Monthly Archives: January 2012

The State Of Duke Baketball (And My Liver)

(Note: I wrote the vast majority of this column before the Maryland game. I argue down below that the offense is better when we don’t throw it down low to Mason Plumlee. After he turned into a stud-muffin last night and literally won the game with his superior post play, I was forced to reevaluate everything that I wrote. However, I think it still holds up for the most part. The guards do stand around and the offense grinds to a halt when they feed him down low, and maybe that had something to do with everyone else’s poor play. Still, a win is a win, and that win was because of the offense running through Mason Plumlee.)

Duke’s first five games in the ACC have taken fans on an emotional roller coaster ride like no season that I can remember. Georgia Tech upset us because we couldn’t put away a vastly inferior opponent and make a statement after the painful loss to Temple. Virginia gave us some of our confidence back because we knew how tough they would be and watched our guys fight hard and come out victorious. Clemson brought us back to the same feelings we had about the Yellow Jackets as Duke built a lead and failed to execute down the stretch against a vulnerable team. The Wake Forest game brought back memories of teams of old as streaky 3-point shooting and a roaring crowd led Duke to crush the Demon Deacons. And then Florida State brought us crashing back down to earth as they used their always tough defense and found some hot scoring to end the home winning streak and once again make us question the viability of this Duke team as a contender. There is an unfortunate pattern emerging as this season matures. EVERYONE seems to be shooting over 50% against Duke. Because of this, there are a host of teams that are going to have a shot at beating the Blue Devils with a simple formula: play good enough perimeter defense so that Duke guards don’t score their way to an insurmountable lead, and provided that you have a few players who can score when given the opportunity, you will have a shot to win at the end.

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Podcast, Episode 1: Predictions

Hey guys, I just got some new audio equipment, and I’m psyched to present my first ever podcast: Predictions. I think you can listen at the link below. I’m still figuring this out. Leave comments if you agree with my predictions.

My Song 2

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ACC Defensive Charting: The Good (BC and Miami), The Bad (FSU), and the Ugly (Still FSU)

I’ve been charting every Carolina defensive possession since the 2004-05 season. This concept, aided by Luke Winn’s terrific Sports Illustrated piece, is finally getting some national attention. It’s a great way to measure individual defensive contributions and to see who’s making consistently timely and effective help-side rotations (the backbone of Roy Williams’s- and virtually any– defensive system). Click on the Winn link to read a little more about the charting process. (And here’s a piece by David Hess with even more on defensive charting.)

Some definitions:

FG-FGA: the made field goals and field goal attempts that a player is responsible for (both as a primary and help defender)– same for 3Pt-A and FT-FTA
Pts All.: the number of opponents’ points that a defender is responsible for allowing
TOF: forced turnovers (including offensive fouls drawn (OFD))
Defl.: deflections
DR (ORA): defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds allowed
Denies: when a player can deny an opponent or force an offensive reset by making a strong individual defensive play (of the type that doesn’t force a turnover or missed shot– i.e., wouldn’t otherwise show up in the defensive box score)

Defensive Box Score vs. Boston College

Player FG-FGA 3Pt-A FT-FTA Pts All. TOF (OFD) Defl. Floor burns DR (ORA) Denies
Marshall  1-4 1-4 0-0 3 2.5 (0) 5 1 1 (0)  2
Strickland 1-2 0-1 0-0 2 4 (0) 6 2 2 (0) 3
Barnes 3-7 1-5 1-1 8 4.5 (0) 8 1 4 (0) 0
Henson 6-14 1-5 1-2 14 3 (0) 6 0 6 (2) 0
Zeller 0.5-8.5 0.5-1.5 0-2 1.5 4 (0) 2 0 6 (1) 1
Bullock 0.5-0.5 0-0 0-0 1 2 (0) 1 0 5 (0) 0
McAdoo 3-6 0.5-1.5 0-0 6.5 0 (0) 0 1 4 (1) 0
Hairston 3-5 1-3 1-4 8 0 (0) 0 0 1 (1) 1
Watts 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 (0) 2 2 0 (0) 0
Simmons 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 (0) 0 0 0 (1) 0
Hubert 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 (0) 0 0 1 (0) 0
Dupont 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 (0) 0 0 0 (0) 0
White 1-1 0-0 0-0 2 0 (0) 0 0 0 (0) 0
Team 5-7 4-6 0-0 14 0 (0) 0 0 0 (1) 0
Totals  24-57 9-27 3-9 60 20 (0) 30 7 30 (7) 7

Boston College Shooting by Level of Contestedness:

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TRB is traveling

But not like John Henson trying to make a post move. We’re off the rest of this week, for the most part. Apologies!

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Do the Evolution

Note: all numbers in this piece do not include the Boston College game– only the Heels’ 15 non-conference contests.

With the non-conference slate now in the rear-view mirror (OK, OK, enough with the Pearl Jam references already) and ACC season nearly upon us, let’s take a few minutes to analyze how Carolina’s returning players have evolved as scorers.

Harrison Barnes

 Year (Class)
 %Min. ORating %Poss. %Shots eFG% TS% FTRate OR% DR% St% Bl%
 2011 (FR) 73.2 105.8 25.0 29.3 49.0 52.2 24.9 7.2 12.8 1.4 1.4
 2012 (SO) 65.0 114.2 26.0 29.2 53.7 57.1 38.1 7.9 9.7 2.0 1.4

The numbers is the above table are pulled from Ken Pomeroy’s terrific site (well worth the $20 annual subscription). For those unfamiliar with the metrics that he employs, here’s a primer. As one might expect, Barnes’s offensive efficiency (representing by his ORating) has dramatically improved so far as a sophomore. While on the floor, he’s using nearly an identical percentage of the team’s possessions/shots as last season– he’s just doing so in a more efficient manner. One reason is the spike in FTRate. Barnes is now earning 38 trips to the stripe for every 100 field goals he attempts– up significantly from last year’s 25. To examine some other reasons for Barnes’s improved scoring efficiency, let’s take a look at some charting data that I collected. %FGA can be interpreted as the percentage of a player’s total field goal attempts that fall within a given category of shot (e.g., 29.0% of Barnes’s attempts this season have been close shots). FG% is just a standard shooting percentage.

How Barnes Scores: A Comparison between 2011 and 2012

2011 2012
 Type of Shot %FGA FG% %FGA FG%
Close (lay-ups/dunks) 24.3 62.8 29.0 76.4
5-10 feet 10.5 34.6 15.3 37.9
10-20 feet 26.0 38.0 35.3 31.3
3-pointers 39.2 34.4 20.5 48.7
Dunks 4.2 90.5 10.5 100.0
Lay-ups 20.1 57.0 18.4 62.9
Close: off-dribble 8.9 56.8 12.6 75.0
Floaters 9.7 37.5 9.5 44.4
Mid-range: off-dribble 17.1 37.6 28.4 29.6
Mid-range: catch-and-shoot 2.4 58.3 3.7 42.9
Turnaround jumpers 4.4 31.8 7.4 21.4
2nd-chance/putbacks 9.5 57.4 7.9 53.3
Weak hand 3.4 70.6 2.6 60.0
“And 1s” 4.0 75.0* 6.3 66.7*
* This represents the percentage of (old-fashioned) 3-point plays converted.

It’s no surprise that Barnes’s rate of 3-point attempts has dropped dramatically as a sophomore (from 39.2% of all attempts as a FR to 20.5% this year). So where are those extra attempts being taken? Continue reading

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It Never Stops Mattering

Thing former athletes get over the mistakes they make on a big stage? Ask Dan Dakich.

In 1984, Dakich threw up in his hotel room when Bobby Knight told him he’d be guarding Michael Jordan in the Sweet 16. But he did a great job, and Indiana knocked off the defending national champions. As he says in the clip above, though, he hurt his team with a costly turnover two nights later in a 2-point elite 8 loss against Virginia.

I have a piece going up about the game later on Grantland, but I thought this was a rare and fascinating insight into the athlete’s mind. All those years later, it still stings. You can hear it in the details- “On my dad’s birthday.”

And it should come to no surprise that while Dakich still thinks about the worst game of his life, Jordan still thinks about Dakich’s best. The great and mediocre alike never forget.

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Temple of Doom?: What Wednesday’s Loss Tells us About Duke

I was stunned after the Ohio State loss. The Duke players were tired, having come off of a dramatic victory in Maui and lots of travel. Then they ran into a buzz saw at Value City Arena in Columbus. That home crowd was fired up and all of the OSU players were playing as well as they possibly could. The way that Krzyzewski coached, and the way that the players watched with bewilderment as Ohio State played the perfect game, led me to believe that it was an anomaly. Was Duke exposed? Not really. They were exposed to the fact that a talented team who plays a perfect game is going to beat anyone. I was sure that this would be a teaching moment that would humble this team and cause them to focus on defensive tenacity and offensive chemistry. Instead Duke came back from the break and limped into the Temple game, clearly viewing it as a final tune-up before they went into conference play.

How, you may ask, can I suggest that Duke “limped” when they won games by an average score of 95-63? Turnovers. Duke turned the ball over 18 times against a UNC Greensboro team that has only won 2 games. Then they turned it over 15 times against WMU and 12 against Penn. Maybe those are good defenses, you say? According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, UNCG is 295th, WMU is 161st and Penn is 178th. The 295th (out of 345) best defense in the country managed to turn Duke over 18 times. The Penn game looks the best with “only” 12, but they still gave the ball over to the 178th ranked defense in Division-I 12 times. In case you were wondering, Duke turned Penn over 13 times, so they squeaked out a victory in that turnover battle by a margin of one.

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Cumulative UNC +/- Stats through 15 Games

With the non-conference portion of the schedule behind us, it seems like an appropriate time for a cumulative +/- report (sorry for my gross negligence in keeping up with the game-by-game reports on here).

Let’s start with an individual player breakdown:

Player Min Pts-Pts All (Net) Off Eff Def Eff Net Eff Off OnC/OffC Def OnC/OffC Net OnC/OffC
Zeller 385.6 854-605 (+249) 120.6 86.4 +34.2 +9.5 +6.9 +16.4
Henson 410.5 896-657 (+239) 117.7 86.0 +31.7 +2.3 +9.3 +11.6
Marshall 452.0 1001-747 (+254) 119.9 89.9 +30.0 +11.0 -3.2 +7.8
Barnes 392.9 868-647 (+221) 117.4 87.7 +29.7 +1.1 +3.8 +4.9
Bullock 274.0 626-464 (+162) 119.6 89.1 +30.5 +4.8 -0.1 +4.7
TEAM 600.0 1321-1003 (+318) 117.0 89.0 +28.0 * * *
Hairston 194.0 444-344 (+100) 122.3 94.9 +27.4 +7.8 -8.7 -0.9
McAdoo 213.9 474-366 (+108) 117.3 90.4 +26.9 +0.5 -2.1 -1.6
Strickland 380.1 793-616 (+177) 113.5 88.3 +25.2 -9.4 +2.0 -7.4
Watts 90.4 207-166 (+41) 115.6 96.8 +18.8 -1.6 -9.2 -10.8

As a reminder:

Off Eff: the points scored per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Def Eff: the points allowed per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Net Eff: Off Eff – Def Eff
Off OnC/OffC: offensive on-court/off-court rating– how many points better (+) or worse (-) per 100 possessions the team is offensively with a given player on the court (as compared to the minutes with him on the bench)
Def OnC/OffC: defensive on-court/off-court rating– how many points better (+) or worse (-) per 100 possessions the team is defensively with a given player on the court
Net OnC/OffC: net on-court/off-court rating– Off OnC/OffC + Def OnC/OffC

So, from an on-court/off-court perspective, Marshall has been UNC’s most valuable (read: irreplaceable) offensive player, Henson its most valuable defensive player, and Zeller its most valuable overall player (followed by Henson and Marshall). Barnes and Bullock round out the top 5 for net on-court/off-court. With Strickland on the floor, UNC has been slightly better on the defensive end, but much worse offensively. With Hairston on the court, the Heels have been much better on the offensive end, but significantly poorer while defending. Say what you will about +/- (I’ll say it: it’s noisy as hell), but, to me, that looks like a pretty accurate reflection of reality after 15 games.

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The Hell is Almost Over – Bring on ACC Play!

(First – Grantland piece up today about Virginia basketball. Are they the new Third Team in the ACC?)

I don’t know about you dudes and dudettes, but I’m finding it harder and harder to take pleasure in late December/early January basketball as I get older. Which is totally selfish and unfair, because the college basketball season is at least 75 percent awesome, as the following mathematical ‘chart’ illustrates:

25%November, early December – Awesome, and Fun

25%Mid-December to early January – Horrible

25%Conference play – Awesome, and Tense

25%Postseason play – Beyond Awesome, and Terrifying

And this little rough patch is more like 10% than 25%, so I shouldn’t moan. But I can’t help but envy the Big Ten, which has had awesome conference games for a week now. Meanwhile, Duke’s playing Greensboro, and Penn, and Western Michigan, and Temple, and every game is like a week apart. UNC is on a similar path. I know that’ll change when Cuse and Pitt come aboard, but I can’t wait. Sorry, but it’s too much to ask of entitled fans. We deserve more.

But tonight, it ends. This is the last game against a crap opponent where we’ll have to watch Miles Plumlee and Tyler Thornton get praised to high heavens by an announcer who is seemingly unaware that they’re both about to become irrelevant. Because after this…


Here’s the schedule for the weekend.


No. 3 Duke at Georgia Tech
Boston College at No. 4 UNC (NEVER FORGET LAST YEAR!)
Miami at No. 4 Virginia (Weirdly, I’m pretty psyched about this game.)
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (snooze.)
Florida State at Clemson (also a very intriguing game.)


Maryland at N.C. State (again, weirdly excited to see what happens here.)

It’s all gravy from here. This is the best, best, best time of year. And I know I can make it there. I spent most of my childhood suffering through church, so there’s no reason I can’t spend one night suffering through Temple.

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WTF is a Hoosier?!?: Growing up as a Duke Fan in Basketball-Crazy Indiana

Growing up as a basketball fan in Indiana, it was all about the Hoosiers in the ’90s. Purdue had some strong teams, particularly with Glenn Robinson, but seeing as their only “championship” was awarded retroactively to John Wooden’s team in 1932 when the leather belt was still a standard part of the uniform, no one took them very seriously. There was a well-known joke among Indiana fans that went: “Why does Gene Keady only play 14 holes of golf?.. Because he can’t find the Final Four!” (Rimshot!) IU was the team who could claim the last undefeated season with Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner and Scott May. IU was the team who rode Isiah Thomas to victory over Dean Smith’s Tar Heels in 1981. IU had Steve Alford and “The Shot” by Keith Smart in 1987 to beat Syracuse. Bobby Knight could do no wrong. (I guess you could say that he is still given impunity. In fact, people here still resent Neil Reed for having the audacity to report that the man choked him.)This was everyone’s team.

After some fielding excellent squads in the early 1990’s led by Calbert Cheaney, Damon Bailey, Alan Henderson and Brian Evans, the relative failures of the teams that followed seemed to suggest that IU basketball was on the decline. Year after year they were losing to higher seeds in the NCAA tournament; and year after year Indiana’s best high school players were leaving the state so that they wouldn’t have to play for the demanding Knight. I always liked IU. I watched the games with my dad and wanted them to succeed, but I never fully connected with the team. I was gravitating towards the exciting group in blue and white that was always playing on ESPN.

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