Monday, February 25, 2008

Duke 86, St. John's 56

After the Johnnies opened up the game on a 7-0 run, a collective "uh oh" likely rang out among Blue Devil fans. The Storm, whose offensive ineptitude all season was documented hear in the preview, scored 4 times in their first 5 possessions, and Duke missed its first 4 shots from the field. When Duke still trailed by 5 after the game's first 5 minutes, it looked like it could be another underwhelming performance. Of course, those were really the only 5 bad minutes Duke played. From that point on, it was 80-45 in 35 minutes of basketball. That's a good, old-fashioned blowout, that came from good, old-fashioned Duke basketball.

Duke hit 3s (40%) and 2s (50%), and turned over their opponents (18 in 75 possessions). 5 players scored in double figures, and another fell just short with 9 points. 7 players recorded assists, including 3 with 3 or more. And there were several individual performances for Devils' fans to be excited about - Henderson looked assertive for the first time since injuring his wrist, Scheyer had his shot again, and Brian Zoubek turned in an 11 and 13 double-double, the first of his career. And the defense was back - only 3 of the 12 Johnnies to see action shot 50% from the floor (and one of those went 1-2). The starters shot 11-38, including 2-9 from 3, and turned the ball over 12 times.

This was step 1 to righting the ship. To really overdue the nautical analogy, the Devils have plugged all the holes in the hull and rebuilt the mast. Now we've got four games to see if it's ready to sail into the post-season (and that will officially be the last nautical analogy on this site - at least this season).

Around the ACC

Let's talk tournament turkey - Duke and UNC are in, and (barring disaster for either team) will both be on a 1 or 2 line. Clemson seems to be locked, but they keep looking less than impressive. The question is who else joins them in the tournament. Maryland went from very safe to somewhat up in the air. With games at Wake, against Clemson, and at Virginia, there's suddenly a very real chance of the Terps finish 7-9. That would leave them on the outside looking in. Wake needs to win 3 of the last 4, which means holding serve at home and picking up a win at either of the Techs (actually, 4 in a row is a decently strong possibility for the Deacs). And then there's Virginia Tech, who still won't go away.

The way I see it, Maryland is in if they finish 9-7, but VT and Wake would have to sweat with the same record. Wake definitely holds an advantage over the Hokies with the win over Duke (and I still think they get a Prosser bump). Worst case scenario is Wake and Virginia Tech finishing at 9-7, Maryland at 8-8, and all three lose their ACCT first-rounders. While I don't really think there could only be 3 ACC teams in the tournament, that result would make it very, very hard to choose a 4th (or 5th).

However it plays out, the Terps, Hokies, and Deacons need to play with a sense of desperation over the last 2 weeks. All have the opportunity to play their way in (and it's feasible all 3 could), and have a similar opportunity to play their way out if they can't get the job done.

[Edit: Duh, Miami. Don't know how they slipped my mind last night. Miami might be in the best shape of everybody, with a good RPI and good computer rankings, a quality non-conference road win (something all three of the above teams lack), and a marquee win over Duke. Not to mention a favorable schedule - 3 of the last 4 games are against Virginia, BC, and FSU, and two of those are at home. They might be the likeliest team to make the tournament if everyone is stuck in the 9-7 neighborhood.]

Finally, I've started the process of trying to rebuild my database (I got a new computer on Saturday). My goal is to meet the same schedule I kept last year - season wrap-up and awards and an ACCT preview March 10-13, and NCAA previews March 17-19. But I make no promises.

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