So, yeah, that's great. That's just really fantastic. I'm so happy for her, I really couldn't be happier. What a great day for my mom. She must be so happy. She must be just really filled with joy and-
YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE AGAIN, MOM!
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I HATE YOUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!
No! No Shane! You promised yourself you wouldn't do this. Just be happy for your mom. Come on man, practice being a grown-up. You're 28, man. This is a good chance to stop being pathetic and start getting your life togeth-
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MEEEE!!!!!
BLUBBER BLUBBER BALLOOOO BALOOOOOOOO!!!
Seriously, though, when I stopped weeping and cursing, I thought this was pretty cool. According to them, Mr. Curry was very nice. They even asked him if he read my blog, which gave me feelings of mild embarrassment and un-mild gratitude even from far (and really, what other emotions do you ever feel about your parents?), and he was nice enough to at least pretend that he'd heard of it and read it a couple times.
So, Seth Curry: thanks for being nice to my mom. May you score bountiful points.
Today, I think, is one of the most interesting games of the season. The 24th-ranked Temple Owls are coming to town for a little shindig. Duke's home non-conference win streak is now at 3,024 games*, and this is the final test of the season.
*May not be the exact number, but it's a lot. I think it's a record.**
**Fine, I looked it up. It's 85. The last loss came almost exactly 11 years ago, on February 26, 2000, to St. John's. I can't find out whether it's an NCAA record (probably not), but it's definitely the longest active streak in the NCAA.
This game is particularly special to me because one of my funniest memories from college had its origin with Temple. I have no idea if this will come across as hilarious via text, but I'll give it a shot. I had a friend named Jared in college, and he was something of a wild man. He was also very funny. Early in the year, I think, we played Temple away. We were watching the game on tv, and Mike Dunleavy (one of Jared's favorite players), hit a bunch of threes. Jared got so psyched that he yelled out "Mike Dun-LEEEEEEEEVY!!! HOOT, HOOT, HOOT, HOOT!" As he yelled the 'Hoots,' he turned to us, his face turning red with exertion, and bobbed his head emphatically with each one. Imagine a really crazy person barking like a dog inside a jail cell, and then magnify it by seven.
Now, why did he say 'HOOT!'? Great question. It had something to do with the fact that Temple's nickname is the Owls, but of course even that doesn't really explain anything. Why would you yell the other team's nickname after you shouted your player's name? It didn't make sense, and will probably remain a mystery forever. But his performance was so emphatic and insane that it had us all on the floor dying.
After that, it became Jared's calling card. In games at Cameron, when Mike Dunleavy started heating up, we'd all turn to him, anxiously waiting for the outburst. And his timing was perfect. Our expectations would build, and then Dunleavy would hit a three, and we'd brace ourselves...but it wouldn't come. Then we'd all pray for another one, and the energy would rise, and then he'd find himself open, our hands would fly into the air, praying the ball would find the net, and...
"Mike Dun-LEEEEEEEEVY! HOOT! HOOT! HOOT! HOOT!"
And if you thought it made no sense the first time, imagine how ridiculous it seemed when Duke wasn't playing Temple. The expressions on the faces of everyone around us were absolutely priceless (shock at the energy of Jared's performance, confusion at the hooting, and a small but healthy dose of fear), and it was inevitably one of the most hilarious experiences ever. Seriously, my stomach would hurt from laughing and I'd miss several minutes of game action.
Great times. Anyway, it's nice to see the Owls (21-5, 11-2 A-10) back in town. Let's take a look at KenPom's stats and see what these dudes are all about.
-Defense, defense, defense. They're ranked 26th in the country in overall efficiency, 19th in preventing 2-point scoring, 12th in defensive rebounding, 21st in opponent field goal percentage, and 19th in keeping opponents off the line. They're also pretty decent in blocks (47th) and steals (75th).
-Ball control. They only turn it over on 16.9% of possessions (17th in D-1), and they rarely have the ball stolen or blocked.
-Inside scoring. 75th nationally in 2-point shooting percentage.
-Shooting threes. This isn't so much a weakness as a mediocrity. They're middle of the pack in D-1.
-Defending the three. See above.
-Offensive boards. See above.
-Getting to the line. They're actually pretty bad at this, 245th in the country with a 34.7% free throw rate (FTA/FGA).
-OPPONENT FREE THROW %! THEY SUCK AT THIS! Oh wait, they have no control over that. Unless they're very smart at who they foul...I'm worried.
Here are the four factors for both teams, courtesy of StatSheet:
So, the emerging profile is a team that plays hard-nosed defense, loves to muck it up inside, and is at least slightly uncomfortable playing behind the arc. However, there are two things to consider:
1) They play in the Atlantic-10. The competition is nowhere near as fierce as you'll find in any major conference, even the struggling ACC. It's important to look at non-conference games. In those, Temple beat Seton Hall, Georgia, Maryland, and Georgetown. They lost to California, Texas A&M, and Villanova. Not bad.
2) More importantly, as GB pointed out in yesterday's comments, they have some recent injuries. Michael Eric, their 6'11" center, is down for the count with a knee injury. He was averaging 7 points, 6 boards, and almost 2 blocks. Scootie Randall, according to this article, is highly doubtful with a foot injury. He's their second-leading scorer (11 ppg), a 6'6" junior and one of only two guys who can really hit the three.
Those are gigantic losses. Their biggest player on the court will be Lavoy Allen at 6'9". After that, it's pretty much 6'4" and below. For the third straight game, Duke will be facing an undersized, guard-heavy team. Which probably means we can expect the same defensive strategy- press the hell out of the perimeter, take away the 3, and force the Temple guards to drive or feed the post.
The scary part is that Temple's offense is geared toward that type of game. Unlike Virginia and Georgia Tech, they're not lost without the three pointer. In fact, they're not even particularly fond of it. The whole thing reminds me a little of St. John's; they only knocked down 3 threes against Duke, but they made a killing penetrating the lane. Despite the injury to Randall, Temple still has Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, two tall (6'4"), aggressive guards who can finish off the drive. Moore is averaging 15.4 per game, and the offense will run through him tonight. If you'd like to prepare your hatred early, here's what he looks like:
When Duke is on the attack, expect them to look for Singler as a primary scoring option. Whoever guards him will probably be at least 4 inches shorter, and Coach K will look to exploit the mismatch by curling his senior off picks and springing him for 15-foot jumpers. Ryan Kelly could play a big factor in a similar role (minus the picks), and I'm sure there will be token attempts to feed Mason Plumlee in the post and create open three opportunities on the kick-out. His newfound passing ability will be put to the test.
It might be a tough game for the likes of Curry and Dawkins, since they'll be manned up by tall, quick guards with instructions to deny the three.
I'm really, really looking forward to this game. I mean, I look forward to every game day; I love waking up and realizing there's a Duke game that day, which is probably a little bit sad. But tonight will be especially interesting. Temple should be a good test, vaguely approximating what we might face in a second round or sweet 16 match-up in the tournament. It's a different, more skilled team than we're used to seeing in the ACC, and it will force us to play the grinding type of style you need to use once or twice in any successful tourney run. Unlike the UVA game, it won't be the annoying kind of grind where the other team is fated to lose and just ruins the flow to no apparent end. This is going to be a legitimate battle.
Unfortunately for Temple, the injuries and the fact that they're playing in Cameron will probably deny them any real chance to win. Duke is scoring a little too well lately, and their defense has been rock solid. Did you know we're now second in defensive efficiency in the country? We allow 86.1 points per 100 possessions. Only Texas has us beat.
The Owls are creatures of the night, and they can rotate their heads on a 360-degree swivel. Tonight, they'll need that skill to watch Duke running past them and scoring at will.
Man, I wish I hadn't written that last paragraph. Anyway, prediction: Duke 76, Temple 68.
Oh yeah, the Hot Potato. Tonight, we're featuring:
Give me the total points of anyone and everyone who starts on the bench.
Lastly, there are a couple huge ACC games tonight.
1- Florida State at Maryland, 9pm
The Seminoles are mere inches from clinching an NCAA berth, and Virginia Tech's loss to UVA, which virtually guarantees the Noles third in the ACC, probably sealed the deal. But make no mistake- this is a must-win for Maryland. They need to finish 9-7 in conference to give themselves a chance, and that means three wins in the final four games. If we assume they'll fall on Sunday at UNC, that means they need to beat Florida State, Miami on the road, and UVA. Tonight's home game, against a team missing their best player, is a good chance to show they belong.
2- Miami at Boston College, 7pm
Typically I hate all things Boston, but the Eagles have grown on me. They're one of the few overachieving teams in a conference filled with underachievers, and Steve Donahue's stall ball strategy against UNC was brilliant. I like these guys, and they've put themselves in position to make a run at the tourney. At 6-6, their remaining games are home against Miami, at UVA, at Virginia Tech, and home against Wake. My gut feeling is that they'll need to win all 4, because unlike Maryland I don't see this team going far in the ACC tourney on a neutral floor. Miami has their second of four straight chances to play spoiler. They missed their first opportunity last weekend against Clemson, falling by 4 at home. After BC, they have a chance to make things tricky for Florida State and Maryland. And I'm really looking forward to whatever they put together in the ACC tourney.
It's a great night of basketball. Let's go Duke! HOOT HOOT HOOT HOOT!