Hey, we're going to try something new here today. Starting around 2:30, there will be a LIVE CHAT right on this very blog. I discovered some free software yesterday where I can just load it up on the site and we can shoot the shit. As usual with things I discover, everybody else knew about this approximately 8 years ago. But now I'm on board too. Speaking of which, what do you guys think of pogs? Pretty sweet, right?
Anyway, come by if you want to talk. Now let's get to the hoops.
First off, GOTHIC MADNESS is on! This is where Seth Curry Saves Duke! takes on four other Duke sites around the net in a bracket contest for bragging rights. We've got 25 souls representing SCSD!, and we're taking on Duke Hoop Blog, Crazie-Talk, The Devil's Den, and DevilWolfing.
After one day, guess what? We're winning:
1. SCSD! - 2240
2. DevilWolfing - 2120
3. Crazie-Talk - 2090
4. DukeHoopBlog - 2080
5. The Devil's Den - 2070
SCSD pride, baby! You can see the official site of gothic madness here. The tourney challenge group on ESPN is here.
I owe it all to my peeps, because I personally did not fare well yesterday. I've got a bad feeling I've used this comparison before, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway. Remember in "A Beautiful Mind" when Russel Crowe's character is playing that weird board game (google tells me it's called "Go")? And he's trying to analyze it from a mathematical standpoint, and he's way smarter than the other people playing, but he doesn't win because the game hinges on more than just math?
THE GAME IS FLAWED!
That was me watching the action yesterday. Clemson, for example, is not supposed to give up 84 points to West Virginia. Not with the 6th-ranked defense in the country. THE GAME IS FLAWED! Ditto for Utah St., who started slow and could never crawl back against Kansas St.
I finished 10 for 16, which is just a smidge over .500. Granted, some of the upsets don't hurt my bracket in the least. Louisville and Vanderbilt falling is totally a-okay with me. The only people that hurts are the ones who picked the Cardinals to beat Kansas in the Sweet 16, which I almost did. And I had some big wins, like Gonzaga over St. John's (I have the Zags in the Elite 8). For the first time in a number of years, I didn't lose a Final 4 team on the opening Thursday, though Kentucky spooked me for 40 minutes. I only lost two Sweet 16 teams, and one, Louisville, won't matter. The other, Utah St., is unfortunate. I had them beating K-State and Wisconsin, and now I don't know who to root for in the second round game. Do more people have KSU or Wisconsin going to the Sweet 16? Hard to say, but Pitt needs to win to head either one off at the pass.
My one huge upset pick, Bucknell over UConn, was a disaster. This is where it gets hilarious to see the rationale grouped with the result. From earlier:
Reasoning: Don't hold your breath; the stats don't support me on this one. This is a gut pick, based largely on the fact that UConn is capable of a bad loss and is just coming off a grueling Big East tournament with only four days of rest. It's going to be very hard for them to find their rhythm so quickly, and how long can you go relying on one player to take you out of the tight spots?
What I looked at here was whether Bucknell had the components of an upset team. Can they shoot the 3? Yes. 7th nationally in 3-point FG %. Do they play consistent, if not flashy, defense? Yes. They can't grab an offensive board to save their life, but they keep other teams off to the tune of 41st in the country. They never force turnovers, but they force teams to a very low effective field goal percentage (18th). That's the makeup of a team who doesn't force the issue, but just tries to play consistent defense. If they hit a few threes, frustrate UConn and Kemba with a maddening kind of steadfast D, and defend the inside (UConn is quite bad at getting to the foul line), I think this is going to happen. Plus, you gotta roll the dice sometimes.
Result: 81-52, UConn.
That was always going to be a longshot, so I'm not too concerned. The one game that really annoyed me was Clemson taking a nosedive against West Virginia. Did you watch the end? It got close, and then Clemson turned it over to the exact same guy on three straight possessions. Speaking of that, could a grimy white dude named "Dalton Pepper" play for any team but West Virginia? I bet other recruiters didn't even bother. "Kid was practically born with a banjo in his hand," they probably told each other. "He's going to Morgantown."
I probably haven't told you guys that I'm really excellent at lip reading. It's one of my special skills, and it comes in handy when coaches are talking with players. Here was the last Clemson huddle:
Brad Brownell: Hey guys, gather 'round. I'm trying to stay cool here. Breathe in, breathe out. Let's all be cool. Cool heads prevail. I'm not going to draw up a play this time, okay? I'm not going to do it. I'm going to let you run your own play. You guys choose. I just have one request. It's a small one, okay? Just do me one favor. Is that cool? Can I ask that?
Brad Brownell: DON'T THROW THE FUCKING BALL TO DALTON FUCKING PEPPER, YOU MOTHERFUCKING FUCKS! DALTON FUCKING PEPPER IS NOT ON OUR FUCKING TEAM! LOOK AT HIS FUCKING JERSEY! DO YOU SEE "CLEMSON" WRITTEN ON IT? SERIOUSLY, DO YOU? IS "CLEMSON" WRITTEN ANYWHERE ON HIS FUCKING UNIFORM? IS HE FUCKING WEARING ORANGE, YOU COLOR BLIND FUCKS? I HOPE SO, BECAUSE IF HE'S NOT THEN WE JUST THREW THREE STRAIGHT PASSES TO THE WRONG FUCKING GUY! I'M GOING TO MAKE SURE NONE OF YOU SONS OF BITCHES EVER PLAY THIS GAME AGAIN, YOU HEAR ME? YOU'RE DONE! AND I QUIT TOO! I'M OUT! I JUST GOT BEAT BY A YOKEL NAMED DALTON FUCKING PEPPER, SO I'M FINISHED! FUCK!
Good guy, Brownell. Bit of a temper. Hell of a ball coach.
Okay, let's talk Duke. Here's the Four Factors chart for the Hampton game, which tips at 3pm in Charlotte:
And here's the stat distribution for Hampton:
As you see, they have two guys in Darrien Pellum and Kwame Morgan II who hit, and attempt, a ton of threes. They've jacked it up from deep 212 and 269 times, respectively. For comparison, Kyle Singler leads Duke with 182 attempts.
Hampton's team three-point percentage, though, is just 32.1. And when you look at the rest of their offense, it doesn't get much better; they're ranked 291st in efficiency (the lowest Duke will face all season), 295th in effective field goal percentage, and 276th in offensive rebounds.
They're better on the defensive side of the ball. They hold teams to the 4th-lowest field goal percentage in Division 1, the second lowest 2-point field goal percentage, and they're decent at blocking shots and forcing turnovers. Still, they struggle on the boards; opposing teams grab offensive rebounds at dangerously high 35.4% rate. They have a modicum of height, with two 6'8" big men in Charles Funches and Danny Agbelese, but compared to Duke they'll always be pretty small.
And the truth is, we're talking about a 16-seed. It's not going to be revelatory when I say Duke should roll. The Plumlees will excel on the glass, and I bet Singler scores a lot of points in the absence of a tall defender. As for defense, I'd be pretty surprised if Hampton scored more than 55 points. So let's get to what we're all curious about:
How much will he play? How's he going to look? It's all speculation at this point, isn't it? I wrote about Kyrie in a piece published at ACCSports yesterday, and like a lot of you, I'm barely able to contain my excitement. I think my friend Marion put it best yesterday on facebook: GAH! KYRIE IS COMING BACK...CAN NOT CALM DOWN!
Ditto. We have no idea what to expect, but it's going to be awesome. Seriously, I'm trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I'll be watching Kyrie Irving play basketball for Duke in 5 hours. Amazing.
Truth is, though, I don't have anything new to offer. Except this: