Learning to Love: Duke/FSU

As the title of this post suggests, I’m in a particularly pleasant mood this morning. Duke beat Florida State last night 74-66 and gained some sort of revenge for the earlier loss. They are now in position to go undefeated on the road in the ACC for the first time since the 1999/2000 team. It has been an up and down year, but at this point it is clear that Duke has beaten their expectations. For example at the beginning of the year resident Duke expert Shane Ryan wrote on Grantland.com that “If I had to guess Duke’s fate, I’d say 11-5 in the ACC, good for second place, an ACC tournament title (after Carolina tanks in the first round), and a Sweet 16 exit.” Mark Titus’s picked Duke as the ACC’s most overrated team in his preview.

There have been times this year where those type of predictions looked prescient. I don’t know many Duke fans that were expecting much after the loss to Temple. At their worst this Duke team can be an unatheltic, poorly constructed (no point guard) team that relies too much on the 3. However, today isn’t a day to think about what Duke isn’t, but instead it is time to celebrate what they are.

1) Duke is a well-balanced team – Five players score between 9.9 and 15.2 points per game.

2) Duke shoots the ball well – As a team they have a three point shooting percentage of 39.2%, which includes three regular players (Rivers, Kelly and Dawkins) who shoot better than 40%. Last night Duke’s 3 point shot created 1.39 points per shot, while inside the arc Duke only created 0.75 points per shot.

3) Duke is a resilient team – If the wins against UNC and NC State weren’t proof then maybe look at how this team plays on the road. Last night I had very little doubt that Duke would play an excellent game because I had seen them do the same thing at Virginia Tech, at Boston College, at UNC and at Maryland. This team plays well on the road and doesn’t seem to give up when down by double digits. (Now the pessimist in me might worry about them being down by double digits to teams like NC State and Miami (FL), but that is for another post).

4) Duke is a talented team – Sometimes this can be overlooked about this current Duke team. Maybe they don’t have the level of talent of a team like the 1998/1999 Duke team or this year’s UNC team, which has four projected lottery picks according to nbadraft.net. Still this team has talent. Miles and Mason Plumlee are two very athletic big man and the rest of the team are all very talented shooters. Sometimes shooting can be discounted when talking about talent, but I think that the skill level shooting the ball should be in consideration when judging whether or not a player like Andre Dawkins is talented.

5) Duke has one of the best resumes in college basketball.  They are 4-1 against top 10 RPI teams with zero of those 4 wins being at Cameron. Overall they are 6-4 against top 25 RPI teams. UNC on the other hand is 1-2 against top 10 RPI teams and 2-4 against top 25 RPI teams. Duke’s two best true road wins were at UNC and at Florida State. UNC’s two best true road wins were at Miami (FL) and at NC State.

I’m starting to really like this Duke team. I am starting to get over the fact that they aren’t the type of team that I’m normally used to. Also, the almost nightly flip-flop between being the best player on the court to being the worst is fine as long as either Mason Plumlee or Andre Dawkins decide that at least one of them will have a good night. (Can you imagine a team with Mason Plumlee from the Maryland road game and Andre Dawkins from last night? Would that team lose to anyone? Or what about Mason Plumlee last night and Andre Dawkins from the Maryland road game? Would that team beat Binghamton?) Maybe UNC is still the best team in the ACC and will most likely win the rematch in Cameron. Still it is exciting to watch this team because they are fun and interesting to follow. Instead of looking at their faults, I would rather think about the positives. By doing that maybe I can learn to love watching this team.

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2 Responses to Learning to Love: Duke/FSU

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  1. sanfransoxfan says:

    I’m still nursing my hangover from last year. Best chance for an undefeated season since ’99 before losing Kyrie, and Nolan and Kyle are on my all time fav’s team. That said, this year’s team is quirky, weird, and incredibly entertaining. They could lose in the first round, they could go to the Final Four. Not many teams can you say that about!

  2. And then near-500 VT takes them to OT at home.

    Sigh!

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