Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blue Devil's Corner: Duke vs. Kansas in Maui Final

Someone is getting comfortable...which spells trouble for Duke's oppenents.

Michigan (#15) put up a nice fight against Duke (#6) on Tuesday night and the final score looks pretty good for them, but if you watched the game even with Michigan making some runs in the second half Duke was pretty dominant in their 82-75 win.  Austin Rivers looked like a star last night, he had struggled to finish at the basket up to this point in his freshman season but last night had his floater going and hit a couple nice momentum crushing threes just when Michigan seemed to be making a run.  Michigan is a team that like Duke, relies on the three point shot but only shot 33% from deep as Duke shot 52%, which was probably the difference in the game.

Duke did a magnificent job defending Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr., the leader of the Wolverines had 0 points in the first half while being face guarded by Austin Rivers and Tyler Thornton.  This was a big achievement for Duke, who many, including myself, had doubted had the great perimeter defense Duke usually exhibits. 

Bright Spots -

Scoring Variety -
Duke scored in a lot of ways with a lot of players.  4 players in double figures: Rivers 20, Kelly 17, Curry 17 and Dawkins 14 was a great sign of Duke's versatility offensively.  Mason Plumlee's scoring wasn't needed but on the three shot attempts he took he made all three, which is a good sign.

Curry/Dawkins Shooting -
Both of these guys are obviously great shooters, but this year they look to be possibly even better than before.  The other key I see is that they now have an even more green "green light" to let it fly whenever in comparison to last year.  Dawkins in particular, who last night went 5-12 from the floor and 4-9 from three.  Dawkins right now is running off a lot of screens in an almost side offense that is like a JJ Redick Light.  He is running off the screens like Redick used to for Duke but isn't the complete focus of the offense like Redick was.  Dawkins is so good shooting coming off the screens though I see this being a huge weapon moving forward as his confidence grows.

More Rivers -
Already you can see Rivers is maturing.  There is less pouting, less complaining to refs and more quality play out of the talented freshman.  Now obviously this was a good game for him in which he didn't have much to complain about.  Yet, one play after a turnover he hustled back and played defense and made what would've been an easy lay up a contested one.  During the China trip after turnovers Rivers was more concerned with complaining or hanging his head after turnovers and wouldn't hustle back.  That change is just one sign K is already making headway with Rivers.  Another is Rivers on the drive looking for the kick out to Curry and Dawkins.  Though Rivers still forced some shots in the lane last night, he did find Curry on one particular drive and kick that I think could be a sneak peek at a play that could be a "go to" for Duke moving forward.  It is obvious that Rivers can get to the rim whenever he wants, that will draw a lot of attention and getting him comfortable kicking the ball out when that attention is shown by the defense to open shooters will be yet another dangerous weapon for Duke.

Negatives -

Miles...Miles....MILES!!! -
What the heck is wrong with Miles Plumlee?  Honestly, the kid seems to have a heart attack when he gets the ball in the post.  Settle down dude!  He seems to end more Duke possessions than everyone else combined with bonehead plays, fouls and turnovers.  Duke needs Miles to start playing smarter and staying out of foul trouble and out of K's doghouse.  Mason and Kelly can do great things, but Miles is so physically talented that he needs to come in and not hurt the team with his presence because his athleticism will allow him to make some great plays for Duke if he just doesn't let his head screw it up first.   Your a senior Miles, stop making freshman mistakes.

See you next year Quinn Cook? -
The kid just doesn't look ready.  He isn't making plays (outside of his nice alley oop to Mason in the first half) and really is only seeing the court at this point because Tyler Thornton is a hacker and can't stay on the floor more than 15 minutes without fouling out.  I fear that if Thornton settles down his fouling habit we may not see much of Cook barring injury until his sophomore campaign.  You have to hope that his ego allows his sophomore campaign to be at Duke, as he was a highly recruited PG and probably he expected to get at least the backup spot over Thornton. If he wants to see time in ACC play he will need to make the most of the small amounts of minutes he gets to earn more.

Tyler Thornton is a hack -
I understand that Thornton's role on this team is to come off the bench and play super aggressive defense for every minute he is in there and on offense just facilitate others.  But he needs to learn to play super aggressive defense without reaching.  Turnovers will come with great pressure you don't have to reach for the ball and get silly fouls a long ways away from the bucket like Tyler does.  If Quinn Cook ever does shake off his freshman jitters and starts letting his talent carry him Tyler maybe the one seeing more of the bench as he is definitely not as gifted offensively as Cook and if his aggressive D is just leading to lots of fouls and putting opponents in the bonus early than Cook may steal the backup PG role.  Thornton does have on his side though the fact that right now the offense seems to run very well with him facilitating and making smart decisions, but he needs to stop fouling so much to stay on the court. 

All in all I think it was Duke's best game this year and I am nitpicking on three bench players who will obviously have flaws as they are bench players.  I think Duke should beat a rebuilding yet still dangerous Kansas team tonight and remain undefeated in Maui.  Here are some things to watch tonight:

- Does Mason stop dribbling so much and make a quick move for buckets in the post?

- Will Austin be willing to kick it to open shooters when the defense collapses on his drive?

- Will Tyler Thornton shut down the overrated Tyshawn Taylor when guarding him? (hint..yes...Taylor sucks)

- Will Miles stop playing like a buffoon?

- Will Quinn Cook stop playing like a scared freshman and start playing like a talented freshman?

- Will Duke blow out a team instead of allowing them to stay within striking distance?  (still haven't exhibited the killer instinct to put teams away)

Enjoy the game and Happy Thanksgiving!

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