I hate Duke. There, I said it.
Now that I got that out of the way (and it felt pretty damn good), even though I can't stand the program and all it stands for, this Duke team is one of the top teams in the country and will be one of Georgetown's most formidable opponents all season. Make no bones about it - these guys can play. As Grenade Week continues here at the GLOBAL PHENOMENON, here's an inside look into the world of Blue Devils hoops courtesy of Crazie Talk, the only legitimate Duke blog (or message board) on the internet. Crazie Talk, this Miller Lite is for you. After you're done reading this opus, check out Crazie Talk for our answers to their questions. As an aside, given the way things have gone lately for him, I hope Obama will be rooting for Duke. Away we go...
As the Evil Empire and with the full backing of ESPN, Duke is usually the biggest game for every school they play. With so much intensity and stress during the regular season, why has Duke played so poorly in the postseason recently?
It has nothing to do with intensity and stress during the regular season. Duke has not had a "complete" basketball team since the program's last Final Four run in 2004. The lack of a dynamic point guard and legitimate post threat has been the main reasons for Duke's failure to advance past the Sweet Sixteen for five straight years. Recruiting woes have made these glaring holes even more visible, and while Duke has done just fine performing in the regular season over the past few years, relying too much on the three point shot and an inability to get easy baskets has cost Duke dearly over the past five seasons.
What can Georgetown expect out of this year's Duke squad? Who are the top scorers? Rebounders?
For the first time in several years, this team is multi-dimensional. We have three legitimate scoring threats in Smith, Singler, and Scheyer. Each of those three can shoot from the outside and create their own shot off the dribble. Jon was the offensive star of the non-conference slate, including a 31 point performance against Iowa State in his hometown Chicago. However, Nolan has been a force in conference play, averaging nearly 19 points per game in 6 ACC games. Kyle has been up and down as far as scoring goes, but is a vital part of our offensive flow no matter what.
After the big three, we've had several different players in supporting roles, including the Plumlee brothers, sophomore Miles and freshman Mason. They are both athletic and energetic on the glass, aiding seniors Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek in that area. We are currently going about seven deep, with freshmen Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly playing spot minutes as they get used to ACC competition.
More with Duke after The Jump:
John Feinstein ran a piece on his horrifically ugly website detailing the problems that Duke faces and one of the big ones is that they have not lived up to the level of excellence that K established early. Does K get a free pass forever or will people other than the now-exiled Feinstein remain quiet?
Personally, I think Feinstein is somewhat of an entitled prick. That said, I believe that he does make valid points with respect to the fact that the Duke program has failed to live up to the level of excellence established by Coach K nearly twenty years ago. However, he attributes these failings to Coach K's coaching of the Olympic team.
While some like Feinstein might believe it has hurt the program overall, many close to the program feel that the Olympics were the best thing that could have possibly happened for Coach K. The struggles of the past five years can be traced down to recruiting. The ridiculous number of high-profile misses (Greg Monroe included) coupled with the early round exits in the Big Dance, could have lent to the thought that Coach K was on a slippery slope.
As with almost every sport, college basketball runs in cycles. Duke struggled for the most part in the early 80's, and then went to four straight Final Fours, winning two consecutive national titles. Then, six years later, Krzyzewski assembled one of the greatest teams ever to never win a title in 1998-1999, and eventually went on to win another national title in 2001.
These past five years have probably been the toughest of Krzyzewski's career. But it is really hard to imagine Coach K, rejuvenated by his Olympic experiences, not being able to piece it together for one last shot at a fourth national championship.
Clearly Coach K goes down as one of college basketball's great coaches. But the adage of great players making coaches look better seems to apply doubly or triply to him - for instance, in years when he has the best player in college basketball (Laettner, Jay Williams, Elton Brand), his teams make deep runs in the tournament. In contrast, even with a team full of highly regarded high school prospects, early tournament flameouts are common. Is Duke recruiting the caliber of athletes that it needs to?
First of all, the phrase "deep runs in the tournament" is relative. As is "early tournament flameouts." Prior to the 2006-07 season we had advanced to at least the Sweet 16 for nine straight years. Two of the players you mentioned played during that span-Brand and Battier, who themselves were elite recruits. Other than that, our teams have made Coach K look great. And he'd be the first to tell you that. So I'm pretty sure that adage just ‘seems' to apply doubly or triply to him. Not many coaches have three national titles, 10 Final Fours, and an Olympic gold medal in their trophy case. Maybe lightning strikes twice for bad coaches, (read: Billy Donovan) but Coach K has proven that he's a winner no matter who is on the roster.
As far as recruiting goes, we have certainly had some disappointments in the last five years, particularly with the class of 2005: McRoberts and Paulus weren't the dynamic duo we thought they would be, Boykin and Boateng transferred, and Marty Pocius hardly contributed at all. That class, and the "horrible" 22-11 season in 06-07 set up the "Duke can't recruit" myth that has trickled down in the media. Mind you, 22-11 is a bit better than Georgetown's 16-15 mark last year, which was certainly a rebuilding year after losing most of your roster to graduation or the league.
Regardless, the coaching staff has certainly responded to the recruiting issue in the past two years, picking up guys like Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, and Kyrie Irving-all top 20 recruits with alarming athleticism. I imagine these players will put the negative perceptions to bed, if they haven't been silenced already.
Interestingly, K's Duke program has been quite clean in the eyes of the NCAA yet his assistants, such as Quin Snyder at Mizzou and Amaker at Seton Hall, Michigan, and even Harvard, have had tumultuous careers at best, including NCAA dustups, while other former assistants, such as Johnny Dawkins and David Henderson lay eggs once they get their own programs. Is this sheer force of personality on K's part? How is it possible that his assistants suck when given the keys or end up cutting corners to cheat? Is he simply able to keep whatever issues Duke has under wraps?
I definitely agree that Quin Snyder did some shady things at Missouri. He's picking up the pieces coaching the Austin Toros in the NBDL, and I hope he gets a chance to redeem himself someday in the college ranks.
As for the rest of K's ‘coaching tree,' several guys you didn't mention have built solid programs, including Mike Brey and Notre Dame and Jeff Capel (former player, not assistant) at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma. Moreover, Johnny Dawkins has hardly "laid an egg" at Stanford-he stepped into a program recently depleted of the Lopez twins and still managed a 20-14 record in his first year. He just picked up an excellent recruiting class for next year, including 4-star big man Dwight Powell. I think he'll be successful at Stanford, which is pretty difficult considering the academic standards for athletes. Wojo and Collins have been assistants for many years now, and may take up a head coaching spot sometime in the near future. Maybe then we can have another perspective on how well Duke assistants fare after leaving the alma mater.
So your statement that K's assistants suck kind of, well, sucks. Sure, none of them has lived up to the success of Coach K himself, but as you say, that's a difficult feat. Duke has had minimal controversy compared to other elite programs, because unlike Kansas, Connecticut, and Calipari, our coaching staff follows the example of Coach K. If there are issues, K doesn't keep them under wraps-he just deals with them as well as he can.
Talk to us a bit about what it means like to be part of the famous Cameron Crazies. Are the various cheers prompted during the games? How loud does it get in there when Duke plays rival UNC? Are the guys who put on blue body paint able to get all of that off in a single shower?
It's pretty incredible. Love us or hate us, we have a hell of a good time in Cameron. When I first went to Cameron as a freshman, I was shocked to see how small it was. But that makes it even more intimidating. Even if you're not a Duke fan, it's an amazing experience to be a part of that whole environment.
Cheers are usually spontaneous. They obviously change from game to game, but they all revolve around pissing off the other team and their fans. It usually works. Because Cameron is so small, it can get really loud, really quickly. The place was rocking for ‘Countdown to Craziness', and the atmosphere gets even more exciting when ACC season rolls around. And when Carolina comes to Cameron, it's elevated to a completely different level. Watching it on TV doesn't do it justice.
And the body paint? From personal experience, it takes about two or three showers to get that junk off. But it's well worth it.
Hah. Next question. (Casual Note: COME ON!)
Did you watch the humiliating ‘Titanic' video? Can you give ANY reason why they players would make it?
I mean, sure, that video will be anthologized by Duke haters forever. But honestly, who cares? Those videos were collaborations between DUI (Duke University Improv) and the basketball team. They were shown in Cameron during ‘Countdown to Craziness', our season kickoff. If say, Weber State had made the video, would anybody care or even know of its existence? (Casual Note: Yes. Yes they would.)
How do you see this game playing out? Prediction?
This game will probably be the toughest game of the year for Duke. Playing in a hostile Big East environment will surely test the mettle of a team that has certainly struggled on the road this year. While Duke's interior defense has improved this year, Monroe could be a serious problem for us down low. On the perimeter, I think Freeman could be very, very difficult to contain. He's stepped up in a big way for big games - 33 against UConn and 23 against ‘Cuse - and I have a feeling he's going to be a factor on Saturday.
The keys for Duke will be production from Nolan Smith, the Plumlee brothers, and rebounding. Smith is probably the only guy on this team who can create his own shot, and he's been playing at a high level all year. The Plumlees have shown flashes of brilliance this year, but have been maddeningly inconsistent. If they can establish themselves in the post, Duke has an entirely new dimension on offense. Duke's bigs will need to be busy on the offensive and defense glass for Duke to win this game.
If Nolan can get to the basket, the Plumlees can get position inside, and the Devils rebound, Duke should come out with the win.
Prediction: Duke 74 - Georgetown 70
This should be a great game. Good luck.