Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Duke 90, BC 80

Very weird game to watch. In the first half, I thought Duke thoroughly outplayed BC. They turned them over a ton, grabbed a bunch of offensive boards, and forced BC into several highly contested shots. Of course, BC hit many of the highly contested shots (some were just ridiculous) and walked away with a 1-point halftime lead (thanks in large part to Duke's inability to hit uncontested 15 footers with the clock stopped). In the second half, aside from two quick spurts (one to start the half and one with about 7 minutes to play), I thought BC thoroughly out-played Duke. The press got about a half-step slower, leading to more open looks for the Eagles. And yet, Duke walked out of the building with a 10 point win. Just goes to show you can't always believe your eyes.

In the bigger picture, Duke's defense must now be considered a point of some concern. Still statistically tops in the conference, it has been very up and down. 5 teams have put up better than a point per possession, and Duke has allowed opponents to post EFG%'s of .565 or worse 4 times in the last 7 games. At the same time, they held the Heels to just .93 points per possession on .428 shooting, so what do I know.

Around the ACC

Things are starting to shake out a little in the ACC. Virginia has officially mailed in its season before the postage gets hiked to 42 cents. Miami, FSU, and BC are each about a loss away from starting to make doe-eyes at the NIT selection committee. NC State and Wake are together at 4-5 - I know I'm in the minority, but I like Wake's chances a lot more than NC State's. In games against the top 4 teams in the conference, NC State is almost -30!! in efficiency margin. I haven't seen anything (other than 20 minutes against Duke - which, by the way, would look not at all impressive if you flipped the two halves of that game; in fact, it would look an awful lot like the Pack's second half against the Heels after dropping a giant stink-bomb in the first) to suggest that this NC State team is markedly improved from the squad that lost to New Orleans and ECU.

Georgia Tech dropped their last golden opportunity for a marquee non-conference win. They pretty much have to go 7-1 or 8-0 (or win the ACCT) to play in the NCAAs. They finished hot down the stretch last year - can they do it again? Virginia Tech is all alone in 5th, but is none too comfortable after dropping consecutive games to NC State and Miami. The Hokies still have to go to UNC, Maryland, and Clemson. Lose all three of those and it's time to start selling NIT tickets at Cassell Coliseum.

Whereas the bottom 8 teams can't seem to do much of anything right for any extended run of games, the top 4 have really set themselves apart from the pack. Yes, Clemson is 5-4, but after seeing their two games against UNC, I refuse to believe they aren't one of the 20 best teams in the country. If they just hold court at home and take care of the winnable road games (FSU, NCSU), they'll be sitting pretty at 10-6. But let's be honest, they're fine even at 9-7. Maryland's offense has been firing on all cylinders since struggling early against VT and Wake. It helps that they've hit 40.4% of their 3s over the last 6 games. Turnovers are still the Achilles heel.

And UNC and Duke are, well, UNC and Duke (although I hear the Heels are petitioning to have Phil Ford suit up at PG against Virginia). A get well soon from this site to Marcus Ginyard and Ty Lawson (and, for that matter, Bobby Frasor, although we know he won't get well soon enough to help the Heels this year) - it's always fun to beat Carolina, but it's even more fun to do it when they're all healthy. I for one hope the rematch can pit both teams at full strength - it will be a heck of a game to watch.


Michael said...

I have found that defensive performance has varied wildly from half to half. For instance, against Maryland I have the Terps' O-efficiency in the first half at about 123-124, whereas in the second half of that game I have it at 93. Similarly, against NC State I have their O-efficiency at 125-126 in the first half, and 85-86 in the 2nd.

On average, then, the defensive performance looks somewhat lackluster. I'm with you though, perhaps it is something to be concerned about seeing as how for the first 15 games of the year only 1 team (Illinois, because of a bunch of freak offensive boards and very few turnovers) had an offensive efficiency over 100 against Duke, and in the last 7 games, it has happened 5 times. Is it just better scouting? Are our guys playing with less energy on defense? I'm not sure. We seem to put together halves of excellent D and win games in a less than spectacular fashion, but it's hard to complain too much when we're 9-0 in the ACC I guess.

Hey the good news is the offense has been stellar the last 7 games!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I agree completely. Watching the first half of the Duke/BC game, I really wasn't concerned at all. Duke appeared to be playing extremely well, but just trailed in the scoreboard due to their own atrocious foul shooting, an inability to knock down open looks from deep, and some very good shooting by BC on contested shots. In the second half, however, even when Duke pulled ahead of BC, I was very concerned. I lost trust in the defense's ability to stop them, and it always looked like we were a turnover or two away from them springing the upset.

I also agree completely about Clem's being one of the top 20 teams in the country. However, I also think they would/will be upset bait in the NCAA's simply because their free throw shooting is so horrible. If college basketball games were to be stopped at an arbitrary, unannounced period, Clemson would be a real contender. But they aren't, meaning that in order to close out a game in which they have the lead, they are going to face an end game scenario in which they need to knock down free baskets. Clemson can't do this and it's a fatal flaw.

On a bitter note, I'm astonished that I haven't seen an article written in the mainstream press about the disparity in free throws and fouls called in the UNC/Clemson game. I'm also astonished that I haven't read a word about Nelson's mysterious fourth foul in the UNC/Duke game, in which somehow Hansborough's bucket counted AND UNC got the ball back, despite the foul not being an intentional or a tech. I had no idea that was even possible. Regardless, I suspect were the beneficiary team of either of these episodes wearing a darker shade of blue, there'd be a national scandal brewing.

Paul Rugani said...

Well, I guess my concerns about the defense were a little unfounded (at least for one game). One other thing to keep in mind is that the ACC has been offense-heavy in conference play. I think the average efficiency has been around 1.04-1.05 points per possession. So in relative terms, Duke had been about average, rather than below average. And they were obviously well above average in the MD game.