It has not been a banner week for yours truly in terms of fitness and nutrition. In fact, it's been somewhat miserable. I'm in a weight loss competition with this friend of mine at school, a female who would probably kill me if I said her name, and it's not going well. I'm one of those people exactly situated between fat and in-shape; I could definitely stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm like one step away from actually being called chubby. At least I like to think so. But it's clearly a bad place to be; a gateway to giant-stomach middle-aged man land, which is a place I'd like to avoid.
The deal is that I have to lose 20 pounds before my friend loses 10, since it's harder for the gals to shed weight, and as of last check, two nights ago, I had gained two. A couple weeks before, I'd lost five, but lately I've been slightly busy. When your schedule is full, it's so damn easy to rationalize your decisions about diet and exercise. I even had one of those nights on Thursday where I was like, "okay, this is it...I'm going to totally pig out tonight as a last hurrah, just really go to town, and then tomorrow things start to change!."
Which, even as you're thinking it, sounds like total bullshit. But I swallowed my own excuses. And I also swallowed a triple baconator heart attack deluxe from Wendy's (with fries and a frosty) at about 11pm after eating a very full pasta dinner four hours earlier. Between meals, I had 3-4 beers with friends. I felt like total shit all night, so maybe the flooding exercise worked.
The problem is, the girl I'm up against has one of those annoyingly consistent personalities. She actually sits down and does school work for hours at a time, and owns a house and is married. She doesn't drink nearly enough. She goes to church. Things like that. Her progress with is slow but steady. The chart of her weight loss is a straight, unstoppable line toward the 10-pound goal, while mine is a shaky seismograph with an unknown destination. Every week, I get a new update from her, and every week it's a pound less than before. My time is running out. It's like that scene that I think is in Star Wars where they're in a garbage pit or something and the walls are closing in.
HOW-EVER. Today is a beautiful Saturday. I'm going to finish up here, do an hour of exercise, not drink, go to the BC-UNC game, take a long walk to my girlfriend's restaurant after, and generally begin to turn this ship (the USS Lardass) around. We're trained as Americans to believe that we have control over our own destinies, and because we're American it sometimes turns out to be correct. That's what separates us from the Slavs, my friend. (long, meaningful sip of water) Hope. The Slavs ain't got hope.
And that is the great thing about sports. It gives me pleasure, but it's not totally fucking horrible for me like most nice things. In the midst of my productive, self-improving day, I can watch hours of college basketball without slowly ruining my future. I am so, so ready for that. Let's get down to bidness.
Last weekend, I made a few arbitrary spreads for 15 college basketball games for the Pick Six, and had an informal pool for everyone else. A whopping four people participated, and here were the final standings:
1. Jill - 10
2. Nast, Tim, SanFranDan - 9
Jill tallied these scores, so they may be suspect. But she claims to have been honest.
Now how about those Dukies, eh gov? Tomorrow night we're taking on the Techies of Atlanta, those engineering young men who occasionally take time from their bridge-building activities to have a competitive game of basketball. Unfortunately, they are pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty bad.
They had an okay beginning. After 6 ACC games, they were 3-3, with all 3 wins coming at home. Two of those wins were very solid- UNC and Virginia Tech. They put a goodly thumping on both teams, which was a surprise then and seems even crazier now. Since that semi-promising start, they're 0-5 in conference. Maryland, Clemson, and FSU took them down by 9 or more in Atlanta, and they were annihilated last weekend at Virginia Tech in a revenge game for the Hokies.
Let's break 'em on down:
-Overall defense. KenPom has them 54th in Division 1.
-Specifically, forcing turnovers (19th in the country), and getting steals (an amazing 5th.)
-Offensive boards. This is a more modest strength (80th in D-1).
-Defending the three (a miserable 316th out of 345 teams).
-Shooting the three (332nd in percentage)
-Shooting in general (effective field goal percentage = 305th)
-Getting to the line (299) or keeping opponents from the line (307)
Here's the good news: this game is going to be a lot more exciting than the UVA monstrosity last Wednesday. Georgia Tech loves to force the issue. They go for steals, they foul like crazy, and they'll probably put a lot of pressure on the ball. That means Duke will have to play fast, and we'll probably end up with a lot of wide open shots. For better or worse, no more Plumlee-ball.*
The bad news is that Tech isn't a great match-up for us. They're not a bad one, mind you, just not great. They have three guys who love to chuck threes- Shumpert, Glen Rice, and Brian Oliver- and none of them do it very well. We don't have to worry about Oliver, since he's out with a thumb injury, and typically you'd think we could sleep on Rice and Shumpert too. Rice is the best at a very modest .315, while Shumpert is weak at .277. Still, if they're ever going to get hot, it'll be against Duke.
As far as bigs, Daniel Miller is 6'11" and pretty adept at blocking shots. He can't score, and he's only a decent rebounder, but he'll disrupt things down low. Aside from him, Kameon Holsey (6'8") and Nate Hicks (6'10") will combine for about 20-30 minutes of playing time. Neither can do much scoring. Suffice it to say the Yellow Jackets aren't going to give us much of a scare down low.
The defensive strategy for the good guys will probably be pretty similar to how we handled UVA. We'll smother the three (even though Tech shoots a poor percentage, there's no reason to take chances when they really have no alternative), make them drive, and dare them to score inside. Their offensive output for the last six games (1-5) looks like this: 62, 77, 63, 56, 57, 63. And that 77 came in a blowout loss when Virginia Tech scored 102. It should be a pretty simple matter to hold them under 70, and I'd be surprised if they even reach 65.
Duke's success on offense will determine the flow of this game. Will Tech's intense perimeter defense stymie us enough to give them a fighting chance? If we're scoring, forget about it. If we're not, it's feasible they could have an anomalous shooting night and keep it close. Then again, the game's at Cameron. I'm not sure Tech has the will, much less the talent, to stick around for longer than ten minutes. They certainly can't win, even if they play well beyond their means. And I don't think this team even wants to play beyond their means for Paul Hewitt. I'm half-expecting a soul-crushing beat-down along the lines of the second State game. One way or another, though, I'm polishing off the old chestnut; you don't beat Duke with guards. The Miller/Holsey/Hicks trio in the frontcourt just ain't going to cut the mustard.
My prediction: Duke 87, Tech 62.
The improvements I'm looking for out of Duke are the same as they've been for the past few weeks. Intelligent defense by Mason, offensive integration and a better shooting percentage from Singler, and any sign of life from Dawkins. Just like my weight loss competition, there's not a ton of time left to turn things around. Duke needs a dominant win.
The Hot Potatoes for Duke-Georgia Tech are:
That picture was made by Swetha and Sabreena last year based on my idea of "The Three S-Keteers" as a nickname for Singler, Smith, and Scheyer. You can read the whole tragic story of how I missed their original e-mail here. Anyway, the Hot Potatoes are anybody who has an S in their last name. Smith, Singler, Dawkins, Hairston, plus any walk-ons. Get your picks in by game time tomorrow.
Quick ACC power rankings:
Top Dogs: UNC and Duke.
We each keep holding serve, moving inevitably toward that Dean Dome showdown on March 5th. There's a potential bump in the road for each team; UNC plays at Florida State, and Duke plays at Virginia Tech. Some people want to argue that Temple at home could be tough for Duke, but I'm not seeing it. Anyway, UNC's road test will be slightly easier since Chris Singleton is down for the count, but it's still a potential loss. If either team stumbles, the other has the immediate advantage.
NCAA-Bound: Florida State, Virginia Tech.
Even with Singleton out, I think FSU has done enough. They're 8-3, and with Wake and State remaining, 10 conference wins looks like a lock. Tech keeps getting better, and with UVA and Wake as their next games, they'll soon be 9-4 in conference.
Bubblicious: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland.
I think Maryland might be the best of this bunch, but they keep screwing themselves over. Back-to-back losses to Boston College and Maryland might have sunk them; they're 5-6 in the ACC with FSU and UNC remaining on the schedule. They need to be 9-7 in conference to stand a chance, which means one of those games has to come up a win.
BC is getting by with smoke and mirrors. In contrast to a lot of other ACC teams, I think they over-achieve. The two-point win over Maryland is a good example. The big game for the Eagles is against Miami this week. If they win, they'll probably go 9-7 in conference and have a fighting chance.
Clemson has a tough road. They're 6-6, but their last two games are at Duke and home against Virginia Tech. They'll have to pull an upset off in one of the two to be better than 8-8 and have a shot at the tourney.
Scary Spoiler: Miami.
They're the best 4-7 team ever. They won't make the tournament unless they pull off a miracle in the ACC tourney, but I have a feeling they'll do some damage before this year is out. Their next four games are Clemson, BC, FSU, Maryland. They can spoil the shit out of this conference if they've got half a mind.
Craptastic: N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, UVA.
Nothing to see here.
Two last things. First, I agree with Coach K on this. I had no idea they were doing tv timeout interviews with SEC coaches this year, but that's horrible. Does any real sports fan even want to see that? I know I'd rather feel like the coaches were focused on their team. It lends a legitimacy to the game that constant interviews detract from. Why are tv people so full of bad ideas?
Lastly, as promised, here's the e-mail from the guy who didn't like my swearing. His name is Jerry Clayton, and he's from Roxboro. He works for the Roxboro Courier, which I guess is a newspaper, but I couldn't find any bylines under his name, so I guess he does something else for them. Take it away, Jerry:
Subject: your blog
If you are the person who is sending out the blogs on Duke basketball I would like to tell you that you must be insane to have sent out the chart on "How to beat Duke". The language used was absolutely horrible and to associate it with Duke and with any player is almost unbelievable. What in the world is wrong with you? May I respectfully suggest that you become the fan of some other university or college.
Jerry Clayton, Roxboro
Rom. 5:1 - Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks for reading, Jerry! I decline your invitation to pick another favorite team, but I hope you'll continue to stop by and enjoy Seth Curry Saves Duke! Go Devils!
(Best Moody Blue response to Mr. Clayton gets published on Monday.)