It's gameday for Duke at North Carolina and if one lives in the Triangle area almost everywhere you go or look, somebody is wearing a shade of blue. When the Blue Devils and Tar Heels come together, it's as if time stops until games end and once that happens one fanbase is extremely elated while the other deals with a tough couple of days.
Whether one walks into a convenience store, sits down to eat in a restaurant, works out in a gym, takes the kids to kindergarten, somebody is likely to ask you with often times a southern drawl, "Who you got tonight?" followed by a little smack talk as they bait you into conversation. Some fans even worry themselves into a frenzy making one wonder if their should be a new addition to the DSMV manual. Work productivity goes way down and sports bars make a killing.
Fans gather in droves to watch the game in a mix of both dark and light blue. Others couldn't watch a game with the other side if they had to. Many will put on their lucky charms and colors, some will go through rituals. You can almost hear the pacing in households afar once the game starts and all hang on every single play, every call and ride a roller coaster of emotion that leaves them drenched in sweat from the stress by nights end.
A bit later, I will meet with a co worker to eat and then head to Chapel Hill to the Dean Dome which is mere minutes from Duke University where car flags will be a flapping and the color goes to a lighter hue as you approach. Once checked in, it's off to the media area for me, setting up a good two hours in advance and then talking with the throng of reporters from both far and near as the teams begin to warm up in the background. And while the media cannot cheer on press row and must remain professional and objectionable, you can read their faces and clearly see who they're for and trust me, eveybody has a dog in this race if you are local media.
Anyhow, here are a bunch of random thoughts going into tonight's game -
UNC favored by 6 points
When the line came out it caused several folks to raise an eyebrow. Every single media person I have spoken to this week thinks UNC will win this game easily and or that the line is too low. Many feel they'll go double digits on Duke and never look back and local bookies have added points to that total to try and keep money coming in on Duke. I in no way advocate betting and only speak of this for entertainment purposes and trust me gambling has a dark side, so beware. And while I am at it, if you are goaded into a sucker bet by the opposing fans and friends, it's your own fault. If you want to take the chance of wearing the other teams colors for a week at work, go right ahead;)
Numbers, stats and more numbers
Everywhere you look there are people throwing out numbers and they prove to be quite interesting. Duke has won 20 of the last 30 against UNC, Duke is even at the Dean Dome ... so on. The truth of the matter though, is that when these two teams get together, you can throw conventional wisdom out the window. But while I seem to be making fun of the numbers, I still read them and here is a must read article from my friend, Al Featherston at Duke Basketball Report that is well worth your time.
The biggest advantage for UNC is ...
It is not their front court of Barnes, Henson and Zeller. It is not Kendall Marshall, the league leader in assists. It is their experience. The aforementioned front line all returned for UNC when all of them could have gone in the first round in the NBA draft. These guys are battle tested now and for the most part the Tar Heels are an old team. The Tar Heels fast break finishes a close second in my book and Duke must control the glass enough against the leagues best rebounding team to win.
Who is ready to step up for Duke?
Is there a Fred Lind or Reggie Love in the group? Lind, then a bench warmer, went off against UNC in the sixties and has become a legend for his performance when Duke starting center Mike Lewis fouled out. Love, a former Barrack Obama aide was a walk on from the football team that filled in when Duke had injuries to Carlos Boozer, outplaying his UNC opponent which helped Duke close out the Heels in their backyard. For Duke to win tonight, it will likely take a player or players stepping up their game to a beyond normal level.
Duke rocked UNC at the ACC Tournament and proceeded to cut the nets. But that team had Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. Nolan scored 20 plus points in that game and dished out 10 assists. This years Duke team is averaging just under 13 assists per contest combined. Again, I point to experience and you can bet they'll miss those dimes and Smittys' on ball defense. Remembering that loss could serve a a plus side intangible for the Tar Heels, who will be hell bent on revenge.
Plumlees have had success
Duke will need to hit the boards as a team tonight but I feel many are underestimating the abilities of Team Plumlee. Both Mason and Miles have had success against the UNC front court but that help side defense from Singler is missing and Kelly and others will have to fill that role. The key for Duke will be to keep Mason out of early foul trouble and to adjust as a team to the way the game will be called.
Young Devils will need to step up
This will be Austin Rivers first trip to Chapel Hill and freshman past, not matter how good they are have taken a beating at times in this series. Rivers will be a focal point for the Tar Heels defense and seeing if he can rise past that attention will be interesting. Quinn Cook will also need to be calm cool and collected and that will not be easy in a hostile environment. Here is ESPN on how freshman will play key roles in the game.
A Duke loss will add pressure to the team
If Duke loses to UNC this evening and Florida State and N.C. State win along with Miami and Virginia which is all likely to happen, the Blue Devils will find themselves in a three way tie for 4th place in the ACC. That in turn will make my job hard as much of the fan base will freak out on the message boards and quite frankly I do not look forward to that happening. So, be forewarned that this loss could be devastating but keep your composure please and be a good and supportive fan. Also, Duke would then face an N.C State team in Cameron this weekend that is a half game ahead in the standings. Funny how big that game has suddenly become and getting that 20th win can get harder and harder until a victory is achieved.
That darn Harry guy ...
Harrison Barnes spurned Duke at the midnight hour and then chose UNC but he didn't exactly do it in what many would consider proper decorum. His clunky Skype lives as a reminder to other stars not to go that route and few have done so since that time. Interestingly, Barnes immediately starting loathing Duke after his decision and he is perhaps one of the more detested Tar Heels for Blue Devil fans. But Barnes leads his team in scoring and the talk in media rooms is if the Tar Heels will get four players on first team All ACC. Barnes is a huge matchup problem for Duke and any other team and he took a mild shot over the bow as he mentioned that Kyle Singler was gone and that he'd gladly take shorter players to the rack.
On paper it looks like a UNC win
Everything points to a UNC victory in paper. Duke has lost two of their last three conference games in Cameron and Krzyzewski has been looking for upper classmen to step up. UNC has up to four 1st team All ACC players starting. That game is in Chapel Hill and the Blue Devils seem to still be coming together as a team. But you know what? Duke has a chance any time they step on the court. Duke has been beat down of late but if the team plays together anything can happen and that's why we watch the games. My objectionable pick would be for the Tar Heels to win but my heart says Duke can pull off a shocker and make all the aforementioned worries go to the wayside.
Don't hold me to all the numbers mentioned for everything here was off the top of my head and just random thoughts before tonight's game. BDN will be in the house to bring you live tweets and post game chats with the players, so stay tuned for our usual wall to wall coverage. And yes, I am homer media, so I can get away with saying, "GTHC, GTH!" It should be a lot of fun as the best rivalry in all sports is once again upon us.
No more Super Bowl day games for Duke, I say! The Blue Devils fell in overtime to Miami for their second ACC loss of the season in Cameron Indoor Stadium and their third straight loss on Super Bowl Sunday. They must now pick up the pieces for the coming media blitz and hype which is known at the Duke-Carolina game. Monday Musings takes a look at a litle bit of everything today and with that let's get the ball rolling.
In search of the right buttons
The Duke Men's staff has tried to shake up the lineup and they've tried to figure out ways to get to this years team to play together and smart. Early in the season it worked for Duke holds nice wins over Kansas and Michigan and Michigan State, but since that time the team has struggled a bit and of all places at home. The reason I say, a bit, is because they could have easily won their games against Miami and Florida State with a couple of made shots or execution. The frustration on Coach Krzyzewski's face was evident yesterday and he is trying to figure out a way to get his team to play a full 40-45 minutes of what is known as "Duke Basketball," and their year in and out lofty expectations. Just when you thought the team had reached deep and turned a corner, they fell back into some bad habits. I hate to say this, but this years team seems a bit soft at times and there were some loose balls and rebounds missed that could have turned the tide in their two ACC losses. You see, Krzyzewski wants all his teams to win the regular season, but yesterday, those hopes took a major hit and it is not acceptable by his standards.
Growing pains for freshman
Quinn Cook came off the bench to spark Duke in a big way yesterday, but at games end he throws up an inexplicable wild runner with the outcome on the line and nobody in position to board late in the game. It was a critical mistake and one of several which changed the games outcome. But before you give up on Cook, realize that he now has an assist to turnover ratio of 3.33 to 1 which is the best of any freshman ever at Duke. And just ask the assistants on the bench or go back and look at tape on any of the former PG's in their freshman years and they all had growing pains or a lapse when the game was on the line. And the good news is the rest of the aforementioned or former freshman I alluded to all learned and helped Duke to many victories.
Duke gets all the calls ... yeah, right
You will never see the staff blame the refs for a loss, nor me for that matter. But those who think Duke gets all the calls haven't been paying attention of late. It's funny how Karl Hess is well known by the Crazies and the Blue Devils record is, well, just look it up under him. But the real crime is with the game on the line, none of the three refs were seemingly paying attention to the Duke head coach who was doing everything he could to call a timeout. In my experience, a ref is almost always near the bench in those instances or at least aware the game is on the line and paying attention. That in no way caused the loss, but it sure makes one wonder of yet another what if.
The elephant in the room for me was ...
The Cameron Crazies have been in the news more than I care to see this season and for good or maybe I should say, bad reasons. There have been so many articles on this of late that I can honestly tell you I read maybe one. But there is a problem and it is a huge one and the university itself needs to figure out a way to resolve this before the bottom tier of the stadium is dominated by average fans. The turnout yesterday was deplorable at best and I heard many reasons from the CC's which sit behind me. For the record the Crazies who come on a regular basis are great and I mean that, but what on earth is happening to where students will not come to a Duke game when it is free? I could put together a book on how they just aren't the same anymore but that just seems a waste of time when the season is in full swing. Maybe it's time the scrap everything and start fresh, I don't know, nor can I personally do more than complain that I miss the atmosphere that has made the stadium so famous through the years. Seriously, former Crazies never used the same chant for a player in a game more than once and there was a brain trust who came up with some outrageously witty and fun cheers. Coach stopped short of saying the Crazies had anything to do with the loss when asked by media members seeking yet more ammunition for articles. He instead blamed his team for the loss and he was right, but he did mention atmosphere and if you have been around as long as I have, you easily read between the lines of what was said.
Everything was off
The air was ripe for an upset in so many ways. On message boards fans wanted to fast forward to the UNC game this Wednesday evening and overlooked Miami, a team projected #5 in the ACC this season. Then the team looked flat and almost sleep walked through the first half and in the process dug a hole too deep to climb out of. And then the aforementioned worst turnout of the season by the Crazies which has caused a ton of negative media towards the program didn't help. But I can tell you this for a fact, Duke did not overlook Miami and they were not looking ahead to the UNC game. Nope, it was just one of those foul, unusual days where all alligned in a not so good way.
UNC at Duke Women
Before the men's team play this week, the women get it going this evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is always a spirited and entertaining affair and tickets are cheap, so tuen out and cheer on the Blue Devils as they try to maintain their hold on first place in the ACC.
And the hype begins
There is no doubt that yesterdays upset loss to Miami tarnished the upcoming Duke at UNC game a bit for you always want to come off a win. But the hype begins today with a Coach K press conference and players talking about the game and BDN will be there and remain for the Duke vs UNC women's game, so stay tuned for a lot of coverage all the way through the game.
It's the end of the world as we know it, but not really
As usual, any Duke loss this season is met with the Chicken Little effect from many fans and it is the end of the world as we know it, but nothing is fine. Okay, that was a bad play on an old song. Duke is a few plays away from being 21-2 and there is plenty of balling left. There are some red flags for sure, but this Duke team has 19 wins against a difficult schedule. Some Duke fans need to suck it up, just like our team will do. Support your Blue Devils when they need it most. Duke was down 16 points yesterday and staged a comeback which fell short. Krzyzewski will find a way to get his kids to play together and with a collective heart and make a run when it counts in March and the lessons learned will help along the way. Remember, this team lost Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving and they are young at many key positions.
[8 AP / 6 Coaches] Duke (17-3, 5-1 ACC) vs. St. John’s (9-11, 3-6 Big East)
Saturday, January 28, 2012 • 12:03 p.m. • ESPN
The Opening Tip
• Duke (17-3, 5-1 ACC) hosts St. John’s (9-11, 3-6 Big East) in its final non-conference tilt of the regular season on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 12:03 p.m.
• Brent Musburger (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (analyst) will call the game for ESPN.
• Duke is ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. St. John’s is unranked in both polls. The Blue Devils are 71-16 all-time when ranked eighth in the AP Poll.
• Duke is one of three teams (Baylor and Kansas are the others) in the NCAA to rank in the top 10 of the RPI, Strength of Schedule, AP and Coaches Polls.
• The Blue Devils had a 45-game home win streak snapped last Saturday and have not lost consecutive home contests since February of 2007. Duke has not lost more than one game at home in the last five seasons.
Duke-St. John’s Series
• Duke and St. John’s have met 20 times heading into Saturday’s game with the first meeting between the two schools coming on Feb. 4, 1938.
• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 14-6, including a 5-1 mark at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
• Duke fell to St. John’s a year ago, but has won seven of the last eight contests in the series.
• Mike Krzyzewski is 14-3 at Duke against the Red Storm, including a 5-1 record in Durham.
• Duke has won five straight in the series at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils have a +23.0 scoring margin in that span.
• The Blue Devils have won 93 straight non-conference home games since falling to St. John’s, 83-82, on Feb. 26, 2000.
• Duke’s last two victories in the series have been by 10 points or less. The Blue Devils’ previous seven wins over St. John’s were all by double figures.
l Duke has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 86 straight weeks, the third-longest streak in NCAA history.
l Duke has won 93 straight non-conference home games, the longest current streak in the NCAA. The last home loss against a non-conference opponent for the Blue Devils was on Feb. 26, 2000 against St. John’s, 83-82.
l The Blue Devils have won 87 straight games at Cameron Indoor Stadium against unranked non-conference opponents.
l Duke is 59-2 at home since the start of the 2008-09 season.
l The Blue Devils are one of 12 teams in the NCAA with five or more players averaging 10 or more points per game. Duke has finished the year with five double-figure scorers six times under Mike Krzyzewski.
l Austin Rivers, a four-time ACC Rookie of the Week selection, is averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game. Johnny Dawkins was the last Blue Devil freshman to lead the team in scoring in 1983.
l Mason Plumlee collected his eighth double-double of the season (tied for most in the ACC) with 23 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Maryland. He has collected 12 or more rebounds in a game 12 times this season.
l Ryan Kelly is shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from three-point range on the season, including 51.9 percent (14-of-27) over the last 11 games. He shot just 30.7 percent (27-of-88) in his first two seasons at Duke.
l Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee combine to average 15.7 rebounds per game. One of the Plumlees has led the team in rebounds in 18 of 20 games.
l Tyler Thornton leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.7:1) through six conference games. He has 20 assists with just three turnovers in the last six games for the Blue Devils.
l Mason Plumlee has improved his free throw shooting over the last four games, going 15-of-18 (.833) from the line during that span. He was shooting 39.8 percent (37-of-93) from the free throw line prior to that stretch. Plumlee averages 5.6 free throw attempts per game.
l Austin Rivers is averaging a team-high 15.7 ppg. at home this season. He is shooting 51.5 percent from the field, including 43.2 percent from three-point range, in 10 games at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
l Andre Dawkins is averaging 4.0 threes per game and 15.5 ppg. over the last four contests.
l Duke University is honoring the All-American Athletic Association on Saturday. This is their 40th year as ushers in Cameron, and since 1972, they have raised over $450,000 for local charities.
The Duke junior class had not lost a game in Cameron and that in itself should make Blue Devil fans appreciate just how awesome the streak was despite a 76-73 heart breaking loss to Florida State at the buzzer. The Blue Devils built little leads along the way, but Florida State answered all of them in the 2nd half where they score 50 points. Another contributing factor to their late success inside was the fact that Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee were saddled with four fouls apiece.
Austin Rivers drove the basket and hit a key shot for Duke tying the game with 4.8 ticks left, but the Seminoles found a wide open Michael Snaer who hit the best three point shot in his life. The win puts Florida State atop the ACC while Duke is now in 2nd both with 4-1 marks. Austin Rivers led Duke in scoring with 19 points and was very upset with the loss in the locker room which is to be expected. Andre Dawkins with 14 and Seth Curry with 12 rounded out the double figure scorers for Duke.
The Florida State defense slowed the Duke offense as well holding them to 31.4% from the field in the first half while they shot an impressive 66.7% in the second half. The Noles shot three more free throws than Duke in a game where the score was tied 11 times and the lead changed 5 times. It doesn't get much easier for Duke as they next travel to Maryland in what is always a hostile environment.
Coach K comments in the video below -
The Duke Blue Devils are atop the ACC standings as the only undefeated team after a key road win over the Clemson Tigers. "I'm really proud of our guys. We played a really good team tonight. Brad (Brownell) is such a good coach and those guys are veterans, said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski after his team earned a 73-66 win.
Krzyzewski continued, "Our guys came off a great win against Virginia and to come on the road and tough it out was a good win for us." With the victory Duke, now ranked 4th nationally in the polls, but as mentioned, being atop the conference standings is the immediate goal of this team as they continue to get better.
"Obviously, Andre (Dawkins) played an outstanding game. His three-point shot when we had a four-point lead was huge shot." said Krzyzewski. Dawkins scored a game high 24 points on a night when there were just two other double figure scorers for the Blue Devils. But Duke was the first team to have more than two double figure scorers versus the Clemson defense to date this season.
Dawkins missed his first few shots before finding his range and coaches always want a shooter to keep shooting and that's exactly what the junior did. Each three pointer he made ripped through the heart of the Clemson team and on this night he was indeed the main key to victory.
There were some statistical bright spots as well, "Miles Plumlee was a force for us with 14 rebounds. Down the stretch, our guys hit free throws and I thought we finished the game very well,: said Krzyzewski. His 14 boards, which is monster by any teams standard was done in just 23 minutes.
His brother Mason Plumlee, knocked down 4 of 4 free throws after struggling from the line in previous games, showing a new follow through from the stripe. Mason added 12 points and 7 rebounds as well and has proven himself one of the most, if not the most, consistent players on the team to date.
In fact the team was 15 of 18 from the free throw line and that was another huge key as was the Blue Devils ability to maintain a working lead after being down big early in the contest going on an 18-4 run of their own to take control of the game and quiet a hostile and packed Littlejohn Coliseum.
Coach Krzyzewski decided to go with his veterans down the stretch, which proved wise as the Tigers defense forced 17 turnovers. Duke will next face Wake Forest in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday and then come back on Saturday to face a Florida State team that demolished North Carolina.
• Duke improved its all-time record against Clemson to 104-29. The Blue Devils have won four straight in the series and 26 of the last 28 meetings.
• Head coach Mike Krzyzewski improved to 50-11 against Clemson during his 32 years at Duke.
• For the fourth straight game, Duke held Clemson under 25.0 percent shooting from three-point range. The Tigers have shot just 20.0 percent (13-of-65) from behind the arc against Duke during those four meetings.
• Clemson is the sixth team Duke has faced this year that ranks among the top 40 defensive teams in the nation (by defensive scoring average). Duke has averaged 70.2 points in those six games, while each those teams combine to hold opponents to less than 60 points per game. Duke ranks 11th nationally in scoring offense with 81.9 points per game.
• Duke became only the fourth team all season to have more than two double-figure scorers against Clemson. Andre Dawkins (24 points), Mason Plumlee (12) Quinn Cook (10) all scored at least 10 points against the Tigers.
• The post duo of Miles and Mason Plumlee combined for 18 points and 21 rebounds while shooting 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from the floor. Miles and Mason combine to average 9.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season.
• Duke trailed 18-9 at the 11:04 mark in the first half, but went on an 18-4 run over the next 6:50 to take a 27-22 lead. Duke outrebounded Clemson 10-7 and went 7-of-12 from the floor during that span.
• The Blue Devils carried that momentum into the second half, scoring on six of their first seven possessions as part of a 14-5 run. After overcoming an early 13-4 deficit and heading into halftime with a slim 32-28 lead, Duke led by as much as 13 points in the second half.
• Duke’s eight three-pointers tied for the most allowed by Clemson in a game this season. The only other teams to hit eight treys against Clemson were Southern Illinois (Dec. 23) and Boston College (Jan. 12).
• Scored in double figures for the fourth time this season and the second time in Duke’s three ACC games. Cook went 4-of-6 from the floor and 2-of-3 from three-point range.
• Ignited a second half run by sinking a driving reverse layup in the first 15 seconds, knocking down a three-pointer less than two minutes later and assisting on an Andre Dawkins three-pointer that put Duke ahead 46-33. Cook scored five of Duke’s first seven points in the second half as the Blue Devils opened that frame with a 14-5 run.
• Made his 30th consecutive start and played a team-high 31 minutes. Duke is 25-5 during that 30-game start streak.
• Is now averaging 16.3 points per game in three career games Clemson (including one game during his freshman season at Liberty).
• Hit a three-pointer for the seventh straight game. Curry has hit a trey in 16 of Duke’s 17 games this season.
• Went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, improving his percentage to .891 (49-of-55) for the third highest mark in the ACC.
• Scored a game-high 24 points for his seventh double-figure scoring game of the season. Went 7-for-12 from the floor, 5-for-9 from three-point range and 5-for-6 from the free throw line for Duke’s eighth 20-point game of the season.
• Dawkins scored Duke’s final six points over the final 1:16. Duke led by a slim four-point margin at 65-61 before Dawkins hit his fifth three-pointer of the game to improve Duke’s lead to 68-61. He then sank 3-of-4 free throws to hold off a late charge by the Tigers.
• Dawkins became just the second player to hit five three-pointers against Clemson this season. He is the first to shoot over 50 percent from three-point range against the Tigers (minimum five attempts).
• Took his team-leading seventh charge of the season.
• Recorded a block and a steal in the same game for the team-leading ninth time this season. Kelly ranks third on the team in both blocks and steals.
• Made his 38th consecutive start. Duke is 32-6 during that 38-game streak.
• Converted two three-point plays. Plumlee was fouled on a dunk both times and followed through by making the free throws.
• Threw down his 100th career dunk, becoming only the seventh player in school history to record 100 dunks. Plumlee has 31 dunks in 17 games this season.
• Put Duke ahead for good by converting a three-point play in the first half. With Duke trailing 20-18 at the 5:55 mark, Plumlee threw down a dunk, was fouled and sank the free throw to put Duke ahead 21-18. Duke did not trail for the remainder of the game.
• Had a perfect night from the free throw line, hitting all four attempts. It was Plumlee’s first career game without a missed free throw on more than three attempts.
• Hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds, giving him 10 or more rebounds in four games this year. The 14 rebounds were one shy of his career high.
• Recorded a block for the ninth straight game. Miles has 20 blocks during that streak for an average of 2.22 per game.
• Tied a season low by attempting just seven shots. Rivers went 2-of-7 from the floor to finish with a season-low four points.
• Saw a streak of seven consecutive made three-pointers come to an end. Thornton had not missed a trey since Dec. 19 for a span of five straight games without a miss from beyond the arc. He is shooting .500 (12-of-24) from three-point range this season.