Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stephen Curry is Good: Catching Up on the Week that Was

To start, Stephen Curry single-handedly took down NC State on Saturday in a game made all the tougher for the Wildcats after a starting forward was ejected 4 minutes in. He went off for 44 points, including an enormously clutch three from way downtown and about 4 on the shot clock to put Davidson up 4 with just over a minute to play. He's averaging almost 32/game on the season and he got shut out against Loyola MD (thanks to Jimmy Patsos being a colossal idiot). In the six games where his teammates haven't been playing 4-on-3, his average is near 37. He is, without question, the best guard in the country.

Davidson's win over NC State took down a previously unbeaten team, which was a relatively common sight this week. When we last checked in, 29 teams had made it through November unblemished. Since then, another 12 teams have suffered losses. With just 3 remaining, the ACC no longer leads the way (Big East, 4).

Of course, one of the 12 dropping their first contest this week was our own Duke Blue Devils. Duke split a Big 10 road trip, looking very impressive (especially on D) in a win over Purdue and looking rather unimpressive (especially on D) in a loss to Michigan. First, the good. The Purdue game was a "vintage" Duke win, in which the Devils completely took the opponents out of what they wanted to do on offense. Duke hounded Purdue into difficult two-point jumpers, forced turnovers, and cleaned up the misses. They also overcame foul trouble in general (an early 6-1 deficit in the second half) and to key players (Smith and Zoubek, both of whom were on the floor when Duke was playing the best). Duke's shooting was only so-so, but they relentlessly attacked the glass to create second shots and avoid empty possessions. Here's the HD Box from Purdue:

Against Michigan, by contrast, Duke let the Wolverines dictate the style of play, particularly when the Devils had the ball. Michigan offered up open look after open look from the 3-point line, and Duke indulged itself, taking 33 attempts. The vast, vast majority of these were good shots - really wide open looks, plenty of time to get squared, not from too deep, etc. However, like most indulgences, there are times when it's really not good for you, and yesterday was one of those times. Duke could only hit 7 of 33 attempts (and even that number is somewhat misleading - Duke at one point was 3 of 27). After a cold shooting first half (2 of 18 from three) Duke came out in the first few minutes of the second half and earnestly tried to get the ball inside against the zone. The results were poor, and they went back to taking (and missing) wide open threes. When the defense created stops and Michigan went man, the offense shredded it. Duke picked Michigan's man defense apart on the inside, hitting 75% from 2 on the game. But they simply could not figure out an effective way to get the ball inside against the 1-3-1, and on a night when the shots were not falling it cost them.

Of course, even with the poor shooting, Duke was right there at the end. But the defense simply could not come up with necessary stops in the end game. After Duke led 53-50 Michigan went on a key 12-4 run over a 7 possession stretch and then finished with aplomb, hitting their final three field goals and 13 of 14 from the line in closing time. In all, Michigan scored on 15 of the game's final 18 possessions. That kind of finish will win a ball game just about any time.

Around the ACC

The ACC won yet another ACC/Big 10 challenge, although it did not look impressive in doing so (aside from UNC, Duke, and Wake, who all shredded their respective opponents). Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Miami failed to hold the home court, FSU dropped a game by 14 to Northwestern (eek!), and Virginia, well, played bad. In a year where it looked like another 8-9 win week was in the offing, coming out 6-5 has to be considered a bit of a disappointment.

Several of the losing teams have already had the chance to bounce back (at least in a manner of speaking). Most notable was FSU, which beat Florida in a 57-55 brawl. Jordan Demercy hit some key threes and Solomon Alabi turned in his best performance of the year as the 'Noles assert state-school dominance in the Sunshine State. Virginia Tech held off a game Navy squad in the opening game of the BB&T (which Maryland closed out with a more emphatic win against GW), and Georgia Tech took down Vanderbilt by 12. Finally, Miami took to Rupp Arena and knocked off Kentucky by 9. The Wildcats may be down this year, but wins in Rupp are always good for the soul. Miami does have cause to be concerned, however, as Tuesday's loss to tOSU exposed how reliant the 'Canes are on Jack McClinton. If he's off (or if he decides to hit someone again) Miami could be in trouble.

ACC team and player stats are updated in the links to the right. Duke stats are still very outdated - I'll work on that for next weekend.

1 comment:

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