (4-10 from the field including 1-3 from 3land and 1-2 from the stripe) to go with an overall floor game on both offense and defense – 4 rebounds, 4 steals, an assist and a block.  Kyle was less of a scoring factor, but still a major force.

Kyle Filipowski vs Oregon State (31:11) has his 4th double double in 6 games, scoring 19 points (5-13, including 1-5 from behind the arc, and 8-9 from the foul line) to go with 14 rebounds (5 offensive), an assist and a truly fantastic steal.

Mark Mitchell vs Xavier (31:00) dramatically returned to his early season form after a couple of games where he was not impactful.  Against Xavier, Mark scored 16 points (6-11 from the field, including 1-2 from behind the arc – the one was crucial – and 3-4 from the foul line) to go with 5 impressive rebounds and a blocked shot.  Mark was Duke’s savior and high scorer in the second half (12 points) on offense, a crucial defender of Duke’s defensive backboard, and dedicated perimeter defender.  What a great game Mitchell played!

Mark Mitchell (11:14) vs Oregon State had his least productive game as a Blue Devil, scoring only a single point (0-4 from the field, including 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe) with 0 rebounds, assists or steals.  He played very little in the second half.

Jaylen Blakes vs Xavier (24:30) played starter’s minutes in the second half (15:34), while Tyrese Proctor, the starter, played only 5:50  in the closing stanza.  Blakes was inserted for his legendary disruptive and aggressive defense, which basically won the game for the Blue Devils.  Blakes scored 5 points (1-5 from the field, including 0-1 from deep and a crucial 3-3 from the stripe at “winning time”).  He notched 2 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.  However, statistics do not tell all about Jaylen’s game.  His energy was his gift to the defense. Jaylen’s high school coach told Scheyer during Blakes’ recruitment, “Hey man, I’ve got a special kid here. I know you’re going to have a bunch of one-and-done guys, but you may want to look at him as a future Duke basketball captain. He’s a four-year guy. A culture carrier.”  What a great predication.

Jaylen Blakes (16:40) vs Oregon State failed to score (0-3 from the field, including 0-2 from deep) but was a defensive spark plug.  He had an assist and a steal (and a couple of almost steals).

Ryan Young (21:15) vs Xavier was a major contributor to Duke’s interior play on both offense and defense. He rebounded, and scored in the post.  He was Duke’s “other Big” (with Kyle) in the second half (playing 12:39 while scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 boards.  This contrasted to Dereck’s 7:21 without scoring and kept Dereck on the bench while Ryan played center.  Ryan has been valuable all year, but his work in the first two games of the Phil Knight Legacy has been his best work of the year!  Ryan scored 8 (3-5 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 6 rebounds (5 offensive).  For the season, Ryan is 24-33 from the field for a 73% shooting average.

Ryan Young vs Oregon State (29:37) played his best game as a Blue Devil, scoring 11 points (4-5 from the field, including 3-4 from the foul line) to go with an astounding 15 boards! (8 offensive), plus a blocked shot and an assist.  MVP.

Tyrese Proctor vs Xavier (18:09) had another scoreless game (0-2 from the field, including 0-1 from deep) with 2 assists and 2 turnovers.  He continues to defend efficiently on the perimeter.  Tellingly, he spent more time on the bench in the second half and was not on the floor in the last 7 minutes of the game.

Tyrese Proctor vs Oregon State (29:37) had an excruciating game right after his best game (against Bellarmine).  Ok, we know – freshmen are notoriously inconsistent.  Tyrese scored only 5 points (1-7 from the field, including 1-6 from deep plus 2-2 from the stripe) to  go with a pair of rebounds and a turnover.  Blakes replaced him at “winning time”.

Dereck Lively II vs Xavier (15:59) regressed a bit against the size and strength of Xavier’s front line.  Disastrously, Lively picked up four fouls in his short stint trying to defend. Lively scored 2 points (a dunk; he missed a short hook shot to go 1-2 from the field and a disappointing 0-4 from the foul line).  The only reason he saw the court at all in the second half is that Ryan Young also had 4 fouls.  For the game, Dereck grabbed 4 tough rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and had a steal.  He is improving, but slowly.

Dereck Lively II vs Oregon State (10:23 but only 2:22 in the second half) regressed in this game, scoring only 2 on a dunk (his only shot of the game).  He had a steal and a block but spent time on the bench because of Ryan Young’s breakout game.

Dariq Whitehead vs Xavier (10:26) is also using his playing time to regain his pre-broken foot form. Dariq’s shot seems to be back as is his rebounding.  What has yet to return is his ball handling and driving ability.  He is not yet getting past his defender, and he is also having trouble on the defensive end (2 fouls in his short stint, one was on a 3-point shooter).  When – or if – Dariq and Dereck reach the form each exhibited in high school, the Blue Devils will morph into a juggernaut.

Dariq Whitehead (17:08) vs Oregon State continued to look both rusty, yet improved from his first game back.   He scored 7 points (2-9 from the field including 2-6 from behind the arc and 1-3 from the foul line) and garnered 3 rebounds.  When he starts scoring like he did when he was healthy, Duke’s offense will frighten opponents. 

Jacob Grandison vs Xavier (10:20) scored only 2 points (1-1) in his brief appearances in each half.  He was a star in earlier games, but played sparingly against Xavier.  This may be Duke’s strength, the deep roster that can find the winning combination regardless of what the adversary throws at them.

Jacob Grandison vs Oregon State (18:36) – super sub did not have a super sub night, even though he made 2 very crucial foul shots at game’s end.  Those two foul shots were Jacob’s only 2 points of the game (0-4 from the floor, including 0-1 from 3land).  Jacob contributed 5 critical rebounds and 2 assists.

SUMMING UP

Too soon.  A more complete assessment will be in the post-tournament issue early next week.  What we can say is that this team has heart and appears to be developing chemistry.  The highest grades for consistency may go to Jon Scheyer and his coaching staff.  He has met almost every issue that arose with a creative answer using all of his players.  In short, the team has been better than merely the sum of its parts.  Purdue and Zach Edey will be a test for these young Blue Devils.  More after that game.


Next Play: Sunday, November 27 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.  The Championship Game of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament when Duke faces Purdue (who flattened Gonzaga 84-66 (GULP!) late Friday night in the other semi-final)

Scheyer (and everyone else) understands that Jeremy is Duke’s most important player.
Photo credit: Duke Athletics
Mark  Mitchell had a hot hand for the Blue Devils, sparking them in the second half.
Photo Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Duke 56 v. Purdue 75 (Season 14; Issue 7) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. Game # 8 (November 27, 2022)

Duke players cheer on their teammates, all to no avail.  Will this team grow into its potential? 
Photo credit: Nat LeDonne, Duke Athletics
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Purdue’s talented, well coached team taught Duke’s young players a painful lesson about hustle, spacing, ball movement, rebounding, relaxing, and making shots– even free throws. Of course, center 7’4” Zach Edey made a lot of it easier for the Boilermakers but, just the same, it was a lesson nonetheless, and we will know after Wednesday’s game against Ohio State whether it was a lesson well learned or an incapacitating one.  Also, Roach’s ankle injury is of concern, but it gave Proctor an opportunity to show his skills at the point. 

If you haven’t noticed, Duke’s football team, which had fallen to less than an afterthought (over the last two seasons, Duke has lost 17 of its 18 ACC games. The Blue Devils haven’t finished with a winning record in league play since 2014) in a less than stellar ACC Conference, beat Wake Forest.  Duke’s new Head Coach Mike Elko and his assistants have taken basically the same group from last season and done an almost unimaginable job in going 8-4 and discovering a quarterback, red shirt sophomore Riley Leonard, who is playing sensational football.

ALANALYSIS:

Duke is about to enter the heart of its season with games against Ohio State in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge on November 30 and the ACC season opener against Boston College on December 3, before playing highly ranked Iowa in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 6.  Then, after the Christmas break, the Blue Devils compete exclusively in ACC league games.  So, coaches, players and fans were hoping for a game against Purdue in which the Blue Devils demonstrated their readiness to compete in the heart of their season.

The disappointment from watching Purdue’s complete destruction of every aspect of the Blue Devil game is profound.  But, before taking drastic action, let us remember Duke has suffered some astoundingly embarrassing defeats in seasons that ended up wonderfully successful.  For example, Scheyer will remember his 2010 National Championship team getting pounded by Georgetown on National TV with President Obama in attendance.  Still, it is hard to temper the negative feeling from the shellacking Purdue handed the Blue Devils last night.

The Offense

While the Blue Devils played a mediocre first half on offense (scoring 35 points), the defense was so porous that Purdue scored 46 first-half points so that Duke trailed by 11 points. With 2:28 to go in the opening period, the Blue Devils had scored only 28 points and were 18 points behind.  Kyle Filipowski  (11 first-half points on 4-7 from the field including 2-3 from deep and 1-1 from the line), Jeremy Roach (10 points on 4-5 from the floor and 2-3 from the stripe), and Tyrese Proctor (8 points on 3-6 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, and 2-2 from the stripe) were the three Duke players that kept the Blue Devils within 11 of Purdue at half.  Young, Whitehead, and Mitchell each scored 2 points while Grandison, Blakes, and Lively did not score. That is 6 of the 9 players in the rotation scored collectively only 6 points! No team can win with ⅔ of the roster virtually absent from scoring.  Duke had only 8 assists in the entire game.  Mediocre may actually be a bridge too far.

The second half was much worse – it was actually worse than the disastrous second half against Oregon State (where Duke scored only 25 points, but held the Beavers scoreless for over 5 minutes to outscore Oregon State by 9-4 for the win).  Here is a stat to make one’s hair stand up straight: only one Duke player had more than a single field goal in the closing period!!  

When Jeremy limped off to the locker room with a toe or ankle injury at the end of the first half, the announcers flashed back to Kyrie’s serious injury in 2011.  Duke fans were relieved when Jeremy was able to play the second half (all 20 minutes).  However, Jeremy  was not himself – he scored 4 points (but was only 1-8 from the field, including 0-3 from deep and 2-3 from the foul line.  Tyrese Proctor was heroic, also playing all 20 second-half minutes, while scoring a team high (for the closing half) of 8 points on 4-7 from the field, including 0-2 from 3land.  He had 5 rebounds, and an assist.  Most importantly, he took over Roach’s point guard duties for most of the second half. Between Tyrese and Jeremy, they accounted for 12 of Duke’s 21 second-half points. The remaining 9 points came from Kyle (3 points on 1-4 from the field and 1-2 from the stripe), Dariq (4 points in his 10:13 of second-half playing time, 1-3, including 0-1 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the stripe), and Ryan (2 points on 2-2 from the stripe, but 0-2 from the field).  Duke had only 2 assists in the final period, and missed every single 3 point attempt (0-11; Jeremy 0-3, Mark 0-2, Tyrese 0-2, Dereck 0-1, Kyle 0-1, and Jaylen 0-1).

And still, the Blue Devils had their second-half moments before completely falling apart.  With 15:31 left in the game, Purdue led by 17 (58-41) when the Blue Devils made a move. Duke reduced the Boilermaker lead to 7 twice – once with 9:00 remaining, and once with 7:01 (63-56) left, before the wheels completely fell off.  The Blue Devils did not score in the final 7 minutes of the game, while Purdue scored 12, making the final margin.  

In those 7 minutes, Mitchell missed; Whitehead turned it over; Proctor committed an offensive foul; Roach missed from 3; Filipowski missed from 3; Mitchell turned it over; Filipowski missed a jumper;  Roach committed a foul; Filipowski fouled out; Roach missed a jumper; Young committed a foul; Roach missed a free throw; Proctor missed a jumper; Mitchell missed a jumper and Roach missed a 3 pointer! That was Duke’s desultory offense in the last 7 minutes (“winning time”). Purdue did to Duke what the Blue Devils did to both Oregon State and Xavier.  Yuck!

The Defense

Duke’s hard-switching man-to-man defense was simply dissected. Purdue’s sharp passing, accurate shooting of wide-open shots, and an absolute domination of the paint by Boilermaker center, the 7’4”, 295 lb. Zack Edey (21 points on 7-13 from the field and a critical 7-8 from the stripe), who controlled both rims (12 rebounds, 5 offensive) while drawing 8 Duke fouls.  Lively and Filpowski each fouled out.  

Purdue shot 58 % in the first half, including 3-3 from deep. The Blue Devils had defensive success for a brief 8-minute period in the second half, when Duke switched to a zone defense with some full court pressure.  But Purdue hit a few perimeter shots against the zone that Duke could not answer. Scheyer “It’s something we have to be ready to go to. We spend a lot of time building our habits with our man-to-man defense, so we’ve practiced it [the zone defense] a couple of times. We’ve had it in our back pocket just in case and I thought our guys did a good job on the fly to pick it up. The thing with them [Purdue] is they move so much … they get really good movement, and they screen hard and cut hard. I thought it helped slow them down and our press was good for us also.”

The Purdue game is the first game this season where Duke gave up at least 70 points; Purdue’s offense was far superior to Duke’s defense.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (37:10) scored 14 points (5-13, including 0-3 from behind the arc, and 4-6 from the stripe) to go with 3 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.  He had 10 points in an effective first half, before he was injured.  While he did return, he was not the same star as he had been in the first half and against Xavier.  The injury impacted his second half play.

Tyrese Proctor (36:20) had his best game at Duke so far, scoring 16 points (7-13 from the field, but 0-4 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line).  He handled the  point guard duties (3 assists w only 1 turnover) nearly as well as Jeremy  He was the only Duke player to score more than one field goal in the second half (he  scored 4 buckets for 8 second-half points).

Kyle Filipowski (30:53) scored 14 points (5-11, including 2-4 from deep, and 2-3 from the stripe) to go with 5 boards, a steal and a block.  However, Kyle scored only 2 points in the second half.  He turned it over twice before fouling out.

Mark Mitchell (25:03) was not effective, scoring only 2 points (1-6, including 0-2 from deep without getting to the stripe).  He had 3 boards and an assist with a pair of turnovers.

Dereck Lively II (21:46) failed to score (0-3, including 0-2 from deep that did not even draw iron!  What!).  Dereck grabbed 5 rebounds, blocked a pair of shots, and had 2 steals before he fouled out trying to guard the Purdue big guy, Zach Edey.

Dariq Whitehead (16:11) was Duke’s 4th leading scorer –  with only 6 points (2-7, including 0-2 from 3land, and 2-2 from the foul line) with a rebound and a turnover.  He’s only been back with the team for 9 days from his broken foot. 

Ryan Young (14:53) picked up 2 quick fouls in the first half guarding the Purdue “Hulk”, but he adjusted, and  committed only one more foul.  He scored 4 points (1-3, and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 4 rebounds,  All of the Blue Devil Bigs were totally dominated in the paint.

Jaylen Blakes (8:42) failed to score (0-2 from behind the arc, as well as 0-2 from the stripe) with 2 rebounds and an assist.

Jacob Grandison (8:38) also failed to score, without even taking a shot.  He had an assist and a turnover.

SUMMING UP

The two players who made this year’s freshmen class so special are Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II.  Neither of those two (expected to be superstars) are contributing to Duke’s trajectory… yet.  It’s time for each to remove the Clark Kent disguise and become the Superman  that Duke recruited.

Dereck Lively II was everyone’s pick as the #1 player in this year’s incoming college class.  While he had a calf injury that delayed his development,  Derecke has been back playing for a substantial time now.  He is defending better as he plays more (he even had his moments against the Purdue behemoth, Zack Edey, but was no real match for him).  To put the point dramatically, Lively played more than 20 minutes without scoring, and fouled out trying to defend Edey.  Lively has 9 baskets for the year, each one a dunk.  Against Purdue, Dereck took two 3-point attempts without drawing iron. When I watched Dereck last year in all-star games, he was an excellent mid-range shooter.  For Duke to be an ACC contender, let alone a National contender, Lively will have to morph into the player he was last year.

Dariq has only been back for 9 days, and the team has not been able to practice much during that time.  While Whitehead has demonstrated lots of rust, he is also making palpable progress.  His perimeter shot (devastating in high school) is returning, and he is slowly rounding into rebounding form.  However, his handle, quickness, and coordination are not back yet.  He is fouling on defense more than he will later in the year.  Last year, he was a great driver and passer (he was so good, I thought he might end up as Roach’s backup at the point), but he cannot yet get to the rim, and he is still turning it over.  I predict he will be one of Duke’s best players by mid-season.

However, until these two who were expected to be Duke’s best two players, start  consistently playing like college superstars (like Kyle has done), this year’s Duke team will struggle. But if they grow it will be a rewarding season.

Next Play: Wednesday, November 30 vs. Ohio State in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7:15 p.m. —  ACC-Big 10 Challenge on ESPN.

Dariq Whitehead, returning from injury to stardom? 
Photo credit: Nat LeDonne, Duke Athletics

Duke 81 v. Ohio State 72 (Season 14; Issue 8; Game # 9) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. November 30, 2022)

The elite brotherhood: celebrating a stellar assist from Jeremy to Derek. Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Scheyer: “We didn’t practice on Monday, because we were getting back from Portland and had a one-day prep. Our focus was just to take what we learned against Purdue and bring it tonight.”

What did this Duke team learn in Portland?  Based on how the Blue Devils played against Ohio State, they learned how to play tough, all the time; to manage a game, and finish off a talented opponent; and learned what a pleasure it is to play in Cameron with the Crazies as a sixth man.  The team is  still a work in progress, and compared to Indiana, which handled North Carolina impressively, has further to go to become a top contender.

Coach Scheyer’s assessment: “I thought, including the Xavier game, that was the best we managed a game. We were playing games, and now we’re learning how to win games. When you have a lead, you don’t play the same way if it’s a tie game or if you’re down.  Jeremy, I thought he did a really good job, Tyrese [Proctor], Jaylen [Blakes], when he was in, just controlling our team.  And in those moments, they make a little bit of a run, we have to really execute.  And working on the offensive end, I thought we did that.  And then down the stretch, some crucial stops were really important for us.”

On Whitehead and Lively finding their rhythm after missing portions of the preseason: “I hope for all of these freshmen, not just you guys [in the media] but anybody, is patient with them. Because like Dereck and Dariq, they missed the most crucial part of any time of the year for freshmen, and that’s the preseason. Dereck missed over a month, and Dariq, almost three months. And, so for them, they’ve been working hard, and it’s gonna take them some time; for Dereck, it’s only been a few weeks.  And I just love the mindset, how he keeps working.  I felt the way he fought on defense in the Purdue game, he took a huge step.  And then tonight, he did the same thing against [Zed] Key.  And then for him, it’s just getting comfortable, developing his offensive game.  And in fairness to him, we’ve missed him.  One of the best things he does is he puts pressure on the rim in pick and roll. And our guards, Jeremy hit him on the lob.  He hit him on a couple plays tonight. That’s something we need to look for more.  And so again, he’s just gotta stick with it.  Really proud of his effort.  I thought it was a huge jump.  He’s rebounding in traffic more.  We just need to keep rolling with all of them.”

Again, Kyle Filipowski was the best player. The Blue Devils are just better with him on the floor.  Dereck Lively is indispensable defensively, and improving offensively.  Ryan Young has been a pleasant surprise at both ends.  Jeremy Roach has continued his maturation from late last year.  Procter has improved from an unimpressive start.  Only Mark Mitchell, after a good start, has disappointed as the competition has gotten better, and is probably the odd man out when Dariq Whitehead, who could take this team to another level, is ready.  Grandison and Blakes have also had their moments.

OTHER COMMENTS:

That has happened to the Tar Heels?

When was the last time North Carolina lost three basketball games in a row?

When was the last time the #1 basketball team dropped out of the poll?

Don’t get smug. Just like last year, North Carolina will get better as the season progresses—especially when they play Duke.

ALANALYSIS:

We are beginning to discern how Scheyer is developing the 2022-23 Blue Devils as a 9-player commando unit.  Each game, every strategy, who plays more and less, will be different depending on how Scheyer evaluates his team’s needs as the game flows on.  “We played nine guys, and all nine of them made some winning plays.  … When you have a lead, you don’t play the same way if it’s a tie game or if you’re down.”  Ohio State’s last lead in the game was 12-11, after less than 5 minutes had elapsed.  After that, the Blue Devils never let them take it again!

It surely was not a perfect game, but it was a good one, where Duke played a gutsy second half that secured the win.  Duke was also superb in the first half, holding the Buckeyes to 29 points, while the Blue Devils scored 39.  In the second half, the Blue Devils turned gritty and showed an admirable character by hanging tough and scoring even though Ohio State was blazing on offense. Even though the Blue Devils could not stop the Buckeye attack, the Devils never backed down, and kept the blazing Ohio State offense from ever getting  closer than 5 points (which the Buckeyes did 3 times).

The Blue Devils clung to the lead with their own blazing offense, and in the face of major adversity.  Both Kyle Filipowski  and Lively were saddled with four fouls for much of the closing period. Duke was not less than heroic, clinging to the lead even with their Bigs in foul trouble for the later portion of the game.  The heroes:  Ryan Young was fantastic; Roach was beyond stellar and gritty; Proctor did not miss a foul shot (6-6) in the clutch; and, Kyle made the play of the game with the lead down to five and the Buckeyes having  the momentum.  Filipowski dribbled behind his back on a drive to the basket, making a beautiful layup, and getting fouled.  Then, he made the foul shot, and Duke was on the road to a terrific “winning time” with just over 2 minutes to go.

Jeremy personified “hero”!  He didn’t practice at all after Portland because of the toe injury he suffered against Purdue; yet, he played all 20 minutes of this tight second half against the Buckeyes, demonstrating leadership, heart, and what a courageous winning attitude can accomplish. He had 10 of his 13 points in the second half, drew 5 Ohio State fouls with his acrobatic drives, going 6-8 from the foul line, as well as dishing out 5 second-half assists. It was yet another – maybe the most impressive so far – of his bravura performances!

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (33:36) played a wonderful game on both offense and defense, especially after not having practiced since he was hurt against Purdue.  Even though he is not completely recovered, he led by example.  He scored 13 points as he drew 6 Buckeye fouls and was 7-9 from the foul line.  Jeremy was 3-6 inside the arc but 0-3 from deep. Critically, Jeremy willed Duke to victory in the second half, playing all 20 minutes, scoring 10 of his 13 points (2-5 from the field, including 0-1 from deep and a gaudy 6-8 from the stripe!) to go with a pair of important rebounds, and 5 assists (but 3 turnovers).  His driving drew 5 Ohio State fouls.  His leadership and heart were fully on display as Duke never let Ohio State get closer than 5 points.

Kyle Filipowski (30:26) led Duke in scoring with 16 points (6-11, including 4-6 from the stripe – without a 3 point attempt), to go with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals.  Kyle made the winning play of the game when the Buckeyes cut Duke’s lead to 5 with 3:06 to go in the game (72-67).  From the perimeter, Kyle drove, going behind his back to get to the rim for a layup, and then a foul shot, for an 8-point Duke lead with only 2:30 left.  He committed 3 second-half fouls (he picked up his 4th foul for the game with 10:45 left and went to the bench).  However, he re-entered with 6:45 to go and played the rest of the game with winning panache (and without committing more fouls).

Tyrese Proctor (27:07) teamed with Jeremy to give Duke a reliable backcourt, penetrating the Buckeye defense.  Proctor scored 12 points (2-8 from the field, including 2-3 from deep, and a critical 6-6 from the stripe), to go with 3 rebounds and an assist.  He drew 5 Ohio State fouls.  He was also an aggressive defender and rebounder.

Jacob Grandison (25:55) played an integral role in this victory, scoring 9 points (on 3-5 from the field, including 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 4 big boards and 2 steals (against 2 turnovers).  His defense, found less than stellar  early in the season, was dramatically improved.  He played starter’s minutes.

Ryan Young (21:47) played more minutes than Dereck Lively because of Lively’s foul trouble (Dereck committed his 4th with 8:39 left in the game), and was both effective and valuable.  He scored 10 points (3-4 from the field and 4-4 from the stripe) to go with 5 rebounds and two assists.  It was in the second half that Ryan was a (and maybe the) star.  With both Lively and Filipowski playing fewer minutes because of foul trouble, Young scored 8 second-half points on perfect shooting (2-2 from the field and 4-4 from the stripe) with 3 key, tough rebounds.  Ryan, who transferred from Northwestern, thrives on the physicality of Big 10 basketball.

Dereck Lively II (17:41) had his best game at Duke so far, scoring 11 points on 4-5 from the field and 3-3 from the foul line.  He was a force on the interior, grabbing 5 rebounds, blocking a pair of shots (and altering others at the rim), with an assist, a steal, and a turnover.  Interestingly, Scheyer did not re-insert Dereck after he had committed his 4th foul, as Scheyer did with Kyle.  The result is Lively played less than 8 second-half minutes, even though he was 3-3 from the field and 1-1 from the stripe for 7 of his 11 points. Those 8 minutes may be the best Lively has played at Duke, but, unlike his trust in Kyle, Scheyer clearly didn’t think Dereck’s sophistication was up to being able to avoid the fifth foul (and so played Young instead).

Jaylen Blakes (15:21) is a defensive energizer bunny and moves the offense as well.  But he is not scoring (2 points on 1-5 from the field, including 0-2 on wide open 3-point attempts; no free throw attempts).  Jaylen played only 2:17 in the second half (which may be part of the reason Duke allowed 43 second-half Ohio State points).

Mark Mitchell (15:17) as Scheyer said, didn’t have his best stuff, but he hit a key 3 pointer and guarded Ohio State’s best player.   Mitchell scored 3 points on 1-3 from the field, including 1-2 from deep, to go with 2 boards, an assist, and a pair of turnovers.  He does seem to go from great game to invisible.

Dariq Whitehead (12:50) played an excellent first half, scoring 5 points in 10 minutes (2-3, including 1-1 from deep) and a pair of rebounds.  You can see the rust slowly coming off, but you can also see where the rust is still prominent (like in his dribble drives to the basket).  He played only 2:50 second-half minutes, missing both of his shots.  Scheyer: “Dariq took really good strides in the first half; his 3 and his offensive rebound.  How do you win?  You win by rebounding by defending and by making others better and these guys [Dariq and Dereck] did that tonight.”

SUMMING UP

The Duke women’s coach, Kara Lawson, made an insightful point about elite competitors.  Her team smashed Northwestern yesterday in the women’s ACC-Big 10 Challenge, holding Northwestern to 12 first-half points by playing amazing defense, to lead by 20 points at the half.  In the second half, Duke coasted, allowing Northwestern to score 23 fourth-quarter points (cutting the Duke lead to a, still substantial 15).  In the post-game press conference, Lawson was dramatically disappointed with her team’s second-half performance.  One of the reporters suggested it was just human nature to let up a bit when a team was in such complete control of the  game.  Lawson’s response is worth considering:

“Yes, I think it’s human nature for average people, but I don’t think it’s human nature for elite people, elite competitors.  I think when you are an elite competitor, you don’t care what the score is; you don’t care if it is practice or a game. You have a lot of pride in how you play.  We have to improve in that area.”

Kara was an elite competitor as a player.  On the men’s team, Jeremy has fully earned recognition as “an elite competitor”.  Jeremy leads a 9 man commando unit that is morphing into a gritty unselfish cohesive (almost) team.

The Blue Devil defense has been more consistent than the offense, but the offense was at its season best against Ohio State.  Duke is  heading into the ACC regular season with optimism.  Each year the Duke goals are the same: win the ACC regular season title; win the ACC tournament; win the National Championship (I am enough of a realist that making the Final Four feels like a truly great season).  The Ohio State game was a nice step toward having a team that can accomplish one or more of those goals – And, it was a whole lot more fun to watch than the Purdue game!

Next Play: Saturday, December 3 vs. Boston College in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 4:00 p.m. — ACC-regular season opener on ACCN.

A Lively Dunk.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Scheyer surveying his commando squad. 
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
To the basket! Jeremy drives.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Kyle on his way to clinch the game with a late layup.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 75 v. Boston College Eagles 59 (Season 14; Issue 9; Game # 10) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. December 3, 2022

Jacob Grandison lines up another basket his 3 pointers have been an antidote to Duke’s otherwise disappointing perimeter shooting
Photo Credit: Ethan Hyman
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

As expected, Duke utilized their size, depth, and talent to take care of business in Cameron against an undersized and shorthanded Boston College Eagles. It might be easy to say that this precocious Blue Devil team is underperforming, but I think Coach Scheyer has done an outstanding job putting this team together and is doing a fine job managing their playing time. He substitutes in waves. Certainly Ryan Young and Jacob Grandison have become surprising additional contributors of both talent and maturity to the team. For a more complete assessment, read today’s Duke Basketball Report com. [Alan’s comment; The DBR assessment just skims the surface compared to the assessment in Alanalysis and Rotation below 🙂 – The Editorial staff agrees! ]

The freshmen were the main contributors on offense, but the veteran trio of Jeremy Roach, Ryan Young and Jacob Grandison played significant roles in setting the team right. Roach was a steady hand at the lead guard spot, Young deployed his clever fundamentals early on, and Grandison provided some much-needed 3-pointers.”They’re always ready for us. Always ready.” Scheyer said of his veterans: “Any given moment, any responsibility … It’s their toughness.  It’s the winning plays. They’ve learned from their experience in their college careers what it means to win.”

Early Injuries to Lively and Whitehead have also slowed the development of the team, but both have demonstrated glimpses of having NBA skills. While I agree with Alan that the interior defense is impressive,  I feel their perimeter defense needs attention. Some teams like Carolina (late last season version) will get hot and beat them with threes. Also, Mark Mitchell must have read my commentary on his play in recent games – that he has been impressive against smaller players, but not against better, bigger competition. I also said, “I hope I am wrong, because he is a talented versatile player.” Last night, Mark seemed to be making me eat my words by leading Duke in scoring and shooting lights out (6-7 from the field). However, consistency is important at higher levels of competition.  

ALANALYSIS:

Jon Scheyer is building a team in his first season that is intriguing, and different from the Coach K method.  Duke has shown a 9-player rotation that is very flexible offensively, depending on how Scheyer and his staff determine to attack the adversary’s defense. On defense, this rotation is most often stunning, if not yet as consistent as it will be.  Against BC, the first half was a defensive gem. However, Duke women’s coach,Kara Lawson, would have criticized the lack of defensive aggression from time to time in the second half, where the Blue Devils gave up 36 points after holding the Eagles to 23 first-half points. B.C. scored more points in the second half than Duke had scored in the first half (36-35). Scheyer: “Proud of the overall effort, our defense was really good. Finally, we could string some stops together, and that translated into some good offense for us.”  Kara seems to be more of a hard truth teller than Scheyer.

Here, in a Scheyer nutshell, is his philosophy for maximizing the talent on this roster, “We can come in waves, and our first group started out; I thought we were okay. Then I thought, when we subbed, we got some more energy.  That makes the guys, when they’re coming back in, have more energy.  We have a lot of different lineups.

Really, each one of our guys have played, stepped up, and contributed. That’s going to be who we are all season. … [We’re a] versatile group, incorporating full court pressure, whether it be zone or man, and using our depth is a big thing. Using our size and length protecting our rim … We really value what we’re doing; the ability to score in different ways. We had nine guys score tonight. You’re not going to have that all the time, but with this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens many more times the rest of the year.”

Scheyer concludes, “Using our depth is a big thing, we have to continue to figure out who has the hot hand that day. … The ability to play differently with different lineups, I think, is really an advantage.”

The Defense

After a bit of a lackadaisical start (compared to the rest of the dynamically defensive first half), the Blue Devils played locked-down defense.  BC scored its 11th first-half point after 6:55 had elapsed in the first 6:55  to lead Duke by 3 (11-8).  Twelve minutes and 35 seconds later, the Eagles had managed only 9 more points, and trailed Duke 35-20.  Almost every Blue Devil played double-figure minutes in the opening period (except Ryan Young who appeared for a scintillating 7 minutes and Dariq Whitehead who had only a 5:20 cameo).  B.C. was held to 9-33 from the field (27%), including 1-10 from deep (Duke contested virtually every Eagle 3 point attempt).

Duke’s defense relaxed a bit in the second half where the Blue Devil lead was never less than double figures.  The Eagles were 15-31 from the field for almost 50%, and out rebounded the much taller Blue Devils 15-11, and on the offensive boards by 7-2.  This is where Kara Lawson’s admonition (in the Ohio State DBP) that elite competitors bring it every minute, regardless of the score or whether it’s a game or practice. It’s pride in how you play the game.  Scheyer might make Kara a guest lecturer in the men’s locker room.

The Offense

The offensive display was welcome after the poor shooting halves in the Purdue and Oregon State games..  Duke shot 53% from the field (28-53, including 8-20 from deep and 11-13 from the foul line) and, tellingly, had 19 assists on the 28 field goals, the mark of a cohesive unselfish offense.  Only 10 turnovers.  Very efficient.

As soon as Bill wrote that Mark Mitchell would be the odd man out of the starting lineup when Dariq Whitehead returned to his best form, Mark led Duke in scoring for the game, with one of the best offensive halves played by any Duke player this year!  He was the only double-digit scorer for Duke in the closing stanza, with 13 points in 12:13 on perfect shooting (5-5 from the field including 2-2 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe).  The entire team was lethal, shooting a dazzling 58 % (14-24, including an excellent 5-10 from behind the arc as well as a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line). 

Filipowski (nicknamed Flip) scored an efficient 7 second-half points in 10:48 on 3 shots (2-3 from the field, including 1-1 from 3land and 2-2 from the stripe).  Tyrese Proctor also scored 7 points, on 3 attempts in 11:20 (2-3 from the field, including 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe).  Dariq had a significant second half, playing 11:11 while scoring 6 points (3-5 from the field).

Only Ryan and Dereck Lively (D-Live is, of course, his nickname), who each played 6 ½ minutes, did not play double digit minutes in the second half.  Ryan didn’t score; D-Live was 1-1 for 2 points. Duke played a significant stretch with Flip as the center; that worked better on offense.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (27:45) scored 6 points (2-8, including 2-5 from behind the arc) with a rebound and 3 assists – and some suffocating defense.

Kyle Filipowski (25:28) had his fifth double-double of the season so far (10 games), scoring 13 points (4-10 from the field, including 1-3 from deep and 4-4 from the foul line) to go with 10 boards, an assist, and a steal. Scheyer has been enthusiastic about all of Flip’s developing game, but has especially  emphasized his rebounding and defending.

Jaylen Blakes (23:59) only scored 2 points (1-3, including 0-1 from 3land), but he handed out 5 assists, and made a steal.  The Coach praised Jaylen in his post game press conference, “I just want to say Jaylen Blakes, man, he’s done a big-time job for us. He’s coming in every game giving us energy.”

Tyrese Proctor (23:51) scored 9 points (3-6, including 1-4 from 3land and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 3 assists, without a turnover.  He is playing like an efficient point guard. 

Jacob Grandison (22:04) is establishing himself as Duke’s best long-range shooter.  He scored 10 points (3-6 from the field, including 2-4 from behind the arc).  Jacob had his best all-around game by adding 6 defensive rebounds, handing out 3 assists and blocking a shot; he is playing better defense than early in the season.  Grandison has scored in double figures in four games.   In four previous years – two with  Holy Cross and two with Illinois, Grandison was a scorer, but that isn’t his main concern at Duke. “What really matters is win, win, win,” Grandison said. Grandison now has double-digit point totals in 60 of his career games.

Mark Mitchell (21:51) had his best game at Duke so far.  He led the Blue Devils in scoring, with 15 points (an astounding 6-7 from the field, including 2-2 from deep, and 1-3 from the foul line), to go with 4 boards, an assist and a blocked shot.  Mark said, “I got going on the defensive end a little bit, got a block, got a couple of stops, and I think that just fueled me to play offense.” 

Dereck Lively II (19:15) had another excellent outing, as he continues his comeback from his calf injury.  He scored 8 points on 4-5 (all next to the rim) and blocked 3 shots.  He also had 2 tough rebounds. Scheyer: “Dereck Lively had three blocked shots, but he impacted way more than just the three blocks by just his being in the game. You can see his activity and confidence is growing each and every day.”

Dariq Whitehead (16:31) continues to play a bit more and a bit better as he returns from his broken foot.  He scored 6 points on 3-5 shooting close to the basket.  He also had 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He is still turning the ball over when he is aggressive on offense (3 turnovers).  Scheyer: “Dariq did some really good things. He’s still getting back in the flow.”

Ryan Young (13:44) scored 6 points on perfect shooting (2-2 near the rim and 2-2 from the stripe).  He is a great sub for Lively, grabbing 4 boards, blocking 2 shots, with an assist and a steal.

SUMMING UP

Another worth-watching test these Blue Devils will undergo will be in the World’s Most Famous Arena against the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1 so far this season), who have already beaten ACC teams Clemson and Georgia Tech.  Iowa’s only loss was to the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University (TCU) in the finals of the Emerald Classic, before beating Georgia Tech in a regularly scheduled game.  (The Hawkeyes were ranked before their loss to TCU)  The Iowa star, Kris Murray (6’8” forward), scored 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds against Georgia Tech!  Murray (and the Hawkeyes as a team) will challenge  the Blue Devil defense.

Next Play: Tuesday, December 6 vs. Iowa at Madison Square Garden (NYC) in the Jimmy V. Classic, at 9:30 p.m. EST, on ESPN

Mark Mitchell goes airborne.
Photo Credit: Ethan Hyman
Mark Mitchell, spurred by Bill’s criticism, was Duke’s high scorer.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Grandison struts his stuff.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 74 v. Iowa Hawkeyes 62 (Season 14; Issue 10; Game # 11) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. December 6, 2022

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke played their best game of the year tonight in Madison Square Garden in beating Iowa (6-1) 74-62!  Jeremy Roach had the best shooting game of his career. Mark Mitchell must read the DBP; since I had written that his recent unproductive play made him the odd man out, when Darig Whitehead fully recovers from surgery and gets in game condition, Mitchell has played his best basketball.  The same is true of Proctor the last few weeks. With a nine-man rotation, Coach Scheyer has multiple options at his disposal to answer an opponent’s challenge. So, while I am on a roll, I must mention that Kyle Filipowski has cooled off somewhat in his offense; missing the front end of one- and- ones is a recipe for losing.

 The Blue Devil defense and rebounding made it difficult for the Hawkeye players to rally from a deficit for most of the game! Just regard the Mitchell and Whitehead defense on Kris Murray, who is averaging 21 points a game and was coming off a career-high 31-point game against Georgia Tech a week earlier.

Scheyer said: “I think our offense will just continue to develop through the course of the season, … but the defense is the base of who we are. The two things I always connect to Duke basketball – playing defense and sharing the ball. And we’ll continue to emphasize that, but just proud of the effort.”

So far, so good for Coach Scheyer’s start of the difficult task of replacing Coach K. Replacing a legend is a daunting task! Just look at UCLA since John Wooden retired.  And when was the last time Carolina lost four games in a row? 

ALANALYSIS:

Duke chose the World’s Most Famous Arena to play its absolutely best game of the season.  It was the team’s best game because Jeremy Roach (22 points), Mark Mitchell (17 points), and Dariq Whitehead (8 points, 3 assists, and 6 rebounds) each had a “best game of the young season”.  In addition, Kyle (Flip) Filipowski had his 6th double double in 11 games (12 points; 10 rebounds). When Dereck (D-Live) Lively II got into early foul trouble, Ryan Young picked up the interior rebounding (11 rebounds) and defense (3 blocks).  Duke had 7 blocked shots (Ryan’s 3; 2 by D-Live in his short stint; 1 by Dariq; and 1 by Mark). 

In fact, Duke looked so good  that Bill voiced to me that Iowa looked like they must be just a terrible team.  Of course, as Bill knows, the Hawkeyes are a good team, contenders in The Big 10, one of the nation’s toughest conferences.

The Blue Devils were superb defensively, and cohesive and efficient on offense. The Iowa Hawkeyes came in averaging 86.4 points per game, but could score only 62.  Duke held an opponent to under 65 points for the eighth time this season.  Both Coach K and now Coach S have a defensive philosophy of shutting down the best player on the opponent’s team. Scheyer assigned Mark and Dariq that task, which they accomplished brilliantly.  Kris Murray, Iowa’s All-American candidate, averaging over 21 points per game, was held to 8! 

Duke was efficient on offense, despite some lapses.  The Blue Devil lead was always safe, but the Hawkeyes stayed close, and frequently reduced the double-digit lead to single digits, but without ever threatening Duke’s lead.

The Defense

Scheyer: “What it comes down to in March, is you need to get stops.”  The coach praised his guards for tough on-the-ball defense making penetration by the opponent difficult, and included praise as well to Flip, D-Live, and Ryan for protecting the rim and defensive backboard.  Scheyer believes the defense is also enhanced by the size of perimeter defenders like Mark, and Dariq, who did such a dynamic defensive job on Kris Murray. Tyrese has become a worthy perimeter defender, who is 6’5”.

The Scheyer defense was to shut down Iowa’s best player, Kris Murray.  Mark provided this insight, “ We just had a gameplan to come in and try to stop him  [Murray]. We knew he’s a talented player, I tried to keep him off the glass as much as we could, I knew he averages a lot of offensive rebounds. We just tried to defend him as a team, not let him get any easy looks and just pressure him all night and make it hard for him.” Murray said after the game, “Every time I drove, they showed multiple defenders.”  Defense has been and will be the Blue Devil’s greatest challenge; they are meeting it dramatically so far.

The Offense

The Blue Devils are sharing the ball and taking care of it.  Duke had 13 assists on 28 made field goals, against only 9 turnovers, while scoring 37 points in each half.  Five players carried the offensive scoring because the other four were not scoring.  Blakes (0-2) failed to score, Young (1-2) and Lively (1-1) notched only 2 points, while Grandison scored a 3 while missing his other 2 shots.  Every one of Duke’s 9 players in the rotation has played multiple excellent games; at times, players have an off game, but the collective has been powerful. Duke’s offense against Iowa was the Blue Devils’ best offense of the year, and leaves mouthwatering potential if and when Dariq and D-Live are fully healthy.  

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (36:51) gave us yet another bravura performance as a clutch scorer, as a skilled defender, but most importantly, as the leader of this young team!  Jeremy scored 22 points — 11 in each half – to lead Duke in scoring (8-18 from the field, including 3-6 from behind the arc and 3-3 from the foul line) to go with 3 assists and a pair of rebounds.  His acrobatic drives drew 4 Hawkeye fouls. One event illustrates his value as a leader – the glue that makes the Blue Devils go.  With 1:54 left in the game and Duke ahead by 12 (68-56), Scheyer felt the game was safe and took Roach out. Scheyer reversed his decision 43 seconds later as the Hawkeyes reduced the Duke lead to 8 by creating turnovers.  Jeremy re-entered the game and immediately restored order, pushing the Duke lead to 14 (74-60) with 13 seconds left.  Iowa scored a meaningless last second basket for the final 12-point margin.  Jeremy’s star is shining brightly.  We as fans get the old time pleasure of watching a young man grow from an underperforming newcomer to a formidable veteran – because he stayed in school.

Tyrese Proctor (28:55) is improving quickly as Jeremy’s backcourt mate. Tyrese scored 8 points — 7 in the first half – establishing himself not only offensively, but also as a tenacious on-the-ball defender.  Proctor was 3-6 from the field, including 1-3 from deep; he was 1-2 from the stripe, to go with 3 assists without a turnover, and a steal.  In the post-game press conference (Scheyer had Mitchell and Roach with him), Jeremy praised Tyrese, “He’s been a natural point guard his whole life. He takes pressure off me and off my legs.  I’m thankful for him.”

Mark Mitchell (28:52) played his best game (again) at both ends of the floor.  On offense, Mark scored an efficient 17 points — 13 in the second half – on 8 shots (6-8 from the field, missing his only shot 1 from deep; and 5-5 from the foul line).  He led the Blue Devils in scoring in the closing period.  Mark’s defense was superb.  He was the primary defender guarding Kris Murray.  Mitchell was the major defensive stopper that held Murray to 8 points on 3-9 shooting.  He well deserved to be at the press conference with Jeremy.

Ryan Young (25:27) played more minutes than usual because of Dereck Lively’s foul trouble.  Ryan scored only 2 points (1-2 from the field), but led Duke in rebounding with 11 (2 offensive) and blocked 3 shots in his valuable defensive effort.  Ryan proves his worth to this team almost every game.  He not only played more minutes than Lively, he also played more than Filipowski.

Kyle Filipowski (25:15) quietly achieved his 6th double-double, in only the 11th game of the season, scoring 12 points (5-15, including 1-4 from 3land and 1-3 from the stripe) on less than stellar shooting, and grabbing 10 rebounds (4 were offensive).  It seemed as if Flip is not playing as well as he had in previous games, but then you look up and he merely had a double-double.

Dariq Whitehead (20:45) played his best game so far, scoring 8 points (3-7 from the field, including 1-3 from behind the arc and 1-1 from the stripe).  The rust is coming off game by game.  Dariq guarded Kris Murray, when Mitchell was not, and was quite effective.  His passing is sharpening up as he demonstrated by handing out  3 assists and only one turnover (offensive foul on a drive).  Even better, Dariq showcased his athleticism by hauling in 6 tough rebounds.  It is recognized that he has the potential to raise the level of this team as he sheds his rust.  Very encouraging.

Dereck Lively II (13:22) committed two early first-half fouls that severely limited his playing time and impacted his aggressiveness.  He and Jeremy combined for a sweet pick and roll, where D-Live dunked impressively.  That was his only field goal attempt and his only 2 points.  He had a single rebound.  A bit disappointing.

Jacob Grandison (7:20) hit his first shot, a 3 pointer, when the Hawkeyes left him wide open for his only 3 points of the game (1-2 from the field).  He also grabbed a rebound and blocked a shot.  His limited playing time was not about Jacob playing badly, it was just that others were doing the job.  That is how Scheyer is developing his team.

Jaylen Blakes (6:01) in spite of his high energy on defense, he had another scoreless game (0-2, including 0-1, without a foul shot).  He grabbed 2 defensive rebounds and handed out an assist.

SUMMING UP

The schedule now gives the Blue Devils time to practice, which should greatly benefit both Whitehead and Lively, who have been short on practice time.  They missed the pre-season.  By the time they saw the court, Duke was already playing a string of games, without time to practice together.  Finally, they will have that needed time.  After the game against Maryland Eastern Shore this coming Saturday, Duke has 10 days before an ACC game at Wake Forest (on Tuesday, December 20), followed by an 11 day hiatus before Duke hosts Florida State on the afternoon of New Year’s eve.

With former teammates Trevor Keels and Mark Williams, NBA rookies with the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets, respectively, sitting courtside, Jeremy Roach was observed trading comments with each.  I hope the NBA rookies were suitably jealous because Jeremy is basking in the limelight  while Keels is toiling in the G-League and Williams is watching basketball from the bench.

Next Play: Saturday, December 10 vs. Maryland Eastern Shore in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 5:30 p.m. on ACCN.


Duke Blue Devils 82 v. University of Maryland Eastern Shores Hawks 55 (Season 14; Issue 11; Game # 12) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”. (December 10, 2022)

Bill’s CliffsNotes

As a precautionary measure, Jeremy Roach, the team’s most essential player, sat out the game to rest his toe injured in the Purdue game. He has played, but not practiced, since then. Consequently, Coach Scheyer started five freshmen and gave Tyrese Proctor an opportunity to run the point, which he did quite well.  This game was a mismatch and, if it were a prize fight, would have been stopped at the half.  The Hawks never gave up but were no match for Duke’s size and talent differential.

The Blue Devils dominated the boards but committed 19 turnovers—an unacceptable number. They made 40% of their threes. Let’s hope that is a trend. On successive possessions, Dariq Whitehead drove the lane for a dunk, then faked a drive from top of the key and hit a three.  Once at full strength, Whitehead will make Duke a better team at both ends of the floor.  Scheyer said of Whitehead, who started in place of Roach: “I want him to just get out in transition more, attack the basket, and I don’t think he’s shown yet, I think you’ll see soon just what a defender he can be too.”

Randolph Childress, the great shooting guard for Wake Forest and the MVP for the 1995 NCAA tournament, was the color announcer for the game and made several cogent remarks. He commented that this break before the new year is a good opportunity for the young team to heal, and the players to work on their game skills.

Miscellaneous Comments:

  • Jaden Schutt, a Duke freshman shooting guard, who was the 2022 Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois, might be someone to keep an eye on. If he stays around, he might become a valuable player — if not this year, in the future. Three point shooting is not a strength of this Blue Devil squad.
  • North Carolina looked a lot better beating Georgia Tech handily Saturday than they did in their four previous losses. The Tarheels will be a tough out for any ACC team, as will Virginia, always a difficult opponent.
ALANALYSIS:

Jeremy’s Injury and Absence

The Blue Devils faced the Hawks, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) team with a mediocre 3-6 record coming into the game.  Duke’s talent and size advantage pressaged a mismatch. However, Jeremy Roach didn’t play – which made for a different game.  Coach S explained the Jeremy situation, “He’ll be ok for our next game.  He just has been playing through pain.  He hasn’t been able to practice; he hasn’t been able to do extra work.  This is the one chance we have for him to get back to 100%.  He won’t do anything for the next couple of days.  He’s already progressing healing-wise.”

Average or Elite Competitors?

In Jeremy’s absence, the Blue Devils committed a horrendous 19 turnovers (14 were Hawk steals from careless Duke ball handling and their dramatic lack of intensity).  Scheyer saw the problem, and acknowledged that solving it was his responsibility.  “I thought tonight in the first half they brought the fight to us more than we brought the fight to them.  That’s what I wasn’t as happy with.  That’s on me. That is our preparation, and what we have to do to get ready.”  It was obvious that Duke behaved  (in Kara Lawson’s words) like average players, rather than elite competitors who don’t care about the score, who the opponent is, or whether it is a game or practice.  Elite competitors play all out because of their pride in their craft.  If our new young coach can instill the mindset of elite competitors in this (or any) team, he will be a great coach.

Scheyer’s Optimism is Justified

Duke played 12 games in 33 days to open the season, which left little time in practice to work on anything besides getting ready for the next game.  Duke does not play again until December 20, and so – after exams – the Blue Devils will finally be able to work on improving what the team has and adding to its offensive and defensive repertoires, while continuing to integrate Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead into the team.  Dariq broke out dramatically in the second half against UMES .  His return to, as Scheyer put it, “being himself” has the potential to take Duke to a higher level.

The defense has been ahead of the offense so far this season.  Duke’s length has enabled the Blue Devils to protect the rim and rebound effectively at both ends of the floor.  The perimeter defense has been outstanding.  Scheyer is eager to test his defense against conference opponents.

The coach plans to add some offensive creativity now that there is time to do so.  Coach K used to say he coached 3 things: offense, defense, and communication; Scheyer clearly heard him.  “We’re learning what it takes to win. The talent has been there, the unselfishness has been there. Now it’s the plays, the loose balls, the talking on defense, how to work to get open. All the little details; they’re embracing what they’re seeing, and I think their confidence is improving, and our confidence is growing. We have a long way to go and a lot to work on, but I do feel we’re night and day already from who we were to start the year until right now.” 

 THE ROTATION

Tyrese Proctor (26:00) ran the team in Jeremy Roach’s absence.  He (tied with Dariq Whitehead) led Duke in scoring with 15 points (5-9 from the field including 2-4 from 3land, and 3-3 from the foul line).  Four turnovers diminished an otherwise worthy performance.  Scheyer: “The thing with him is that he’s really smart, he’s really unselfish, and the next step is just taking what he knows and talking more. I want him to talk more and to use his voice, because he sees things that others don’t or can’t, and he really carried the load for us with ball handling responsibilities.  …  When Jeremy [Roach] comes back we feel like the two of those guys can play off one another very well.”

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (25:37) scored 12 in the first half, 14 points total, , (6-11, including 0-2 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 7 rebounds, 3 steals (team lead), and two  assists.  Flip committed 4 of Duke’s 19 turnovers.

Dariq Whitehead (24:56) had his longest stint on the court and his best game at Duke.  He (and Tyrese) led Duke in scoring with 15 points (6-14, including 1-5 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 2 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot.  Dariq had a frustrating first half, scoring only 2 points on 1-6 shooting.  Then came a breakout second half.  In 12 minutes, Dariq scored 13 points (5-8, including 1-3 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe).  He was the Blue Devils’ only double-digit scorer in the closing period.  Coach S is rightfully excited, “he’s a complete player: defender, and can really pass. …With his size and athleticism, he can guard multiple positions.”

Jaylen Blakes (22:24) teamed with Tyrese in the backcourt as well as running the team by himself at times.  He is such an energetic defender, who can dazzle with his quickness.  He scored 6 points (1-2 from 3land and 3-4 from the stripe).  “Jaylen plays hard all the time, and it’s infectious. It translates to the rest of the group”, enthused his coach.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (21:28) scored 5 points (2-5 from the field, including 1-2 from 3land) to go with 5 gaudy rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.  Scheyer linked Jacob with Jaylen in his praise, “When they go in the game, they may not make every right play, but who does? Jake, you can tell with him, he’s a really calming influence.  He’s a great passer, I’ve got to get him where he’s shooting more open shots.  He’s really unselfish, and he just plays hard all the time.”

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (20:30) played an impactful game, with 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.  He scored 8 points (3-8 from the field, including 0-2 from 3land and 2-2 from the stripe).  His size advantage wore the Hawks down.

Jaden Schutt (18:48) played his first significant minutes this year.  The freshman brought with him a reputation as a lethal perimeter shooter.  He enhanced that reputation by making all 3 of his 3-point attempts (his only field goal attempts) for 9 points.  He also grabbed 5 rebounds and handed out an assist.  Scheyer was pleased, “Jaden Schutt, he’s worked, you guys haven’t been able to see it, but he’s worked before practice, after practice, he’s been the best player on every team we scout, and that’s a role that a lot of big-time players have had here. I was in that role.” [In practice , players emulate the opponent (based on scouting reports).   Most teams have a star.  It is a special role to be the Duke player who emulates that star in practice. Jaden has been selected to do that (as Scheyer was at times when he was a player)].

Scheyer continued on to highlight Schutt’s importance beyond just scoring, “The first play he made was an offensive rebound; it wasn’t a shot, it wasn’t a three, it was an offensive rebound and that got us going.”

Mark Mitchell (16:48) disappeared again into a disappointing game.  He managed only 2 points (1-3 from the field without a 3-point attempt or a free throw).  His 3 careless turnovers limited his playing time, although he grabbed 4 boards and passed for 2 assists in his shorter-than-usual stint on the court.

Ryan Young (12:18) played a bit less than usual but was his consistently impactful self.  He scored 4 points (2-3 from the field) to go with 3 defensive rebounds.

THE CONFERENCE SEASON BEGINS!

The schedule now gives the Blue Devils time to practice, which should greatly benefit both Whitehead and Lively.  Duke has 10 days before the ACC opener at Wake Forest (on Tuesday, December 20) followed by an 11-day hiatus before Duke hosts Florida State at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Eve Day.

This young team’s first road game, against Wake in Winston-Salem, will be a dangerous test. Road games are different from neutral site games.  The freshmen will be facing a hostile crowd and a Demon Deacon team smarting from a bad loss to LSU on a last-second shot, after blowing a huge lead.  ACC road games are a whole different kettle of fish, and will be baptism by fire for the freshmen. 

 The Obvious ACC Contenders

Despite the ACC’s 8-6 win in the final “ACC-Big 10 Challenge” (Nov 2022), the ACC has been viewed as a “weak” conference.  For example, the ACC has only 2 teams in the top 25 – Virginia (8-0) at # 3 and our own Duke Blue Devils at # 15.  Virginia Tech (9-1, with wins over power conference teams Penn State and Minnesota, deserves to be ranked), Miami (10-1), and UNC (astoundingly the first pre-season # 1 to fall completely out of the top 25, resulting from 4 consecutive losses, after 5 opening wins) received votes, but not enough to be in the top 25. Only Boston College (5-6), Louisville (a shocking 0-9), and Florida State (2-9) have looked completely inept so far.  The remaining 7 teams – Clemson (8-3), NC State (8-3), Notre Dame (8-2), Wake Forest (7-3), Pittsburgh (7-4), Syracuse (6-4) and Georgia Tech (6-4) — will be ACC-tough, especially at home, but not contenders for National honors.

Before anyone counts UNC out, let us remember how much trouble Hubert Davis had with his Tarheels from November until February last year.  UNC was a major disappointment until the ‘Heels transformed, beating Duke on both Senior Night in Cameron and in the Final Four, denying Coach K the Hollywood ending that we had all hoped for.  Last night, UNC looked like a ranked team as the ‘Heels blasted Georgia Tech 75-59, with Bacot returning to form to score 21 points and grab 13 rebounds.

It will be illuminating to see how Scheyer handles his current 9-player rotation. We are used to the Coach K years, when the rotation shrunk as ACC play became more intense; the later in the season, the leaner the rotation.  Duke’s next game, on the road against the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, will give us the first inkling of how Scheyer’s early-season philosophy will succeed in ACC play.

It has the potential to be a scintillating ACC regular season! 

Next Play: Tuesday, December 20 vs. Wake Forest in Winston-Salem at 6:30 p.m. on ACCN


Duke Blue Devils 70 v. Wake Forest Demon Deacons 81 (Season 14; Issue 12; Game # 13) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (December 20, 2022)

“We have to play like Ryan and Jaylen did tonight. And I thought they set a great example. But we need everybody to play that way.”
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke played Wake Forest, which had squeaked by Appalachian State 67-66 Wednesday on a last second basket, before suffering an ugly 81-57 loss at Rutgers three days later. Duke was without both center Dereck Lively and forward Dariq Whitehead, who were left in the infirmary while recovering from the flu. The way the rest of the team, except Jaylen Blakes, played, they all should have stayed in bed. The remaining Blue Devils played as poorly as any team I can remember. They trailed the Demon Deacons by double digits most of the game. 

Johnny Tar Heel speculated that during Exam Week Carolina, losers of four straight before beating Ohio State, had a personality transplant with Duke. I thought that unlikely, because Duke players actually take their own exams, while it is well documented that Carolina players have a tawdry history of….. 

All jokes aside, it is disappointing that none of the remaining players stepped up to fill the void of the missing players. Kyle Filipowski, in particular, has been inconsistent lately, and not only failed to achieve a double-double, he scored only 9 points and retrieved only 4 rebounds.  He was 0-6 from behind the arc.  The team as a whole shot threes and free throws poorly, and without Lively protecting the rim, the Deacons dominated the paint—plus the Joel Coliseum has usually been a tough venue for the Blue Devils. 

Last night, Miami beat Virginia, so all the usual suspects now have a loss.  Time will tell whether this Duke loss to Wake was a one-off anomaly, or whether this group of freshmen is overrated.

ALANALYSIS:

Even though Scheyer had proclaimed in his Monday pre-game press conference that, “Jeremy [Roach] is in good shape. He’ll be ready to go for tomorrow night and Dariq [Whitehead], Dereck [Lively II], the same.  We’re as good health-wise as we’ve been all season.” Lively and Dariq got sick and did not even travel to Winston-Salem with the team, while Jeremy showed evidence that his toe was still adversely impacting his performance.  And a genuinely terrible performance – by the whole team – it indisputably was.  

Ryan Young put his finger on the fatal flaw, “we came out lethargic tonight, they jumped on us, and we never could dig ourselves out of the hole that we put ourselves in in the first half. It keeps on coming back to effort and not wanting it as much tonight. They were able to get in our paint pretty easily, and they were able to get to the free throw line very easily against us.”  

The Blue Devils, who have been one of the nation’s outstanding rebounding teams, were outrebounded by the Deacons.  Ryan: “It’s inexcusable. It [rebounding] is toughness and it’s effort. It’s not much else that goes into rebounding. And it was embarrassing that we couldn’t win that tonight. As Coach mentioned, they out toughed us and they came out right from the jump and they wanted it more than us.”

Scheyer acknowledged in his post-game press conference, “They were the hungrier team, and [you could tell] their sense of urgency. For us, we didn’t have that. They outrebounded us. I thought the free throws were key, you know, they got to the free throw line, they made 22 out of 26. That’s on us. They drove the ball stronger than we did, and we probably fouled a few times when we shouldn’t have. When we missed some shots, that impacted our defense and (we were) taken aback by it. Our defense has always started with guarding the ball. And they just drove us like crazy, and just got in our paint at will.” 

It looked like the first day of practice after summer vacation.  The Blue Devils lacked any semblance of cohesion on defense (gave up 81 points, 42 in the second half) and could not get a stop when one was needed. Worse, Duke committed 14 fouls just in the second half.  Jaylen Blakes fouled out, Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each finished with 4 fouls.  

The Blue Devils simply could not shoot accurately. The best Duke-3 point shooters  were collectively 2-19 from behind the arc  Filipowski (0-6), Tyrese Proctor (1-5), Jacob Grandison (1-5) and Roach (0-3 – not counting the only one he made, which was meaningless with 22 seconds left in the game).  

The Blue Devils could not hold onto the ball.   Duke would get a steal and then give it back through consistently careless ball handling.  The 13 second-half turnovers seemed like more.

The Defense

As both Ryan and Coach acknowledged, the Blue Devils defense was virtually non-existent. Tyree Appleby, the Wake Forest point guard, drove past Jeremy as if Jeremy were standing still – which he was. Duke committed 14 second-half fouls and put the Demon Deacons in the bonus with less than 7 minutes having elapsed in the second half.  Wake was 15-16 from the foul line in the second half, and shot almost 50% from the field (49.1% for the game; 52% in the second half when the Demon Deacons scored 42 points).

The Offense

The Blue Devils had a disappointing first half, shooting under 40% including 3-15 from behind the arc, and shooting only 5 free throws.  Duke’s offense picked up in the second half (scoring 40 points on 50% shooting (14-28, including 5-12 from deep, and 7-9 from the stripe).  Thirteen turnovers for the game – 8 in the second half –  kept Duke from mounting a wished-for comeback as the game wound down.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (35:12) scored 9 points (on 3-7 shooting, including 1-4 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the stripe).  His one successful deep shot was meaningless, coming 22 seconds from the end of the game, and reducing the Wake margin of victory from 14 to 11.  I think Jeremy is still hurt and that adversely impacts his quickness.  He could not defend, committing 4 fouls (3 of the Blue Devils’ 14 second-half fouls) as well as 5 turnovers (only 2 assists).  Duke’s offense misfired badly in the first half when Jeremy was 0-4 from the field (0-3 from deep) in almost 17 first-half minutes.  

Ryan Young (34:37) came within a rebound of a double-double.  He scored 10 points (5-6 from the field, without a foul shot or a deep shot attempt) to go with 9 boards, 3 assists without a turnover, plus a steal.  Scheyer said, “I thought he really battled. We didn’t give him the ball enough.”

Mark Mitchell (32:21) was Duke’s second leading scorer with 14 points (4-8 from the field, including 2-3 from 3land and 4-5 from the foul line) to go with 4 boards, an assist, a steal, and a turnover.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (27:12) had a subpar game for him.  He scored only 9 points on 14 shots (4-14 from the field, including a disastrous 0-6 on wide open deep shots, plus 1-3 from the stripe).  He had almost as many turnovers as rebounds (5 turnovers; 6 boards) and committed all 4 fouls of his game-fouls in the second half, where Duke’s defense consisted primarily of fouling Wake players.  

Jaylen Blakes (25:45, 15:19 in the second half before he fouled out in the last minute of the game) played his best game at Duke, leading the Blue Devils in scoring with 17 points (6-7 from the field, including 3-4 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 3 assists (1 turnover) and 3 steals.  Blakes scored 10 second-half points on perfect 3-3 shooting from the field, including 2-2 from deep, plus 2-2 from the stripe. Scheyer acknowledged Blakes’s great game, “Jaylen Blakes really guarded and gave us great energy. We have to play like those two guys  [Ryan and Jaylen] did tonight. And I thought they set a great example. But we need everybody to play that way.”

Tyrese Proctor (24:02) didn’t shoot well and played fewer minutes (9:25) in the second half after 13 minutes in the opening period.  For the game he scored 6 points (2-7 from the field, including 1-5 from 3land and 1-2 from the foul line).  His defense was spotty, some good steals, but Wake penetrated the Blue Devils’ perimeter defense at will.

Jacob Grandison (19:01) had a difficult shooting game, scoring 5 points, all in the first half, on 9 shots (2-9, including 1-5 from deep) with 2 assists and a rebound.  He made his first 2 shots early in the first half, and played only 8:22 in the second half missing both (1 from deep) of his attempted shots.  Jake started out strong and then he fizzled.

THE CONFERENCE STANDINGS

Miami is 3-0 (12-1 overall) ranked 22nd in the latest poll 

Pittsburgh is 2-0 (9-4),

Virginia Tech is 1-0 (11-1) ranked 21st in the latest poll

Clemson is 1-0 (9-3)

UVA is 1-1 (8-2) ranked 6th in the latest poll

Wake is 1-1 (9-4)

Duke is 1-1 (10-3) ranked 14th in the latest poll (will drop in next poll)

UNC is 1-1 (8-4) is unranked but was pre-season # 1.

Syracuse and Fla. State are 1-1, while Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, BC, NC State and Louisville are all winless.  Among them, only Notre Dame will be a contender by March.

SUMMING UP

Conference road games are just different.  Both UVA (6th nationally) and Duke (14th nationally) lost ACC road games on Tuesday –UVA to Miami, and Duke to Wake.  Of course, disastrous starts have been overcome before, and Duke is still developing the team that will compete for conference and National honors.  As Scheyer pointed out, Duke has not had its full team for almost half of the 13 games, and has never had this year’s squad at full (in game shape) strength yet.  The potential is still obviously there.  Whether it will be realized is the question of the season, and why we will return for the 


Next Play: Tuesday, December 31 vs. Florida State in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

Jaylen played his best game ever, leading Duke in scoring and in hustle.  
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 86 v. Florida State Seminoles 67 (Season 14; Issue 13; Game 14) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (December 31, 2022)

Ryan Young scores around the basket with both hands and uses the backboard like an artist.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke’s schedule provided a late Christmas present for the Blue Devils this year—after a disappointing loss at Wake Forest (a team they have owned recently), playing a subpar Florida State (a team they have recently  not owned), in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. And Duke clearly needed a break. They have played more college games this year before Christmas than any team in the country. 

The Blue Devil starters were so sluggish on offense that coach Scheyer substituted in Ryan Young (and kept former reserve Jaylen Blakes in the game) to cure the starting team’s shortcomings. They did not disappoint. Both had outstanding games. As Scheyer said: “We had a few lineups on the court, we just had a roll and went with it, but I thought our defense was back to where we needed to be. Offensively we really shared the ball well. Ryan Young obviously had a big-time night, not missing a field goal, not missing a free throw. Just his rebounding, you feel like when a shot’s taken, he’s going to come up with the ball. …

“Look, this is…for any of our guys, it’s never smooth sailing. It just isn’t, and so for Dariq Whitehead I think he’s gotten a lot tougher in this stretch. … Any of our guys, any of our freshmen have gone through ups and downs already. Any freshman who’s ever come through here has gone through that and they’re going to be better for it. Just fighting through it is the only way to do it, and that’s what Dariq is starting to do. I’m really proud of him for it.”

For my taste, Duke is a different team with Whitehead on the floor. The same goes for Blakes, who brings an attitude and energy both offensively and defensively that we have rarely seen– and this group needs to be a contender. And with Kyle Filipowski seemingly regressing and Dereck Lively not demonstrating much offense, we need more consistency and diversity in scoring.

It also is apparent that this is a deeper squad – 9 players getting significant playing time – than any recent ones, so coaching decisions of whom to play when will be crucial to its development and success. It will be an interesting season!

Next play!

ALANALYSIS:

The color announcer intoned, “the answer to every question today is Ryan Young.”  He could have added Jaylen Blakes to that sentence.  Those two players– not usually starters — scored 37 points between them.  Add to that Dariq’s 16 points off the bench and there is a substantial amount of Duke’s scoring.  Coach Scheyer is still developing cohesion and experimenting with which combination of players on the floor make the Blue Devils a nationally competitive team.  Jaylen’s last two games (Wake Forest and this one) are his effort to remain a starter.  In the first half, Duke starters Dereck Lively, Kyle Filipowski, and Mark Mitchell entirely failed to score. 0!  The Big Goose Egg! Lively didn’t even take a shot. Jeremy Roach wasn’t much better, going 1-7 (1-4 from deep) in the first half.  

As Bill has emphasized, Scheyer’s most important decisions will be who to play and when to play them.  The coach had this to say about his decision to start Blakes: “Well, I think for us as we go on in the season we may start different groups, and tonight this was, we felt, the best thing. Jaylen, his energy, his confidence, and his defense has been rock solid for us and made that switch and credit to him to make the best of that opportunity.”

The second most important challenge for the new coach is teaching his team to be consistent in their effort.  Take the Blue Devils’ defense last night for example.

The Defense

The defense was a tale of two halves.  Duke’s defense in the first half was simply superb. The Blue Devils forced at least three shot clock violations and there were several times that FSU had to chunk up a shot as the clock expired.  Duke held the Seminoles to 25 first-half points on 36% shooting and allowed Florida State only 6 free throw attempts.  

Contrast that to the Blue Devils’ shoddy second-half defense, which  allowed  42 second- half Seminole points on 50% shooting from the floor, and put Florida State on the foul line for 20 free throws (for 17 second-half points from the foul line!)  The Duke defense was as bad in the second half as it was good in the first half.  Scheyer has work to do.

The Offense

What do we make of Duke’s usual starters being so ineffective?  Roach was 2-10, to score 9 points – and he was the most successful of the starters.  Mitchell was scoreless in the first half, pouring in 8 second-half points.  Filipowski was also scoreless in the first half and finished with 6 points.  Lively II didn’t even attempt a shot in his 12 and a half scoreless minutes.

What do we make of Duke’s usual reserves being so effective?  Ryan had a night for the ages with 20 points; Jaylen in his first starting assignment scored 17 while running the team well; and Dariq continues improving dramatically.  All very effective. Among the three of them they scored 32 of Duke’s 42 first-half points.  Ryan was the embodiment of efficiency scoring 20 points on only 7 shots.  Jaylen injected needed energy as well as shooting 67% from deep.  Dariq’s development may be the most important aspect of all for Duke.  Scheyer on Whitehead, “I thought he had his best two days of practices. … You can tell he gives us a different dimension and we need to follow that up with consistency and building in practice but give him credit.” 

Both Proctor and Grandison are also contributing, in differing ways.  Grandison is still Duke’s best 3 point shooter, while Proctor is a good backcourt backup at both ends.

The potential is surely there, but without any guarantee that Duke will realize that potential enough to make a run at ACC and National honors.

THE ROTATION

Jaylen Blakes (30:06) started his first game at Duke and rewarded Scheyer’s judgment with an outstanding performance.  It was the second straight game that Blakes tied his career high, scoring 17 points (6-11 from the field, including 4-6 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe).   Jaylen also contributed 3 assists (only a single turnover) and a steal. His play is making a good argument for him to remain a starter.

Jeremy Roach (29:17) did not yet look like his pre toe injury self.  His first half was disappointing, scoring only 3 points (1-7 from the field, including 1-4 from deep).  He steadied on offense in the second half and finished the game with 9 points (2-10 from the field, including 2-5 from behind the arc and 3-4 from the foul line) to go with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and only one turnover.

Mark Mitchell (28:01) played an excellent second half, scoring 8 points, after failing to score at all in the first half (3-6 from the field, including 1-2 from 3land and 1-2 from the stripe).  Mark contributed 3 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, and 2 assists (against 3 turnovers).

Dariq Whitehead (27:58) played his longest in a game and is rounding into star form.  Dariq scored 16 points (on 5-11 from the field, including 2-6 from deep and 4-4 from the stripe) to go with a steal, a rebound, and 2 assists.  Dariq is still regaining his form from a year ago.  If he can do that, Dariq will give the Blue Devils a valuable added dimension.

Ryan Young (24:23) had what had to be the game of his life.  He made every shot he took, while leading Duke in scoring with 20 points (7-7 from the field and 6-6 from the foul line)!  Ryan grabbed 12 boards and handed out a pair of assists without a turnover.  Florida State had no answers for Ryan’s amazing game.

Tyrese Proctor (20:37) provided bench support in the backcourt for the two starters (Roach and Blakes) by handing out 3 assists without a turnover.  Tyrese scored 4 points (1-4 from the field, including 0-1 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the foul line).  

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (17:39) seems to have regressed on both ends of the floor.  After failing to score in the first half, Flip scored 6 second-half points (3-4 from the field with a miss on his only attempt from deep) to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists.  Flip’s playing time was limited by his foul trouble; he finished the game with 4.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (12:34) had his minutes curtailed by Ryan Young’s amazing performance at center. In his brief time on the court, D-Live committed 3 personal fouls, blocked 2 shots, snared a rebound, and turned it over once.  He not only failed to score in the game, he did not even attempt a shot.

Jacob Grandison (9:25) scored 6 points going 2-4 from deep (his only shot attempts) with an assist.  Grandison is being beaten on defense, which is why he is playing as little as he is in spite of his good shooting.

THE CONFERENCE SO FAR

UNC, the nation’s #1 team in the pre-season polls, has been inconsistent.  After being the first #1 team to lose 4 games and drop out of the top 25, the Tarheels flourished and returned to the rankings at # 25 last week.   Jeff Capel’s Pitt Panthers remained undefeated in Conference play by beating UNC on Friday in Pittsburgh.  Conference road games are just different. 

There are no ACC teams ranked in the top ten. Ranked ACC teams are: Virginia 13th in the AP poll and 12th in the Coaches’ Poll; Miami 14th in AP, 16th in Coaches’; Duke 17th in AP, 14th in Coaches’; North Carolina 25th in AP and 2nd in “others receiving votes” category in Coaches’’. Virginia Tech received votes but no ranking in both polls.

Miami, Pitt, and Clemson remain unbeaten in the conference.  Wake won at home against Virginia Tech, while the UVA Cavaliers won on the road against Georgia Tech.  All games for the Blue Devils until the NCAA tournament are conference games.

Next Play: Wednesday, January 4, 2023 at North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C. at 7:00 p.m. on ACCN.

Jaylen injects energy and athleticism into the Duke starting lineup.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Dariq is the x-factor that gives Duke an extra dimension and higher potential.
Photo credit:GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 60 v. North Carolina State Wolfpack 84 (Season 14; Issue 14; Game # 15) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 4, 2023)

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

After the Wake Forest game, I wrote that “the Blue Devils played as poorly as any Duke team I can remember.” Well, after the N.C. State game last night, I take that back – this time, THEY PLAYED WORSE, MUCH WORSE !  The margin of the loss is difficult to rationalize. It is a tossup as to whether the Blue Devils were worse offensively or defensively and whether N.C. State played better offensively or defensively. The questions are: Is this State team this good or Duke this bad? How has this Wolfpack team lost three ACC games? What happened to the Duke team which played some of the best teams in the country competitively before the exam break? Are these highly touted freshmen overrated or NBA ready and just bored with college basketball?

Some of the answers: ACC home games are difficult for visitors to win. On any given night, even an inferior team, with a hot shooter from the three point line can be a real catalyst for an upset. There are a lot of good, but unheralded players who in any given game can be the difference between winning and losing. Everyone plays their best against the highly ranked and highly publicized Duke and North Carolina. Johnny Tar Heel thinks Blue Devil women’s coach Kara Lawson (14-1; 4-0 in the ACC) should coach the men’s team.

If this embarrassing loss wasn’t a wakeup call, what will be?

Next Play!!

Editorial Board note: The editors are in such a funk after Duke’s abysmal road performance that – in Coach K-like discipline, when he took away the players’ locker room privileges – there will be no pictures of Duke players in this issue.  Rather we honor the Duke womens’ team and coach as well as Johnny Tarheel’s admiration.  We note that the Blue (She) Devils won their second consecutive ACC road game, last night, beating Wake Forest 60-50.  The team is 14-1, and 4-0 in the ACC. 
Kara Lawson, who is working miracles with the Duke women’s team Photo Credit: The News & Observer
ALANALYSIS:

The refrain still rings true; conference road games are just different.  Last week, in its first conference road game, Duke was crushed by Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.  Last night, the Blue Devils were crushed 84 to 60 in their second conference road game, by the North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-3 in the ACC coming into the Duke game) .

Despite Duke’s unbelievably bad start – Duke did not score at all in the first 7:40 of the game (15-0) and 10:10 had elapsed before Duke scored points 3 and 4 (20-4) – there was a turning point to the game.  N.C. State led by 18 with 8:37 still left in the opening period when the Blue Devils began what appeared to be a rally.  Despite turnovers by Proctor and Lively, and a missed jumper by Roach, Duke still cut the lead to 12 (26-14) with 5:11 left in the half on a pair of 3-pointers by Dariq Whitehead, a put-back by Mark Mitchell and a fast break layup by Kyle (Flip) Filipowski.  Mitchell then made a steal giving the Blue Devils possession and a chance to cut the lead to 10 or single digits.  Instead, hope plunged off the cliff!

The Wolfpack hit a deep 3.  Dariq turned it over in the backcourt when Terquavion Smith (Wolfpack star freshman guard who scored 24 for the game) deflected the inbound pass.  The ball was loose, but nobody went for it because it seemed to be rolling out of bounds.  However, Smith hustled and scooped it up before it hit the sideline. He was WIDE open, and I thought he smiled before splashing his 3.  The Wolfpack lead had grown back to 18 in just 44 seconds.  Duke was never again even in the game competitively.  When the Wolfpack hit their final 3-pointer of the first half at the buzzer, the lead was 22 points.  N.C. State scored 44 points in the first half while the Blue Devils managed only 22 points.  Ouch!

The second half provided no solace for Blue Devil fans.  Duke trailed by as many as 29 points twice, and was never closer than 20 points behind after the first minute of the second half!  Scheyer’s face on the bench told the story.  He looked like he had been hit with a knockout blow.  His press conference was somewhat rambling and yielded nothing worth quoting.  

The Defense

There is not much to say on behalf of a defense that put up very little resistance in virtually handing over 84 points, including 44 in the disastrous first half.  Duke allowed the Wolfpack 15 more first-half shots from the field (18-39, including 6-15 from deep) than the Blue Devils attempted (7-24, including 2-6 from deep by Dariq).  N.C. State out-rebounded Duke and grabbed 9 first-half offensive rebounds.  The Blue Devil defense forced only 4 first-half N.C. State turnovers (compared to 13 first-half Duke turnovers).  

Duke allowed 40 second-half points and could not get the stops necessary for Duke to cut into the Wolfpack lead, let alone mount a comeback.  Smith (24 points), Jarkel Joiner (21 points) and E.J. Burns Jr. (18 points in 16 minutes) ran roughshod over the Duke defense, scoring 53 of State’s 84 points.

The Offense

The Duke attack stalled out dramatically in the first half, with Duke scoring only 22 points.  The Blue Devils committed 13 first-half turnovers, and 21 for the game. Duke had 9 shots blocked in the game by the smaller Wolfpack. 

One result from such desultory offense is that N.C. State attempted 22 more shots than Duke during the game!  The Wolfpack shot 33-70 for the game while Duke was 19-48.

Only Flip in the second half (12 points), and Dariq from the perimeter (4-7 from deep) were bright spots for Duke.  Roach hardly played in the second half and was a liability on both ends of the court.  Blakes scored only 2 points after 17-point outbursts in his previous 2 games.  In the first half, the starters scored only 10 collective points (Mitchell and Roach 4 each; Flip scored 2; Lively and Blakes were scoreless!)  Ryan Young and Dariq each scored 6 off the bench.  Tyrese Proctor and Jacob Grandison also failed to score in the opening period.

THE ROTATION

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (27:31) scored 14 points to lead Duke in scoring.  He seemed to break out of his recent slump to come alive in the second half, where he scored 12 points in 13:14 minutes of play, half from the foul line (3-6 from the field and 6-8 from the stripe in the closing period).  For the game, Flip was 4-10 from the field, including 0-2 from deep plus 6-8 from the stripe to go with 8 boards (7 in the second half).  He committed 3 of Duke’s 21 turnovers.

Mark Mitchell (25:19) scored 6 points (3-6 from the field; 0-2 from the stripe) to complement 6 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 assists, a block, and a steal.  He also committed 2 turnovers and had 3 of his shots blocked. 

Jeremy Roach (22:44, but only 3:12 in the 2nd half) scored 4 points, all from the foul line (0-8 from the floor, including 0-2 from deep) with only one assist, a steal and a turnover.  Jeremy did not beat anyone off the dribble or defend penetrating guards.  I believe his toe is a serious problem that does not seem to be getting better.

Dariq Whitehead (22:33) scored 12 points on four 3-pointers, 2 in each half.  The freshman is playing more and with more confidence but is clearly not yet all the way back.  Dariq was 4-8 from the field, 4-7 from deep, with 3 rebounds and a steal.  His stat line was marred by 4 turnovers.

You could see that Dariq thought that he could lead Duke back all by himself when he made 2 deep shots in a row in the first half; however, his body wasn’t ready to keep up with his last year’s superstar mind.  This does suggest, though, that he still has the ability to become that force again this year. 

Tyrese Proctor (21:19, 15:17 in the second half) scored 5 points, all in the second half.  For the game, Tyrese shot 2-5, including 0-1 from behind the arc and 1-2 from the stripe.  He grabbed 3 boards and handed out a single assist, but turned it over 4 times.

Ryan Young’s (20:26) playing time was limited because he was in foul trouble throughout, ultimately fouling out in the course of trying (and failing) to guard State’s huge D.J. Burns, who lit Young and the Blue Devils up for 18 points in the post in only 16 minutes.  Interestingly, his replacement at center was not D-Live,  but rather it was Flip.  Ryan is tough, scoring 11 points (4-4 from the floor; 3-5 from the foul line) to go with 3 rebounds and 2 assists (2 turnovers).

Jaylen Blakes (17:45) came back to earth in this game scoring only 2 points (1-3, including 0-1 from 3land without a foul shot attempt) after having scored 17 points in each of his previous two games.  He had a steal and two rebounds but committed 3 turnovers without an assist.

Jacob Grandison (14:13) scored only 2 points (2-2 from the stripe; he missed his only field goal attempt, a 3-pointer.)  He grabbed a board and handed out an assist.  His inability to defend is curtailing his time on the court.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (12:28, only 3:50 in the second half) did score in the game.  One point!!  (0-1 from the field and 1-2 from the stripe) without a rebound or a blocked shot.  He is starting to remind me of Chris Burgess.

THE CONFERENCE SO FAR

On Tuesday, Virginia lost on the road at Pittsburgh and Notre Dame lost on the road to Boston College. Last night, Miami lost on the road to Georgia Tech; Wake Forest lost at UNC; while Duke was destroyed in Raleigh against the Wolfpack.  

Conference road games clearly are different.  

Unranked Clemson (who won on the road at Virginia Tech last night) and Pittsburgh are undefeated (4-0) in ACC play. Miami is 4-1, while Syracuse (who won on the road at Louisville) is 3-1.  7 teams (Duke among them) are 2-2.  N.C. State is 2-3.  The technical schools, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are 1-3.  Notre Dame and Louisville are winless at 0-4.

No seasonal goals for the Duke Blue Devils are yet foreclosed. It will be an illuminating aspect of the season how Duke responds to this truly awful loss.  This is Scheyer’s first critical test as the head coach.  

Two of Duke’s next 3 games are conference road games.

Next Play: Saturday, January 7, 2023, at Boston College in Boston, Mass. at 1:00 p.m. on ACCN


Duke Blue Devils 65 v. Boston College Eagles 64 (Season 14; Issue 15; Game # 16) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 7, 2023)

Flip finally plays winning basketball in the last seconds of this game.
Photo Credit: Goduke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Jeremy Roach watched the game from the bench with a walking cast protecting his slow-healing injured toe, but his integral value to this Duke team became apparent in this game as Duke very nearly blew an away game against an ACC bottom feeder.  The Blue Devils, who led most of the way and were up fourteen points in the second half, still almost managed to lose by, among other things, not making a shot from the floor for ten or so minutes, which included missing an uncontested fast break dunk and failing to get the ball in from out of bounds. Fortunately, Kyle Filipowski (Flip), who is emerging from a multi-game slump, made a basket and two foul shots which were the margin. But still, the immature transgressions and inconsistencies of this team are almost inexplicable.

Ty Proctor is not yet an adequate replacement for Roach.  Blakes’s activism is a positive asset on both ends of the floor.  Ryan Young is a polished offensive player, who plays above his athleticism, but his minutes keep Dereck Lively from getting the valuable experience he needs against the better big men Duke will face.  Flip needs to take some lessons from Young on low post moves.  Mark Mitchell needs to be more assertive.  Whitehead needs to be on the floor more, and the zone needs to be deployed more until this squad plays the man-to-man better.

North Carolina State said their strategy was to punch Duke in the mouth from the first tip. The ACC is a tough league. Duke needs to take on some of The Wolfpack strategy figuratively, not literally, and play smart, determined basketball for a full forty minutes!

ALANALYSIS:

Conference road games are just different.  Even a lackluster win on the road against a so-called “ACC bottom feeder” [Bill may eat those words before this season ends] is a relief.  After all, Duke was crushed by both Wake Forest in its first conference road game and truly humiliated by the North Carolina State Wolfpack in their second.  Relief was the emotion when BC’s final shot missed, and the ball went back to Duke with only .5 showing on the clock.  It was over, except for the memory of BC’s final basket of the first half – full court pass over Dereck (D-Live) Lively II’s lax defense, to Eagle 7-foot center Quentin Post for a short jump shot that cut Duke’s lead from 6 to 4.  It just wasn’t over until it was OVER!

The issue, of course, isn’t the feeling of relief; it’s the “lackluster” play.  Why is this group of heralded youngsters and experienced veterans (2 returnees and 2 grad transfers) failing to gel and develop consistency and cohesion?  The overriding assessment is “inconsistency”.  For every terrific play made, there has been a gaff.  For every assist, a turnover.  Inconsistency is the plague.

It is undeniable that the Blue Devils have regressed since Jeremy’s foot injury reduced his efficiency and curtailed his playing time.  Duke was developing and jelling until Jeremy’s injury reduced his efficiency.  Scheyer: “We need Jeremy to get well. If that means it’s a week, if that means it’s two weeks, whatever time that means. I would be shocked if he plays the next game, but we’re not ruling him out yet for that.”  It seems fair to believe that as Jeremy’s toe goes so goes Duke’s season.

Coach S’s offensive strategy was clear. Because Duke was longer and deeper (and less than deadly from 3land, so far), the Blue Devils were going to beat BC up on the interior.  Duke started 1 guard (Tyrese Proctor), 2 tall wings (Mark Mitchell and Dariq Whitehead) plus 2 Bigs (Kyle “Flip” Filipowski and Ryan Young).  The strategy played better in the first half than in the closing stanza.  

The Offense

Duke scored only 28 second-half points, 16 from the floor on 7-24 shooting, including 2-7 from behind the arc (Dariq 1-4 and Tyrese 1-3) and a game winning 12-13 from the foul line (Mark 5-6; Dariq 2-2; Ryan 2-2; and Flip 3-3 including 2-2 with 12 seconds left for the 1-point winning margin).  

Duke led by 14 (52-38), with 14:41 left in the game before an epic offensive drought surfaced.  In the next 13:31, Duke maintained its shrinking lead by making foul shots.  But the offense morphed into a frustrating disaster.  Duke was 1-11 from the floor, with 9 turnovers in that section of the second half!  It just doesn’t get any worse than that.

Scheyer explained, “I thought their three-quarter court [press] slowed us down. Give them credit for the switch, the zone really took us out of our rhythm.”  So did Duke’s terrible shot selection, sloppy ball handling, and demoralizing plays.  The most graphic of those was a great Duke steal and pass ahead to Dariq for a wide-open dunk … and …Clang! Dariq just missed it!  

Duke’s backcourt – Tyrese, Jaylen, and Jacob – collectively scored only 8 points in the game.  Tyrese (2-10, 2-5 from deep) scored 6 while Jaylen was 1-3, for 2 points.  Jacob was scoreless (0-2).  On the other hand, Dariq was successful from the perimeter in the first half, with 11 points in the first 12 minutes of the game.  But that was truly it for Duke’s offense from the perimeter.  

Nevertheless, Duke won and is 3-2 in the ACC while BC lost a home game and is 2-3.  That is still the most important takeaway from the game. Here is a bit more optimism: 

Mark Mitchell: “Not everything was going our way, but I think we just tried to fight, really. Getting offensive rebounds, that’s just pure fight, pure will. And that won us the game, and stepping up and hitting those free throws was a big thing by Flip .  I think we grew up in the last 45 seconds.” (Emphasis added).

The Defense

The plaguing inconsistency was on display by the Blue Devil defense, which was at points in this game both  effective and torched.  As the Duke lead dwindled in the second half, “torched” was prevailing.  Then the Blue Devils went to an effective 2-3 zone defense.  Scheyer: “We’re a man-to-man team, that’s what we want to play, but depending on the opponent and the swing of the game, just to have a different defense, and this game it was our 2-3 zone.  But it can be other defense as well, just be able to have a different punch. A different pitch. I thought our guys did a good job, it was pretty hectic at the end, but just being able to react. Going man, the last couple of possessions, they were starting to get a rhythm against our zone.”  Scheyer is trying to explain that even though the zone worked better than his exploited man-to-man, for the last 2 minutes, he returned to a man-to-man defense.

Mark Mitchell made the block of the game, with 38 seconds remaining, and the Blue Devils leading by a point.  BC’s scintillating 6’2” guard, Jaeden Zachery (who had already blocked 7-foot Flip’s jump shot), got free and drove the lane for what seemed a sure layup, to give BC its first lead of the game.  Mark came seemingly out of nowhere for a sensational block to (temporarily) maintain Duke’s 1 point lead.  Mark: “I saw [our bench] on the sidelines, telling me Zachary was about to drive it. I kind of went a little late. and he went, and I just tried to make the play on the ball.  And I got there.  So, I was just trying to not let him get an easy basket off.” 

THE ROTATION

Mark Mitchell (35:03) played the most minutes in a game at Duke by far, scoring 14 points (4-6 from the field, without a behind the arc shot, and 6-7 from the stripe) to go with 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, with only (by comparison) 2 turnovers.  He never stopped competing.

Dariq Whitehead (32:51) led Duke in scoring in his best offensive output of the season, in his longest time on the court in a game.  Dariq scored 18 points on 6-12 shooting from the field, including 4-8 from behind the arc (3-4 in the first half) and 2-2 from the foul line, to go with 3 boards and 2 assists.  Dariq’s first half was so impressive – 13 points on 5-6 shooting (3-4 from deep, his first 3 attempts) with 2 boards and an assist.  Just a single turnover.  

His second half exemplified Duke’s inconsistency and showed that Dariq is not yet in game shape to play 33 minutes.  In the closing period, he logged 18 minutes, but was only 1-6 from the floor, including 1-4 from deep, plus 2-2 from the stripe, for 5 points.  He had just a single rebound and 1 assist, but 2 turnovers (both offensive fouls by hitting defenders with his shoulder when starting his drive).  However, taking the long view, Dariq is getting there fast.

Tyrese Proctor (32:29) ran the Duke offense in Jeremy Roach’s absence, with 3 assists and 2 turnovers.  The best news was Tyrese was 2-5 from behind the arc; the bad news was 0-5 from inside the arc, shooting 2-10 for the game. On defense, he was unable to stop BC guards from penetrating.  His 6 points was 75% of Duke’s backcourt scoring.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (32:09), like Dariq, was a model of inconsistency.  His stat line looks impressive. Flip scored 15 points (on an unimpressive 4-15 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, but a valuable 5-5 from the stripe including the 2 pressure-packed game winners), to go with 9 boards — 1 rebound away from a double-double — and 3 blocked shots.  But then there are those 5 turnovers, and the moment when a 6’2” guard blocked his jump shot. 

Flip carried Duke in the final period, scoring 11 of his points in the second half, including 3-3 from the stripe.  He is a talent, but Flip is also learning that some of his offensive moves that scored in high school are just turnovers at this level.

Ryan Young (28:03) played center, with Flip being the other Big on the floor.  Ryan scored 7 on 2-5 shooting, plus 3-3 from the foul line, to go with 8 tough rebounds and 5 excellent assists, without a turnover. Ryan also contributed a steal. Scheyer: “Ryan gives us a lot of poise. He didn’t score like he normally does, but to have five assists and no turnovers.”

Jaylen Blakes (18:05) played fewer minutes than expected, given Roach’s absence.  He scored only 2 points on 3 shots, without an attempt from deep or from the stripe.  He had an assist, a steal, and a rebound.  He was on the floor when BC, trailing by a point, had the ball with 12 seconds left to win the game.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (11:57) continues to confound.  Ryan Young replaced last year’s #1 recruit out of high school, in the starting lineup and in the vast majority of playing time.  Critically, D-Live had no success guarding BC’s 7-foot center, Post.  He scored 3 on a dunk plus 1-2 from the foul line.  In his 12 minutes, D-Live had a block, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers.  Surprisingly (to me), he was not on the floor in the last 12 seconds.

Jacob Grandison (9:23) has virtually disappeared from the rotation after his early season hot shooting.  Grandison failed to score (0-2 from deep), with a turnover and 2 boards.

THE CONFERENCE SO FAR

On Saturday, only Duke and Wake Forest won on the road.  Wake beat Louisville (2-14; 0-5 in the ACC), which was predictable. UVA, UNC, and Florida State won at home.

Unranked Clemson is the last undefeated (5-0) in ACC play. Miami and Pittsburgh are 4-1.  Six teams (Duke among them) are 3-2.  N.C. State is 3-3 while BC is 2-3.  The technical schools, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are 1-4.  Notre Dame and Louisville are winless at 0-5.

No seasonal goals for the Duke Blue Devils are yet foreclosed. 

Next Play: Wednesday, January 11, 2023, vs. Pittsburgh (and Jeff Capel) in Cameron Indoor Stadium. at 7:00 p.m. on ACCN.

Mark played 35 minutes of intense competition on both ends of the court.
Photo Credit: goduke.com
Dariq flaunts his potential as his playing time increases, but still lacks stamina.
Photo Credit: goduke.com

Duke Blue Devils 77 v. Pittsburgh Panthers 69 (Season 14; Issue 16; Game 17) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 11, 2023)

YOUNG GUNS Mitchell, Lively II, Filipowski and Whitehead (from left to right)
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke may have grown up tonight, against an improved and talented Pittsburgh team. After being outscored, and schooled on how to run an offense in an ugly 43-36 first half, the Blue Devils proved, for the first time since exams, that they have the maturity to ‘take a licking and keep on ticking’, by playing Real Duke Basketball and outscoring the Panthers 45-26 in the second half.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski was not the only star—only the most consistent one (a pleasant change). It was a team effort: Flip achieved a career-high (so far) game of 28 pts and 15 rebounds. However, in the second half, substitute point guard Ty Proctor, filling in for the still unable-to-play Jeremy Roach, also performed admirably–as did Whitehead, Lively, Young, Mitchell, Blakes, and Grandison who each had their moments that Alan will explain more fully.  By the way, there is one area, foul shooting, in which this team has consistently excelled—nearly 80% for the season.

Now let’s see if this was a one-off anomaly by precocious but inconsistent teenagers—or not. The next game is at Clemson, who is leading the ACC Conference in an upside-down year. Carolina was handed its third defeat Tuesday night at Virginia.  Incidentally, home teams have won nearly 80% of the conference games this year.

Not to be overlooked is that this game was played at home in front of The Crazies, who were the sixth man. Coach Scheyer: “A vintage Cameron night. It was the first time in Cameron when the team couldn’t hear me. There have been many moments with Coach K when that has happened, where someone is two feet away and you can’t hear. We got to that level tonight.” And as Pitt Coach Capel (who ought to know since he both played and coached at Duke) explained, he knew things wouldn’t be that easy, “As someone who both played and coached in hundreds of games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, this building is never out of it. You anticipate a run at some point. They made a run, the crowd was going all game, and when they [the Crazies] got going, I think those guys [on the court] fed off it.  It gave them an extra boost to be a step quicker to get that 50-50 ball.”

The bottom line is that for twenty minutes, this young group played up to their high school reputations.  Let’s see if they really have matured and can overcome the (hopefully temporary) loss over their point guard and leader—Jeremy Roach.

ALANALYSIS:

The Duke theme this season (as we’ve been writing) has been “inconsistency”.  This theme continued against the Pitt Panthers. The Blue Devils played a simply awful first half, giving up 43 points and trailing by 12.  The first-half performance resembled the Blue Devil humiliations at the hands of N.C. State, Purdue, and Wake Forest.  Then Duke put together a second half that was its best of the season (outscoring Pitt by 45 -26… even while going only 1-11 from behind the arc).  

Scheyer said, “they made some really difficult shots that knocked us back in the first half …  we fought and competed in the second half.  Our rebounding was huge, and I thought in the second half our switching and our defense – I don’t know what the exact numbers were, but we held them to 10 or so points for a while there in the second half.” 

The second half was like a different team was playing. Duke still trailed by 12 (48-36) with 18:09 remaining in the game, when the amazing winning run began.  With 4:32 remaining in the game, the Blue Devils led by 11 (69-58), having held Pitt to scoring only 10 points in almost 14 minutes, while themselves scoring 33 points. The offense and defense came together cohesively and dramatically!  It is the type of breakout performance that can lift a team for the entire season.

D-Live (again in foul trouble), re-entering the game with 13:34 left and Duke trailing by 8 (52-44), sparked the Duke defense.  Scheyer praised his ability to switch onto guarding smaller players on the perimeter.  The Duke switching defense stopped Pitt cold. 

On offense, first Flip, then Tyrese scored to bring the Blue Devils within 2 points, before D-Live tied the score at 52 on a neat hook shot, with 10:26 left in the game.  Duke never trailed again.  D-Live then contributed a block, 2 rebounds, and an assist before committing his 4th foul and leaving the game with 7:23 left. The Blue Devils were ahead 59-52.  Astoundingly, Pitt did not score in the 6-plus minutes that D-Live was on the floor!  Duke maintained its lead as the teams traded baskets to the end of the game.  Duke 77 v. Pitt 69. 

The Offense

In the first half, Duke shot an embarrassing 10-33 from the field, including 5-16 from behind the arc (Whitehead 2-5; Filipowski 1-1; Proctor 1-3; Grandison 1-4; Blakes 0-2; and Mitchell 0-1).  Worse, Duke had only 7 assists but 12 turnovers (7 Pitt steals and 5 offensive fouls)!  Duke committed 9 first-half fouls (D-Live, Tyrese, Dariq, and Flip all had 2 fouls each in the opening half).  D-Live fouled out while Dariq and Tyrese finished the game with four fouls. It was a humiliating first half.

The second half was an offensive breakout.  Duke was 14-33 from the field, but only 1-11 from deep; thus, the Blue Devils were 13-22 from inside the arc. And that went with a spectacular 16-18 from the foul line!  Duke penetrated and drew Pitt fouls (12 in the second half).  Flip scored 16 second-half points, including 8-9 from the stripe. Tyrese ran the offense and scored the critical points to maintain Duke’s winning margin. It was a coming out party that breeds optimism for the season and postseason tournaments.

The Defense

Duke gave up 43 first-half points, looking a lot like the defensively-challenged team that was blown out by N.C. State, Wake Forest, and Purdue.  The Blue Devil turnovers put Pitt in transition without allowing Duke to set up its half court defense.   That was part of the problem.  Pitt shot well, even when the shot was contested.  Still, Duke was just discombobulated.

The contrast was palpable as Duke allowed Pitt only 26 second-half points when the Devils went to a defense switching-every-ball screen.  Scheyer: “we felt like this was actually going to be a coming out game for Dereck because we’ve envisioned switching with him, and he made some big time plays in this game. His switching, I thought, really bothered them. … Instead of them running offense, they end up playing one-on-one. Sometimes they’re going to hit, but other times, if we stay disciplined, it’s tough to make those shots over our length. …We were better when he was in the game.  He had some fun tonight.  He just went after it tonight.  It would have been even better if we could keep him out of foul trouble.” 

Indeed, it was not just Dereck in foul trouble–Duke committed 12 second-half fouls (2 each by Dariq, Ryan, Tyrese, D-Live, and Jaylen), which put the Blue Devils in danger. Duke’s foul trouble impacted the rotation late in the game.

THE ROTATION

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (34:55) had his best game of the year (7th double-double of the season) scoring a career-high 28 points (8-14, including 1-4 from behind the arc, and a gaudy 11-13 from the stripe), to go with 15 rebounds (11 in the second half).  He also contributed a pair of assists, a steal, and a block.  Flip had 4 turnovers, but 3 were in Duke’s desultory first half.   He dominated the game in the closing period.

Mark Mitchell (34:25) scored 10 points (8 in the second half) and grabbed 9 rebounds while playing tough defense in the second half.  Mark was 2-9 (0-5 in the opening half), including 0-2 from behind the arc and a perfect 6-6 from the foul line to go with a steal and an assist (but 4 awful turnovers).

Dariq Whitehead (30:36) only scored 6 points (2-11, including 2-7 from deep without a free throw attempt) while turning it over twice.  However, he played excellent defense, while grabbing 5 boards.  He was in constant foul trouble, with 2 in the first half and finishing with 4 fouls.  Dariq was scoreless in the second half; he’s not quite all the way back to full game shape.

Tyrese Proctor (27:22) also had what might be his best game at Duke, even though he picked up 2 fouls in the first 5 minutes of the game.  He finished with 4 fouls but controlled the Duke offense in the second half.  Tyrese scored 14 points (9 in the second half) on 4-9 from the floor, including 1-4 from deep and a critical 5-5 from the line to go with 5 assists without a turnover.  Scheyer: “He obviously made some big scoring plays down the stretch, but when your guard has five assists and no turnovers that’s pretty good. … He’s in control of the team, I think that’s the biggest thing that he did, and he really competed and guarded on the defensive end.” 

Jacob Grandison (20:51) played one of his best defensive games this season, with 2 critical steals as Duke made its winning move.  Jacob scored 6 on 2-6 from 3land, one in each half.   He was on the court at “winning time”, which is Scheyer’s method of high praise.

Ryan Young (20:14) helped Duke dominate the back boards with 10 rebounds (7 offensive), while scoring 7 points (all in the second half) on 3-6 from the field for the game, and 1-3 from the stripe.  He was 0-2 from the field and 0-1 from the foul line in the first half.  His play was emblematic of Duke’s terrible first half and marvelous final stanza.

Jaylen Blakes (19:19) played a valuable floor game even though he failed to score a single point in this game (0-5, including 0-4 from deep, without a free throw attempt.  He had a single assist against 3 turnovers.  He logged only 7 second-half minutes.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (12:18) fouled out, logging only minutes in each half, but it was one of his best games at Duke.  In his short stint, D-Live scored 6 points (3-6 from the field, connecting on a smooth hook shot, without a deep shot or free throw) to go with 4 boards, a block, an assist (a beautiful bounce pass to the cutting Flip), and a steal.  Dereck was inserted, with 3:07 to go and 4 fouls, to protect the rim and Duke’s lead, but he fouled out with 3:02 left. The stretch in the second half may be the harbinger of D-Live’s return to star form, which would change the trajectory of Duke’s season.

THE CONFERENCE SO FAR

On Tuesday, the home teams won – UVA topped UNC (now 0-4 on the road)  while Notre Dame won its first ACC game, nipping Georgia Tech 73-72.  Last night, all five home teams won, with Clemson (Duke’s next opponent) beating Louisville to remain unbeaten in the ACC (6-0).  Syracuse beat Va. Tech; Wake dumped Florida State; and Miami beat BC.

Clemson (6-0), though unranked in the polls, is first in the ACC.  Miami is second in the ACC at 5-1.  There are five teams (Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia,  Syracuse, Pittsburgh) that are 4-2. .  UNC,  N.C. State, and Florida State  are 3-3. BC is 2-4, while the technical schools– Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech – plus Notre Dame are 1-5.  Louisville is winless at 0-6.

No seasonal goals for the Duke Blue Devils are as yet foreclosed. The game on the road against unbeaten (in league play) Clemson, will be another cliff to climb … or plunge off of. 

Next Play: Saturday, January 14, 2023, vs. at Clemson in Death Valley at 5:00 p.m. on ACCN.

Scheyer and Jeff Capel – Two coaches from the Coach K tree, who played for him and coached with each other under Coach K . Photo credit: Goduke.com
Flip eats up the plaudits of The Crazies for his 28 point, 15 rebound performance against Pittsburgh
Photo credit: Goduke.com



Duke Blue Devils 64 v. Clemson Tigers 72 (Season 14; Issue 17; Game # 18) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 14, 2023)

Come on back” (we need you!)
Photo credit: Lance King
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

While Duke’s young team competed well for most of both halves, Clemson’s young men closed both halves with the maturity of an experienced team in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum. Chalk up another one for staying more than one year and learning tough lessons!  Laettner and Hurley were different players in their last two years than they were in their first two at Duke. Two players who are not named, Jordan and Bird, can’t take over fifty per cent of the shots for a team and consistently win; Duke attempted 63 field goals, 37 of them by Flip and Tyrese combined.  Kyle Filipowski took 22 shots to score his 18 points while Tyrese Proctor scored his 17 points on 15 shots. Whitehead has an NBA body and skills, but 2 points in 28 minutes in a close game does not validate that assessment. Proctoor has improved significantly each game that Roach has missed,, but he should not be the one creating a shot with the game on the line. Young vs. Lively is a tough call. Young is an experienced, heady player who produces above his athletic level against all exceptexcept elite big men. Lively brings another level of athleticism to rim and lane protection against all competition, but he needs playing time to mature. Mitchell needs to be more assertive offensively. And on and on!

It is easy to second guess coaching decisions –  – rather I am trying to understand why Duke gets the cream of the recruiting crop, but then only does very good not great. Even Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett and Co. blasted a talented Kentucky team early in their freshman year, but lost to an experienced Michigan State and did not make the Final Four at the end of that same year. And speaking of Kentucky, the only team who attracts as many one-and-done talents as Duke, is reportedly unhappy* with their Coach Calipari–and vice versa.

Welcome to the new era of College Basketball. The bottom line is that with the transfer portal and college athletes getting compensated (paid for image & likeness) coaching is a tough profession and getting tougher all the time.   

*A college basketball fan sent this message to John Calipari: “Please go to Texas.” 

ALANALYSIS:

On December 8, 2022, the Blue Devils played what this DBP said was their best game of the season, beating Iowa in Madison Square Garden.  Not coincidentally, Jeremy Roach had his best game of the season against Iowa against Iowa, scoring 22 points and looking as if he was having a season for the ages.  But, Jeremy’s toe kept him from playing well, and now from playing at all. kept him from playing well, and now from playing at all.  His injury has not yet healed, and the Duke season has simply unraveled since then.  Duke has great difficulty playing well for both halves.  Inconsistency has been a theme of our analysis.  After the last game against Pittsburgh, we wrote: 

“The Duke seasonal theme of “inconsistency” continued against the Pitt Panthers by playing a first half (giving up 43 points and trailing by 12) that resembled the Blue Devil humiliations at the hands of N.C. State, Purdue and Wake Forest, while playing a second half that was its best of the season (outscoring Pitt by 45 -26 – while going only 1-11 from behind the arc).”

While Duke trailed the Clemson Tigers by only a single point with 3:57 left in the game, it photographed that the Blue Devils’ scoring drought, from that point to the final buzzer, was the Achilles heel.  However, scrutiny of the entire second half reveals that the Tigers disemboweled the Devils in the second half the way the Panthers previously had in their first half.  Duke scored only 30 points in the second half (0-12 from behind the arc), just 20 from the field (10-33) while adding 10 points from the foul line where they shot 10-13 (5-8 from the foul line were Duke’s only points in the final minutes). The Blue Devils managed only 3 assists in the closing stanza.  

The Duke defense was no better than the Blue Devil offense, allowing the Tigers to score 42 second-half points on 50% shooting (15-30).  Being outscored by 12 was precisely what had happened in the first half against Pitt.   The second half against Clemson sadly resembled the full game humiliations that Scheyer’s team has suffered against Wake Forest and N.C. State (on the road), and Purdue (on a neutral court).

Duke is now 1-3 in ACC road games – with 2 of the next 3 games on the road.  After a home game against Miami, Duke travels to Blacksburg (Va. Tech) and Atlanta (Ga. Tech).  Wins on the road are required for Duke to have a good season. [The Editorial Staff implores Coach S and his team “so, get on it!!”]

This loss is actually much worse than it appears.  Jeremy, how does your toe feel???

The Offense

Duke led 34-30 at the end of the first half (by 7 with 1:43 left in the half), shooting 46% (14-30, including 3-8 from deep and 3-5 from the stripe), with 6 assists and 6 turnovers.  Not great, but so much better than the desultory second half would turn out to be. 

The closing minutes of the second half are a terrible tale.  With 5:07 left in the game, the Blue Devils pulled to within 2 points when Mitchell made a put back (after he missed at the rim and got his own rebound), 58-56.  From that point, Flip missed a 3, Tyrese missed a jumper, Flip went 1-2 from the stripe, Tyrese turned it over and then missed a free throw before Flip had his shot blocked.  60-57 with 2:43 left.  Dariq committed a foul, Mitchell turned it over, before each team made about the same number of foul shots to complete Duke’s disastrous 8 point loss.

The Defense

The theme for the Duke defense since ACC play began has been Scheyer’s post-game lament in his press conference, “I think it came down to them getting in our paint too easily!”  We have heard that lament frequently.  The Blue Devils not only miss Jeremy’s leadership on offense, but because Jeremy is their best on-the-ball defender, he was also Duke’s leader in preventing penetration by quick driving guards.  

Scheyer added, “[Clemson is] physical, their pick-and-roll defense is good as anybody that we’ve played. And it’s, for us, learning how to play through that. You’re going to play really good defenses, and down the stretch, knowing how to manufacture points for each other, it’s not going to be as much on your own getting one. And we’re still learning that.”

THE ROTATION

Tyrese Proctor (36:59) was only out of the game for 3 minutes (all in the first half), as he was the point guard for all 20 minutes of a flawed second half.  In just two first-half minutes (from 5:37 left in the first half to 3:58), Proctor scored 9 straight points (2 shots from deep and a traditional 3 point play on a drive) to take Duke from a point behind to a 4 point lead (26-22), but then didn’t score for the rest of the half.  For the game, Tyrese scored 17 points (5-15 from the field, including 2-9 from behind the arc and 5-6 from the line) to go with only a single assist against 3 turnovers.  He grabbed 5 boards.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (35:11) notched yet another double-double, scoring 18 points on 22 shots (8-22, including 1-5 from deep and 1-3 from the foul line), while hauling in 14 rebounds (5 offensive) plus a blocked shot.  He turned it over 4 times.    

Mark Mitchell (28:18) was 4-8 from the field to score 8 points (without a free throw attempt and 0-1 from behind the arc).  He had 2 rebounds, a steal, and a turnover.  He played very solid defense on Clemson’s star, Hunter Tyson, holding him to 7 points.

Ryan Young (24:39) is still starting ahead of, and playing more minutes than, D-Live, who was last year’s #1 rated recruit.  Ryan scored 10 points on 3-4 from the floor and 4-4 from the stripe, blocked a pair of Clemson shots, but grabbed only 2 rebounds (1 offensive).  He contributed an assist, a steal, but also committed a turnover.

Dariq Whitehead (24:06) did not turn the ball over, which was his best statistic of the game, even though he had 2 assists and a steal.  What Dariq didn’t do was score the ball as Duke needed him to do.  He scored only 2 points (1-6, including 0-3 from 3land without a foul shot attempt).

Jaylen Blakes (18:51) scored 5 points (1-4, without a shot from behind the arc and 3-5 from the stripe) to go with 5 boards and 2 assists without a turnover.

Jacob Grandison (17:08), Duke’s most accurate long-distance shooter this year, failed to score a point! (0-2 from deep), but grabbed 3 boards and distributed an assist.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (14:48) was improved from recent outings in his 8:38 first-half minutes, where he scored his 4 points (2-2), with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.  Still, committing 2 fouls and 2 turnovers in that short stretch will keep him behind Young in the rotation.  In the second half, D-Live retrieved 2 more rebounds, without committing another foul.  It is hard to believe he will be yet another one-and-done while his play continues to be this disappointing.

SUMMING UP

The stretch from December 8 against Iowa at Madison Square Garden to now has been… disappointing.  Jeremy’s injured toe brings back memories of Kyrie’s lost season in 2010-11, when Duke was favored to repeat as NCAA champions, s until Kyrie’s injured toe kept him on the bench. The anticipated return to form of Dariq Whitehead and D-Live from injuries is happening only slowly with Whitehead and not at all, it appears, with Lively II.  All 3 of these circumstances are contributing to the current pessimistic state of affairs.

We offer some insight from Kara Lawson, the Duke women’s coach who so far has been producing amazing results, while expressing disappointment in her team’s play despite their almost miraculous run to National prominence.  Give a listen to Kara after her team beat Clemson, to remain undefeated in ACC play (and 15-1 overall):

“I didn’t feel like we played well, but I’m proud of them for fighting in the second half. I was more proud of their second half than I was their first half; I think we were noncompetitive in the first half and that was very frustrating to see, but in the second half  I thought we played with a little more fire. … our defense was poor, and we need to be better on that end, and so we’ve just got a lot to work on that end. We had some breakdowns and thankfully Kennedy [Brown] and Mia [Heide} were back there to save layups after guard after guard was getting beat off the dribble. We just have to be better one on one defensively if we expect to win more games in this league.”  

Clemson scored only 56 points – not exactly a shoddy defensive performance.

“When I say that, please understand me, I’m not saying that we were awful. I’m just saying that there are so many correctibles and that we could be better. What you’re trying to do as a coach is you’re trying to, through a win, still have them be sharp and understand that there are correctibles, because winning is like taking like an Aleve or a Tylenol. It dulls the pain that you have but it doesn’t fix the problem. Winning will do that; you think everything’s okay and we’re doing good enough, and then you start to slip. And so that’s my job, to keep us sharp!”

The Duke men have not been sharp since Jeremy’s injury.

Next Play: Saturday, January 21, 2023, vs. Miami in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Back to the drawing board!
Photo credit: Grant Halverson

Duke Blue Devils 68 v. Miami Hurricanes 66 (Season 14; Issue 18; Game #19) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”(January 21, 2023)

Jeremy demonstrates what team leadership is all about as the freshmen concentrate intently.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke had almost everything going for them today: playing a formidable, well-coached, but relatively small, Miami team in Cameron (where Duke is undefeated this year); Isaiah Wong, best player for the Hurricanes, weakened by an illness; a week of rest; and Jeremy Roach, their veteran point guard and leader, playing for the first time since January 4. The Blue Devils needed all of that plus a miracle three-point shot from mid court by Whitehead as the shot clock expired for the margin of victory. Still, a win is a win. But it’s getting a little late in the season for these highly rated freshmen not to be playing well enough to win more comfortably at home. Duke fans expect more, even though these are predominately precocious teenagers masquerading as grown men.  And if you ever raised teenagers, just remember how frustrating that was.

Unlike good Duke teams of the past, this team rarely makes those patented runs that separated the Blue Devil score from that of their opponent. This group has not demonstrated the killer instinct to put an opponent away. Today was a good example – they would go up five or six points, then not execute either the offense or defense effectively and lose their opportunity.  It’s a simple game: make shots and make stops!  Otherwise, the game can be determined by a lucky shot or play. Finally the entire team –  not just  Filipowski or Young – appeared to understand how to play Duke Basketball by rebounding, diving for loose balls, not getting discouraged when the shots don’t fall–and playing hard for a full forty minutes. They aren’t in high school anymore but wear a Duke uniform with a target on their back.

Young is an admirable, mature player who plays above his athletic level and is a good role model for Filipowski and Lively, both of whom appear to be fulfilling their potential — albeit at different rates.  Whitehead is too skilled not to be a first or second option offensively.  Mitchell is a lock-down defender who needs to be more assertive offensively.  Procter, who skipped his senior year of high school (and sometimes plays like it), has demonstrated genuine potential, and has benefited from Roach’s absence, but is not yet the starting point guard for a championship contender.  Blakes brings a needed energy and enthusiasm to the floor.  Grandison, a  25 year old grad student, is a valuable spot player and scorer.

It is easy to forget that as a freshman, and for the first part of his second year, Jeremy Roach was not yet the player that he is today.  It took time. It always takes time! That is the frustrating crux of the One-and-Done culture. Schools like Duke and Kentucky are reduced to finishing schools for precocious high school basketball players waiting to become millionaires. Some make it, others don’t. 

ALANALYSIS:

Duke made one more winning play than the Hurricanes did; the game was that close. It was tied 38-38 at the half.  There was only one lead change in the second half when the Hurricanes hit 2 shots in a row to lead the Blue Devils 47-45. Even though Duke led for almost the entire second half, they couldn’t get the separation needed to make it a comfortable lead. The Blue Devils led by as much as 8 during the closing half, and, critically, by 7 (64-57) with 5:19 left in the game after Tyrese made a 3 from the corner on a pretty assist from Jeremy. What a difference Jeremy is starting to make in just his first minutes (more than 27 of them) back! 

Isaiah Wong, Miami’s star, countered with a deep 3 (64-60).  In the next Duke possessions, Jeremy missed a jumper and Grandison threw a bad pass.  Norshad Omier, Miami’s high-scoring Big, cashed an offensive rebound, which became a three-point play when he converted the foul shot (64-63 with 2:54 left in the game).  Roach had his shot blocked ……but then he stole the ball back! and got it to Flip, who was fouled and made both free throws (66-63 with 2:05 left).  Roach fouled Omier, who made 1 of 2 (66-64 with 1:45 to go).  Grandison missed a jumper, which the Hurricanes rebounded, and fired up the jump shot to try and tie the game with 54 seconds left.  The game turned on the results of that Hurricane miss.  

Setting the scene for the play of the game: first, the Hurricanes retrieved the offensive rebound but missed a second jump shot; Omier got that offensive rebound too, but missed the layup. The game turned on the rebound of that Hurricane miss at 66-64.  Ryan Young finally corralled the rebound of the game with 40 seconds left; it was not only the rebound of the game, it was the play of the game!

Flip then hit 2 clutch free throws to put Duke ahead by 4 (68-64) with only 19 seconds left, lifting Duke to an almost-secure position.  But, the Blue Devil back court then missed crucial foul-shot-opportunities to ice the game.  With 10 seconds to go, and Duke leading by 4, Jeremy missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  The Hurricanes rebounded the miss and scored immediately to have one more chance (68-66).  Proctor, fouled with 3 seconds left, also missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  If the Miami desperation 3 point shot had gone in, Duke would have lost.  Your guards must close out the game at the foul line when the opportunity is there.

The Defense

While the Blue Devil defense struggled in the first half, giving up 38 points, Duke held the usually high-scoring Hurricanes to only 28 second-half points by mixing it up on defense.  Duke went to its zone often, interspersing the 2-3 zone it had shown in other games with a new 1-3-1 (used sparingly, but to good effect).  After the first two minutes of the second half (when D-Live and Ryan each picked up their third foul), Duke only committed 4 fouls for the rest of the game.  That’s a sign of excellent defense.

Scheyer: “I thought we had to change our defenses up. Miami is an explosive team. You never relax when you’re playing against them and hold them to 66 points.… but our defense has been our backbone and I think we are the type of team we have to gut it out and scrap and crawl and we did that. 

“They’re a tough team to control the ball one-on-one. They have literally four guys that can create at all times. Omier is a load in the post. So just being able to switch it up and give different looks — when Ryan’s on the floor it’s different than when Dereck’s on the floor.  In the second half, to hold them to 28 points, that’s a big deal. That’s not an easy thing to do.

“Dereck Lively, he’s been working his butt off every day with Coach [Amile] Jefferson. He keeps getting better, and for him to have six offensive rebounds, 10 rebounds overall, five blocked shots.” 

Men's basketball vs. Miami
Flip earned his 9th double-double of the season and his third in a row with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

THE ROTATION

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (34:27) was Duke’s best and most valuable player, notching another double-double with 14 boards and 17 points (5-12, including 1-3 from behind the arc and 6-8 from the stripe – the last two being the winning shots).  Flip played solid defense, with a pair of steals and a blocked shot.  On offense, he had 2 assists without a turnover.  Game ball!

Tyrese Proctor (Ty) (29:49) played an excellent game, especially in the second half, where he logged almost 18 minutes.  Tyrese scored 11 points (4-9 from the field, including 3-7 from deep, and 0 for 1 from the foul line).  In the second half, Tyrese handed out a pair of assists without a turnover.

Jeremy Roach (27:24) played in his first game since January 4.  His presence provided an emotional revival for  his teammates and coaches –  not to mention us – readers  and  fans.  Jeremy scored 14 points in his return, on 6-10 from the field, including 1-3 from deep, plus 1-3 from the stripe.  He had 4 assists, 2 steals and a rebound.  Two turnovers. Jeremy will be even better when the rust from not playing dissolves.  He looked less rusty than could have been expected.  A big whew – Welcome back, Jeremy!

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (24:14) played his most minutes yet while at Duke, displaying deft passing skills (6! assists) to go with making a pair of  3-pointers for his 6 points (2-7, including 2-5 from deep).  His defense is improving and he was on the court when the game was on the line at the end.  Scheyer praised him, “Jake is just a calming force. He makes really easy plays. Ball doesn’t stick with him. He’s the best post passer that we have.  He’s always a threat.  He shot 40 [percent] from three today still, but he’s a guy you have to guard.  He’s capable of having a five, six three game which I believe he’s got in him still.  And he battles, he knows how to compete. He’s battle tested. He’s been in big-time environments, and I just thought when he was in there, he made us better today.” 

Dariq Whitehead (23:40) scored 10 points (3-9 from the field, including 2-3 from deep, and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 3 boards, 2 assists, and a blocked shot.  However, Coach Scheyer played him for fewer than 9 minutes in the second half, where his only points came on a wild desperation fling from very deep as the shot clock expired.  It hit the backboard and went in to bring Duke from behind 47-45 to a 48-47 lead.  To consider how slim Duke’s margin of victory was: if that heave had missed, Duke would have had only 65 points and lost the game.

Mark Mitchell (20:10) had one of his intermittent, low-scoring games, only 2 points (1-4 from the field, including 0-1 from the foul line), with a steal.  Mark played some excellent defense and grabbed 5 rebounds.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (18:16) played his best game at Duke so far, with 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.  He scored 6 points on 3-9 shooting.  It’s worth looking closer.  D-Live played only 4 minutes in the first half, but scored 4 points (2-5) and grabbed 4 boards.  However, he picked up 2 fouls (again) and added the 3rd foul before 2 second-half minutes had passed.  It seemed like the story we have been seeing all season.   But Dereck played the rest of his 14 second-half minutes without fouling, while blocking 5 Miami shots and securing 6 rebounds.   He played twice as many minutes as Ryan Young in the second half because of his dramatic contributions. This feels like a breakthrough development both for D-Live and for Duke’s offense and defense – a positive for the Blue Devils’s future this season.

Ryan Young (16:43) was in early foul trouble – 2 in the first half and his 3rd in the first minute of the second half.  He scored only 2 points on 2 attempts but was a stout rebounder (5) and defender (a blocked shot), and steady on offense (2 assists, but 2 turnovers).

Jaylen Blakes (5:17) broke his nose in practice last week and tried to play with a mask.  He failed to score in his short time on the floor in the first half and did not play in the closing period.

SUMMING UP

Four positives: 

  1. Jeremy’s return and relative effectiveness;
  2. Dereck Lively’s second half – 14 minutes on the court, playing with 3 fouls and not fouling again, while blocking 5 shots and grabbing 6 boards; 
  3. Kyle Filipowski’s overall play, especially in the clutch; and
  4. Duke won and is now 14-5 on the season and 5-3 in ACC play.

Beating Miami was critical for Duke after the Clemson loss.  However, Monday’s game at Virginia Tech may be even more critical.  Duke has had three very bad road losses, and Blacksburg has been a horror show for the Blue Devils over the years.  Another road loss would be seriously deflating.  

Va. Tech barely lost last night at Clemson.  The Hokies led by a point and were shooting 2 free throws with 9 seconds left.  When the Tech player missed his second free throw, Va. Tech led by 2 points instead of 3.  Clemson then hit a 3, literally at the buzzer, to win.  Heartbreaking loss for Va. Tech.  Tech will be fired up from that heartbreak when Duke meets them on the court in Blacksburg. 

In the ACC, Clemson, (8-1) leads the league, with UVA (7-2) in second.  There are 5 teams at 6-3 (Miami, UNC, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Pittsburgh), while Duke is 5-3.  Florida State and NC State are each 5-4.

None of Duke’s goals for the season have been foreclosed, but Clemson leads Duke by 2 ½ games for the regular season ACC title, and holds the tiebreaker by virtue of the Tiger win over the Blue Devils last weekend (if teams are tied, the first tie breaker is who won the head-to-head games. As Duke only plays Clemson once this season, Clemson holds the tie-breaker as a result of the win in Death Valley).

Next Play: Very quick turnaround to Monday, January 23, 2023, at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.

“I’m back! Let’s go!” Photo credit: GoDuke.com

Men's basketball vs. Miami

Men's basketball vs. Miami
It was a welcome sight for all Duke fans to see Jeremy again running the team. Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 75 v. Virginia Tech Hokies 78 (Season 14; Issue 19; Game # 20) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 23, 2023)

Flip continues dazzling play with his 9th Double-double (4th in a row)!
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

If there is such a thing as a pyrrhic loss, Duke had one tonight in Blacksburg. They not only lost a winnable game but, more importantly, they lost Dariq Whitehead just as he appeared to be emerging as a functioning, crucial component of the Blue Devil team. Dariq watched the end of the game from the breezeway to the dressing rooms on crutches, which is not a good sign.

Filipowski had another double-double (29 points & 10 rebounds) plus a punch in the neck and/or mouth and was brought to his knees by a Hokie player celebrating too vigorously in the last minute of the game. Referees stopped play and went to the monitors. No foul. They determined it was not intentional. No matter, it added insult to injury and negated a possible fast break opportunity in the last minute of a close game.

The only thing consistent about this Duke team is their inconsistency: up seven at the start, down seven at the break. Flip had another career game, but the supporting cast did not support him for a full forty minutes. Tech outshot Duke 57-43% from the floor; 53-39% for threes: 67-63% from the line–not numbers of a good defensive or offensive team.

Bottom Line: Prospects for the rest of the season are not what they were at the beginning of the season.

ALANALYSIS:

Coach Scheyer’s post game analysis: “Our guys really competed, really battled, put ourselves in a position to win that game coming back from down 13. And really, at halftime, just for us to dig down and get some stops, trust the pass, work together, I thought we had some beautiful connecting passes. But ultimately, just really one play short.”  

The Blue Devils trailed for almost all of the latter part of the second half despite Kyle (Flip) Filipowski’s spectacular performance (29 points, 15 in the second half).  With 38 seconds left in the game and the Blue Devils trailing by 3 (75-72), Flip drove, drawing the Hokie defense to him and setting up a superb pass to Tyrese (Ty) Proctor, who drained a 3 pointer to tie the score at 75.  

The Hokies then made their one play to win the game, when M.J. Collins (6 points in the game) got loose in the lane to sink an open 12-foot jumper giving the Hokies a 2-point lead.  But, Duke still had a chance.

As the Hokies’ celebrated Collins basket, a Hokie fist bump of triumph turned into a solid punch to Flip’s face.  Scheyer: “he got hit so hard that he was throwing up in the huddle. He was full-out throwing up, but he wasn’t about to be out for a second. He was ready to come back in, and we ended up drawing up the play, and put the ball in his hands.  He’s a big-time warrior, man.  He’s a competitor.  He hates to lose.  I thought you could see that tonight.  He really put us on his back and willed us to put us in a position to win that game.”

The one play that would have won the game, that Duke didn’t make, as Scheyer described it: “We wanted the ball in Flip’s hands, good things happen, really almost every time he touched it — we get either a wide-open shot, or he got a great look himself.  And he made a read, made a really good pass to Tyrese. They happened to get caught up on that initial action, and Tyrese is wide open. It hits the back rim, but it’s right there. Sometimes it goes in, and sometimes it doesn’t.” 

Good teams win close games, while bad teams lose close games.  Mediocre teams tend to win at home, lose on the road, ending up in the middle of the pack.  The Blue Devils have now lost 4 ACC road games while winning only at Boston College.  One of Duke’s pre-season goals was to win the Regular Season ACC title.  Given that Clemson has a 3-game lead and holds the tiebreaker, not to mention UVA’s 2-game lead and high national ranking, the Blue Devils seem out of contention for the ACC regular season championship.  There are 5 teams at 6-3 and 2 others tied with Duke at 5-4.

The Blue Devils’ season going forward needs to  focus on the effort to gel, and to become formidable for their other pre-season goals — namely, post-season championships.

The Offense

Duke scored 38 first-half points and 37 in the closing stanza.  The distribution of Blue Devil scoring in the second half illustrates a problem with the offense when two players are scoring ⅔ of Duke’s points. Flip (15) and Ty (10) scored 25 of Duke’s 37 points.  Ryan Young and Mark Mitchell each tallied 4, while Dereck (D-Live) Lively II, and Jeremy Roach scored 2 points each, in the second half.  The Blue Devils need significant scoring from the roster outside of Flip and whoever else is hot that day.

Jeremy Roach’s return has not been as impactful as expected.  He is not yet in game shape, and his shot is off (0-4 from deep on uncontested 3s).  Duke’s offense will get better (even without Dariq) if Jeremy can return to the form he showed before his injury.

Dariq’s shooting has returned, even if his handle and ability to finish consistently on his drives has not yet.  If he is badly injured and misses substantial time or the remainder of the season, the Duke offense cannot help but suffer.

The Defense

What can you say about a defense that gives up 45 first-half points?  Duke has allowed a series of 40-point halves against good ACC teams on the road – sometimes 2 in the same game – (Wake Forest, N.C. State, Clemson, and now Virginia Tech have scored 40 or more against Duke in one or both halves).

The Hokies shot over 50% for the game, both from the field and from behind the arc.  They torched the Blue Devils in the first half before the Duke defense adjusted.   Scheyer: “They’re 7-of-10 in the first half [from 3land]. So, you have to adjust. And we ended up switching, probably a little bit more than we would’ve liked to, and [Grant Basile, the Hokies’s star Big] took advantage of those switches. He’s a really good player. … Too many times we got caught without talking. You have to talk really well on switches, when they screen, and they get all of these zoom actions. But I thought in the second half, we really dug down, held them to 33 points and did a better job. And they still, they almost shot 50 [percent] from the field.” 

Duke always emphasizes on-the-court-communication among the players, especially when playing defense. But that communication seems to fade when the game tightens. Maybe the players get too hyperfocused on their individual effort. For a team claiming its calling card is Defense, it is indisputable that the Blue Devil defense has been disappointing, to say the least, in ACC road games. 

THE ROTATION

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (33:53) was Duke’s best and most valuable player, notching yet another double-double! with 10 boards and 29 points (9-17, including 4-8 from behind the arc, and 7-9 from the stripe).  Flip played solid defense with a pair of steals and a blocked shot.  On offense he had 2 assists with a turnover.  Game ball! Again!  He just put the team on his back and gave it his all.

Mark Mitchell (31:59) scored 8 points (1-3 from the field, including 1-2 from behind the arc and 1-2 from the foul line).  Mark played some excellent defense, probably logging more minutes than he would have if Dariq had not been severely injured early in the second half.   

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (31:27) played an excellent game, especially in the second half where he was on the court every second and scored all 10 of his points (4-12 from the field, including 2-6 from deep) to go with 6 assists, a steal, and a blocked shot, with only a single turnover.  In the first half, Tyrese was 0-2, including 0-1 from deep, while handing out 3 assists. Only one turnover. With 38 seconds left in the game, Ty made a wide open 3 on a superb pass from Flip to tie the game at 38. But with 13 seconds left, and Duke trailing 77-75, he missed yet another wide open 3 on yet another wonderful pass from Flip.

Jeremy Roach (31:18) is not yet back in game shape but was forced to play almost 18 second-half minutes as a result of Dariq’s injury.  His rust was apparent because Jeremy scored only 6 points (3-9 from the field including 0-4 from deep, on uncontested shots).  Worse, he missed his only free throw, the front end of a 1-and-1 with Duke trailing by 3 points late in the game.  He had 3 assists (all in the first half) and 2 rebounds.  Jeremy tried to lead, but kept missing open shots and that crucial front end foul shot.  Jeremy is there, but not yet there.

Ryan Young (26:30) played the majority of his minutes with respectable offense statistics.  He scored 8 points (4-6 from the field), to go with 8 boards, 2 assists, and a steal.  But on defense, Ryan had the primary task to guard the star Hokie Big, Grant Basile, who nevertheless flourished in the paint on offense, scoring 24 points.

Dariq Whitehead (17:34) scored 10 points – all in his 14:33 first-half minutes before he suffered what may be a serious injury early in the second half.  Dariq hit both of his 3-point attempts and was 2-4 from inside the arc.  An assist and 2 turnovers.  Dariq’s injury is troubling, if not downright scary for Duke’s future this season.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (13:30) after playing well for substantial minutes against Miami, D-Live played only sparingly against Va Tech.  He scored  4 points on 2-3 shooting and  grabbed 2 boards, but committed 2 fouls.  The announcers offered no explanation for D-Live’s reduced minutes, but it may have had to do with match-ups. He had no success slowing the Hokies and Basile’s offense. 

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (9:07) after earning Scheyer’s praise for his 24 minutes played against Miami, Jake played little, failing to score (0-1 from deep).  He had an assist and a rebound.   

Jaylen Blakes (4:52) is still not recovered from his broken nose.  He failed to score in his short time on the floor in the first half and did not play in the closing period.

SUMMING UP

Duke must start winning ACC road games in order to save the season! No other way exists.  There are 11 ACC games remaining, 5 on the road (Georgia Tech, Miami, UVA, Syracuse and UNC).  All those teams, except for Georgia Tech, are ahead of Duke in the ACC standings.

Next Play: Saturday, January 28, 2023, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga. At 3:00 p.m. on ACCN.

A terrible sight for Duke fans to behold.  We are all hoping Dariq will be able to play again this season.  Photo credit: USATSI

Duke Blue Devils  86 v. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 43 (Season 14; Issue 20; Game 21) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 28, 2023)

Swish! Roach is back! Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Raise your hand if you thought that Duke would be without their highly rated freshman Dariq Whitehead, be on the road where they have only won one game in ACC play, and play their best game of the year winning 86-43.  Even with Georgia Tech being one of the worst teams in the league, and their coaching staff making an interesting choice  to focus more on defending against Duke’s big men (that backfired, giving the Blue Devils threes), the circumstances made it a real challenge. But it was a challenge the Devils embraced, as Jeremy Roach hit two straight threes to start the game, and even Dereck Lively made one.  It was that kind of game! as Duke kept playing with enthusiasm and efficiency–making shots and getting stops (and rebounds).  Lively, who started in place of Ryan Young, had 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 steals.  Bottom line is that after a frustrating and disappointing run of games, and another injury, Duke recovered to play their best basketball. Now let’s see how they deal with better teams of the ACC that they will face to finish the season.

Other Comments:

Billy Packer died this week. He was a terrific point guard for Coach Bones McKinney at Wake Forest, where he teamed with center Lenny Chappell and Dave Budd to make the Demon Deacons a formidable force in ACC and NCAA play. “Packer did all the talking and I did all the work,” Chappell wryly (and inaccurately) joked in an interview before Wake Forest played in the first round of the 1996 N.C.A.A Tournament. I had an opportunity to talk to Billy in 1959 and he said Duke was his first choice and was recruited, but was never extended an offer from then Coach Harold Bradley.  Too small to make the NBA, Billy became a college television announcer and analyst, teaming with Jim Nance at CBS where they did decades of NCAA Final Four Games. He was knowledgeable and incisive in his explanation of what you were seeing, and made many fans, including me,  for college basketball.

Coach Scheyer: “we’re at our best when Tyrese is doing this.”  Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:

Duke, as the road team, doubled Georgia Tech’s point total.  Georgia Tech may be deficient (8-13; 1-10 in the ACC), but no matter who the opponent, Duke scoring 86 points (43 in each half) while holding the other team to only 43 points, is a prodigious feat.  As Coach Scheyer said, “I thought it was probably the best collectively on defense that we’ve played. And then on the offensive end, to share the ball and get 24 assists, to hold them to 43 …” 

As a team, the Blue Devils were amazingly cohesive and organized.  The backcourt ran the show.  Tyrese Proctor is growing as a point guard so fast it is hard to remember how young he is, and how green at the start of the season.  He distributed 8 assists (a handful of beautiful lobs to Dereck (D-Live) Lively II for gorgeous throwdowns), without committing a turnover. Coach S was enthusiastic, “Talking about getting better, Tyrese from the start of the season to now has just grown tremendously. And we’re at our best when Tyrese is doing this. And we have weapons on the floor, and I thought he put them in a great position to be really successful.”

Jeremy Roach made an eloquent statement, hitting a brace of 3-pointers from deep on Duke’s first two shots of the game.  Jeremy was 4-7 from behind the arc for the game. “Jeremy played just an incredibly solid game, and when he’s ready to shoot like that, he’s heard me say it all the time, I think every shot he shoots is going in.  He and Tyrese [Proctor] had really good control over our team,” Scheyer opined.

The frontcourt was unstoppable on offense and controlled the paint and the backboard at both ends.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski continued his superb play and leadership (18 points and 7 boards), D-Live showed what he can do at both ends, scoring 9, grabbing 10 boards, and blocking 3 shots.  He even made his first 3-pointer of the year.  If D-Live is trending back to the player he was last year, that is great news for Duke.  As the coach said, “like he’s on a launching pad right now. And he’s got a chance to take off, and today was the start of it. Ryan Young was a great substitute for D-Live, scoring 10 points on 5-6 shooting.”  Ryan is clearly appreciated by his coach, “Ryan has been so solid, we need him to stay ready for us. And he’s going to be in there.”

The other piece of excellent news is that Dariq’s injury is not as serious as feared at first.  It’s not an Achilles problem.  It is a ligament strain that forecasts his return to the rotation within a reasonable time.  Coach Scheyer reports, “Dariq’s progressing really well. Just fortunate that it wasn’t worse. It was scary at the time when he went down. And we want to make sure with him that we give him the right practice time to get back on the court where he can actually – we don’t want to just throw him out there where he hasn’t had a chance to get reps in practice.   He hasn’t been able to do more than what he did on the court today [Dariq was in uniform, and took shots in the warmup, but he is not yet jumping].  But obviously, he’s out there working every day with our medical team and strength and condition team, and we’ll just continue to take it day-by-day with him and make sure we don’t rush it with him, but also, we want him back as soon as possible.” 

All the news from this game is good.  The offense was smooth, with great ball movement and over 50% shooting.  Duke’s defense was even better than its offense.  The Yellow Jackets scored just 43 points, only 18 in the second half.  And, even better, Duke never committed enough fouls for the Yellow Jackets to reach the bonus; no Duke player had more than 2 fouls for the game.  That is the mark of tough, good defense.  The Blue Devil Bigs made life intolerable for Georgia Tech in the paint, while the perimeter closed down any hope of open shots from deep.

The test is to play like this against the best teams in the ACC and in the postseason. The Blue Devils’ challenge now is to be consistently at this high level against quality teams. 

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (27:36) played more minutes than any other Duke player, and looked back in charge!  He nailed Duke’s first 6 points with a pair of 3s in the first two minutes of the game.  He nailed two more 3s in the second half to account for his 12 points (4-9 from the field including 4-7 from behind the arc).  Jeremy played great defense against Georgia Tech’s best guard, holding him to 5 points.  Jeremy grabbed 5 boards.

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (27:05) played a superb floor game handing out 8 assists without a turnover.  He scored when it was appropriate (7 points on 3-6 from the field, including 1-3 from deep).  The Duke backcourt was in control and made the game smooth and fun.  

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (26:47) was again Duke’s best and most valuable player, scoring 18 points (6-9, including 1-3 from behind the arc and 5-6 from the stripe).  Flip played solid defense, blocking a shot and intimidating Tech at the rim.  Flip dominated the first half, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the opening stanza, as Duke opened a large lead.

Mark Mitchell (25:55) scored 11 points (4-10 from the field, including 0-1 from behind the arc and 3-5 from the foul line).  Mark grabbed 6 boards and handed out 4 assists. Mark also played excellent defense.   This time, he had a good game and if he can consistently do that his value will continue to grow.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (23:30) played his best game at Duke – (even better than he played against Miami), scoring 9 points on 4-6, including a wide open 3 — he was 1-2 from deep, firing up but missing a second 3 in the final half — he is finally beginning to shoot 3s, like he did last year.  D-Live grabbed 10 boards and committed only 2 fouls; he appears to be learning how not to foul out. Scheyer: “I thought he did a great job of playing without his hands, not putting his hands on guys. We need him in the game, but we’ll see if we can do that again coming up.” 

He enhanced the efficiency of Duke’s defense and blocked 3 shots.  This was not less than a transformation.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (19:41) led the bench in minutes played and points scored (tied with Ryan Young, each scoring 10 points).  Grandison was 4-6 from the field, including 2-4 from 3land.  Jake played  excellent defense also, contributing 2 rebounds and 2 assists.

Ryan Young (10:20) played the role for which he was recruited, giving D-Live a breather without Duke losing efficiency in the paint.  He did a simply great job at that, scoring 10 points (5-6 from the field) to go with 2 boards and an assist.  

Jaden Schutt (12:49) played enough at game’s end to warrant making it into the rotation.  He scored 4, on 2 excellent drives, after missing 3 from behind the arc (his high school reputation was as a deep shooter).  He may yet ascend to earn playing time when the game is on the line, according to Scheyer, “He’s improved, I’ve been able to see that throughout the course of the year.  He’s kept a great attitude, even though nobody likes not-playing. He gave us some really good minutes today.  Didn’t hit a three, but I thought every one he took was going in. I’ve seen that many times in practice. “

Jaylen Blakes (12:30) is getting better from his broken nose and is looking like his energetic self.  Jaylen made a spectacular steal late in the game leading to a layup, and completed the 3-point play when he cashed the foul shot.  He only had those 3 points, but he also adds depth and value to the roster.

SUMMING UP

Duke is now 6-4 in the ACC. There are 6 ACC teams ahead of Duke in the standings: Clemson (10-1), Virginia (8-2), Pittsburgh (8-3), UNC (7-3) NC State (7-4), Miami (7-4), Syracuse is 6-5. UNC next Saturday  

Next Play: Tuesday, January 31, 2023, v. WAKE FOREST in Cameron. At 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.


Duke Blue Devils 75 v. Wake Forest Demon Deacons 73 (Season 14; Issue 21; Game 22) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 31,2023)

Roach guides his talented freshmen teammates.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes chose to play Basketball Russian Roulette by fielding a small lineup against a taller Duke team – undefeated in Cameron so far this year.  Fortunately, Duke has improved since the Demon Deacons beat them decisively earlier in January at Joel Coliseum.  Mainly, Jeremy Roach has moved to shooting guard, where he is flourishing (when healthy), and Tyrese Proctor has dramatically improved at running the point (he had his best game yet tonight). Even so, the Deacons got hot in the last few minutes and closed their double-digit deficit dramatically.  However, Filipowski iced the game with a three, and then a dunk when Grandison threw a long strike while putting the ball in play from out of bounds..  Also, Duke has been strengthened by starting Dereck Lively, who apparently has paid attention from his seat on the bench to how the clever Ryan Young operates in his place at center.  These improvements – including the Twin Towers of Lively & Filipowski staying out of foul trouble –  make for a better team. Going forward against a team that seems to have had Duke’s number the last few meetings—the North Carolina Tar Heels– will be a better test.

This has been a frustrating, inconsistent year for the talented, but young and often immature, Duke team. To start the season, Lively and Whitehead were injured and not available. Then Roach, their most critical player, injured his toe against Purdue, followed by Whitehead injuring his leg against Boston College. If the players can recover and avoid further injuries, the Blue Devils should be a more consistent, formidable contender going forward.

OTHER COMMENTS:

  • Wake Forest’s Tyree Appleby is about as lethal a guard as there is in the ACC.  In addition to 27 points, he hit a three well after the buzzer, ending the game from what can best be described as the furthest reaches of Steph Curryland. He is six feet tall and can dunk; however,it took him three seasons to average double digit points.  He played at Cleveland State and Florida before transferring to Wake Forest for his fifth season.  This transfer portal and extra Covid year are making a mockery of college basketball.  But it further points out the age and experience differential between Duke freshmen, who look like men but are still boys, and their opponents, some of whom are, literally, grown men.
  • Coach Scheyer made an interesting and savvy adjustment on the final, crucial inbounding play to end the game.  Mitchell, who played a scrappy, blue-collar game, couldn’t make the inbounds pass and called time out. Scheyer replaced Mitchell with the more experienced grad student Grandison to make the pass in; he made a terrific pass (flip in) to Filipowski (who, incidentally, had another double/double game, and made all the points in the last minutes) for a dunk to seal the game.
  • This game demonstrated again how the three point line has changed basketball. Trading threes for twos, or threes for stops, can negate size and make for uneven but exciting games. 
Scheyer confers with his leader on the court.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:

A win is a win in the ACC; Duke held serve at home against Wake, after being badly beaten by the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem.  The Blue Devils looked excellent for almost 35 minutes, but they spent the final 5:28 watching  the 14-point lead shrivel to the final margin of 2 points.. Still, it never seemed as if the Blue Devils were in danger of losing, but the sloppiness at crunch time is nevertheless troubling.  Scheyer, “I felt we were in pretty good control down the stretch.  Jeremy’s steal and Tyrese’s tip-in was a big-time play. [Jeremy’s best play was this amazing steal of a pass meant for Appleby, where he had to spin to gain control of the ball.  He didn’t cash the layup, but Tyrese tipped the miss back in for a spectacular play!!]  Flip obviously hitting the three and then heads up play by Jake and Flip to connect and hit him long to finish.”  [The Grandison long pass to Flip for the dunk combined with Flip’s 3-pointer and Jeremy’s steal are the 3 winning plays Scheyer described]  Stellar moments, for sure.

Duke led 68-54 with 5:28 left in the game and looked exceedingly safe until Duke started to unravel.  With 5:09 left in the game, Ryan Young committed his second foul, and the team’s 9th.  Wake’s best player, Tyree Appleby (27 points in the game), made both foul shots.  68-56.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski missed a 3-point attempt.  Wake rebounded and scored a 3 (68-59).  Young committed an offensive foul (his 3rd; Duke’s 10th).  Roach missed a jumper with 3:38 left; Proctor missed a 3-pointer before Wake scored on a fast break with 2:55 remaining (68-61).  Duke finally scored on a layup by Flip on a sweet assist from Mark Mitchell (70-61 with 2:37 left).  Wake’s Monsanto hit his 2nd straight 3-pointer with 2:08 left in the game (70-64).  Flip missed a 3 pointer (wide open) with 1:35 remaining. Appleby scored on a drive, and he was fouled by Roach on the play, with 1:23 left in the game (Roach’s 4th and Duke’s 11th).  Appleby missed the foul shot (70-66 with 1:23 left).  Then Duke won the game!  Flip hit a big 3-point shot on a wonderful pass from Proctor (73-66 with 47 seconds left).  Proctor drew a foul and, after a timeout, Grandison threw a full court inbounds pass to a streaking Flip for the dunk (75-66 with 39 seconds to play). 

But the Deacons were not done. Wake missed a pair of 3s but collected 3 offensive rebounds – the third was an Appleby put-back. (75-68 with 18 seconds left).  Wake had to foul, and Mitchell went to the line for a one-and-one with 12 seconds on the clock.  When Mitchell missed the front end, the Deacons scored on a fast break (75-70 with 5 seconds left).  Flip was fouled and he missed the front end of a one-and-one.  Appleby hit an incredibly long 3 at the buzzer for the final 75-73 score.

Jeremy Roach had a wonderful first half, scoring 17 points — 21 for the game in 37 minutes.  Scheyer, “We need Jeremy in attack mode and that’s what we need to continue him to do.”

Maybe the best news from yesterday is Dariq Whitehead’s speedy recovery from what looked like a devastating injury.  Scheyer suggested he might play against UNC on Saturday. “It’s too early to say for Saturday, but he’s recovered really well.”

The Defense

Duke gave up 39 second-half points, which is not great defense.  Duke held the Deacons to 34 first-half points.  Not gaudy, but a win.  The greatest defensive concern is that Blue Devil players cannot stop consistently fouling.  Duke committed 20 fouls in the game.  D-Live and Roach committed 4, while Ryan Young, Proctor, and Flip each committed 3.   The Blue Devils’ 11 second-half fouls are especially troubling. Scheyer identified the fouling as a place where Duke has room to grow.  Another concern was the 8 offensive rebounds that Wake grabbed in the second half.  On the positive side, Scheyer mentioned Lively II.  “D-Live to have 3 assists and no turnovers, four blocked shots, he’s just getting better and better.”

The Offense

The Blue Devils shot 50% from the field for the game (27-54 — including 6-17 from deep – plus 15-20 from the stripe).  Duke scored 41 first-half points but scoring tailed off in the closing half – only 34 and failed to close out the game definitively. 

Roach (17 points) and Proctor (7 points) carried Duke’s scoring in the first half; Flip (11 points) and Proctor (10 points) carried the Blue Devils in the closing stanza.  While Duke handed out 13 assists, the 14 turnovers are a continuing, albeit consistent, problem. 

Flip flips it in!
Photo Credit: GoDuke.Com

THE ROTATION

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (37:54) notched another double-double with 11 rebounds, while scoring 16 points (6-14, including 1-4 from behind the arc and 3-5 from the stripe).  Flip played solid defense blocking a shot and intimidating Tech at the rim.  Flip dominated the second half, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the closing stanza.  His lone 3 and the dunk on a fabulous inbounds pass from Grandison were Duke’s key winning plays. 

Jeremy Roach (37:22) played more minutes than he has since his injury, and looked as if he was back in charge – especially in a glorious first half, where he led Duke’s offense with 17 points on 7-10 from the field and 2-3 from deep.  He scored 21 for the game (9-16, including 2-3 from 3land and 1-2 from the foul line). Jeremy guarded Wake’s best player, Tyree Appleby.  It was nice to watch them clearly having fun competing against each other, but Appleby did manage to score 27 points.  

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (31:07) played a superb floor game scoring 17 points (6-11 from the field, including 3-7 from deep plus 2-2 from the line).  Ty’s second half was perhaps his best half of the season.  He scored 10 in the second half to save the Blue Devils.

Mark Mitchell (32:27) played a quiet, valuable game, without much offense.  He scored only 5 points (1-4; 0-1 from behind the arc and 3-4 from the foul line), but had 8 rebounds, an assist, and played hard defense with a pair of steals.  

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (20:14) scoring 7 points on 2-4, including a wishful 0-1 from deep, and 3-4 from the stripe.  D-Live grabbed 6 boards and blocked 4 shots, but was once again in foul trouble (committing 4) which limited his playing time. When D-Live was on the floor, Duke scored 10 more points than Wake did.  He enhanced the efficiency of Duke’s defense and blocked 3 shots in the second half to help preserve the Duke lead.  

Ryan Young (18:44) played almost half the game, as a result of D-Live’s foul problems.  He did a good job on offense, scoring 9 points (3-4 from the field and 3-3 from the stripe) to go with 4 boards and 2 assists.  He committed 3 fouls and had trouble defensively with the Wake Bigs.  When Ryan was on the court, Duke scored 3 fewer points than the Deacs did.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (10:09) was one of 3 Duke players who failed to score (0-1 from deep, with a rebound and two assists).  One of the assists was really the game winner – when Grandison made the great inbounds pass to Flip who was racing for the basket and a crucial dunk to give Duke a 9 point lead with only 39 seconds left in the game.

Jaylen Blakes (7:53) also failed to score or even take a shot, while committing 2 fouls. It was not his finest game.

Jaden Schutt (3:50) was handed a first-half opportunity to see if he could add to Duke’s outside shooting.  However, he did not get a shot up, while committing a foul.  He did not play in the second half. 

SUMMING UP

Scheyer: “We came out and really competed for the whole game. There wasn’t a drop off with that.  We made mistakes and maybe turned the ball over, missed some stuff at the rim, but the competitiveness and the job we did on the backboards [Editorial staff: except for those 8 second-half offensive rebounds] was a big difference.

The Blue Devils need to hold serve against the Tarheels in Cameron.

Next Play: Saturday, February 4, 2023, v. UNC in Cameron. At 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Ty- on point! becoming the full package: ball handling, scoring, and leadership.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 63 v. UNC Tarheels 57 (Season 14; Issue 22; Game # 23) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 4, 2023)

D-Live Flying high, with a great block out by Grandison. Photo Credit: News & Observer/ Ethan Hyman & Robert Willet
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

After several injuries and a disappointing start to the ACC season, Coach Scheyer made a couple of changes to the Blue Devil line-up  as well as changing how much playing time his bench gets.  The changes produced an impressive win against a struggling, but always dangerous, North Carolina squad, four members of which started for, and almost won, the NCAA Championship last year. By rearranging the Duke players on the deck of the proverbial floundering Titanic, the coaches may have found the key combination to this young team.  Moving Proctor to full time point guard to give Jeremy Roach time to heal, and lo and behold Tyrese became a much more productive contributor, and Jeremy (four 20 point games), a very effective shooting guard. Secondly, he started and gave more playing time to Dereck Lively (8 blocks & 14 rebounds) who has matured into a wonderful rim protector and rebounder. [Editorial Staff: some of those changes were necessitated by Dariq’s injury.]

Teaming Lively with Filipowski gives Duke two tall, tough defenders and rebounders (with Ryan Young as a savvy replacement for either player) who are prone to committing too many fouls.  If this team can find a consistent offense, they will be a formidable contender as the ACC does not yet have a dominant team this year.

I watched the game with Johnny Tar Heel. He commented that Carolina’s departed versatile power forward Brady Manek was the key to last year’s team and that his replacement, Pete Nance, has proved to be anything but.  It is interesting how one player can upset the chemistry and effectiveness of an entire basketball team.

Nationally, Purdue appears to be the best, but was beaten by Indiana yesterday. The rest of the season will tell the tale of which teams have learned the most, have avoided major injuries, are the toughest, and are playing the best basketball.

ALANALYSIS:

Duke’s best performance of the season came in the same game as Dereck (D-Live) Lively II’s best performance of the season.  There was no coincidence involved.  D-Live dominated the paint, and eventually gained the advantage over Tarheel super star Armando Bacot.  In the first half, D-Live blocked 4 shots and garnered 4 offensive rebounds, but could not stop Bacot.  Armando scored 12 of his 14 game-points and grabbed 7 of his 10 rebounds in the opening stanza.  The key to D-Live’s first half was committing only a single foul in his 16 minutes! 

The second half, however, belonged totally to D-Live. He held Bacot to a single field goal (1-4 in the second half) while out scoring Bacot 4-2.  D-Live was 2-2 on dunks for his 4 points — the second dunk put Duke ahead 59-57 with only 1:35 remaining in the game.  Bacot retrieved only 3 second-half rebounds; he turned it over once without an assist, a steal, or a blocked shot.  In contrast, Lively dominated the backboard, hauling in 10 second-half rebounds (5 on offense), and blocking another 4 Carolina shots (several of the blocks were simply spectacular).  Basically, Lively II took Bacot out of the game in the second half.  If we remember Bacot’s absolute domination of Mark Williams in the National Semi-Final last year that cost Duke the game, D-Lives’s achievement gains even more stature. 

Jeremy Roach played like a captain.  He showed his young teammates what being superb in the clutch is all about on both offense and defense.  The game was tied at 55 with 5:24 left in the game, and again at 57 with 3:58 remaining.  The Duke defense (and some bad Carolina plays) limited the Tarheels to 4 points in the last 6:20 of the game.  That is team defense.  Carolina finished with the same 57 points as the team had had with 3:58 left in the game.  And, the Blue Devils did it without fouling (UNC was limited to 2-3 from the foul line for the game).

With  4:20 left in the game, Jeremy made a driving layup to break the 55- all tie; he was also fouled, but missed the foul shot. 57-55 Duke.  Nobody scored for a bit.  D-Live blocked a UNC driving layup on a play where Flip was injured while also going for the block, with 4:09 left in the game.  Flip had to come out of the game.  Carolina tied the score at 57 – 3:57 left.  Roach had his layup blocked (3:42 left) before Carolina missed another jump shot 5 seconds later.  Lively II corralled that rebound, but Proctor turned it over on a bad pass with 3:04 remaining.  Flip stole the ball and was fouled with 2:41 still to play, but missed the front end of a one and one.  Tyrese blocked a Davis drive and Flip collected the ball to set the scene for Duke’s winning plays.

With 1:57 to go Flip missed a layup, which D-Live rebounded.  Roach missed on a drive 20 seconds later, but D-Live again grabbed the offensive rebound and slammed it home for a 59-57 Blue Devil lead with 1:35 left in this exciting game.

If D-Live’s dunk with 1:35 left to put Duke ahead was not the play of the game, then the play that occurred in the last minute of the game was.   After D-Live’s dunk, Carolina called a timeout, trailing 59-57.  With 1:05 left, star UNC guard, Leaky Black (13 points, including 3-6 from deep), launched a 3-pointer that missed.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski rebounded his miss.  With only 38 seconds left, Flip drove to the basket, but missed. …….. Here comes the Play of The Game: Flip rebounded his own miss, and Duke called time out to regroup, with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.  With 23 seconds left in the game, and the shot clock winding down, Duke’s captain spectacularly iced the game for the Blue Devils.  Jeremy used a screen and drove to his right and down the lane.  Bacot slid over to block the shot, but Duke’s captain shifted to his left and dropped in a gorgeous layup with his left hand.  Duke 61 – UNC 57.  Jeremy closed out the game going 2-2 from the stripe with 9 seconds left.  Jeremy was clutch on both ends of the court.

Tyrese Proctor’s play at point guard continued to be scintillating.  He scored 11 points and handed out 5 assists.  His control of the offense has let Jeremy reach toward his potential as a scorer – 20 points to lead Duke in scoring against the Tarheels.  The Captain played all 40 minutes of the game with energy and aplomb.  To the great relief of Duke fans, his toe seems to be healed.

The Defense

Duke allowed the Tarheels only 25 second-half points, which is great defense.  D-Live gets much credit for that result from his domination of the paint and protection of the rim.  The greatest defensive improvement is that Duke played effective defense without fouling.  Duke committed only 11 fouls in the game – and the last 2 in the game’s waning seconds were intentionally committed to drain time away from UNC’s offensive effort; so really 9.  UNC never made it to the bonus in either half, taking only 3 foul shots for the entire game!  Carolina has averaged 18 foul shot attempts per game, scoring above 14 points per game from the foul line.  Limiting UNC to a pair of points from the foul line was great defense. 

At the press conference after Duke beat Pittsburgh last Tuesday,  Scheyer prophetically said,  “D-Live to have 3 assists and no turnovers, four blocked shots, he’s just getting better and better.”  He certainly was “better and better” against Bacot and UNC.

The Offense

The Blue Devils were 24 -61 from the field, including 4-11 from deep, plus 11 – 15 from the stripe.  Duke scored 33 first-half points, but only 30 in the second half.  Critically, Duke closed out the game definitively and dramatically for the win.

Roach (20 points), Flip (14 points), and Proctor (11 points) carried the Blue Devils on offense.  While Duke handed out 10 assists on 24 baskets, the 12 turnovers are a continuing problem.

Jeremy’s winning left handed layup with 23 seconds left in the game. Photo Credit: News & Observer/ Ethan Hyman & Robert Willet

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (40:00) is back!  Captain Jeremy scored 20 points, 10 in each half, including the outcome-determining last 4 of the game.   Jeremy shot 8-20 from the field, including 1-2 from deep,  plus 3-4 from the foul line.  Jeremy  aggressively guarded Wake’s best guard, R.J Davis.  Duke’s captain had 7 rebounds; Duke outrebounded UNC 46-40.  He played with heart and leadership, and never came out of the game, not even for a minute, an excellent example for the team from The Captain. 

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (37:45) played a superb floor game, scoring 11 points (5-13 from the field, including 1-2 from deep).  Ty’s confidence is growing visibly as he takes charge of running the offense.  He handed out 5 assists.  He is a tenacious defender, exemplified by his 2 steals and a block.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (35:00) scored 14 points (4-14, including 1-3 from behind the arc and 5-7 from the stripe).  Flip grabbed 7 boards and played solid defense, blocking 2 shots, and joined with his fellow 7-footer D-Live to intimidate the Tarheels at the rim.   

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (33:38) played what is undoubtedly his best game since coming to Duke.   He was finally the eagerly-awaited Freshman super star! as his 14 rebounds and 8 (yes, 8) blocked shots demonstrates.  He held even with UNC’s star big man, Armando Bacot (already the leading rebounder in the history of Tarheel basketball), and began to dominate him as the 2nd half wound down.  D-Live committed 2 fouls while blocking 8 shots.  In addition, he scored 4 on a pair of dunks – the second dunk broke the 57-57.  He and Jeremy willed the Blue Devils to the win. 

Mark Mitchell (27:58) played yet another quiet, but valuable, game.  Mark does a bit of everything.  He scored 6 points (2-5 from the field, plus 2-3 from the foul line).  Mark had 8 rebounds and an assist.  He played aggressive defense.  He is what has become known as “a glue guy”.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (17:25) scored 6 points in a valuable role off the bench (2-5, including 1-3 from deep, plus 1-1 from the stripe). He made a great pass to Ryan Young for an assist and a sweet hoop.

Ryan Young (5:59) was 1-1 from the field for his 2 points and garnered a pair of rebounds.  His playing time was dramatically curtailed as a result of D-Live’s spectacular performance. 

Jaylen Blakes (2:15) failed to score or even take a shot (again), while handing out an assist.  His broken nose is obviously adversely impacting him, which has reduced his playing time.

SUMMING UP

If  Dariq can return to his form of last year, as D-Live did against the Tarheels, and D-Live continues to play at the level he did in the second half against Bacot and UNC, the season’s prospects – which darkened dramatically when Dariq went down in the Boston College game while Jeremy was slow to return to form post-injury — have brightened. D-Live seemed transformed.  He was so athletic, moving like a lead ballet dancer with a high basketball IQ.  Duke ascends into being an elite team if and when D-Live’s level of play is consistently what it was in the second half.  There is still a potential for this to be a season to remember.

Moreover, Duke is only one game behind in the loss column  in the hunt for the ACC regular season title –Clemson and UVA both lost yesterday, and now have 3 losses: Clemson (10-3); UVA and Pittsburgh (9-3); NC State and Miami (9-4); while Duke is 8-4; and UNC (7-5).  A regular season championship, which looked impossible just a couple of games ago, is again within Duke’s reach.

Perhaps the most important game of the season was not UNC, but rather will be this coming Monday night (only a day of rest) in Coral Gables against a surging Miami team that beat UVA while Duke was beating UNC.  A loss would take all the air out of Duke’s balloon (newly infused by the performance against the Tarheels).

Next Play: Monday, February 6, 2023, at Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Two former players who bring their understanding of the true significance of college basketball’s best rivalry to their coaching. Photo Credit: News & Observer/ Ethan Hyman & Robert Willet

Duke Blue Devils 59 v. Miami Hurricanes 81 (Season 14; Issue 23; Game 24) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 6, 2023)

Duke Blue Devils women’s head coach Kara Lawson speaks wisdom.  Photo credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Welcome to big-time college basketball. A rule of thumb in sports is this: the game after a big, emotional win is a very difficult game, one which validates the quality, focus, and maturity of a team.  You often see it in tournament basketball — especially with a short two-day turn around.  Certainly, Coach Scheyer and his staff know this all too well–they have been there and done that.  Obviously, his players, if they did, were not prepared for a team as talented and well coached as the Miami team, which beat them in every phase of the game at every position, from the opening tip until the final buzzer.  Whoever scheduled this away game two days after the Duke-UNC game, didn’t do the Blue Devils any favors.  But that is beside the point.  Life and schedules are not always fair.  You must give Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga and his players all the credit.  You don’t often see a college basketball team give away this much height, and play all phases of the game this impressively, for forty minutes of an epic 22 point win, against a team that the Devils beat just a few weeks ago.

Lesson learned.  Suck it up.  Next game!

ALANALYSIS:

Jim Carroll wrote a book about his counter-culture life as a high school basketball star in New York City.  He later became a well-known musician, who was friends with Patty Smith.  His high school team was a powerhouse.  The team went to Central Park before games to buy illegal uppers and downers – the uppers for before the game, the downers for after.  Carroll writes about one time where they mixed up the pills and took the downers before the game.  It felt as if their feet were stuck to the floor, and they moved in slow motion.  The Coach had to replace the starting lineup early.

Duke’s performance against the Hurricanes in Coral Gables floated that story to the top of my mind.  Miami’s opening run in the first nearly 3 minutes was emblematic of the entire game.  In that time, Miami led 13-1, made shots, stole the ball from the Blue Devils, and generally made it look like professionals playing against a Junior High team.  Was it that bad?  Yes, it was. Duke committed 21 turnovers.  With 5 seconds left in the game and nothing going on, Blakes lost the ball while dribbling.  Duke had Miami players simply rip the ball out of their hands, after grabbing a rebound or starting a drive.  Miami got every 50-50 ball. That’s the way the game went….. all night.  It was, for me, and I hazard to say for every other Duke fan, painful to watch, which is why I would rather write about Jim Carroll than about this game.  

The Defense

Duke gave up a pair of 40-point halves (41 in the second) – allowed the Hurricanes to shoot 48% from the field and 41% from behind the arc.  Miami was 10-11 from the stripe.  Miami grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, outrebounding the – much taller – Blue Devils 38-31.  Duke did collect 12 offensive rebounds, but failed to score on put backs with any consistency.  Miami scored at will.

The Offense

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II tied with Ryan Young to lead Duke in scoring with 11 points.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski scored 9 first-half points and grabbed 9 first-half rebounds.  Those were also his totals for the game.  He looked to me as if his effort against UNC and the punishment he took in that game took the gas out of his tank for this game.  The second half is the first time D-Live and Ryan have playing at the same time. Possibly trying to make up for Flip’s state of exhaustion?

The backcourt was abysmal.  Jeremy Roach and Tyrese (Ty) Proctor each had 5 turnovers and Jaylen Blakes had 3.  Ty scored 3, Jeremy 10 (but only 3 in the first half).

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (31:09) scored 10 points, but was outplayed by the Miami backcourt on both ends of the floor in each half.   Jeremy shot 3-8 from the field (1-6 in the first half), including 1-3 from deep, plus 3-3 from the foul line.  Duke’s captain handed out 4 assists against 5 turnovers.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (28:07) scored 9 points (4-12, including 1-4 from behind the arc, without a free throw attempt).  Flip grabbed 9 boards, handed out 2 assists, and had 4 steals. He committed 3 turnovers.  He left the game when he committed his third foul early in the second half and did not return.  

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (26:27) tied for being Duke’s leading scorer with 11 points (5-6 from the field, including 0-1 from 3land, plus 1-2 from the stripe).  He did hold on to 6 boards and blocked 5 shots.  The good news is that he only committed 2 fouls.

Mark Mitchell (24:10) played yet another quiet game.   Mark does a bit of everything.  He scored 5 points (2-8 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, plus 1-1 from the foul line).  Mark also had 3 rebounds, two steals, and a block. 

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (23:01) scored 2 points in a valuable role off the bench (0-3 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, plus 2-2 from the stripe. He garnered 4 rebounds and handed out 4 assists.

Ryan Young (17:47) was tied with D-Live for being the Blue Devil scoring leader with 11 points (5-6 from the field, plus 1-1 from the stripe) to go with four rebounds and an assist.  He did turn it over 3 times. 

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (18:55) was off his game, scoring only 3 points (1-6 from the field, including 1-3 from deep).  Tellingly, Ty did not take a foul shot.  He handed out 4 assists but committed five turnovers.  Miami drove around him to the basket at will. 

Jaylen Blakes 16:59) scored 5 points (1-4 from the field, including 1-3 from behind the arc, plus 2-3 from the stripe).  Jaylen contributed 3 rebounds and 2 assists, but 3 turnovers.

Jaden Schutt (11:24 ) was 1-2 from deep for his 3 points, to go with an assist.

SUMMING UP

After the UNC game, we wrote, “perhaps the most important game of the season was not UNC, but rather will be Monday night (only a day of rest) in Coral Gables against a surging Miami team that beat UVA while Duke was beating UNC.  A loss would take all the air out of Duke’s balloon (infused by the performance against the Tarheels).”   If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the air escaping.

My new favorite coach, Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson, imparted great wisdom in a press conference.  The women lost to UNC and then played Syracuse and won.  Her comments were profound. “no one goes undefeated in life.  How you deal with the loss is what matters.” She said that after a loss, you should own the bad feelings, but then it was time to move on.  “Everybody loses … in basketball and in life.  If you stay with the loss, it can linger, one loses confidence, and the loss builds into a losing streak. That’s what we teach our team.  And, yeah, we also teach Xs and Os.”

Next Play: Saturday, February 11, 2023, at UVA in Charlottesville. at 4:00 p.m. on ESPN.


Duke Blue Devils 62 v. Virginia Cavaliers 69 (Season 14; Issue 24; Game #25) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 11, 2023)

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

This Duke team can’t seem to catch a break.  Playing at Charlottesville against a typical Tony Bennett veteran team, which consistently punches above its weight class (in more ways than one), Duke got the business end  of what the ACC termed “an incorrect adjudication of the playing rules.”  This resulted in the game going to overtime, where No. 8 UVA won 69-62 – an outcome which enhances the Cavaliers’ chances of winning an ACC regular-season championship while simultaneously damaging Duke’s hopes of earning a top four-seed and a double-bye for the conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C. next month. 

“A foul was called onVirginia’s Ryan Dunn during a shot attempt by Duke’s Kyle Filipowski as time expired,” the ACC statement said. “Upon the officials’ review of the play,it was determined that the foul committed occurred after the clock reached 0.0.  However, the play should have resulted in two free throws for Duke.” (If Thomas Jefferson were still alive, he surely would have rectified the situation and awarded Kyle the free throws. Even Johnny Tar Heel said it was the worst, most crucial call he had ever seen!) That does not account for the play clock starting too soon.  And that doesn’t mean Filipowski would have made one or two free throws – he had not scored a point in the game, but shoots 76.6% from the foul line and never got the chance to win the game. Time had expired.  The game went into overtime, and the Blue Devils lost that quite decisively.

For the second game in a row, Duke had an unacceptable 20+ turnovers but, on the other hand, the Cavaliers missed 13 free throws.  When Duke was up by 7 points in the first half, they had three possessions in a row where they made several consecutive turnovers without getting off a shot.  That is one of the reasons this team rarely makes the kind runs, which, in the past, have determined close games.  And how does Roach score like an All-American in one half and disappear in the next?  And why does seven-foot Filipowski have so many shots blocked and make so many offensive charges?  Jon Scheyer was one of the smartest and most productive players in Duke history.  Surely, he knows the answers…..

I guess you could say Virginia is more than the sum of their parts, and Duke is less than the sum of their parts. The good news: perhaps some of the freshmen will look at the season, and their play, and decide that “one and done” is not in their best, long-term interest.

ALANALYSIS:

As a criminal defense lawyer, I have vast experience in absorbing “result-oriented” decisions.  A result-oriented decision is one made where the facts and applicable rules give way to the arbiter’s desire for a given result. While I am used to it in my profession, I was flabbergasted by the referees at the end of regulation.  

As we all saw in exquisite close-up detail  (reproduced above) there was still time left in the game when Flip was fouled.  This is critical when we examine the ACC’s ruling below.  

It calls to mind the old saying that “one picture is worth 1,000 words”.  In a tie score game, Kyle (Flip) Filipowski was fouled – in the act of shooting – while there was still time on the clock.  The correct decision was obviously to have  awarded him 2 foul shots.  In all likelihood that would have sent the UVA fans home in sadness (if Flip made just 1 of the 2 foul shots he had earned).  The “result-oriented” decision – dramatically impeached by visual evidence – gave Virginia an overtime.  My lawyer instinct was “objection!” or file an appeal – available in law but not in ACC basketball.

Scheyer: “Well, they told me after the fact that the call was made after the buzzer. And you can see the ball left his hands before point-zero.  So, I don’t know exactly what the rule is.  I’d like to get some clarification, understand.  But the call was made, so I don’t know how the call can be taken away.  But again, I just would like clarity.  Jacob Grandison hits a big-time three to tie it.  You have a chance to win. And to attack the basket like that, that’s a big-time move.  To not be rewarded, I feel for Flip and our team.  And then you have to move on in overtime.  And we needed one more stop that we couldn’t get down the stretch in overtime.”  Duke trailed 63-62 with 1:11 seconds left in overtime when the Blue Devils did not get the needed stop.  Instead, Virginia’s Arman Franklin’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds left was the shot of the game, and sent Duke to defeat.

This was not a controversial block-charge call, where mistakes are frequently made.  There is a huge difference between a bad call and a “result-oriented” decision.

 (… Buckle up for the Alanalysis Legal Seminar)  

The ACC tries to dodge the appearance of a “result-oriented” decision in favor of the “ bad call”  by deeming it an incorrect interpretation of the rules – but begins with a glaring factual error.  “The referees stated that the foul occurred after the clock hit 0.0”   That is pure, unadulterated bovine excrement as the photo shows indisputably that there was still time left on the clock when the foul was committed.  Using the false premise that the foul was committed after time had expired but while the ball was still in flight, the ACC created the “bad call” story of a rules violation, which, of course, contains no remedy for the error.  

“Rule 5, Section 7, Article 3c:  when a foul occurs so near the expiration of time that the official timer cannot stop the game clock before time expires, or the foul occurs after time expires but the ball is in flight during a try, the period shall end when the free throw(s) and all related activity have been completed..”

A.R. 130, Section 2 – “Where the shooter A1 releases the ball, time expires, A-1 is fouled while the ball is in flight and the try is unsuccessful, since the try was released before the expiration of time and since the foul occurred after time expired but while the ball was in flight and A1 was an airborne shooter, A1 shall attempt two free throws even if the first is successful.”

So, per ACC’s rules, Flip still should have gotten the foul shots, but “The conference considers the matter closed and will have no further comment.”

THE GOOD, BAD AND UGLY

The Good

The Return of Dariq Whitehead

After missing 4 games, Dariq played more than 25 minutes and scored in double figures – 10 points.  It’s been an injury plagued mess of a season for Dariq, but there is still time for him to lift the Blue Devils into being a tough out in the postseason.  It’s time for him to blossom.

Scheyer: “I’ll tell you what … Dariq, to come back after not playing for a couple weeks, in this environment, against their defense, and to give us that lift says a lot about him. We want him to really be ready and feel confident to play.  To come out and hit those shots and be able to create.  He played more minutes than I thought he even could tonight, so that’s encouraging.  He needs to use this as a launching board to just go from here.  But I’m really proud of him for coming back and stepping up and again, making plays to give us a chance to win that.” 

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor’s Growth

Ty and Jeremy Roach were Duke’s scoring in the first half (20 of the Blue Devils’ 27 points – 8 for Proctor in 16:26).  With Jeremy in foul trouble (he fouled out with 3:15 left in OT), Ty played every minute of the second half and the overtime.  He scored all 4 of Duke’s overtime points, including a nifty drive to the basket, to bring Duke within a point (63-62) with a little over a minute left.

The Return of Duke’s Fighting Spirit

Unlike the last game against Miami, where the Blue Devils rolled over and played dead for 40 minutes, Duke never gave up, and played hard, with genuine passion, every single minute. 

Scheyer: “Our guys, they battled their asses off for 40 minutes.  Did some really good things, there’s of course some things we could’ve done better, but to put ourselves in a position to win and it was disappointing. …   But still, putting ourselves in a position to win, we competed like crazy. We battled like crazy, and we were able to overcome some of those mistakes.” 

The Bad

Flip

Flip has been Duke’s best player all year, and one of the best freshmen in the country.  Yet, he has now played three full halves in a row without scoring a single point!  He was scoreless in the second half against Miami, and he failed to score a single point against the Cavaliers.  

Scheyer: “He just didn’t have that same pop that he normally does. And for whatever reason, had a hard time getting out of it.  You still think though, he’s going to make a play. Every time, even when he hasn’t played as well, he comes through. And at the end of the game, we wanted him in, he made a big-time play attacking the basket, and there’s no doubt he’s knocking down those free throws, in my mind. That’s the kind of competitor and who he is as a person. But obviously, it was a tough night for him that he couldn’t quite shake.” 

Flip is committing turnovers, having his shots blocked, and doesn’t seem to be the same player he has been since the season began.  If it is more than a slump –profound exhaustion or worse – it is very bad.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II 

After a breakout game against UNC that had the announcers searching for adjectives (and Bill Russell statistics), and a solid game against Miami (11 points), D-Live returned to his fouling ways, scoring only 2 points, while earning him a prolonged seat on the bench.  In under 6 minutes, he committed his first 2 fouls, which caused Scheyer to take him out for the remainder of the first half.   He played less than 5 minutes in the second half (3rd foul) and not at all in the overtime. The result was that D-Live simply did not impact the game.  He didn’t take a shot from the field, scored only 2 points (2-2 from the stripe) in the game, without a blocked shot.  It’s amazing Duke came as close to winning as they did with their two star freshman contributing just 2 points.  D-Live has demonstrated his ability to impact a big game.  He needs to do it consistently if Duke is to save its fast-crumbling season.

The Overtime

Ty, Dariq, and Grandison played all five minutes. Ryan played  4:15.  Mark Mitchell played 2:04, Roach 1:45, and Flip 1:56.  Duke  had 10 overtime possessions. Duke committed turnovers on its first 3 possessions of the overtime – offensive foul by Flip, a travel by Proctor, and a charge by Roach (his fifth). The Blue Devils trailed 63-58 with 2:58 remaining.  Ty scored on a layup with  2:45 left for Duke’s first overtime points.  63-60. Grandison stole the ball, but Ryan missed a layup (his only shot of the overtime).  2:07 remaining.  UVA missed; Ryan retrieved the rebound with 1:40 left. Ty made his second driving layup to make the score 63-62 with 1:11 left.  After Franklin swished his game winning 3 with 40 seconds left, Duke trailed 66-62, and Proctor lost the ball for a turnover with 34 seconds left. The Blue Devils had to foul.  When the Cavaliers missed the second free throw, Ryan got the rebound. Tyrese missed a 3 with 22 seconds left, but Flip corralled the offensive rebound and was fouled.  He missed the front end of the 1-and-1 with 18 seconds left.  Ty missed a driving layup with 9 seconds left and Dariq threw up a desperation 3 that missed with 3 seconds on the game clock.  Not counting Dariq’s late 3-point miss,  Duke had 10 possessions (11 if Flip’s offensive rebound is considered) and took only five shots, but turned it over 5 times.   Flip missed Duke’s only overtime free throw (UVA shot 10).  10 possessions; only 5 shot attempts and only 4 points.  Bad.

The Ugly

Turnovers on Offense

The Blue Devils turned the ball over 22 times – 8 by the starting backcourt: Jeremy Roach 5 and Ty 3 (all in the first half).  Flip turned it over 5 times (seemed like more).  Duke out-rebounded UVA by 15 (39-24) but turned it over 13 times more than Virginia did.  So, the Blue Devils earned 5 fewer shot attempts.  It is amazing Duke almost won despite the turnovers.

Scheyer: “The fact that we put ourselves in a position to win despite the 22 turnovers, it’s not going to be a winning recipe for us. And that’s on us. Our guys, we need to do a better job of that.  … too many gifts for them.” 

Fouling

Duke committed a whopping 24 fouls in the game.  Allowing that Duke was forced to foul twice in the last 18 seconds of the overtime, 22 fouls is still a disaster.  The Blue Devils fouled 10 times in the first half, 7 in the second half, and 7 (really 5) in the overtime.  Duke commits many offensive fouls (that are not controversial) which escalates the turnover amount (an offensive foul is recorded as a turnover).  When the Blue Devils avoid fouling (as against UNC), Duke’s defense is excellent.

The Defense in the Paint

UVA scored 42 of their 69 points in the painted area beneath the foul line, 18 more points than Duke scored in the paint.  It is obvious and statistically corroborated that the Blue Devils do not defend in that area nearly as well when Ryan Young is playing center as they do when D-Live does, as he did against UNC and Armando Bacot.

Scheyer: “We gave them a lot of layups. Another number for me, 42 points in the paint, not a good recipe.” 

Lack of Balanced Scoring on Offense

Mark Mitchell (3 points), Flip (0 points),  D-Live (2 points). and Ryan (6 points, all foul shots) constitute 4 players, three of whom played more than 27 minutes, contributing only 11 points.  

THE ROTATION

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (41:26) was the glue for Duke in a helter-skelter game.  After sitting out 3:34 in the first half, Ty played every minute of the game after that – 20 minutes in the second half and all 5 minutes of the overtime.  He scored 14 points (6-12 from the field, including 2-5 from deep, without a free throw attempt.  He scored all 4 of Duke’s points in the overtime (2-4 from the field, but 0-1 from deep), with 2 turnovers in the overtime.

Jeremy Roach (31:21) was Duke’s high scorer with 16 points, (7-11 from the field, including 2-5 from 3land, without a free throw attempt), but scored 9 of his points (9 of Duke’s first 11 points) in the first 8:46 of the game, and 12 of his 16 in the opening half.  Jeremy had 5 turnovers and 2 assists without a rebound.   The Captain was in foul trouble the entire game – 2 in each half; fouling out after 1:45 had gone by in the overtime.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (31:19) scored 11 points in a valuable role off the bench (4-7 from the field, including 3-6 from deep, without a free throw attempt. He garnered a rebound and had a steal.  He made Duke’s biggest shot of the game, a 3 from the corner to tie the game at 58 with 51 seconds left in the game.  He played all 5 minutes of the overtime.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (29:51) had a nightmare of a game.  He was scoreless (0-6 from the field, including 0-1 from 3land and 0-2 from the stripe). Flip grabbed 6 boards, handed out an assist, and blocked a shot. He committed 5 turnovers.  Flip has not scored in 60 minutes of play, having been scoreless as well in the second half against Miami.  He is a ship that has to be righted if Duke is going to have any postseason success.  

Ryan Young (27:49) was Duke’s anchor in the middle for a majority of the game.  While he did not score from the field (0-2), Ryan was 6-6 from the stripe for his 6 points.  He was a valuable rebounder with 11 (4 offensive) to go with 3 assists and 2 turnovers.  Ryan was 0-1 with 3 rebounds in his 4:15 of the overtime, while  committing his 4th foul in the overtime.  

Mark Mitchell (27:21) played yet another quiet game.   Mark did a bit of everything but scored only 3 points (1-4 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, plus 1-2 from the foul line).  Mark had 8 rebounds, a steal, and a block.  Two turnovers.

Dariq Whitehead (25:05) returned to playing after missing 4 games, which was high on the list among Blue Devil bright spots.  He scored 10 points (4-7 from the field, including 2-4 from 3land, without a foul shot attempt) in a much longer time on the floor than was anticipated.  Dariq played all 5 minutes of the overtime.  

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (10:35) committed 2 fouls early in the game and was inexplicably not a factor. D-Live scored 2 points (without a field goal attempt; 2-2 from the stripe).  He did hold on to 3 boards but did not block a shot. D-Live played only 4:15 in the second half and not at all in the overtime.  

SUMMING UP

While Duke did not deserve to lose to UVA, neither were the Blue Devils (in Coach K’s vernacular) “worthy of winning”, given the turnovers, the fouls, and sloppy play.  

Inconsistency continues to plague the 2022-23 edition.  Jeremy is brilliant and then not; Flip is ACC rookie of the week multiple times and then doesn’t score at all for 3 consecutives halves. D-Live stars against UNC (8 blocks, 14 boards in 34 minutes, while committing only 2 fouls) and then warms the bench without meaningful contributions in a crucial game against UVA.  

The season is a long way from being over for such a young team.  Will Scheyer be able to banish the inconsistency and blend the obvious talents of his players into a force in the postseason?  That begins with the…

Next Play: Tuesday, February 14, 2023, vs Notre Dame in Cameron Indoor Stadium. at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.


Duke Blue Devils 68  v. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 64 (Season 14; Issue 25; Game #26) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 14, 2023)

Special guest stars!  A wonderful gesture of respect for Mike Brey and his years at Duke. Photo credit: Rob Kinnan/ USA TODAY Sports
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke Basketball returned to normal in Cameron tonight as the Blue Devils beat Notre Dame. Coach K and wife Mickie were in the house!  The reason may have been that Irish Coach Mike Brey, the winningest coach in Irish history, had been an assistant to Coach K during the heady years of the early 1990’s when Duke ascended to the stratospheric heights of the intercollegiate basketball world. No matter their record, Notre Dame has always been a tough out for Duke, and tonight was no different, as the Irish are well coached (even if they are undersized and having a disappointing season).  

Kyle Filipowski took full advantage of his height differential and often posted down low for his critical 22 points, as no other Duke player scored in double digits. However, for the second straight game, Coach Scheyer drew up the perfect game ending play—only tonight the referees did not disallow it– when he spread the floor, gave Captain Jeremy Roach the ball at the top of the key to drive the lane, with forwards Mitchell and Whitehead in each of the far corners.  Roach drove the lane, was challenged, and passed to an open Mitchell in the left corner. Mitchell drained a three to ice the game! 

The Blue Devils did not play a perfect game, but they led for 32 of the 40 minutes and made about half as many turnovers (10) as they did in losses to Miami & UVA.  Now they must play like this on the road.

ALANALYSIS:

The Big Picture: Duke bounced back with a win!  And Kyle (Flip) Filipowski bounced back with a 22-point performance, after not scoring a point in his last 3 halves of play. 

However, it wasn’t pretty, with Duke again losing a 14-point lead (42-28 with 15:37 left in the game) and needing (and getting) dramatic winning plays.  The last double-digit Blue Devil lead was with 8:22 left in the game (52-42) before Irish Dane Goodwin put on a show; he scored 5 in the next 2 possessions to cut the Duke lead to 5 (52-47 with 6:26 remaining).  After Flip added a layup, Goodwin scored on a layup and a free throw (54-50 with 4:25 remaining).  Flip and Dane traded baskets (56-52 with 4:29 left in the game) before Tyrese (Ty) Proctor made an acrobatic driving layup.  Then, Jeremy Roach also drove for a dramatic layup.  The Fighting Irish scored on a layup, which was matched by Flip’s 2 free throws.  Duke had an 8-point lead (62-54 with 2:17 on the clock) before things got really tight.

Duke failed to corral a defensive rebound, allowing Dane Goodwin to grab an offensive rebound and find a teammate for a 3-pointer.  62-57 with 2:03 left in the game.  Flip had a layup blocked, which Goodwin rebounded and made an assist to a teammate for a deep 3 (62-60 with 1:27 to go).  Roach was fouled with 55 seconds left in the game.  He made the first but missed the chance to extend the Blue Devil lead to 2 possessions when he missed the second foul shot. 63-60.  Then Scheyer made a dramatic substitution removing Grandison and Dariq Whitehead in favor of Dereck (D-Live) Lively II and Mark Mitchell.

Goodwin rebounded Jeremy’s missed foul shot before Notre Dame hit a driving layup, cutting the Duke lead to 63-62 with 36 seconds left.  Scheyer did not call a timeout, rather trusting Jeremy and Flip to get a score.  Jeremy drove and dished it off to a wide-open Mark Mitchell in the corner for the game’s biggest play – swish for 3 points to give Duke a 66-62 lead with 12 seconds left!  Scheyer, “I don’t think Mark has played his best as of late, and every day he [shoots an extra] 100 corner threes, and he works religiously on shooting before and after practice.  Our coaches do a great job with him.  So, to come back in late, they plug off of him in the corner, Jeremy kicks it to him.  That is a big-time shot!”

But, the Irish were not quite done, missing a layup, but grabbing an offensive rebound to score.  66-64 with 3 seconds left.  Ty was fouled and stepped to the line for 1-and-1; if he missed either, it would open the door for a last desperation-shot to tie or win.  Ty hit both free throws without touching the rim!  Final score Duke 68 Notre Dame 64.  Not pretty, but a win.

THE GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY

The Good

Flip’s Return to form 

Flip has been pummeled in recent games, frequently landing on the floor, punched in the face, etc. That may have contributed to his not scoring for 3 complete, consecutive halves.  Against Notre Dame, Flip seemed his old self, leading Duke in scoring with 22 points. 

Scheyer: “Flip coming off of a really tough game at Virginia to bounce back the way that he did, to carry the load throughout was huge….He handled it great.  I think that the toughest part: he didn’t even practice these last two days.  He could hardly walk on Sunday; yesterday, it was better, where he could do some light jogging, and spot shooting, but he couldn’t even go contact or five-on-five.  So, to come out, he just looked great to start the game.  He’s such a difference maker for us, the attention that he gets.  He’s resilient.  He’s been The Guy since day one of this summer. It has not been smooth sailing; he has had his ups and downs, and he’s taken coaching every step of the way.  He continues to work, and he just wants to win.  I thought you saw that tonight and really, they had to change their defense because of him.” 

The Defense in the First Half

The Blue Devils held the Fighting Irish to 23 points on 10-28, including 1-11 from deep.  Duke committed only 4 first half fouls.

Mark Mitchell’s Second Half

After a scoreless first half (6:35 on the court, missing his only shot without a rebound), Mark simply blossomed in the closing period.  In a bit over 8 minutes, he scored 8 points (2-3 from 3land and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with a pair of rebounds.

The Bad

The Second Half Defense

Once again, Duke allowed a 40+ point half! The Fighting Irish scored 41 second-half points on 16-33 from the field, including 5-10 from 3land.  Dane Goodwin was unstoppable (until Ty guarded him), scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half, on perfect 8-8 shooting, including 2-2 from deep.

The Ugly

Blowing a 14-Point Lead in a Home Game Against a Not Great Team to Allow The Game to Go Down to the Wire

To almost let the game get away, at the moment when Coach K came to his first game this year (to honor Mike Brey’s last game at Cameron) made it that much worse.  

Brey was a Coach K assistant from 1987 to 1995, during which Duke went to five final fours, winning 2 National Championships. This may have contributed to ND’s gallant effort. 

The expression on Coach K’s face during the game said much about Duke’s performance.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (36:49) scored 9 points, (3-12 from the field, including 0-5 from 3land, plus 3-4 from the foul line), in a checkered performance.  He made crucial shots down the stretch – with 2:53 left, he made a driving layup  to stretch the Blue Devil lead to 8, but then missed the second free throw and, thus, the chance to give the Blue Devils a 2 possession lead with 55 seconds left.  He made a brilliant pass to a wide-open Mark Mitchell, who made his 3 from the corner, with 12 seconds left, to clinch the game.  Jeremy had 3 assists with 2 rebounds – one was a spectacular offensive rebound and then a short jumper for a score.   

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (35:02) was the glue for Duke after a shaky start; he scored only 6 points (2-6 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line) – but what a 6 points they were! —  2 driving layups to stop Notre Dame runs, and then, with Duke ahead by only 2 with 3 seconds left, he swished both free throws to ice the game!  Scheyer was admiring, “Tyrese [Proctor] at the end, two free throws. I don’t even know if it hit the rim, went right through the net.”  Unnoticed, but crucial –late in the game Ty switched onto the Notre Dame scorer, Dane Goodwin (25 points), who was torching Duke, regardless of who guarded him.  Because of Proctor’s amazing defense, Goodwin not only didn’t score again, but he also almost didn’t touch the ball. 

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (30:53) had a superb “comeback” game.  After 3 halves without scoring, Flip put up 22 big points to lead Duke in scoring (9-16 from the field, including 0-3 from 3land, plus 4-4 from the stripe). Flip grabbed 6 boards, handed out 3 assists, and blocked a shot.  He committed 2 turnovers and had 3 of his shots blocked.  His fighting spirit is back!

Dariq Whitehead (27:21) is playing his way back into shape, and is the heart of what Duke can be by the postseason.  He scored 9 points (3-7 from the field, including 3-4 from 3land, without a foul shot attempt) in substantial playing time. He still plays better in his first half (3-3 from deep for all 9 of his points), which may mean he is not yet fully in shape.  Dariq had 4 boards, 2 assists, and a steal.  He was on the floor at “winning time”.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (26:31) committed his first foul in the first minute of the game, but then only one more in the entire game. (He might be learning to stop his penchant for fouling).  D-Live scored 6 points (3-5 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, without a free throw attempt).  He did capture 6 boards and blocked 2 shots.  

Mark Mitchell (14:53) made the shot of the game! – a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner with 12 seconds left, to increase Duke’s lead from 1 to 4 points.   Mark scored all 8 of his points in the second half (2-4 from the field, including 2-3 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line).  Mark also had 2 rebounds.  He said after the game, “I worked on that shot all week, and I’ve been in the gym late nights, after practice, before practice, so when the time came, my work showed.  … I’ve been in a little bit of a slump lately, so it felt good to hit one like that, especially when you work on it a lot.  Your work will eventually show.  Whatever you do in the dark will eventually come to light, and it did in that moment.” [Editorial Staff: Couldn’t have said it better.]

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (14:52) scored 2 points in a valuable role off the bench (0-2 from the field; 0-2 from deep; 2-2 from the stripe). He handed out 4 assists, garnered 3 rebounds, and had 2 steals.  He was on the floor for 4 of the final 5 minutes of the game.

Ryan Young (9:10) had an amazing stat line for his short time in the game. Ryan was 3-4 from the field (0-1 from the foul line) for his 6 points.  He was a valuable rebounder, leading Duke in that department, with 8 (4 offensive) in only 9 minutes!  

Jaylen Blakes (4:29, all in the first half) again failed to score (0-2, including 0-1 from 3land).  He has not contributed much since he broke his nose.

SUMMING UP

Inconsistency continues to plague the 2022-23 edition.  Jeremy is brilliant (great layups) and then not (3-12 with a crucial missed free throw); Dariq is 3-3 from deep in the first half, and then doesn’t score again.  Ty has a scoreless first half with turnovers, and then is a star at crunch time in the second half.  

To steal the title of John Feinstein’s book, this is still a “season on the brink”, and continues with the…

Next Play: Saturday, February 18, 2023, at Syracuse at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.


Duke Blue Devils 79 v. Louisville Cardinals 62 (Season 14; Issue 27; Game 28) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 20, 2023)

Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell are reaching their potential and taking Duke with them.
Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

I don’t want to get carried away, but it seems as though this young group of Blue Devils is finally maturing, and, at times, playing some very impressive basketball – by accepting their roles, trusting each other, and playing together.  As Coach Scheyer said of the team’s overall play: “I could go on and on about each of our guys.  They all stepped up.”

As we know, teenagers mature at different rates.  Filipowski has been the most precocious.  Because of injuries and other factors, it took Dariq Whitehead, Dereck (D-Live) Lively II, Tyrese (Ty) Proctor, and Mark Mitchell more time to be consistently productive.  Tonight, Mark’s talents were on full display.  Coach Scheyer says of Mitchell:  “He’s been so consistent as far as from a work standpoint, and it’s translated to what he does on the floor.  He can guard one through five, literally, Offensively, he can hit open threes, slashes, rebounds. He does it all.” 

Of the transfers, Ryan Young has been ready from the first opening tip.  Jacob Grandison   a reliable, all-round, utility sub.  Sophomore Jaylen Blakes impressed earlier, but has recently been hampered by a broken nose.  Captain Jeremy Roach is the reliable, steady Junior who has made a rather seamless transition to shooting guard as well as backup point guard.   And let us not forget the coaches, first-year Coach Scheyer and his excellent staff, who have managed 20 wins so far through all the injuries, inconsistencies, and lineup changes. 

If this trend continues and Duke stays healthy, they could be a surprise contender rather than simply a pretender.

Ryan Young is Duke’s Super Sub.  He scores, rebounds, and plays excellent defense.  His plus-minus against Louisville was + 24 in just over 14 minutes.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:

It is hard to believe, but Duke’s biggest game of the year will be this Saturday against Virginia Tech, the second of three consecutive home games.  The win against Louisville leaves Duke tied with NC State for fifth place (11-6) in the ACC conference – just a half game behind Clemson (11-5) for fourth place and a double bye in the ACC tournament.  

On Wednesday, Clemson hosts Syracuse, while Wake Forest visits NC State.  If both Clemson and NC State win, Duke will again be half a game or a full game behind the winner.  Then comes “Showdown Saturday” when Clemson hosts NC State while the Blue Devils face Virginia Tech.  

THE GOOD, AGAIN THERE WAS NO BAD OR UGLY

The Good

The Defense 

Duke held the Cardinals to 29 second-half points!  Duke switched seamlessly, making the Cardinals work for every point.  The Duke intensity never slackened, but, thankfully, Duke’s frequent fouling did.  Duke committed only 11 fouls in the entire game!  The Blue Devil perimeter is efficient, and Duke’s Bigs are protecting the rim.  Scheyer: “our starting perimeter – and we come in the same way off the bench –  Jeremy, Tyrese, and Mark – that’s a big-time defensive group. That’s why our numbers have been really good on that end.”

Scheyer on Ryan Young – “we were plus-24 when he was in the game [meaning Duke scored 24 more points than Louisville during the time that Ryan was on the floor]. He and Dereck have a great one-two punch. We have two great guys there.” 

The Offense

19 assists on 29 field goals with only 6 turnovers shows dramatic improvement in a crucial area.  The Blue Devils are sharing the ball and making the offense look smooth.  The result was wide open shots, 29-59 including 9-22 from 3land. When the passes are plentiful and accurate, the ball tends to go in and the game is aesthetically pleasing.  The scoring was so balanced that Louisville could never concentrate on stopping just one or two Blue Devils.  All the starters scored in double figures: Roach led the scoring with 14 (12 in the second half). “Then Jeremy [Roach], to close, I thought he was really good,” said Scheyer.  Mitchell and Filipowski scored 13, Proctor 12, and Lively II reached double figures with 10 points.  

The bench contributed as well: Grandison scored 9 on 3-5 from deep, Whitehead 5 (with great defense and ball handling), and Young 3 (but also with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks!).

It was a complete team effort.

THE ROTATION

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (35:14) was again the glue in the backcourt for Duke, both offensively and defensively, handing out 3 assists, grabbing 4 rebounds, and making a steal.  He scored 12 points (4-13 from the field / 4-8 from deep).  Scheyer: “Tyrese – coming in, the last couple of weeks – he’s been, percentage-wise, in the 90th percentile in the country when he’s guarding the ball. He does a great job. Anybody gets scored on, but he makes life really difficult [for the opposing team]. He’s incredibly disciplined, he has great balance, really good attention.  He did a great job tonight.  [Louisville high-scorer El] Ellis is going to score and all that, but we have a lot of confidence in him [Ty].”

Mark Mitchell (31:47) scored 13 points (5-8 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, plus 3-3 from the stripe).  Mark had another all-around game, contributing great defense and reliable offense. He handed out an assist without a turnover; made 2 steals, and blocked a shot.  His value is increasing.  Only Ty played more minutes against Louisville.

Jeremy Roach (30:12) was Duke’s leading scorer with 14 points (6-9 from the field, without an attempt from 3land, plus 2-4 from the foul line), in a superb performance.  He scored 12 in the second half. The Captain had 6 assists without a turnover.   Jeremey has not been efficient recently from 3land, so he stopped shooting 3-pointers – and was a star.

Dariq Whitehead (26:36) Scheyer: “it was one of Dariq’s best games actually. I know he didn’t shoot the way he has been, but he didn’t let it impact his game. He made some really nice passes; I thought his defense was really good.” Dariq scored 5 points (2-9 from the field, including 1-6 from behind the arc).  He grabbed 3 boards, made a steal and handed out an assist, without a turnover.   His improved defense, solid ball handling and increased minutes are great signs for this team. 

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (25:16) blocked 2 shots and anchored Duke’s interior defense.  He grabbed 4 boards (2 offensive) while scoring 10 points (3-4 from the field, including 0-1 from 3land, plus 4-6 from the foul line).  He is a unique asset and is starting to thrive.  Recently, D-Live has not been in foul trouble, which is one reason he has become so effective.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (22:42) scored 13 points (5-7 from the field, including 1-2 from 3land and 2-3 from the stripe). Flip grabbed 7 boards (4 on offense) and handed out 3 assists and made a steal. He committed 3 turnovers. He is being doubled every time he tries to spin, his signature move.  Teams prepare diligently to play their opponents. Coaches scout those opponents and watch film; clearly word is out about Flip’s proclivities. . In short, this ain’t high school!

Ryan Young (14:44) was the perfect backup for his short time in the game. Ryan was only 1-3 from the field, plus 1-2 from the foul line, for his 3 points, but his other contributions were amazing.  He snared 6 rebounds, handed out 3 assists without a turnover, and blocked a pair of shots.  That’s worth a wow! 

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (13:29) scored 9 points in a valuable role off the bench (3-5 from deep, without an attempt from the stripe). He grabbed 3 rebounds and handed out an assist.  He is now the primary backcourt backup to both Ty and The Captain.

SUMMING UP

Again, only a single day between games — just like an NCAA tournament weekend. Duke gave a far better performance against Louisville than last time, when the Blue Devils traveled to Miami and were badly beaten. 

Now, Duke has 2 more home games to complete February – Virginia Tech and NC State.  Then the season concludes in Chapel Hill.  A loss to Virginia Tech would be devastating to Duke’s chances for the double bye, and is a classic “trap game”.

The Blue Devils finish the regular season the following week, first hosting the rival Wolfpack on Tuesday– the winner might lead for the coveted 4th seed –  before concluding the season Saturday against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.  You  see why the Virginia Tech game is a classic “trap” game.  Devils, beware!

While Duke’s chase for the double bye is daunting, the Blue Devils are giving every appearance of having taken the next step of development as they have been playing their best basketball of the season in the last two games.  Reality check: neither Syracuse nor Louisville are elite teams.  NC State is playing like an elite team.  The Tarheels can save their disappointing (so far) season by dispatching the Blue Devils at season’s end (again). However, Duke still has a chance for one of the top 4 seeds.  Stay tuned for an exciting finish to this season!.

It’s all about the progress the Blue Devils are making to prepare for the ACC and NCAA tournament, which continues with the crucial…

Next Play: Saturday, February 25, 2023 v. Virginia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN.

The Captain is the perfect team leader on both ends of the court. 
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com 

Duke Blue Devils 81 v. Virginia Tech Hokies 65 (Season 14; Issue 28; Game 29) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 25, 2023)

The Captain scoring on a drive while Mark looks on and Ryan lurks in case of a rebound. 
Photo Credit:GoDuke.com
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

From beginning to end, Duke played their best game of the season in an impressive defeat of a well-coached, dangerous Virginia Tech. This is the same team that beat the Blue Devils earlier this year in Blacksburg and essentially the same squad that won the 2022 ACC tournament, beating North Carolina in the semi-finals and then a Duke team (which had Paolo Banchero and three other NBA draftees) in the final.  

Two things were most impressive: 1) the precision and efficiency of the execution both offensively and defensively with all five starters scoring in double digits and 2) that Duke was never behind in the game. Not to be overlooked, Captain Jeremy Roach had a double/double of points and assists. As long as everyone stays healthy, it appears as though this Blue Devil team is poised to play their best basketball in March at Tournament Time. The path gets no easier as they face N.C. State and UNC next week to end the ACC regular season.

The freshmen are not only getting used to college competition, but they are getting used to playing unselfishly together.  Moving a more improved Dereck (D-Live) Lively II into the starting rotation, combined with the maturation of Tyrese (Ty) Proctor at the point and Mark Mitchell on the wing (as well as the availability of Dariq Whitehead, Ryan Young, and Jacob (Jake) Grandison as substitutes), makes this Blue Devil team not only more talented but also deeper than most of their opponents. Statistically, the bench has outscored the opposition by a larger differential than the starters.  However, I missed the memo to the referees that said it was OK to hit Filipowski in the nose, neck, or head for a mandatory nine count and not get called for a foul. I guess it was the same memo that said Duke has always been soft and now that Coach K has retired the Blue Devils would no longer get all the calls.

Well, it has been a wild and crazy ACC regular season where up is down and down is up. But both North Carolina and Duke won decisively last night. There is still a lot of basketball to be played this year. Hopefully, the trendline for Duke will continue.

Mark can do it all – shoot, slash, and defend.   This is the slash!
 Photo Credit:GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:

It is heartwarming to ingest one’s own words in the last edition (“Virginia Tech is a trap game”), because the Blue Devils fed them to me by playing at such a high level, destroying the Virginia Tech Hokies.  It was so much fun to watch a stressless rout!  The freshmen are playing like veterans – “growing up before our eyes” was one insightful comment.  Coach Scheyer is right when he enthusiastically reports that each of his highly ranked freshmen have improved dramatically:  “Each of them has gotten better. We spend a lot of time in practice working on individual work. Individual player development, which I think you can see the growth that our guys have made throughout the course of the season and, of course, understanding who you are playing with and how to play to each other’s strengths. I thought that was evident tonight.” 

Scheyer made another interesting point about his freshmen each morphing from the best player in high school to adapt to the rigors of Power Conference play. “Now teams have game plans and I also think that’s a huge thing for freshmen to adjust to. As you get into ACC play people have different game plans against you.”  Flip is learning that his spin move – unstoppable in high school and earlier in the season – began to end in strips and turnovers instead of baskets. Scheyer’s point is that Flip and all the freshmen are learning.

In the last 3 games – Syracuse, Louisville, and Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils have played like an elite team.  If Duke can maintain that level of play when the competition gets tougher (as it will in the tournaments), the postseason could be compelling.

Duke’s bench was quiet against the Hokies, scoring only 10 points (Ryan Young 4, Whitehead and Grandison 3 each) in briefer than usual playing time. s.  The starters all scored in double figures – led by the Captain with 19, then Mark Mitchell with 17, D-Live with 13, Flip with 12, and Ty with 10.  The Blue Devils passed the ball beautifully and handled the rock with care and aplomb.  The defense was superb.  In short, the trap game wasn’t!

THE GOOD! FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT GAME, THERE WAS NO BAD OR UGLY

The Good

The Defense 

When D-Live anchors the interior defense, Duke is different from other teams.  He is so quick at 7’1” that he can guard the other team’s perimeter players.  Duke, unlike most other teams, can then switch on every offensive exchange. If a Big cannot guard the smaller player, it makes it easy for the adversary to attack the basket. Duke’s ability to switch all 5 positions enhances the defense against the 3-point shot.  Scheyer: “We’re lucky to have bigs that can really switch too. On a lot of those hand-offs, top of the floor [the perimeter], we switched them, took away the three and then we have guards that can move their feet, keep guys in front, and that was a big key.”  Duke controlled the backboard (37-26) and never let the Hokies believe that they had even a slight chance of winning.

 The Offense

Duke handed out 19 assists on 30 made field goals, and committed only a modest 9 turnovers.  The Blue Devils are sharing the ball and making the offense look smooth, efficient, and cohesive.  The result was wide open shots, which produced a 57% shooting percentage (30-53, including 7-18 from 3land). When the passes are plentiful and accurate, the ball tends to go in and the game is aesthetically pleasing. The scoring was again balanced as it was against Louisville when all 5 starters scored in double figures. If the Virginia Tech defense concentrated on one offensive move or one Duke player, a different Duke player made a different move to score the basket or make a pass for the score. 

The balanced Duke scoring was impressive (again)!  Roach led the scoring with 19 (10 in the second half), followed by Mitchell with his best game of the year, scoring 17.  Lively II was 6-6 from the floor and 1-1 from the stripe for 13 points while Filipowski overcame a slow first half (2 points) to score 10  second half points (game total 12).  Proctor scored 10 points, 7 in the opening stanza.   

The coach was ecstatic, “Jeremey Roach was on another level. He’s been playing that way, 19 [points] and 10 [assists]. I thought he and Tyrese … played close to a perfect game. Their defense, they played both ends.”  It was a complete team effort on both ends of the court.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (34:27) played another outstanding game by leading Duke in scoring while handing out 10 assists and playing excellent defense.  The Captain scored 19 points (8-13 from the field, including 2-4 from behind the arc, plus 1-2  from the foul line). He scored 10 in the second half.  Jeremey had not been efficient from 3land for a while, so it was comforting for Jeremy to be 2-4 from deep.

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor’s (32:36) growth as a player mirrors the growth of this year’s team.  That is not a coincidence.  He is now the primary ball handler and guards the best perimeter player on the other team.  He scored 10 points (4-7 from the field, including 2-5 from deep).  He contributed 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a fabulous steal. He limited Hokie star Hunter Cattoor to just 4 attempted shots.  Scheyer: “Give Tyrese a lot of credit. You have to be incredibly disciplined chasing him all over the court. Cattoor had 12 threes against us the last two times we played them, and we know very well how good he is. Tyrese wanted that challenge. … Credit to Tyrese and the job that he did, especially to start the game, on him.”

Mark Mitchell (31:23) played as well as he has all season, scoring 17 points (6-8 from the field, including 1-1 from deep, plus 4-4 from the stripe).  Mark had another all-around game contributing great defense and grabbed 8 rebounds while blocking a shot.  His value is increasing.  Scheyer: “Mark Mitchell’s best game. I thought Mark gave us a huge boost consistently throughout the whole game and we were able to avoid some foul trouble with Dereck and Flip in that first half .”

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (23:37) blocked 3 shots and altered others while he anchored Duke’s interior defense.  D-Live grabbed 7 boards and scored 13 points on perfect shooting (6-6 from the field, including 1-1 from the foul line).   Scheyer, “Dereck is unique. He is a difference maker with his ability to screen and rim run for a lob threat and play behind the defense. He is just a different kind of guy.”

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (22:29) had what commentators said was a subpar game for him.  That is a compliment, because if 12 points (3-7 from the field, including 0-2 from 3land and 6-7 from the stripe) to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals is sub-par, Flip’s par is truly terrific! Flip scored 10 of his 12 in the second half to help preserve Duke’s ample margin.

Dariq Whitehead (18:47) didn’t shoot the way he has been, scoring only 3 points (1-5 from the field, including 1-3 from deep).  He grabbed 2 boards, and made a steal.  The Duke bench overall was less involved than usual. 

Ryan Young (15:06) While Ryan was only 1-4 from the field, he scored 4 points  by adding 2-3 from the foul line.  His other contributions were substantial.  He snared 4 rebounds, handed out 2 assists without a turnover, and blocked a shot.  That’s great backup.  

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (12:37) scored 3 points off the bench on 1-2 from deep (without an attempt from the stripe). He also grabbed 2 rebounds.  Jake has become the primary backcourt backup to both Ty and The Captain – they each played big minutes, limiting Jake’s time on the court in this game.

SUMMING UP

The Blue Devils are finally arriving at their potential.  Much of the frustrating delay has been the injuries that kept key players on the sideline.  Finally, Scheyer noted, “this group has been able to play on the floor together. That is where you can really grow. For Jeremy, knowing how to play with Dereck, Tyrese, Flip, Mark, and Dariq or Jake …   For Jeremy he came back with a completely different team. I am just proud of him for playing aggressively but also playing instinctually…   Right now, we are connected. The assists were well over 2-1 [ratio over turnovers]. Our offense is pushing it more and flowing into things and that’s how I want to play.” 

Does Duke have a chance for one of the top 4 seeds (to get a double bye in the ACC tournament)?  Doubtful, but still a possible long shot.  Pittsburgh leads  the conference at 14-4 with games against Notre Dame and Miami.  Miami is 14-5 with a game against Pitt next Saturday. UVA is 13-5 (after losing its last 2) with games against Louisville and Clemson. Clemson is 13-5 with games against Louisville and UVA. Pitt, Clemson, UVA, and Miami are the four teams currently ahead of Duke for the double bye. Duke is in 5th place (12-6).  If Duke can beat NC State in Cameron on Tuesday and UNC in Chapel Hill on Saturday, we will see if Duke’s 14-6 record is good enough.  

Next Play: Tuesday, February 28, 2023, v. North Carolina State in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.

D-Live is, as Scheyer has said, “a unique asset”.  He was a perfect  6-6 from the floor.   
Photo Credit:GoDuke.com

Duke Blue Devils 71 v. NC State Wolfpack 67 (Season 14; Issue 29; Game 30) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 28, 2023)

Duke’s Big Men combine to keep NC State star D.J. Burns contained.
Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

The test of a really good team—especially at tournament time when it is single elimination — is finding a way to win when they aren’t playing their best.  When N.C. State came to Cameron tonight, this Duke team did it and clinched its first perfect home record in nine years.  So how did the Blue Devils get it done? Everyone played their role, especially Dereck (D-Live) Lively II, Kyle (Flip) Filipowski, and Captain Jeremy Roach — and they relied on their calling cards of sharing the ball, attacking, defense, and making free throws.  Duke shot 23-of-29 free throws, while the Wolfpack were only 7-of-8 from the foul line.  Proctor and Mitchell did their part too, which was critical.

This was a “Big Boys” game –7+ footers Filipowski and Lively controlled the glass for the Blue Devils, combining for 26 rebounds as Duke won the rebound battle ( 44-35), as they often do.  Even on a tough shooting night, Filipowski had a double-double, with 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.  But it was  “Little Man” Captain Jeremy Roach who carved up the Wolf defense early – and late – to bail out the inconsistent Blue Devil offense.

NC State coach Kevin Keatts, whose “live by the three, die by the three” Wolfpack team defeated the Blue Devils 84-60 in January, said after the loss: “That Duke team, they’ve grown so much.” Make no mistake – N.C. State is a good, tough team that plays with a chip on their shoulders (which is not always to their benefit) a lethal back court, and a talented, clever center transfer D.J. Burns, who can put points on the board either by shooting or passing. Tonight, Duke somewhat neutralized him by doubling him with Lively and Filipowski. 

On the other hand, Jarkel Joiner put on a show with threes from ‘Steph Curry territory’ including two in the last minute to put the game in jeopardy.  Roach and Proctor sealed the deal with perfection from the foul line.

“We’re trying to get a top-four [seed] going into the tournament, and this was a huge game for us,” Filipowski said. “We’ve had goals this whole season. And, I mean, we’re starting to get where we want to be.”

Next Play: The Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Good News: After the game, graduate center Ryan Young — who had four points and six rebounds in 10 minutes today — confirmed that he will return to Cameron Indoor next season for his final year of eligibility.  He will continue to pursue an MBA at the Fuqua School of Business.

Men's Basketball vs. NC StateTyrese is becoming a complete point guard and defensive specialist.  As he grows, so grows this Duke team 

Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

ALANALYSIS:

The Wolfpack shot the lights out in the early going to maintain a slight lead for the first 11 ½ minutes of the game before the Blue Devils tied it at 17-all with 8:22 left to play in the first half.  Duke then led for the rest of the game. In the first half, the lead reached as high as 7 points with 6 minutes left, before shrinking to 2. Duke led 33-29 at the half.

The Blue Devils looked in control for almost all of the second half, reaching a double-digit lead for the first time with only 3 minutes having elapsed.  NC State got as close as 2 points early in the second half, but otherwise the Blue Devils controlled the second half with leads of between 7 and 12 points.  Excellent defense and solid offense.  

With 1:47 left in the game, Duke led by 12 (65-53) with Proctor shooting a foul shot.  55 seconds later, the Wolfpack was back in the game, trailing by only 4 (65-61) with 52 seconds remaining in the game.  Clutch foul shooting by Captain Jeremy Roach and Tyrese (Ty) Proctor preserved the Duke lead that was only 3 points with 32 seconds left in the game!  Losing intensity with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game –not to mention  almost the lead – changed the level of supreme confidence that preceded NC State’s late charge.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ALMOST UGLY

The Good

The Defense 

Scheyer: “Our defense was the key to the game.  It’s been really what we’ve hung our hat on all year long.  Dereck’s job on Burns. Tyrese with Smith [were part of Duke’s effective defense].  We did a great job making them a half-court team. They’re fast. They [the Wolfpack] get down the floor as quickly as anybody we’ve played. … I thought [our] five guys were just moving together [defending].  We did a good job controlling the ball. The fact that we had more points from turnovers than they did speaks for itself.”

Burns was held to 13 points by D-Live, who was greatly aided by stealthy, surprise double-teaming at times from either Flip or Mark Mitchell.  Ty’s defense on Smith was awesome and is enhancing Proctor’s growing reputation as a defender.  The Captain was guarding Jarkel Joiner, who had a 26-point performance.  Joiner made shots that were, as Bill so eloquently put it,“ threes from Steph Curry territory.”  Despite Jeremy’s solid defense, Joiner’s 3s connected spectacularly.  Scheyer praised Duke’s avoiding fouling in the defensive effort and concurred about Joiner’s amazing shooting, “We played without fouling for the most part and give them credit, I thought in the first half, they made some tough shots and that’s what they do.”

Bottom line: NC State scored a meager 61 for the game, but, tellingly, had just 53 points with 1:47 left in the game. That’s great defense!

The Offense

The offense revolved around Captain Jeremy even though it was a complete team effort.  Scheyer on the Captain: “Jeremy’s a winner. He’s been through it. It reminds me of last year at the end with Jeremy in the tournament.  He’s done that for us in stretches all year long, and this is the most consistent that he’s played.  We ask a lot of him. … We need him to score and create, but he just has a knack for making timely baskets.  We put the ball in his hands, down the stretch to carry us and finish a game.  It’s just who he is.  He’s done it really since high school.  We need him to continue to do it.” 

 Coach Scheyer gets major credit for reshaping his team even as he developed Ty into a true point guard. (Coach K did precisely that with his senior captain in 2010 [Scheyer, of course ] ) This crucial development created the opportunity for Jeremy to do what he does best. Pretty good rookie coaching!

Even though Duke was simply dreadful from behind the arc (2-19; 10.5%), the offense was otherwise efficient.  The Blue Devils were 21-36 inside the arc and 23-29 from the foul line.  Four of the starters scored in double figures (Roach, 20; Mitchell and Proctor, 12 each; and Filipowski, 11).  Lively II and Whitehead scored 6 points each. 

THE BAD THAT COULD HAVE BEEN UGLY, BUT NEVER WAS

The last 1:47 of the game, beginning with Ty’s missed free throw while Duke held a commanding 12-point lead, was troubling to say the least. The game was over!  And then it wasn’t!  Smith grabbed the rebound and fired up a deep 3.  Swish! Roach had a layup blocked, and Flip fouled Joiner, who made both foul shots.  Duke 65 v NC State 58 with 1:21 left.  Tyrese missed a driving layup, which Smith rebounded and fed Joiner for another long 3-pointer.  65-61 with 52 seconds remaining.  The Wolfpack was forced to foul.

The Captain sunk 2 clutch foul shots (1-and-1; so the first one was critical).  Duke 67-61 with 40 seconds left.  Joiner got NC State as close as the Wolfpack would get in the game when he hit a deep desperation 3.  67-64 with 32 seconds left.  NC State fouled Ty, who had missed his last foul shot–but he coolly nailed the front end of this 1-and-1 as well as the second shot. 69-64 with 18 seconds left.  Joiner at last missed a 3,  with 15 seconds left, and Ty retrieved the rebound and was fouled  Game  over, for real.  Proctor hit both free throws with 6 seconds left before Smith made a 3 at the buzzer to make the final score – 71-67 –appear closer than it actually was.

The ending was not good (perhaps even bad), but Duke made the key free throws and kept “ugly” at a distance.

THE ROTATION

Jeremy Roach (36:51) continued his outstanding play and leadership.  The Captain led Duke in scoring (again) with 20 points (9-19, including a disappointing 0-5 from behind the arc, plus 2-2 clutch free throws), while playing excellent defense.  Thus, Jeremy was 9-14 from inside the arc, scoring on acrobatic drives through the entire Wolfpack defense, helping to maintain the substantial Blue Devil lead.  The Captain scored 6 of Duke’s 10 points during the final four minutes of the game. He and Tyrese Proctor (who scored the other 4 on clutch free throws) are morphing into a reliable and cohesive backcourt. 

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (32:07) is now the primary ball handler and guards whomever is the best perimeter player on the other team.  He scored 12 points (2-8 from the field, including 0-3 from deep, but a gaudy 8-9 from the foul line – the last 4-4 in the final 18 seconds of the game to preserve the win).  He contributed 3 rebounds and an assist. Ty is justly earning high praise for his 1-on-1 ball defense.  This past January 4, Terquavion Smith lit Duke up for 24 points (including 4-8 from deep) when the Wolfpack creamed Duke 84-60 .  Last night, Ty limited Smith to 2-9 from the field, including 2-5 from deep, plus 2-2 from the stripe – for just 9 points.  He frustrated Smith into committing a stupid technical foul (pushing Ty and knocking him down).  Ty handled the Wolfpack pressure, bringing the ball up like a veteran senior, not an 18-year-old who would still be in high school (but for his reclassifying).

Mark Mitchell (33:58) is playing terrific basketball on both ends of the floor.  His defense and rebounding are among the reasons that he was on the court for longer than any other Duke wing. Mark scored 12 points (3-6 from the field, including 1-3 from deep, plus 5-6 from the stripe.) to go with 5 tough rebounds.  Mark is a critically important part of this team’s recent development (5 game winning streak).  In his last 3 games, Mark has scored 42 points (14.0 per game) on 14-of-22 shooting (.636) and 12-of-13 at the free throw line (.923), while grabbing 17 rebounds. His defense has been excellent.

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (32:13) notched his 13th double-double of the season, the most of any freshman in the country, even though he did not shoot well from the field. Flip scored 11 points (on only 2-11 from the field, including 0-3 from behind the arc, but a crucial 7-9 from the foul line).  He grabbed a team-leading 14 rebounds while drawing 5 Wolfpack fouls.  His defense, especially helping Lively II contain the Wolfpack Big, D.J. Burns, Jr, was a valuable asset.

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (29:29) blocked 2 shots and altered others while anchoring Duke’s interior defense.  D-Live grabbed 12 boards while scoring 6 points (3-4 from the field, including 0-1 from deep with the shot clock expiring).  D-Live’s defense against Burns was one of Duke’s defensive keys. Scheyer: “We ended up not really doubling much because Dereck just did a great job battling him.”  D-Live helped Duke control the boards and defend so effectively.  

Dariq Whitehead (17:15) scored 6 points (2-2 from the field, including 1-1 from deep, plus 1-3 from the stripe).  He also grabbed 2 boards.  Dariq is becoming Duke’s 6th man, injecting energy and talent when he replaces a starter.  He brings multiple skills to the role —  deep shooting, slashing to the rim, an effective defender against both guards and Bigs, and a formidable rebounder.  He still has the most growth potential for the postseason of any Duke player.

Ryan Young (10:31) Ryan contributed so much in such a short time. Consider just his second half, where he played only 3:54.  In that brief time, Ryan garnered 4 rebounds (2 offensive), handed out an assist, blocked a shot, and scored 2 points on 1-1 from the field. For the entire game, he scored 4 points on 2-2 from the field, he grabbed 6 boards (2 offensive), handed out an assist, and blocked a shot.  Scheyer: “It’s such a luxury for us to have Dereck Lively and to have Ryan Young who are two very different players. Ryan can be very physical when he’s in.” That’s valuable!

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (7:36) missed each of his three wide open 3-point attempts off the bench, without an attempt from the stripe.  He is now the primary backcourt backup to both Ty and The Captain, who each played big minutes, limiting Jake’s time on the court.

SUMMING UP

There are 5 teams that have the potential of finishing the regular season on March 4 with 14-6 records.  Pitt lost to Notre Dame and is now 14-5 with a game still to play against the Miami Hurricanes, also 14-5.  UVA is 14-5 with a game against last place Louisville.  Duke and Clemson are 13-6.  The Tigers play Notre Dame; Duke faces the Tar Heels.  Duke beat Pitt in Cameron and thus  holds the tie-breaker against Pitt. Duke split with Miami, with Miami winning by the wider margin. The Blue Devils lost to both Clemson and UVA, giving each the tie-breaker against Duke.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if Duke and UVA tie for the double bye and UVA wins the tiebreaker on that terrible end-game call that deprived Flip of his deserved foul shots?  

We await the results of ACC action among those 5 teams, but also concentrate on the upcoming  re-match with UNC.

UNC basketball has been raining on the Blue Devil parade since last season’s Senior Night game (Coach K’s farewell).  Then, The ‘Heels beat Duke in the National finals.  

The women have beaten Duke twice in February, denying the Blue Devils the regular season ACC championship.   It is likely that the Duke women will meet UNC for the third time this season on Friday, March 3 in the women’s ACC tournament right before the men’s …

Next Play: Saturday, March 4, 2023, v. University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill at the Dean Dome at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Men's Basketball vs. NC State
The Captain’s drives were acrobatic, controlled, and unstoppable.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

MOST RECENT GAME

Duke Blue Devils 62 v. UNC Tarheels 57 (Season 14; Issue 30; Game 31) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (March 4, 2023)

With a Devil Yell: Flip and the Blue Devil celebrate in Cameron (in preparation for celebrating in Greensboro). Photo Credit: Clutchpoints
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Founded in 1789, the University of North Carolina is one of three schools to proudly claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States, in addition to being known as one of the most accomplished, admired, and desired state institutions in the country.

Trinity College, established modestly in 1838 was renamed several times.  Trinity eventually became Duke University when James B. Duke established the $40,000,000 Duke Endowment in honor of his father Washington B. Duke. Trinity was renamed in honor of the donor and his father, also to distinguish it from other Trinity Colleges and Universities. As it added a beautiful, Gothic style campus, a world class hospital, a law school, and others, it rapidly became perennially the youngest Top Ten School in the country. 

Thus, there developed an understandable jealousy between the two schools. Nowhere is this truer than on the basketball court. The nadir of rivalry was a 1961 fistfight and melee in Cameron between Duke’s Art Heyman and Carolina’s Larry Brown, both Long Island N.Y. natives and former friends. [Editorial staff notes: Mark Mitchell received permission of Heyman’s family to wear Art’s retired number this season] Tensions over the years and decades only escalated as Duke’s Coach K challenged UNC’s Dean Smith and his basketball program as the premier one in the country.

Regardless of their records, the basketball games are often decided by which team has the ball last, or which player has the hot hand, or who gets the calls.  Last year, Carolina beat Duke (who had all five of their starters selected in the NBA draft – 4 in the first round; 3 of the first rounders were picked in the lottery) not only on Coach K’s final game in Cameron! but also in the semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament. They eventually lost in the title game by a basket.

This year, the Tar Heels, with four of their five starters back from last year, have been, inexplicably, very disappointing. So disappointing that these defending champions are on the cusp of not making the 68 team draw for the NCAA Tournament! So, this game was crucial for the Tar Heels’ NCAA ambition.

The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels in a hard-fought contest, even as they overcame a rare coaching error by Scheyer & Company, who let Dereck (D-Live) Lively II stay in the game early in the second half after he had committed his third foul. Predictably, the fourth foul came shortly thereafter.  Duke is not the same team without him.

However, Kyle (Flip) Filipowski went to work offensively by more or less carrying the scoring load (with a big assist from Jeremy Roach) to secure the win. Filipowski apparently decided to make a statement that he not only was the Freshman of the Year but was also the Player of the Year in the ACC with 22 points and 13 rebounds. 

Neither team shot particularly well – this was Duke v. Carolina in The Dean Dome in Chapel Hill and both teams defended intensely. UNC shot just 30.4 percent to Duke’s 37.9.  UNC had 8 assists and limited Duke to just 4. Rebounding was dead even, with 29 defensive and 10 offensive for each. 

Mark Mitchell’s stepped up play has contributed to the six game Blue Devil winning streak.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:

As Jay Bilas intones every year (accurately) “Duke v Carolina NEVER disappoints.”   That was certainly true last night, where we were treated to a great college basketball game.  It did not matter that neither team was ranked in the top 25.  It was Duke-Carolina.  It is worth adding that these are two teams capable of beating any college team regardless of ranking.

Scheyer thought it was crucial that Duke “matched their physicality to start. And our players made some big-time winning plays down the stretch.” 

D-Live committed the first two fouls of the 2nd half (his 3rd and 4th of the game) before 3 minutes had elapsed.   He remained on the bench for over 11 minutes, before returning with just 8:08 left in the game.

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE WONDERFUL

The Wonderful last 8:08 of the Game

With the Blue Devils trailing by 2 points (49-47), Scheyer sent D-Live back into the game with 8:08 left on the clock.  First, D-Live grabbed the defensive rebound when Leaky Black missed a Carolina jumper with 7:51 left.  Second, he scored a dunk on an assist from Tyrese. 49-49 with 7:23 left.  

Then came spine tingling excitement with each team scoring to take a 1-point lead when in possession.  Black and Flip traded baskets; then UNC guard Caleb Love and Ty did the same. Duke led 54-53 with 5:55 left.   Davis scored to give the Tar Heels a 55-54 lead with 4:20 to go.  Black fouled Flip, who made both free throws to provide Duke with the lead at 56-55 with 3:30 left in the game.

D-Live blocked Black’s shot, giving Duke possession with 3 minutes remaining.   Proctor and Filipowski both missed for Duke while Davis missed for the Tar Heels before Flip fouled Bacot.  Bacot made both to give UNC a 57-56 lead with 1:57 remaining in the game.  Flip was fouled and made both free throws to return the lead to Duke, 58-57 with 1:38 left.  Black missed a jumper, but retrieved his own miss, only to miss again on the put back.  Mark Mitchell grabbed the most important rebound of the game – 1:10 left.  Then the Captain stepped into the spotlight with a creative acrobatic drive using his left hand to give Duke a 60-57 lead with 48 seconds left in the game. 

Davis missed; Mitchell grabbed another crucial rebound, and was fouled with 19 seconds left in the game.  However, it was only the 6th foul that UNC had committed (therefore, non-shooting but still Duke’s ball).  UNC had to foul immediately (the Tarheel’s 7th) and Flip was now shooting 1-and-1.  With a chance to ice the game by expanding the Blue Devil lead to 2 possessions, with only 18 seconds left in the game, Flip shockingly missed the front end, which Bacot rebounded.

Love then had a chance to tie the game when he launched a 3-point attempt from the corner with just 8 seconds left. All of Dukedom exhaled with relief when it missed.  D-Live rebounded it and hit Flip with a full court pass for the winning dunk and margin!  62-57. It was a classic Duke-UNC finish!

Scheyer on Jeremy Roach’s game winning drive with 48 seconds left and the shot clock winding down: 

“I did say, ‘go get us one.’ We’ve got great trust in Jeremy. Doesn’t matter what happened for the 35 minutes before.  He and Flip have had a great two-man game. Jeremy wasn’t as decisive as he normally is, but on that last play, he was decisive. And he’s a winner.  Game’s on the line, he’s going to go.  You trust the ball in his hands.” 

On Kyle’s brilliant game: “big-time free throws. … But for Flip, we just went to him.  And he found a way to manufacture points when we needed them the most.” 

THE GOOD

The Defense 

Scheyer: “Our defense has been top-10 in the country in the month of February. We’ve been as consistent as anybody in the country down the stretch. …   It was a little bit of a disjointed first half because of the foul trouble.  When Dereck is not on the court — and Ryan did a really good job keeping us afloat — it just changes our team on the defensive end.  And Flip, he’s been right there.” 

Duke held UNC to 26 second-half points, not to mention just 57 for the game.  That is simply excellent defense!  Duke’s defense, good in the early season, is improving dramatically.  Tyrese, D-Live, Mark, and Flip have all improved and have learned how to play defense together.  Dariq is also a real defensive asset. 

The Captain is the glue.  

The Offense

Credit the Carolina defense for making the Blue Devil offense look a bit ragged.  Flip was the difference with his 22 points and 5 offensive rebounds.  Ty with 13, and Mark and Jeremey each contributed 10.  It was just enough.

THE BAD 

Fouling

Duke’s first-half fouling – a total of 8, with 2 each on D-Live (limited to playing only 5:38 in the opening stanza), Ryan, and Dariq – was a barrier for the Blue Devils to overcome.  Duke was much better in the second half, not putting UNC in the bonus (7 fouls in a half), until only 19 seconds were left in the game.  Unfortunately, Duke’s first two fouls of the second half were each committed by D-Live, giving him 4 personals with 17:10 still left in the game.  However, to his credit, he played the last 8:08 without fouling out. Kudos! Dariq also finished with 4 fouls.

Defending Bacot

Ryan could not do it effectively when D-Live was confined to the bench.  The UNC superstar scored 17 points (4-8 from the field, plus 9-10 from the stripe) while garnering 11 boards and blocking 4 shots.  Bacot’s only points in the last 9 minutes of the game (most of which with D-Live back in and guarding him) were his 2 foul shots which gave UNC a 1-point lead with 1:57 to go in the game.

Jeremy’s Off-Night Brilliance

The Captain had a dreadful shooting night (4-16), but made the Shot of the Night with 48 seconds left, to stretch the Blue Devil lead to 3 (60-57).

Scheyer says to the Captain: “Go get us one!”
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

THE ROTATION

Mark Mitchell (37:31) played the most minutes of any Duke player because he is playing terrific basketball on both ends of the floor.  Mark scored 10 points (4-8 from the field, including 1-1 from deep, plus 1-2 from the stripe), to go with 4 tough rebounds.  Mark is a critically important part of this team’s recent development (6 game winning streak).  In his last 4 games, Mark has scored 52 points on 18-of-30 shooting and 13-of-15 at the free throw line, while grabbing 21 rebounds.  Scheyer: “he probably had two of the biggest plays of anybody on our team all year.  He had two rebounds in traffic that were — both of them at a key time. And then he probably had the biggest basket of the game, we got down five. He had a great drive to cut it to three.”

Jeremy Roach (37:22) had a subpar shooting night, scoring only 10 points on 16 shots (4-16 from the field, including 2-6 from behind the arc without a free throw attempt, or an assist). The Captain had 3 steals! while playing excellent defense.   In the closing stanza, even though Jeremy was only 2-8 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, he scored the tough, crucial game winner when he slithered through UNC’s defense with an acrobatic layup that gave Duke a 3-point lead with 48 seconds left in the game.  Scheyer: “he’s a big-time winner.  He really helped us, in the middle of the second half, we just had a hard time scoring.”

Kyle (Flip) Filipowski (34:16) carried Duke offensively, notching his 14th double double of the season, the most of any freshman in the country!  Flip scored 22 points on 7-17 from the field, including 1-4 from behind the arc, but a crucial 7-8 from the foul line. (That one miss was a bad one).  He grabbed a team-leading 13 rebounds while drawing 7 Wolfpack fouls.  His underrated defense is a valuable asset.

Tyrese (Ty) Proctor (32:15) was Duke’s second leading scorer with 12 points (4-10 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, but a gaudy 5-7 from the foul).  He contributed 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Ty is justly earning high praise for his 1-on-1 on the ball defense.  Ty continues to handle pressure defenses, bringing the ball up like a veteran senior in college rather than a senior in high school, which he was scheduled to be before he reclassified.

Ryan Young (19:06) Ryan played more than expected because of D-Live’s early and enduring foul trouble.  He only scored 2 points on 1-2 from the field, but he grabbed 6 boards (2 offensive), and made a steal. Ryan cannot defend Bacot the way D-Live does; so, Bacot thrived while Ryan was in the game.  Scheyer gave credit to Ryan’s crucial role in this game, “When Dereck was not on the court, Ryan did a really good job keeping us afloat.”

Dereck (D-Live) Lively II (16:39) blocked 3 shots and altered others while he anchored Duke’s interior defense.  D-Live grabbed 6 boards while scoring 2 points on a dramatic dunk (1-1 from the field, his only shot attempt). However, his playing time was limited to the first 5:37 in the first half when he committed 2 fouls.  D-Live started the second half, but committed 2 quick fouls – the first after just 2 minutes had gone by in the second half.  Scheyer did not take him out then (as Bill points out) and Dereck committed his 4th foul about 48 seconds later. D-Live did not return until the last 8:08 of the game.  His return was one of Duke’s defensive keys to win the game. 

Dariq Whitehead (15:34) has not been as effective in his recent games.  He scored only 3 points (1-3 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, plus 1-1 from the stripe).  He also grabbed 4 boards.  Dariq is Duke’s 6th man, injecting energy and talent when he replaces a starter.  He brings multiple skills to the role — deep shooting, slashing to the rim, an effective defender against both guards and Bigs, and a formidable rebounder.  However, he has not displayed those skills in his recent games, including this one.  He had a dramatic turnover (kicked it away unforced, leading to an easy UNC layup) and committed 4 fouls in a truncated appearance. He still has the most growth potential for the postseason of any Duke player.

Jacob (Jake) Grandison (7:15) had his only shot blocked, a 3-point attempt without an attempt from the stripe.  His court time has shrunk as both Ty and The Captain are playing big minutes.

SUMMING UP

The regular season has ended, and it is now single elimination tournament time. 

Duke’s win over the Tar Heels gave Duke the fourth seed in the ACC tournament, and a double bye into the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9!  Jeff Capel’s Pitt lost its hold on the regular season title by losing both of its last two games – to Notre Dame and Miami, respectively – finishing at 14-6.  The Miami Hurricanes won the title and # 1 seed with a 15-5 record (tied with UVA at 15-5, but Miami beat UVA in the regular season to get the #1 seed).  Duke and Clemson both finished at 14-6. 

Thus, the seeding for the ACC tournament is: 1) Miami; 2) UVA; 3) Clemson; 4) Duke; 5) Pitt; 6) NC State; 7) UNC and 8) Syracuse (omitting seeds 10-15 who play on opening day). 

It turns out that if the correct call (as the ACC later officially admitted) had been made at the end of the UVA game, and if Flip had made even one of his deserved two free throws, Duke, and not UVA, would have tied for the regular season title. (even though the only recognized ACC champion is the winner of the postseason tournament). To channel Duke women’s coach, Kara Lawson, who took the ACC to task about a men’s ball being used in the first half of a woman’s game, “these are important issues because they impact post-season seedings and invitations.  Important stuff.”

UNC basketball has been raining on the Blue Devil parade since last season’s Senior Night game (Coach K’s farewell), and then again painfully in the National semi-finals.  Winning last night at UNC’s Senior Night in the Dean Dome was a great way for the Blue Devils to get ready for this year’s postseason.

Next Play: is the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC, where Duke will play on Thursday March 9, 2023, at 2:30 on ESPN.  

Duke’s opponent will probably be #5 seeded Pittsburgh, if the Panthers beat on Wednesday the winner of Tuesday’s Georgia Tech v. Florida State game.  One of those 3 teams will be Duke’s opponent on Thursday, March 9th. The Semi-Finals (Friday, March 10) and Finals (Saturday March 11 at 8:00 pm on ESPN) are at night, should Duke qualify.

The DBP will publish only one ACC Tournament edition covering Duke’s games (as many as 3, if the Blue Devils reach the finals on Saturday, March 11; or as few as one, if Duke loses in the quarterfinals). 

D-Live’s volleyball-style block in the final minutes of the game.
Photo credit: GoDuke.com
Flip does his signature spin and uses his height to pierce the Tar Heel defense.
Photo Credit: Abigail Bromberger | The Chronicle 

ACC Tournament Edition DBP (Season 14; Issue 31; Games 32, 33, and 34) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (March 9, 10, and 11, 2023)

  • (Quarterfinals on March 9) Duke Blue Devils 96 v. Pittsburgh Panthers 69
  • (Semifinals on March 10) Duke Blue Devils 85 v. Miami Hurricanes 78
  • (Finals on March 11) Duke Blue Devils 59 v. UVA Cavaliers 49
Coach Scheyer and the team he developed hoist the well-earned Championship Trophy high
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
The ACC Tournament Edition

This one edition – the ACC Tournament Edition –  will cover all of the Duke games in the ACC tournament.  Alanalysis was written after each Duke win, but before the next game. “Next Play” encompasses the NCAA draw and schedule.  Cliffnotes is a Bill summary of this tournament and the season.

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

To quote Michael Corleone: “Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.” Duke’s mid-season metamorphosis – from a disappointing pretender to a stone-cold contender that swept UNC in the final game of the regular season, and then finished off Pitt and former defeaters Miami and Virginia in dominating fashion in the ACC Tournament – was spectacular! The Blue Devils were behind only against Miami in the ACC Tournament (humorously known as The Duke Invitational as the Devils have won a record 22).

Although every player in the eight-man rotation made significant contributions, Duke was led by Captain Jeremy Roach and Kyle (“Flip”) Filipowski, the tournament MVP. Flip is the only Division I freshman in the last 25 seasons to have had 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 3+ steals in a conference tournament title game! And Jeremy, the only non-freshman starter, and the Captain, was the steady closer.  It remains to be seen what the NCAA Tournament holds for the Blue Devils, but after their beat down by Miami in Coral Gables, and the stolen Virginia game in Charlottesville, who expected this kind of finish to the regular season and league tournament?

MVP Flip says he is ready for the NCAA!
Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
ALANALYSIS:

ACC TOURNAMENT OVERVIEW

Duke’s dominance in this tournament – as unexpected as it was sweet and complete!  The semi-final game against Miami was nip and tuck for the first 18 minutes of the game.  With 2:06 left in the first half, Dariq Whitehead was fouled while shooting a 3.  He made all 3 foul shots to give Duke a 36-34 lead, which Duke never gave up in that game.  Duke led for every second of the games against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals and against Virginia in the finals.   Pitt got the lead down to 1, and Virginia reduced it to 2, but Duke never trailed in either game.

The Blue Devils met the challenge of playing 3 teams, each with their own particular style.  Scheyer, “We played three really good teams but also three different styles. Pitt is a great three-point shooting team, so they spread you and you have to really defend the three. Miami is one of the most athletic teams in our league but also the country. They really pressure the ball.  Obviously, Virginia is tough as can be, slower paced, they grind you. And to prepare for them in 24 hours and to defend them the way that we did, it’s a credit to these guys and their focus and their fight on the defensive end.”

Here is DBP’s game by game analysis, in order, starting with the Quarterfinals decimation of Pittsburgh, then the taut Semifinal against Miami, followed by the Championship victory over UVA.

THE QUARTERFINALS – Duke 96 v. Pittsburgh 69 (Thursday, March 9)

Without a doubt, this was Duke’s finest performance of the season to date.  As in all single elimination tournaments, it makes the next game the most important of the season.  For the Blue Devils, it will be a first game against an elite team since their 7-game winning streak began.  A Duke players-only meeting on February 6, after Miami had destroyed the Blue Devils 81 -59,  is described as a turning point for the season.  Although Duke lost the next game to Virginia in Charlottesville under “murky” (incorrect foul call) circumstances, you could see the team coming together and growing.  Seven straight, but not an elite team among the victims.  Miami is an elite team.  That makes the semi-finals against the Hurricane the most important game of the season.

The Offense

Duke ran an offense that was smooth and cohesive.   The Blue Devils scored 96 points, setting season highs for points, assists, and shooting percentage. Duke was 36-58 for 62.1%.  The Blue Devils handed out 27 assists on 36 field goals, and turned it over just 8 times — only 2 by the starters.  Tyrese (Ty) Proctor and Captain Jeremy Roach combined to hand out 16 of those assists.   The 27 assists set a tournament record. 

For the fifth straight game, at least 4 of the 5 starters scored in double figures.  Against Pitt, Kyle (Flip) Filipowski led Duke in scoring with 22 points (8-10 from the field, including 4-6 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the stripe).  He was unstoppable!  Shockingly, zero rebounds.  Dereck (D-Live) Lively II was 5-6 from the field, including 1-1 from behind the arc, plus 2-3 from the foul line for 13 points.  D-Live blocked 2 shots and grabbed 4 boards.  

Mark Mitchell scored 12 points (4-8 from the field, including 0-3 from deep, plus 4-4 from the foul line).  Mark garnered 5 rebounds, handed out an assist, and made a steal. Proctor scored 11 points (4-6, including 3-5 from behind the arc) to go with his 10 assists, 3 boards, and 2 steals.  

The Captain scored 9 points (he only scores when Duke needs him to, and the Blue Devils did not need his scoring against Pitt) on 3-5 from the field, including 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe.  He handed out 6 assists.  Whitehead and Grandison each scored 8 points off the bench.  It was easily Duke’s best offensive performance of the year  

Coach Scheyer was gleeful and proud of his offense, which he said is finally catching up to Duke’s defense.  Duke has been enjoying a terrific defensive season.  That continued against the Panthers.

The Defense

Even though Duke’s defense has been its calling card, and been very effective during the season, the Blue Devils are morphing into one of the best defensive teams around.  In the post game interview, Scheyer had 2 Duke players with him.  They are the two (mostly unheralded) players whose improvement is dramatic and has contributed to the team’s growth.  Ty Proctor and Mark Mitchell have ramped up their defensive intensity, which has made the Blue Devils a team flying under the radar.

Pitt was not able to generate any consistent offense. Pitt shot only 22-52, including 5-18 from deep.  Duke held Pitt scoreless from the field for the first 5 minutes of the game (to lead 12-0).  Duke led by as many as 18, finishing the half with a 16 point lead 48-32.  Then Duke held Pitt scoreless for another 4 minutes to begin the second half on another 12-0 run.  62-34 with 16 minutes left in the game.  Duke’s largest lead was 36 when Scheyer put the bench into the game with 6:10 left in the game. 

THE SEMI-FINALS  – Duke 85 v Miami 78 (Friday, March 10)

If the quarterfinals against Pittsburgh was Duke’s best game of the year, the Blue Devils’ win over Miami was Duke’s best victory of the year.  Admiration was mandatory for the Miami offense, and the individual Hurricane players’ ability to score against genuinely formidable defense.  Miami scored 42 second-half points, shooting 11-17 from inside the arc.  Duke kept the Hurricanes at bay behind the arc (3-14 in the second half), which won the game for Duke.  

Duke scored 41 points in the first half (and 44 in the closing stanza). They simply outscored Miami.  The game see-sawed in the first half with 7 ties and 12 lead changes.  After Dariq Whitehead made the first of his 3 foul shots, the game was tied at 34 with 2 minutes left in the first half.  Duke took the lead and never relinquished it after Dariq connected on his next two, for a 36-34 Duke lead.   Duke led 41-36 at half time.

While Miami clawed at the Duke defense to stay within striking distance – the Hurricanes were within a point — 66-65 with 5:15 left in the game – the Blue Devil offense was amazing at “winning time”.  Isaiah Wong, Miami’s star guard and ACC Player of the Year this year, picked up a crucial 4th foul with 5:12 left in the game when he fouled Dariq on another 3-point attempt.  Whitehead made all 3 (Duke 69 v. Miami 65).

Flip fouled, and Miami cashed both shots.  Duke by 69-67 with 4:57 remaining.  Flip scored on a floater; Miami missed.  Mark Mitchell was fouled and made both shots (Duke leads 73-67  with  4:12 left).  Miami scored on a dunk. (73-69 with 3:54 left in the game).  

Miami created a ‘jump ball’ by tying up Roach (Duke ball on the alternate possession), but then the Captain missed a shot on that possession.  Flip scored on an offensive rebound.  Duke led 75-69 with 3:05 left.  Wong assisted on a Miami jump shot followed by Miami blocking a Jeremy layup. 

Duke by 75-71 with 2 minutes to go when THE CAPTAIN won the game by launching a well-defended 3-pointer with the shot clock running down.  Swish.  Duke by 7, 78-71 with only 1:58 in the game.  Duke maintained that 7 point  lead to the ending, with free throws by Mark, Jeremy and Dariq, for the best Blue Devil win of the year!

The Good

The Offense

Despite Miami’s intense defense that has earned a reputation for creating turnovers (created 8 Duke turnovers in the first half) and getting deflections, the Blue Devil offense never wavered.  Miami forced 22 Blue Devil turnovers when they last met in Coral Gables, but was able to force only 4 second- half Duke turnovers, a revealing statistic. Huge credit to Ty and the Captain.

Five Duke players scored in double figures.  In 31:20, Flip notched his 15th double-double of the season (17 points on 8-9 from the field plus 1-2 from the stripe, plus 11 boards). Dariq Whitehead was the explosive 6th man, scoring 16 points – 4-8 from the field, including 2-3 from 3land and a crucial 6-6 from the stripe — in 18:35. He was a star!  So was Tyrese (37 minutes), who scored 15 points on an efficient 8 shots (5-8, including 3-5 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 5 assists, 3 boards, and a steal, with only 2 turnovers against a passionate Miami defense.  The Captain also played 37 minutes, scoring 13 points (3-9 including 1-3 from deep and a crucial 6-7 from the stripe.  Let us not overlook Mark Mitchell, whose improvement is both under the radar and dramatic.  Mark, in 34 minutes scored 14 points (4-9, including 1-2 from deep and 5-8 from the foul line) to go with 5 rebounds and a steal.

D-Live was the only player in the 6-man rotation who did not score in double figures.  In 34 minutes, he scored 8 points on 4-5 shooting, but he blocked 3 shots, handed out 3 assists and corralled 6 boards.  His value may be harder to measure, but is undeniably immense.   Now D-Live is looking comfortable on offense.

The bench was almost non-existent — Grandison played 3:21 in the first half without scoring, while Ryan Young played just 5 minutes and sunk 2 foul shots and grabbed 3 boards.  

THE NOT GOOD; MIAMI’S OFFENSE WAS UNSTOPPABLE

The Defense 

It is hard to praise a defense that gave up 78 points in the game, including 42 in the hard-fought closing half.  Yet, Duke played intense, cohesive defense.  Jay Bilas, the excellent Duke alum color analyst, said several times, “that was excellent defense; it was just better offense.”  Miami is really good, and far better than the so-called “bracketologists” who predict a low NCAA seed.   The Hurricanes will not get a high seed, but might well win some gaudy victories in The Big Dance.

Fouling

Both D-Live and Flip finished the game with 4 fouls.  The good news is that neither fouled out.

The Captain stretches to reach for his Championship.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

THE FINALS – Duke 59 v. UVA 49  (Saturday March 11)

The Blue Devils defended the Cavaliers in breathtaking fashion, holding Virginia to just 17 first-half points (6-22 from the field, including 1-7 from deep and 4-8 from the foul line).  Duke had 6 steals (forced 7 turnovers) while Dereck (D-Live) Lively II blocked 2 shots and altered many others at the rim.  The usually unflappable Cavaliers were in complete offensive disarray.  Duke led 24-17 at half time.

Duke led by as many as 14 points, and as few as 4 during the second half, but always had a lead of at least 2 possessions (4 points or more) and frequently  10 points.  Virginia pulled within 7 points (45-38 with 5:30 left in the game) before The Captain took over the game with 4:52 left.  Jeremy scored 11 of Duke’s last 14 points – in under 5 minutes! – to preserve the Duke lead.  Flip was fouled twice within a few seconds.  Both were 1-and-1s.Flip swished only one of a possible 4 points..   UVA again got as close as 4 points (49-43) with 40 seconds left, but never closer.  Mitchell made 2 free throws with 22 seconds left for the final 59-49 margin.

Jeremy scored 19 of his 23 game points in the second half, while Flip scored 9 of his 20 in the closing period.  Thus the Captain and Flip scored 28 of Duke’s 35 second half points! (Tyrese (Ty) Proctor scored 5 and Mark Mitchell was 2-2 from the foul line.  Jeremy Roach played one of the very best halves of his career to help win this championship.

The Offense

Flip recorded his 16th double-double of the season with 20 points (8-17 from the field, including 1-5 from behind the arc plus 3-5 from the stripe) to go with 10 rebounds and three steals.   He finished the tournament with 59 points across 3 games (avg 19.7 per game) and 21 rebounds (avg 7.0) and sinking 24-of–36 (avg shooting  66.7%) from the field.  For that amazing 3 game performance, Flip was named the winner of the Everett Case ACC Tournament MVP trophy, becoming the seventh freshman ever to win. It was the 21st time a Duke player has won that award (no other team has come close).  Remarkably for his height, Flip has led Duke in steals 6 times during the year, each time with 3 steals or more.

Flip made a couple of  spectacular plays midway in the second half, when UVA cut the Duke lead to 6 (38-32). He threw a cross court pass over top of a Virginia player from corner to corner, to Procter, who swished a wide open three, to restore a 9-point lead.  Flip followed up immediately by stealing the pass on Virginia’s very next possession and then racing full court for a dunk. Duke’s lead was back to 11 with 7:33 left in the game.

Jeremy (The Captain) Roach scored a career high 23 points – 19 points in the second half – on 7-of-12 shooting for the game, including 2-2 from deep, plus 7-of-7 at the free throw line. His 19 second-half points were the most by any Duke player in a second half this season.  Scheyer was appreciative and admiring, “He just willed us; he just absolutely willed us.”

Jeremy and Flip combined for 43 of Duke’s 59 points. Both made the sportswriter’s All-tournament “first team” (along with Isaiah Wong of Miami; Jayden Gardner of UVA; and Terquavion Smith of NC State).  D-Live was selected to the “second team” along with Jordan Miller of Miami, Arman Franklin and Reece Beekman of Virginia and R.J. Davis of UNC.

The Defense

Virginia entered the game, averaging 68.4 points per game for the season.  Duke has now held 30 of 34 opponents to below their season scoring average.  The 49 points Virginia did score were Duke’s fewest allowed in an ACC Tournament game since a 57-46 win over Virginia in the 2010 quarterfinals.  Duke allowed 17 points in the first half, the fewest allowed in any half, against any team this season. Duke held Virginia to 27.3% shooting in the first half, matching Duke’s best first-half field goal defense against any team this season.  

The Blue Devil’s awesome intensity on defense impressed the announcers and color commentators. They all kept commenting that this Duke team was NOT the same team as even 6 weeks ago, while also noting that the injuries which had plagued various Duke players throughout the season had delayed development.  Duke is finally healthy, and is now perceived differently than the Blue Devils were before such a dominating performance in the ACC tournament.  The Blue Devils have only lost once with a completely healthy roster.

Proctor and D-Live doin’ the dance of joy while the chorus gets ready to join.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

SUMMING UP

It feels so right that Duke played UVA for the ACC Tournament crown after the referees botched the final call when UVA beat Duke in overtime in Charlottesville, February 11th.  So, it was poetic justice for Duke to play a terrific game to defeat UVA for the ACC tournament win!  

These last 9 games have been Scheyer’s time to shine.  He has built the backcourt, making Ty the primary ball handler with The Captain and Flip as the leading scorers.  He resurrected D-Live’s game and Duke’s interior defense.  

The 2023 ACC Tournament Champions are the Duke Blue Devils.  Duke was so dominant that for the entire tournament, they trailed for only 4:32 (against Miami in the early going).  Neither Pittsburgh nor Virginia ever had the lead in their games against Duke. 

The NCAA tournament awaits, and Duke, the 5th seed in the East Region, is at their pinnacle of confidence at this point in the season.

Next Play: is the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Thursday, March 16,2023 Duke plays Oral Roberts (30-4; 18-0 Summit League Champions, who are on a 17 game win streak) in Orlando, FL at 7:10 p.m. CBS. 

If Duke  wins that game the Blue Devils will play against the winner of Tennessee (4th seed) against Louisiana on Saturday, March 18.

The DBP will publish only one NCAA Tournament edition for each weekend that Duke plays (as Coach K thought of it, the tournament consists of  3 weekends of 4-team tournaments).  Duke will play until they lose – or win the NCAA national championship!


NCAA Tourneament Edition DBP (Season 14; Issue 31; Games 35 and 36) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (March 16, 2023 and March 18, 2023)

Final DBP for 2022-2023 Season

  • Duke Blue Devils 74 v. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles 51 (opening round)
  • Duke Blue Devils 52 v. Tennessee Volunteers 65 (second round)
No one will ever question Flip’s courage or competitiveness after he took Tennessee’s punishment and was not intimidated.
Photo Credit: Morgan Chu | The Duke Chronicle

NCAA First RoundTournament Edition

Alanalysis for Oral Roberts was written after the Duke win, but before the next game. “Next Play” encompasses the NCAA draw and schedule.  Cliffnotes is a Bill summary of this tournament and the season.

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

My son called me yesterday to say that he turned on the Duke-Tennessee basketball game and a street mugging broke out. It did in the first few minutes when a couple of Rocky Top thugs led by 24-year-old center Uros Plavsic beat up Filipowski by knocking him down and throwing elbows, putting a deep cut under his left eye. Proctor was knocked over by a ball swung at his face. Both got back in the game, undeterred in the face of attempted intimidation, but it was more than that.  It set the tone for officiating and made the game the Duke boys against the Tennessee men, who, in truth, ultimately had a basketball answer for every Blue Devil run. It’s a shame. The eastern brackets had more or less opened up because #1 seed Purdue was upset by #15 Fairleigh Dickinson Friday night as Duke wired Oral Roberts with no trouble.  

Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes previously coached at Clemson in the ACC where he won less than 50% of his conference games and is best known for his feistiness by taking a swing at North Carolina Coach Dean Smith and teaching his players all-round aggressiveness and physicality.  I would rather be beaten by North Carolina, who plays the right way, than a Rick Barnes team.  I prefer basketball played as a non-contact sport, a ballet of grace and style rather than an ugly “mud wrestling contest”. Tennessee played better this day, won most every metric, and deserved to win.  

Whatever, Duke made an impressive run to finish the season by winning ten games in a row and the ACC Championship before ultimately running into a mature Tennessee team who played their best game of the year and simply manhandled the freshmen laden Devils . The good news is that it might give some of the young Blue Devils second thoughts about whether they are ready for the NBA as talented “One & Done” boys.

The Captain had a season to be truly proud of.  Ty looks on in awe at the left.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
ALANALYSIS:
Duke 74 v. Oral Roberts 51 in the First Round

The Blue Devils announced from the opening tip-off that there would be no overconfidence leading to the type of upset that befell # 1 seeded Purdue (lost to #16 seed Fairleigh Dickenson).  Duke’s defense was as good as it has been all season to start the game.  Oral Roberts did not score for the opening 4+ minutes, while the Blue Devils opened an 11-0 lead.  In fact, the Golden Eagles first points came with 8:04 remaining in the first half.  Duke 15 – Oral Roberts 2.  With only 1:06 left in the first half, the Blue Devils led by 20 (38-18).

The complexion of the game did not change in the second half.  Duke scored the first 8 points of the second half to take a 25-point lead (48-23) in the first 3:45 of the second half.  The Golden Eagles did fight back, and reduced the lead to as low as 14, but the Blue Devils closed the game out efficiently, leading by 25 with 2:47 left in the game.  

Scheyer then emptied the bench.

The Defense

What a defensive performance!  The Golden Eagles entered the tournament on a 17-game winning streak, averaging 84 points per game.  Duke held them to 51 points, 33 points below their average.

Max Abmas is the Oral Roberts star, who was averaging 22 points per game and had been the key player in the Golden Eagle’s run to the Sweet 16 two years ago.   Duke completely closed him down.  Tyrese (Ty) Proctor has been the defensive ace of the back court.  He hounded Abmas, but picked up 2 early fouls.  Mark Mitchell then hounded Abmas (4-15, including 2-9 from deep).  Abmas only attempted (and made) a pair of free throws. 

Duke controlled the interior.  Dereck (D-Live) blocked 6 shots and grabbed 12 boards in a dominating performance.  Kyle (Flip) Filipowski contributed 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Captain Jeremy Roach, Super Sixth Man Dariq Whitehead, and Proctor each made a steal.  Duke won the rebounding battle by a wide margin (46-32)

The announcers fell all over themselves as if just discovering how good this defense really is.

Mark Mitchell had a stellar season.  Duke really missed him against Tennessee.  Will he return for his sophomore year?
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

The Offense

Jeremy Roach led the Blue Devil offense, scoring 23 points for the second straight game.  The Captain was 9-17 from the field, including 1-5 from deep, plus 4-4 from the line in his 36:33 of playing time.  Remove his deep shooting and Jeremy was 8-12 from inside the arc as he drove to the basket on a variety of deft layups and floaters.

Dariq was Duke’s only other double figure scorer.  Whitehead scored an efficient 12 points on only 7 shots (5-7, including a gaudy 3-3 from deep). Mark Mitchell scored 8 (4-11, including 0-2 from behind the arc), while Ty scored 7 (all in the second half) on 3-11 from the field, including 1-3 from deep.  Flip scored only 6 (2-7), while D-Live contributed 4 points (2-3).  But Duke was so dynamic that their scoring was not needed.   

Duke’s two freshmen 7-footers protecting the Duke rim, part of what made Duke’s defense so good all year.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com
Duke 52 – Tennessee 65 in the Second Round 

A tale of two very different halves, with the same Tennessee success in each (27-21 in the first half; and 38-31 in the second half).  

First Half

In the first half, Duke led 21-18 with 4:51 left ….. and did not score in that half again.  The Volunteers hit a jump shot; Dariq Whitehead missed a 3-point attempt; Tennessee converted an offensive rebound to take a 22-21 lead with 3:48 left.  Each team missed its next 3 shots before Dereck (D-Live) Lively II committed an offensive foul.  Still 22-21 with 1:21 left in the half, when the Vols finally hit a 3 to make it 25-21. Then, the teams traded turnovers before the Vols grabbed yet another offensive rebound and hit another 3-pointer, as the first half expired.  27-21.  What a desultory way to wrap up the half.

While each team committed 8 fouls, Duke’s fouling was especially costly as the half wore on. Tennessee put Duke in the bonus early (committing its 6th foul with 9:46 to go in the half).  Duke did not commit its 3rd foul until there was only 7:07 left in the half. However, in those last 7 minutes, Duke fouled 5 more times, including 3 committed by Captain Jeremy Roach.  With 1:38 left in the half, D-Live picked up his second foul.  Ouch!

Not only did Lively IInot even attempt a single shot, but Ryan Young, who replaced D-Live for 3:57 in the first half (Ryan  didn’t play in the second half), also failed to score a point. or even take a shot.  

Duke’s main first half offensive woe was turnovers.  11 of Duke’s 15 game-turnovers came in the first half, Roach committing 4, Ty 2, and Kyle (Flip) Filipowski 2.  Much of the turnover problem was caused by the vaunted Volunteer defense, but many by Blue Devil carelessness.  21 points was Duke’s lowest single half scoring of the season: Proctor was 1-3 for 2 points; Roach hit a pair of 3s for 6 points, while Flip was 2-8 including 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe for 5 points.  The Blue Devils were 8-22.  Only Roach’s 2-2 from deep and Dariq’s 2-5 from behind the arc (12 of Duke’s 21 points) kept the Blue Devils in the game.

Ty in maximum effort with a touch of desperation as he scored 14 second half points against Tennessee.  
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

Second Half

Mark Mitchell was injured but was not officially ruled out of the game until just before tip-off.  His absence caught up with Duke in the second half when the Blue Devils ran out of gas.  Dariq Whitehead has been a force off the bench during the winning streak, but never played more than 23 minutes in any game.  He scored 8 points in the first 11:35 of the first half.  He played over 16 minutes in each half, but never scored in the game again after those first 11 minutes.  He simply was not in good enough physical condition to play that many minutes..  In his 16:21 second-half minutes, Dariq did not attempt any shot, from the field, from deep or from the stripe.   D-Live played all 20 minutes in the second half without scoring – without attempting a shot from the field or a foul shot. 

That’s 36 minutes of Lively II and Whitehead, the # 1 and #2 rated high school players last year, without a single shot attempt!  

Each team was 13-27 from the field.  For the Volunteers, that included 6-11 from deep, while the Blue Devils shot only 2-11 from deep.  That 12-point difference in 3s is the Tennessee margin of victory.  Only three Blue Devils scored in the second half: Proctor was heroic, scoring 14 second-half points (5-10 from the field, but only 1-4 from deep, plus 3-3 from the stripe); Flip was 4-8, including 0-3 from deep without a free throw attempt; and the Captain scored 7 (3-8 from the field, including 1-4 from behind the arc without a free throw attempt).  The only bench support was Grandison’s 7:38, in which he scored 2 points.  

Olivier Nkamhoua scored 8 points in Tennessee’s 3-point win over the Ragin’ Cajuns from Louisiana (13th seed) last Thursday.  He scored 23 against Duke in the second half alone (8-10 from the field including 3-4 from deep plus 4-5 from the stripe).  Every time Duke scored to bring the lead down (on different occasions to 2; 4; and twice 5 – the last time with 5:04 left in the game), the Blue Devils could not get a stop. Olivier was a one-man wrecking crew.  Duke went to a zone defense when Roach picked up his fourth foul after only 5 minutes of the second half had been played. Nkamhoua was shooting uncontested shots.  By then, Duke was no longer the excellent defensive team it had been all year.  The Devils looked exhausted.

Jacob Grandison with Scheyer – The Brotherhood remains strong and in good, albeit new, hands.
Photo Credit: GoDuke.com

SUMMING UP

The Game

For all 36 of his game-minutes, D-Live did not attempt a shot or score a point!!  For his last 20 minutes of game action, neither did Dariq.  The scoring malaise for D-Live for the entire game and Dariq for the latter part of the first half and the entire second half was a shocking negative from which the Blue Devils could not recover.

Duke was 16-1 when all the players in the rotation were healthy and only 11-8 when key players were missing. Mark Mitchell, who is one of Duke’s best defenders and rebounders was scratched from the game because of a late injury.  The lack of depth that Mitchell’s injury caused was a real blow for the team.  It was like that for several of Duke’s vanquished opponents — UVA when they lost a starter for the season, and Miami when their star Big was injured in the first minute against Duke.  It is why talented depth is so important.  

Tennessee played its best game of the season and completely earned its Sweet 16 berth.  

The Season

The 2022-23 Duke Blue Devils hung a banner in Cameron by winning the ACC tournament.   That crown and the way Duke fought back from 8-6 in the conference to 14-6 to earn a double bye in the ACC tournament were not less than crowning achievements.

Jon Scheyer, first year head coach, developed a team that closed the season with a 10-game winning streak and went 16-0 in home games.  Not bad!  His most impressive accomplishment in doing that was the development of the backcourt – moving Ty to the point, allowing the Captain to play mostly off the ball as a scorer.  Scheyer also nurtured D-Live into a game-changing defensive force.

The disappointing second round loss was especially disheartening because of expectations and hopes – especially after FDU eliminated the # 1 seed in the Eastern Region (where Duke was placed).

For Bill and me and our superb editorial staff [Alan’s daughter and her mum], it was an exhilarating season with much drama. The drama began with preseason injuries to Dariq and D-Live, and heightened with  Jeremy’s toe injury.   The health problems delayed the development of this team, subjected Scheyer to Monday morning quarterbacking, and left the Blue Devils with an 8-6 conference record and almost no chance at the ACC title.  Then came the exhilaration of their 10 game winning streak, which included the 3 wins to become ACC tournament champions.   

Questions for Next Season

The most important one is: “will there be a DBP next season?” 

While almost every Duke player would improve, and improve their opportunities for future professional play, by returning to Duke (except Flip, who is likely ready for the NBA), experience teaches that most, if not all, will leave.  I wonder if Trevor Keels wishes he had returned for his sophomore year at Duke.  He played only in the G League until March.  He has so far scored 2 NBA points this season. He could not be buried any deeper on the Knick bench.

Big decisions to come from D-Live, Dariq, Jeremy, Proctor, and Mitchell.

See you next year??


Duke Basketball Playbook 2021-2022


I WANT TO READ ABOUT THE MOST RECENT GAME

“Lucky Devil” Extra: COACH K’S FINAL SEASON (Season 13 Preseason Issue) with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

BILL’S CLIFF NOTES

Some of the same reasons that I suspect played into Coach K’s decision to retire had caused me to seriously question whether I really wanted to make the commitment for another season of Duke Basketball Playbook. Primarily, it is this: if the players are not willing to commit to the school, their education, and their teammates for more than one  single season—or in Jalen Johnson’s case (had to look his name up), only part of a single season—why should I? For me, the memories of Laettner, Hurley, Hill, Brand, Williams, Battier, Redick etc. maturing and getting better are everlasting, while I cannot even remember most of the names of the one-and-doners from the last few years.

However, when I read that Coach was lacing them up for one more season, I texted Alan: “We can’t quit now. We should go out with Coach K.”

ALANALYSIS:

Both Bill and I are admiring  of how Duke is handling the coaching transition from K to Scheyer (especially in light of the desultory UNC handling of Ole Roy’s retirement).  Ole Roy commiserated that “the game has passed me by.”   There was no planning for “next year”; no introduction or announcement of a new coach.  Nothing to encourage the fans.  Duke’s year certainly ended unceremoniously, with positive COVD-19 tests and, therefore, a quiet exit from the ACC postseason.  Last year’s COVID-ridden season, combined with the wholesale departures (especially the mid-season desertion of Jalen Johnson plus DJ Steward’s unwarranted — by talent — post-season departure) was depressing for this august publication.  Most certainly it was so for Coach K, too.  Thus, Bill had already said he did not want to participate in the DBP for next season, and I had said I was seriously considering abandoning it too.  But the dynamic editorial duo of Jeanne and Laramie remained steadfast with the team.  When Coach K announced his quintessentially K-type exit, then we just couldn’t resist.  

As ESPN insightfully wrote, “Did you really think [Coach K] would let that [13-11; no tournaments] be his finish line? Of course not.  Call this upcoming campaign a retirement tour, call it a victory lap, call it whatever you want. But if we have learned anything about Krzyzewski over the last half-century, it’s that he will never pass up a chance to win basketball games. Duke has a chance to win a lot of them between now and April.”

The Duke transition – unlike the UNC transition —  set up real renewed energy for the 2021-2022 Duke season,and therefore an impassioned pursuit of a National Championship to cap the last year of Coach K’s magical Reign: “Now that there’s clarity for our team, I think for everyone, we can focus on the task at hand. Which is to win the whole damn thing this year and have the best season we possibly can.”

I doubt there would have been a DBP for this coming season save for the excitement newly generated for Coach K’s final run at a National Championship (I’ll settle for an ACC tournament or regular season title).  But the excitement is real and is the catalyst for Bill’s and my continuing the DBP for this coming season.  We plan it as our last season as well.  It’s hard to do better than going out with Coach K.

So, let’s take a peek at the pieces that will make up Coach K’s last team in pursuit of excellence.  COVID prevented me from seeing the newcomers in action during high school all-star games last year as I usually do, so for the four freshmen (and one transfer), we will have to depend on ESPN’s scouting.  Btw, ESPN says that “Duke will enter the season with a team that should be poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 13 in ESPN’s most recent Way-Too-Early Top 25.

THE FRESHMEN [all quotes in this section are from ESPN

“It might come as no surprise, but Coach K’s final season will be largely impacted by the play of his highest ranked prospect – Paolo Banchero (ESPN #2).  Banchero exits high school with a college-ready game and frame.  Standing 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, Banchero possesses tremendous size and strength for the position. Not only is his frame mature for a prospect exiting high school, but he also plays a mature game with powerful athleticism. Paolo not only is highly effective and efficient in the paint and as a rebounder, but he has expanded his skillset to the perimeter, able to make shots off the catch and put the ball on the ground to attack slower bigs.”

I note that these are almost exactly the same words that were written about Jalen Johnson before the start of the 2020-2021 season.  That Jalen deserted, showing no loyalty to teammates, team, or university, doesn’t mean Banchero won’t live up to his lofty pre-season expectations.  But it does mean that assuming an incoming freshman will lead the team is not without serious risks. [Wouldn’t it be nice if Matt Hurt re-thought his NBA departure for the last ride with Coach K?  A pure fantasy, of course.]

“Another big addition for Duke happened to be their first [signee] in the 2021 class – AJ Griffin (ESPN #26). The five-star prospect is a tremendous athlete who can function both at the three and four on both ends of the court.  Coach K will need him bringing a motor and energy to the floor next season as he can impact the game at a high level as a rebounder and defender when he’s locked in and engaged.”

“An important addition to Duke next season is Trevor Keels (ESPN # 20), who has a college-ready game with his [length], skillset and feel for the game. He is a serious threat from three but also is a good passer and rebounder for the [guard] position who has improved his scoring off the bounce this past season.”  He had been Jeremy Roach’s backcourt partner in high school – though a year younger — where they both had much success.

“Given the lack of depth at the point guard spot next year, Jaylen Blakes (ESPN # 89) will come in and have a role to fill behind Roach. Blakes is a tough, strong and competitive guard who can provide valuable minutes for Coach K […]  He is a capable scorer from all three levels which is a nice bonus but his motor, energy and toughness will be his most reliable asset.”
THE TRANSFER

Theo John is a grad transfer out of Marquette who averaged eight points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks this past season.” John is a burly rebounder who will do the dirty work inside and reinforce Duke’s front court, while bringing needed experience to the roster.

KEY RETURNERS: WENDELL MOORE, MARK WILLIAMS, JEREMY ROACH plus JOEY BAKER

Coach K’s key returners start with sophomore Mark Williams, who had a monster end to the 2020-21 season. In his final four games of the season, Williams averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, including a 23-point and 19-rebound performance in a win over Louisville in the ACC Tournament.  

It was a performance that has stardust dancing in the eyes of Duke fans.  If Williams can maintain that level of play, Duke will have the kind of season we are hoping for.  His game against Louisville has “visions of sugar plums” dancing in the eyes of Duke fans.  Let’s see if the sugar plums are in view when reality sets in and the season is underway.

Wendell Moore, who averaged 9.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists this past season. Moore, a former top 30 prospect in the 2019 class, is the last man standing from his high school class at Duke and brings important experience to the roster next season.”  Wendell, a Junior, has been an enigma in his two years.  He has made some spectacular plays (ask UNC) and is clearly a superior athlete.  Yet he has been a mediocre to poor shooter, with a penchant for turnovers (and great passes).  I predict he will be the valuable sixth man, who can play all positions, except center.  Moore is a talented slasher who can impact the game as a rebounder and playmaker and could develop into a force in guiding this Duke team out on the floor.

Sophomore Jeremy Roach, a former five-star guard in the 2020 class, may be the key to the season. Last year was  a bit of a rocky season for Roach, who averaged 8.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in his first year at Duke.  His ability to use that experience to make a jump in year two will be key for the Blue Devils next season.  Roach was a disappointment early, but Coach K has stuck with him.  We say we like to watch the young guns develop.  For Duke to chase glory this season, Roach will HAVE TO DEVELOP — 2.8 assists per game will NOT get the job done!  He is the only player on the roster with the talent to become an  elite leader at point guard.  I admit to being positive about Roach’s development, but it is no sure thing.

The last of the returners is Joey Baker, a 6-foot-6 senior who played an average of 11.5 minutes a game last season.  While Baker had had a reputation as a marksman from deep, he did not shoot as well last year as he had in his sophomore year.  If he can provide a helpful boost off the bench and make shots for the Blue Devils and provide poise taught by his three years under Coach K, he will offer value. However, in 3 years, Baker has shown the hustle and the desire, but not ACC elite level talent.  

As ESPN concludes, “this winter, smiles will come only if his last Duke Blue Devils team is winning games. Then again, it wouldn’t be a true Mike Krzyzewski season if there weren’t plenty of snarls to go around. Even now, the last time around.”  But in reality, the smiles should be, and are, an appreciation of Duke basketball, the principles that guide it, and a deep appreciation of Coach K’s 42 years of contributing to and creating this special journey.  We want to be part of that legacy to the end.


Season 13 Issue Zero – with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

I don’t know about you, but I welcome anything that passes for normal in these abnormal times when so much is politicized and civility, logic, and common sense are forgotten and, perhaps, lost arts. So, I welcome throwback sporting events with stadiums full of energized fans. But especially, I look forward to the 2021-22 Duke Basketball season for the following reasons:

  • Cameron and opponent venues will be rocking (for different reasons) in response to The Coach K Farewell Tour. Four tickets for his final game against the Tar Heels in Cameron were auctioned off for $1,00,000 (proceeds going to the charitable Dickie V Foundation).
  • Duke is loaded with more depth, talent, size, and chemistry than any team since the 1991-92 National Championship team. And by the way, Coach K’s teams have rarely won with size and strength alone — but this team is deep in both. Also, unlike some recent Blue Devil teams that appeared to enjoy playing offense more than defense, these players demonstrate an appetite for playing a very aggressive man-to-man defense– so do not expect to see much zone.

I base my assessment on rather thin data except scouting reports, one scrimmage, and one exhibition game. The exhibition game against Winston-Salem State (WSS) was relatively meaningless, but the WSS team is hardly The Little Sisters of the Poor; however, the scrimmage against a veteran and highly rated Villanova (#5-9) was whispered to have been won in the mid-teens. Obviously, we will know a lot more after the  November games against Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Ohio State.

Alan is writing a very comprehensive pre-season assessment, so: “That’s all for now, folks”.

ALANALYSIS

Coach K’s Approach to the 2021-2022 Duke Basketball Season (and Ours)

“I told my staff and everyone around me not to use the word ‘last’. This is my 47th year, my 42nd year at Duke. … For the last four decades we’ve made a mark on college basketball, and I’d like to make another mark before I leave.”

Duke Men’s Basketball team opens its intriguing season on November 9, 2021, at Madison Square Garden against Kentucky, to be aired on ESPN.  To whet your whistle for Coach K’s swan song (not to mention mine and Bill’s), here is the pre-season Duke Basketball Playbook (DBP) for what we hope will be a memorable season in many enduring ways. 

Duke played two 12-minute intrasquad games at Countdown to Craziness on October 15, a closed scrimmage with Villanova on October 23 in D.C., and an exhibition game against Winston Salem State on Oct. 30.  The intrasquad games were fun but not illuminating.  The Villanova scrimmage was split into a 20-minute game; a 10-minute game; plus substantial time was spent working on specific game situations.  No statistics or descriptions were permitted, but scuttlebutt says the Blue Devils held their own against a team rated in the top 5 pre-season. 

But the first half of the Winston Salem exhibition game gave us a mouthwatering glimpse of what this team might become.  

                                                    THE ROSTER

            DUKE (106) v. WINSTON SALEM STATE COLLEGE (38)

                        SCORE AT THE HALF: DUKE (63) v. WSS (13)

WSS did not score its 10th point until 4:37 was left in the first half. With 9 minutes and 37 seconds gone in the first period, Duke had 37 points (full game points at that rate is 145). With 40 seconds left in the first half, Duke led by 53; with a score of 63-10.  What a devastating performance!  

But the opponent was not Kentucky. 

                                                   THE STARTERS

Mark Williams (7’0” sophomore) looked as good as he did during his late season performances last year. In 19:06 minutes, he blocked 5 shots and scored 14 points (6-7 from the field; 2-3 from the stripe) to go with 5 rebounds.  WSS is undersized.  Let’s see how Mark handles players of the first rank, like in the game against Kentucky, and if he can handle it consistently.

Wendell Moore (6’5” junior) has drawn a significant amount of praise for his improvement, and corresponding level up in confidence. He can play three positions and run the team when Roach is out. In 17:53 he scored 8 (3-4 from the field; 2-2 from deep) to go with 6 assists — with 0 turnovers. Moore seemed  comfortable playing both on the perimeter and up front, and was defensively intense with 2 steals. 

Jeremy Roach’s (6’1” sophomore) potential for leadership and improvement in running the team may be the key to this season.  He did not have the year that he, and Duke, had hoped for last year, but he looked simply terrific at both ends in the exhibition opener, scoring 10 while handing out 7 assists, with only one turnover during his team-high 21:48 minutes.   

Paolo Banchero (6’10 freshman) is Duke’s most celebrated recruit (Pre-Season Player of the Year in the ACC; Newcomer of the Year and Pre-Season first team ACC). In 20 minutes, he scored 21 points (8-13; 1-2 from deep; 4-7 from the stripe), while pulling down 9 boards and handing out 2 assists, plus a steal.  He is comfortable both inside and outside. In fact, Coach K lists him as one of the team’s 4 or 5 best ball handlers.

Trevor Keels (6’4” freshman) was Roach’s backcourt partner in high school.  He is a mere 18 years old with a grown man’s muscular body.  He led the scoring at Countdown to Craziness and looked impressive on both ends of the floor in his 20:18 against WSS, scoring 12 while dishing out 4 assists (0 turnovers).  He may be in the starting lineup to stay.

                                                   THE BENCH

Adrian Griffin (6’6” freshman) was projected as a starter until he hurt his knee a few weeks ago.  He wasn’t expected to play at all in the exhibition game, but he logged 17:39 with the second unit. You could see the rust start to come off as he scored 10 (3-6; 0-2 from deep and 4-9 from the stripe), all in the second half. He drew 5 WSS fouls while grabbing 6 rebounds. Coach K loves him because he’s passionate about defense and comes from a basketball family.  His dad played 10 years in the NBA and now is an assistant coach with the Raptors.  He will either replace Keels as a starter or be the valuable 6th man (think Mike Dunleavy in 2000).

Theo John (6’9” graduate transfer from Marquette) is a big, strong rebounder and defender. He logged 17:01, scoring 6 (2-4; 2-2 from the stripe) while grabbing 5 boards and demonstrating a good passing ability.  He looked solid and will be valuable.

Jaylen Blakes (6’2” freshman) is a point guard, who played well and could lead the team if Roach went down (though I think it would more likely be Moore).  He played 21:51, looking good against this level of competition even though his shot was off (2-9; 1-3 from deep without getting to the line). He did grab 6 boards with 2 assists, 0 turnovers, and 2 blocked shots.

Joey Baker (6’6” senior) played the fewest minutes (16:56) scoring 8 (3-7; 2-5 from deep without getting to the line). He did grab 6 boards but committed 4 fouls and had a shot blocked.  He will get a chance to earn his way into the rotation.

Bates Jones (6’8” graduate transfer from Davidson) is Daniel Jones’s brother (former Duke and current NY Giant QB; his sister, Ruthie, is the current goalie for Duke’s women soccer team).  To me, he looked the best of the bench candidates (after Griffin).  In his 18:12, he scored 11 (3-5; 2-4 from deep and 3-3 from the stripe) to go with 4 boards and a blocked shot. At 6’8”, he demonstrated that he can shoot, rebound, and pass.  He might surprise and make the rotation.

How good Duke becomes defensively will define the season. 

Next Play: Kentucky on November 9 at 9:30 p.m. EST at Madison Square Garden on ESPN.  We’re on! 


Duke 79 – Kentucky 71 (Season 13 Issue 2 Game 1) with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

ALANALYSIS:

DUKE 79 V KENTUCKY 71

Madison Square Garden– Duke & Kentucky about to take the stage for the  Championship Classic game. The atmosphere: simply electric.  Coach K was honored. Duke fans filled the arena, buzzing with high anticipation for the season.  The entire Knick team and celebrities were everywhere. Does it get any better than that?  Well, yes. The game not only lived up to the hype, it over-delivered the hype. It was a great college basketball game between two really good teams. Both teams played with Final Four intensity (not always pretty, but always in breathless overdrive).  

While most game stories lead with the spectacular offensive performances of heralded freshmen Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels (and they were both amazing), it was Duke’s defense that determined the outcome.  Duke clamped down for two amazing defensive runs in the second half that created safe leads.  However, Duke was badly beaten in the interior by Oscar Tshiebwe, a 6’9” Man Mountain who – for stretches – controlled both backboards.  In 29 minutes (a burden of first half fouls limited his game minutes), he scored 17 points (8-14 at the rim and 1-1 from the stripe) to go with a jaw dropping 19 rebounds (12 on the offensive boards).  He took Mark Williams virtually out of the game.  Theo John was stronger than Mark and logged more minutes.  Both were seriously destroyed by Tshiebwe.

The Defense

In the first half, Duke was superb inside the arc, holding the Wildcats to just 7-30 there.  There were no open looks.  Tshiebwe retrieved 7 offensive rebounds, but he only scored 4 points on 2-6 shooting.  However, his astounding offensive rebounding gave Kentucky 13 more field goal attempts than Duke (41-28). Duke’s defense held Kentucky to the same number of baskets (13), but Kentucky was able to stay in the game by going 6-11 at the 3-point line.  Duke adjusted at half time, holding Kentucky to 1-7 from behind the arc in the closing stanza while pulling away for a quality win.

With 16:33 to go in the second half, Kentucky took a 48-47 lead.  Kentucky’s next score came a full 3:07 later (with 13:40 remaining) when the Wildcats converted two free throws to cut the Duke lead to 5.  The Wildcats didn’t score again for another 90 seconds while Duke’s lead grew to 11.  With 8:56 left, Duke’s lead was 15, primarily because Kentucky had scored just 6 points in 7 minutes and 37 seconds!  This Duke team is going to be a really good defensive team.

Then, Kentucky caught fire and the Devils stalled on 69 for over 4 minutes (cramping took both Moore and Paolo out for a spell) while the Wildcats rode Tshiebwe back into contention.   The Man Mountain scored 7 points while grabbing 3 offensive and 3 defensive boards, and he blocked a shot.  His foul shot drew Kentucky within 4 points (69 – 65) with 6:07 remaining.  Then the Blue Devil defense became dominant again, and the Wildcats could score only 4 points in the next 5:05. By then Duke led by 8 with just over a minute left and the game was securely in hand.

Keels, Roach, and Moore were brilliant defenders on the perimeter.  Banchero can guard several positions – unusual for a 250 pound 6’10” player.  He had 2 great steals.  Tshiebwe made life a challenge for Theo John and neutralized Mark Williams; however, Williams did make two winning plays in the clutch. With 5:34 and 4:31, respectively, left in the game – Williams made two sensational blocks on a driving Sahvir Wheeler, Kentucky’s point guard.  Coach K emphasized how crucial those two plays were to the Duke final run.

Another great unexpected perk for Duke came when A.J. Griffin (highly rated freshman who has been injured and was not expected to play) replaced Paolo when Banchero had to come out of the game due to cramping.  A.J. gave Duke a real lift on defense and the boards.  He played over 10 minutes.  Duke started to pull away when A.J. came in, but it was Keels who broke the game open.

The Offense and Rotation

The Rotation

In the first half, Mark Williams (8:42) and Theo John (11:18) divided the center position.  Joey Baker played 5:27 (0-2; 0-1 from deep; 2-2 from the stripe) and grabbed a pair of rebounds.  Griffin had a 1:37 cameo.  Jaylen Blakes played a shade under 3 minutes, but missed a wide-open corner 3, which relegated the freshman backup point guard to the bench for the remainder of the game.  Jeremy Roach played all 20 minutes of the second half.  Williams (9:04) and John (10:56) again split the center duties as they had in the first half.  Griffin logged 9 second-half minutes and earned Coach K’s praise.  Griffin is a very gifted player, and his return is significant for this team’s development.  Baker played 6 minutes without a statistic.  Otherwise, it was the starters who were on the court: Roach, Keels, Banchero, Moore and the two splitting center duty.

The Offense

The negative was that Duke had more turnovers (9) than assists (7).  But even that drawback could not diminish the offense, led primarily by Keels and Banchero.

Trevor Keels emerged as a potential lottery pick, according to the announcers.  He was, in fact, that amazingly good.  In the second half, when the cramping hit Duke, Keels carried the team.  He was 7-11 (2-3 from the stripe) for 16 points.  He led Duke in scoring for the game with 25 points (10-18; 1-4 from deep and 4-6 from the stripe) to go with 3 steals and 2 assists. He was simply a revelation in his 33:27 on the court.  

So was Banchero in his 31:30. He scored 22 on just 11 shots (7-11; 0-3 from deep and 7-8 from the line).  He drew fouls and converted free throws.  His shots came from everywhere – the perimeter, the post, at the rim (but only from inside the arc).  Paolo added 7 defensive boards and a couple of steals.  In short, he lived up to the considerable hype, and may have even surpassed it.

Wendell Moore played an excellent game in his 33:24, scoring 12 (6-10; 0-2; 0-1) with 4 boards and 3 assists.  He is an intense defender and an able leader — he and Baker are co-captains this year.

Although Jeremy Roach did not light up the box score (6 points on 3-8; 0-1 from both deep and the foul line; only 1 assist against 2 turnovers), he played more minutes than any other Duke player (36:33).  Coach K’s faith and reliance on Jeremy is demonstrated by his presence on the court for the entire 20 minutes of the second half.  Jeremy is improved, confident, and showed an athleticism that I did not see from him last year. Roach grabbed as many rebounds as Paolo and Williams did (7) and had a brace of steals.  

I think (and fervently hope) that  Duke’s failure from behind the arc (1-13) was an aberration because 1-13 from deep won’t cut it.  Keels made the only deep shot but was 1-4 for three-pointers overall.  Banchero was 0-3.  Moore 0-2.  Griffin, Blakes, Baker and Roach were all 0-1.  

Theo John and Mark Williams each scored 5 (each was 2-4 plus 1-2 from the stripe).  They each tailor their defense style to their individual talents.  John (who Bilas says protects the lane rather than the rim) had 2 blocks and 2 rebounds.  Mark (who Bilas says protects the rim) had 7 boards and 3 blocks, including the two dramatic ones down the stretch.  Williams has more raw talent than John, but Tshiebwe was simply too strong for him.  How the center position develops will be an ongoing saga.  I predict a good year for Mark.  There are not too many centers like Tshiebwe.

BILL’S CLIFF NOTES:

Tonight’s early, pressure packed test against intense rival Kentucky in sold out mecca Madison Square Garden on national TV confirmed what I wrote in the DBP Preview: This is the deepest, most talented Duke squad since the 1991-92 Laettner, Hurley, Hill NCAA Championship team. That doesn’t mean they will win the championship, but barring injuries, they will surely be a contender.

 Duke was ahead most of the way but was unable to shake a very persistent, resilient Kentucky team led atypically by two older, grad transfers: center Oscar Tshiebwe, a rebounding machine, and guard Sahvir Wheeler, a multi-talented point guard. However, after giving up six threes in the first half, the Blues Devils limited the Wildcats to only one in the second. It is not often a team is outscored by six three pointers and still wins, but Duke’s Trevor Keels (25), Paolo Banchero (22), and Wendell Moore (12) made sure it didn’t matter—that’s versatility. Banchero (“We’re a great team. We’re going to play together. We’re going to play hard all 40 minutes. And, yeah, I mean, we’re going to play like Duke.”) was as good as advertised, but when Banchero was out suffering from leg cramps, it was Keels, a basketball version of the Tennessee Titans great running back Derrick Henry, who virtually took over the game and made the difference. (“So, I knew when P went out somebody had to step up and that’s what I did. I kept looking at the score and I just made sure we were up and we were winning. That’s something that I look at all the time. I don’t really care about my points or anything like that. It’s that we come out with the victory.”) 

The Good news:

  • Duke led for 35:46 of game time, while Kentucky led for just 2:07.
  • Before he developed cramps, Wendell Moore demonstrated he is a much better player than last year.
  • Grad transfer John Theo’s physicality gives Duke two very different options at center.
  • This team will not go 1-13 from three point land again or all bets are off.
  • AJ Griffin is recovering from a knee injury and only played 11 minutes, but nevertheless he really gave The Blue Devils a big lift. When totally healthy, he will be a major contributor in multiple ways.
  • The cramping issues will be solved before the Gonzaga game.

The Concerns:

  • Jeremy Roach did not appear much improved from last year. He couldn’t contain Wheeler (who was All SEC at Georgia last year) and only had 1 assist and 6 points. However, Moore, Banchero, and Keels all can initiate the offense. Obviously, Coach K does not agree as Roach played more minutes than any other Duke player. 
  • Co-Captain Joey Baker still appears athletically overmatched and, unless opponents play a zone, does not bring much to the floor except reliable three point shooting.

Miscellaneous:

  • Why Kentucky hates Duke (Other than the Laettner shot in the NCAA Tournament): Barring another meeting in March Madness, retiring Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski will finish his iconic coaching career with a 7-2 record against Kentucky.
  • Mike Krzyzewski is in his 42nd season as Duke’s head coach, and his record is now 1,098-302 at Duke, and 1,171-361 overall in this, his 47th season overall. 
  • The game marked Duke’s 100th time playing in the greater New York City area, where the Blue Devils won 73 of those games, including 45-25 at Madison Square Garden, 7-1 in Brooklyn, and 21-1 in East Rutherford, N.J. 

Next Play: Duke’s Veteran’s Day Weekend Showcase (two games over the weekend, both in Cameron).  Duke plays Army on Friday, November 12 at 7 pm.  ACCN (I get those games on ESPN+) and Campbell on Saturday, November 13 at 8 pm.  The first home games of the season.  The next DBP will cover both of those games in one edition.


Duke 82 – Army 56 & Duke 67 – Campbell 56 (Season 13 Issue 3 Games 2&3) with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

DUKE 82 V ARMY 56 (Friday Nov 12, 2021) – – DUKE 67 V CAMPBELL 56 (Saturday Nov 13, 2021)
ALANALYSIS:

Duke cannot be satisfied with two performances against unranked teams that were as close (though the final score does not show it) as the games against Army and Campbell were; however, the team’s potential is there, even though it was not visible until late in the second half of each of these last two games. The Duke offense looked sloppy and disjointed in the first half against Army.  After Duke led by 10 with 17:17 left, Army out-scored Duke by 5 points in the next 16:32 to cut Duke’s lead to 30-25 with 1:49 left. Then, the game announcer insightfully reflected on Duke’s prestigious win against Kentucky on November 9: “Duke really didn’t play that well against Kentucky.  The Blue Devils were 1-13 from behind the arc and were badly beaten on the interior.  While Duke defended ferociously, Kentucky playmakers had success penetrating.”  This reflection emphasizes Duke’s 2021-2022 potential upsides, as well as what needs improvement to reach that potential.

Coach K is now constructing a different offense.  Consider Coach K’s past reliance on (and leadership given to the team by) his past elite point guards like Tommy Amaker, Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams, Jon Scheyer, Trey and Tyus Jones. This 2021/2022 team really does not have a true point guard, but they do have at least 4 excellent ball handlers.  Duke looked so good in the later stages of the closing half in each game because Jeremy Roach became a true lead guard (more scoring than assists) while leading the offense.  Downside is: Duke is still turning the ball over with troubling consistency.  Roach has the potential to be the point guard, but he is not there yet. Coach K is hoping these factors will be sufficient to produce a cohesive offensive. 

The Good

The Defense!  Duke held Army to 56 points and forced 21 turnovers.  Against Campbell, Duke trailed by 10 (18-8 with 13:55 left in the first half) when the Devils turned up the defense to hold Campbell scoreless for 4 minutes (18-17), and then to allow only an additional 3 pointer (on a possession occuring after Campbell corralled 3 offensive rebounds); thus holding Campbell virtually scoreless for a few seconds more than 8 minutes!  The Blue Devils have terrific one-on-one perimeter defenders in Moore, Roach, Keels, and Banchero.  Keels is a ball hawk with 10 steals in 3 games (6 just against Army).  Against Campbell,  Banchero was frequently the center; Duke was able to switch every screen because Paolo can guard on the perimeter.  Duke is still overplaying and therefore giving up backdoor cuts and lay-ups.  But overall, this edition of Duke basketball has the potential to be the best defensive team since winning the NCAA in 2010 and 2015.

Wendell Moore, Jr.!  Against Army, Moore posted the fifth triple double in Duke basketball history scoring 17, grabbing 10 boards and handing out 10 assists.  Moore has provided steady leadership, outstanding defense, excellent ball handling, and scoring.  Above all, he has been consistent.  He is the acknowledged team leader.

Paolo Banchero! The highly decorated freshman has more than lived up to the pre-season hype.  He is so efficient that though he has taken only the 3rd most shots on the team, he leads in scoring (19.3 p.p.g) by a wide margin.  He also leads the team in rebounding (8.7 r.p.g.), handles the ball adroitly, and defends well on both the perimeter and the interior.  Let’s not forget his 15-17 (88.2%) free-throw shooting, which is fantastic considering how frequently he gets fouled.

The Bad (Not Really Bad, but Needs Big Improvement if Duke is to Reach its Potential)

Backcourt Consistency on Offense! Trevor Keels looked All-World against Kentucky but has not scored in double figures since then, and was, in fact, entirely scoreless in the second half against Campbell (6 points for the game).  Since the Kentucky game, he has unsuccessfully forced some shots and has turned the ball over.  Coach K has commented that Keels was exhausted after his fabulous performance against Kentucky.  Keels’s backcourt partner, Jeremy Roach, has also been inconsistent, though his performance improved this past weekend.  Roach didn’t light up the box score against Kentucky but has impressed Coach K enough to make him the player on the team who has logged the most playing time.  He has started to score on driving layups (14 points against Campbell on 5-6 from inside the arc; 1-4 from deep; 1-2 from the stripe).  He added 3 assists without a turnover for his best game.  But he is not (yet) a Coach K true point guard.  Stay tuned.

The Bench! Joey Baker has emerged as the first player off the bench, averaging 20 minutes of playing time per game (his 31 minutes against Campbell boosted this average significantly).  12 seconds into the Campbell game, Wendell Moore went down with an injury and Baker replaced him before being pulled back out when he didn’t score.  Then, surprisingly, Baker had a great second half against Campbell, playing all 20 minutes while leading the team in second half scoring with 11 (all his points against Campbell came in the second half on 3-5 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe).  It was the first time he was an efficient and critical contributor.  

A.J. Griffin is playing around 9 minutes a game as the heralded freshman returns from a significant knee injury.   So far, Griffin has shown flashes of potential, but is still a long way from being the contributor he was anticipated to be based on being a McDonald’s All-American in high school.  Whether and when he reaches that potential will have a large impact on this Duke season.  We wish him continuing recovery.

Jaylen Blakes has played about 15 minutes per game so far this season, scoring only 2 points (1-5, including 0-3 from deep).   Whether he is in the rotation when the ACC season begins is still an open question.

Perimeter Shooting!  As a team, Duke is shooting under 30 % from behind the arc, even after hitting 9 for 23 from deep against Campbell.  In addition to Baker’s 3-5, Keels and Moore were each 2-5, while A.J. Griffin hit his only 3 (8-16  overall for those four players).  Banchero is shooting 14% this season (1-7) from deep; Moore (14- 46 for 28%); Keels (4- 15 for 26%) and Griffin (1-4 for 25%).  Duke has been simply dreadful from behind the arc.

The Ugly 

Interior Rebounding, Scoring and Defense!  Mark Williams finished last season so strong in scoring and rebounding that his continued progress (pre-season second team All-ACC) was a primary reason for Duke’s pre-season optimism and top 10 ranking.  But he has not played much or well.  Against Campbell, he played 5 first-half minutes without scoring and did not leave the bench in the second half.  He is averaging only 15 minutes a game with modest scoring and rebounding numbers.  He is, however, a shot blocker, averaging 1.7 even in those few playing minutes.  He has also been a disappointing 50% free throw shooter so far.  For Duke to be a contender, Mark has to return to his form from last year.

Theo John supplies toughness but, like Williams, has languished (15.7 minutes per game) with even lower scoring and rebounding than Williams.  He has played pretty good defense, but the center position has not been even close to productive, unless Duke has Banchero play center with an otherwise small lineup.

No matter who is manning the middle, Duke has been killed on the backboards, giving other teams a large offensive rebounding advantage.  Campbell played small (4 guards) and still outrebounded Duke 34-31, grabbing 15 offensive boards.  Kentucky simply demolished Duke on the glass.

Duke’s interior play must improve; Williams is the key to that in all aspects of interior play. We also wish him a speedy recovery!

Going Forward

Duke has 3 more games against lesser opponents – Gardner Webb, Lafayette, and The Citadel — in Cameron  in the next 8 days to work on the weaknesses that have appeared.  Then comes another nationally televised test on November 26 against Gonzaga, on the West Coast (10:30 EST tip-off.)

Bill’s Cliffs Notes:

Raise your hand if you thought the filler games between Kentucky and Gonzaga were just against stiffs. Seriously?  Campbell (formerly Junior College in Buies Creek, N.C. alma mater of Country Music Hall of Fame country writer John Loudermilk, author of  “Abilene” & the haunting “Indian Nation”.) Note to file: There are no stiffs anymore. The world is full of people of all sizes and shapes who watch Steph Curry and think they too can fire up shots anywhere inside the half court line. However, Coach K schedules teams for a reason. Army and Campbell are likely potential NCAA Tournament first round opponents and are scheduled closely together so his young team gets used to playing different styles and playing through fatigue.

Coach K: “ The experience of playing against older teams that are going to be ahead of us as far as their ability to work together because they’ve worked together. In the military, you call it ‘on the job training’. No matter what you would do in the classroom or in practice, there’s nothing like on-the-job training.”

So, what did we learn?

  • For all the well-deserved hype of the freshmen, Junior Wendell Moore has matured into the most versatile, intense, and most indispensable player. Against Army (the final score was not indicative of the closeness of the game), Wendell became only the fifth Duke player—and the first guard—to achieve a triple double. (The others: Art Heyman, Gene Banks, Sheldon Williams, RJ Barrett).  When he collapsed and went down and off to the locker room last night just 12 seconds after the tip-off, the season flashed before many eyes—especially the coaches. Fortunately, he returned, apparently none the worse for wear, and had a stellar game. But in the meantime, the Blue Devils fell behind 8-18,  to rally only after Moore returned.
  • As precocious as this team is, and as exhilarating as the Kentucky win was, this is still a young team. After just three games, it appears that, so far, it is inconsistent and less efficient than the sum of the parts.  Each of these players was the best player on their high school team and dominated the offense. A case in point is that in the impressive Kentucky win, Duke only achieved a comfortable working margin in the second half when three starters were off the court suffering from leg cramps and Trevor Keels took over and singlehandedly increased the margin to +16. After starters Banchero and Moore returned, the offense inexplicably stagnated and the margin was cut to 5. What that would seem to indicate is that with so many offensive initiators, they tend to stand around waiting for someone to go one-on-one rather than move without the ball, setting picks or getting open.
  • Having made just 10 of 41 3-pointers (24.4%) while starting the season with wins over No. 10 Kentucky and Army, Duke hit 9 of 23 (39.1%) against Campbell. The Blue Devils hit three 3-pointers during a 15-4 run midway through the second half that allowed them to build their first double-digit lead of the night. This was reassuring, because I am quite sure Duke will see more of their share of various zone defenses this year.
  • Last night, Duke was basically playing from behind for the first time all season. It was unclear how the temporary loss of Moore and that pressure was going to affect the Blue Devils. However, in winning 1,000+ games, Coach K  has seen it all and seemingly willed them back into the game with timely lineup changes (sitting centers Williams and Theo), and relying on his more experienced players, Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, and Joey Baker, who played a surprising 31 minutes. This lineup shot 50%/ 39%/ 73% and needed all of it plus much better second half defense to avoid an embarrassing loss. Chalk it up to a learning experience.
  • It was a pleasure to see Joey Baker play an instrumental role last night, as he has been nothing but “True Blue Duke”, while so far experiencing a disappointing roller coaster of a career. It seems like a decade or so since he passed on his high school senior year to enter Duke, joining that great Sports Illustrated cover class of Zion, R.J., Cam, and Trey.  Likewise, it was reassuring to see the overlooked and sometimes seemingly over-whelmed Jeremy Roach rise to the occasion.

Miscellaneous: 

Bates Jones, a graduate transfer from Davidson, and former  Duke QB Daniel Jones’ brother,  played 7 minutes against Army, scoring 3 points with a rebound. It was a good night for his family as his younger sister, Ruth, recorded a shutout as Duke Soceer’s goalkeeper in a 1-0 NCAA tournament win over Old Dominion at Koskinen Stadium.

Next Play: Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, November 16 at 7 pm; ACC Network.


Duke 92 – Gardner Webb 52 (Season 13 Issue 4 Game 4) with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

BILL’S CLIFFS NOTES:

After ten minutes of last night’s game, I thought I had mistakenly activated a rerun of the Campbell game. Holy Upset, Batman! Where is the Top Ten Team that beat Kentucky? Slowly, then all at once, relentless defense and Cameron Crazy pressure prevailed, and the young Blue Devils began to play as advertised! Mark Williams (13 pts. 6 blocks) was protecting the rim. Good ball and player movement abounded, shots were falling (57%/46%/71%).  Duke finished with 24 assists on 36 made field goals.

Two more cupcake games and then another early midterm exam with Gonzaga that will be a reality check.

Some things are becoming apparent:

  • There are three exceptional scorers: Keels, Moore, and Banchero.
  • For this team to be a contender, Williams must be a consistent performer.
  • Roach must continue to provide on-the-ball pressure and improve offensively as a complementary fifth man.
  • Joey Baker appears to have developed into a reliable sixth man.
  • AJ Griffin is the sleeper/wild card. After not playing for two years (due to injuries), AJ is a major talent who could play a significant role.

Miscellaneous:

The elephant in Cameron: Michael Savarino, Coach K’s grandson, was arrested 1:10 a.m. Sunday for a DUI while driving Paolo Banchero’s Jeep. Paolo was in the back seat and cited (not charged) with “Aiding and Abetting”. The Orange County arrest report stated Savarino submitted to two breathalyzer tests and blew a .08 BAC. “He stated that he had several shots,” the report read. North Carolina law states that aiding and abetting DUI is classified as “when a person knowingly encourages, aids, advises or instigates another person to drive, or attempt to drive, while impaired. There are numerous different behaviors that this could encompass, but the most common scenario involves a person turning their keys over to an impaired driver, and/or being present as a passenger when the driver is arrested for DUI.”

Coach K: “We had a violation of our standards, and we’ll handle that internally. We’re already handling it, but it’s a violation of our standards. It’s two entirely different situations. [Coach K then made the distinction between Savarino’s and Banchero’s] Headlines might make it look like it’s the same, but it’s not. The decisions we made are in conjunction with our authorities and my superiors. We’re taking action and will continue to take action.” 

ALANALYSIS:

The Blue Devil defense has been uncommonly outstanding so far in this young season. Duke held Kentucky to 71 points and followed that opener with suffocating defense against lesser teams, giving up 56, 56, and 52 points, respectively, in the next 3 games. Even though there have been some lapses, all the signs are positive; most importantly, this team is defensive minded and truly talented.  Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels, and Paolo Banchero have been superb individual defenders.  

Against Gardner-Webb last night, Mark Williams began the process of morphing back into the form he displayed last March, blocking 6 Gardner Webb shots and diverting others.  So far, the emphasis has been on creating “team defense” and Duke has been steadily building their cohesion.  As Coach K pointed out in his post-game press conference, “I was really pleased with our effort tonight. We’ve been playing really good defense in the first three games but tonight we were even better. Our goal was to take away their three-point shooting, and we did a great job of that.   It’s tough to single out one guy [for post-game praise] when you play good team defense.”  K’s strategy was clearly successful as Gardner Webb went an anemic 2-16 from behind the arc.

It took the Blue Devils some moments to get back on track from a rough start before they steamrolled the Running Bulldogs.  More than 12 minutes elapsed before Duke took its first lead, 14-13.  They were able to increase it only slightly in the next 4 minutes (to 23-17) before the Blue Devil defense clamped down and started brewing offense.  In the last 8 minutes of the first half, while the Devils rolled to a 23 point lead, GW managed only 5 points (not counting the 3 GW points in the last seconds of the half  because Roach’s foul was just too silly to acknowledge).  Duke won each half by 20 points; this with Duke playing its bench rather than the starters for most of the second half!

Trevor Keels returned to his Kentucky form in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the opening stanza.  Moore took over the lead offensive role in the second half, scoring 12 of his 14 game points.  All the Duke starters and Joey Baker scored in double figures.

The Interior

As encouraging as it was to see Mark Williams get 21 minutes of playing time, his impressive statistics and fluid movement once on the court fueled the encouragement. He scored 13 points (6-9 from the field and 1-2 from the stripe) to go with his career high 6 blocks, 3 boards, 2 assists, and a steal.  Improvement in rebounding — still needed –against Louisville last March, Williams had 19; last night he had 2 offensive rebounds and only a single defensive board.  But his playing last night showed clear movement in the right direction

Paolo Banchero did seem affected by the DUI, scoring only 5 points in each half (4-9 from the field; 0-1 from deep; and 2-3 from the stripe).  These are modest numbers compared to his first 3 games (19.5 p.p.g).  He grabbed 8 defensive rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block, but also committed a turnover.  He played with both Williams and Theo John, as well as being the center himself, when Duke had four smaller players on the floor with him.

Theo John played 15 minutes, grabbing 5 rebounds while scoring 4 points (2-3), with an assist and 2 turnovers.  

Bates Jones played 9 second-half minutes, hitting 1-2 from deep with 2 boards and an assist.

The PerimeterJeremy Roach again led the team in minutes-played with 28.  He handed out 6 assists, with only 2 turnovers, and played ferocious defense.  The Gardner Webb coach mentioned Roach’s defense in his post-game assessment, even though Roach had only a single steal.  He is a talented on-the-ball defender forcing GW to start their offense further away from the basket.  Jeremy scored 10 (4-7; 0-1 from deep and 2-3 from the line).  He is getting to the rim on his drives; Coach K wants him to shoot more from the outside.

Trevor Keels logged almost 26 minutes, leading the team in scoring with 18 points (6-9; including 4-6 from deep; 2-2 foul shots).  He contributed 7 defensive rebounds and 4 assists.  He and Roach play so well together on both ends of the floor.

Wendell Moore Jr. was a force! with his scoring, rebounding, passing, and leadership.  This is becoming his team.  He scored 14 (6-9; including 2-3 from deep), to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists.  He is a defender extraordinaire.

Joey Baker played his best 21 minutes of the year.  He scored 12 points, even though he was only 1-4 from behind the arc.  He was 3-3 on drives, and he had 2 assists and 3 steals, without a turnover.  Coach K is pleased with his progress and currently has him as his first player off the bench.

Jaylen Blakes finally made a 3, for his only points (1-3 from the field, including 1-2 from behind the arc) in 11 minutes.  He had a rebound, assist and turnover.

A Critical Factor

A.J. Griffin is that critical factor. He had not played for 2 years because of injuries; then he was injured again early in the pre-season.  His play had been spotty (averaging only 9 minutes per game)–that is, until the second half last night where Griffin played 15 scintillating minutes.  He is so athletic, with superior hops and strength that allows him to play bigger than his 6’7”.  He led the team in rebounding in the closing period with 6, scored 5 (2-5; 1-3 from deep), with 2 assists and a steal.  AJ’s improvement was apparent; Coach K applauded, “He has a strong body and tonight he played strong, and he can play even stronger with that body. He really worked hard tonight, and we just have to keep working with him. He has a great attitude. He’s got one of the better shots and a really soft shot but he’s behind the guys who are in the starting unit. Obviously, it’s a long season and we hope he can continue to get better, and he will be able to help us become a much deeper team.” 

A catalyst to tap the depths of their potential is precisely what this team needs.

Next Play: Friday, November 19 vs. Lafayette in Cameron at 8 pm.  ACCN


Duke 88 – Lafayette 55 (Season 13 Issue 5 Game 5) with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

BILL’S CLIFFS NOTES:

Playing good, tenacious defense compensates for lapses or lulls in offensive productivity. However, executing inefficiently and misfiring for extended periods against Lafayette, Campbell, Army, Gardner-Webb is troubling because the three-point shot is a potential equalizer, and embarrassing game changer. Last night, despite another strong start by Mark Williams, the winless Lafayette Leopards made a perplexing first half run to close within five points, just before a Duke 3 and the break. At the start of the second half, Wendell Moore once again took over, and the Blue Devils cruised to a misleading thirty-point victory. 

Make no mistake, I think Coach K is the greatest college coach of all time. I have exactly 1,175 fewer wins than he has, and K is the last coach I would second guess. However, I do not believe that Jeremy Roach is talented enough to be the starting point guard on a championship team —  but Wendell Moore is, and Duke would be more of a contender than a pretender with AJ Griffin, who can play the 2-5 positions, replacing Roach in the starting lineup. 

But don’t take my word for it. Wendell Moore: “I knew he [AJ] was a phenomenal player. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the world was going to be able to see it.… The work he’s been putting in in the offseason and in practice, I’m just really so proud of him that he’s able to come out here and show this tonight because these past two years haven’t been easy for him at all… Really, for him, he hasn’t played basketball in two years, so we knew it was going to be an adjustment for him.”

One more warm up game Monday against The Citadel, then early midterm exams against Gonzaga and Ohio State will give us a better idea of how well this team has matured.

ALANALAYSIS: 

The Defense

Against Lafayette, Duke held an inferior opponent to under 60 points for the fourth straight game.  Still, it is true that we will not be able to assess where the Blue Devil defensive development is until Gonzaga (November 26) and Ohio State (November 30) are the opponents.  So far Duke has been truly exceptional in stretches, but, as Bill noted, Duke has also had moments when the defense waned and lost intensity.

For example, against the Leopards, Duke gave up only 5 points in the first 5:31 of the game and then held Lafayette scoreless for the next 5:27.  Think about the fact that the Duke defense held Lafayette to only 5 points in virtually 11 minutes, while forcing 14 turnovers and building a 16 point lead.   Then the offense went cold, which translated into the loss of that defensive intensity.  Coach K: “I think in the first half we got off to the 23-6 lead, and we didn’t let up, but we couldn’t hit a shot. [W]e fell into that trap that can happen to basketball players and teams where you let that influence the next play. You’re not thinking or talking on defense, and that’s what happened. In transition, we weren’t pointing and talking. We had three open threes and it all had to do with ‘Man I should’ve hit that shot.’ No, you should run down the court and play defense. We talked about it at halftime and how the only consistent part of a game you can have is to play good defense, and we’ve been playing great defense. Our offense has affected our defense, and in the second half, it didn’t do that. We played much more mature.” 

With 4 minutes having elapsed in the second half, the score remained competitive with Duke leading by single digits 43-34.  Then the defense simply roared!  Moore shut down Kyle Jenkins, who had scored 12 points in the first half.  Jenkins made only a single second half field goal.  In the next 6:24 of the final stanza, the Blue Devils allowed only 5 points while stretching the lead to 26 (67-41) with 10:23 to go in the game, which ended any thoughts of a competitive finish.  With 1:12 left in the game, Duke led by 35 points.  Lafayette had scored only 14 points in the preceding 9:23!!

While Duke gave up a series of well executed backdoor layups to Lafayette when the Leopards were scoring against Duke and keeping the game competitive in the first half, the adjustments Duke made at half time completely cured that defect.  

Mark Williams is returning to form on the defensive end with 4 blocks, 7 defensive rebounds (15 overall) and a steal, in only 21:23.  Moore (29 minutes) and Roach (33 minutes) each had 2 steals; Banchero (a steal and a block in his almost 20 minutes), and Keels (25:31) all played beautifully together on the perimeter.  AJ Griffin (a season-high 21 minutes) is also a talented defender.  He had 2 steals and was on the floor to grab a loose ball.

It is time to test the Duke defense against the nation’s top teams.

The Offense

In recent past editions, I have made the point that Duke needed Mark Williams to return to his last-March form on both ends of the Court.  Mark’s offense had been well below that level — he was not rebounding, and his scoring was anemic.  At the same time, I urged that A.J. Griffin’s return to the form he showed a couple of years ago when he was a young high school player was also necessary for this Duke team to reach its full potential.  Against the Leopards, Duke took significant steps toward both of those crucial transformations.

Mark Williams was a force for whom Lafayette simply had no answers.  He scored 14 points (7-13; 0-2 from the line), to go with 15 rebounds (8 on offense), 4 blocks, and a steal.  Coach K pointed out one special play for how it reflected Mark’s attitude adjustment, “the one play for Mark; I would call it persistence where he tried, and tried, then all of a sudden dunked it. That was a great play for him because he fought through that adversity.”

A.J. Griffin dramatically returned to his old high school form for the first time in a Duke uniform.  He was 5th in minutes played (starter minutes); second in points scored (18 on 7-10, including a scintillating 4-6 from deep) to go with 2 rebounds.  From the last DBP edition regarding Griffin: “A catalyst to tap the depths of their potential is precisely what this team needs.”  Griffin provided that exquisitely against Lafayette.  If Griffin can be consistent going forward, he will indeed be a critical factor for Duke’s season.  Coach K knows this: “He’s getting in shape. He was out [this season] for two and a half weeks, and just so you know, he didn’t play in high school for two years. It’s a big learning curve, but he’s in better shape now. It’s not just one or two plays, he can play multiple plays. Obviously, he shot well but he can shoot. He has one of the softest shots. Just keep coming and he’ll make us better.” 

Wendell Moore is playing superb basketball on both ends of the floor.  Duke has upperclassmen leadership from him, which includes stepping up on offense when Duke falters, and making game winning plays on the defensive end.  In the early second half, when Duke’s offense was still struggling and the Leopards had cut the lead to 7, Moore took over.  He created an assist for himself and a basket for Williams, scored on a fast break triggered by a Williams block (and made the foul shot for a 3-point play), hit a pullup jumper, followed by a defensive rebound where he outletted to Keels, who fed him back for a 3-pointer.  Moore created 10 points in under 2 minutes to stretch Duke’s lead to 14 and start the rout.  How is this for an efficient stat line — 23 points in a little under 29 minutes (9-14, including 2-6 from deep; and 3-3 from the stripe) to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists (to only a single turnover), and 2 steals.

Paolo Banchero is still a bit off, likely from the impact of the DUI issue, but still shows championship form.  Although he was 0-6 from inside the arc in the first half, he played very well in all other aspects of the game.   In 19:44 (he picked up 3 second-half fouls thus limiting his second half playing time to less than 6 minutes), he scored 11 (4-12, including 2-3 from  deep in the second half; 1-2 from the stripe), while adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists (against only one turnover), a block, and a steal.  His 7 second-half points in 6 minutes came at a crucial time. 

Trevor Keels is so valuable, whether or not he is scoring dramatically (as he did against Kentucky and in the first half against Gardner-Webb).  He is a superb perimeter defender, tough rebounder, and excellent passer.  In his 25:31, he tallied 10 points (4-10, including 2-6 from behind the arc), 4 assists (only 1 turnover), and a steal.  

Jeremy Roach failed to score in 33 minutes (0-6, including 0-1 from deep).  He had 5 assists (4 in the second half) and only 2 turnovers.  The Duke half-court offense looked stagnant to me.  Duke has several good ball handlers, but not a true point guard.  This is what fuels Bill’s insights about Roach.  However, it seems clear that Coach K is pushing Roach to learn on the fly.

The Bench was a bit ineffectual, if you classify Griffin with the starters (6-person rotation is possible if not probable by tournament time).  Joey Baker logged 15:23 of eradicate shooting: 5 points on 2-8, including 1-5 from deep, to go with 2 boards and an assist.  Theo John backed up Mark Williams for 17:08, grabbing 6 boards and making 2 steals.  He scored 4 (2-3; 0-1 from deep), including a sensational layup following a great steal, then dribbling the length of the floor to make an acrobatic shot.

Jaylen Blakes and Bates Jones played at mop-up time with the walk-ons.  Savarino did not play.

Coach K on What It Takes To Win

“About three weeks ago on my XM show, we had Jason Kidd. He’s a good friend and was my captain in Beijing, and I asked him about playing with the best European player ever, Dirk [Nowitzki]. I said, ‘Now you have one of the top five or 10 players in the country, what about him (Luca Dončić)?’ and he said, ‘Coach, God gave him a lot of great genes. But the best gene he gave him was competitiveness.’ The only thing Dončić is concerned with is the score, and that’s my thing with the ‘next play.’ A basketball player, to be really good, has to have that, the only thing they’re really concerned about is the score, and what’s happening now, because you don’t have time to think between plays. Otherwise, you’re hurting yourself and that’s the thing we’ve been trying to develop with our guys. It didn’t work for 8-10 minutes today, but overall, it’s going pretty well.” 

Next Play: Monday, November 22 against The Citadel at 9 pm in Cameron.  ACCN.  [Note: The Citadel beat Jeff Capel’s Pittsburgh Panthers by 15 on November 9.]


Duke 107 –The Citadel 81 (Season 13 Issue 6 Game 6) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Gonzaga On Friday

Duke fans have been salivating for this game since the schedule was announced.  Bill and I decided to delay the DBP so as to provide a bit of a preview after Gonzaga (#1) had played UCLA (#2) on Tuesday, November 23.  Gonzaga was #1 last year and undefeated until beaten by Baylor in the NCAA championship game.  UCLA was beaten by Gonzaga in an overtime buzzer-beater in the NCAA Semi-Finals.  Yesterday’s game was different.  It was never competitive.

Gonzaga dominated from start to finish, looking like the best college team in the nation.  The Zags led by 20 or more for most of the game as they blitzed the Bruins from the opening tip to a crashing victory of 83-63.  Gonzaga has a freshman — Chet Holmgren — even more highly rated than Duke’s own Paolo Banchero, .  Holmgren is a 7 ft powerhouse who can do everything we have seen Banchero do.  Twice he blocked the shot so softly that he recovered the ball, dribbled the length of the floor, including a behind the back move, for a thunderous dunk.  Gonzaga’s other big front court player is Drew Timme, who,along with Holmgren, is a candidate for Player of the Year.   At 6’10” he can do everything on a basketball court, including play 39 minutes last night, score 18 points, grab 8 boards, and hand out 2 assists.  We will get an accurate fix on the quality of Duke’s front court on Friday.  Gonzaga’s best player, 6’5” Andrew Nembhard, leads the backcourt.  He was on the floor for the entire game last night, scoring 24 (9-13, including 2-6 from 3land; 4-4 from the line) to go with 5 boards, 6 assists, and 3 steals.  Duke’s defense has been very good this year against lesser opponents. Gonzaga’s offense has been very high scoring. Coach K will get an accurate read on how good his defense is against such an elite team, and so will we.  

Likewise, Coach K will be able to better measure Duke’s offense against an elite defense, as Gonzaga’s defense has been stifling this season.  Gonzaga allowed only 63 points to UCLA (the #2 team in last week’s polls).  Only Texas has scored more than 63 points this season against the Zags; the Longhorns scored 74, while still losing by 12. We’ll see how Coach K’s offense — 4 ball handlers, but no true point guard — works against this tough defense.   Roach especially will be tested. 

Dick Vitale made an emotional return as color commentator even while he is very publicly dealing with cancer.  I suspect much of the audience was in tears right along with him in his first moments back. With Gonzaga ahead 33-10 after only 12 minutes of play, Dickie V looked forward to the Duke – Gonzaga game in typical Dickie V fashion, warning us that “Gonzaga is not The Citadel.”

DUKE 107 v. CITADEL 81 (Monday Nov 22, 2021)

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Steph Curry has changed the way the game of basketball is played, and it has made for more exciting, interesting, and competitive contests. The Citadel, who beat Pittsburgh by 15 points to open this season, is a prime example. Last night they, characteristically, came out firing and made a Cameron-record of 18 of 34 threes, yet lost 107-81; this only because Wendell Moore and Paolo Banchero combined for 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 15 assists, while the Blue Devils made only 3 turnovers and made 27 of 29 free throws. Wendell is having a Player-of-the-Year start to the season, and is the poster child for not being a one-and-done fly by athlete-student. (Incidentally, Matthew Hurt, who left Duke early, was cut by two NBA teams and is toiling for The Memphis Hustle in the G League). Banchero, a wonderful, multidimensional talent, is figuring out that at this level, he is a lot more effective in the half court playing like Art Heyman, than wandering around the perimeter firing up pretty jump shots.

The Friday night game against Gonzaga, which is not Kentucky, will be a good test as to how far this team has come and how far they have to go to be a serious national contender.

Other Comments:

  • Mark Williams allows this team to play at a different level at both ends of the floor.
  • Trevor Keels seems to have hit the freshman wall offensively; however, it has not affected his defense.
  • John Theo gives The Blue Devils a Big East type toughness they will need during the season—and he can hit free throws.
  • If Jeremy Roach can’t get to the basket against a smallish Citadel, what hope does he have trying this against Gonzaga, UNC, et al?
  • Joey Baker is demonstrating a lot more diversity to his game.
ALANALAYSIS: 

The Citadel put on quite a 3-point shooting exhibition (18 for 34), setting the Cameron Indoor Stadium record for most 3s in a game.  The Bulldog 3-point barrage kept them close until the second half; however, their deep shots were not enough for the Bulldogs to remain close late in the game.  Duke’s offense played its best of the year, against a team that seemed disinterested in attempting to keep the Blue Devils from scoring.

The Good

The Offense

Duke blew the game wide open in the second half when the Blue Devil offense simply went into overdrive.  After tallying 52 in the first half, Duke scored 55 points in the final period with these dazzling statistics – 15 assists without a single turnover, 12-13 from the foul line, and 17-26 from inside the arc.  Duke’s only weakness: 3-11 from behind the arc. Duke’s inefficiency from deep has been constantly troubling so far this year!  In the closing stanza, Banchero notched 15 points (6-9, including 1-2 from deep; 2-2 from the stripe), grabbed 3 rebounds, and handed out a pair of assists, all without a turnover.  Moore was equally superb, scoring 13 (5-7 including 1-2 from 3land; 2-3 from the foul line), to go with 3 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists.  This was just in the second half where Banchero and Moore each played 14:12. Mark Williams made it a trio of stars, scoring 10 (5-5 at the rim) in 12 minutes to go with 4 rebounds, 3 assists without a turnover (obviously), and 2 blocks.

Paolo Banchero seems to have returned to his pre-DUI form (in the second half).  He dropped 28 on The Bulldogs in 31 minutes (10-19; 2-5 from 3land; 6-6 from the line) with 8 rebounds, 6 assists (without a turnover), 2 steals, and a block.

Wendell Moore, Jr. played a superb 34 minutes, approaching a triple-double.  He dished out 9 assists without a turnover and corralled 8 rebounds in addition to scoring 22 (8-14, including 2-7 from deep; 4-5 from the stripe).  He is drawing superlatives from the experts for his on-the-ball defense and his stepped-up leadership.

Mark Williams scored 14 (6-7; 2-2 from the line) while grabbing 7 boards and dishing 3 assists in his 20 minutes.  His defense is improving.  He was a difference maker.

Theo John made his 12:31 count on both ends of the court.  He adds toughness to the team when he replaces Mark W.  He scored an efficient 8 points (3-3; 2-2 from the stripe), with an assist (0 turnovers), a block, and a steal.

The Not Bad But Could Be Better

Trevor Keels had another difficult shooting night (2-9; 1-7 from deep), but was still a force for Duke in his 29 minutes.  He drew fouls ) to score the majority of his 11 points, from the line ( 6-7), and he was a fierce defender (3 steals).

Jeremy Roach is playing with confidence, but not with consistency.  His 33:37 was the second most minutes played by a Duke player.  Roach dished a pair of assists against one turnover, scoring 10 (4-11, including 2-6 from 3land, without getting to the foul line). An effective point guard draws fouls when driving efficiently to the basket. Coach K is willing to put up with Roach’s less than stellar offensive performance in order to keep his sparkling on-the-ball defense.

Joey Baker has not been the shooter that he is reputed to be (1-5; 0-1 from deep), but he has diversified his offensive game by driving more, and getting to the foul line more–most of his 9 points last night were from the line (7-7).  He grabbed 4 rebounds as his game near the basket has improved.

Not Ugly, But Disappointing

A.J. Griffin played about 5 minutes in each half.  He missed his first two shots which seemed to drain his confidence and left him looking a bit lost in the first half.  In the second half, he scored, rebounded and began to look confident again.  Still, after his ACC Freshman-of-the-Week 18-point outing against Lafayette, scoring only 2 points against the Citadel (1-4; 0-2 from deep) was disappointing.

The Bench played little.  Jaylen Blakes played almost 5 minutes, making one of his two 3-point attempts, while Bates Jones played 2:42 in mop-up time. 

Next Play: Friday, November 26 against Gonzaga at 10:30 pm in Las Vegas.  ESPN. 


Duke 84 –Gonzaga 81 (Season 13 Issue 7 Game 7) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

I do not know how the Coach K Farewell Tour will conclude but it is certainly starting off as if scripted by his fans.  There have been two thrilling games against Kentucky, a perennially embittered Blue Blood rival, and Gonzaga, a New Blood rival, in classic, tough wins on national TV in packed, deafening arenas. Gonzaga was deservedly ranked the number one team in the country. Just three nights ago in this same arena, they had blown out #2 UCLA by 20 points, holding the Bruins to 63 points.

With Paolo Bancharo demonstrating in a multiplicity of ways why he is such an exceptional basketball talent, Duke led at the half 45-42. Johnny Tar Heel, who watched the game with me, and I agreed, that Gonzaga had been knocked back by Banchero’s 20 points but, other than that, the rest of the team had not shot well.  We thought that Gonzaga was just too good and too well coached a team to let that happen again in the second half as it did in the first.  In order for Duke to win, we thought that Moore and/or Keels had to step up and start scoring.

The game showed similarity to the Kentucky game, when during  the second half Banchero and Moore went out with leg cramps, and Trevor Keels attempted to take over the scoring.  However, unlike the Kentucky game, Trevor was unable to even hit free throws. Yet, Duke’s defense, as it did most of the game, kept the Zags from gaining a working advantage. Ultimately, Moore returned, took over, and scored 16 points in the second half (20 in the game), including  seven of his last eight critical free throws to seal the deal (this is Las Vegas after all), to beat the 7 ½ point favorite. Banchero returned but was obviously physically limited. Joey Baker contributed two timely threes and Jeremy Roach drove for a clutch left handed layup with a minute to go. However, it was Coach K’s core value–team defense– anchored by Mark Williams, who had a team-high 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, and many intimidations while battling Holmgren and Gonzaga star Drew Timme in the post that contributed mightily to the upset of a very talented, well coached Gonzaga team. 

Coach K: “Mark had a sensational game…. he blocked five but he also altered a lot of shots. I wonder if there’s a—there’s gotta be a stat for that. Some analytics person’s gotta figure that out.”

Duke’s coaches contributed a strategic defensive gamble: Rather than have its biggest player guard Gonzaga’s 7+ foot freshman center, Chet Holmgren, they took a different tactic against the Zags’s two big men. Duke started with 6-10, 250-pound freshman Paolo Banchero guarding Holmgren, while Gonzaga 6-10 junior Drew Timme was guarded by 7-foot sophomore center Mark Williams. Theo John, Duke’s 6-9, 242-pound reserve center, tag-teamed with Williams on Timme. One result was that the defense forced 17 turnovers to help counter making only 15 of 25 free throws (after going 27-29 against The Citadel).

As critical as Banchero and Moore’s offense was in each half, it was Williams who played the most consistently as Keels struggled mightily to score (but had a team-high 5 assists).  Trevor was only 1-4 from the foul line, but two of those misses were the front end of a one-and-one, so that’s really one point scored out of a potential six points, if he had been able to maximize the opportunities. Roach missed one with a second left leaving Duke to slightly sweat out a full-court prayer.​Gonzaga: Before Friday night, the Bulldogs trailed for a total of 3:18 in four games — against Texas, Alcorn State, Bellarmine, and UCLA. Gonzaga trailed for more than 20 minutes against Duke until retaking the lead on a pair of Timme free throws at the 17-minute mark of the second half.

An appreciative crowd of 20,389, seemingly split 50/50, was the largest to ever see a basketball game in Nevada. Among the record crowd: former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, former Cy Young winner and World Series champion Orel Hershiser, PGA golfer Brooks Koepka, former NBA player Marcus Banks and sports agent Rich Paul.

Coach K summed it up best:  “It was really a players game…. It was just a big-time game. And I love it. I just love being a part of it and seeing how players take over.” 

ALANALYSIS:

What a great college basketball game!  The quality of play by each team on both sides of the ball was jaw-droppingly dazzling.  These were two excellent teams competing against each other at the absolutely highest level.  If this was, as Bill has said, an interim exam for these young Blue Devils, Duke got straight A+s in: 1) heart and leadership facing adversity; 2) Defense against a great offensive team; 3) Defense against a great offensive team (the defense was so good, I had to repeat the praise); 4) Paolo Banchero’s first half; 5) Wendell Moore, Jr; 6) Mark Williams; and 7) Theo John.

Peering into the emotional center of the game to extract (hopefully) useful nuggets of analysis led me to focus on the second half.  And what a half that was!  There were eight lead changes, but neither team led by more than 5 points.  Duke had to go it without an effective Banchero (only played 13:33 because of cramping; 0-4, including 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the line for a single point to go with a single rebound — cramping his style and overall performance). Duke’s guards shot terribly.  Trevor Keels played all 20 minutes while scoring just 1 point (0-6, including 0-3 from deep and 1-4 from the stripe).  Roach played 15 minutes without scoring until he made 2 crucial shots down the stretch (2-5, 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the line).  In contrast, Wendell Moore, Jr. played the best half of his Duke career after scoring only 4 in the first half.  He played the entire half (minus 18 seconds), scoring 16 (4-7, including 1-2 from deep and a critical 7-8 from the line — for a 20-point game); add 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals (and 3 turnovers) for a great second half for Moore. That’s where Duke’s heart and Moore’s leadership emerged big time!

The first half was fabulous; Banchero’s 20 points were breathtaking.  Duke came up empty on its last two first-half possessions, while the Zags scored 5 to cut the Duke lead to 3.  The Zag defense has been tremendous all year.  Only Texas scored more than 63 points against them  (even UCLA was held to 63).  Duke dropped 45 on the Zags in the first half!  Banchero and Williams together scored 31 of those first-half points.  

The Good

The Defense

Gonzaga is a wonderful offensive team that passes and moves the ball with poise, skill, and shot-making.  Going into this game, the Zags were averaging over 91 ppg. Duke’s pressure defense neutralized and defeated a great offense. For me, the statistic of the game was that Duke scored 23 points off Gonzaga’s 17 turnovers. Gonzaga committed turnovers on nearly one-fourth of its possessions against the Blue Devils.  Holding Gonzaga to 81 points in a 79-possession game and especially harassing the Bulldogs into 17 turnovers most certainly qualifies as excellent defense.  Six Duke players were credited with at least one steal.  Mark Williams had 5 blocks in the first half. His perfect defense on Drew Timme’s shot in the paint with nearly 30 seconds to go was just one of the many clutch plays he made. Williams is turning into one of the best rim protectors in the country.  

The experts have anointed Andrew Nembhard as the best point guard in the country.  He had 11 assists last night (Gonzaga had 22 total assists on 34 hoops), but the key stat was that Duke forced him to turn it over 6 times by being very aggressive in its ball-screen coverages against him, limiting the time he had to make decisions and find teammates. Duke forced him to speed up his decision-making.  

And lastly, Duke played great transition defense and won the transition game.  The Blue Devils got back defensively, eliminating the Zags’ MO of getting easy baskets off of makes or misses, thus forcing them to play in the half-court. Transition offense is ignited by the defense.  Duke had success beating Gonzaga downcourt.  Banchero led one fast break ending in a true Magic Johnson-like assist.

That is why Keels played all 20 second half minutes in spite of his shooting woes.  That is why Roach was on the floor for 19 first half minutes in spite of 1-8 shooting.  Mark Williams was brilliant and played Timme and Holmgren (player- of- the- year candidates) at least even, and maybe even outplayed each.  Williams also scored 17 points on 8-9 shooting (his one miss was a 3-point attempt where you could hear Duke fans across the country imploring him not to launch that shot), to go with 9 boards. 

Theo John was more valuable than the box score reveals.  In 11:24, John held his own against the Zag big guys and scored two critical second-half baskets over Timme (a right-handed hook shot followed by a left hand one), taking advantage of Timme’s foul trouble.  He also grabbed a pair of tough rebounds and had a steal.

Even though we have already acknowledged Moore, Williams, and Banchero’s first half above, it is worth sharing Coach K’s lauding of Wendell Moore: “The leadership of my captain was, I think, the key to the game. Wendell Moore was absolutely spectacular in his leadership, especially at the timeout when they took the lead and we had turned the ball over, the things he said and his demeanor and what he said to his team – he really led us to a victory. It was really a player’s game.  Sometimes when a leader says stuff, he doesn’t remember what he said. But, I remember what he said. He said, ‘Be strong with the ball. Let’s get going. We can’t be giving up layups.’ He was saying the things I should’ve been saying, but when it comes from a player, it’s better. Especially that moment – that was a critical moment. I’ve been in a lot of games. We could’ve gotten knocked out right there, and what that kid did at that time out was big time. It was really big time …. That kid is really having a hell of a year. He’s my captain. I love what my guys did. I love my team. They’re really good guys.”

The Not Bad but Could Be Better…

….the offensive play of Keels and Roach, as described above.  Although not yet showing up in the box score, I am watching a much more confident Roach beginning to blossom as a point guard.  With 4:41 to go, Roach grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a soft 12-foot jumper to tie the score at 73.  Then came what I thought was the offensive play of the game.  Duke’s lead fluctuated between 3 and 1 after Roach’s basket.  With 48 seconds left, Duke had the ball and led by 1.  A loss loomed if Duke did not score.  With the clock running down, Roach drove to his left, and laid in as pretty a left hand layup as you have ever seen, for his 4th and 5th points of the game.  Thus were the Zags finally dead.

The Not Quite Ugly 

Joey Baker made two 3s for his 6 points.  The first one seemed like a lucky bad shot off the backboard .  He was wide open on the second one.  In 14:20 those were his only points (2-3 from deep).  He also grabbed one rebound and had a pair of steals.  Other than Theo John, Baker was Duke’s only effective sub.

A.J. Griffin has returned to his pre-Lafayette funk (0 points in 6 minutes without any other stat besides 0-1 from the floor).  Troubling because Duke’s bench is not strong unless he returns to his McDonald’s All-American form.

No other Duke players played.  It will be illuminating to see if Duke can avoid the normal human letdown after such an emotional win over Gonzaga when the Blue Devils journey to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big 10 – ACC challenge.

Next Play: Tuesday, November 30 at Ohio State in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge at 9:30 pm.  ESPN.


Duke 66 –Ohio State 71 (Season 13 Issue 8 Game 8) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

The test tonight was whether this relatively young Duke team had the mental and physical maturity to transition from the hunter to the hunted. John McEnroe once commented that life was much more enjoyable when he was a challenger — the rebellious underdog chasing Bjorn Borg.  Once he became number one, suddenly everyone literally and figuratively wanted a piece of him. 

Duke ended the first half—with a big assist from the Buckeyes–with a faux 15-point lead and flunked the test badly by playing as disappointing a second half as I can remember a good Duke team playing. Duke lost by 5. The danger warnings were obvious for anyone who paid attention. Monday night Gonzaga was behind 25-26 at the half at home against unheralded Tarleton State (1-6), and only won by nine.

So, what does that tell you? Grow up, play smart and hard like you are the best. The 91-92 team should be their model. They reveled, even thrived, on being number one and rock stars that opponents and their fans hated. However, it took them two or three years to develop that level of mental toughness to overcome bad breaks and off nights. Only time will tell if this was an early lesson well learned or if they are not mature enough to learn from a painful lesson. As Rip, the ranch foreman in Yellowstone, said: “There’s two roads in life. One is you’re winning or learning and the other is that you’re losing all the way to the fucking grave. Kid, you better choose quickly or life’s gonna choose it for you.”

An anatomy of a collapse: basketball is a simple game — make stops and hit shots. In the second half, the Devils shot 23%, got in serious foul trouble as Ohio State finally took advantage and finished the game on a decisive 12-0 run–the kind of decisive run Duke usually makes on other teams. Maybe the Blue Devils needed to have key players cramp up in the second half to make everyone realize everyone needed to go into overdrive. Instead, they got in foul trouble, played ineffective one-on-one offense, and passively on defense.  Theo John fouled out, Mark Williams, the defensive eraser, had four fouls, was nailed to the floor for fear of fouling out, and the Buckeyes took full advantage in the paint.

Kentucky, Gonzaga, Ohio State. Three tough, tournament type games (two neutral, one away court) in three weeks. This is a very challenging schedule for any team, much less a young, inexperienced one. I suspect that Coach K made this schedule because he realizes he only has one year, not three or four, to mold this talent into championship shape. The team came within ten minutes or so of acing this test. The good news is that it is better to have this loss now and learn from it rather than going into the NCAA Tournament thinking you are better than you are.

 Next play!

ALANALYSIS

Even before the Ohio State game, I worried about the complacency that can set in after a spectacular win: Duke came into this game being celebrated far and wide after a stellar outing in Las Vegas against Gonzaga, for which the Blue Devils earned #1 in the polls . Even before this stunning setback, Duke’s #1 ranking in the latest November poll was not significant –“November” being the most important word in the previous clause.  Let us remember that Duke was rated #1 in November of 2019 on the basis of a string of impressive early-season triumphs … with a game against lowly rated Stephen F. Austin next.  Duke never got a sniff of a high poll ranking for the rest of the year.  Remember also those awful back-to-back losses to Wake and NC State in February, 2020, that almost slid Duke out of the top 25.  Even before the Ohio State game, my memory of 2020 was triggered by one writer’s warning made after the Duke victory against Gonzaga: “a letdown would be human.”  That writer mirrored my concern.

On Monday, Gonzaga had had just such a letdown when they barely squeaked out a victory against the Tarleton State Texans, a school in Stephenville, Texas that none of us have ever heard of.  The Texans had lost 5 of their first 6 games, with its only win being against another school none of us have never heard of (The Paul Quinn Tigers; I am not making this up).  The Texans trailed Gonzaga at the end of the first half by a mere 1 point, 26-25.  The Zags won by only 9, pulling away in the last 4 minutes.  My thought going into last night’s game was: Ohio State may not be ranked in the top 25 and is missing 3 important players, but the Buckeyes would be favored over Stephen F. Austin who stunningly upset Duke (85-83) in 2019 Cameron on an overtime steal and layup at the buzzer.  I thought it worth remembering that Duke was ranked #1 going into that game.

Then I watched last night’s game against Ohio State. “The words of the (writer) prophet were written (not on subway walls or in the tenement halls)”, but in the analysis of what happened to the high-flying Blue Devils in the second half. A partial explanation came from Coach K, which  comports with my observations, “We were just worn out at the end.” … We fouled so much – this is the worst that we’ve fouled. We’ve been really good at not turning it over and not fouling, and tonight we had 23 fouls. I think part of that shows [us] being tired, just not playing with the same foot speed that we normally have.” 

The first half was pleasant to watch.  Almost all the players in the Duke rotation gave good performances, though there were signs of trouble.  

The Good

Duke played its aggressive defense extremely well, as it has all season.  Seth Greenberg described this as “old school Duke defense” — designed to disrupt, create turnovers and transition offense, rather than just stop the other team from scoring.  That old school defense produced 9 Ohio State turnovers in the first half, which in turn led to 13 points off of those turnovers.  Banchero (4-7, including 1-1 from deep and 1-2 from the line) and Moore (4-6, including 2-3 from the stripe) each scored 10 in the opening stanza.  Moore was Duke’s best player throughout the game (17 points; 0-2 from deep and 3-5 from the foul line).  He grabbed 8 boards, handed out 5 assists, and made 2 steals.  Still, he was only 3-9 in the second half when Duke really needed him to be better. 

Jeremy Roach had his best half of the year — 7 points (3-6, including 1-3 from deep), without a turnover, while controlling the offense.  While Keels scored only 5 points (2-7 from the field, including 0-1 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe), he played great defense with 2 steals and had 2 assists without a turnover.

The bench really contributed in the first half.  Joey Baker scored 5 (2-3, including 1-1 from deep), to go with a rebound and a steal, in his 11:36 first half minutes.  Duke’s backup center, Theo John scored 4 (2-3) with 2 boards and an assist in his 9:23, but he was even more effective than the box score showed.  

The Not Bad, But Disappointing

Williams, after a slow early-season start, who has been sensational in his most recent games, reverted to early-season form last night.  He sank his only shot attempt (2 points) of the first half, and paired it with a rebound, a block. and a turnover.  For the game (21:38) he scored 8 (3-6; 2-2 from the stripe), with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.  

The backcourt of Roach and Keels played big minutes and good defense for most of the game , but neither shot particularly well and only scored 9 points each.  Keels played a game high almost 37 minutes (3-12, including 1-4; 2-3 from the line).  Roach played 35 minutes (4-10, including 1-4, without getting to the foul line – again).  Keels had 4 rebounds and 3 assists, but 2 turnovers; I thought he lost his poise as Duke’s offense deteriorated in the closing minutes of the game.  Roach had 3 boards but only a single assist (without a turnover).

Duke’s half-court offense has not looked smooth and efficient at any time so far this season.  Perhaps this has been concealed because Duke’s transition game has been so ferocious.  There is no point guard orchestrating the offense.  In the second half, Duke had only 3 assists.  

Duke committed 11 first-half fouls which is cause for concern: Banchero had 3, Keels, Williams, and Moore had 2 each.  Fouling can be a sign of fatigue.  Coach K agrees.

The Ugly

Duke had a 13 point lead at the end of the first half.  They scored 43 points in the first half, 13 of them off their strong transition defense and live turnovers, and held OSU to 30. Three times in the second half, Duke had leads of 15 before it started to shrink. Then the wheels started to come off. The Ugly reared its head in the last 10 minutes of the second half. 

With 7:18 to go in the game, Duke led by 11. With 4:29 left, Keels went to the line for two foul shots with Duke leading by 6.  He missed the first and moved the lead to 7 (66-59) when he made the second.  That foul shot with 4 and ½ minutes left in the game was Duke’s last point.  Keels missed a jumper; OSU cut the lead to 5 with 3:31 left.  Keels missed a 3; OSU cut the lead to 2 on a Russell 3 with 2:32 remaining.  Paolo committed an offensive foul allowing OSU to cut the lead to 1 when Russell made 1-2 from the line with 1:46 left.  Keels missed a 3 pointer with 1:20 to go.  Moore fouled Liddell who gave the Buckeyes their first lead by a point when he made them both with 1:03 left in the game.  Banchero missed a jumper; Williams missed a follow when he got the offensive rebound.  A scrum created a jump ball (OSU possession). Liddell scored to give OSU a 3-point lead with 15 seconds left.  Banchero missed (a pretty open) 3 that would have tied it with 7 seconds to go.  When OSU retrieved the rebound, the game was over (Roach fouled in desperation and the Buckeyes sank both foul shots to create their winning margin).

Duke scored only 23 second-half points on horrendous shooting (7-31, including 1-8 from 3land; but, bright side, 8-10 from the line).   Banchero was 0-7, including 0-2 from deep to go with an assist and a turnover.  Moore was 3-9, including 0-2 from behind the arc and 1-2 from the line.  The Keels-Roach combo was even worse (Roach was 1-4, including 0-1 from deep; while Keels was 1-5, 1-3 from deep).  Roach had neither an assist nor a turnover, while Keels had a single assist against 2 turnovers.  Duke had 4 shots blocked by the Buckeyes and managed only 3 assists, while committing what the stats say were 3 turnovers (though it seemed like more to me).  Duke’s defense completely lost its intensity, forcing only 3 turnovers and only making a single steal (Moore) and a single block (Mark).

The Bench was absolutely no help.  In Joey’s 8:43, he missed his only shot with no other statistical entry.  Theo played only 6 minutes in the second half, committing 4 fouls in that brief time on the court, adding to his 1 foul from the first half and resulting in his disqualification.  He contributed a rebound.  A.J. Griffin was a virtual no-show, playing less than 2 minutes in the first half (0-1) without even getting into the game in the second half.

Duke could not defend without fouling, committing 12 second-half fouls.  Moore, Williams, Roach, and Banchero all finished the game with four personals. Add John’s 5 and that is 21 fouls which Duke’s important players committed. OSU outscored Duke in the closing stanza by 18 points.

The Significance of the Performance and the Loss 

It is not difficult for the commentators to dismiss the performance as nothing more than youth and inexperience. Moreover, the way the game went corroborates Coach K’s (“we were just worn out”) analysis.  Duke has played many games in a short stretch, but now has 2 weeks off for finals, so exhaustion should not be an immediate future problem.  A loss at this time can be a good lesson, especially since the Gonzaga game apparently did produce some damaging complacency. However, there are flaws showing that may be more than just youth and inexperience.

Duke’s shooting woes – season long rather than unique to the OSU game — are troubling.  It is not easy to make good shooters out of bad ones during the season.  Duke has not yet achieved balanced scoring where opponents need to be concerned about all the Devils, not just Banchero and Moore.  Keels has not replicated the superb scoring game he demonstrated against Kentucky in the season’s opener, a bad sign.  

This was the young team’s first game in the opponent’s gym, and Duke seemed to come undone as the home crowd screamed its delight at Duke’s poor play.   Even though the ACC has no Top-25 ranked teams (other than Duke), winning in the other team’s gym will always be a test of skill and character.  For Duke to have the season that Coach K and the DBP readers are hoping for, Duke will have to win consistently on the road in ACC arenas.  So, the meltdown at “winning time” in the first road game is a bad harbinger.

Winning time is a state of mind. We have always been able to count on Duke to be at their best in the clutch. Last night, they simply were not.  It raises questions not about youth or exhaustion but about the very character of the team, and those questions will be answered in the ACC season–mostly in away games. 

When Duke returns from exams, it will be a “State examination” – games against South Carolina State, Appalachian State, and Cleveland State.  Duke opens the ACC schedule on December 22 against Virginia Tech in Cameron.

Next Play: Tuesday, December 14 against South Carolina State at 8:00 pm.  ACCN.


“Lucky Devil” Extra (Season 13) — Reduced Schedule for December 14 through 18 games

Duke plays South Carolina State tonight ( Tuesday) at 8; Appalachian State on Thursday at 7 pm; and, Cleveland State on Saturday at 4 pm, before opening the ACC campaign on December 22.

Work-related responsibilities prevent a DBP for each game (3 games in 5 days).  We will distribute a DBP after Thursday’s game against Appalachian State to cover the first two games this week.  Then, an issue after the Cleveland State game will cover that game and talk a bit about the coming ACC campaign.

We take this Lucky Devil Extra opportunity to direct your attention to the Women’s team.  Unranked at the beginning of the season (picked to finish 8th in the ACC; top 5 ACC teams were ranked in the top 25), without a single player in contention for ACC honors of any type, coach Kara Lawson faced a challenge.  Her first year as coach (last year), the team voted to close the season after 4 games.  Lawson then coached the USA 3 x 3 team to a gold medal in Tokyo.

The women started out winning against inferior opponents, but did beat Dayton and Alabama (neither team was ranked).  Then  came the ACC-Big 10 challenge against 9th ranked Iowa.  Duke blew Iowa by 15 out for Kara’s first signature win, followed by a win over Penn that  dodged a potential trap game.  Duke was ranked 15th in the last AP women’s poll, one place behind Iowa.  In the ACC, NC State is # 2, Louisville # 6, with Duke 3rd in the ACC (followed by Ga. Tech and Notre Dame in the top 25).  

Which brings us to Wednesday night’s game between Lawson’s emerging Duke team and defending national champions, the undefeated and top ranked South Carolina Gamecocks,  in Cameron on Wednesday (December 15) at 7pm on ACCN.

Might be a fun watch, or the Blue Devils could get blown out.  Big test for new coach, Lawson. South Carolina beat # 2 NC State 66-57 earlier this year and #9 Maryland last Sunday 66-59..


COVID is impacting sports dramatically, and has a feel for coming disruptions, if not cessation of play.  Cleveland State’s outbreak caused it to cancel the game scheduled for December 18; Duke has been fortunate to schedule Loyal (Md) as a substitute to keep a game on the schedule. 

Duke will have played 3 games in five days after exams to get set for the ACC schedule beginning on December 22 in Cameron against Virginia Tech.  Therefore, instead of the DBP analyzing the first two of the three games in general terms, we will now include all three games as part of an assessment of what the first eleven  pre-season game tells us about this team’s chances for an  ACC and National title. 

We will circulate the next edition of the DBP after the Loyal (Md) game, well in advance of the Virginia Tech ACC opener


Duke 103 –South Carolina State 62; Duke 92 – Appalachian State 67; Duke 87 — Elon 56 (Season 13 Issue 9 – Games 9, 10, and 11) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” with Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

Duke 103 v. South Carolina State 67 (Tuesday, December 14) Duke   92 v. Appalachian State 67 (Thursday December 16)Duke   87 v. Elon 56 (Saturday, December 18)

This edition of the DBP analyzes these three games in general terms.  How did these games contribute to Duke’s preparation for seeking ACC and National titles? 

COVID is impacting sports dramatically, and may be a harbinger for coming disruptions, if not cessation, of play.  Cleveland State’s outbreak caused it to cancel the game with Duke scheduled for December 18; Duke was able to schedule an alternative game against Loyola (Maryland), but that also now has had to be COVID-canceled. Elon was substituted in to keep a game on the schedule.  Duke will have played 3 games in the six days since exams, to get set for the ACC schedule beginning on December 22, in Cameron against Virginia Tech.  

Here is the ACC’s forfeit policy: “if a game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date by a team unable to play due to an insufficient number of available players related to COVID-19, that team shall be deemed to have forfeited, with a loss assigned to the team unable to play and a win assigned to its scheduled opponent, with both the loss and win, respectively, applied to the conference standings.”  Duke’s women won today’s game against Miami by forfeit, when Miami could not field a team because of COVID restrictions.  Cancellations and postponements for college games, and in all professional sports, are multiplying.  Coach Nolan Smith tested positive.  He was not on the bench for the game.  Duke tests twice. Every day. Rapid and PCR.  Coach K advocates for an NCAA rule that all teams be tested before every game.

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke Pre-Season:

The Blue Devils have just concluded what might be considered their pre-season schedule of eleven games, that included only three presumably difficult opponents (Kentucky, Gonzaga & Ohio State), with a 10-1 record. One way to look at it is this – the Blue Devils were just five minutes short of being 11-0. Another is that the Devils were about ten minutes away from being 8-3. I subscribe to Bill Parcells’ famous mantra: “You are what your record says you are.  Good teams win more close games than bad teams.”  Whatever your perspective, Duke is ranked as one of the top four teams in the country, with legitimate opportunity to win ACC and NCAA Titles.

STRENGTHS:

Chemistry– What impressed me the most was at the end of the South Carolina State blowout, Duke’s seldom-seen junior forward Keenan Worthington elevated and emphatically slammed down a buzzer-beater rebound dunk, bringing the entire stadium to their feet. His teammates could barely control their joy, with freshman Trevor Keels holding his teammates back from storming the court.  Instead, all the starters and the rest of the squad on the bench celebrated by jumping up and down, waving towels, mimicking the shot like it was the winning basket against North Carolina. That reaction speaks volumes about the camaraderie and chemistry among all the players!—no small component of successful teams.

Leadership: As talented as Paolo Banchero is, Wendell Moore, the poster player for staying in school, has matured into the most versatile, valuable, and important player on this team. With the game on the line, you want the ball in his hands.

Starters: A very balanced team, with a marvelously talented, potential #1 NBA pick Banchero, who can play effectively anywhere he wants on the floor. In close games, I feel he will be deployed in the elbow of the lane and/or high post. Mark Williams gives this team a low post presence that most recent Duke teams have lacked, which was a handicap against big man-centric teams like North Carolina. Trevor Keels is a compact, Energizer Bunny/ Swiss Army knife player. He can play shooting guard, point guard, score from anywhere, and never takes a breather playing in-your-lap defense.  Jeremy Roach is nominally the point guard, but that position is actually played by committee (Moore, Keels, Banchero, or Roach). Because no one player is fatigued from point guard duties, Duke can pressure opposing point guards, which obstructs an opponent’s offense flow. Keels and Roach have apparently used the exam break to work on their three-point shot. If the last three games are any indication, that will make this team even more lethal, because they are the best Duke free throw shooting team (Banchero shoots 80%) in quite a few years. And finally, unlike some other talented but more offensively focused editions, this team enjoys playing defense, because, among other things, they realize that good defense wears opponents down, produces easy offense, and was one of the keys that enabled Baylor to win the NCAA Championship last year.

Depth: Transfer Theo John, a strong substitute for Williams, brings a Big East muscular mentality to the paint, yet he has a surprisingly good touch. AJ Griffin, recovering from two years of injuries, is a 6’ 6” multi-dimensional player who may end up starting or playing starter minutes as a sixth man. Joey Baker has matured athletically to complement his shooting touch. 

Weaknesses: Offensively, the players have a tendency to stand around without good spacing, waiting for a talented teammate to go one-on-one. That, in part, cost them the Ohio State game. I’m certain the coaching staff will continue to deal with this flaw. Defensively, despite Duke’s size advantage in these last three games, there is some concern over lack of defensive rebounding margins, which are somewhat masked by positive turnover margins.

Questions: While acknowledging Paolo Banchero’s talents, and being thrilled by his performance in big games, I am somewhat puzzled by his recent placid demeanor and recent whining about referee calls, as he did this afternoon against Elon. It reminds me somewhat of Bobby Hurley as a freshman. Undoubtedly, he will get the same coaching advice: “Just shut up and play smarter and harder.” Combine this with missing two open dunks, shooting 60%, not 80%, from the foul line, which contributed to subpar scoring in the last two games, as well as aiding and abetting a DUI, and you have to wonder: “What’s going on with this exceptionally talented teenager? He doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself.”  

Maybe it’s just me, but I am much more impressed by the intensity and relentless defense of Trevor Keels, Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, and even the less athletic Joey Baker. Add to this the fact that, despite having an intimidating height and athletic advantage in the paint, and blocking shots against mostly overmatched undersized opponents, Mark Williams has been sort of a one trick pony. Maybe all this is nitpicking or being hyper-critical; however, the schedule ahead is a relentless slog through a much-expanded Tobacco Road type competition that has been expanded well beyond the Atlantic Coast with a “Beat Me and Spoil the Coach K Retirement Tour” target on your back. 

Bottom line: Grow up! buckle up! From now on there are no easy games. You are the best team. Play like it for forty minutes. 

ALANALYSIS:

Coach K’s take on the early season:beating Kentucky, Gonzaga, losing to Ohio State – that’s like a year ago; we have to be in this moment.”   Duke’s next 20 games (10 at home and 10 on the road) will be against ACC opponents.  This is, of course, where the Blue Devils will be measured – in the polls and for post-season seeding.  The first 11 games were preparation.  Let’s take inventory.

The Good

The Offense 

During their stretch without games, Coach K put in some new plays.  While Duke didn’t use them much against South Carolina State  [SCS] because Duke was able to use its transition game so frequently.  Coach K: “We were working on sets that we could run in the half-court. When we can run, we will run. But when we get stuck, we can’t just dribble the ball, we need movement. I would hope that our guys would move without having a set, but sometimes you need to call a set to get that movement.” 

Coach K analyzed his offense so far: “We had a few too many turnovers, but I think we’re a pretty unselfish team.  We should be a really good offensive team. We’re sharing the ball, running to corners, making one dribble penetration. We have hit 15 threes the last two games [plus another 8-25 vs. Elon] because we’ve had really good shots.  We have a team of willing passers, we’ve had a lot of assists all year.  Our guys like [the extra pass]. To me, it’s the most beautiful part of our game. The most beautiful part of our game is passing and connecting baskets. …We could have some hockey assists in how we play, and I like that.”

  • SCS — 23 assists on 33 field goals, but 16 turnovers; 15-27 on 3s.
  • AS — 21 assists on 33 field goals. Only 9 turnovers. 15 – 30 on 3s.
  • E — 18 assists on 32 field goals. Only 8 turnovers. 8-25 on 3s.

The Emergence of A.J. Griffin

Coach K: “AJ [Griffin] has been coming on. These last two weeks, he’s got in a lot of individual work, making up for time lost with his injury. He didn’t play basketball for two years, so it’s a matter of his continuing to work. Our team is unbelievably supportive of him and they want him to do well, it’s neat to see.”

AJ – 35 points in 3 games (in 60 minutes total):

  • SCS — 19 points, 4 boards, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 blocks in 21 minutes.
  • AS — 11 points, 2 boards, 1 assist in 19 minutes.
  • E – 5 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 steal,1 block in 20 minutes.

He is on the way to being Duke’s valuable 6th man this year.  He is closer to ready on the offensive end.  He was embarrassingly beaten twice on straight line drives to the basket by the Elon player he was guarding.  He just needs the playing time.

The Defense 

Elon’s Coach Schrage (Dir of Basketball Operations under Coach K for 6 years) compared this Duke team’s talent for forcing turnovers and creating steals to Duke’s championship teams. Coach K: “[Our team] is not at the level but there is potential. In other words, let’s see if we can do it against ACC opponents. We have done it in non-conference, but we should be a very good defensive team. The thing that we’re not doing is rebounding defensively. We’re good defensively, but we’d be very good defensively if we could complete the defensive exchange with a rebound.” 

“When we rebound defensively, that’s what leads to our fast-break, more so than from turnovers, because we have four ball-handlers in the game, and we can advance the ball very quickly and space the court. The defensive rebound can naturally lead to the open three, if we do it the right way. We have to do a better job of it. Sometimes, we anticipate someone else getting the ball, and we start going [away from the ball] instead of having our hands ready for the rebound.”

  • SCS retrieved 21 offensive rebounds. Duke forced 17 turnovers, including 11 steals.
  • AS retrieved 13 offensive rebounds. Duke forced 13 turnovers, including 6 steals.
  • E retrieved only 2 offense rebounds. Duke forced 23 turnovers, including 14 steals.

Duke’s on-the-ball defense has been superior, though there have been lapses – the first 11 minutes of the Appalachian State game, for example; Duke gave up 24 points in the first 11 minutes.  Roach, Keels and Moore are just terrific on-the-ball perimeter defenders.  Mark Williams has been a force defending the rim (8 blocks in a total of 58 minutes).  It’s team defense at its best.

Getting Better

In the early going, Duke’s half-court offense was inefficient.  Though there was no “point guard”, Jeremy Roach was handling the ball more than anyone.  That has changed.  Wendell Moore is closer to being a point guard and is having a superb season.  Although Wendell had no assists in 23 minutes against SCS (my instinct is that he produces his best when the team needs him the most and Duke didn’t need him against SCS), for the next two games he dished out 11 assists in 57 minutes.  The more Moore directs the offense, the better Duke is in the half-court and the less standing around there is.  Jeremy’s offense is coming on as he has decreased point guard responsibilities.  

Both Roach and Trevor Keels have improved offensively.  Trevor had such an outstanding game against Kentucky, and then just stopped shooting well.  He scored 44 points in these 3 games, including 19 against Elon.  Roach scored 30. Both were 2-5 from 3land.  Both are on the upswing.

Good But Needs Work

The hardest aspect of the game for a young team is to develop consistency.  Duke’s defense has been excellent but has suffered lapses in intensity.  Possibly the lapses are just being lazy, easy to give in to when you are aware of how athletically superior your team is to your adversary’s team.  Overall, the players have demonstrated that they are committed to becoming an excellent defensive team.  

Duke’s rebounding will have to improve.  Kentucky and Ohio State dominated the Blue Devils in the paint and on the boards at both ends of the court.  So did SCS and Appalachian State, not on offense, but in rebounding.  Then, Coach K issued the call to arms, which may have been answered against Elon, but should be taken with a salt-sprinkled understanding of how undersized Elon was.  With Paolo, Williams, Theo John, and A.J. Griffin, Duke has the horses to compete with the elite on the interior.  The ACC awaits.

It looks as if Duke will have an 8-man rotation.  Neither Bates Jones nor Jaylen Blake will play much when a game is in doubt (barring injury).  Theo John is a good backup for Mark Williams.  Joey Baker has played well (but surprisingly has not shot well from behind the arc) against the lesser competition.  He has worked on his game and supplies a steady hand.

Individual Statistics for These 3 Games (omitting A.J. Griffin – previously given)

Wendell Moore, Jr.:

Coach K: “He’s been our stud. He’s doing that on offense, and he’s also doing it on defense. He’s having, right now, an All-American year. He’s played as well as anybody and he’s been a leader.”

  • SCS — 11 points, 2 boards, 0 assists, 2 turnovers in 23 minutes.
  • AS – (when the team needed him) 21 points, 5 boards, 6 assists, 2 turnovers in 32 minutes.
  • E — 12 points, 3 boards, 5 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 steal in 25 minutes.

Paolo Banchero:

  • SCS – 12 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 steals, 1 block in 21 minutes.
  • AS — 16 points, 6 boards, 1 assist, 3 turnovers in 31 minutes.
  • E — 12 points, 9 boards, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 2 blocks in 23 minutes.

Mark Williams:

  • SCS – 10 points, 5 boards, 3 blocks in 20 minutes.
  • AS — 6 points, 4 boards, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 2 steals, 3 blocks in 24 minutes.
  • E — 8 points, 3 boards,  1 turnover, 1 steal, 2 blocks in 14 minutes.

Trevor Keels:

  • SCS — 14 points, 3 boards; 3 assists, 2 turnovers in 21 minutes.
  • AS — 11 points, 3 boards, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal in 33 minutes.
  • E — 19 points, 1 board, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 3 steals in 25 minutes.

Jeremy Roach:

Coach K “He’s just working at it. He’s the guy who is pressuring the ball. He’s our best on-ball defender. As you start the season, I don’t care what you did in the preseason, you are not accustomed to spending that amount of energy on defense and then having the same shot. It’s kind of a period of adjustment in that regard. Not that he was in bad shape, but he is now in game shape – and he’s worked on it. Bottom line, he’s a good shooter but you have to get accustomed to a game environment. We play really hard on the defensive end, and he is the key up top, it’s just an adjustment he has gone through.” 

  • SCS — 9 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 5 steals, 3 turnovers in 26 minutes.
  • AS — 10 points, 3 boards, 6 assists, 1 turnover in 32 minutes.
  • E — 11 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals in 28 minutes.

Joey Baker:

  • SCS — 13 points, 5 boards, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 2 steals in 20 minutes.
  • AS — 8 points, 1 turnover, 1 steal in 11 minutes.
  • E — 6 points, 3 boards, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal in 18 minutes.

Theo John:

  • SCS – did not play due to injury.
  • AS — 6 points, 3 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal in 14 minutes.
  • E  – 2 points, 0 boards, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 steals in 12 minutes.

Facing the ACC

Until this year, we have never seen the ACC evaluated as being so weak.  Duke is the only ACC team in the Top 25.  UNC, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech were the only ACC teams receiving any votes at all in the poll besides Duke.  Because there are no other ranked teams in the ACC, any losses in the conference will count heavily against Duke,adversely impacting post-season seedings for tournaments.  How Duke does in the 10 ACC-road-games will go a long way to evaluating the success of the regular season.  On the road, Duke will play: Clemson, Notre Dame (beat Kentucky 66-62), Wake Forest (11-1; only loss to LSU), Florida State, Louisville, UNC, Boston College, Virginia, Syracuse, and Pitt. 

Next Play: Tuesday, December 22 against Virginia Tech (5 votes in AP poll) in Cameron at 9:00 pm.  ESPN2.  Virginia Tech beat a good St. Bonaventure team (The Bonnies were 9-4 with a win over Clemson) like a drum (86-49) on Friday (Dec. 17).


Duke 76 –Virginia Tech 65; (Season 13 Issue 10 – Game 12) Alanalysis and Bill’s Cliff Notes

Bill’s CliffNotes:

During opening minutes of the game, the Blue Devils were as impressive as their new Gothic lettered “Brotherhood” uniforms; however, they quickly found themselves being schooled by a mature, well-coached, Virginia Tech team, which featured both accurate three-point shooters and two lethal big men. A four-point half-time Duke deficit quickly became eight and Coach K had seen enough. He went smaller, by replacing an ineffective Mark Williams with the more versatile AJ Griffin.  Coach K then challenged the recently unproductive Paolo Banchero by putting him in the post opposite Aluma, the Hokie center, who had torched the ineffective Duke big men – Williams, John, and Jones – for 17 first-half points. BINGO! New chemistry, new game: Griffin, Banchero, and Moore all became different players. An eighteen-point turnaround in ten minutes! How many times have we seen this scenario? A “Patented Duke Run” that, once again, determines the outcome of a tight game! The Maestro hasn’t won almost 1,200 games by accident! And he did it this time without even raising his voice.

 One of the joys of following Duke Basketball is watching players improve. Wendell Moore has taken three years. AJ Griffin, on the other hand, is doing it at warp speed in real time. How impressive is that? Jeremy Roach is much more effective as he settles into his role by understanding that, surrounded by this much talent, “Less is More.” 

Stay Tuned!

Note: The ACC changed its COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday, by changing the forfeit rule.  Previously, teams unable to play a scheduled league game due to positive COVID-19 cases forfeited the game. The new ACC rule stipulates that if a team does not have a sufficient number of participants, the game will be declared a no contest. Previously that had been a forfeit. However, if a team does have at least seven scholarship players and a single member of the coaching staff, and still decides not to play, the result would then be a forfeit.

ALANALYSIS: 

Duke played a superb second half, outscoring Virginia Tech 44 to 29, (shooting 16-26 from the field, 2-5 from deep) and 10-10 from the foul line. Defensively, the Blue Devils sparkled, shutting down the vaunted Hokie 3-point attack (1-9) and holding Virginia Tech to only 29 second-half points.  What was different about Duke’s second half? Coach K basically went with an “Iron Man 5”, with no appreciable help from the bench.

Duke played well in the first half, but the Hokies played better.  Significantly, Duke’s defense did not have its usual intensity.  The perimeter did not pressure the ball; the defense produced only 2 Hokie turnovers (only 1 steal, by Mark Williams). The Virginia Tech big men had their way on the interior. Keve Aluma (17 points on 7-12; 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the line) and Justyn Mutts (8 points on 4-9) outscored the Duke big men 25 to 6.  Theo John (7:34 minutes played), Mark Williams (8:39), and Bates Jones (2:33) were all scoreless for the entire game.  Paolo Banchero looked lost and out of sync in his 14 first-half minutes, scoring 6 (3-9; 0-2 from deep, without getting to the foul line), adding a pair of rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block against 3 turnovers.  Wendell Moore kept Duke in the game, scoring 12 points (4-6; 2-2 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe) in his 19 ½ minutes.  Joey Baker failed to score in his 5:33 minutes, while A.J. Griffin scored only 3 (1-3; 0-2 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe), with a rebound and turnover in almost 9 minutes….  Duke was behind 36-32 at the break.

Coach K began the second half with his starting lineup: Williams, Moore, Banchero, Keels and Roach. Duke immediately fell further behind.  Trailing 42-36, Coach K made the substitution of the year, when he replaced Williams with A.J. Griffin after 3:07 had elapsed.  A.J. played the remainder of the second half, except for 1:28.  The score during that period tells a fabulous Duke story.  In the stretch from 16:53 to go in the second half when A.J. entered the game, until there was 6:50 to go, when Griffin was given a brief rest, Duke was + 18 and had a 12 point lead.  As soon as Griffin went out, Duke’s lead shrunk from 12 to 7 (in only 1:28). Coach K rushed him back into the game.  In the next two minutes, the Blue Devils stretched the lead back out to 12.  

A.J. played 15:25 in the second half, scoring an efficient 10 points on only 4 shots (4-4, 1-1 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe), to go with 3 rebounds, an assist, a block, and a steal.  Although unmentioned by coaches or commentators, it is my quibble that A.J. was beaten a couple of times on defense and picked up his fourth foul with 3 minutes left.  His stamina may have just been diminished with his time away from the game in past years and months from injury, and because Coach K had to rush him back into the game to rescue Duke’s deteriorating lead. 

Coach K was appropriately ecstatic. “Wow, he played well. And he played well for a long time. I was talking to Jon [Scheyer] and Chris [Carrawell] on the bench and saying I wonder how long he can play. He kept playing. He showed, not just me, but himself something tonight that he can do that. If he doesn’t play like that we don’t win. This last week for him has been a good steady progression. Hopefully we can continue to build on it.” Another part of Duke’s marvelous second half was the performance of super-star freshman Banchero, after his sub-par first half.  Coach K: “We got down by eight, so we went and put Paolo [Banchero] on him [Aluma]. Paolo had a great second half, not a good second half. Both offensively and defensively.”  Banchero actually had an all-world half – 17 efficient points on only 11 shots (6-11, including 1-2 from deep and 4-4 from the stripe) to go with 6 rebounds and a highlight-reel assist. “That one pass he made was spectacular. That was as good as it gets, right there.” 

Duke used only 5 players for virtually the entire second half.  Williams never returned to the game after his opening 3:07.  Bates Jones (in the backup role usually played by Theo John) spelled A.J. for 1:28. Joey Baker spelled Keels and Roach for a 1:30 breather each.  That was it for the bench.  Moore and Banchero played the entire 20 minutes; Roach and Keels played about 18:30 and A.J. 15:25. Iron Man 5 it was!  It will be interesting to see how the success of the Iron Man 5 strategy impacts playing time in future games.

Coach K with the last word: “I told the guys at halftime, ‘Look, this game is even. We should be up by four points.’ Part of becoming a really good team is learning that in games like this is you have to do the little things. You have to do them, or you are punished by a good team. We grew up a lot in that second half. It was a big-time game for us.” 

Next Play: Wednesday, December 29 at Clemson in Duke’s first ACC road game at 2:00 pm.  ACCN.


Duke 69 –Georgia Tech 57; (Season 13 Issue 11 – Game 13) Alanalysis and Bill’s CliffsNotes

Duke Basketball Playbook (DBP) 2021-2022  game #13 (January 4, 2022)

Weird Circumstances

After defeating Virginia Tech on December 22, 2021, the Duke team left school and went home for a 3-day holiday.  When the team reported back, the entire team and coaching staff tested positive for COVID, necessitating a 10 day quarantine (confined to room; no practice or any interaction) and the cancellation of the away games against both Clemson and Notre Dame.  All the players and coaches were cleared for the Georgia Tech game last night.

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke played like a team that had been in covid quarantine for two weeks. Oh wait, they have been in quarantine for two weeks. It’s a good thing that the Blue Devils were playing in Cameron against a conference bottom feeder tonight, because against a decent ACC team, on the road, they might have lost from being tired and rusty . Duke shot 37% from the floor and 65% (26-40) from the line. When was the last time you remember Duke missing 14 of 40 free throws!?!! These are not usually winning numbers.

 For most of the game, Wendell Moore looked as if, on offense, he had reverted to last year. However, he had flashes of brilliance. In the clutch, Moore drove to the basket and was cut off.  A.J. barreled down the lane to the basket, and Moore hit him with a perfect pass which AJ slammed home dramatically.  A timely dunk late in the game; it was a key play to stop Ga. Tech’s mini comeback.

Defense was a different story. As we have pointed out, this team likes to play defense. As Coach K commented in his post-game press conference: “Defense was a key to the game. We are a good defensive team. When we played Ohio State, we got tired but that was more [because] of travel. They make you tired, and we stopped playing defense. Tonight, we did not do that. We talked about it at halftime. I told them, ‘I know you guys are tired, but you cannot be tired on the defensive end.’ We couldn’t be (like we were at) Ohio State, when we gave up buckets like that. We are maturing and hopefully we learned from that game. Defense is really a key to our team.”

ALANALYSIS:

The Good

    The Defense

Bill’s closing Coach K quote sums up Duke’s defensive effort with accuracy.  This was not Duke’s pressing, turnover defense, but rather one that contested every Ga Tech shot. This was in-your-grill-defense for the full 30 seconds of the shot clock.  Duke had 8 blocks (3 each by Paolo and Mark; 1 each by A.J. and Theo), but forced only 9 turnovers, including 3 steals.  It is comforting to understand the commitment that this group of players has to the defensive end; both Paolo and A.J. talked in post-game comments about their individual and team commitment to the defensive end.  Jeremy, Wendell (despite his offensive woes), and Trevor were and are superb defenders.

A.J. Griffin

It is fascinating to see in which game circumstances Coach K turns to A.J. Griffin. A.J. is like Coach K’s aspirin when the headache strikes. Duke was down a point, with 14:32 left in the first half, when A.J. made his first appearance in the game.  When he was replaced 4 minutes later, Duke led by 6.  In that stretch, A.J. garnered 2 rebounds, handed out a nice assist, and blocked a shot.  He changed the game without scoring. Griffin returned with 6:58 to go in the first half; Duke’s lead had been trimmed to 5 and momentum was beginning to tilt toward Ga. Tech.  By the time A.J. was replaced, with 1:59 to go, Duke’s lead was 9.  In the second half, A.J. played 8 consecutive minutes, leaving the game with Duke ahead by 12 with 7:39 left in the game.  When the Duke lead shrunk to 8, Coach K put A.J. back in the game.  Griffin scored 3 and fed Keels on a beautiful assist for another 3, setting up an 11-point Duke lead with only 2:09 left.  He made 2 free throws with 1:13 left in the game to cement the Duke win.

In 22:35 of floor time, he scored 12 (3-5, including 1-2 from deep and 5-8 from the stripe) to go with 6 rebounds, 2 assists (0 turnovers), and a blocked shot.  A.J. was Duke’s leading scorer in the second half, playing almost 14 minutes, scoring 8 points (2-3, including 0-1 from deep and 4-6 from the line) to go with 3 boards and an assist.  He was +17 for the game (which means that in his 22:35 on the floor, Duke outscored Georgia Tech by 17 points). A.J. was Duke’s force in the second half as Paolo was in the first half.

    Paolo Banchero

Paolo was, in my opinion, the defensive star of the game in his game-high 36:15 minutes played.  His offense was good – Duke’s leading scorer with 17 points on only 8 shots (4-8, including 0-1 from deep and 9-16 from the line).  Getting to the line for 16 attempts is dominating.  Missing 7 is disappointing if not horrifying.  Tired shooters do miss.  Paolo had 4 assists against 3 turnovers.  His on-the-ball defense was outstanding, whether he was defending Ga.Tech big men in the paint or guards on the perimeter.  Not many 6’10”  250 lb players can do that!  He plays such intelligent defense, knowing how to switch and when to hedge.  He had 8 defensive rebounds (11 boards in all), 2 steals, and 3 blocks.  Paolo was +10 for the game.

    Mark Williams

Coach K had not been happy with his 7-footer’s rebounding so far this season.  He had to have been happy with Mark’s rebounding last night against Ga. Tech.  In only 20 minutes, Williams snared 14 rebounds (9 defensive) – a stupendous effort and accomplishment!  Mark had a double-double, scoring 10 points (4-8 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe) to go with 3 blocks and countless alterations at the rim which prevented Ga. Tech field goals.

    Rebounding

Ga. Tech is not a big team (also the Yellow Jackets were missing their best big man) and does not rebound well.  So, Duke’s rebounding success (a 48-35 margin) has to be taken with a grain of something.  Still, it was a needed improvement by the Blue Devils.

The Almost Good

    Jeremy Roach

Roach is playing substantial minutes (36:10 last night) because of the defensive intensity he brings as well as his ball handling skills.  Even though he is not scoring as well as some (and I) think he is capable of, his defense is so valuable he will be in the lineup.  He would be up in the “good” if he could just put the ball in the basket more frequently.  He scored 9 (1-5 from the field, including 0-2 from deep; plus 7-9 from the line).  Jeremy is very aggressive and drew fouls with his drives.  He was + 11 for the game.

    Trevor Keels

Trevor is also a wonderful on-the-ball defender, who would move up to “good” if his shot went in more frequently.  Keels scored 10 (3-10, including 2-6 from deep) with a steal and a turnover.

    Foul Shooting

40 free throws is an accomplishment, but missing 14 of them is Not Good and will cost Duke in big games should that affrontery continue.  Maybe the Covid circumstances and quarantine (no practicing at all) are an explanation –  worth watching going forward.

Not Championship Caliber (AKA The Bad)

    The Bench (Besides A.J.)

         Joey Baker

Joey played 7:19, sinking his only 3-point shot and his only foul shot.  In contrast, his defense was awful.  He looked as if he must maintain social distancing while attempting to defend.  He can make baskets, but his defense will continue to limit his playing time as I think it did last night.

         Theo John

In 3:59 of playing time, Theo missed both of his attempted shots, while blocking one.

Jaylen Blakes

Jaylen played less than 2 minutes, missing his only shot, a wide open 3-point attempt.

     Wendell Moore, Jr.

Wendell had his first bad offensive outing of the season.  He has been Duke’s best player, but he stunk on offense last night. In 35:32, Moore scored only 8 (2-11, including 1-3 from deep and 3-5 from the stripe).  He had 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 3 turnovers.  Admirably, Wendell did not let his offensive woes impact adversely on his defense, which was superb (as usual).

    The Offense

Duke looked out of sync on offense, committing turnovers (10) and having shots blocked (7).  The plausible explanation is the long layoff between December 22 and January 4 plus the 10-day quarantine.  Still, in the game-winning last 4 minutes, the freshmen – Keels, Banchero and Griffin — scored all of Duke’s points, stretching the lead back out to 11.  Griffin had a monster dunk off a great Moore feed to top off the game, stinging the Yellow Jackets dead.

Next Play: Saturday night (Jan 8) against Miami in Cameron at 8 pm. ACCN.  Miami had a 7-game winning streak in Dec 2021-Jan 2022 [after a rocky November (4-3)], including 3-0 in the conference (wins over Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest).  Miami may make it an 8-game streak with a home game tonight (Jan 5) against Syracuse. 


Duke Basketball Playbook (DBP) Duke 74 – Miami 76; (Season 13 Issue 12 – Game 14) Alanalysis and Bill’s CliffsNotes

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

It’s games like this that must make Coach K think he should have retired a few years ago. Miami, the undersized senior citizens of college basketball (Charlie Moore is 23 and counting), gave Duke’s (sometimes) precocious teenagers a postgraduate course in Basketball 101 by schooling them in fundamentals and by forcing them into 17 turnovers, scoring 52 points in the paint by spreading the floor and making basic cuts and passes. Miami’s offense was so lethal that Coach K went to a 2-1-2 zone. Only briefly though, because Charlie Moore hit a 3 from somewhere near Greensboro.  K promptly returned to-man-to-man, which was no more successful than it had been before the zone infinitesimal interlude. Conversely, Duke’s inability to force turnovers was as important as Miami’s success in forcing turnovers.

This team cannot play fifteen or so minutes of their best basketball or twenty-five of so-so basketball and expect to beat decent teams. They cannot have 18 turnovers and still beat decent teams. Even so, Duke led by three points with 34 seconds to go, but then they blew it.  K’s instructions: “No three point plays”! When Charlie Moore drove to the basket, Jeremy Roach was beaten (once again) and fouled him as Charlie threw up a wild prayer of a shot.  That is when the basketball gods intervened and said: “Not this time, Duke you don’t deserve the win” and somehow Charlie’s no-look layup bounced around and miraculously went in

Charlie, who shoots and makes threes from Steph Curry’s range, missed a foul shot, the rebound of which  was somehow snatched by the smaller Jordan Miller from the midst of Duke’s bigs, before Kameron McGusty hit a floater to put the ‘Canes ahead.  Duke still had a chance to win the game but could not capitalize on the opportunities.  Wendell Moore had a wide-open look for the win and missed. Duke got another shot on an out-of-bounds play, but Keels missed a prayer of a three.

Coach K was left to make the excuses for his team’s inconsistent play by blaming the residual effect of the Covid virus. Who knows, but it does not explain the inability of players to be able to stop an undersized, three-point-shooting team from making threes and also beating the larger Blue Devils with points in the paint. Nor Mark Williams’s lack of  understanding that when he brings the ball low, he gives up his considerable size advantage and allows smaller players to steal the ball.  Banchero has impressive guard skills for a man his size, but in close games he is more effective down low.  

How much defense is needed to cover for periods of inconsistent offense?  These players must play Duke Basketball consistently in order to win close games! “Sometimes” is simply not good enough. 

ALANALYSIS:

It turns out that the game was even more depressing to write about than it was to watch — and that’s saying something.  With the exceptions of Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams, the Blue Devils were so far below form that the team was almost unrecognizable.  Duke committed 13 first-half turnovers (17 for the game), while scoring just 2 points off the only live ball turnover that the defense forced.  Though Duke was bigger and outrebounded Miami by 14 (44-30), the Blue Devil offense was so sloppy that Miami took 11 more shots than Duke (70-59).  In short, Duke made Miami look good.

The Good

    Banchero

        Paolo played a great game [in 35:18, he scored 20 points on only 10 shots (6-10, including 2-4 from deep; and 6-7 from the stripe), to go with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal], but it was his second-half effort that was even more spectacular.  Paolo played every second of the last period, scoring 13 points on 6 shots (5-6, including 1-1 from deep and 2-3 from the stripe.  With Duke behind by a point with 1:17 to go in the game, Banchero blocked Wong’s layup attempt and retrieved the rebound.  He then scored a hotly contested layup to give the Blue Devils a 1 point lead with 1:01 to go.  Fourteen seconds later, Paolo poked the ball away from Miami to Wendell, who hit Banchero with a great pass for an easy layup and a 3-point Duke lead with 45 seconds to go.  Banchero never touched the ball again and Duke never scored again.

    Williams

        Mark was very efficient in his 26:33 on the court (his most court time in a game this year), scoring 12 (6-8; missed his only foul shot) with 7 rebounds and 6 (6!) blocks.  He had 2 assists, but also 3 turnovers.  Even when Mark doesn’t block the shot, he has a knack for altering opponents’ shots so that otherwise easy shots don’t go in.  Frequently, Mark and A.J. Griffin substitute for each other.  Duke tied the game at 63 with 6:36 to go.  Mark turned it over with 5:53 left; the Hurricanes scored to take a 2 point lead and Coach K replaced Mark with Roach.  With Duke still down 1, Williams returned, replacing A.J. with 2:27 left.  Williams delivered immediate dividends after a Miami hoop (3-point Hurricane lead with 2:05 left) when he grabbed an offensive rebound off a Roach miss and slammed it home to bring Duke back within 1.  A.J. Griffin then replaced Williams. Therefore Williams was  not in the game for the final 1:33 , including for Charlie Moore’s missed foul shot, which wound up being rebounded by Miami.  If Duke had secured that defensive rebound it is likely the Blue Devils would have won. 

Not Bad, But Could Be Better

    A.J. Griffin

        A.J. made his first two 3-point attempts to score 6 quick points in the first half, but then missed his next 3 shots (2 from deep). Those first 6 points were his only first-half points  in 13 minutes on the court, also contributing 4 first-half rebounds (1 turnover)  He scored 4 in the second half (2-4, including 0-1 from deep and 0-1 from the stripe) with 2 boards.  He scored 10 in a little over 24 game minutes.  He is clearly the sixth man, and in the second half was Duke’s only substitute.

    Joey Baker

        Joey played only 6 first-half minutes, without scoring. One rebound.  His (lack of) defense at the end of the first half may explain why he did not get into the game in the second half.

    Theo John

        Theo played even less than Baker, appearing for only 2:29 in the first half (scoring 2 points on 1-1, a dandy lefty hook, and a board). He did not enter the game in the second half. His playing time is being curtailed by Coach K in favor of more time for A.J.

The Ugly Perimeter

For the first 13 games of the season, Duke’s perimeter defended brilliantly, and on offense scored consistently with four ball handlers, even without a traditional point guard (though Wendell could object to my take on that).  Against Miami, the defense was porous, allowing Miami’s guards to penetrate at will, whether on straight drives or back door cuts.  The Blue Devil pressure defense that had thrived on forcing turnovers – especially live ball turnovers that led to transition points — failed to turn the Hurricanes over and produced only 1 basket from a live ball turnover in the entire game!  Miami outscored the taller Blue Devils in the paint 52-38 because of Duke’s sloppy turnovers and shoddy defense.

Coach K: “First of all, points off turnovers give you points in the paint. If we don’t turn the ball over, we would hold them in the 60s and they’ve been averaging 90. The backdoors were the ones because we didn’t want to contest. We’re not going to get steals, so we’re playing half a man below and they still backdoored. That shows you’re tired, I think. … I thought a key point of the game was when we were up 26-18 and we were playing well, and we came down three or four straight times and turned the ball over.” 

Wendell put it this way: “A lot of our turnovers were kind of unforced errors, just lazy passes, dribbling the ball off our legs, dribbling into double- teams … just things that we know we really can’t do. It’s stuff that we went over in the scouting report. I feel like if we clean up some of that, the outcome is definitely a little different tonight.”   

     Roach

        Jeremy played 32 minutes, scoring 9 (3-8, including 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the line), with a rebound, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers.  Roach’s calling card for playing time is his defense.  Ineffective is a fair adjective to describe his defense against Miami.  He simply could not guard Miami’s Charlie Moore, who torched him (other defenders as well, but Roach was primary) for 18 points on 13 shots (6-9 inside the arc) with slick drives and back door cuts.  Roach was embarrassed through the back door.  Even the announcer wondered if Duke would adjust to the stream of back door layups from Miami (the answer turned out to be “no”).  With Duke leading by 3 and only 34 seconds left, Charlie Moore had the ball for Miami.  Coach K: “Our thing is no threes and no fouls in that situation … and we (Roach) fouled. We were too spread out, we wanted to be condensed but we were not.”

    Keels

        Trevor played 36:11 in the game (all 20 minutes of the second half), also scoring 9 points, but taking 11 shots (2-11, including 1-6 from 3 and 4-4 from the stripe).  Keels had good statistics aside from his abysmal shooting: 6 rebounds, 4 assists, without a turnover.  Moore had previously told the press that the Duke perimeter triumvirate put such intense defensive pressure on an offense that opponents were unprepared for its intensity.  Miami gave every appearance of being so completely prepared for the Duke pressure that there did not seem to be a Duke pressure defense.  Keels had a chance to win the game with 12 seconds left and Duke trailing by a point.  Trevor raced down court and looked to be loose in the paint before Miami defended him effectively and retrieved his missed shot.

    Moore

        Wendell has, I believe, understood how dramatically his game has fallen off in the last two games from the high standard he set for himself in the first 12.  Even though Moore had a double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds), he did not play well.  Wendell is aware that Duke depends on him for leadership and to play well.  “I really think that all starts with me. Tonight, I didn’t lead the guys the way I’m supposed to. Up three with 30 seconds left, I feel like, as a leader, I can’t let our team lose that game. So really I kind of put this one on me as a leader.  … But at the end of the day, I feel like if we follow our scouting report and I lead our team better, I feel like the outcome is different.”  Wendell played a team high 37:14 (all 20 minutes of the second half). His 12 points came from 5-12 shooting, including a sad 0-4 from deep; 2-2 from the stripe) to go with his 12 rebounds and 7 assists (but 6 turnovers).  He also had a block and a steal, which makes for a misleading stat line.  Moore didn’t lead as he had done earlier this year, and it cost Duke dearly.

    Even so, Miami left the door open.  After Miami scored to take a 1 point lead with 20 seconds left, Keels drove into the lane, but missed with 12 seconds remaining. When Miami grabbed the rebound, Griffin had to foul with only 8 seconds left. When Miami’s Wong missed the second foul shot with 6 seconds to go and Duke behind by 2, A.J. got the rebound.  With 2 seconds left, Wendell received a great pass and had a wide open 3 for the win …but clanged it.

Conclusion

Coach K: “I thought Wendell [Moore Jr.] had a good shot, I thought Trevor [Keels] really took the ball hard and had a chance to maybe get a foul. We had a chance to win the game, but we did not. It’s a very tough loss for us and we just have to keep moving. We’re not in shape.”

The reason it has been depressing to write about this game is that the game perhaps demonstrated that Duke is vastly overrated as the only ACC team worthy of being in the top 25. Based on the Miami game, Duke is clearly not a top 10 team. Was this desultory performance an aberration caused by the weirdness of the COVID disruption, or is Duke simply not as good as we had hoped and predicted.  Time will tell, but the evidence from the Miami game is no reason for optimism. 

Next Play: Wednesday night (Jan 12) at Wake Forest at 7 pm. ACCN.


Duke 76 – Wake Forest 64; (Season 13 Issue 13 – Game 15) Alanalysis and Bill’s CliffsNotes (January 12, 2022)

“What do you say we start Griffin and not tell Coach K?”       Credit: Raleigh News and Observer                                                                         
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Coach was missing-in-action with a non-Covid virus (aka severe indigestion after watching loops of tape of the Miami game where Duke made 17 turnovers and blew a 3-point lead with 30 seconds to go.  (Instead he might have watched Georgia demonstrate how to close out a close game in beating Alabama for the N.C.A.A. Football Championship. Go Dawgs!!!) Not to worry, head coach in-waiting, Jon Scheyer, filled in admirably for head coach Mike Krzyzewski by replacing Jeremy Roach in the starting lineup with A.J. Griffin, who responded by scoring 22 points on only 11 shots! (Jon is 2-0 as head coach. He won at Boston College last year, only about 1,081 wins to go to match Coach K.)

The Devils started fast with Banchero working down low and scoring almost at will to get an early eight-point advantage. Then, they played like they did  in the Miami game and lost the lead until 42 seconds before the half ended when the Blue Devils turned the game around. Moore hit a layup, Keels had a steal then a 3, Griffin drew a charge then nailed a three — an 8-0 run in the final 42 seconds and Duke was up 35-29 at the half. They continued to play outstanding defense and offense to start the second half, scoring on their first nine possessions making the Duke lead 55-35 — after the 20 – 6 run. Then Duke cooled off, and Wake cut the lead to the low teens where it stayed until the final buzzer.

Duke showed how lethal this team can be at their best, but how ordinary they can look when they get stagnant on offense and lazy on defense. Hopefully, COVID can explain some of their uninspired play, but you never know what goes through a teenager’s mind—even a precocious one.  One thing for sure, Banchero and Griffin need the leadership and scoring of Moore, the defense of Williams and Keels, and occasional breathers from the bench to beat the best teams.

ALANALYSIS: 

Duke won each half by 6 points, for its total 12-point margin of victory: opening stanza 35-29; second half 41-35.  In a stretch of time that included the last 42 seconds of the first half + the first 4 minutes 42 seconds of the second half (total 5 minutes 22 seconds), Duke outscored the Deacons by 22 points (25-3), scoring on the Blue Devils’ first 9 possessions of the second half.  The defense made it happen by holding Wake to a single field goal and a single made foul shot in that 5 minute stretch.  

Wendell Moore explained how it felt: “It all really started with our defense. Our defense led to easy shots on the offensive end, it gave guys confidence to come in and hit huge shots. … I really think this win was big for us, not just because we won, but the way that we played as a team.  … [T]his game was so fun to play in as a team. It felt kind of like how we were playing at the beginning of the season. It was a lot of fun – guys sharing the ball, a lot of guys smiling. You don’t even know who’s scoring, you just know that Duke’s scoring. We’re getting stops at the other end. That’s what it’s about. Any time we come out and play like that, I think we’ll be a very hard team to beat.” 

All the starters, except Moore, scored during that amazing 4:42.  Banchero scored 9 of his 11 second-half points during that run. The defense was intense, led by Mark Williams, who made all 3 of his blocks during that special run.   

However, it is worth noting that for the other 34 minutes and 38 seconds of the game, Wake outscored the Blue Devils 63 to 51.  What do we make out of those two different sections of the game, as well as for the streaks for each team within the game in the second half?  Wake cut the Duke lead to as low as 11 at the midpoint of the last half, but twice after that, the Blue Devils pushed the lead back out to 20, the last being with 7:37 left in the game.  Duke had an 18-point lead with only 4:02 left in the game, and the lead was 16 before Wake scored the last two baskets during garbage time at the end.

The Defense

While Duke’s offense was inconsistent, the defense was stout throughout and visibly flummoxed the Deacons.  Duke forced 15 Wake turnovers; Wake had only 7 assists.  So even though Duke was outrebounded (36-29), Duke still took 7 more shots than Wake (61-54).  Wake’s star, Alondes Williams, scored 25 and may have seemed unstoppable at times.  A closer look shows that Duke defended Alondes quite effectively, thereby slowing down a Wake offense that has been formidable this year (until last night).  To achieve 25 points, Alondes had to launch 21 of Wake’s total of 54 shots.  Moreover, though he is Wake’s leader in points and assists, and did dishe out 4 assists last night, Duke hounded Alondes into 7 turnovers from which Duke scored a bunch.  Moore had primary responsibility, but like all great defenses, it was team defense that stymied Alondes and the Geek Deacs.

The Rotation

A.J. Griffin replaced Jeremy Roach in the starting lineup, which obviously changed the rotation.  Coach Schyer: “First of all, it gave us great size. That group that we put out there to begin the game, it’s a big team. Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore Jr., as your two smallest players – they’re big guards that can switch really well, switch one through four at times, one through five. AJ Griffin has just been coming on. He’s just been playing really well. We still need Jeremy [Roach] to come through big for us, and he did that in the second half. But it was really AJ’s emergence, the consistency that Mark Williams has had, and then really to spotlight and highlight Paolo Banchero. Paolo played a terrific game.”

Moore was on the court for the entire game (except when Scheyer took him out with 43 seconds to go); Banchero played 37:36; Griffin 35:44 (his longest of the year by far); Keels 28:01 (he was injured and couldn’t or didn’t play the last 6:54); Mark Williams 21:45 (his second half was limited to 9 minutes because of foul trouble –  he picked up his 4th with more than 13 minutes left in the game); Roach 19:35 (14 minutes in the second half where he scored all 5 of his points.)

Theo John committed 4 fouls while failing to score in 6:27 inefficient minutes.  Joey Baker scored a point (0-2, including 0-1 from deep; and 1-3 from the foul line) in his 11:32 appearance.  In those minutes, he also committed a foul and a turnover.  I find his defense a liability.

As a team, Duke committed 18 fouls for the game.  Too many!

The Offense

The most critical improvement for the offense after the Miami game is that there was no rash of turnovers the way it happened against Miami (13 in the first half).  Against Wake, Duke only turned it over 7 times.  The ball handling was crisp, with Moore in charge.  Duke hit 7 of 15 from deep (21 points on 15 shots); but not much better from the foul line (7-13).

    Banchero

Paolo scored a team high 24 points, but took 23 shots to do it (11-23, including 2-6 from deep, and, strangely, did not even attempt a free throw).  He added 5 rebounds, an assist, and a block. Paolo’s 23 (of Duke’s 61) shots were more than the other 3 starters (except for A.J.) combined (Keels 9; Mark 6; and Moore only 5, for a cumulative 20).  Paolo’s defense is sometimes not appreciated as much as I think is deserved.  With Mark on the court for only 9:31 second-half minutes, and Theo limited by his four fouls to 2 second-half minutes, Paolo played as center with Duke’s small lineup for almost half of the last stanza.  Paolo said after the game,  “I think the mindset in the second half was ‘Don’t let up.’ … We didn’t want to let up because last time we were on the road against Ohio State, we were up 13 at halftime and obviously we know what happened. We didn’t want to have that happen again, and so we just wanted to come out and keep our foot on the gas.”  

    Griffin

A.J. was simply the star!  He scored 22 points (11 in each half) on only 11 shots (8-11, including 3-5 from behind the arc) and 3-5 from the stripe.  His 3-pointer at the first half buzzer was a great finish to the half and the start of the Duke run.  He also contributed 4 key rebounds, an assist, and a block.  It was A.J.’s night!  His teammates and coaches showed their delight at A.J.’s superb outing.

    Moore

Wendell showed how to dominate a game without scoring much.  He scored only 7 (2-5 from the field and 3-5 from the foul line).  Moore led by grabbing 5 rebounds, handing out 6 assists, without one turnover, while making 3 steals.   His dramatic improvement from the sluggish effort against Miami was just what the Blue Devils needed to eradicate the bad taste left by the Miami loss.

    Keels

Trevor scored 11 (5-9, including 1-2 from deep without attempting a free throw).  He was 3-3 in the second half before his injury, handled the ball with aplomb (4 assists; 2 turnovers), and defended well (2 steals).  He garnered 3 boards.  I am not in love with the +/- statistic, but it is worth noting that Trevor was + 17 in the second half and + 27 for the game, both well above any other Duke player.

    Williams

Despite his foul trouble and limited second half playing time, Mark was efficient in his almost 22 minutes on the court.  He scored 6 (3-6).  His value was demonstrated with his team high 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. 

    Roach

Jeremy contributed, mostly in the second half, when he scored all of his 5 points on 2-2 shooting, including 1-1 from behind the arc.  His 3 halted a Wake mini-comeback and gave Duke breathing room.  He played almost half of the game, where he also contributed 2 steals and an assist, all without a turnover.

Concluding Thoughts

Evaluating this team’s progress, potential, and quest for ACC and National Championships is more difficult this year than in a non-COVID normal year.  However, this makes every game highly anticipated as the unexpected is likely to happen.  The league may be down (only Duke in the top 25), but the games are fascinating, close, and it is impossible to predict their outcomes.  Miami beat Duke IN CAMERON but then lost last night by one point to Florida State.  I plan to enjoy this season somewhat uncritically (and if you believe that…).

Next Play: Saturday afternoon at 2 pm vs. NC State in Cameron. TV: ABC


Duke 88 – North Carolina State 73; (Season 13 Issue 14 – Game 16) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 15, 2022)

Mark Williams reaches for a triple-double, executing one of his eight critical blocks against NC State. Photo credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Johnny Tar Heel told me that the Miami loss might be the best thing that could have happened to Duke. Well, only if it was an impetus for moving A.J. Griffin into the starting lineup and using Jeremy Roach strategically as the sixth man. This should solve some of the problems by making the Blue Devils bigger and more lethal offensively, and more consistent defensively. Trevor Keels (9 assists, 5 steals, 12 points) is a better defender, and demonstrated an ability to share, if not run, the point, which allowed Wendell Moore to replace Banchero on the wing, permitting Paolo to operate around the lane where he is most effective.

The wins against both Wake and NC State showed periods wherein the Blue Devils were capable of playing better, if not more consistently, than they did before the Christmas break when the team contracted the COVID virus.  Having said that, we must acknowledge some areas that need to be addressed: the tendency to fall behind early; the drop off in free throw shooting efficiency from nearly 80% to about 60%; and defensive rebounding.

Mark Williams took full advantage of Manny Bates, the Wolfpack’s big, mature center being out for the season, by having a Career Game (19 points, 11 rebounds, 8 blocks).  He also made the highlight play of the game by running down a fast break pass and, while leaping out of bounds directly under the basket, in one motion caught it and threw a no-look bounce pass to a following Banchero for an uncontested dunk. 

Wendell Moore has shown flashes of playing like he had in the first eleven games of the season. All in all, the two games were a good response to a disappointing performance against the Miami Hurricanes.

Duke’s Tuesday game against Florida State, which beat Miami by a point this Friday in Tallahassee, will be a better test of how far the Blue Devils have come back and how far they have to go to be a formidable contender.

ALANALYSIS: 

Paolo Banchero has earned my leadoff spot today with his accurate post-game summary of where the Blue Devils are now: “We’re getting there. Like Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] said, we’ve still got a long way to go and still some things to figure out. But we’re definitely trending in the right direction as a team. We’re playing a lot more together, we’re communicating better on offense and defense, and we’re holding each other accountable, just as a team, and everybody listens to each other. Nobody’s stubborn. Nobody doesn’t listen. Everyone takes what someone has to say and puts it to use, so we’re definitely taking good steps.” 

The team, and individual statistics, against NC State bear that out.  Duke shot an amazing 66% (31-47) from inside the arc. The Blue Devil bigs ran circles around the smaller Wolfpack.  Coach K: “Our big guys were terrific. Mark [Williams] almost had a triple double. Theo [John] really contributed well in the first half when we got a little lead. We got 29 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks from our bigs. Let’s get that every game.”

Paolo’s “we’re playing a lot more together” is demonstrated by Duke’s 23 assists on 35 field goals – 9 for Keels, 4 each for Roach & Paolo, plus 2 each for A.J. and Williams – against only 8 turnovers.  As Bill describes, one assist from Mark was special.  Keels pitched ahead to Williams in transition, but the pass was a little too long. Mark caught it underneath the basket, but his momentum was carrying him out of bounds. Amazingly, he maintained his balance and had the composure, while in midair, to drop a short bounce pass back for an oncoming Banchero to finish with a dunk.  (I couldn’t resist also describing the play; it was just so pretty.)

On the defensive side of the ball, Duke blocked 10 Wolfpack shots – 8 by Williams and 1 each by Banchero and John.  Five of those blocks were on State’s offensive star, Dereon Seaborn, who has earned a reputation with his athletic drives to the basket and 20 points per game average.   Duke limited State to 41% shooting (31-75).

However, there were aspects of the game that also support Paolo’s “we still have a long way to go and still some things to figure out.”  NC State grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, which resulted in the Wolfpack attempting 15 more total shots than Duke (75-60).  Coach K on his team giving up 22 offensive rebounds: “With our bigs helping, when there was a missed shot, they weren’t able to block out the [NC State] big because they were helping the perimeter. The weak point of our game was the offensive rebounds against us. However, you’re going to give some up … we limited their threes, limited penetration, but it’s difficult to limit everything.”  

Duke’s defense was amazingly lax (as in way too relaxed) during the first 5:16 of the game.  NC State shot 6-7, including a 3, from the field plus 2-2 from the line for 15 points to lead Duke 15-8.  Scoring continuously at that rate would produce almost 120 points for NC State for the game.

Duke shot only 31% from behind the arc (4-13), but even worse from the foul line — 14-24 with Paolo and Joey each missing 3 while Mark and Theo each missed 2.  Mark’s 2 misses were “and one” as he was fouled while scoring. Thus, Duke’s bigs missed 7 free throws.  

Williams, Banchero, and Keels had excellent outings.  Theo John had his best game of the season.  Moore didn’t look himself until NC State made a late run, then he  morphed into his pre-Xmas leadership role.  Griffin, Roach, and Baker contributed, but each has contributed more in previous games.

    Williams

Mark in 26 minutes was just two blocks short of an amazing triple-double (19 points, 11 boards, and 8 blocks) with 2 assists, including the one that Bill and I loved to describe, and a steal.  Mark committed only one foul and one turnover.  I believe that warrants a “wow”!

    Keels

Trevor was even better than his impressive stat line that Bill set out above. In 35:15, he was 5-13, including 2-6 from deep, for his 12 points while snaring 5 boards, and handing out those dazzling 9 assists (only 2 turnovers).  Even more important to Duke was his dominating defense that resulted in 5 steals and intimidating harassment of the Wolfpack backcourt.  Coach K: “I thought Trevor [Keels] played his best game since the beginning of the season, with nine assists and five steals. He made a couple passes to Mark when the momentum was changing a bit, and Mark made good catches and finishes. … With the starting lineup we have, he ends up being a point guard at times, and with the other lineup, he really never was, unless we put him in a ball screen. He’s a very smart player and he’s strong with the ball. He can get in certain positions and make passes because of his strength. He’s had a really good week of practice.  I think he’s getting sharper, and he had a terrific game for us tonight.”

    Banchero

Paolo is so good, it’s easy to take his game for granted.  Coach K: “Paolo played his normally solid game.”  Normal?  In the second half, Paolo’s “normal” was 13 points on 4 field goal attempts (4-4) + 5-8 from the line.  Paolo was so distraught at his 3 misses that when he made his last 2 ( which clinched the game) he gave himself cynical applause.  Paolo’s “normal” in his 32:39 game minutes was 21 points on 11 shots, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.  Coach K will be even happier if Paolo does not make the 4 turnovers he committed during last night’s “normal”.

    Moore

Wendell logged 33:13, scoring 15 (6-8; 3-3 from the line) and corralling 4 boards.  But Wendell had 4 turnovers with only a single assist.  However, when NC State cut the Duke lead to single digits late in the game, Moore took over.  In the second half, he scored 9 on 4-5 shooting and 1-1 from the line (a 3-point play) and solidified Duke’s win.    Coach K was insightful about Wendell and the playmaking help he received from Trevor, which: “took off some of the load from Wendell [Moore Jr.]. Wendell is not back to where he was before this. He had one assist and four turnovers … he used to have four assists and two turnovers. We put a lot on him, and maybe we can take a little off so he’s not playing so tired. In the last six minutes of the game, I thought he was our best player. He didn’t have a great game until then, but he’s guarding Seabron …[one of the] best players in the league and probably…first team All ACC. That’s had an impact on his offense.”

John

Theo logged 10:33 in this, his best game as a Blue Devil, scoring in double figures (10 points on 4-4 sho0ting and 2-4 from the line), grabbing 2 boards and blocking a Wolfpack shot.  Great contribution.

    Griffin

A.J. played 27:31 (1-6 from the field, including 1-4 from deep) with a pair of rebounds and a pair of assists. He gave Duke a 23-21 lead that the Blue Devils never relinquished when he scored his only points, a 3 with 9:26 left in the first half.    Still Coach K understands what A.J. brings to this team.  When assessing Duke’s return to pre-pause strength, Coach K said: “the element that’s changed is A.J. [Griffin]. A.J. did not have that spectacular game today. He’s 18 and I thought he played hard and well. I think our fans think that every shot he takes will go in. I wish that were true, but today he didn’t. He’s the new element.”

    Roach

Jeremy played 23 minutes without a field goal (0-1, a layup that was blocked) but made 2 critical foul shots when NC State had cut the Duke lead to 9 with 5:15 left to play.  As Coach K pointed out “Jeremy [Roach] didn’t give us points, but he gave us defense, four assists and no turnovers.”

    Baker

Joey played 12 minutes, scoring 6 points  (2-5 from the field, including 1-3 from deep;  1-4 from the stripe (ugh!).  He added 2 boards and an assist.  Coach K: “Joey gave us some really good minutes.”

The Last Part of the Second Half When It Counted

NC State never quit and made things a bit nervous for Duke fans as the Wolfpack cut into the substantial Blue Devil lead.  Duke stretched the lead to 19 with 12:11 to go and again with 10:59 left.  Duke still led by 17 with 7:31 to go.  Then NC State made its run, trimming the Duke lead to 11 with 6:04 left.  Coach K called a timeout that didn’t help because after, Paolo made a bad pass allowing the Wolfpack to draw within 9 on a 3rd offensive rebound and dunk by Dowuona.  75-66 with 5:20 left.  State fouled Roach in the backcourt, and he made both free throws; Moore scored on a drive that resulted in a traditional 3-point play – lead 14 with 4:30 left.  State twice again cut the lead to single digits: first on a Seaborn offensive rebound and dunk (80-71 with 3:21 left), and then on a fast break layup (82-73 with 2:50 left).  That is when Paolo took over and sealed the deal. First, Paolo hit Moore with a beautiful pass for a layup; and then Paolo scored on an assist from Keels and closed out the scoring with 2 foul shots to create the winning margin before being taken out of the game with 38 seconds left, to cheers from the Cameron Crazies.

Next Play: Tuesday evening at 9 pm at Florida State. TV: ABC/ESPN


Duke 78 Florida State 79; (Season 13 Issue 15 – Game 17) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 18, 2022)

an 18, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Mark Williams (15) tries to block a shot from Florida State Seminoles guard Caleb Mills (4) during the first half at Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
FSU ties Duke up. Photo credit: USATSI. Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

There is something about teams from Florida. Big or small, they know how to play Duke. Both Miami and Florida State not only exposed  Duke’s weaknesses—inconsistent play, turnovers, rebounding (the Seminoles had four point-blank misses at the rim before finally getting the ball in the basket to start the second half – Where were the Duke defenders?).  But surprisingly FSU also outhustled Duke for most of the game. Tonight, the Seminoles deserved to win. But, the Blue Devils were beaten by the same play as they were in the Miami game: a guard driving right and putting up a difficult shot—one a prayer while being fouled by Roach (Miami), the other a beautiful lay-up high enough off the backboard to keep from being blocked by both Banchero and Williams (FSU).

Banchero, who somehow did not take a shot for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, put the team on his back the rest of the way. Somewhat surprisingly, if not amazingly, Duke made a determined run of 12-4 in the last five minutes, without Trevor Keels who injured his calf before the stretch drive, to go ahead, before Evans’ great shot to tie the game as the buzzer went off. The impetus to the dramatic late comeback was Duke switching to a zone defense, which kept the Seminoles out of the paint.  However, Duke switched to a man-to-man on Evans’ drive to tie the game in regulation—possibly to avoid a winning three point shot.

It was an exciting college basketball game; Florida State deserved the win by executing a terrific game plan with enthusiasm. It is obvious from the stats what Duke needs to work on: Florida State had 19 offensive rebounds to Duke’s 7 and forced 15 turnovers while committing only 5. They also had 18 more field-goal attempts than Duke. The good news for the rest of the season is that the Blue Devils, playing as poorly as they did for most of the second half, nearly won and could have won by making a stop at the end of regulation or a shot at the end of overtime. Who should take the last shot—the man with the hot-hand. In this case, it is obviously Paolo Banchero, not Wendell Moore, who has played erratically since the break. That’s what good teams do.  

ALANALYSIS: 

THE LEAD

The key statistic – where analysis starts, is that FSU fired up 73 shots –18 more than Duke’s 55, including 2 more from deep (25-23).  Duke gave up 19 offensive rebounds to the hustling Seminoles (I have heard no calls for a new mascot or new nickname), while committing 15 turnovers and a damaging 19 fouls.  FSU shot 80% from the foul line and outscored Duke by 6 from the stripe (20 points to14).  Duke survived the turnovers and the Seminole rebounding — Duke scored 1 more field goal and 3 more 3s from deep (10 baskets to7 ), but Duke’s fouling on defense turned out not to be survivable.  Of all the Duke failings, Duke would have still won if they had not committed so many fouls and if FSU had not shot such a high percentage from the line. 80% is excellent.  Duke lost by 1 — on foul shots.  No one has mentioned it, but it was not a smart or necessary foul. FSU’s victory in the last 12 seconds of the overtime came on 2 foul shots following an inexplicable Roach foul.

When Bill and I spoke at half time, I said, “FSU is just playing harder than Duke.”  It was true.  The Seminole effort on defense was prodigious, turning Duke over and destroying Blue Devil offensive cohesion. One play stands out:  Banchero tried to bring the ball up court and just couldn’t (a timeout saved the Duke possession, but the Seminole intensity was at zenith.)  Then in the second half, the wheels fell off for Duke.  In the first 3:35 of the second half, Duke failed to score; the 5-point Blue Devil half time lead became a 4-point deficit by then.  After 7:14 had elapsed in the closing stanza, Duke had managed to score just 3 measly points.  FSU’s largest lead was 9 (59-50) with 7:32 to go.

Coach K: “Florida State’s depth and their physicality – they played hard, and it was tough to get entry passes. It was tough to run plays against them.  I thought their defense dominated our offense. It was really not kind of an x and o game – they’re going to take you out of every play, so you’ve got to make plays.  [I]t was the most physical game we’ve been in. They knocked us back for most of the first half, and at the end of the first half we took some control. And then right away at the start of the second half, they dominated those first four minutes and set a tone where we could’ve been knocked out. We kind of hung in there, and in the last seven-eight minutes, we changed defenses.  [From man-to-man to a 2-3 zone.] That gave us a little bit of rest and I thought it slowed down the momentum of the game. The momentum of the game was definitely going in their favor for most of the game.” 

First Half 

Even though FSU attempted 9 more field goals, forced 5 more turnovers than Duke (and had 3 more steals), Duke’s offensive rush in the last 1:54, scoring 5 straight points (Keels a basket and 1-2 from the line; Williams 2-2 from the stripe) snapped a 33-33 tie and gave Duke a 5-point lead at half time.  Nevertheless, the Seminoles had played harder.

Banchero scored 9 on 4 field goal attempts (3-4, including 0-1 from 3land) and 3-4 from the foul line. He had 6 rebounds. Keels scored 9 on 8 shots (3-8 from the field, including 2-6 from deep) and 1-2 from the line, but committed 3 turnovers and only a single assist.  Joey Baker (2-3, including 1-2 from deep) & Wendell Moore (2-2 from the field, including 1-1 from deep) each scored 5.  Mark Williams was 1-2 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe for 4 points to go with a block and 3 boards.  Jeremy Roach (1-2 from the field and 1-1 from the line) and A.J. Griffin (1-1 from deep) each scored 3 for Duke’s 38 first-half points.

Second Half

After 7:32 had been played in the closing period, Duke stopped falling further behind the ‘Noles. But, the Blue Devils still trailed by 9 with 6:52 left in the game. With 4:53 to go, Paolo made two foul shots – his first second-half points. The Seminole lead was a substantial 8 with 4:29 left and 6 (65-59) with just 2:55 left.  In the next 2:25, Duke scored 8 straight points as Paolo’s full game went on display (after he had failed to score in the first 15:07 of the second half).  First, he got a rebound of a shot he had missed, and dunked it (65-61). Then he fed Mark with a lovely lob for a Mark Williams dunk, cutting the Seminole lead to 2 (65-63).  With 1:09 left, Paolo fed Griffin for the game-tying jump shot (65-65).  And finally with only 30 seconds remaining, Banchero again fed Williams for a dunk and a 2-point Duke lead.  FSU had 14 seconds left on the clock after calling time out.  Duke had been in a zone to stop the bleeding, which had fueled the necessary defensive part of the comeback.  But for this last possession, Duke switched to a man-to-man defense, which Evans defeated on a superb drive and layup over both Paolo and Mark to send the game into overtime.

Trevor Keels had a terrible second half (0-3, including 0-2 from deep and committing 2 fouls) before being hurt with 10:11 left in the game.  Coach K: “we think it’s not a knee, it’s a calf injury, but we don’t know the extent of it.” 

Jeremy Roach took up the slack.  While he only scored 3 (1-3, 1-2 from the line), he handed out 3 assists without a turnover.  Coach K said that in the latter stages of the half, “we started making plays and Jeremy and Paolo were a key to that. I thought Jeremy Roach really played one of his best games and was strong with the ball, and so was Paolo [Banchero]. We were just much stronger with the ball during that time period and made really good plays as a result of it.” 

Mark Williams led Duke’s second-half scoring with 9 points (4-5 from the floor; 1-1 from the stripe) to go with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks.  He was superb at crunch time.  Moore scored 6 on 2-3 from deep, but committed 3 turnovers without an assist.  A.J. scored 2 on 1-3 shooting while Theo John missed both of his field goal attempts, but made both of his free throws for 2 points.  Joey Baker missed both shots, failing to score while committing 3 fouls.

In the closing stanza, Florida State attempted 11 more shots than Duke because the ‘Noles had grabbed 13 offensive rebounds off of Duke’s backboard while Duke had only 12 rebounds off the same backboard,  Not common–a defensive team doesn’t usually allow the offense to get more rebounds off of its own backboard.  Duke’s 7 second-half turnovers also contributed to Florida’s advantage in shots attempted.  Finally, Duke committed 10 fouls, which FSU turned into 13 points (13-14 from the line in the second half).

Banchero: “I think some of the struggles, they were denying and switching everything, so they were in all the passing lanes, making it hard to catch the ball. [They were] making us catch outside of where we wanted to start our offense at. They put good pressure off the ball and on the ball.  Then, we turned it around I think by getting out in transition and then driving and kicking. That worked for us pretty much all game, was driving and kicking out. …  The zone, I think, worked just because we were able to keep them out of the paint for the most part. Then, just staying engaged and finding their shooters – [John] Butler, for the most part, we didn’t let him hit any threes in the second half and down the stretch.”

The Overtime

The offensive prowess of both teams returned for the overtime (ie the ball started to actually get in the $&^* basket). The lead changed 6 times and the game was tied thrice in the 5 minute session. Florida State scored 12 to Duke’s 11.  Banchero scored his 4 overtime points in the last minute of the overtime, including 2 foul shots that gave Duke a 78-77 lead with 36 seconds to go.  In the overtime, A.J. hit a 3, then Moore and Williams each scored a 2-point basket for Duke’s 11.  With 12 seconds left and Duke leading by one, Roach fouled Evans, who made them both, giving the Seminoles their winning margin.  Duke still had those 12 seconds.  Moore flew down court but made an ill-advised drive against 3 large waiting FSU defenders.  He turned it over and that was the game.  The pre-pause Moore might have made a different play. 

Closing Thoughts

It turns out not to be too much more complicated than that, with just a handful of seconds left in both regulation and the overtime, the ‘Noles scored and Duke failed to. 

As Coach K said, “It was a tremendous basketball game. Great crowd, two teams that played their hearts out. [When] you’re the road team, the home team benefits from that, which is why it’s tough to win on the road.”  Duke, as Bill wrote, is too inconsistent to be a national (perhaps not even ACC) contender.  Yet, the Blue Devils could have easily folded after the disastrous first five minutes of the second half on the road, but didn’t.  Duke stormed back against all odds to lead by 2 with 14 seconds to go.  Duke fought through the overtime (and the loss of Keels) to lead by 1 with 12 seconds to go in overtime.  Great spirit.  On the other hand, this is exactly the type of game that really good teams win (especially on the road against an unranked team – that I predict will be ranked next week) but lesser teams lose.  

Part of Duke’s inconsistency comes from not having a true point guard (not a new theme for me). I watched Oklahoma play Kansas in a close, tough game.  Jordan Goldwire is the Oklahoma point guard, and he has grown tremendously.  He led Oklahoma, took all the key shots down the stretch and was a true leader.  Watching both Duke and Oklahoma last night made me wish Jordan had remained at Duke for this year.

[Note: all of Coach K’s quotes are accurate.  I did re-order some of what he said for better organization and comprehension.]

Next Play: Saturday Jan 22nd afternoon at 2 pm vs. Syracuse in Cameron TV: ESPN


Duke 79 Syracuse 59; (Season 13 Issue 16 – Game 18) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 22, 2022)

Moore drives and dunks (better than driving drunk). Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Coming off two recent, tough, one-possession losses, Duke’s game was a test of commitment to fix weaknesses. On paper, it looked like a walk in the park for Duke. But Syracuse has always been a tough out for Duke. If a team is not shooting the three well, they are in for a long, difficult game, because Syracuse‘s zone can make life miserable for you when you are not—and Duke was without Trevor Keels, who is one of the Blue-Devils best outside shooters. Fortunately, A.J. Griffin got the Devils off to a good start by hitting his first two threes (and five 3-pointers overall).  And the Blue Devils played their best defensive game of the year, holding ’Cuse to 5-29 threes and 35% from the floor. The Blue Devils were ahead by thirty before Coach K substituted liberally. Duke was most impressive in playing a spirited defense, shared the ball well—four starters scored 15 points, there were 25 assists on 30 baskets. Wendell Moore had a very active game (15 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and seems to be regaining his pre-break mo-jo, which could give Duke a much needed edge in the predictably close games coming up.

“We played really well,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re getting better. It’s been a tough time since Christmas with COVID and Trevor’s injury. These kids are hanging in there, getting better,and today they played really well, especially on the defensive end. We were connected on the offensive end with balanced scoring. For a few minutes there in the second half, I thought it was the best we’ve played.”

P.S. After North Carolina gave up 85 points to Miami and 98 to Wake Forest, Johnny Tar Heel says that he is changing his name for the season to Johnny Blue Devil.

ALANALYSIS:

Bill wrote in his CliffsNotes, after Duke lost to Florida State, “Both Miami and Florida State not only exposed Duke’s weaknesses — inconsistent play, turnovers, rebounding (the Seminoles had four point-blank misses at the rim before finally getting the ball in the basket to start the second half – Where were the Duke defenders?).” ALANALYSIS also identified Duke’s failures to both defend against the drive and to foul excessively in the attempt to defend, as major flaws.  

It is worth exploring how well Duke has done in correcting and improving those deficiencies against Syracuse, a team whose talent is not equal to Duke’s (or FSU or Miami for that matter).

The Defense

Saturday’s game  was, especially in the first half, perhaps Duke’s best defensive effort of the season.  Duke held The Orange to 22 first-half points on 26 % shooting, including 2-16 from behind the arc (12.5% in the first half; 5-29 or 17% for the game).  While it appeared that Syracuse just happened to miss a bunch of open shots that the Boeheim Brothers and Joe Girardi usually make, Coach K pointed out that those misses were the result of the intense defense Duke played overall, which makes shooters rush a bit even when they’re open.  Coach K acknowledged in understatement “We played good defense.”  It started with Wendell Moore, Jr. defending the lethal Buddy Boeheim.  Coach K: “His [Wendell’s] defense today started it off.  He had a tough assignment.  He did a good job with it.”

Jeremy Roach and Wendell locked down on Syracuse’s 2 best scorers, Buddy Boeheim and Girardi.  Wendell: “Their two guards, Joe Girardi and Buddy Boeheim, are two of the best shooters we have in our conference, two of the best scorers we have, so basically on the perimeter we knew we had to come locked in early and it started with myself and Jeremy – with those two assignments we knew we needed to win those matchups.”   And win it they did!  Buddy (averaging 18.6 p.p.g) was held to 7 points on 2-15 shooting, including 1-10 from deep; while Girardi (averaging 13.6 p.p.g.) was also held to 7 points on 3-13 shooting, including 1-9 from behind the arc.   Roach: “I think Wendell did a heck of a job on [Buddy]. Just knowing your personnel, knowing your scout. Knowing what he likes to do, knowing tendencies. I think that was a big thing for us. They love to run those floppy actions, so just knowing to stay on top of that, knowing to go over the screen, because he likes to come off and shoot the ball. Try not to foul him too. Buddy only got to the line once (2-2).  Wendell did a great job of not fouling him on his jumpers too, so give a lot of credit to him.” 

A.J. Griffin’s defense is catching up with his offense.  His improvement defensively is impressive and was acknowledged by Coach K in his press conference. “[A.J.]’s a really easy guy to play with because he keeps spacing, he plays defense, he makes simple passes, and today he did a really good job on [Cole] Swider, that perimeter is a very difficult guard.”  Griffin is now secure in the starting lineup and playing starter minutes (31 yesterday).  

Defensive Rebounding

While Syracuse actually took more shots than Duke, and did grab 15 offensive rebounds, Duke pulled in 32 defensive rebounds (retrieving over 2/3 of the rebounds off its defensive backboard – quite respectable).  Paolo Banchero was an excellent rebounder with 13 (10 defensive boards), as was Mark Williams with 7 (5 defensive) and A.J. Griffin with 6 (4 defensive).  Duke outrebounded the Orange 45-35, and thus scored more second-chance points than ‘Cuse. Satisfactory improvement from Florida State’s flood of second chance points, but then again, Syracuse is  a weaker rebounding team than FSU.

Fouling

Duke committed only 12 fouls in the game, but a close analysis makes that statistic even better.  Duke’s starters committed only 5 fouls the entire game (Moore had 2; Banchero, Roach, and Williams each had only 1; Griffin did not foul.)  No Duke player had more than 2.  Syracuse only scored 6 points from the stripe in the entire game. Major Duke Improvement! 

Turnovers

Duke scored 20 points off Syracuse turnovers while giving up only 13 to the Orange as a result of Duke turnovers.

The Offense

Duke’s Excellent Passing

Coach K: “I think we shared the ball well. In the last two games Jeremy [Roach] has like 20 assists and two turnovers, or something like that, and he and Wendell [Moore] were 17-2 today for assists and turnovers. So, they were sharing the ball and balanced scoring.” Impressively, Duke had 25 assists on 30 made field goals.  That earns a Wow!

Duke’s Balanced Scoring

The balanced scoring that the Duke team exhibited may set them up in a good way for the rest of the season, not being dependent on any single scorer will help them be more adaptable.  Moore, Banchero, Williams and Griffin each scored 15, while Joey Baker had 11.  Roach 6 and Theo John 2 = Duke’s 79 points.

    Moore: 6-12, including 3-7 from deep with 6 boards, 8 assists (only 1 turnover), and 2 steals. Coach K: “In non-conference, he was a beautiful player, one of the best in the country.  With the stoppage he lost his rhythm.  Maybe tried to do too much instead of doing too much of what he had done before.  I told him, ‘don’t bring the past into the present.  The only thing good about the past is if you learn from it.’  Today he was smiling.  He’s playing.  He’s our leader on the court.”

    Banchero: 6-11, including 1-4 from 3land, 2-4 from the stripe with 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block.  Paolo: “We’re just shooting our shots now. One thing Coach says is don’t hesitate – if it’s there, shoot it. Let it go. We work a lot on shooting before and after practice, so we’d be wrong not to take those shots. We should want to go out there and shoot confidently.” Paolo’s high basketball IQ helped him orchestrate Duke’s attack against the zone. “Yeah, … just catching it in the middle and then making reads trying to find the open guy and not doing anything too special. We just threw it to the open player and tried to get guys good looks, and obviously looking for my shot when it was there.” 

    Williams: 6-7 from the field and 3-3 from the line, with 7 boards and a block (but 4 turnovers). Mark played only 23 minutes and was dominant inside.  His big sister, Elizabeth, an All-Time Great Duke player, congratulated Little Brother on his career-high 8 rebounds against Florida State.  However, she reminded him that she had the family record for blocks in a game with 12!  “You have a way to go, little bro.”

    Griffin: 5-10 from the field, including 5-9 from behind the arc with 6 boards, a steal, and a block.  A.J. made all four of his attempted 3s in the first half (plus one more 3 in the second half).  Coach K: “AJ is our best shooter and I’d really like for him to be more aggressive. I think A.J. keeps it really simple. He’s a really easy guy to play with because he keeps spacing, he plays defense, he makes simple passes.  He’s a key guy, there is no question about it.”  K compared him to Reddick as a shooter.  That may be exuberant or maybe not.  The ascent of A.J. may have only just begun.

    Roach: 2-10, including 2-8 from deep with 9 assists (a turnover) and 3 boards.  Jeremy earned praise from Coach K, “He’s had a great attitude.  He is a good kid, all team.  A lot of pressure on him today because we switched and put Jeremy on top instead of Wendell.  He had 2 great days of practice.  I’m proud of him because he didn’t shoot well, but he didn’t let it affect his defense or his passing.  And that’s a sign of a really good player.”

    Baker: 4-8 from the field, including 3-6 from deep with an assist, a steal, and 2 turnovers. Joey is energetic and made his open shots.  He had 2 turnovers and was beaten on defense a couple of times. Good support off the bench in the absence of Keels. 

    John: 1-2 from the field with 4 boards and an assist. Theo provides support for the Duke interior on both ends of the floor.

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS 

Wendell: “That last game we lost before this one was definitely a tough one, personally and team wise. But the second we came back it was this fire that was inside all of us, like this game on Saturday is one that we need to win. It was a bigger game than just a regular game for us. We called it a ‘program game’ in our locker room. So, we all just came out here with that mentality and it really showed with everybody who checked in today – checked in with a different fire, different energy.” 

Coach K: “It’s coming along, we just have to run our own race. I’m not paying attention to anybody except the team we’re playing next, and my team obviously. We’re going to run our race, keep getting better, and see what happens. Any other things that are put on us, I don’t care. I don’t care about rankings; I care about winning and playing well and getting better. Our kids did that this week. They responded well. We had two bad end-of-game situations since this part of the conference has started. Sometimes this can really knock you back when you lose one-possession games but thank goodness it didn’t do that for our guys today.” 

There is a saying that “one Swallow does not a summer make.”  Duke has been described, not inaccurately, as “inconsistent”.  Excellent wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga. A final possession loss at Ohio State. Nice opening ACC win over Virginia Tech, but then disappointment against Georgia Tech and a final possession loss to Miami.  Improving nicely against NC State and Wake Forest, before another final possession loss to Florida State. That’s three shocking losses on the final possession of the game.

Now Duke is back to “improving nicely” against Syracuse.  January holds three more games: Clemson, Louisville, and Notre Dame.  February opens with UNC in Chapel Hill. The jury is still out on whether the Blue Devils will remain a few Swallows (avian not alcoholic) short, or if they will usher in a sunny summer by morphing into the National contender we all hope them to be.  

Next Play: Tuesday January 25th  at 7 pm vs. Clemson in Cameron TV: ESPN2


Duke Blue Devils 71 v.Clemson Tigers 69; (Season 13 Issue 17 – Game 19) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (January 25, 2022)

The Baker rises. Photo by Winnie Lu | The Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

It’s one thing to lose to good teams like Miami by a basket at home and to Florida State in Tallahassee in overtime. It’s another to almost lose to Clemson after Duke having beaten them the last 19 times they faced off  in Cameron. Rebounding and turnovers are still a problem for Duke: Clemson outrebounded Duke 39-31, had two fewer turnovers, a 15-6 edge in transition.  And took 19 more shots from the field than Duke. The good news is that Joey Baker and Bates Jones picked up the scoring slack when Banchero sat out about ten minutes of the first half after picking up two silly fouls in the first 5 minutes of the game. 

However, playing hard and smart consistently on defense was another problem.  Duke led virtually the entire game and seemed poised to deliver the knockout blow time and time again in the second half–but even with Banchero back they didn’t.  Duke led 41-36, 43-38, 47-41, 52-46, 55-48 and 60-53 and yet somehow trailed 65-63, with 3:19 left.

These players need to understand they are not in high school anymore—everyone in college can play and shoot the three and are not intimidated, but rather energized, by playing against one-and-doners wearing jerseys with Duke on the front and targets on the back. When Banchero and Williams and Moore are on the floor with any two other players, Duke is formidable if the five are playing hard, and smart, and taking care of the ball. When they aren’t, it’s a jump ball.

OTHER COMMENTS:

  • A case for A.J. Griffin: He is 9-for-17 from the left corner of the 3-point arc and 8-for-13 from the right — miles ahead of NCAA averages from either location. Griffin started off the season slowly due to his pre-season knee injury, but he took coming off the bench with the maturity of a seasoned veteran, waited his turn to start, and is now cooking ACC defenses when he gets in rhythm.  The approach to a Duke offense hitting on all cylinders is simple—when you have a player uniquely capable of making shots worth 1.5 times more than anyone else in your lineup, you should use him as much as you possibly can.
  • Dick Vitale’s grandsons are on the Duke tennis team, coached by Ramsey Smith, son of legendary tennis player Stanton Smith. The Vitale grandsons are both top-20 recruits, with Connor coming in at No. 8 overall and Jake checking in at No. 19. The Krug brothers are finally here, and they’re ready to make an impact. *see photo below
ALANALYSIS:

INTRODUCTION

Duke was back to “improving nicely” when they demolished Syracuse last Saturday.  It is hard to deduce whether “Duke is improving nicely” from the 2-point win over Clemson last night.  

Before last night’s game, Clemson had won 11 while losing 8 — with losses to St. Bonnie, W.Va, Rutgers, Miami, Virginia, Notre Dame, plus a loss on January 18th (91-78) to the same Syracuse that Duke had shellacked! A 2-point win in the last minute – in Cameron – is less than a status-raising / stellar performance.  Head Coach in Waiting, Jon Scheyer, told the ESPN sideline reporter at halftime, “they played harder than we did.”  Not the first time a comment like that has been made about a Duke performance this year.  

Duke was well scouted by The Tigers, as you could tell from the opening two plays.  On the opening jump, Mark Williams, who has been winning every tap all season long with a back tap to Jeremy Roach, again did the back tap to Jeremy.  However, Clemson knew what was coming, and attacked Roach before the ball reached him.Roach had to foul in the first 2 seconds of the game trying to outfight Clemson for the ball.  On Duke’s first offensive possession, A.J. Griffin tried to feed Paolo Banchero in the post, but Clemson met the pass before it even reached Paolo.  Clemson demonstrated from the opening tip that the Tigers had come to play.

Yet, Duke did not wilt under the Clemson energy. Rather, in the second half, the Blue Devils adjusted to the intensity of the back-and-forth game to make winning plays when it counted.  A dramatic turnaround from the final possession losses to both FSU and Miami.  Making the plays that count at “winning time” is no small matter.

The second half was vastly different from the opening stanza; therefore, taking a separate look at each half is the way to obtain the clearest analysis of this game.

FIRST HALF: TIE AT 36

Coach K acknowledged the intense defense that Clemson played throughout the game (part of “playing harder” than Duke in the first half): “They were denying entry passes, applying ball pressure…for Jeremy [Roach] to finish the game with nine assists and only one turnover is fantastic because their guards played outstanding defense. The Trevor [Keels] thing…we’re not who we are without him, … They knocked us back because it wasn’t just pressure on the ball, it was old-time man to man defense where you had a hard time making an entry, or if you did, you’re out of your normal area of deployment—getting a ball to the elbow. Every single one of their kids played hard.”

Duke’s scoring was (to say the least) “unusual”.  Joey Baker scored 9 points in 7 minutes, on 3-4 shooting from deep to lead Duke’s first half scoring.  That was a first!  

Bates Jones came off the bench for 9 first-half minutes, and scored as many points as Duke’s season-long high scorers – Banchero, A.J. Griffin, and Wendell Moore – scored in the opening period.  All four of those players scored 5 points.  Bates was  2-3 from the field, including 1-2 from deep.  Another first! 

Mark Williams was the second highest scorer, with 6 points (1-1 from the field and 4-5 from the stripe).  Roach only scored 1 to complete Duke’s first-half scoring (1-2 from the line), but he had 5 assists against only a single turnover.

A.J. Griffin had a difficult game.  His ineffective 12 first-half minutes limited his playing time in each half.  In the first half, Griffin was 1-5 from inside the arc without attempting a shot from deep.  He did sink all 3 of his foul shots for his 5 first-half points, his only points of the game.  A.J. played fewer minutes than Joey Baker did in the second half. and was not even on the floor at crunch time.  Coach K: “He is young, that physicality – he has to learn how to respond to the physicality.”  Duke shot well in the opening half  – 11-24 from the field (including 6-10 from 3land) plus 8-10 from the stripe  –  but allowed the Tigers to force 9 first-half turnovers from Duke and to grab 5 offensive rebounds, which gave Clemson 11 more shot attempts than Duke had.

Duke’s defense was visibly less intense than Clemson’s.  Duke forced only 5 turnovers (truthfully, most Clemson turnovers were not forced; Clemson was just careless with the ball), while Clemson scored 12 points off Duke’s 9 turnovers.  Duke had half as many steals (3) as Clemson had (6).  Clemson had not been a good 3-point shooting team, but then last night shot 50% from behind the arc in the first half (6-12), because Duke.didn’t have the energy or will to guard the 3 point line and contest the Clemson shots.

SECOND HALF – DUKE 35 v. CLEMSON 33

The Rotation

In response to Clemson’s intense defensive pressure, Roach and Moore each played 40 minutes.  After being harried into 9 first-half turnovers, Duke committed only 3 in the closing half.  Astoundingly, neither Roach nor Moore committed a single turnover in the last stanza.  

The reduction in turnovers was a remarkable second-half improvement which was a significant factor in Duke’s win.  Three Duke players played every second of the latter stanza – Banchero was the 3rd.  Mark Williams played almost as much; he was out of the game for less than 2 minutes (Theo John played only those 108 seconds that Mark sat out).  Joey played 10:39, scoring a crucial basket to give him 11 points for the game, while A.J. played only 9:21 (0-2, including 0-1 from deep to go with a board and an assist).  Incredibly, it was Baker in the game rather than A.J. for the last 7:26 of the game.

Paolo was superb in the second half after having been limited in the opening period by the 2 quick fouls he picked up.  He scored 14 second-half points (6-11, including 1-3 from deep plus 1-1 from the stripe,) while grabbing 5 rebounds, handing out 3 assists and blocking a shot.  He scored 19 points for the game.  That is star stuff!

Moore scored 8 (2-6, including 2-4 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line), in addition to 4 boards and an assist.  He is almost back to his pre-pause standard. 

Roach scored 7 (3-6, including 1-2 from behind the arc) with 4 assists – Paolo, Wendell, and Jeremy accounted for 29 of Duke’s 35 second-half points.  Coach K pointed out that with Keels and Moore handling the ball in recent games, Jeremy has “been playing off the ball because Wendell [Moore] was out there. With Trevor [Keels] being hurt we put him back on top, and (chuckle) he probably wants to stay on top. He was really strong, in addition to hitting those two shots after all that ball pressure…he’s in really good shape physically and mentally. He’s worked really hard. He and Nolan [Smith] have worked on extra stuff, and whenever guys do that, they play better. They just don’t do what you do in practice, they do extra, and the extra can’t just be practice-work, it’s got to be an investment.”  Roach’s recent games have been extraordinary; he has logged 28 assists against 3 turnovers in the last four games.

Jeremy added, “In the Miami game, we kind of did a little one-hand rebound and they got the ball back. So just rebound with two hands, execute and don’t turn the ball over, and no fouls. You saw we slapped the floor [late in the game] and that was a big Duke moment out there to get some stops.”

Mark was 2-2 for 4 points.  Coach K: “Mark is becoming more athletic laterally. You always see him being athletic vertically, but his lateral movement has really gotten better, and he’s more athletic. He’s playing wider, he’s moving his feet, and he had to tonight, playing against [Hall]. You know, we’re moving forward here, and I see him improving in that area and I needed him to do that tonight because Hall was a big-time matchup problem—I think he had 10 defensive rebounds, too.” 

Baker made a crucial layup for his 2 second-half points. His basket plus those by Paolo, Wendell, Jeremy, and Mark, account for all  of Duke’s second half points.  Baker may have had the fewest points, but arguably the most crucial. Coach K: “The very first guy you should talk about is Joey because when Trevor went out, in our practices, Joey elevated his talk, his enthusiasm, and as hard as he works, he worked harder and was really a co-captain—and it translated. You didn’t see it much against Syracuse because we played lights out, but again, he did it in preparation for this game, and did it again tonight. In fact, I just talked to him privately about it—that he’s [become] a big-time Duke veteran in these last couple of games.”   

Winning Time

The second half was nip and tuck with Duke leading by between 1 and 7 points, until Clemson took its first lead with 61-60 at 6:11 left in the game.  I think of the final five minutes of a game as “winning time”. With 4:40 left, Paolo threw a beautiful cross court pass to Jeremy who hit a 3 (Duke leads 63-61).  Hunter tied it at 63 with 4:10 left before Clemson converted yet another offensive rebound to lead 65-63 with 3:19 left.  Roach penetrated inside on a drive to tie it at 65 with 3:05 left.  After the media timeout, Hall, well defended by Mark, missed and Jeremy got the rebound. Crucial! 

With 2:15 remaining, Joey Baker made a great driving hook shot to give Duke a 2-point lead, which it never relinquished.  When Clemson missed a 3 with 1:53 left, Wendell grabbed the critical rebound, raced the ball down court himself,  and made the assist of the game with his entry pass down low to Paolo.  Banchero made a difficult turnaround jump shot out of the post that gave Duke a 4-point lead (69-65 with only 1:27 left).  But the Blue Devils transition defense failed after Paolo’s next shot missed, giving up a fast break dunk by Clemson  to make it 69-67 with 37 seconds left.  Jeremy then won the game. when he fed Paolo with a perfect lead pass for Paolo to lay it in, giving Duke a 4-point lead with only 10 seconds left.  Clemson cut the lead to the final two point margin with a meaningless offensive rebound put back with 1.2 seconds left.  A thrilling, yet disappointing win!

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Coach K: “The big three tonight were Joey, Bates, and Jeremy. … With Bates he’s on the scout team so he doesn’t get much time because he’s playing behind Paolo, and a lot of times we put A.J. in for Paolo. Banchero wasn’t in and A.J. wasn’t having his game, so Bates stepped up. Again, we made mention of that in front of the team because that’s how you win —when others step up.”  

One writer asked in the post-game press conference how Duke was going to fix its rebounding problem (the other team getting so many offensive rebounds creating so many extra shots).  K’s reply was interesting (maybe even enlightening), “Keep working at it.  We won! So, we did some things to make up for that disadvantage.  We are not a perfect team.  We’re young and playing our butts off.  As we move forward, let’s keep seeing individual and collective improvement.  I haven’t seen a perfect team yet and we are certainly not one of them.”

That leads me to ask: Even though Duke is still the only ACC team ranked in the top 25 in both polls, is Duke the best team in the ACC, or are they overrated?. Facts to consider: Duke is tied with Miami and Florida State for the ACC lead at 6-2 (each of those teams beat the Blue Devils; Miami in Cameron).  Notre Dame also has 2 losses, but only 5 wins.  Of Duke’s 6 wins, only one was against a team with a winning ACC record (Wake at 7-3).  Duke’s other wins are against bottom teams – Ga. Tech (1-6); Virginia Tech (2-6); NC State (3-6); Clemson (3-6); and Syracuse (3-6, after last night’s loss to Pittsburgh).  

Louisville (on Saturday) is 5-5, but in disarray.  Their coach was  just fired today.  Virginia, Duke’s other game in January, is 6-4.  This Duke team is hard to evaluate at this point in the season.  February will be the month to get a real feel for how Coach K’s last team, the 2021-2022 Duke Blue Devils, will be remembered.

Next Play: Saturday afternoon, January 29th, 2022 at 12 pm at Louisville. TV: ESPN2

Dick Vitale and his tennis-playing grandsons, the Krug Brothers

Duke Blue Devils 74 v. Louisville Cardinals 65; (Season 13 Issue 18 – Game 20) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes” (January 29, 2022)

A.J. channels J.J., eyeing up the three. Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Head Coach-in-Waiting Jon Scheyer said in an interview: “We are a different team with Mark Williams on the floor.”  If there is any doubt about that, you only needed to watch yesterday’s game at Louisville.  The Blue Devils quickly built a lead that fluctuated between 12-16 points in the first half, then Williams went out with two fouls. Before you could say “WTF “, the margin was only two points – until A.J Griffin hit a three with .6 seconds left to play in the half, from what can only be described as Steph Curry territory. 

Starting the second half, predictably Louisville went right at Williams, who was called for his third foul and took a seat on the bench. It was a re-run of the Clemson game until shortly after Mark came back in and took control of the boards and, with an assist from Banchero, made what can only be called one hellacious / vicious/ all-ball blocks by a big man on a big man you will ever see, followed by a block of a three, recovering the ball to create a turnover….well you get the idea.  Basketball is a game of momentum-changing moments—and these were two of them. They were the impetus for a Duke 14-5 run to salt the game away.  Mark’s dominance gave the opportunity for Banchero to be Banchero, for Griffin to be Griffin, Moore to be Moore…well you get the idea. Mark Williams is the catalyst for the rest of the team to play inspired Duke Basketball!

Mike Krzyzewski on the end of the game: “We were able to hang in there and keep it either tied or a two-point lead until Mark came back in and Mark had been a tremendous influence on the game in keeping balls alive on offense and protecting the basket. Our half court execution was really good, and AJ was terrific. When it was 62-60, he hit a three and then he hit another three, if they don’t hit threes, that puts you up four possessions and then we were able to get a stop and then we had two really good offensive executions which took some time, and we were able to stop them and got that margin.”

The puzzling thing is why the Blue Devils at this stage of the season cannot play a complete game? How can teams like Louisville and Clemson play them even or make up big deficits? One reason today was that the Devils were 8-18 free throws and 6-20 for threes (Griffin was 5-5, so the rest of Duke was 1 for 15 ). Maybe, it’s that teams are playing Duke very, very physically. The refs had to take time to calm the players down. These Duke players don’t back down but maybe it distracts them—is this a basketball game or a test of one’s manhood?  Whatever the case, it’s getting a little late—even with the Covid and injuries—to be coming together. However, if anyone can do it, Coach K can.

One more comment: our Hall of Fame Coach certainly has the pieces. Banchero contributes in more ways than scoring. He is a Swiss Army Knife type of a player: scores, passes, and rebounds with equal efficiency. A.J. Griffin is the most lethal three-point shooter since JJ Reddick. Moore and Keels are terrific defenders and explosive, if not consistent, scorers. Roach is a steady point guard, who has settled into playing to his strengths as the season progresses.

Next play: Road Trips.

ALANALYSIS:

Winning Time (for this game, the last 5:45 of play)

Louisville was tied at 2-2, never led in the game, and finally tied the game again at 60, with 8:28 left to play in the game.  Wendell Moore was fouled twice, making 1-2 each time, to give Duke a 2 point lead with under 6 minutes to play.  Then, the Blue Devils were given a magical boost by A.J. Griffin, for the best “winning time” basketball of Duke’s season so far!  

When Paolo Banchero blocked a dunk attempt by Louisville’s 6’9” strong man, Sydney Curry, Mark Williams grabbed the deflection.  Jeremy Roach fed A.J. Griffin, who swished his fourth 3-pointer of the game, with 5:46 to go.  (65-60).  

Then came the sequence that changed the game.  Falkner, a Cardinal sharp shooter, had a mid-range jump shot blocked by Mark; Williams also managed to keep control of the ball.  When Jeremy missed a layup, Paolo grabbed the offensive rebound, but missed his put back.  Mark grabbed yet another offensive rebound and passed to Wendell.  Moore passed to Griffin, who swished another wide open 3-pointer.  (68-60) with 4:50 to go.

Locken of the Cardinals missed a layup, but then  Wendell had his drive blocked.  A.J. missed on a mid-range jumper for Duke followed by Ellis missing for the Cardinals, also from mid-range.  Banchero secured the rebound, with 3:54 remaining, and made a difficult turnaround jump shot from outside the paint with 3:28 left. (70-60).  When Louisville missed another jumper, Paolo got the rebound.  He then missed a pullup jumper, which Mark rebounded and laid it in off the backboard, with 2:38 remaining.  (72-60).  The game seemed to me to effectively be over at that point.  Louisville wasn’t quite ready to give up though.

The Cardinals converted an offensive rebound, with 2:17 left (72-62).  In the ensuing minute and 32 seconds, Banchero missed 2 driving layups for Duke, while the Cardinals missed 4 shots.  First, Cross missed a jumper.  Then, Louisville missed 3 times (grabbing 2 offensive rebounds) before Paolo secured the ball for Duke, with 1:11 left.  He made the assist to Mark Williams for his dunk and Duke’s final points, with 50 seconds left.  Louisville did score the final basket, a meaningless 3, with 45 seconds left, for the final score of 74-65.

The Rotation

    Mark Williams

The game statistics corroborate Bill, Scheyer, and Coach K’s (inverse order of consequences) analysis of Mark’s value to Duke in this game (and for the season going forward).  In the first half, the two early fouls Williams committed limited his playing time to just under 10 minutes, but in that limited time, hee still scored 8 points (4-6 from the field), with 2 boards.  

Before Mark had committed a foul, he was taken out for a quick rest, replaced by Theo John, after 5:20 of the game had elapsed with the score 14-2 for Duke (Mark scored 6 of Duke’s 14.)   His rest was short; Mark re-entered the game with almost 12 minutes in the half remaining, and soon committed his first foul (with 10:35 left in the half) and his second (after 2 more rebounds and a put back), with 7:31 to go, and Duke leading by 11 (28-17).  In the next 7:30, which the Blue Devils played without Mark (it was Duke by 37-35, before A.J.’s buzzer-beater 3 at the close of the half), Duke had been outscored 18 to 9 while Mark was on the bench. 

Mark’s performance in the last part of the second half was scintillating, especially at winning time!   Early in the second half, Mark  committed his 3rd foul, when Curry beat him badly on a drive.  Coach K replaced Mark with Theo with Duke leading by 2 (47-45).  When Williams returned with 10:25 to play, Duke was leading (58-55).  Mark played the rest of the game (13:24 in the entire second half), with 6 second-half points (3-5 from the field) and a critical 9 rebounds and 2 blocks (one of which was absolutely sensational at crunch time!).  He confirmed all that Coach K, Jon and Bill have concluded about Mark’s value.  In 23:11 for the game, Mark’s double-double was 14 points (7-11 from the field) and 11 rebounds (5 offensive) and 2 blocks. Mark committed only a single turnover.

    A.J. Griffin

A.J. had a monster game, leading Duke in scoring with 22 points (8-13, including an astounding 5-5 from 3land; plus 1-3 from the stripe).  He added 4 tough rebounds and 2 steals to his well-rounded almost-34-minute performance.  His clutch shooting won the game for Duke and will make future opponents prepare game plans that concentrate on stopping A.J.  Duke’s inconsistency is exemplified by A.J.’s terrible game against Clemson, and now magical play against the Cardinals.

    Paolo Banchero

As Bill emphasized, Paolo’s value to Duke extends beyond his dynamite scoring.  Even though he can score at all 3 levels – behind the arc, mid-range, and at the rim – he did not score well against the Cardinals.  In 36:30 he scored only 11 (5-15, including 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the line), but he added 15 rebounds to lead Duke in that department, plus provided 3 assists and valuable rim protection that added a block.  Paolo is an all-around player.  He re-entered the game for the final 9 minutes.  In that short period, while he missed four shots, he contributed 4 rebounds, a block, an assist, and a field goal.

    Wendell Moore, Jr.

Wendell had a disappointing first half and a valuable second half.  In the opening period, Moore played 18:18, scoring only 2 points on 1-6 from the field, (including 0-3 from behind the arc), with 3 assists, 2 steals, a rebound, and a turnover.  He was much better in the second half, playing all 20 minutes,while scoring 8 (2-3 from the field and 4-6 from the stripe).  He added 3 rebounds and 2 assists.  Thus, for the game, Wendell scored 10 with 5 assists (2 turnovers), 4 boards and a pair of steals.  Wendell is still not quite the Wendell we saw in November and December, but if he continues like he did in this second half,he will be back to the player that Coach K described as one of the best in the country.

    Jeremy Roach

After the first half, I was prepared to anoint Jeremy as Duke’s MVP.  He played all 20 first-half minutes, scoring 7 (3-7 from the field, including 1-4 from 3land).  He added 4 assists without a turnover and corralled a pair of rebounds.  He was the glue.   Then his effectiveness waned in the second half, I believe due to his simply finally getting tired.  He actually was given a minute and 45 second rest in the closing stanza. In the second half,  Jeremy scored only 2 points  (0-2 from the field, including 0-1 from deep; and 2-3 from the foul line).  He had only 1 assist and committed his only turnover of the game.  

Jeremy’s 5 assists in this game gives him 28 total in the five games where he has been the point guard since Keels was injured.  His only turnover today was his fifth in those games.  That is close to otherworldly!

    Theo John

Theo spelled Mark Williams for about 6:30 in each half, scoring all 6 of his points in the first half. For the game, Theo was 3-4 from the field; an embarrassing 0-4 from the stripe, to go with 5 boards, an assist and 2 turnovers.  In the second half, Theo did not take a shot from the field and missed both of his foul shots.

    Joey Baker

Joey played 12 unremarkable game minutes – 6 in each half, scoring his only 2 points in the second half (1-5, including 0-3 from deep) with an assist and a steal.  There are times when Duke needs his offense–last night it was MIA.  One more example of the inconsistency that has plagued this team. 

Rebounding

    Duke outrebounded the Cardinals 47-34, with Banchero’s 15 and Williams’s 11 leading the way.  At one point, the announcer highlighted that after collecting 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, Duke had played a substantial portion of the second half without securing a single offensive rebound.  The announcer gets credit for extending the “announcer jinx”.  Duke immediately started to dominate the offensive glass,  ending up with 10 in the second half — all in the last portion of the second half.  Duke took 9 more shots than the Cardinals in the game.

A.J. put it well, “I think when you see the adjustments we have to make, we knew we had to rebound and box out. You just look at what we’ve got to work on, and you’ve got to capitalize on it.  Having Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero in the paint working, helping us get rebounds, having big blocks at the end – that’s what wins games is defense.” 

Assists to Turnovers

Duke had 15 assists on 30 made field goals.  Good.  While Duke turned it over 7 times, only Moore had as many as 2. 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The challenging part of the Duke schedule is upon us.  Duke now faces the ACC teams with winning records … many on the road.  This week, Duke travels to Indiana to face Notre Dame (14-6; 7-2 in the ACC) tomorrow, and then on Saturday to Chapel Hill to play the Tarheels (15-6; 7-3 in the ACC).  

Of the 9 February games, 6 are on the road. Inconsistency in this stretch could derail Duke’s post-season preparation and hopes.

Next Play: Monday evening, January 31st, 2022, at 7 pm at Notre Dame. TV: ESPN.  

Notre Dame is the make-up of the Covid-canceled game from New Year’s Day.  Notre Dame also played yesterday (also in South Bend), defeating UVA).   Play in Louisville on Saturday, travel to South Bend and play on Monday–logistically this is a difficult travel schedule.  Next Play indeed!


Duke Blue Devils 57 v. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 43; (Season 13 Issue 19 – Game 21) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes” (January 31, 2022)

Let the Block Party Begin!                         Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

I am apprehensive about all away ACC Basketball games, but Notre Dame is the only institution which issues Leprechaun outfits instead of beanies to all first-year students.  Then, for basketball games, they skip afternoon classes for Pub 101 to participate in pre-game warmup.  Now, they are ready to support Coach Mike Brey and his team!   And support them like they are the football team they do—even when the team is down double digits.  This year, ND is short on big men, so Brey lives or dies by a deliberate offense and the three-point shot, which has led to nine straight wins at home and the same ACC record (7-2) as Duke.  Add to this, the arena is sold out for the first time since Duke was last there and the Blue Devils had just played a very physical game at Louisville; therefore, you have the makings of an upset (or as Alan likes to phrase it, a trap game) .

Not to worry tonight. A combination of Duke defense plus a score reminiscent of my prep school days, had Duke leading 27-14 at the half  (I wondered if both teams would play the second half in Chuck Taylor Converse All Star high top canvas sneakers and take two handed set shots from beyond the arc), and beating Notre Dame with a 1950s prep school type final score of 57-43.  The Blue Devils did not shoot well either, but Duke had Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero, who controlled the paint, and superior overall talent. And, speaking of talent, Trevor Keels returned and played more than half the game.

Coach K on the mental toughness required to play six ACC games in such a short span, made tougher because five of them are on the road, “It just turns out this way because of COVID. We were shut down for 10 days where we didn’t do anything. We had over 40 COVID cases in our entire program, with families. I’ve never been through anything like that. My wife is just recovering right now. She had the monoclonal infusion; so, it’s been a hell of a month. We missed two road games; so, they have to be fit in. This is how they fit it in. You’ve got to do what they ask you to do and try to use it as a positive. Being at Louisville at noon on Saturday and being here on Monday, and winning both games, that’s good. We have a young team. Trevor [Keels] is 18 and so is AJ [Griffin]. They both [turned] 18 in August. It’s a young team, so going through this, you get confidence, you get older.  I’m only paying attention to our team and how we develop, because I can’t compare it to anybody. I don’t watch anybody else. But I do think we’re getting better and we’re in better shape.”

“Actually, I was surprised where Trevor was today. He really helped us in the first half, because we were kind of playing wild offensively, and he settled us down. In the second half, we put some things in there where he had a chance to maybe get 12 points, but, you could tell, it’s 25 minutes – he’ll [get] there. But having him back will help us and give us that depth on the perimeter.”  Coach K was referring to Trevor being wide open to score, but rusty (0-4 in the second half, including 0-2 on wide open 3s). The fact that Trevor played so much was the real headline.  He is knocking the rust off quickly.

ALANALYSIS:

The Notre Dame Game Loomed Daunting 

The day after a thrilling road win over Louisville last Saturday, Duke traveled to Notre Dame to play last night’s game that was re-scheduled from New Year’s Day.  Notre Dame, with a team of all seniors and one heralded freshman, was on a roll, having beaten both Kentucky and UNC on the Irish  home court.  Notre Dame features a potent 3-point attack – Dane Goodwin (16.6 p.p.g) was shooting 50% from behind the arc, while 6’10” Nate Laszewski was at 45% and they are both volume shooters.  Blake Wesley, the athletic freshman, made the Wooten Watch List at 14.6 p.p.g.  Notre Dame is the only other ACC team receiving points in both polls (but well out of the top 25) besides Miami and Duke (who is the only ACC team in the top 25, albeit still at #9).

My pre-game note “Defense against ND’s 3s will be the key.”  And so it was!

BEATING NOTRE DAME 57-43 WAS A GREAT (NOT JUST GOOD) GAME FOR DUKE, IN SPITE OF WHAT THE ANNOUNCERS SAY.

On the ACC Network, the quality of basketball played by Duke was denigrated by Matt Packer and Wes Durham.  Packer and Durham were giving us an example of commentary that only scratches the surface.  Go kick rocks!

The Defense

Duke’s defense was so good against the Irish that I thought Coach K had morphed into George Balanchine because the Blue Devils defense looked as synced and together as a New York City Ballet.  It was simply beautiful.

Coach K: “We played really good defense.  To me that was the story of the game.  With one day of preparation!”  

“Mike [Brey]’s team has been an offensive juggernaut.  Tonight, we were able to defend them.  I thought our big guys did an excellent job. They have that five-out, and so it’s not a low post game. …  It’s team defense. We have good players … we’re athletic. Wendell [Moore Jr.] did a really good job on Wesley. Our bigs, too, on the ball screen in an ice where we didn’t have to switch it all the time. With Goodwin, we were lucky, I guess. He’s so good. When I looked at the box score [Goodwin was held scoreless for the entire game!!!], I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He’s one of the best players in the league. He’s played as well as anybody in the league. [He is shooting] 50 percent from three for the season and just solid. He wasn’t able to get his post move because AJ [Griffin] was on him. We have a big perimeter, a lengthy perimeter, so it’s something they probably haven’t seen.”

Paolo Banchero added at the post-game press conference where he appeared together with Coach K, “We had a good game plan coming in. We knew they were a great three-point team; so, we wanted to run them off the line, and with our Bigs protecting the paint as well. We were going to be switching and icing ball screens, so just protecting the paint, and then keeping them off that three-point line. We did a real good job.” 

Not only did Paolo, Wendell and A.J. smother the feared ND attack, but Duke also got terrific perimeter defense from Trevor Keels in his first game back from injury.  While he was rusty offensively (at least scoring wise – 3 points on 1-8 shooting from the field, including 0-4 from behind the arc and 1-2 from the stripe), he had 4 assists without a turnover in 26 minutes (only Paolo and Wendell logged more game minutes than Trevor did).  Good news for Duke.

Duke’s interior defense from Mark Williams, Theo John, and Paolo was ferocious.  Mark had 3 blocks, Theo 2 (in only 13:32), and Paolo had 1.

ND was averaging well over 70 points per game coming into this one – The Blue Devils allowed the Fighting Irish only 14 points in the entire first half.  For a team that relies on its deep shooting, ND was 6-23 from the field, including 0-8 from behind the arc.  It will be hard to find another game this year where a good team was held to a 14 point half.

Duke’s reserves gave up a run of 6 meaningless points at the end of the game, or ND would not even have reached a rate of a point per minute in the game.  It is as if Duke had held the Irish to 37 points for the entire game.  Either way, it was the defensive performance of the season and maybe for the decade!

The Bench

With the return of Trevor, and the emergence of Bates Jones as a valuable reserve while Trevor was rehabbing, Duke now goes 9 deep.  It’s as if Duke has 6 starters (with Roach and Keels) and a solid three experienced reserves:  John played 4 years at Marquette, Jones played 4 years at Davidson, and Baker is a senior.  This is becoming a deep bench that contributes to Duke’s success, which is very different from earlier in the year.  Very good for Duke!

    The Return of Trevor Keels

Bill posted Coach K’s assessment of the value of Trevor’s return and 26 minutes of play in his first game back (3rd most for any Duke player against the Irish).  While Jeremy did not play well last night  in the wake of Trevor’s return, he has been a godsend as the starting point guard (“playing on top”) in Trevor’s absence.  We now know that Coach K has 6 players that he trusts as starters (even though only 5 may start.)

    Theo John

Theo had a marvelous game, scoring 6 on 3-4 from the field to go with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks (in only 13 + minutes).

    Joey BakerJoey gave the starters almost 16 minutes of rest, with energetic defense but less than he usually provides on offense (0-3 from deep for 0 points).  Nevertheless, he is giving the team genuine senior leadership.

    Bates Jones

Bates took advantage of the opportunity presented by Trevor’s injury and has played his way into the rotation.  Bates is a good shooter and reliable player.  In his 10 minutes, he scored 5 points (2-3 from the field, including 1-1 from 3land).  He added a steal and a rebound.  Bates entered the game with 4:58 left in the first half and Duke leading by 4 (18-14).  The team on the floor was: Baker, John, Jones, Keels and Roach.  In that last 4 and ½ minutes, those reserves pushed the lead from 4 to the halftime margin of 13 (27-14)!

Coach K: “I think a key part of the game was the end of the first half, where we went on a 9-0 run with our bench out on the court. Theo [John], Bates [Jones], Joey [Baker] – they did a heck of a job. We got that double-digit lead and were able to maintain the defensive intensity throughout.”

Rebounding

Last night,  Duke exhibited not a hint of their previous rebounding deficits.  The Blue Devils built a 51-36 rebounding advantage.  Duke’s interior controlled the boards: Paolo had 9 rebounds, Theo had 9, A.J. had 9 in only 22 minutes, and Mark had 8 in 23 minutes.  Wendell added 5. 

Offense

Duke’s 54 point game score is close to what the Blue Devils have scored in a single half elsewhere.  Though Duke did not shoot well (under 40% total for the game (26-66), and under 16% from behind the arc (3-19), Duke led by as many as 22 late in the second half, and were never even threatened.

Scoring

  • Little or None: Keels scored 3, Moore scored 2, Baker and Roach did not score.  
  • Banchero – In 30 minutes, Paolo scored 21 points (10-22, including 1-5 from behind the arc, without a foul shot).  Paolo scored 14 of his points in the second half – more than half of Duke’s 27 second-half points.
  • Griffin scored 13 points (6-11, including 1-2 from deep).
  • Williams scored 7 points in 23 minutes (3-4 from the field to go with his 1-1 from the stripe.
  • As previously noted, the bench added 11 (Theo 6 and Bates 5).
  • Astoundingly, Duke took only 3 free throws in the entire game (2-3: Mark was 1-1 and Trevor 1-2).

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The upcoming schedule is daunting.  The final road game on this 3-game swing is Saturday in Chapel Hill.  A second Saturday/Monday weekend in a row occurs (because of COVID rescheduling) when UVA comes into Cameron on Monday (Feb 7) following the UNC game.  Brutal.  Duke then heads out on a second 3-game road trip: Clemson on Thursday (Feb 10), B.C on Saturday (Feb 12 – another two games with only a day in between) followed by a trip to Wake Forest on Tuesday (Feb 15).  Definitely daunting!

Coach K described the carnage from Duke’s experience with COVID that caused the postponement of two games (causing this brutal Louisville & Notre Dame weekend) and the shutdown of the whole program for 10 days.  Physically and emotionally devastating.  No wonder it took a while for the Blue Devils to shake off the consequences of that horrible experience.

Playing with only a day between games is getting the Blue Devils ready for the NCAA tournament. By the end of the second road trip, Duke will have played 3 times with just a day between games.  This is good NCAA practice because each of the four game tournaments (Coach K says that to win the National Championship, one must win three 4-team tournaments) requires playing a second game with only a day in between. 

I agree with Coach K when he says, “I’m only paying attention to our team and how we develop, because I can’t compare it to anybody. I don’t watch anybody else [not SportsCenter, the polls, Joey Brackets, or even Jay Bilas]”  I, too, support not paying attention to the rankings, what other teams look good on any given day or for any given game, or any of that stuff.  The rankings are truly bovine excrement, depending far too much on where a team starts in the pre-season poll.  Look at this comparison between Duke and Miami:  

Duke is #9 in the AP poll with 1107 points, and #6 in the UP poll with 604 points. Miami is unranked, though garnering 29 points in the AP poll and 19 points in the UP poll (30th place in each).  Now let’s look at the records of the two teams.  Miami is 16-5; 8-2 in the ACC; Duke is 18-3; 8-2 in the ACC.  Each team lost close games to Fla. State – Duke by one in overtime and Miami twice by a point.  They each beat Va. Tech, Ga. Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Syracuse, and Clemson.  But Miami beat Duke … in Cameron! Even so, Miami trails Duke in the AP poll by the huge margin of 1078 points and in the UP poll by 585 points.  Bovine excrement!No wonder Coach K says, “I’m paying attention to our team and how we develop. I don’t watch anybody else.”  Me neither.

Next Play: Saturday, February 5th, 2022, at 6 pm at UNC. TV: ESPN.


Duke Blue Devils 87 v. UNC Tarheels 67; (Season 13 Issue 20 – Game # 22) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes”

The Rise of Skywalker: A.J. makes elbow room            Photo Credit: The Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

It was not a warm welcome for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as he walked out onto the court at the Dean Dome for the last time. There was no polite applause. No embrace from Roy Williams. No show of respect for the man who took an intense regional rivalry to a national level, making it the best in college basketball—if not all of sports.  No “Thanks for the Memories” of all the great contests decided at the final buzzer. No respect was given to the man with the most wins in NCAA basketball history.  Rather, he was greeted by a chant that inserted a four-letter word f**k in front of his name–not a smart, classy move. To quote Julia Roberts’ wonderful “Pretty Woman” retort to the snooty saleswoman in the Rodeo Drive boutique shop who dissed her : “Mistake. Big mistake” as she flaunted thousands of dollars of dresses she had purchased at a nearby competitor.

Coach K’s revenge was to have his players amped up and ready to play, starting both halves with vengeance by playing the best basketball they have played all year. They played so well, it turned the raucous crowd of 21,000 in the Dean Dome into an inebriated “Wine and Cheese” crowd who cheered mindlessly but hopefully whenever the Tar Heels closed the lead to the mid-teens. 

Jim Summers summarized on Dukebasketballreport.com, “Griffin ended with 27 points, hitting 11 of 17 shots. Moore added 13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and zero turnovers. Banchero struggled with his shot, only hitting 5 of 15 but 10 rebounds. Trevor Keels hit three triples for 11 points, Jeremy Roach had another solid game—8 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover and Mark Williams’ stat line doesn’t begin to suggest his value in keeping Bacot in check and [William’s] intimidating presence altered many shots.”

Johnny Tar Heel called it.  He predicted Carolina would get blown out because their guard play is clueless– they can’t dribble and think at the same time—and that no Carolina player was good enough to be in Duke’s stop six rotation.

The breakout star of the game—and you could see this coming in the last few games– was A.J. Griffin.  He had 27 points, 3 of 6 threes, and the rest by putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket.  A.J is now a complete player, and the Blue Devils are a much more formidable team with what he brings to the floor.

Wendell Moore, Duke’s captain, expressed the feelings of the entire squad: “It was more than just about us and Carolina. I mean, obviously it was about Coach. His last time coming to Carolina, we wanted to send him out with a win, because he definitely deserves it.”

Coach K: “Our guys really played well today. We beat a very good and hot team. It was a great atmosphere. I thought we started out so well. We really won the first 12 minutes of the first half, and then they won the next eight minutes.  I thought they seized some momentum in the game – The stop we had at the end of the half and then having the arrow to start the second – At least we kept a double-digit lead. 

“Then AJ [Griffin] exploded. We wanted to run a couple things for him, but we ran one thing, and he just went off.  Our guys found him, which is really good. We rebounded well, we didn’t turn it over, and we played a really good game. AJ was a star today.” 

Coach K regarding what he told the team at halftime: “There are no magical talks. I just told them that we won the first 12 and they won the next eight.  If they start out the first four like the last eight, they’re going to beat us. But if we start out the first four like we did the first twelve, then we’re going to win. In our really good games, we’ve come out well in the second half.  Tonight, we came out great, because of AJ [Griffin].  And we played defense and our defensive rebounding was excellent.  It was a 10-0 run, but that means you’re playing defense.  They didn’t turn it over – we had stops there too.” 

Part of an interview by The Duke Chronicle with Bobby Hurley, current coach of Arizona State, who was Coach K’s treasured 4-year point guard and who is still holds the record as the All-time career assist leader for college basketball (*see photo at end):

DC: How does the Duke-UNC rivalry stack up against other rivalries you have seen throughout your career?

BH: It’s the greatest I’ve ever been a part of.  It’s really not close to anything else that I’ve seen. I’m sure that there’s other sports and other rivalry-type games within other sports, but college basketball, I think it’s an elite rivalry matchup.  I don’t know if there’s one better.  But I’ve had it out here. I’ve had Arizona-Arizona State and I’ve been a part of that.  It’s a heck of an environment when those games are happening here. Duke-Carolina is just a touch different.

DC: Say you’re having a conversation with Coach K and the team before the game—what would you say to them?

BH: Good luck. It’s a war man.  It’s like if you’re a competitor, it’s why you’re involved in sports, to be a part of games like this where there’s a lot at stake locally, bragging rights.

Next (trap) game: Virginia (which just beat Miami) at Cameron.

ALANALYSIS:

When Coach K said at the Notre Dame press conference, “I’m only paying attention to our team and how we develop”, his hope was to see the 2021-22 Duke Blue Devils develop into precisely the team that disemboweled, smothered, and dominated the Tarheels!  One might write truthfully, “the ‘heels never had a chance.” 

However, another test for the 2021-22 edition of the Blue Devils looms immediately and requires me to get out the old, tried, but unfortunately, true designation of Duke’s next game – “a trap game”  [Bill is obviously coachable]. With only today (Sunday, February 6, 2022) between the celebration of humiliating Carolina, and facing a resurgent Virginia team in Cameron tomorrow (Monday, February 7, 2022), this is the perfect definition of a trap game.  

The UNC game was indisputably Duke’s best performance of the 2021-22 season, but raises the question of whether it was truly a quality win.  UNC was on a roll, having won 4 in a row, moving into second place in the ACC, and remaining unbeaten on its home floor.  All of those accomplishments earn a team the status of “elite”.  On the other hand, UNC has no wins over ranked teams, with losses to Purdue, Tennessee, and Kentucky (the only ranked teams in its non-conference schedule).  The Tarheels have lost on the road in conference games  to Notre Dame, Miami (by 28 points), Wake Forest (by 22 points), and now Duke by 20 points.  That is not the record of an elite team, making it hard to measure the true development of these Blue Devils.  But a team only plays the opponent on the schedule, and Duke played UNC to almost-perfection.

The First 10 Minutes of the Game

I’m not sure an NBA All-Star team could play better basketball than Duke did in the first 10:01 of the first half.  Joey Baker’s steal and layup pushed Duke’s lead to 23 points (31-8) by the midpoint of the first half.  Duke’s defense was dominating.  The Tarheels scored only 8 points in 10 minutes (a Bacot layup and two Manek 3-pointers); at that rate, UNC would have scored only 32 in a full game 40 minutes.  The Blue Devil defense just squeezed the life out of the Tarheels, while the offense was dissecting the UNC defense with lab-like efficiency.  Duke scored 31 in 10 minutes; at that rate Duke would have scored 124 points in 40 minutes.  124-32  would be an evisceration of the highest order.

Paolo Banchero scored; A. J. Griffin hit a 3; Banchero hit a 3; Mark Williams layup and foul shot made it 11-2 after only 2:30 had elapsed!  A.J. scored on successive  drives, Paolo passed to Wendell Moore for a layup; Jeremy Roach assisted a Mark jump shot from 15 feet out; Trevor Keels entered the game and immediately assisted Moore’s layup before he sank a deep 3 of his own after a neat pass from Theo John; John then stole the ball, passed to Paolo, who fed Wendell for the layup (and free throw from the foul); Griffin and Joey Baker each made layups to masterfully create Duke’s 31 points – in 10 minutes!  It was Duke’s dominating defense that set up the offensive explosion that decimated the Tarheels.

 The Second-Half Slaughter

UNC had cut Duke’s lead to 11 by the end of the first half.  Duke removed any doubt of the game’s outcome in the first 3:27 of the second half with increasingly intense defense, holding the ‘heels scoreless while running off 12 quick points – 10 by the smoking hot A.J.  With 16:49 left in the game, Duke led by 23 (51-28), and the game was effectively over.  UNC got as close as 16 twice, and Duke led by as much as 28 with 1:09 left in the closing stanza.  UNC scored a meaningless 8 points in the last minute; Duke’s real margin of victory was 28 points.  Duke scored 48 second-half points, while holding UNC to just 31 (if you don’t count the last 8 meaningless points scored in the final minute when Coach K’s grandson and other Duke reserves entered the game).

The Defense

The Blue Devils perimeter defense simply took the Carolina guards right out of the game!.  Wendell was spectacular, Jeremy was steadfast (even when rocked by devastating screens), Trevor was his old intense self, and A.J.’s defense is improving just as dramatically as his offense is.  The defense against UNC was every bit as efficient as the amazing perimeter defense against Notre Dame.  As Bill and I have been singing: consistency is critical!! This just might be Duke’s best defensive team in a long time.

Duke’s interior defense slowed Armando Bacot, whom Coach K described as “one of the best players in the country and  having a fabulous year.”  Bacot is UNC’s leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points per game; he was held to 12 last night (only 4 in the second half).   Mark Williams and Theo John played him very well.  Coach K: “he had a good game but not his normal game. I thought Mark did a good job against him, keeping his feet [moving], and he [Bacot] didn’t get easy buckets. As a result, he was 4-for-10. Normally, he could’ve been 8-for-10.  Mark’s playing really well helped tone him down a little bit.” 

Rebounding

Bacot has been one of the leading rebounders in the nation (12.2 rebounds per game).   Holding Bacot to only 5 rebounds (only 1 offensive), while out-rebounding the Tarheels 40-24, Duke had its best rebounding game of the season.  Carolina got only 6 offensive rebounds in the entire game, scoring only 2 second-chance points in the entire game!  2!!!  Paolo doubled Bacot’s rebounding total, snaring a game high 10.  Wendell had 8, Mark Williams had 6, A.J. had 4, and Trevor garnered 3.

A Quick Synopsis of the Rotation

    A.J. Griffin (31:09 minutes played)

A.J. had his best game of the season as he continues to get healthier and into game shape.  Coach K: “He’s become more athletic and in better shape. That left-handed dunk – three weeks ago he wouldn’t have been able to do that. I think a big part of it is how well he’s playing on defense.  He had Goodwin in the Notre Dame game.  He’s moving his feet, and as a result, his whole game is getting wider. So, his first step – he’s driving the ball better. He’s getting somewhere with his first dribble instead of having his dribble within his body. As a result of that, because he can shoot, you gotta be up on him.  And he can drive the ball too. He’s really done a great job of finishing. You know, he’s worked hard. No one has worked any harder than that kid.” 

    Paolo Banchero (31:18 minutes played)

Paolo did not shoot well after making his first 2 shots for 5 points (5-14, including 2-4 from deep, plus 1-2 from the stripe for 13 points), but did have a double-double (13 points; 10 rebounds).  He did the “dirty work” of defending, rebounding  – unusual for a star player.

    Wendell Moore (32:53 minutes played)

Wendell quietly had a simply superb all-around game. He scored 13 points (same as Paolo, but on 8 fewer shots: 5-6 from the field and 3-3 from the foul line) to go with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers.  Superb!

    Mark Williams (25:26 minutes played)

His stats mask his true value to Duke’s superior effort.  Mark was 4-4 from the field and 1-2 from the free throw line for 9 points, to go with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers.  While Mark had only 2 blocks, he visibly altered many other shots around the rim.  

    Jeremy Roach (22:31 minutes played)

Jeremy continues to contribute on both ends of the court.  He had another 4 assists with just a single turnover.  Jeremy scored 8 (3-5 from the field including 1-2 from deep, plus 1-2 from the foul line).  He added a rebound and a steal.

    Trevor Keels (19:58 minutes played)

Trevor looked much better in his second game back from injury.  He played half the game, scoring 11 points (3-6 from the field, including a gaudy 3-4 from deep, plus 2-2 from the stripe).  His shot was falling against UNC as it had not in his return-game against Notre Dame.  In addition, Trevor grabbed 3 boards, handed out 2 assists, and made a steal.  Welcome back!

    Theo John (13:48 minutes played)

Theo had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in addition to scoring 2 points, making his only shot.  His value is unmistakable.

    Bates Jones (9:28 minutes played)

Bates continues to contribute with good defense, passing, and experience.  Bates scored 2 on 1-3 from the field, 0-2 from deep, with a rebound and 2 neat assists.

    Joey Baker (9:40 minutes played)

Joey made one good play – a steal and layup – for 2 points (1-2, including 0-1 from deep), but had 3 turnovers.  Joey provides rest for the starters and leadership for the team on the perimeter.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS What comes after a spectacular performance such as Duke displayed?  First, comes satisfaction from destroying an old rival, especially one that was so classless as to fail to acknowledge the icon that is Coach K, mocking rather than lauding him.  It was the classic divine retribution for a bunch of non-achievers having failed to understand respect for the level of competition that  Coach K fostered for all of us.  Duke fans NEVER would have treated Dean Smith so disrespectfully. 

Second, comes the acknowledgment of human nature.  Satisfaction can eat up the hunger necessary to produce the same type of superb performance in the next game.  That’s why such a game earns the adjective trap. The “trap” game against Virginia concerns me. Virginia stomped the same Miami team that beat Duke in Cameron.  Human nature suggests Duke may be thinking highly of itself after the Carolina game, which could defuse the hunger;  instead, may the Blue Devils whet their appetite for filet of Cavalier.

Next Play: Monday, February 7th, 2022, vs. Virginia at 7 pm in Cameron Indoor Stadium. TV: ESPN

Bobby Hurley — arguably Duke’s most important point guard ever — scoring Duke’s most important 3-pointer against UNLV in 1991 (on the way to winning Duke’s first National Championship).
Photo Credit: AP

Duke Blue Devils 68 v. UVA Cavaliers 69; (Season 13 Issue 21 – Game # 23) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes” (February 7, 2022)

Last second HEARTBREAKER!                  Photo Credit:Samantha Owusu
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

The Basketball Gods decided that Duke would not win this game. How else do you explain Griffin missing a point-blank dunk or Banchero missing so many layups and going scoreless in the second half?  So, They decided that Virginia would break our hearts just like the Blue Devils have broken many hearts over the years with last minute shots. Virginia had bested Duke every which way, yet somehow the Blue Devils had the lead in the final minutes until Roach fell asleep and let Beekman steal the ball from him and make a layup right under Duke’s basket. Then, with seven seconds to go, Theo John, who otherwise played a stellar game, got a rebound but brought the ball down and allowed the Cavaliers to tie him up with the arrow favoring Virginia. Then, someone let Beekman get an open-but-difficult three and the result was a well-deserved win for UVA, but a heart-breaking loss for the Blue Devils and their fans.

There is another explanation: Virginia Coach Tony Bennett is the best damn defensive coach in college basketball and does more with less than anyone. His defense on Banchero (9 pts) and Griffin (2 pts) was well conceived and executed – Bennett shut down Duke’s high scorer’s and dared the other Duke players to beat the Cavaliers.  Duke  did not respond well. Only two players scored in double digits: Williams 16 in 19 minutes and Keels with 12. It’s a wonder that Duke scored 68 points and was in the game at all.

Anatomy of a defeat:

  • Coach K has often said that the best time for another team to play Duke is before or after a game with North Carolina.
  • Duke’s man-to-man defense was carved up by less talented, but more disciplined players. Only when the Blue Devils went to a zone did they close Virginia’s double-digit lead.
  • Williams made two silly fouls in the first half —one on defense, one on offense – that limited his minutes to only 19 in the game.  His 3rd and 4th second half fouls limited his second half playing time to 8+ minutes. Fortunately, Theo John filled in admirably, but when Mark Williams is on the floor, Duke is a different team both defensively and offensively.
  • Duke had 15 turnovers to just 5 for UVA.
  • Only two players scored in double digits: Williams 16 in 19 minutes [12 in only 8 second-half minutes], and Keels with 12 [all in the second half].
  • Out hustled. Example: Williams jogging leisurely back on defense allowed his man to beat him down the floor for an open layup.
  • Banchero is struggling offensively.  He has to read the defense quicker and make decisive moves to the basket.
  • Have the outcome of the game come down to the referees’s whim in the final minutes. Need to make stops and make shots instead.

NEXT PLAY

ALANALYSIS:

Overview

The most insightful fact about the weirdness of Duke’s loss: In 8:33 of playing time, Bates Jones scored 3 times as many points in this game as A.J. Griffin did in his 23:37 minutes of playing time.  Bates scored 6 (2-2 from deep) while A.J. was 1-7, including 0-2 from behind the arc to make his 2 points.  The next weird fact is that Paolo Banchero scored only 9 in 38:09 (3-9, including 1-3 from 3land, plus 2-2 from the foul line).  Even more shocking is that in 20:00 second-half minutes, Banchero’s only shot attempt was a wild, improbable fling as time in the game expired.  0 second-half points!!  

The final insightful fact may be the worst one: this is the fourth game that Duke led right up to the final buzzer – but then lost.  Yesterday, Duke led by 2 points with 2 seconds left in the game.  Duke led with 1:03 to go but lost to Ohio State; Duke led with 23 seconds to go but lost to Miami; Duke led with 14 seconds to go in regulation, and again with 12 seconds to go in the overtime, but lost to Florida State.  National contenders do not lose games like that, and not at home (Miami and Virginia) and not to unranked teams (only Ohio State is ranked in the top 25).

UVA fully deserved to win the game.  The Cavaliers played their A-game –  a controlled offense, with sharp cuts, good passing, and scoring efficiently in the paint; paired with a tenacious defense that kept the Blue Devils off-balance and forced turnovers.  Duke on the other hand played terribly.  

UVA simply played harder than Duke in the early going, as occurred in the losses to both Florida State and Miami.  It was as if the Blue Devils had a Tarheel hangover (as was feared). Mark Williams acknowledged, “In the first half, we didn’t fight. In the second half, we gave ourselves a chance. We were fighting a little bit more in the second half, but we didn’t close it out.”  Coach K (and I) feared human nature after Duke had blasted UNC:  “We’ve got to be hungry after we’ve eaten. We had a big meal, but we have to be hungry again, and I thought they were hungrier than we were tonight. …  we were not worthy of winning most of the game.”  Trevor Keels: “I think we could’ve prepared better.  We started off the game a little slow.”

The Good

Duke came back from a terrible stretch in the first half when the Blue Devils trailed by 12 (32-20) with only 2:11 left before halftime  to cut the UVA lead to 34-29 at the half.  Even though Duke was not playing its best basketball, while Virginia was, the Blue Devils came all the way back in the closing period to take the lead with 4 minutes left in the game (64-63) and hold it until the last second.  This is what Character looks like.

Mark Williams was absolutely gallant in the second half.  While his foul trouble limited his court time in the final period to 8:44, he was 4-5 from the field and 4-5 from the foul line for 12 points, to go with a block and 2 rebounds.  He was Duke’s high scorer with 16 game points, even while playing less than half of the game minutes (18:33).Trevor Keels in 14:49 second-half minutes, scored all 12 of his game points to tie Mark for Duke’s scoring lead in the concluding stanza.  Trevor drove into the Cavalier defense, getting fouled 3 times (5-6 from the foul line).  Keels was 3-8 from the field, including 1-2 from deep, to go with 4 boards.  

The Bench in the first half:  When the Duke starters went almost 10 minutes without scoring, it was Bates Jones,Theo John, and Joey Baker who scored 10 points collectively, to keep the Blue Devils close enough to compete.  Bates played 8:31, hitting 2-2 from deep for 6 points,2nd most for Duke in the opening half (Paolo had 9 points). Theo played 3:21, scoring 2 points (1-1), with a rebound and block. [Theo was even more valuable in the second half when he logged 11:14 because of Mark’s foul trouble.]  Joey Baker played only 1:51, all in the first half, when he scored from the field (1-1) and grabbed a rebound.

The Bad

Human Nature – Theo John said “Coach K talked to us at the half. He talked to us before the game. He told us it’s not going to be easy. You’ve got to beat human nature. You just beat a Carolina team by 20 on the road, and you’ve got to come out here on a Monday, just two days later, and beat another tough team. We didn’t do that tonight.” 

Duke’s Man-to-Man Defense – After one of the great defensive efforts of the year against UNC, Duke was completely ineffective against the Cavaliers.  Coach K: “They carved us up where 20 of the first 22 points were in the paint—they had 52 in the game—but in the beginning, it was more the cuts …”  The zone was not much more effective.  UVA was getting uncontested jump shots  against the zone. 

 Duke’ offense also had serious flaws – 37% shooting in the first half, 15 turnovers for the game (while the defense forced only 5 turnovers from Virginia). Virginia had twice as many second chance points as Duke, grabbing 9 first-half offensive rebounds.  The Cavaliers controlled the paint for the game.  Duke somehow allowed Kadin Shedrick (who did not start, and averages less than 7 points per game) to clean the glass with put-backs: 8-8 for 16 points, to lead Virginia in scoring)!

Wendell Moore played 38:09, scoring 9 (3-8, including 1-5 from behind the arc, plus 2-2 from the stripe).  Moore had only 1 assist and 2 turnovers, without a steal.  It was not Wendell’s best defensive game, though he still managed to be Duke’s second leading rebounder with 7 (Duke out-rebounded UVA 39 to 32).

The Ugly

Jeremy Roach would not have been in this category but for his final turnover (3 total for the game).  Such an outrageous lapse in concentration would not happen on the playground, let alone at a crucial time in an ACC game.  It changed the game.  Duke led by 66-64 with 1:48 left in the game when Theo blocked Reece Beekman’s driving layup and Roach grabbed the rebound.  Roach looked around and apparently forgot Beekman was on the ground behind him.  Beekman just came in from out of bounds and swiped the ball from the oblivious Jeremy to lay it in the basket.  Jeremy’s reflex committed the foul.  When Beekman converted the 3-point play, Duke had gone from a 2-point lead with the ball to a 1-point deficit.  Ugly.  Otherwise, Jeremy was not ugly, though he had more turnovers in this game than in any since Jeremy moved to be the prime playmaker when Trevor was hurt against Florida State.

A.J. Griffin and Paolo Banchero scored 2 points collectively in the second half.  Paolo played every second of the closing period without scoring.  A.J. scored 2 (his only score of the game) in his 7:48 minutes played in the final period. He was 0-5 in the first half. And those guys are usually bagging ~20 points each per game–Paolo is the leading freshman scorer in the nation. Ugly.  

Virginia scored 20 points from Duke turnovers, while Duke, in contrast, scored only 2 points from UVA turnovers.  In the first half it was 11 Duke turnovers to 0 for UVA .  The Cavaliers scored 52 of their 69 points in the paint.  Ugly defense.

The last plays of the game: Paolo’s turnover and Beekman’s 3 pointer with 1 second left.  

Coach K: “We put ourselves in a position to win, but we made two bad plays, two really bad plays—one on offense and one on defense, and that’s all it takes. You have to make a play. If you get the ball in the lane, you have to get a shot, and we weren’t able to get a shot. Then we missed the defensive assignment on the last play and when you do that, you lose.”

With 30 seconds left and Duke nursing a 2-point lead, Duke was not able to get a shot up when Paolo tried to dribble through two Cavaliers, but could only dribble into a turnover.  Ugly.

Mark Williams, who missed the defensive assignment on Beekman: “It was on me. I lost Beekman. I should’ve stayed with him off the inbounds, and he got an open look and he knocked it down. There’s not much more to it. I take full responsibility for it. I let my teammates down.” 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

consistency, Consistency, CONSISTENCY! – Duke must still find consistency if the Blue Devils are to be the National contender for a final Coach K championship!  

  • A.J. Griffin and Paolo Banchero are still freshmen, who can be (and indeed have been) inconsistent.  These freshmen now have about a month before it is tournament time.  Inconsistency will end the season. 
  • The Blue Devil penchant this year for losing games at the buzzer is more than troubling.  That’s not the consistency Coach K is looking for.

This 3 game road trip coming up – Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest (newly #25 in Monday’s poll) will give Duke a chance for redemption … or disaster.

Next Play: Thursday, February 10th, 2022, at Clemson: 8 pm on TV: ACCN


Duke Blue Devils 82 v. Clemson Tigers 64; (Season 13 Issue 22 – Game # 24) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes” (February 10, 2022)

Keels: First & Ten                                        Photo Credit: Simran Prakash/The Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

So far, this Duke team has been inconsistent—being at critical times less than the sum of its parts.  However, to their credit they have responded to losses well.  Duke’s winning margins in the four games following a loss this season were 41, 12 and 20 points. Tonight was more of the same with an 18-point win against a short-handed Clemson team. 

Krzyzewski said Duke’s successful response was no accident: “The very first thing you have to do is take accountability for why they [Virginia] played better – not just [at] the end of the game. We had long meetings with our guys, and then they had meetings.  A big thing was for them to hold each other accountable more.  For a young team, they have really good attitudes. They all want to play well, but you can get caught up with you playing well.  Not trying to score a lot of points, but you don’t see globally- you see locally.  That’s part of the maturity of a player and a team, is to see globally.”

We will see. The question is whether it was bad luck, or was something missing from this team’s losing three games, two at home, by a point or two in the final minutes!  As talented as the players on this team are, when it comes time for someone to complete a stop or someone to make a shot, there is no there there. Well, tonight, Trevor Keels, as he did against Kentucky, took charge of the game in the second half as Duke’s eleven-point half time lead was cut to five. Trevor hit 8 of his 9 second-half shots to put this important road game on ice, in front of a very hostile crowd just ready to explode.  Keels explained: “When you get a lead like that, just keep fighting and keep pushing.  Don’t let the team get back and get their crowd into it.  It was loud in there, so in games like that, you don’t want their crowd to get into it.  You want to keep that lead and finish the game.”  He scored all but two of his game-high 25 points in the second half, making all of eight-straight field-goal attempts.  He also had 11 rebounds.  “I feel like I’m getting back to myself.  Missing three games is tough, especially when you can’t be out there with your brothers and fight.  But inside the locker room, Wendell talked to me before the game and told me: ‘Play like yourself.’ It really helped me.”

Near the end of the first half,   another play fired up the Blue Devils.  Wendell Moore stole the ball from Clemson senior guard David Collins and drove for a breakaway dunk. Collins, apparently angry at a no call or being humiliated, and trailing well behind, blocked Moore’s hip and legs while Moore was dunking the ball.  It was as if a defensive back hit a defenseless receiver.  Moore came down parallel to the floor simultaneously on his back and head with a sickening thud. It was as vicious a play as I can remember seeing in basketball! 

https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/3405561/dude-on-clemson-straight-up-forgets-hes-playing-basketball-delivers-one-of-the-dirtiest-fouls-youll-see

Duke’s coaches and players leapt to their feet and onto the floor incensed with the takedown and concern for their teammate.  Amazingly, Wendell got up and shook it off.  However, that seemed to give the Blue Devils extra incentive to close out Clemson.  Collins was ejected for a Category 2 Flagrant Foul, and, therefore, it took a valuable Clemson starter out of the game.  

The rest of the season will tell whether this young Duke team is maturing into a battle-ready contender or is just a talented, but inconsistent, immature pretender.

ALANALYSIS:

Introduction

It was a very satisfying bounce-back win for Duke after the disappointing loss to UVA in Cameron on Monday.  The Blue Devils were better  in shooting, rebounding, and ball handling.  Perhaps the gaudiest statistic was that A.J. Griffin (2-2) and Trevor Keels (3-6) collectively shot  5-8 from 3land.  That’s 15 points on 8 shots. Perhaps the best news from the game was Trevor morphing back into the potential lottery player he was in the season opener against Kentucky.  Keels scored 23 of Duke’s 44 second half points.  After Monday’s heartbreak, it was just the stress-free game Duke fans needed on a Thursday night!

Coach K’s final year is strange because the regular season is where our Hall of Fame coach is simply getting ready for the post-season.  Duke’s bench has been longer, and rather than shrinking as the season progresses (Duke fans watch that phenomenon every year), the number of players and the roles of the bench has expanded.

We will examine the game half by half, followed by the status of the team in Coach K’s rotation, which has been quite different this season.

Duke v Clemson – Each Half Was Different

Coach K, echoing what we mean when we say that ACC road games are just different, “For us, it was a great response after a difficult loss against Virginia.  They [the Duke players] were tough-minded.  They’ve lost some really tough games, close games and we knew that they [the Clemson team] would be ready and the crowd [would be raucous].  I like the way my team responded to them[the crowd + the team]”.

“I thought our defense was very good. The second half, Trevor took over.  Wendell Moore did a great job of leading our team; he had eight assists and no turnovers, and was more like he’s played in the early part of the season. We’re moving along.”

The First Half (Duke 38 – Clemson 29): 

With 8:11 remaining in the opening period, Duke led by 4 (18-14).  In the next 2:38, Duke scored 9 straight points to lead by 13.  Mark Williams scored twice, Wendell scored, and A.J. hit a 3.  While Clemson did cut the lead to 5 in the second half, the Tigers never led in the game.  The Duke players had balanced scoring in the first half and a 26-15 rebounding edge with 8 offensive boards. 

Williams, in his 12 first-half minutes, led the scoring with 10 points (5-5 from the field), to go with 5 rebounds, a steal, and a block.  Dominating.  Paolo Banchero and Wendell each scored 8 points.  In his 18:22, Paolo was 3-8 from the field, (including 0-1 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line), to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal (2 turnovers); while Wendell, in his 14:22 of playing time, was a more efficient 3-6 from the field, including 1-1 from behind the arc plus 1-2 from the stripe.   Wendell became the main ball handler as he had been before Trevor was injured handing out 4 assists without a turnover.  Wendell added 2 rebounds and a steal to round out his excellent first half performance. 

A.J. played 13:39 and scored 6 first-half points (2-5 from the field that included 2-3 from deep.  A.J. did grab a single rebound and handed out an assist, but committed 2 fouls and 2 turnovers.  Theo John (6:49), Trevor (12:55) and Jeremy Roach (12:00) each scored 2 points on 1-4 shooting.  Trevor had 6 rebounds to lead Duke in that department.  Theo had 2 boards, a block, and, astoundingly, attempted a 3. Clang.

The defense held the Tigers to 29 points on 36% shooting.  

The Second Half (Duke 44 – Clemson 38): 

Duke shot 58% from the field, including 55% from behind the arc and 80 % from the foul line. 

The big story of the concluding period was Trevor Keels, who had a second half that is the stuff of legends.  In 17 minutes, Trevor scored 23 (8-9, including 3-4 from behind the arc plus 4-5 from the line) to go with 5 boards.  0 assists, turnovers, steals, or blocks.  As all announcers and Bill have noted, Trevor has not played like this since the opening game against Kentucky in Madison Square Garden.

Astonishingly, Mark, A.J., and Trevor were a combined 13-14 from the field, including 5-6 from deep and 4-5 from the stripe for a total 35 of Duke’s 44 points.  Paolos’ 7 second-half points in 15:25 (2-7, including 1-3 from 3land plus 2-3 from the stripe) and Jeremy’s 2 in 13:21 completed Duke’s second-half scoring. Contrary to the balanced scoring in the first half of the game, in this second half Keels was responsible for scoring more than half of Duke’s 44 points.

Mark Williams was not in any foul trouble and yet played only 8:55 in the second half.  Mark was 3-3 for 6 points, with a rebound, an assist, and a block.  A.J. took only 2 second-half shots in his 14:24 and made both 3s for his 6 points.  A.J. also contributed 2 boards, an assist, and a block.

Human nature reduced the Blue Devil aggressiveness on defense versus the first half. Clemson scored 38. Duke’s lead ballooned to 22 with a little over 5 minutes left.  The Tigers never got closer than 5 (45-40 with 16:38 left).  The last time Clemson reduced the lead to single digits (9) was with 12:20 left in the game.  Then the Blue Devils went on a tear over the next 7 minutes that put the game away.

Evaluating The Rotation –  it is Different

Coach K’s final season will be evaluated by the results of the post-season.  Duke could win every game in the regular season but failing to win a post-season title, and the season will not be the stuff our dreams were made of.  More than in other years, the regular season is mainly building Duke for the post-season, which is why Coach K’s rotation this year has been deeper with mixed lineups so that everyone will get used to playing with everyone else in any new situation.  Coach K’s team has at least 4 competent ball handlers who can bring the ball up and initiate the offense, but no traditional point guard in the Hurley, Jay Williams, Tyus and Tre Jones tradition.  That has contributed to Duke’s inconsistency.

Duke has 6 in the regular rotation: 3 freshmen (Paolo, A.J., and Trevor), 2 sophomores (Mark and Jeremy) and 1 Junior (Wendell).  Duke goes 9 deep with the addition of an experienced bench: graduate transfers that have already played 4 seasons of NCAA basketball (Bates Jones from Davidson and Theo John from Marquette) and one senior (Joey Baker).  Looking at the rotation by class year provides unique insights:

The 4 Freshmen 

Paolo Banchero – has been in a bit of an offensive slump recently, which can camouflage his effectiveness in all aspects of the game.  Coach K played him a ton of minutes early in the season, and, it seems to me, Paolo has worn down a bit.  However, he is special whether or not he is scoring at a high rate (he’s the leading freshman scorer in the nation with a 17.1 points per game average).  But his average was higher earlier in the year.  He has personally been the major factor in Duke ceasing to give up offensive rebounds and second chance points.  He has been Duke’s best rebounder, especially on the defensive backboard.  He is a versatile defender.  His rebounding, passing, and defense – not to mention his scoring – have been key components for Duke’s improvement.  But his inconsistency – 0 points and shots in the second half versus UVA, for example – are exactly what Duke must cure for a successful post-season.  Hopefully, he is being rested more, and his offense will return to the dazzling heights of earlier in the season.

A.J. Griffin – is in the midst of a roller-coaster year.  He came slowly back from injury and rust to lead Duke (and practically the nation) in 3-point shooting and to score prodigiously in several recent games.  But inconsistency remains a concern.  After a monster game against the Tarheels last Saturday (27 points), A.J. scored just 2 against Virginia. Unsurprisingly, Duke creamed UNC and was nipped by UVA.  A.J. is such an important part of Duke’s team that when his scoring fails, Duke is in Big Trouble.

Trevor Keels – has displayed amazing potential, playing like an NBA lottery pick against Kentucky and Clemson, but also demonstrating erratic shooting in many other games.  His potential is indisputable.  Whether he, and his freshmen brothers, can consistently realize that potential in the post-season is Duke’s biggest challenge.

Jaylen Blakes, the 4th freshman, has not played much.

The Sophomores and Wendell

Mark Williams – is the only player from the ACC on the final list of 15 players from which the National Defensive Player of the Year will be chosen (his sister Elizabeth won the award in her senior year at Duke).  His improvement has been dramatic.  As Associate Head Coach Scheyer has said, “Duke is a different team when Mark is in.”  He not only blocks shots, he alters many that he doesn’t block.  His rebounding has improved and can get even better.  Coach K rests him quite a bit and is appreciating his overall defense.  Mark guarded Clemson star P.J. Hall; Coach K said, “He had a tough matchup. I think [PJ] Hall is one of the best players – I love that kid. He puts so much pressure on you.  It’s a different cover for Mark, so I’m proud of Mark because you’re all over the court covering him, but you were able to finish.”  His offense has been excellent.  He still has a long way to go to reach his full potential.  Coach K is hoping he comes closer to it in the post-season.

Jeremy Roach – is having a checkered year.  He lost his starting position when his shooting and offense were not contributing.  Then Trevor was injured against Florida State, and Jeremy was not only back in the starting lineup, but he became the prime ball handler and was a revelation.  Fantastic assist to turnover ratio.  His scoring began to expand.  Then Trevor came back and replaced Jeremy in the starting lineup against Clemson.  Jeremy returned to a diminished effectiveness.  His on-the ball-defense is Duke’s best.  Having 6 dividing the prime minutes keeps everyone a bit fresher.  Jeremy is in an interesting position.

Wendell Moore – was the team leader and chief ball handler early in the season, and now he’s back.  He was playing at an elite level. He has seemed more adversely impacted by the COVID 10-day quarantine than any other player.  Coach K after Moore’s performance against Clemson yesterday: “Wendell Moore [Jr.] did a great job of leading our team. He had eight assists and no turnovers and was more like he’s played in the early part of the season.”  A bravura performance!

Theo John, Bates Jones and Joey Baker – have provided depth and, on occasion, valuable minutes.  Joey is the most inconsistent.  Bates is newly earning time in the rotation because he can shoot, pass, rebound, and defend – just not as well as the starters.  There are some situations that favor Theo (he is physically tougher than Mark) when he is extra-valuable.

The Road to the Post-Season

Assuming Duke will earn the double-bye for the ACC tournament, which opens at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn on March 8, Duke’s first game would be on March 10 in the quarter finals.  Coach K will want to win his final ACC tournament; he will be entering the tournament with the most talented team. However, we all know that the best team does not always win in the post-season.

Then it is on to the climax.  It doesn’t matter what Duke is seeded or to what region the Blue Devils are assigned.  Coach K’s team must have achieved consistency or their effort for the coveted NCAA championship will be short-circuited.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The Duke freshmen have been inconsistent for sure.  Paolo leads the nation’s freshmen in scoring and blanked in the second half of a crucial loss to UVA.  A.J. pours in 20+ points one night followed by a low scoring game.  Trevor pours in points in two big games and scores almost nothing in other games.  Why?  Perhaps,it is worth remembering how young Duke’s key players really are.  Coach K: “We are a very young team. [Trevor turned] 18 in August, AJ Griffin is 18, Paolo [Banchero] is 19. These guys aren’t hardened veterans, so they have to learn.”  It is only in the regular season the Blue Devils can appreciate these lessons.

Coach K. “With a young team, they have really good attitudes, and they all want to play well, but you can get caught up with you playing well. Not trying to score a lot of points, but you don’t see globally – you see locally. That’s part of the maturity of a player and a team, is to see globally, like how are we doing? By holding each other accountable, that helps you in that. I thought we did a really good job of that tonight.”  Learning is what the regular season has been, and is, all about.

This has been a difficult eight-day stretch beginning with Carolina, followed by Virginia, Clemson, and ending Saturday with B.C., caused by the December  COVID cancellations. Playing through difficult circumstances is how a team grows.   

Wisdom is part of growth.  We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Coach K’s wise reaction to David Collins’s vicious foul on Wendell.  And Brad Brownell’s.  The Clemson coach brought Collins over to the Duke bench to apologize.  Rather than escalate a tense situation, K completely defused it by giving Collins a hug to symbolically accept the apology.  This is rare in competitive sport, but should not be. 

Next Play: Saturday, February 12th, 2022, at Boston College: 5 pm on TV: ACCN


Duke Blue Devils 72 v. Boston College Eagles 61; (Season 13 Issue 23 – Game # 25) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “Cliffsnotes” (February 12, 2022)

Paolo flyin’ high & Duke grabs another win 
Photo Credit: Winnie Lu for The Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke wore down a well-coached but out-manned Boston College team tonight 72-61. Duke won because Paolo Banchero, operating in the high post, took advantage of his matchup and finished with 16 points and 14 boards, and because Duke outscored BC 21-3 on three pointers. Early on, the Eagles carved up the Blue Devils’ man-to-man defense with a high post offense, back door cuts, and precise passes, but as the game progressed Duke’s size and talent won out.

Feel for the flow of the game and savvy substitutions have always been Coach K’s strength (ref. NCAA Championship game against Wisconsin with his substitution of seldom used Grayson Allen, whose play off the bench was the impetus for the Blue Devils’ victory). However, this year he seems to be eschewing his limited six- or seven-man rotation for more liberal minutes with a seven- or eight-man rotation. Banchero, Williams, Moore, Keels, and Griffin are the difference makers. Jeremy Roach and Theo John are solid subs. Joey Baker and Bates Jones are situational players, who have their moments, but are often taken advantage of defensively, and do not strike fear in an opponent’s heart. Perhaps the deeper rotation is intended to keep the players fresh..  Time will tell if Coach K reverts to form or not.

The “History of the ACC Tournament” is showing on the ACC channel and is an interesting and accurate trip down memory lane for some of us, and a history lesson for those who were not there for the maturation of basketball mania in North Carolina.

ALANALYSIS:

Duke’s final 11-point margin of victory deceptively minimizes Duke’s dominance in the game.  That dominance was better shown by the almost 20-point lead the Blue Devils maintained throughout the second half, until Coach K called off the dogs with over 4 minutes left in the game.  Duke had stretched the lead to its largest margin, — 21 points (69-48) with 4:38 left when Trevor Keels made 2 free throws.  Then, Joey Baker came in for Keels and Bates Jones replaced Paolo Banchero.  In the last 4:38, Duke’s lead shrunk with its bench on the floor closing out the game.  Jaylen Blakes played the last 38 seconds, committing 2 fouls and missing his only shot.  The point is the game was not close to competitive in the latter stages of the second half.

A Return to Form for Banchero and Moore; Trevor’s Resurgence Continues

The victory over BC was good news because of the return to form for Paolo, Wendell Moore, and Trevor, each of whom had been either shooting erratically or had been injured. 

Paolo, whose scoring fell from an 18.6 points per game average to 14 over the last few games, returned to the form that has him in the discussion for #1 NBA draft selection in the spring.  In 34:20, Banchero had a double double – 14 rebounds and 16 points (7-14 from the field, including 0-2 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line).  Paolo’s 11 defensive rebounds matched B.C.’s total of offensive rebounds.  He continues to do the needed dirty work.  Overall, Duke out-rebounded the Eagles 41-31. 

Wendell acknowledged how much Paolo’s return to form means to the Blue Devils, “One thing was for sure Paolo established himself early. When we needed him most, he came through. He really led us out there tonight. He was real strong with everything he did. We ran our version of Iso [isolation offense] for him, and he just made strong drives every time.  He might not have scored every time, but he made the right play.  In the first half, he hit Mark [Williams] for an assist, he got a layup and then he kicked it out to AJ [Griffin] for a three. So, just him making plays makes us a lot better.” Typically, an Iso would put 4 guys on one side of the floor and the scorer (Paolo in this case) on the other to make a double team very difficult.  But Duke was a bit different; the Blue Devils spread the floor and got the ball in the post to Paolo.  What made the Iso work was Paolo made his move as soon as he touched the ball. Fake!  Drive!  Crossover! No one BC player could defend him, and Paolo’s instant moves deprived BC of the time to bring a double team. 

Wendell was also inspirational in his superb play, especially after taking such a bruising fall when fouled by David Collins at Clemson only 2 days before.  He was the only other Duke player, besides Paolo, on the court for more than 28 minutes (31:15), scoring 14 points on only 7 attempts from the field (4-7, including a dazzling 4-5 from behind the arc!, plus 2-2 from the stripe), while adding 5 rebounds and 2 assists, but did commit 4 turnovers (2 in each half).  Wendell: “I feel like my shot preparation was there tonight. I feel like my hands were ready.  Whenever one of my teammates drove today, I was calling for the ball.  Most of all, I wasn’t thinking – I just shot it.  Every time I shot it, I believed it was going in.  Really, one went well for me, and with the confidence my teammates have in me, pair those two things together, it makes a pretty good night for me.” 

Trevor was again superb, coming off the bench to log the 3rd most minutes on the floor of any Duke player (28:37).  Keels scored 13 points (5-7 from the field, including 1-2 from 3land, plus 2-4 from the stripe) — 9 in the second half.  He added 4 rebounds but turned it over 4 times.  Over his last 4 games, Trevor has averaged 15.8 points per game.  Trevor has scored in double figures in 16 of Duke’s games.  When he scored in double figures Duke won 15 of those 16 games.

Duke’s Centers 

Mark Williams (20:36 minutes), Theo John (17 minutes) and Bates Jones (8:36) were Duke’s big men on the court throughout the game.  Paolo was never the sole big man on the court.  

Mark has been having a remarkable season.  In Duke’s last 10 games, he has been 54 of 68 from the field (.794), and in his last 5 games was 23 of 27 (.852).  His two jump shots – one from the foul line against Clemson, and from the top of the key against Boston College – showed another potential phase of his game.  Against the Eagles, Mark scored 10 (3-4 from the field and 4-4 from the foul line), to go with 3 boards and 2 blocks.  In Duke’s 25th game this season, this was Mark’s 22nd game with at least 2 blocks.  Williams missed only one shot from the field, at the beginning of the second half, which snapped his streak of 14 consecutive field goals – his final 4 in the second half against Virginia, 8-8 against Clemson, and his first 2 against the Eagles.

Theo played one of his best games, giving Mark substantial rest without leaving Duke to falter.  Theo grabbed 4 boards and blocked 3 shots (1 more than Mark), while scoring 2 points (1-4 from the field).  Theo’s defense against Boston’s high-scoring big man, James Karnik, was more effective than Mark’s.

Bates Jones has played his way into Coach K’s rotation.  In this game, he played at the end when the game was not in doubt (called garbage time by the cognoscenti) and did not score.  He did get 2 rebounds though.

The Defense

Boston College has been a fearsome 3-point shooting team.  Duke’s defensive game plan was to contest BC’s 3s.  The Eagles were held to 1-12 from behind the arc.  The concentration on running BC off the 3-point line and contesting 3-point attempts allowed Eagle guards to pump, fake, and drive.  Duke was “carved up” a bit by BC forays into the lane, but the Blue Devils held the Eagles to 61 points (and the last 8 were against Duke’s bench and didn’t impact the game).  Duke was not as aggressive in the passing lanes and forced only 9 BC turnovers.  It was the right defense against BC.  

In its last 14 games, Duke has held opponents to 30% or an even lower shooting percentage from behind the arc in 11 of them (17 games for the entire season so far).  Duke’s success over the year against the 3-point shot has been helped by having Mark and Paolo to protect the rim.  Duke’s perimeter defenders can be aggressive because even if a drive gets the shooter into the paint, Duke still has a formidable defense from its bigs.

Jeremy Roach

Jeremy is acknowledged as Duke’s best on-the-ball defender.  He began the season as a starter, played his way out of the starting lineup, and has again been a starter since Trevor was injured. Jeremy remained in the starting lineup even as Trevor returned.   His defense remains premier; it is his offense that has been inconsistent.

Jeremy stepped up to play an inspirational point guard during Trevor’s absence and his offense began to thrive.  His assist to turnover ratio was second in the nation, and even began to find his shot. .  However, since Trevor’s return, Jeremy’s offensive game has regressed.  His shot has again deserted him and his turnovers have increased.   Against the Eagles, Jeremy started and played 26 minutes, scoring 5 points (a depressing 1-7 from the field including 0-4 from behind the arc, plus 3-4 from the stripe).  Roach had only a single assist against 2 turnovers.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

It is fascinating to watch Coach K bring this very young team along to the point of being a contender for the NCAA championship.  Every move he makes is a teaching move to create a consistently cohesive balanced team for a championship run.  As always, Coach’s insights about the team are really about our lives as much as about basketball: 

“When you coach for 47 years, there’s a lot of things that you’ve failed at,” he said. “When you fail, failure is a part of learning about a new limit. That’s why a lot of parents don’t allow their kids to get C’s. You’re not going to get better unless you’re told the truth. When you lose and you don’t do well, you should tell yourself the truth, and move on. And when you win, move on. Learn from both and get better. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”

“I’ll look back at it, but not now. Not when [BC is] making an 8-0 run to cut into a 16-point lead.”

Next Play: Tuesday, February 15th, 2022, vs Wake Forest in Cameron: 7 pm on TV: ESPN


Duke Blue Devils 76 v. Wake Forest Deacons 74 at Cameron ; (Season 13 Issue 24 – Game # 26) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 15, 2022)

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Duke played some of their best basketball for about 29 minutes against a very big, tough, talented, and mature Wake Forest team that has been on a roll. The Blue Devils led by 9 at the break, by as much as 19 early in the second half and was still up 61-46 with 11 minutes remaining. Then, they played like they did for much of the Virginia game and were extremely fortunate to survive the closest finish, decided by a fraction of an inch, within the final 0.4 seconds. 

First, with the score tied and the clock winding down, Banchero drove down the right side and put a layup high off the glass—a fraction of an inch too high.  Because it came down on the front of the rim, multiple players jumped for the ball.  Mark Williams got the ball.  And Mark slammed it home. The ref on the baseline waved it off, because from his angle, the ball appeared not to have totally cleared the cylinder of the basket. After reviewing the monitor, the referees determined the basketball was just outside the cylinder and put 0.4 seconds back on the clock. Wake inbounded the ball to Domari Monsanto, who threw a three quarter length shot baseball-style, hitting the backboard hard and a little off center. It ricocheted off the front of the rim. It might have counted, or it might not have counted—no one checked, but that is how close the Blue Devils came to an embarrassing loss. Give Wake Forest a lot of the credit for making stops and making shots during those eleven minutes. They are a dangerous team. 

The frustrating and puzzling aspect of this team is that since the break, except for the Carolina game, they have not played forty minutes of consistently good offensive and defensive basketball —and in the last minutes of some games find themselves left at the mercies of the referees and the basketball gods. One obvious solution is for Paolo Banchero to break out of his shooting slump. To his credit, he has made up for it by excelling at the “mundane stuff” like defense and rebounding.

Coach K did not appear for the second half because he was feeling sick, but is reported to be  feeling better. After the game, he told his players they had to play smarter and harder until the final whistle.

Cameron Indoor Stadium has earned its reputation and mystique: Duke has won more games at its current home venue than any team in college basketball. Now in its 83rd season as the home of the Blue Devils, Duke has averaged 11.1 wins since it opened January 6, 1940 with a 36-27 win over Princeton.  The Blue Devils have 18 undefeated home seasons, including 11 under Coach K who has posted an all-time record of 928-170 (.845) at the venue.

ALANALYSIS:

After 4 Last-Second Losses; A Last-Second Win!

Ambivalent is a fair adjective to describe how Duke fans felt after the Blue Devils squandered a 19-point lead in 14 minutes to be faced with a tie score 20 seconds away from the end of the game.  After four devastating losses when Duke was leading with just seconds to go, desolation loomed if Wake forced an overtime and won the game (as Florida State did in its visit to Cameron last month).  

Joy replaced desolation when Mark Williams scored on an offensive rebound, literally at the buzzer.  Thus ensued a series of  heart clenching ups and downs.  Initially, the basket was waived off as offensive basket interference.  But the replay showed a legitimate winning field goal.  One last heart stop:  Wake had 0.4 left and fired a desperation 70-foot heave that went around the rim – but then rimmed out.  So, Duke finally won a nail-biter, but it was far from glorious.  One sports outlet had a headline, “Duke loses Composure Down the Stretch”.  Unfortunately, the headline was indisputably dead on.  The Blue Devils seemed stuck to the floor on defense and disorganized when they had the ball.  Scheyer tried to say it “nicer”.

“I think for us, we’ve been in positions now multiple times at home where it comes down to getting stops. We had a lead there down the stretch and we weren’t able to get the stop. In the history since I’ve been a part of this program, and obviously way before, when we’ve needed a stop in this building, or multiple stops, we’ve gotten them. We weren’t really able to do that tonight down the stretch, and it’s cost us in other games, but we did make enough plays throughout the game that put us in that position.” (Emphasis added because these late game collapses are not usual for Coach K teams)

The First Half

Duke had an excellent first half both on offense and defense (except for the last 7 seconds when the Devils gave up an open 3 — forgot to defend? — to allow Wake to cut the lead from 12 to 9).  It was a harbinger for the latter part of the second half.  

Inconsistency at its most glaring – or WTF!?However, even with an overall excellent performance in the first half, Duke’s “inconsistency” was evident.  Each of Duke’s most dangerous scorers were held without a point in one half.  Paolo Banchero failed to score a point in the first half, while A.J. Griffin failed to score in the second half even though he played 19 minutes!  Paolo scored 13 in the second half; A.J. had scored 12 to lead Duke’s first-half scoring.

The Loss of a 19-Point Lead From 14:36 to 0:20 

Duke gave up 41 second-half points, 36 of them in less than 15 minutes!  This, after the Blue Devils had stretched the lead to 19 (57-38).  Is complacency after gaining a big lead human nature?  Not for National Championship caliber teams.  The defensive collapse mirrored an offensive decline. – Duke had scored 15 of its 34 second-half points by the 14:36 mark.  Duke scored just 19 more points in the next almost 15 minutes (to Wake’s 36).  In the closing stanza, Duke shot 37% (10-27 from the field, including 2-10 from behind the arc (25%), and turned it over 9 times (only 5 assists).  Duke’s 12-15 from the stripe is all that staved off complete collapse and certain defeat.

Duke had substantial dry spells – significant minutes without scoring.  Banchero hit a 3 to move the Blue Devils from 57 to 60 total points with 13:45 left.  Duke did not reach 61 points until fewer than 11 minutes were left in the game.  Then another 2+ minute drought strangled the offense.

For a wishful minute, it looked as though Duke had shut the Deacons down and locked up the game, leading by 9 (74-65) with 3:58 remaining, after Paolo made 2 free throws — (his final points).  

Then, at 3:16, Paolo committed his 4th foul. Wake converted both free throws–74-67.  A.J. Griffin missed.  And Duke committed a shot clock violation with 2:14 left.  A.J. turned it over again with 1:52 left, before Wake’s Williams hit a 3 to cut the Blue Devil lead to 4 (74-70) with 1:05 left in the game. 

Trevor Keels immediately turned it over (with 59 seconds left), which Wake turned into a breakaway layup (74-72 with 55 seconds left).  Moore turned it over (backcourt violation; I thought he was fouled) with 35 seconds remaining.  

Williams (Duke) fouled Williams (Wake) with 20 seconds left.  Wake’s 2 free throws tied the game at 74.  Paolo drove, but missed; Mark rebounded, missed, and then finished with less than a heart-stopping-second left in the game (as Bill so aptly described above). 

Duke did not score from 3:58 until the last second, while Wake poured in 9 points in the same amount of time!  

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Coach Scheyer was clearly disappointed.  He understood how deficient his team’s performance was for this late in the season, “  I mentioned the stops, clearly if we get stops that puts us in a different position to finish off that game.  Knowing time and score and having poise and working for great shots. I think we got a little panicked down the stretch just with making quick plays. When we have poise and break the defense down, because we can put so many weapons on the floor, we’re a tough team to defend. Really just knowing time and score and managing the clock is something we need to learn to do a better job of.”    

 Wendell described how the team reacted positively even as Duke’s substantial lead melted away: “Really just our will to win. If you looked at our huddle, no matter how big of a run [Wake Forest] went on, everybody’s face in the huddle, we all knew that we weren’t going to lose this game. We were determined that we needed a stop, and we were able to get the stop that we needed.” 

Duke’s determination to win transcended/overcame formidable barriers.  Even though the calls seemed to damage Duke (Mark made what appeared to be a clean block — it was very clean at the top, but a foul against Mark was called), the Blue Devils dug in and fought back successfully. 

Coach K gets the wise closing word. He understands both the good and the bad from the game, and the final result. It was positive (mostly) and encouraging without being disingenuous, discordant or naive.  Here’s what he said to the team after the game: “Way to fight, have to be smarter. We shouldn’t have even put ourselves in that situation, but we still found a way to win, which was the most important thing. We’ve been in a lot of situations that have been close and been on the wrong side of that, so just to get a win was huge.”

That is undeniably true.  Unlike the four last-second losses that continue to haunt, Duke did not lose this game! 

Next Play: Saturday, February 19th, 2022, vs Florida State in Cameron: 6 pm on TV: ESPN


Duke Blue Devils 88 v. Florida State Seminoles 70 at Cameron ; (Season 13 Issue 25 – Game # 27) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 19, 2022)

Baker fires up the oven for four 3s.                  Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

Florida State’s deep, but depleted, team started by matching Duke point-for-point as they easily broke down the Blue Devil’s too aggressive switching position 1 through 5 man-to-man defense. Suddenly, with only ten minutes played, Williams and Banchero were on the bench with two fouls each, in what appeared to be a much tougher game than anticipated.  But, it was Joey Baker, doing a very good impression of J.J. Redick, who was the catalyst to changing the complexion of the game.  Joey entered, Williams and Banchero came out, and the fifth-year senior had a night to remember— 4 three-pointers and a defensive charge taken within a span of seven minutes! that gave the Blue Devils separation from the Seminoles, who had been carving up Duke’s man-to-man defense, shooting 55% from the floor. 

Joey was so hot that everything was going in– in the second half a short lob to Williams looked as if it was going in the basket [Williams got credit for the deuce]. Joey had another 3-point swish  waived off because he shuffled his feet before releasing the shot.  His game changing performance sparked the offense that featured a spectacular transition sequence, with Wendell Moore Jr. throwing a halfcourt bounce pass,to A.J. Griffin for a rim-rattling dunk and a 52-41 lead in the final minute of the first half.  It was  reminiscent of Zion Williams’ famous full court bounce pass. All this was too much for the short-handed Seminoles, who cooled off considerably in the second half. 

Six Blue Devils scored in double figures as Duke as beat the Seminoles 88-70, much to the delight of the fans in Cameron, on this penultimate home game of Coach K’s record-breaking career. The Blue Devils shot 52%, and had 25 assists on its 32 field goals. Coach K said,  “I thought we assisted well.”  It was a team win –Paolo Banchero scored 17 points to lead. Wendell Moore had 16 points with 7 assists, while freshman A.J. Griffin added 15 points.  Freshman guard Trevor Keels, who played the point for much of the game, had 13 points and 8 assists. Joey had 12 points and Mark had 10 to round out the six double-figure scorers.   Mike Krzyzewski said. “Some of the passes from Trevor were spectacular. I really thought Paolo had a different gear in the second half.”

 Comments: 

Lesson learned: After halftime, the Duke defense ratcheted up, the Seminoles tired and shot just 11 of 27 (41%), for the kind of closeout a veteran Duke team makes. Krzyzewski said Duke thought it could turn Florida State over early, but it was going about it the wrong way, trying for individual steals rather than concentrating on team defense, and were burned as a consequence.

It is still puzzling to me that Mark Williams, whose defense and offense and mere presence on the floor makes Duke a different and more potent team, was limited to twenty minutes.  I can see protecting Mark from getting in foul trouble in the first half, but at tournament time…..

ALANALYSIS:

Introduction

Even though Duke won against Wake Forest last Tuesday, it was a confidence- and  ego-deflating win. Duke, which had led Wake by as much as 19 with a bit over 14 minutes to play, was inexplicably in a tie game with 20 seconds left to play!  So, even though the outcome against Wake was a victory, this game against Florida State was still a bounce back game.  Coach K knew that and spoke to it:

“The game is a long game.  We show our youth when we don’t have the discipline to maintain that lead or add to it or only lose a little of it.  I thought we did a little bit better job tonight.  But still, it’s like you are saying whoa, just settle down.  No one-handed passes.  You don’t have to make a flamboyant play.  We just have to take care of the clock.  Doesn’t mean you are holding the ball.  Be smart. Time and score.  And end up with more points than them.  It’s simple.  If you get that far ahead, you should win.  You shouldn’t have to go to the last play of the game, the way we did in the last game, no matter how good the other team is.  We were contributors to that.  Tonight, we were not.  Hopefully, going forward, we won’t be.  You have to learn from all these things.  Our guys are very confident; you have to be careful not to be too confident.  That’s what we are working on.”

Duke’s offense was exceptional –52 first-half points; 88 for the game,25 assists on 32 field goals, a solid rebounding advantage (including dominant offensive rebounding), and good ball security.  Duke’s scoring for the game was balanced, but the Blue Devils were carried by A.J. Griffin and Joey Baker (12 points each) in the first half, and by Paolo Banchero (13 points) and Wendell Moore, Jr. (8 points) in the second half.  

But, once again, Paolo had a low scoring first half while A.J’s scoring was limited in the closing period.  For example, in the second half A.J. Griffin and Michael Savarino scored exactly the same – 3 points on 1-1 from 3land.  Mark Williams had 4 points and Trevor Keels scored 5 points.  Joey Baker, Jeremy Roach, Theo John, and Bates Jones failed to score at all in the closing stanza.

Duke’s defense was once again carved up in the first half.  The Seminoles got into the paint on drives for layups to score 41 first-half points.  Half-time adjustments stymied Florida State in the second half–the Seminoles scored only 29 in the closing period.

The Defense

Coach K explained the problem with Duke’s first-half defense and the half-time adjustment that Duke made to solve it: “My feeling is we were ready to play.  In the first half we felt that we could steal the ball, pressure, and get on them.  They’re strong with the ball.  Their kids played really well.  When you try to steal, you commit [yourself].  You don’t steal the ball with two hands, you steal with one.  And when you do, you get narrow.  When you get narrow, they go by you.  When you control the ball, you have two hands out and you get wide.  In the second half, we controlled the ball.  That was the adjustment we made.”   I find myself agreeing with Johnny Tarheel that Coach K is worth 5-10 points per game just due to his brilliance at being able to switch up and find the right strategy to fix the problems midstream. The Blue Devil defense forced turnovers in the second half, but not in the opening stanza: “When you try to steal, you’re not going to get turnovers.  You might get one steal, but they’re going to go by you.  When you control the ball, you have a chance to do stuff off the ball, and that’s what happened in the second half.  By controlling the dribble, we were able to keep them out, and then we had good hands.  We thought we could do that in the first half by over-pressuring and that didn’t work.  So, that was a big part of the game – the points off turnovers – 16, but most of them in the second half. …  [In the first half], they took advantage of us.  They were strong.” 

The Rotation With Offensive Statistics

The Starters

Trevor Keels

Coach K made it clear in his press conference that Keels is back in the starting lineup to stay.  “Keels has been a starter pretty much the whole year until he got hurt.  To me, he’s gotten back from the injury he had and is in a condition now that he wasn’t coming off that injury when he missed some games.  So, Trevor is one of our best players. He’ll be in the starting lineup.” 

“He doesn’t just make passes from the 3-point line.  Because of his physicality and strength, he gets within 12 to 15 feet into the lane. … He makes passes within that perimeter, not outside the perimeter.  He did it in the normal course of the offense tonight and he likes doing it.  It’s a big asset for us when he is doing it.”  Keels is beginning to feel like a more traditional point guard and the Duke offense is growing around him.

Paolo Banchero

Paolo had a brilliant second half, to finish the game as Duke’s high scorer with 17 points (6-12, including 0-3 from behind the arc, plus 5-5 from the stripe).  He was also Duke’s leading rebounder with 8, as well as contributing a block, a steal, and an assist.  Shooting stars do not usually do the dirty work of defending and rebounding, but Paolo does that.  He was limited to 11 first-half minutes by his two early fouls, but he finished the game with still only those 2 fouls.  He is actually better than his formidable scoring statistics.  In the second half, Banchero carried Duke with 13 points (on 5-11, in spite of 0-3 from deep, plus 3-3 from the foul line) and 5 rebounds.

A. J. Griffin

A.J. had a superb first half, in 17 minutes scoring 12 of his 15 total points and grabbing 3 of his 5 rebounds .  For the game, A.J. played 28 minutes (5-10 from the field, including 2-6 from 3land, plus 3-4 from the foul line).  A.J.,  after avoiding any fouls in the first half, committed 3 second-half fouls, which limited him to 11 second-half minutes (1-1 from deep).

Wendell Moore, Jr.

Like Trevor, Wendell is rounding back into the game shape he was in prior to the COVID episode in December.  It has been a gradual rebound but appears to be now complete.  Moore played 37 minutes (most for any Duke player) of outstanding basketball on both ends of the floor.  Wendell scored 16 points, grabbed 5 rebounds while handing out 7 assists and making 6 steals.  That is worth a wow!  Wendell’s 16 points were scored on only 10 shots (5-10, including 1-3 from behind the arc, plus 5-7 free throws).  

Mark Williams

Mark’s early foul trouble (2 in the opening stages of the first half, and a 3rd early in the second period) limited his playing time to less than half the game (19:14), and, “shockingly”, he missed 2 shots.  But, in his limited playing time, Elizabeth’s baby brother tallied 10 points (5-7 from the field) and garnered 6 boards, while blocking a shot.  He played only 7 first-half minutes.  His absence for the majority of the first half partially explains Duke’s defense being carved up in the paint by the Seminoles.

The Bench

Jeremy Roach

Jeremy is having a hard time scoring with his role reduced by the return of Trevor Keels.  Jeremy failed to score a single point in his 17:30 of playing time (0-2, including 0-1 from deep).  He is still a terrific on-the-ball defender who is all over the floor.  Although he did not score, he did grab 4 boards and hand out 5 assists (some of them really pretty), but uncharacteristically turned it over 3 times.  He is a quality backup.

Joey Baker

Joey is Bill’s player of the game (I award him Player of the First Half).  It was Baker’s best game of the season, even without bringing in a single point in the second half.  Baker scored all 12 of his points in the first half on 4-5 from deep.  

Wendell expressed how the team feels about Joey: “Joey came in and he played his butt off.  He hit four huge threes and not only that, but he was defending.  He was defending probably the best I’ve seen from him in a long time.  When he does that, it just takes our team to another level.  It gives us more spacing on the floor because teams, they certainly can’t help off of him when he’s shooting the ball like that. Joey’s a great player.  He’s been through it all, he has the experience, he has the knowledge, and he’s a great leader for us.” 

Theo John

With Mark in foul trouble from early on, Theo played almost 17 minutes with 2 points (1-1 from the field), 2 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, and a steal.  A very solid backup.

Bates Jones

With A.J. now in the starting lineup, Bates has been getting more playing time.  Earlier, A.J. was coming off the bench to spell Paolo. Bates  now replaces Paolo when Paolo comes out of the game.  Not so much against Florida State last night as Bates  played only 2:34 (0-1 from deep).

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Duke starts its last road trip of the year on Wednesday when the Blue Devils take on a resurgent UVA in Charlottesville.  The Cavaliers just beat Miami in Miami yesterday, and are making a late season run for a postseason bid.  Next Saturday, the Blue Devils journey to Syracuse to take on the Orange, who just beat Boston College like a drum last night. 

 In March, Coach K meets his protégé,  Jeff Capel, in Pittsburgh (coming off thumping UNC last week)before heading home for Senior night in Cameron against the Tarheels, who just broke Virginia Tech’s six game winning streak yesterday with an impressive win.  Duke does have a two-game lead for the regular season ACC title.  Wendell explained the Blue Devil goals and cautions:

“Our goal is to win three championships here.  The first one is an ACC regular season championship.  That’s our first goal.  We have four games left to accomplish it, so we’re taking it one game at a time.  We’ve got three road games, and no road games in the ACC are easy; so you can’t look ahead to Coach’s last game against Carolina. We’ve got to head to Virginia on Wednesday, and they came in here and beat us.  Coach says we have the chance to do something special, but at the same time, we have our mind set on one goal right now – that’s to win the next game against Virginia, because if we win that game, we’re one step closer to our bigger goal in four games.” 

And then there is Coach K’s last game in Cameron on March 5 (senior night for Joey Baker; freshmen night for Paolo, A.J., and Trevor). No time to think about that now, but for an interesting side note, top price paid for a ticket to this legendary game is reputed to be $80,000 – so far.

It’s being a helluva ride.

Next Play: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022,  at Virginia: 7 pm on TV: ESPN


Duke Blue Devils 65 v. Virginia Cavaliers 61, in Charlottesville; (Season 13 Issue 26 – Game # 28) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 23, 2022)

A.J. Griffin Closes Out Virginia Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

The frustrating characteristics of this talented but young Duke team has been their inability to execute consistently for an entire 40-minute game, and to close out tight games. Early in the season it was Keels, Moore, and Banchero, who were the closers in the close wins. Then Keels got hurt and, after the break, Moore and Banchero turned cold offensively.  Consequently, the team has lacked a go-to player. Tonight, Jeremy Roach, recently relegated to 6th man, played the best game of his college career, and AJ Griffin, who couldn’t buy a basket in the first half, sealed the deal in the last minutes with two 3s, a drive, and two free throws. And, oh yes, another metaphorical game ball to Coach K, whose savvy substitutions and strategy intuitively put the right players in the right place at the right time to excel.  In the final minutes, he substituted Williams on defense and Griffin on offense. 

The game was a chess match between two great coaches.  In Duke’s loss in Cameron, Virginia scored most of their points in the paint, and won by a long three in the last seconds.  Tonight, Duke packed the paint, and UVA senior guard Kihei Clark made them pay by hitting six 3s in the first fifteen minutes but, due primarily to Jeremy Roach’s defense, not a one after that.  

The Blue Devils’ inconsistent offense (Banchero 2-13 & Moore 1-3) was offset by Roach scoring 15, Keels and Griffin 13 each, limiting turnovers, and matching the always tough Cavaliers in other defensive categories.  It was a testament to their maturing that they won in spite of the subpar offensive performances of Banchero and Moore. One reason was Duke’s  defensive effort matched the Cavaliers famous pack line defense. 

COACH K: “AJ [Griffin] made big plays and we were able to do a couple things there, but I thought Jeremy’s performance was the differentiator. We defended their bigs.  They had 24 and 16 last time – they had two points this time, and I think we only gave up only single digits in the paint, where we gave up 52 last game.   And still, it was that close to losing. We did so many good things, and that means they did a lot of good things. [It was] just a great ACC game.” 

On substituting AJ Griffin and Mark Williams down the stretch on offense and defense: “We went to an open set, and we were going to attack the big match up if they stayed big. Attacking it is one thing, for our guys to see it is another.  It just worked.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t work. I was proud of our guys and I’m really proud of AJ because he had such a tough shooting night, but we have confidence in him that his next shot is going to go in, and three of his next shots went in in the last four minutes, and God bless. So, it just happened to work.  I thought his best move was the two-point [basket] because he had to really muck it out.”

COACH TONY BENNETT (whom I consider in a category with Coach K, Smith, and Wooden) “Both teams played I thought extremely hard.  You could feel that electric atmosphere and all that stuff was there.  I’ve got to say, sometimes the game comes down to, ‘Can you make a play,’ and they made some really impressive plays.  Roach hit some tough shots.  Yes, we had a turnover and a couple of breakdowns, but (AJ) Griffin hitting some of those shots and then the plays that they made were tough. We had Kadin [Shedrick] in, and we wanted to put him on Paolo [Banchero] when they went small. We didn’t quite have a matchup, we tried Kody [Stattmann].  So, a lot of things you looked at, and he did hit some tough shots, and you know, I’ll see on film if they were real tough.  They felt like a lot of big time plays were made down the stretch.  We made some plays at their place that just pushed over the edge, and they certainly made a few more here, and they were tough defensively, you know around the lane.  I thought we got some good looks and all that but, we had some trouble finishing around the basket and just some key plays here and there that were costly.” 

On his farewell gift to Coach Krzyzewski: “It was the right thing to do. I mean, I thought about some remarks right before the game.   You know, I didn’t know if we were going to do that or not. I appreciated our crowd being classy.  His contributions are monumental to the game, to the modern game of basketball and college basketball, and when someone can last that long and do what he’s done. Again, it was the right thing to do.”  [Alan Adds: nice juxtaposition to the UNC fans and University reaction to K’s last game in Chapel Hill!] [Coach K Adds: the gift was a plaque that “weighed 800 lbs. I figured they were trying to take me out of coaching the game by giving me a hernia.”

ALANALYSIS:

This was a wonderful basketball game between two very good teams playing great defense and good offense.  Coach K: “Just another Duke-Virginia game! What a great game for the conference and for our two programs, really to celebrate the talent of both teams and the teamwork.  Just like the last game could have been ours, this game could have been theirs.”

The defense played by each team was so intense and strategic that it could be used in an instructional video!  UVA defended Paolo Banchero better than any other team this year.  Duke wanted Paolo to be more physical and he tried.  When Duke got him the ball in the post, the Cavaliers doubled immediately and denied Paolo any shooting space.  UVA concentrated on stopping Duke’s 3 leading scorers, Wendell Moore, Paolo, and A.J. Griffin.  The Cavaliers were dramatically successful … until the last 3:29 of the game when A.J. scored 10 of his 13 game points.Duke changed its defensive strategy from that used in their first UVA matchup with excellent results.  Coach K: “I thought our defense was excellent.  We defended their bigs. They had 24 and 16 last time – they had two points this time, and I think we only gave up single digits in the paint, where we gave up 52 last game.”

Although each half was competitive, each stanza played out differently.  It is worth analyzing each half separately.

First Half

Offense

Duke’s scoring was evenly distributed, with Jeremy Roach leading the way with 7 points off the bench in his 15 first-half minutes (3-4 from the field, including 1-1 from behind the arc).   Theo John added 4 bench points in 6 minutes, to make 11 bench points (with Jeremy’s 7).  Mark Williams, in 14 minutes, was 3-4 from the field for 6 points, to go with 5 rebounds (team high) and 2 blocks.  Trevor Keels also scored 6 points (2-4 from the field, including 1-3 from deep, plus 1-2 from the stripe).  

Duke’s big guns were shut down by Virginia’s well-conceived defense.  Neither Wendell Moore (limited to 11 minutes by his 2 first-half fouls) nor Joey Baker (4 minutes) scored a single point.  Moore was 0-1; no field goal attempts for Joey.  A.J. Griffin, in 15 minutes, was 1-7 from the field, including 1-4 from 3land for 3 points.  Griffin did contribute 4 first-half rebounds, blocked a shot and made a steal.  Still, only 3 points from A.J. was disappointing.

Paolo was UVA’s main defensive focus.  Banchero played more than 18 first-half minutes, but scored only 4 points (2-6 from the field, including 0-2 from deep and 0-1 from the free throw line).  Paolo was harried into 3 turnovers, but did hand out 4 assists.  UVA brought an immediate double team, literally whenever Paolo touched the ball down low.  It really flummoxed him (as one could discern even more dramatically from his 0-7 from the field in the second half.)

The score was tied at 25, with 54 seconds left in the half, when Keels hit a 3, followed by a Banchero layup as the half expired.  Duke 30 v. UVA 25.

Defense

First and foremost, UVA only scored 25 first-half points!  Kihei Clark scored 18 of the Cavaliers’ 25 on 6-9 deep shooting.  Clark made his 6th 3 pointer of the half with 4:32 left;he had scored 18 points on those 6 deep shots. At that point, the entire Duke team had scored only 17 points – thus, Clark himself led Duke 18-17 (the score was actually 22-17).  But, that was the last 3 pointer Clark made in the game as Jeremy stepped up the intensity of his defense and brought Clark back to earth!  Clark had the best game of his life (25 points) with 21 of his family and friends from the West Coast in attendance. 

The entire rest of the Virginia team scored only 7 first-half points (no other player had more than 1 field goal).  Gardner (1-4, plus 1-2 from the foul line); Beekman (1-3) and Franklin (1-6) had the remaining Cavalier first-half points. TheVirginia bigs failed to score at all in the first half.   Duke defended its rim; Virginia could not get a single offensive rebound!

Second Half

The Blue Devils never lost the lead in the second half, which fluctuated between an 8 point lead (with 6:48 left in the game) and a 1 point lead (with 5:02 left).  Then came lots of heroics by each team, with Jeremy, A.J., and Trevor leading Duke to victory.

An example of Coach K’s genius: for the first time this year, he began substituting Griffin (in for offense) for Mark Williams (in for defense).  It turned out to be the strategy that won the game.  Williams blocked shots; Griffin put points on the board. Metaphoric game ball for K!

Neither team scored from 5:02 remaining until there was only 3:39 left.  Griffin substituted in for Williams with 4:29 left;  Duke took possession.  That substitution was reversed 12 seconds later after Paolo committed a turnover.  Griffin replaced Williams with 3:49 left and began his scoring spree (10 points in the last 3:39) with a deep 3.

Williams and Griffinagain switched.  UVA’s Franklin retaliated with a floater (Duke led 55-53 and A.J. returned to the game).  A.J.’s second 3 came at the 2:40 mark (Duke 58 -UVA 53).  UVA’s Gardner came right back with a layup with 2:22 left (Duke 58-UVA 55).  With 2:05 left, A.J. made a difficult driving lay up (Duke 60-UVA 55).  Moore fouled Beekman, who made both free throws (Duke 60-UVA 57 with 1:47 left).

Banchero missed a pull-up jumper; Clark turned it over when Keels stole the ball and drove for the layup with 54 seconds left in the game (Duke 62-UVA 57).  Gardner responded with a driving layup (Duke 62 – UVA 59 with 41 seconds left). 

Coach K called time out with 25 seconds left in the game and 15 seconds left on the shot clock.  Shedrick fouled Keels with 15 seconds still left in the game and 5 on the shot clock. Trevor missed the first free throw that would have made it a 2 possession game.  Visions of Miami, Florida State and, yes, UVA danced in my head, I admit.

We all exhaled when Keels made the next free throw (Duke 63 – UVA 59), which felt like the game clincher. But then, Clark made a layup with 3 seconds left on the game clock (Duke 63 – UVA 61).  UVA was forced to foul, and when A.J. made them both, Duke was the winner of a great game!

A.J. scored 10 second-half points. He played only 9:34 second-half minutes, but all his scoring  was in the final 3:39 of the game (3-4 from the field, including 2-3 from deep and 2-2 from the foul line).    

Roach was superb in the closing stanza, scoring 8 points (3-3 from the field, including 2-2 from deep) in 17:16 minutes!  He even blocked a Clark 3-point attempt.  Coach K: “I really thought the key guy for us in the game was Jeremy.  Jeremy came in and not that he stopped Clark, but he defended him. But then his verve on offense really lifted us.”Jeremy, A.J., and Trevor scored 25 of Duke’s 35 second-half points.  Trevor played 18:12 in the closing stanza, scoring 7 (3-4 from the field, including 0-1 from deep, plus 1-2 from the stripe). 

 Paolo scored 4 in 18:19 (0-7 from the field, including 0-1 from 3land; he scored all of his second-half points on 4-5 from the foul line).  Coach K pointed out that Paolo tried to be more physical but was so very well defended, saying that Paolo’s seemingly ineffective  effort, “will translate into something really good. You have to go through things; it’s how you improve.  They are a good defensive team, and Gardner is a very good defender.  They also double.  He learned a lot tonight.  He never put his head down.”

Wendell, who played all 20 second-half minutes, also scored 4 (1-2 from the field and 2-3 from the stripe) with 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  Mark scored the remaining 2 points of Duke’s total score on 1-1 shooting in 13 minutes, to go with his team-high 5 second-half rebounds and 2 critical blocks.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Preparation is my key effort towards avoiding flagrant fouls in  life, and certainly the key to any team’s success and development.  Jeremy referenced it in his postgame interview, “We did a hell of a job in preparation this week, so I think that was the key. Preparation is key for every game.  If you don’t have good preparation, it’s going to lead to a bad performance.  We just wanted to stay locked in on the preparation, have great energy and follow the game plan like I said, and do the main things that Coach said – [play] smart, tough and together.  I think we did that tonight.” 

Coach K interrupted to say: “Let me add one thing.  This is our 28th game and so is our 28th preparation.  I thought the maturity of our team in preparing went to a different level.  They are getting it.  Chris Carrawell [former star Duke player and now one of the Duke coaching staff] had the scout [team] and watching our preparation yesterday, said, “We look like an old Duke team in how we are going to defend.  I knew we were going to defend well tonight; we did it for two days [in practice].”  I added the bold because this is the most important insight to take from beating UVA in Charlottesville.  This very young team is (finally) maturing and developing as we have all been hoping it would.  They proved that in the game last night against UVA. 

The final test of growth will be whether this edition of the Blue Devils can prepare and perform at this kind of high level – consistently.  Can the Blue Devils do it for 2 more games in the regular season, 3 games in the ACC tournament and, of course, The Big Dance? 

Duke is closing in on the first of its season goals – the ACC regular season championship.  Duke plays 2 more games on the road – Syracuse on Saturday and Pittsburgh next Tuesday, before the season concludes on senior night next Saturday at Cameron against the Tarheels.  Duke, with 3 losses, holds a 1 game edge on Notre Dame (4 losses) but it is really a two game edge because Duke holds the tie-breaker for having defeated ND in the regular season.  Duke holds a 2-game edge on Miami and UNC.  Wins at Syracuse and Pitt will clinch the ACC regular season title.

The first four finishers in the ACC regular season earn a double-bye to the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament – the Blue Devils have already secured the double-bye.  The fifth and sixth place teams (Wake and UVA) have 7 losses each and cannot catch Duke who has only 3 losses with only 3 games left to play.  So, Duke will be in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Thursday, March 10 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY. 

Next Play: Saturday, February 26rd, 2022, at Syracuse: 6 pm on TV: ESPN


Duke Blue Devils 97 v. Syracuse Orange 72, in Syracuse; (Season 13 Issue 27 – Game # 29) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (February 26, 2022)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid         Photo Credit: The Duke Chronicle 
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

On a Saturday when history was made, when seven of the top ten college basketball teams lost (#1. Gonzaga, #2. Arizona, #3. Auburn, #4. Purdue, #5. Kansas, #6. Kentucky, #9. Texas Tech), Duke showed how impressive they can be, for parts of a game, by starting so white hot against Syracuse that they shocked and silenced the 31,803 fans in the carrier Dome—the most at a college basketball game this season– going up 14-0, and then extending that to 41-13, before the Orange men made a mini run to end the half at 51-34.  In starting fast (especially on the road – something that Coach K stresses), the Blue Devils avoided a Trap Game, like the Virginia game following the impressive win at Chapel Hill.  Not to worry; lesson learned.  Duke was unbelievable for about twelve minutes; they were hitting 91% overall and 83% percent on 3s.

Despite the mild slump at the end of the first half, Duke shot 18 for 30 for the half (a mind-boggling 10 for 17 on 3s) and assisted on 15 of 18 made field goals.  Banchero had 18 points and 6 assists; Griffin 15 points; and Williams 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  Banchero was 4 for 5 from beyond the arc, Griffin 4 of 6.  For the game, Mark Williams proved too much to handle inside, as he scored a career-high 28 points while gathering 12 rebounds!

Winner of six games in a row, first-place Duke (25-4 overall, 15-3 ACC) has the Regular Season Championship within their grasp: They hold a one-game lead over Notre Dame (21-8, 14-4) in the league regular-season standings with two games left to play.  Because the Blue Devils beat the Irish 57-43 on Jan. 31 to claim a tiebreaker, Duke only needs to beat Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, or North Carolina on March 5 to clinch their first-place finish in the ACC regular season (first time since 2006; Duke tied with Maryland in 2010), one of Coach K’s goals for this team. But that’s not quite good enough. If they win out, and do not stumble in the ACC Conference Championship, they will move up in the seedings of the NCAA Championship.  It is really an opportunity to put an exclamation point on Coach Ks’ career.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a lot of basketball to be played.

Coach K: 

On the team maturing: “We’ve been a much more mature team [since our Virginia loss], an older team.  Again, you only have a year with a team – it’s a matter of how old you can get them.  With that stoppage for about 10 days, when we had nothing for a week, that really hurt us.  We’re beyond that now.  We played like an older team today.  Same thing against Virginia.  We prepared that way.  We’ll have a challenge now, going back tomorrow and getting prepared for Pitt on Tuesday, because we have to travel again on Monday.  If we can do that, that will really develop the character of our team.”

On how freshman Paolo Banchero was able to perform at a high level tonight after recent offensive struggles: “Working through it is the main thing.  We’ve talked.  He and Jon [Scheyer] have worked a lot. The workouts have been at a greater speed to try and get him to play at a greater speed.  I think he’s been trying to analyze too much instead of getting it and go. I told him, ‘Analyze it before you get the ball and be more instinctive.’  He was a lot quicker today.  He was the guy in the middle of the zone.  That hurts any zone when you have a guy like that doing that – nine assists, one turnover.  And he hit four three’s. Really, a very outstanding performance.” 

ALANALYSIS:

My pre-game email to Bill warned that Syracuse might constitute a trap game – I believe Bill is still laughing.  I did however also write something cogent: 1) I believe Paolo will have a great game;  2) the key will be Duke shutting down the Orange 3-point game.  The Orange have relied heavily on the 3-point game this year, shooting almost 38% from behind the arc.  Syracuse was, in fact, dramatically shut down from 3land.  The Orange shot only 5-19 from behind the arc (26%) for the game and even worse in the second half (2-10; 20%).  Paolo Banchero did have a great game, scoring 21 points, handing out 9 assists (only a single turnover), and blocking a shot in his 35 scintillating minutes.  

Duke won the game in the opening minutes.  I like to channel Jake Rupert, an early Yankee owner’s view of a good Yankee game, to my view of a great Duke game – Duke scores the first umpteen points of the game, and “then slowly pulls away.”  That is surely what befell the Orange from the moment that Mark Williams won the opening tip-off.

The First Half

The game was basically decided in the first portion of the first half; Duke played its very best basketball of the season!

            The Defense

Duke held Syracuse scoreless for the first 4:33 of the game.  Syracuse broke double figures (11 points) only after 9:26 had been played.  After 11:23, Syracuse had 13 points and trailed by 28 (41-13).  Syracuse did not score its 20th point until 15:08 had been played.  The Orange’s 20th point cut Duke’s 30-point lead to 28 (48-20).  With 3:33 left in the first half, Duke led 51-23, before the Blue Devils turned back to human and gave up 13 straight points – 11 to end the half (51-34) plus the first basket of the second half.  Buddy Boeheim scored 17 first-half points, half of Syracuse’s 34 points.   

            The Offense

Defense was almost unconscious in the early going and superb throughout the rest of the game.  

Duke was up 11-0 at the first media time out.  Paolo Banchero had a hand in all 11 points (1-1 from the field; 2-2 from the line with 3 assists (including one on A.J.’s 3).

Duke had amassed 34 points with less than 10 minutes played (144 p.p.g. at that rate).  Paolo scored 15 of those 34 points and also handed out 6 assists as he led Duke’s offense.  Duke had 12 assists on 15 baskets at that point.  For the entire first half, Duke shot 60% from the field (18-30) and 59% from behind the arc (10-17), with 15 assists on 18 baskets. 

Duke’s front line players were unstoppable.  Banchero, in 18:11 scored 18 first-half points (6-10, including 4-6 from deep plus 2-2 from the line) with 6 gorgeous assists (some of his passes were so pretty that his assists deserve the double mention).  A.J. Griffin scored 14 in his 18:29 first-half minutes (5-6, including 4-5 from deep).  Mark Williams scored 11 (4-6 from the field plus 3-3 from the foul line) to go with 3 boards and a pair of blocked shots.  Those three players scored 44 of Duke’s 51.  Trevor Keels, Jeremy Roach, and Theo John each scored a basket (Keels and Roach were each 1-2 from the stripe for the remainder of Duke’s scoring).

The Second Half

The first basket of the second half belonged to Syracuse; the Orange’s 13th straight point cut the Duke lead to 15.  That was as close as Syracuse ever got.  The Blue Devils played excellent offense and sufficient defense to keep the game from ever being in doubt.  After the Orange opened the half with that basket, Duke’s lead fluctuated from a low of 16 (twice) to a high of 28 (twice).

The offense belonged to Mark Williams who poured in 17 points (7-8 from the field and 3-4 from the stripe) to go with 7 second-half boards, an assist, and a block in 13:27 minutes of play.  He was simply unstoppable. 

Jeremy Roach had a superb second half, scoring 7 (2-4 from the field, including 1-3 from deep plus 2-2 from the free throw line).  His game is improving again after a short slump, and his value continues to grow.

THE ROTATION

            Mark Williams

Dominant is an accurate adjective to describe Mark’s play against Syracuse at both ends of the floor.  On offense, in only 26 minutes, Mark had a career-high 28 points (11-14 from the field and 6-7 from the stripe) to go with 12 rebounds, 3 blocks (and countless altered shots) with an assist (0 turnovers).  On most of his 3 misses,  he seemed to rebound his own miss for yet another score.  Mark has an amazingly quick second jump, so he taps in his own misses more frequently than anyone I have seen recently.   

He was also the recipient of many of Banchero’s assists.  Paolo on Mark: “He’s automatic, especially in the paint around the rim. You just want to get him the ball there and he’s going to do the rest.  He’s been doing that all year.  We knew coming in with the zone that we’d be able to have an advantage inside and get easy buckets around the rim.  We just wanted to feed him.”   

Williams was instrumental in Duke’s opening 14-0 run at both ends of the floor. Mark: “It was great. Obviously, we were flowing really well on the offensive end, and I think we were really locked in on the defensive end too.  Offensively, we were moving the ball.  Everybody was getting good shots, and defensively, we were communicating well, moving and just playing great Duke defense.” 

Paolo Banchero

The Syracuse zone is famous and well respected in all college ball – Boeheim is considered the best zone defense coach.  Syracuse might be the only team I know that never plays man to man defense.  But Paolo shredded that vaunted Syracuse zone with his first-half shooting and his game-long passing.  He did much of his damage by sliding into the middle of the zone below the foul line.  The Orange have not seen passing against the zone like that.  Paolo to Mark Williams for a dunk happened enough times that Coach Boeheim will have nightmares replaying it. In 34 total minutes, Banchero scored 21 (18 in his jaw-dropping first half).  For the game, Paolo was 7-16, including 4-7 from 3land, plus 3-6 from the line.  All season, TV coverage has posted a visual of an NBA scout’s assessment, which grades Paolo a C+ on defense.  Anybody watching Duke’s wonderfully effective defense will see Paolo’s contributions everywhere – on the defensive boards, guarding smaller players on the perimeter, taking on the adversary’s best interior scorer.  He does the dirty work.

            A.J. Griffin

A. J. was a force throughout his 31 minutes of playing time as Duke’s 3rd 20+ point scorer.  Griffin scored 20 (7-11), (including 6-10 from deep – that’s 18 points on 10 shots) as he punished the Syracuse zone from the perimeter.  A.J. is an excellent defender, with the size and toughness to defend the interior, and the speed and quickness to defend on the perimeter.  A.J.’s resurgence, from playing only a few minutes a game early in the season to being a high scoring  starter, has been a substantial factor in this team’s steady development.

            Wendell Moore, Jr.

Wendell doesn’t score as much when Duke doesn’t need his scoring.  In 31 minutes, Moore scored 5, all in the second half, on 2-7 from the field, including 1-3 from 3land.   In addition to contributing 6 rebounds and 6 assists, Moore plays great defense, too (Corey Alexander picks him as ACC defensive player of the year).  Wendell made the dunk of the game when he stole the ball, bobbled it, and then soared for a dramatic slam!  He also had a deep 3 and  an infectious smile on his face for the whole time.

            Trevor Keels

In 28 minutes, Trevor scored 4 (1-4 from deep and 1-2 from the stripe) while running the offense.  Keels had 4 assists without a turnover.  He is secure with the ball and makes excellent passes.

            Jeremy Roach

Jeremy scored 10 points and was Duke’s 4th double-digit scorer.  In 23 minutes, Roach was 3-7 from the field including 2-5 from behind the arc, plus 2-2 from the stripe.  Jeremy also grabbed 3 defensive rebounds and handed out 3 assists (against 2 turnovers).  You can see that Jeremy’s confidence, which soared with his terrific game against Virginia, continues to grow.  He plays when the game is on the line whether or not he starts.

            Theo John

Theo was a valuable contributor in his 11 minutes of playing time.  He scored 4 on 2-2 from the field and garnered 4 boards and blocked a shot.  It was one of his best games.

            Joey Baker and Bates Jones failed to score.  Joey played 5:35 without any statistics; Bates played less, missed his only shot (a 3-point attempt) but grabbed a board and handed out an assist.  Each has given more in other games.

            Jaylen Blakes played only 2:22 of garbage time, but deserves a mention for taking 3 shots in his short time on the court and scoring 5 points (2-3 from the field, including 1-2 from deep).  He might be the only player returning next year from this team.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Duke is seeking its first regular season ACC title since 2006.  Duke is 15-3 in the conference with a 2-game lead over Notre Dame and UNC, with each of the three teams having 2 games left.  Of course one of those games is Duke-UNC next Saturday.  If Duke wins either game (at Pittsburgh on March 1 or UNC), the title goes to the Blue Devils.  Notre Dame plays Florida State and Pitt; UNC has a date with Syracuse on Monday before preparing for Coach K’s last home game at Cameron.

The 2021-2022 Blue Devils have been fascinating to watch as this very young team is being developed into a national contender!  Duke, ranked 7th in both polls last week, won on the road yesterday while the first 6 ranked teams lost on the road –  a very wacky day indeed in college hoops.   

Coach K’s wise and optimistic insight was quoted by Bill in CliffNotes, but is so to the point that it is worth repeating: “We’ve been a much more mature team, an older team. Again, you only have a year with a team – it’s a matter of how old you can get them.  With that stoppage for about 10 days, when we had nothing for a week, that really hurt us.  We’re beyond that now.  We played like an older team today.  Same thing against Virginia.  We prepared that way.  We’ll have a challenge now going back tomorrow and getting prepared for Pitt on Tuesday, because we have to travel again on Monday.  If we can do that, that will really develop the character of our team to a deeper level.” 

Duke’s defense has been excellent this season as exemplified by 4 categories: 1) defending the three-point line (29th nationally, holding opponents to .301),  2)  field goal defense – Duke is 45th nationally (.407), 3) blocked shots (5.6 per game for 11th nationally) and 4) scoring margin (7th nationally at +14.4).  Duke leads the ACC in each category.  Defense has been a Duke calling card this year so far. 

So, Mark Williams’ comments are purposely focused, because Mark understands how much better the Duke defense can be: “On the defensive end, I think we can be as special as we want to be.  I think we showed glimpses of that today.  It’s going to be game-by-game, obviously.  Coverages are going to be different, knowing personnel, scouts – that sort of thing.  But when we’re locked in on the defensive end, we can be really special.” 

First things first:  The first ACC regular season title since 2006!  It can be done on the …

Next Play: Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Pittsburgh: 8 pm on TV: ACCN


Duke Blue Devils 86 v. Pittsburgh Panthers 56, in Pittsburgh; (Season 13 Issue 28 – Game # 30) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (March 1, 2022)

Bill’s CliffsNotes:

“I like where my team is right now.”

– Coach Mike Krzyzewski

After three road wins in six days—a gut check win against Virginia and blowouts of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, this precocious but young team is playing its best, most mature basketball!  As a matter of fact, during the beat down of Pitt, Johnny Tar Heel asked me if I thought this was the most talented Duke team ever?  My answer: “Four potential first round NBA picks.  Most talented, yes.  Best team: Wait and see.”

After starting the season by beating Kentucky and Gonzaga, Duke stumbled against Ohio State and, after the COVID break and an injury to Trevor Keels, struggled to find their groove in conference play.  However, the emerging of AJ Griffin, (recovering from a pre-season knee injury) as a starter, a 50% three- point shooter, and more; as well as Keels quickly recovering from a leg injury; and Banchero rebounding from a shooting slump, makes the Blue Devils a more formidable opponent than they were at the beginning of the season.  Whom do you double team?  

Only thing that stands in the way of an impressive finish to the first Regular Season ACC Title since –gasp—2010 is what my partner Alan loves to call a Trap Game –the pressure of Coach K’s final home game against North Carolina, who recently lost to Pitt and was taken to overtime by Syracuse (both at Chapel Hill).

However, when it comes to Duke versus Carolina, history tells us: “Forget their record. You never know!!!”

Miscellaneous:

You really might need to watch “The History of the ACC Tournament”, a ten-part documentary on the ACC Network. It will bring back memories for some of us and fill in gaps for others. 

 ALANALYSIS:

Introduction

The raw talent on the 2021-22 Blue Devils was unmistakable even before the season began.  After the season started, we analysts critiqued Duke’s continued inconsistency and failure to develop to its full potential.  Four losses in the last seconds embodied the inconsistency and unreached potential.  However, after Duke was still playing terribly but managed to hold on to beat Wake Forest by 2 points on February 1, that all changed dramatically because the next four games were a revelation.  

Duke blew out Florida State in Cameron, beat a tough UVA team in Charlottesville, and then crushed both Syracuse and Pittsburgh on the road.  Now, Duke has been consistent and looks to reach full potential with five star starters.  For example,  Mark Williams has been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Wendell Moore Jr., as one of five finalists for the 2022 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award. The other three freshman starters will be first round NBA draft picks.  Paolo Banchero is potentially the first pick in the draft.  A.J. Griffin will be a lottery selection according to most experts, and Trevor Keels will also go in the first round, said Corey Alexander on TV last night.

Let’s hope Jeremy Roach returns next year.  He has developed into a valuable player.  He has the potential to be the veteran (he’ll be a junior) point guard leading the highly regarded freshman in Jon Scheyer’s first year.  But that’s next year.

The Defense 

Defense has been Duke’s calling card all season and is actually continuing to improve.  In the last four games since the Wake win, the Blue Devils yielded 70 points, 61, 72, and 56, respectively, even with the starters on the bench at garbage time in 3 of the 4 games.  The players emphasize defense, even when the reporter’s question is about offense.  Trevor was asked about the 27 points he laid on The Panthers.  He responded, “I think it started on defense for us.  When we defend, we pick up, we’re talking on defense together, the guys’ shots just fall.  Like Coach always says, basketball gods look out for us. When we defend like that and start off the game defending, worrying about defense, we’re good shooters so the ball is going to go in.”  

Duke’s switching has been beautiful to behold and now has taken on the symmetry of a world class ballet troupe.  The defense is cohesive and all five players on the court are working together.  It’s one of Duke’s very best defensive teams.

The Offense

Duke shot 70% from the field in the second half; 50% from behind the arc for the game.  Coach K on his team’s improved offense: “They are taking really good shots, too.  They are more and more comfortable playing with each other.  So, they know if a guy is in a rhythm; who’s hot.  They make the extra pass.  It’s the second game in a row we’ve only had 6 turnovers.  They are really getting to know one another!”  Development!   Consistency! 

Four Duke starters accounted for 73 of Duke’s 96 points: Trevor Keels scored 27; Paolo Banchero, 21: Wendell Moore Jr., 13; and A.J. Griffin, 12.  

Keels played 34 minutes, scored 27 points on 15 shots (10-15, including 5-8 from deep, plus 2-2 from the foul line) to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists without a turnover, and a steal.

    • “I think my teammates found me.  I made a couple 3’s to start off the game. P [Paolo Banchero] found me, Dell [Wendell Moore Jr.] found me.  Like Coach said, our chemistry is unbelievable.  Two games in a row with six turnovers is crazy.  Mark is setting screens for me, Theo – I think none of this happens without my teammates finding me, setting me screens, looking for me, and me finding them too.  I think it was a great team effort, and it got me going.” 
    • Coach K: “ He [Trevor] has great balance right now.  His shot is the same.  He’s got a good base. He’s always been a good shooter, but right now he’s a very good shooter because of having great balance.”

Banchero played 33:13, scoring 21 points on only 10 shots (7-10 from the field, including 3-3 from 3land, plus 4-6 from the free throw line).
Moore played 27 minutes, scoring 13 points on just 6 shots (4-6, including 1-2 from behind the arc, plus 4-4 foul shots) while handing out 5 assists and grabbing 6 boards.
Griffin logged 26 minutes, scoring 12 points (5-7, 1-3 from deep and 1-1 from the stripe) while garnering 7 boards (some were exceptional on the defensive end) with an assist (0 turnovers) and 2 steals.
Williams had an odd ‘triple double’: 2 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks in 21 minutes.
Roach, whose on-the-ball defense continues to dazzle, played 24 minutes with 3 assists and 0 turnovers.  He scored 4 (2-6, including 0-3 from deep)

A reporter noted that in the last five games, Duke has had five different leading scorers. Coach K’s great quote: “These guys take turns.  They don’t care who leads the team in scoring.  They just want us to lead the other team in scoring.”  

UNC ON SATURDAY (MARCH 5)

Keels: On clinching the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament: 

“It’s great, but we’ve still got Saturday to look on. We’ve got to take care of Saturday, but then we can look and really celebrate it.  We’re happy we’re first place, but we’ve still got a huge game Saturday to take care of, and then we can really celebrate after that game.” 

Coach K: The main thing is that we’re 16-3 [in the ACC] and 26-4 [overall], and we got a chance to play against an outstanding team on Saturday in what will be a great setting and that’ll help us going into next week.  And then let’s see what happens after that.”  Coach K is adamant that the final game in Cameron is not about him.  “I want to live in their moment.  If I make it about me, I’m being selfish.  It’s about my team.  Always! Always! Always!”

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Last night, Florida State beat Notre Dame 74-70, giving Duke its first – undivided -ACC regular season championship since 2006.  The first goal for this season has been accomplished!

I do not believe that having won the championship will diminish the Blue Devil’s motivation to finish the season, and give Coach K a win in his final home game at Cameron.  UNC might be highly motivated after having been totally embarrassed on their home floor when Duke thrashed them on Feb 5 by 20 points!  Who cares! We suspect that Duke fans will not forget the Carolina reception for Coach K in Chapel Hill, especially in contrast to how he has been feted in every other visitor’s arena. If Duke has developed as Coach K believes and we all hope, Duke will finish the regular season with a flourish.   

As Jay Bilas always repeats, “Duke v Carolina NEVER DISAPPOINTS!”  Every TV camera, sports celebrity, and wealthy fan will be there.  The price of the ticket will be the stuff of future legend – ESPN says the cheapest ticket was $2,800 (the most expensive – so far –  ticket was auctioned off for charity at $80,000) A final home loss to UNC in Coach K’s final home game would be so deflating that it is crushing to even think about.  So, I channel Mr. Sensitive, who writes amazingly, dexterously, hilariously, and insightfully about Duke basketball.  Here is hilarious and dextrous:

“I pride myself on being a master of overhyped hyperbole (overhyperbole?) for all things Devil.  But this next game is un-overhypeable.  There ain’t no thesaurus big enough, no sobriquet fawning enough, no language that can adequately capture the portent of this next game.”  Mr. S describes his take on the UNC game as his “hubris strut”.  He wishes to capture the emotions “as we humiliate our archrivals.  We’ll beat them down into a rare halftime surrender.  Having barely escaped our cat toy, Syracuse, Carolina will not be favored.  We’ll have talent, emotion and full throated Devildom on our side.  They’ll have some weakass Hube speech about spoiling our party.”

This is Mr. S’s Next Play: “Get your extra absorbent facial tissues, a whole case of ‘em.  Get your DVR ready to capture the game, the pre-game, the pre-pre-game, the post-, pre-post-, post-pre, etc… video spectacle of the FINAL GAME OF COACH K LEADING THE DEVILS IN CAMERON.  Get your Grandma to tune in, because it’s gonna be one for all the inhabitants of the vast Devil universe.” 

Next Play: AS EVERYONE KNOWS — COACH K’S SWAN SONG AT CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM ON Saturday, March 5, 2022, 6 pm on TV: ESPN  


Duke Blue Devils 81 v. UNC Tarheels 94, in Cameron; (Season 13 Issue 29 – Game # 31) Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes” (March 5, 2022)

K-ommunity: “The Brotherhood” of 96 of Coach K’s former players returning to celebrate the GOAT.
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

North Carolina outplayed, out-hustled, and, yes, even out-coached Duke in the second half of Coach K’s last game in Cameron.  If a team of four or five projected first round NBA picks cannot rise to the occasion of outplaying a bitter rival for most of forty minutes before a packed, supportive home crowd that included 100 or so former players–and some of the best players ever to wear a Duke uniform– it is beyond disappointing.  It is inexplicable, But then again, it’s Duke-Carolina. Inexplicable is the norm!

If there was a turning point in the game, it was late in the first half with 3:52 remaining. Duke went on a 14-0 run to take a 9 point lead.  However, the Blue Devils failed to capitalize on the opportunity. With the score 37-30, Banchero missed the first end of a 1-and-1.  Keels did the same.  Missing the front end of a 1-and-1 is the functional equivalent of a turnover.  So two turnovers instead of 4 points. Then came a controversial charge-block call, one that would have sent Armando Bacot to the bench with three fouls.  Instead, Williams was called for the foul, and Caleb Love hit a 3-pointer.  R.J. Davis closed the half with another triple — even though Duke had two fouls to give before being in the bonus.  Opportunity lost.  That never would have happened to a good, veteran Duke team.  Duke still led 41-39, but it felt like Duke could have –  should have –  taken a 10-12 point lead into the locker room.

Still, Duke started the second half strong and had  7 point leads at 52-45, 54-47 and 56-49. Then, this team’s inability to play close to forty minutes of good, tough basketball resurfaced. The Blue Devils couldn’t get a stop or make a shot. 

A one-on-one offense works until an opponent makes an adjustment; then it doesn’t work.  How does it make sense for Banchero to take 26 shots and Griffin only take three 3’s & 5 total shots in 35 minutes?  The same inattention to execution can be said of sloppy man-to-man defense. 

Next play. Coach K’s impromptu comment:  “This afternoon is unacceptable.  But the season is very acceptable.  The season is not over.”

Addendum: In 1991, Duke lost to North Carolina in the finals of the ACC Tournament by 22 points. Then, the Blue Devils ran the table beating UNLV, then Kansas for the NCAA Championship!

ALANALYSIS:

Bill sacrificed to be emotionally ready for the game.  (His dedication to Duke’s season was apparently superior to Coach’s K’s young charges.)  Bill gave up his Saturday golf game (canceled his tee time!!!) in order to be perfectly situated in front of the TV.  I believe Coach K would admire Bill’s wise choice.

It was a superb Duke Day from beginning to end, if we can simply forget about the desultory 40 minutes (the actual game) that temporarily cast a bad shadow in the middle of the festivities. The plaudits were ample and the cliches were presented in world record abundance (commemorative benches! five annual scholarships in Coach K’s name! Cameron Crazies camped out since January!)  

96 of Coach K’s former players returned to honor his Hall of Fame career (current NBA stars were scarce because of NBA games and schedules or there would have been even more).  The juxtaposition of former Duke stars who spent 3 or 4 years in the program with this year’s very young team may go a long way towards our understanding of not only the poor quality of yesterday’s play but also the lack of ability to maintain poise in the midst of such an unprecedented emotional outpouring comes with experience.

The truly dispiriting performance by the young Blue Devils brought out the best in Coach K as he used the post-game ceremony to instill motivation for the next two tournaments.  In the midst of his address, he turned to his team: “We didn’t play well, and (pointing to his 96 former players) there were times when you didn’t either!  But, not for long.  Not for long,” he said. “Hopefully, today, for our program — this program right now — it’s a great learning experience. It’s a great learning experience. First of all, to learn, look at what you’re a part of.  Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?! [Meaning you are so fortunate to be among The Chosen; to be invited into this unique Brotherhood; time to be worthy of that and understand you are The Chosen.]

He continued, “We need to fight for Duke. We need to fight for the brotherhood.  And we need to fight with all of our might through the remainder of the season.  Then, I’ll be ready to get the hell out of here.”

He concluded, “you may not know it now, but I love you guys, and I’m going to love what we will do, learning from this experience, going forward!”  Then, to restore his team’s shattered confidence – even a bit of shame at losing during this much-anticipated and ultra-hyped Coach K celebration – he  emphasized that the 2021-22 Duke Blue Devils have already earned a form of Duke immortality that will enshrine them in the Brotherhood forever; this team will have a banner forever in Cameron – winner of the 2021-2022 Regular Season ACC Championship.  That’s coaching!

Why Did Duke Lose?

  • UNC played its best game of the year.  The Tarheels were highly motivated from being humiliated when Duke obliterated them in early February, intense, and ready.  Coach K: “we had just played the three road games in six days, and we won the regular season. When that happens, you just don’t win a game, you win a culmination of games, so it’s an accomplishment.  Then you have this game, which is like its own entity, and we were never able to move to that level, and that’s on me to do that.”
  • Duke was just the opposite.  Wendell Moore: “Really, from start to finish, [North Carolina] kind of out-played us.  That’s on me as a captain, as a leader, to really get our guys ready for a game like this.  It was a big moment, actually, a huge moment this whole week.  I feel like we kind of got lost in everything.  It’s easy to get lost in it.  Even I got lost in it a little bit.”
  • Duke’s defense was beyond awful. Duke gave up 55 points in the second half!!!  The Blue Devils led by 7 points (56-49) with under 13 minutes left in the game; UNC then blitzed the defense for 45 points – leaving Duke outscored by 25 points in that final 12:50.  That is called a total collapse of the defense, which has been Duke’s calling card this year.  Truthfully, it was a bit shocking after Duke’s defense has been so stellar in recent games.  It is even more shocking for the collapse to be on the most center of center stages.  
  • Coach K: “It started with [our] defense. Their guards we couldn’t keep in front of us and [Armando] Bacot has been player of the year in our conference, and he showed that again today.  They’re a really good team and they played a lot better than we did today.”  Paolo: “We had some key miscommunications on defense, and that gave them some threes and some easy buckets.  That’s how they pulled away.”

The Regular Season is Over; Time to Focus on the Post-Season

The Blue Devils have responded this season with gaudy performances after the lackluster ones.  We are counting on that to continue.  Duke has lost five times this season, but the Blue Devils have never lost 2 in a row this year.  Coach K and the DBP, are both turning the page on the regular season and Duke’s outright ACC Regular Season Championship and preparing for the ACC Tournament.

Coach K: “I want to put this away, the regular season. Now we’re in the 0-0 part of our season and we’ll be that twice [ACC & NCAA tournaments]. We’ll be that right now until next Sunday or before, and then next Sunday we’ll be that again.  Hopefully the lessons that we learned from playing 31 games, especially this last one, will help us in both of those situations.” 

Paolo pointed out a paradox in Duke’s home season (losses in Cameron to Virginia, Miami, and UNC) and the need to focus on the post-season: “We just didn’t execute as we should have.  It’s kind of been a theme for us at home, losing games like that.  On the road, and everywhere else, we’ve been hungry.  We won’t be playing the NCAA Tournament here [in Cameron], so we look forward to going on the road to Brooklyn for the ACC Tournament and then wherever we are for the NCAA Tournament and making up for it.”

The ACC Tournament

The ACC Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 8, at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY (Home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets).  The first four seeds – 1) Duke; 2) Notre Dame; 3) UNC; and 4) Miami receive a “double-bye” to Thursday’s quarter finals.  Duke and Miami will meet in Friday’s semi-finals, if both win on Thursday.  

Duke plays in the first quarter final on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Florida State (8th seed) and Syracuse (9th seed).  Wake Forest is the 5th seed.  Miami will play Wake Thursday, if Wake can beat the winner of Tuesday’s Pitt (12th seed) – BC (13th seed) game.  UNC has the toughest draw; the Tarheels might have to face Virginia (6th seed) Thursday in the quarterfinals, Notre Dame in the semi-finals Friday, and then, if they win both, they will be allowed to face off against Duke in the finals, all in 3 days.

Duke is the favorite to win the ACC Tournament, but, as proved by this UNC debacle, it will not be easy.  Remember, no one on this young team has had any tournament experience due to cancellations in the last two COVID years.

Sunday, March 13 is Selection Sunday when the NCAA draw is announced, and we learn in which of the four regions Duke has been placed, as well as what seed they have been awarded.  The college President, Vincent Price, offered this Duke team a great motivation to win the NCAA tournament – to grant a sixth scholarship in honor of Coach K’s sixth NCAA title. 

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Celebrating an upset that will be motivation for the Blue Devils in the tournaments.        Photo Credit: Raleigh News Observer

Next Play: Duke v Florida State or Syracuse in the Quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY, at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 10 against the winner of Florida State vs. Syracuse (Wednesday, March 9 at noon).


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Vincent Price offering a sixth basketball scholarship?


Duke Blue Devils in ACC Tournament at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY (Season 13 Issue 30 – Game # 32, Duke Blue Devils 88 – Syracuse Orange 79; Game # 33 Duke Blue Devils 80 – Miami Hurricanes 76; Game #34 Duke Blue Devils 67- Virginia Tech Hokies 82; with Alan Silber’s “Alanalysis” and Bill Miller’s “CliffsNotes”

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Falling short against Virginia Tech.          Photo Credit: Duke Chronicle
Bill’s CliffsNotes:

     The keys to the win against Syracuse are instructive going forward:

  • Less reliance on Banchero to score. He does everything well—defense, pass, rebound, and draws attention away from the other four on the floor.
  • Play Williams more minutes—35-38 minutes. He is a difference-maker at both ends.
  • Moore must play like he did at the beginning of the season and today.  He was the MVP then and now.
  • Obviously, Jeremy Roach’s 5 threes were huge.

I believe that for this team to be successful going forward, it has to be less Banchero-centric— and they cannot fall in love with the three.

Duke v Miami

The thing that impressed me the most about the win—other than the maturity with which Duke closed out this game as well as the Syracuse game– was that it was a total team win, one in which everyone contributed. 

Paolo Banchero’s sharpshooting in the early win against Gonzaga gave everyone unrealistic expectations of his shooting skills.  At this stage, Paolo is more of a scorer than a pure shooter.  As the season has progressed, the further the star freshman has been from the basket on offense, and the less effective he has been. Recently, except for the Carolina game, Paolo has operated closer to the basket and let others take the majority of threes.

Again, Duke gets everyone’s best shot (editorial note: Because of Duke’s reputation at the top for so long, beating Duke is huge for everyone.  So each of the teams on Duke’s schedule prepares for the Duke game as the big game for national prestige). If the defense is not at its best, the Blue Devils often find themselves in a dogfight. Tonight was no different.  Banchero kept the score close until A. J. Griffin heated up and scored 12 straight points. Then Jeremy Roach, playing the point, hit a layup at the halftime buzzer to tie the score (which eerily resembled the Miami’s Moore (Charley’s) buzzer beater in Cameron back in January). The Blue Devils were barely ahead most of the second half.  Then Duke’s Moore (Wendell) made the plays of the game—all consecutively.  First, Wendell hit a three; then he blocked a Miami fast break layup from behind, grabbed the loose ball off the backboard, and streaked down the floor to make a fast break layup of his own!  

Roach, Keels, and Moore closed the game out flawlessly from the line. (This is why I stress hitting free throws.  All of Coach K’s better teams have attacked the basket and made more free throws during the season than their opponents attempted.)  Oh, and yes – Mark Williams played major minutes. With the game still in doubt, Miami’s star, Kameron McGusty, penetrated, came to a stop down low and – intimidated by the presence of Williams – shuffled his feet for a crucial turnover.  This was neither the first nor last time that Williams had a subtle impact on an opponent.

With Griffin coming off an early-season injury, and the dramatic offensive improvement of Jeremy Roach, this is a much more versatile and dangerous team than the one which beat Gonzaga and Kentucky early in the season.  They have five potential first round NBA picks. However, in the one-and-done era, young teams have seldom won the NCAA Championship! 

Duke v Virginia Tech

Duke may have five first-round picks in the NBA draft this year, but they were thoroughly out-hustled and out-played by Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament final. Duke’s man-to-man defense was exploited by the Hokies all night, led by Hunter Cattoor hitting 7 of 9 from beyond the arc on the way to a career-high 31 points.  Aluma had 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. 

Virginia Tech deserves all the credit for recovering from tough, close losses at the beginning of the season and transitioning to winning four straight tournament games against Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Duke. On the other hand, Duke played as though they were the team that was playing their fourth game in four nights, getting beaten in every statistic, shooting a woeful 4 for 20 from 3-point range and 15-23 from the foul line.  The fact that, after Moore thr