This week on Twitter, we used our account @dukebasketball to ask people if they had any questions they would like the Chronicle’s men’s basketball beat writers to try and answer.
We thank everybody for their questions, and here are three questions and our responses.
@EvilEmpireinAla asked, “@dukebasketball #askchron biggest Duke loss in history? 86 v. Louisville? 87 v. Uconn? Something else? And biggest win ever? 91 UNLV? Other?”
Scott Rich: This is certainly a tough one, but I’m going to have to go with the 2004 loss to Connecticut in the Final Four. Duke led most of the game, but squandered a late nine-point lead thanks to an inspired effort from the Huskies’ center, Emeka Okafor. The biggest story was the officiating, though, which resulted in Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph and Nick Horvath all fouling out for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski was reportedly so mad that at one point he turned to an official and said, “You cheated us.”
The 2004 squad was also possibly one of the more underrated in recent Duke history, boasting not only the dynamic duo of Williams and J.J. Reddick, but also Daniel Ewing, Chris Duhon and Sean Dockery.
As for biggest win, I am going to go with a modern one: 2011 against North Carolina at home. The game is quickly becoming known as “The Comeback” on campus, and should live on as one of the greatest games in the greatest rivalry in college basketball.
Andrew Beaton: I agree Scott—those are two of the first ones that came to mind. But, a win and a loss to the same team also rate among the most important in program history. In the 1990 championship game, the Blue Devils took on UNLV and head coach Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian. But, the Phil Henderson-led team was crushed by the Runnin’ Rebels 103-73, a historically large margin for a championship game. Following the blowout loss, Krzyzewski saw Tarkanian again in the next season’s Final Four. UNLV had a star crew led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. But, the Christian Laetnner and Grant Hill-led squad exacted their revenge with a 79-77 victory win, taking the Blue Devils to the 1991 championship game. They won their next game 72-65 over Kansas to secure Krzyzewski’s first title for the program.
@nellyson asked, “@dukebasketball #askchron do you think we should stick more with pounding the boards with the big men or stay with our live or die 3pt attck
Andrew Beaton: Sitting courtside during Duke’s loss to Florida State, it was clear that Duke needs to feed the post more. Nearly every half-court set, Mason Plumlee jockeyed for position in the paint, even at points yelling for the ball when the guards failed to pass it inside. His frustration on the court was obvious, and rightfully so—the guards sometimes focus too much on their own games and neglect to remember how the interior offense can open up the offense behind the arc. Although Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers can be great 3-point shooters, relying solely on that can be dangerous. Mason has shown he has developed his post moves a great deal this season, and deserves more touches with his 61.0 field-goal percentage.
Scott Rich: I agree 100 percent, Andrew. I have never been a fan of a “live by the three, die by the three” offense, and this year’s team might be just as reliant on the 3-point shot as any team in the nation. Meanwhile, Mason Plumlee has shown the ability to be a dominant post scorer when he gets touches, especially with his newly refined hook shot that is nearly unblockable. The guards will always be the Blue Devils’ best scoring options, but they are also much easier to key on defensively. Its much harder to defend against a solid post scorer, especially without leaving those 3-point shooters open.
Don’t forget about Ryan Kelly in this argument as well. Kelly has shown an ability to take advantage of mismatches against slower forwards using his spin move or pulling up for mid-range jumpers. Kelly looked like Duke’s best player on the international trip and early in the season but has been less aggressive of late. He is the one player who can cause problems no matter what the opposing team’s defense, and needs to get back to being a primary scoring option.
@2010MissPA asked, “@dukebasketball Going into the tournament, what is Duke going to do to beat out teams like FSU that have really tight defenses? #askchron”
Scott Rich: The answer to this question really depends on what is meant by “tight.” Against great perimeter defenses, Duke needs to make more of a committed effort to feed the ball to Mason Plumlee in the post, given his increased array of post moves this year and his improved free throw shooting of late. Ryan Kelly can also create mismatches against nearly any defense and needs to be a bigger point of emphasis in these type of situations.
Florida State, though, was a team that was solid defensively across the board. And if a team can take away both the 3-point shot and the Plumlees down low, the best (and often only) way to create offense is through penetration. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Austin Rivers, and to a lesser extent Quinn Cook if he reclaims his spot in the rotation when completely healthy. Even if Rivers and Cook can’t score themselves, their ability to get into the paint and draw help defense can get their teammates open against nearly any defense. This will require both players, particularly Rivers, to work on their court awareness and passing ability, but it can be done.
Andrew Beaton: What really defines Florida State is how they make a team grind on every offensive possession, truly earning every bucket. The key to beating that, sometimes, is just working harder on every possession on both sides of the ball to force them to use just as much energy. At the same time, different lineups can be good at creating confusion among defenders. I agree that Kelly can be a great asset for opening up defenses, while putting in a look of both Plumlee brothers can force an opponent’s hand on the interior, as both are elite rebounders. In the end, though, it is difficult to blame the Blue Devil offense for how they played against Florida State. Duke cannot allow an opponent to make 18-of-27 shots and expect to win, as they did in the second half againt the Seminoles. It was more of a defensive shortcoming, rather than an offensive one.
@Trudat11 asked, “@dukebasketball how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? #askchron”
Andrew Beaton: We have Chronicle research assistants investigating this as we speak.