Villanova puts the Blue Devils season on ice with a 77-54 win

NCAA Villanova Duke BasketballThe Villanova Wildcats put an end to the Blue Devils’ 2008-09 season with a 77-54 win.  Duke was out of sync on the offensive end all night long, some of that due to the Wildcats’ defense.  Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson struggled mightily and without two of your big three stars playing with their A game, there is little chance of victory.

The two combined for just 4 of 32 from the field.  The Wildcats would not allow the Blue Devils to drive and that affected Henderson all night long.

By the time Gerald Henderson hit his first basket from the field, Villanova was up by 15 points with 4:47 left in the game.  The very next trip down the court the Wildcats sliced through the Duke defense in mere seconds to score an easy lay-up and cruised to a 23-point win.

Duke ended the night shooting 26% which translates into 16 of 60 from the field.  Villanova helped their cause going 19 of 23 from the free throw stripe, but Duke still held them to 43% from the field.

There were some opportunities but every time it looked like Duke could close the gap, a shot would rim in and out or they wouldn’t get a shot off.  So, it will be a long flight back for Duke, but this staff will hit the road running in recruiting, where their goal is to dig up a point guard.

Duke fans will await the news of whether Gerald Henderson will return for his senior year and, like the team, will realize that one bad game doesn’t tarnish a great season.

It was one of those nights and certainly not the way the Dukies wanted to end their season.  It’ll be hard to get the taste out of their mouths for a couple of days, but at 30-7 and ACC Champions, the Blue Devils did have a good year.  Let’s not forget that Duke won 10 of 11 to get to the Sweet 16 when the chips were down.

Villanova (29-7) will move on to face Pittsburgh, a team they defeated in their only meeting this season.  The winner of that game will advance to the Final Four.

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview – Villanova vs Duke

Can Scheyer hold up against the Wildcats pressure?
Can Scheyer hold up against the Wildcats pressure?

Boston, MA Many have said that Duke and Villanova mirror each other and a quick look at the rosters and stats certainly add validity.  The two schools have eerily similar stats when you look at their scoring averages on both offense and defense.  They both play with no true big man and neither team goes deep into their bench.

Without continuing with tireless comparisons, let’s just say these are two great basketball programs, each of which is competitive and equally hungry.  

Each team is more than just a little familiar wth the other.  Coach Krzyzewski and Jay Wright have both worked with USA Basketball and each of them depends on a version of the motion offense and pressure defense when needed.

The players have played together in AAU ball, some even talking to this day over the phone lines.  The two schools have even recruited the same players out of high school and one recent transfer Taylor King, may be dropping hints of how to stop his former teammates after transferring.

When I look at Villanova’s losses, I see no bad losses.  Like Duke, they had a “bad road game,” where  Clemson and West Virginia blew tonights opponents out, but that was a rarity. 

They have both played Georgetown once and each won a close game and Duke has a win over Texas to get to the Sweet 16, while the Wildcats (28-7)  lost an early season affair with he Longhorns.  Both own wins over Rhode Island, but the Wildcats enjoyed a much more comfortable margin on a neutral court while Duke won a nail-biter at home.

Villanova’s only other losses were to #1 ranked Louisville (twice), UConn and Marquette.  On the plus side of the ledger, they swept Syracuse and have a win over #3 Pittsburgh in their only meeting, 2 wins over Marquette among others.  

The Wildcats may have played their best game of the season in their 89-69 blowout win over UCLA to advance to tonights game.  That’s the same Ben Howland team that prides itself on their defense.  The game was so physical that Bruins were openly complaining after the contest.

Villanova essentially has seven starters and one reserve which gets minutes in Antonio Pena who adds about 5 points and 5 boards per game.  They come off the bench with the “Two Corey’s,” Fisher (6-1 guard 10.9 ppg) and Stokes (6-5 swing 9.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg).  Both of these kids are serous players capable of putting on streaky performances.

They start a long line up which includes, Dwayne Anderson (6-6 BF 8.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Shane Clark (6-7 SF 5,4 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Dante Cunningham (6-8 Post F 16.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) up front.  These three guys are all seniors and provide toughness and leadership, with Cunningham being the best of the springy bunch.

While Duke has rebounded the ball well this season, Villanova has done an even better job on the boards.  Their quickness to the ball will have to be matched with desire on the Blue Devils end.

Scottie Reynolds (6-2 PG 15.1 ppg) is the Wildcats leader and he is an explosive player who teams with Reggie Redding (6-5 SG 6.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) in the back court.  While the starting line up has size, they are most dangerous when Fisher is added to the mix in a three guard set.

In short, Villanova can mix and match their line up in an almost interchangeable way.  When their three point shot is falling like it was against UCLA, they’re almost impossible to beat.  In fact, they are 18-1 when they score 75 or more points this season and average 84.5 ppg in the tournament thus far.

The last time Duke was in Boston, they lost to Boston College in a game that caused a shake up in the line up. Duke went on to win 10 of it’s last 11 games. and has stuck with Elliot Williams (4.2 ppg) as a starter.

Williams, of course, has provided good on ball defense, but has struggled a bit of late with the three point stroke and free throws.  A good performance by the talented freshman would go a long ways towards helping Duke to a victory.

While Williams was a shot in the arm eleven games ago, Nolan Smith (8.5 ppg) has taken on that role of late.  Smith has looked calm, cool and collected with his play of late.  There is no doubt that playing the off guard has helped there and he has seemingly found his role on this years team.  It is very important that Smith continues with his consistency of late against a talented back court.

It’s no secret that the “Big Three.” of Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer must be on their “A” game for the Blue Devils to continue their journey and land in the final eight.

Scheyer (14.9 ppg, .8 apg) has been fabulous since taking over the point, but look for the Wildcats to really try and get in his grill early on.  If this happens, he will need to find his teammates for open shots or cutting towards the baskets.  He will then be able to have the ball kicked back out which will hopefully get him an open shot.

Kyle Singler (16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) has shown an incredible all around game all season long and that must continue.  Singler will be an important factor on the boards and if he is able to build on his recent success from the three point stripe, he will be a match up problem for the Cat’s.

The most important player on the floor for Duke, could be Gerald Henderson.  If you have been reading any stories leading into the game, you know that he grew up in the backyard of Villanova and was recruited heavily by Jay Wright.

Henderson (16.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) has the ability to take over games, but you can bet that he will be challenged every step of the way tonight.  Many eyes will be on the Henderson to see how he reacts and if he tries to take too much on himself.

But for Duke to really succeed, they will need players to step up.  One of those players could be Lance Thomas (5,4 ppg, 3.6 rpg).  Thomas has had a couple of good games in a row, but hitting the boards tonight would be more than just a little timely.

Then Duke will look to get some production off the bench from David McClure, Brian Zoubek and Greg Paulus.  McClure is likely to get the bulk of the minutes due to match up problems, but foul trouble could make Krzyzewski go a bit deeper than usual.

Okay, enough rambling, it’s time for a pick.  IMO, this game could go either way, but if Duke is hitting the three, then I feel they’ll slip past the pesky Wildcats.  There is a little pressure on me after picking Duke 75-70 over Texas where they won 74-69 and I doubt I can reproduce that again.

This will be a game of runs and a few lead changes where each team will leave it all on the court.  The pick here is Duke 74 Villanova 72

North Carolina’s top prospects will gather at the Carolina Challenge

Mason Plumlee was just one of many talented players at last Carolina Challenge - BDN Photo
Mason Plumlee was just one of many talented players at last Carolina Challenge - BDN Photo

If you want to see some of the best young basketball players in the state of North Carolina, then you will want to check out the Carolina Challenge this Saturday.  The event takes place in Cary and you can find a complete list of players and directions to the event in this Carolina Challenge Link.

“The goal was to blend basketball with talking to kids about academics and life skills and packaging it all into one day,” said Dave Telep who created the event which is in its third year of existence.

Telep is a respected analyst and scout, who is the head of basketball recruiting at Scout.com.  He has now been a resident in the state for eleven years and has settled into the Triangle area.  Telep’s wife is from North Carolina and, as always, will be there to help out come Saturday.

“My original vision of the challenge was to get the most recruitable kids in our state together in one place and bonk them over the head with academics,” said Telep who has been known to take a vested interest in the prospects he follows.

It’s rare that an event takes the time to make a prospect realize how important academics are and to give some of them the opportunity to better their skills in the classroom and on the court.

Last year’s event featured John Wall, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and many others who are now household names to the many that follow AAU Basketball and recruiting.  This year’s event will be no different and those who attend will want to pay close attention to the kids in the class of 2011, many of whom are already rated in early national top 100 lists.

“Devince Boykins (Class of 2011) from Rutherford played football and basketball and will now concentrate on basketball and by 6:00 Saturday, I’ll bet our whole state knows about him,” stated Telep.  He continued, “The kids in our state are starting to take some ownership in the event.  A number of guys who played in past challenges will come back and act as mentors.”

Other camp attendees will be UNC-bound Reggie Bullock of Rocky Mount and names like P.J. Hairston and C.J. Leslie, to name a few.

Each player will participate in three games in just one day where they will be matched up against the best of the best.  The event has been an eye-opener for some prospects in the past and this year should be no different. ”

In my travels over the last few years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what the college coaches are looking for,” said Telep.  He will share that knowledge in an effort to help these young prospects reach their full potential both on and off the court.

Telep closed our conversation by saying, “I think the event is really unique.  I’m not sure there is another state in the country during the spring or any time, that the top talent in the state are gathered under one roof to play in a setting  like the Carolina Challenge.  There are a lot of things I do with basketball that are a lot of fun, but there won’t be another day like this Saturday where I will have more fun.”

Be sure to check out the event if you are in the area, for you will see a lot of future talent on display.  Telep is giving back to North Carolina and it would be nice if the community turns out to support the event.  The games tip off at 9:00.  Did I mention that admission is “FREE?”  See you there!

General Update and What’s Ahead on BDN Premium

41Duke-Villanova -

I have enjoyed the break from recruiting  of late for it means Duke is still alive and well in the NCAA Tournament.  The atmosphere around the team is good.  They feel [private] as if they dodged a bullet against Texas, that bullet being their own psyche.  Now, that they have gotten over the Sweet 16 hump, I expect them to play looser.  It’s amazing how surviving a pressure filled game can help a team grow and I expect the Devils to play with a sense of urgency on Thursday evening.

Coach K is very pleased with what his team has already accomplished this season and he will certainly bristle if the media takes them to task should they lose to Villanova.  When you think about it, this is one of his better jobs.  Duke is 30-6 against a very tough schedule which is ranked as the number one SOS in the RPI.

The Blue Devils accomplished this with no dominant big man and makeshift point guard play.  It’s important to note that Duke has won ten of eleven games since the loss at Boston College.  Of course, Duke doesn’t want to go 0-2 or 1-2 in Boston this season;)

Duke now holds the all-time NCAA Tournament Winning Percentage record at .752, which translates into 88-29.  Without throwing out a lot of other numbers, everyone should be so lucky as to pull for a program like Duke.  If they should lose to Villanova or Pitt, let’s keep in mind what they have done.  While the ACC flamed out, Duke still went into Atlanta and claimed the championship and who really thought that would happen?

The hot recruiting season is upon us -

You will start to get some prospect and recruiting news next week.  I will attend the Carolina Challenge, which features the state’s best players, this Saturday.  There will be an article up on the event shortly, where I talked to Dave Telep.  Yes, it’s true that I am not too fond of the way some things are handled at certain Scout sites, but Dave has my respect and we work together easily.

Andrew Slater has been a great addition to the BDN.  You may have noticed in his posts that he’s on top of recruiting not only for Duke but nationally.  Andrew will be covering selected events which means expanded coverage.  We are scheduling events as I type, but we will likely keep them quiet due to other sites finding ways to read our board.  As you know, you almost always hear “true” prospects names here first and we “do not” deal in rumors, nor borrow (cough-cough) others’ information.  While we reserve the right to speculate, we will state it as such.

We will continue to dabble in national recruiting as well and may launch a new sister site.  If this is done, members will have free access.  More on that later, for it isn’t a certainty at this time.  Keep an eye out for trianglesportsreport.com in the coming year as well.

We are also on the verge of finally launching some long awaited additions to our technology.  Some of this is old hat on some sites, but we can hope to do it better. This has been in the works for a long while and we’ll elaborate more as it comes to pass.

The Duke Basketball Staff will hit the road the second the season ends and they will do everything in their power to dig up a guard to come in with Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.  Speaking of Kelly, he will have a send-off on Friday at Ravenscroft as he heads to the McDonald’s All American game.  Of course, Mason will be there as well.

Eric Bledsoe will likely visit once the season ends, but Duke needs to see his grades and test scores to proceed further.

Long time members know that you are on the verge of getting as good a recruiting coverage that you can ask for on Duke.   We cannot be at all events or always have a daily offering, but there will be times when you get a flood of information when we cover events which will make your head spin.  We will check in with the kids on the radar provided there is something new to learn.  We are not into calling to squelch rumors or to try to create news.  In fact, if you will look at some sites’ most recent interviews, there is nothing new there or that you didn’t already know.  No smoke and mirror acts will be seen here.

We hope new members realize what a value this site is in the next few months.  We know it’s a tough economy, for we feel it.  Thanks for the support for, without you, coverage is not possible.

Football Recruiting and Spring Practice -

Duties have not allowed us to give football  the coverage we want to, but that should change in the coming week.  So, I will be more than just a little busy this spring and summer.  I realize some of you could care less about DFB, but I like and support the program, so coverage is here to stay.  It seems Blue Devil supporters in all sports are in short supply, so we will just have to convert you.  Is this where I say congrats to the baseball team for winning the series against UNC?

Help us spread the word -

Some sites know that we are growing and what is offered here, so they will try to stop free links to great interviews.  Members are required to make the site grow, so please spread the word to fellow fans.  Also, link our free articles when possible for it helps with exposure.  But please do so in a professional and tasteful manner.

Premium members (important) need to register for the message board -

If you are a premium member and have not registered for the message board, you are not getting the full effect of BDN Premium.  There is a lot of information there which does not appear on the main site.  There are some of you out there who have not registered.  “If” you need help or have registered and are not on the board, contact me at watzonebdpgmail.com  It may take up to 24 hours for me to respond this time of year. It’s always a good policy to let us know after you register for we cannot block outsiders attempting to register and your name could slip past us.

And no, we will not create a public message board, for the headaches far outweigh the benefits.  DBR is generally the place I go to with concerns to public forum and many of you like DI and or are from there.  Heck, we have some old Rival’s National moderators as members.

In closing, I am hearing that Craig Littlepaige wanted to keep Leitao another season but the donors nixed it.  UVA should go for a young guy who can recruit, IMO.

There will be a change coming at Kentucky.  Their short list is Billy Donovan, Rick Barnes, Jay Wright and Travis Ford.

Lastly, thanks to Bob Green and Susan who keeps the site running smoothly.  Now, let’s beat Villanova, for the recruiting barrage can wait another couple of weeks. [/private]

Nolan Smith Q & A – Smith talks role change, ‘Nova and more

Nolan goofs on Jon Scheyer while he is being interviewed
Nolan goofs on Jon Scheyer while he is being interviewed

Nolan Smith has been a key component in the Blue Devils’ attack since coming back from a concussion suffered against Maryland.  Coach Krzyzewski most recently sang the praises of the sophomore guard, saying that he feels like he has found his role on this season’s team.

Smith has been in the news a lot of late, including a recent feature on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.  There is no doubt that Duke will need Smith to be at his best in order to defeat Villanova on Thursday evening.  Here are some of Nolan Smith’s thoughts from a question and answer session before the Dukies headed to Boston.

Did you have a tough practice today?

Today’s practice was quick but very intense and we started going over Villanova and have a good game plan going into the game.

Has the team been able to stay fresh?

We are very refreshed.  The days in between those games we’ve managed to relax and stay off our feet.  We play those forty minutes and are right back to resting.  We definitely take care of our bodies at this point in the season.

How does the team feel to be going to Boston for the Sweet 16?

This team is very excited to be where we are at.  When we step on that court we’re going to let it all out and play as hard as we can.  That’s what we have done during these first two NCAA games.

Was there ever a time when you thought the team might not make it to where they have today?  Like after the Clemson game?

Not at all.  Even after that we realized we weren’t at our best.  We knew that we’re still developing and growing.  Right now, I feel like we are playing very good basketball.  We are getting something from different players every game.

Talk about your relationship with some of the Villanova players -

I played high school basketball with Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham my freshman year at St. John’s.  And then Corey Fisher and Stokes were in my class and I have played against them numerous times on the AAU circuit.  So, I have a good feel for all their players and have a good relationship with them off the court as well.

Many have said that Villanova and Duke are similar teams …

They are very similar to us.  Their Dante Cunningham is our Lance Thomas.  They are not a real big force inside, but both teams shoot a lot of mid-range stuff.  They play with three guards a lot just like we do.

Have you talked with Coach K a lot of late?

We’ve talked a little bit.  He let’s me know you have to be ready for anything.  Role changes may happen and you have to be ready and do what is better for the team.  Since my role change, we’ve been on a tear and playing great basketball.  And my play has picked up, so …  He’s told me to stay ready and be ready for anything.

Are you comfortable with your new role?

I feel very comfortable.  Before I check into every game, Coach K looks at me and tells me to attack.  So, I try to attack and make plays.  If Jon is not out there, I still have the ability to run the one and set my teammates up.  It’s not for a long period of time like at the beginning of the year.

On Zoubek and McClure being in at crunch time versus Texas after Singler and Thomas fouled out -

Coach K lets us know that in order to win a National Championship, we are going to need a whole team.  So they have to stay rested and ready.  Zoubs and Dave and those guys have stayed ready.

Has the emergence of Elliot Williams helped you with your game?

Oh yeah, definitely, I tell him all the time that I’m glad he showed Coach he can really press the ball.  I got tired of doing it the first 22 games by myself.  (smiling while media laughing) It takes a toll on you.  Now that we have two guys that can pressure the ball,  Elliot and I can take turns out there.