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Archive for the tag “Duke Blue Devils”

The Reasons There Will Truly Be March Madness In College Basketball This Season

(photo courtesy of www.cutcabletoday.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.cutcabletoday.com)

Every year college basketball starts to pick up around this time. Teams are closing out their season and conference tournaments are getting ready to start. And along with that, many are starting to think on who their favorites will be heading into March Madness. Plenty are probably even scouting teams to see who they will pick to win it all. Usually by this time, there are a few teams that many are sold on in regards to having a good chance to win the title. Last year, there were really high hopes for the University of Kentucky and Duke was also a team many thought of as winning the title. Duke was able to do so and prove many right about them. And while Kentucky did not win the title, they made it all the way to the Final Four before being upset by Wisconsin. Coming into this year’s tournament, there is not that much certainty on who could win the tournament. There are some nights that there are apparently obvious teams that could win it all. And the next game, that same team comes out and lays an egg. So why so much parity in college basketball this year you ask?

The mass exodus to the NBA from programs has caught up to college programs, especially the top ones. Teams like Kentucky, who lost seven players, and Duke, which lost four (five if you want to count the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon), had a lot to replace coming into this season. And unlike the previous times when they were able to just reload and still be the same team, this year has been different. Duke, which has not exactly been the deepest team over the years, is really short this year with depth. And with senior forward Amile Jefferson missing most of the season with a foot injury, the Blue Devils were even more depleted. They have essentially been playing one big man all year (Marshall Plumlee) to go along with what they have. And because of that, they have been up and down all year long. Duke replaced their talent with more talent this year, but the magnitude of players they lost compared to what they have now is not even close. As far as Kentucky, they have been solid this season, but have not lived up to the hype they have had each and every season. They replaced the seven players they lost last season with the #1 recruiting class in the nation. And even though they brought in talent to replace talent, they have not been the same or played to the same level. They are starting to play well, but they have been up and down all season long. They sorely miss some of the guys they had last year and they are definitely not as deep a team. The fear they put into teams last season is not there in regards to this team and the effect they have on their opponents. And along with the fear they put into each opponent, some of the composure and experience walked right to the professional level.

But other than losing players, there are just some imbalanced teams that are out there this year. Some teams have good inside play and shaky guard play while others have good guard play and nothing inside. Teams like North Carolina and Oklahoma come to mind as imbalanced. North Carolina has been strong inside all year. Senior forward Brice Johnson has been the man inside, giving the Tar Heels 16 double-doubles all year long. And when the Tar Heels attack the basket as a whole, they can overwhelm you. But the make or break thing about them is their three-point shooting. When teams force them to shoot the basketball more, there can be an issue. For example, in their most recent loss to their rival, the Duke Blue Devils, the Tar Heels went ice cold from three-point range. They shot 1/13 from behind the stripe and they froze out Johnson essentially in the last 15 minutes. This deficiency in their game is one thing that has cost them time and time again (along with some games where they come out in a malaise). As far as Oklahoma, they were better than some thought they would be at the start of the season. Behind senior guard Buddy Hield, the Sooners have been shooting the lights out for most of the season. But when they lose, more times than not it is because they depend so heavily on their perimeter game. They do not have one player that can really get it going inside when they are missing the three-pointers. And since they have gotten into conference play, they have not been as sharp with the jumpers and threes they take. The result has been a few losses this year in the conference and people are starting to cool on them. The reliance on jumpers and threes can be something that could harm this team in a one-game scenario and could ultimately lead to their downfall.

 

The collective inexperience across the county with teams along with the imbalanced teams have led to the current climate we have going into the tournament. And what this has created is a tournament that is wide open. Anyone that can pick which teams make the Finals Four with 100% accuracy needs to play the lottery immediately. I hope everyone is ready to be entertained. This college basketball season is going to have an exciting finish.

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How To Fix Duke Basketball This Season

(photo courtesy Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

The Duke Blue Devils were one of the youngest teams in college basketball last season. There was youth littered all over the team, highlighted by the three superstar freshmen they had starting for them (point guard Tyus Jones, guard/forward Justise Winslow and center Jahlil Okafor). The team was very successful during the regular season, but some worried if they had enough to actually win a title. The main team anyone could talk about was the University of Kentucky. They had a combination of veteran players and star freshmen and they went ten deep with their abundant of basketball riches. They were under the microscope all season long and even went undefeated throughout the entire season. But when they got the Final Four, they were unexpectedly beaten and there went all chances of them winning the title. And when they lost, it opened the door for the Duke Blue Devils and they walked right through it. The Blue Devils would win the championship and then the exits of Winslow, Jones and Okafor left them to reload again. And that they would do, capping their incoming class off with super freshman Brandon Ingram. And with what they had coming back, many expected them to pick up where they left off. Well, the Duke Blue Devils have not exactly done that this year. They just lost their third game in a row and their fifth game of the season, leaving many to wonder what is wrong in Duke.

On Duke’s National Title team last season, the offense seemed to flow with ease. The reason for that was that they had multiple playmakers on the court at all times. Tyus Jones was a shotmaker and a playmaker for his team at the point guard position. And in Winslow, you had another guy that could go get his own shot along with create for others. Add that to a guy in the post that drew so much attention in Okafor and that team was hard to defend. Fast forward to this year and there are not many playmakers at this point. Junior Matt Jones is more of a spotup shooter than an actual creator. Sophomore Grayson Allen is more of a scorer than a playmaker. Derryck Thornton, the young guard who reclassified, is coming in off the bench. He is still trying to figure out his game at the college level and we still are not sure what he is. And freshman Luke Kennard is talented but he is in a serious shooting rut. The answer to their offensive issues would be to move Brandon Ingram to point guard. He is their best playmaker by far and he draws the most attention. So what Duke could do is use his ability to handle the ball and breakdown the defense to get easier shots for Matt Jones and to help take some attention away from Grayson Allen. And in drawing the attention, Ingram would also make it easier for Marshall Plumlee to clean up the boards and get some putbacks.

But the Blue Devils don’t just have offensive problems. It seems the Blue Devils defense gets broken down far too often. And in doing so, that puts their defense in compromising positions. The truth of the matter is they don’t have the type of defenders that can cover space like they used to in the past. The athleticism is down across the board and that has hurt their style of play defensively. So with that being said, there are a few adjustments that they can make to overcome this. One suggestion would be to play a sagging man defense on all of their opponents. That would help them contain penetration into the lane and is good for teams that cannot shoot very well. The second option for the Duke Blue Devils would be to switch up defenses. In doing that, the opponents would not get used to a particular defense all the time and that would help Duke keep their opponents off balance. A preferable defense considering their length they should try is the 1-3-1. Brandon Ingram, standing at 6’9”, would be dangerous at the top of that zone. And Grayson Allen has enough athleticism that he could cover the baseline in the 1-3-1. These two suggestions would help the Blue Devils until they are able to get their defensive rock back, Amile Jefferson. The senior forward is critical to their defense with his ability to cover up defensive mishaps and rebound in and out of his space. But there is no word on when he will return to the floor after his foot injury.

The season is still young and the Blue Devils have some time to get this one together. And after all, they are not exactly out of the running for the NCAA Tournament. But if they don’t solve these issues, they could continue to get worse as time goes on. Being that Coach K is the coach at Duke, he will more than likely make adjustments until he is able to find the right strategy and combination to get this together for his team. But until then, the Blue Devils will be getting exposed on both ends of the court.

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Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan Has Sour Grapes

Bo Ryan had sour grapes instead of gracefully taking the loss (photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

Bo Ryan had sour grapes instead of gracefully taking the loss (photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

March Madness has come to an end with the Duke Blue Devils coming away as the champions. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has won his fifth title and he has done some with some pretty talented freshman on board. But along with the celebration of Duke, there was the agony of defeat from Wisconsin. The Badgers just could not come through this time like they did against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night. And just like that, one of the best seasons under head coach Bo Ryan ends without the glorious ending. You would think that Bo Ryan would lose graciously as a veteran coach, but that was far from what we received. The coach would go on to use two remarks that would resonate with some in the sports world. Quite honestly, it was surprising that he would want to go out this way with these comments. And it should not be something that we accept as just something a coach says after disappointment.

The loss was definitely a tough one for Wisconsin. The team had come so close yet the title ended up seeming so far away. And for Wisconsin next season, there will be a different look minus Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, should Dekker leave school early. Ryan seemed somber when he spoke to CBS after the game, but he spoke on something that he thought about the game. He spoke on the officiating and what he felt like it was. Here is an excerpt of what he said: “It was just a situation where you just have to be able to handle all the hands and the checking. All the body contact — there was more body contact in this game than in any game we’ve played all year, and I just feel sorry for my guys that all of a sudden, a game was like that. I think they’re struggling with that a little bit. We missed some opportunities. They hit some tough shots. You know, it’s just a shame it had to be played that way.” It seemed like Ryan continued to talk about how the game was played and things like that. Though it was true that there was some errors by the officials, there should be no reason for Ryan to blame the officials. Did Ryan forget that his team forgot to take the ball inside consistently in the second half? Did he forget that his team let Grayson Allen of Duke drive past them and finish at the rim? Did he forget they went through a drought in the second half that essentially cost them the game? But conveniently, Ryan can remember all the things that went against his team in his mind and all the things his team did to lose the game. That sounds more like a coach that is bitter about a loss than a veteran coach that has been in his share of rodeos.

But Ryan was not done with his commentary after he said this. He also took a shot at one-and-done players. When answering a question about it being hard to say goodbye to his seniors, this one an excerpt of what Ryan had to say: “Oh without a dout. All the seniors that I’ve had-hard to say that. But every player that’s played through the program, okay, we don’t do rent-a-player. You know what I mean.” Some may say that he may not have intended his comments to come out the way they did, but guess what? They did. In this instant, it seemed like he was taking a shot at programs that recruit players that are deemed one-and-done players. And he seemed to try and put his program on some moral high ground because his team did not recruit these types of players. Honestly, he may want to remember that not many if any one-and-done players are actually considering Wisconsin nor have they ever. And he also may remember that the kids that are leaving have a chance to make some money off their talent, like coaches do when they manage players on the sidelines. He may call them rent-a-players, but for Ryan, he rents most of his players for four years while they make absolutely nothing off what they do for him. All the while coaches like Ryan are getting paid to coach these players and benefitting from what the NCAA has put together in this structure. And while we are on Ryan’s salary, he was actually the 10th highest-paid coach in America at $2.75 million. While the NCAA is pimping these players, Ryan and other coaches are the playas on the sideline crushing a lot while the players break their necks for both and get no money. So for Ryan to get mad at certain players for taking advantage of the system we have and coaches for recruiting them is crazy. And by him saying he would not take a one-and-done player is not true. He would take one in a minute if that would line his pockets more and make his program better if even for one year.

In the end, Ryan comes across as a hypocrite for how he complained about the refs and the one-and-done players in college basketball. We all know he would take one if they considered Wisconsin and we all know that he was not complaining about how the game was officiated when he won versus Kentucky. Several calls were missed in that game and yet there was Bo, silent as a church mouse when it came to that. So maybe the next time Bo should take the high road when it comes to talking to the media. Many roasted Kentucky for having players walk off the court without shaking hands and the infamous Harrison comments. But it seems that some are turning their heads the other way on these Ryan comments. Honestly, both were bad and both actions were that of a sore loser. But Andrew Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein, who was a Kentucky player that walked off the court without shaking hands, are young kids who will learn from their experiences. As for Ryan, he knows better. He has been in the game probably longer than Andrew Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein have been alive. Yet he makes this mistake of coming across as a sore loser instead and a deflector of blame. Wisconsin did not lose the game because of officiating or the one-and-done players. They lost the game because they did not make enough plays to win.

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