Thursday, February 15, 2007

Season Sweep, Part Deux

Much needed win for the Blue Devils, and an impressive win at that, going into Conte Forum and largely dismantling the (current) 1st place team in the conference. Some teams you match up well with, and some you don't, and BC is a team that Duke matches up very well with. One reason is that BC plays cover-your-eyes bad team defense. On the few occasions an Eagle defender actually rotated to give help, no one else came in to shut off the weakside. The result was a layup drill on offense for the Devils. Duke also abused BC on the offensive and defensive glass, picking up 13 of 30 misses on offense and holding BC - the best offensive rebounding team in the league - to a season-low 5. Duke also shot well, which made their offensive rebounding even more dangerous - when you hit 33 of 59 and get back 13 of your misses, it'll be a long night for the opposition. The defense on Dudley was excellent as well - he was held to 11 points, taking only 5 FGAs and 5 FTAs, and turned it over 4 times. McRoberts had a particularly nice game inside, netting a double-double and shooting 9 of 12 from 2, but it was an all around effort, on offense and defense, that won the game for Duke. Truly a team win last night. Here's the PPP table:

O Poss. Points OPPP D Poss. Points DPPP
McRoberts ON 66 78 1.182 66 68 1.030

OFF 1 0 0.000 1 2 2.000
Scheyer ON 60 67 1.117 60 62 1.033

OFF 7 11 1.571 7 8 1.143
Nelson ON 53 57 1.075 52 57 1.096

OFF 14 21 1.500 15 13 0.867
Paulus ON 64 78 1.219 64 63 0.984

OFF 3 0 0.000 4 7 1.750
Henderson ON 24 31 1.292 25 23 0.920

OFF 43 47 1.093 42 47 1.119
McClure ON 41 51 1.244 43 54 1.256

OFF 26 27 1.038 24 16 0.667
Thomas ON 22 23 1.045 20 14 0.700

OFF 45 55 1.222 47 56 1.191
Zoubek ON 1 0 0.000 1 2 2.000

OFF 66 78 1.182 66 68 1.030
Pocius ON 4 5 1.250 4 7 1.750

OFF 63 73 1.159 63 63 1.000

Duke Overall
67 78 1.164 67 70 1.045

A brief word about Duke's stall ball tactics, which infuriated a large portion of the Blue Devil fandom last night as BC started their comeback. From the point Duke was up 65-41, BC had 21 more offensive possessions in the game. That means the Eagles had to throw up a 114.29 ORating in those 21 possessions just to tie Duke if Duke scored no points the rest of the way. The odds of BC putting up a 114.29 are not great, but not miniscule either - it's about the season average for their offense, though well above their season-to-date performance against Duke. The odds of Duke going 0-for-21 possessions is well nigh impossible, even for this year's less offensively adept team. As it was, BC got hot, and scored 29 in those 21 possessions, for a 138.10 ORating. That's about as well as a team can plausibly play for a 21 possession stretch against a good defense. Even with that, all Duke needed was 6 in 21 possessions to win. Duke's offense in the slowdown was inefficient - 13 points in 20 possessions for a 65.00 ORating. But it was more than enough to win.

Stall ball looks ugly, but it works more often than not - far more often than not. Obviously, we remember the notable losses - UCONN in the Final Four, Kentucky in the regional final, Indiana in the Sweet 16, Maryland in the ACC final, etc. But Duke plays stall ball in every game where it gets a comfortable lead, and I don't need to remind you that Duke tends to win a lot of those games. Comebacks are more likely if the game is lengthened by short possessions, and less likely if the game is shortened by long possessions. I've watched plenty of teams blow leads that don't play stall ball, and in a lot of those games, teams get (rightly) criticized for taking stupid shots with 25-30 seconds left on the shot clock and not taking time off the clock.

Of course, there are negatives, particularly the way Duke plays it. One reason our offensive efficiency goes in the tubes is that it's just easier to play defense for 10 seconds than it is to play for 35. Duke doesn't play a slowdown offense that puts pressure on the opponent the whole 35, only the last 10. Illinois in 2005 ran the prettiest stall ball I've ever seen. They threw the ball all over the court - around the perimeter, inside, outside, drive-and-kick, etc. and ran lots of time off the clock.
They were known for a high-powered offense, which was true - their efficiency was exceptional. But they did it playing "slower" than Duke this year - they just put pressure on an opponent for the whole shot clock. Of course, they had 3 excellent ball-handling guards and an adept passer in the post. Duke has the latter, but not the former. I'd love to see a stall ball system that pressures the defense more, but the risk there is turnovers (especially for this year's Devils), which tend to create easier scoring opportunities for the opponent.

Does stall ball work every time? No. Does it tend to let the opponent back into games? Yes, to a degree. Offensive execution is harder when you only make the defense play for 10 seconds, and defensive intensity can be difficult to maintain when you take the air out of the ball on the other end. Does it make sense? Absolutely. Some will say Duke went into it too early last night against BC. Considering time and score, it was about right. And oh by the way, the Devils won. And looked very impressive doing so.


Clemson just cannot get a break this year. Michael Drum nipped them at the buzzer, giving Wake its 3rd conference win and dropping the Tigers to 5-6. Clemson killed themselves with 5-of-26 shooting from 3, and have now hit just 26.3% of their threes in the last 5 games. Clemson has a should-be gimme against Miami at home left on the schedule, but the rest (Home to Maryland and Duke, At Virginia Tech and BC) are tough. I wrote in Clemson's preview that they would be a test-case for whether the committee pays attention to in-conference strength of schedule. Like Duke, Clemson had only 3 combined games against Miami, NC State, and Wake. Unlike Duke, they didn't sweep those 3, and last night's loss to Wake could prove costly. Random side question for the statistically minded: Has the last undefeated team missed the tournament in the 64 team era?

Maryland took care of business against NC State and heads into Sunday's matchup at Clemson with all the momentum. Winner of this game has an inside track to 8-8 and a bid. Loser could wind up at 7-9 and be on the outside looking in.


Anonymous said...

I wanted to hurt Daniel Ewing after the crap shots he took in the final minutes in the UCONN/Final Four game. I never went from happy to wanting to kill someone faster than the last five minutes of that game.

Anonymous said...

Great points about the pressure factor of good stall ball and the Illinois illustration. I agree; the problem is that our style of play changes so dramatically, and we are so streaky that when we turn it off, it takes about 30 pulls on the lawn mower to get it started again. Illinois played the same flow, they just kept moving ball through more passes.

Thanks, and keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Do you agree with the assessment, then, that we should at least start running our offense with more like 15-20 second left on the clock rather than 10? I tend to agree that we don't have the offensive playmakers to get a good shot in 10 seconds.

Paul Rugani said...

Like I said, I'd like to see consistent pressure applied on the defense, even if we're going to milk the clock. But the way we run things now, it would likely help to start a little sooner. As we saw on Sunday, Duke makes extra passes pretty well - we need to beat defenses with passing, which takes more time than beating them off the dribble.

Anonymous said...
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Paul Rugani said...

While you're welcome to criticize the Duke team on this site, please do so in a civil, polite manner, and refrain from offensive insults in the future. Thanks.