I'm the guy with the award. The dude on the left consistently finishes third in George Steinbrenner look-alike contests.
Before we get rolling for real, a quick scheduling note:
***I will do my damndest to put up a post tomorrow and Thursday. I'm heading to THE BIG APPLE (we all call it that) later this morning for some Turkey Day fun with the family, and I'll be heading to the Jets game Thursday night at the new Giants Stadium. It might be tough to post, especially since my mom's a huge nag about spending time with family (gag me, right?). Nevertheless, I'll give it the old college try. Friday will be harder since we're coming back early in the morning, but maybe I'll use that chance to post some ReeseNews high school football content or something.***
Okay, so we beat Marquette 82-77. But my God, check out this opinion article on ESPN. It's titled "Plumlee's big night could mean big things," and here's the last line:
Translation: If Mason Plumlee is this good -- and there's still plenty of basketball to be played before we can definitively make that statement -- then Duke could be even better than we realized. That is a scary thought.
Alert to Writer: Plumlee had a nice game, and Duke still beat an unranked team by only 5. An unranked team, by the way, who shot 4-20 from 3-point range and could have knocked us off if they'd knocked down a few open shots.
Don't get me wrong, I love this squad. At one point early on, probably when we were up 23-9, I posted a pretty embarrassing tweet:
SCurrySavesDuke: I have been waiting for this team for 27 years. Unbelievable. I love them. I love them. I love them. D-U-K-E! I can barely breathe.
(Translation: "I CAN'T CONTROL MY EMOTIONS. JINX, JINX, JINX FOR DUKE.")
But then things turned around, and our play was pretty lackadaisical the rest of the way. Turnovers, sloppiness, and poor interior defense marked the rest of the night. Marquette kept getting close, and Duke kept going on spurts. But after those spurts, we'd seem to relax on the lead, and Marquette would come crawling back.
It was annoying, and I didn't necessarily think Duke looked like the #1 team in the country. I still think we will be the best team in the land when all is said and done, but nothing about last night should put any fear into our opponents. In fact, they should breathe a sigh of relief, because the Devils didn't look like juggernauts. I wouldn't even be surprised to see Vegas put K-State as the favorites tonight.
Interesting aside from the ESPN article: the College Basketball nation blog is written by two guys. The first is Eamon Brennan, who wrote the article above. The second, though, may have the greatest name in history: Diamond Leung.
I mean...that is an amazing name. It's like his parents though about "Iron Leung," then were like, "fuck that, this kid is going to be the world's premiere badass. DIAMOND."
Truly fantastic. At the center for awesome names, we are grateful for our Diamond Leung.
(stare into the distance dispassionately like any good Radiohead fan.)
Okay, let's grade it up:
Plumdog Billionaire: A-. Good God, where did those post moves come from? Seriously, where? That was amazing. I'm usually pleased if Mason manages to catch the ball and put up a shot without dribbling when he's in the post. Needless to say, this surpassed my expectations. 25 points, 12 boards (6 offensive), 5 blocks. People give me shit about not crediting Mason, and I'll admit I'm usually a critic, but today he deserves praise. The downside: aside from the blocks, he didn't look great on the defensive interior. Gardner ate him up a few times, and at several points he would vacate his position to attempt a help-side block, only to give up an easy basket to Marquette. I still think he's a step slow filling the lane on a rotation when another man is beat, too. The blocks are huge, but there's a lot of room for improvement. Also, the Golden Eagles grabbed 11 offensive boards, one more than Duke, and some of that is on Mason. He got out-muscled more than once, and I think we're already feeling the lack of a big, mean Zoubek type. Still, kudos to Mason for his grace and skill on offense.
Kyle Singler: B. It seemed like he disappeared from this one a bit despite playing 38 minutes. The shooting was a little under par, and he never really got to the rim, but he did provide a key defensive rebounding presence. Just a slightly below-average game for the White Lion. Not awful, by any means, but not special either. I have a feeling he'll erupt for about 25 tonight.
Nolan Smith: A-. Great shooting, grabbed 9 boards, and scored 18 while assisting 3 times. Plus, his frontcourt D is faultless. My only complaint is the turnovers, a bloated 6. You can tell Nolan's excited to be playing a fast game, but he's also prone to going a little too fast and becoming sloppy. He needs find that delicate balance between risk-taking and restraint. And look, I'm not going to cry about the turnovers; when you play up-tempo, turnovers are going to happen. It's a small price to pay for a hectic style that stupefies the opposition. But some of the bad decisions can be reduced, and that's where I think Nolan can improve. But that's largely a matter of experience and reps, and I have no doubt he'll find his way soon.
Kyrie Irving: B+. See also: Nolan Smith. Similar evaluation- great pace, great on-the-ball defense, decent shooting, lots of assists (7), too many turnovers. You can see it almost ready to click with Kyrie. I can't wait until the moments of brilliance stretch out into entire games. He's the real deal, and with an ounce of restraint he'll be the best point guard around.
Young Threezy: A-. I love him, and so does Coach K. He's come out so strong, and he makes an immediate impact whenever he steps on the floor. He only hit one 3 last night, but he filled up the stat sheet with 4 board, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in only 21 minutes. I have a feeling he's close to becoming our fifth starter (with Singler and Mason as the bigs), but at the moment he looks like one hell of a contender for the 6th Man Award (if they have that in college, and I don't think they do). And his physicality is like night and day from last year. When he led that fast break in the second half and took it straight to the hoop, elevating over the defender, he looked like a potential star. Baby Dawk is good people.
Miles Plumlee: F. It's gotten to the point where I almost feel bad about making fun of him. Then he'll boot another pass, or look totally lost on the court, and I get angry all over again. My disclaimer before this next statement is that I have no idea what kind of work ethic Miles has, and I have no idea what his offseason regimen looks like. But really, how can he be this bad? Coach K has utterly lost faith in him (he played a meager 9 minutes last night), and he looks like he belongs in Division II. At some point I'll have to write a whole post about him, because he's basically this year's tragic figure.
Seth Curry: B-. Unfortunately, he's not making a huge impact when he enters games quite yet. I hope that changes, and I think it will. I'm just not sure how much. He's definitely behind Young Threezy on the depth chart, and that certainly doesn't look to change anytime soon. Still, he's a pure shooter, so there will always be a place for him on the floor. Because of that, he'll have ample time to gain comfort. I'm wondering now if his strength isn't lacking a bit, and if that's preventing him from asserting himself. Then again, maybe it's just a rhythm thing, and he'll be great within 5-10 games. I definitely don't seem him fully in the flow of the offense yet, but experience should cure that. In the meantime, I'm changing the name of the blog to "Kyrie Irving Eats a Pancake."
Ryan Kelly: B-. This is a tough evaluation to make. He started, but Coach K must not have liked what he saw, since he only earned 12 minutes of PT. He's a good shooter and has a modest offensive skillset, but against high-level teams I still think he's physically outmatched. Unlike Seth Curry, Kelly doesn't have enough scoring ability to justify his presence on the floor. Especially since he plays on the interior; there's no room for a weak player among the bangers. When it comes to that, Singler is the better option. Between Kelly and Miles Plumlee, they only provided 20 minutes of game time. That means Singler had to play inside for the majority of his 38 minutes. It's not an ideal situation, but I don't see Kelly earning anyone's faith in the interior.
Team Defense: B-. Not a great night. The inside guys were eaten alive at various points, and Marquette had far too many open looks on the perimeter too. Slow rotations, weakness in the paint, and so-so rebounding hindered the cause. We were damn lucky Marquette shot so poorly from three, or a loss might have been in order. The hive was not abuzz. Then again, our mini-spurts were all prompted by turnovers from pressure. We were like a lazy snake that only bites when he absolutely needs to eat.
Kansas State did their part to set up the season's best showdown to date. Pullen had 18, and the Wildcast out-boarded Gonzaga 37-24. Needless to say, this will be a challenge. I'm psyched, but nervous too. I hate Frank Martin, and it would be awesome to watch Coach K get his 800th Duke win against at his expense.
Okay, time to hit that northern highway, my friends. Hopefully we'll talk tomorrow after a huge win. I'll be watching in a hotel bar, drinking draft beer and hurling invective at Jacob Pullen's ugly chinstrap facial hair. There may be some spontaneous poems for Kyrie Irving, too. GO DUKE!