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  1. #1
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    Ryan Kelly, "The Bridge" That Spanned "The Gap"

    Since walking out of the Greensboro Coliseum 6 nights ago, taunted, cursed, and heckled by the worst of the worst UNC fans (All 15K+ of them), I have been searching for a word to describe the revelation I experienced. "Cog", "Cornerstone", "Linchpin", etc. 6 days later, having given it much thought, I still did not find the word I was looking for, so I settled on "Bridge". Forgive me if it does not accurately capture what I am ultimately trying to portray with this thread.

    On the ride home, having watched the 3rd of 3 Duke games without Ryan Kelly in the lineup in person, it hit me upside the head like a brick, that I had missed something with this team all year long. Silly me. I authored one of the Phase threads, totally missing this key point. Wrote numerous other posts on this team, totally missing this point. Yeah, everyone and their mother knew this team had a problem in trying to replace Kyle Singler at Small Forward, Wing Forward (hey K does not have positions bonehead). Position defined or not, we all knew it was a gap. Which it was. No rocket science there. However, it was not "The Gap". As Mr Sumner so eloquently reminded us earlier tonight in another thread, Duke has won and won big playing 3 guards before. Those teams though, all had very versatile "forwards" to bridge the gap I am speaking of, between the true bigs and the true guards. The bigs on those team had help in the paint on both ends. This year, the Plumlee's had Ryan Kelly and no one else. One guy. Very versatile of course, but not great at guarding small forwards that took him outside like he did big guys on the other end. Still, Ryan was the one guy.

    Ironically, earlier in the week preceding the Lehigh game, a good friend of mind at work who is a UNC grad, commented to me, "You know, the Plumlee's take way too much heat. They are not bad players at all. In fact, I view them as good players with Mason being a really good player. They just don't have any help. They are on the floor with 3 shrimps all night". I commented that he was correct, and we had a great discussion regarding the position the Kelly injury had put Duke in.

    I love Duke hoops obviously, but watching the guys play without Kelly was downright painful. So disconnected, disjointed, like trying to put together a puzzle without the corner piece. 2 Centers in Mason and Miles, trying to play with very small guards in Seth, Tyler, Austin, Andre and Cook. Foul! You cry! Andre is 6'5 and Austin is 6'5! Yeah, but how tall did they play? Do you see them as Forwards or Guards? Did they play like Forwards or Guards? I think the obvious answer is guards. Neither were great at mixing it up in the paint. Maybe they should be better at that, but that's not really my point here. Not to leave him out, Josh had some shining moments while Ryan was out, he just struggled with his jumper and could not stretch the defense like Kelly. I hope the experience bodes well for Josh down the road. The shame of it, is all of those guys are good players in their own right. Together though, without Kelly, they were dysfunctional.

    With Murph RedShirting, and Gbinije needing more time to develop, the only true "forward" this team had was Ryan Kelly. Ryan Kelly was the bridge that glued the Plums and the Guards together, and K did a wonderful job finding a way to take that one forward and make it work. With Ryan Kelly, 26-5, Maui champs, 2nd in the ACC, 8-0 on the ACC Road, with wins over Michigan, Kansas, Mich St, UNC, FSU, all away from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor. Without Ryan Kelly: 1-2 with a loss to some school named Lehigh.
    Time and time again, Mason and Miles (and Kelly during the season) would battle in the paint with other bigs, and in comes flying an opponents 6-7/6-8 forward to steal a rebound, followup dunk, block a shot, etc. Once Kelly went down, and it was just Miles and Mason, the bridge was gone. Everything down to a simple pass became more difficult to execute. Defenses packed it in against Mason, cut off driving lanes for Austin and Seth, and hedged hard on the perimeter with the threat of pick and pop gone. Ryan was just critical to this team. Way more critical than I realized most of the season.

    This is ending up longer than I had intended, but allow me just a few more thoughts. Imagine this team with Mason/Miles at the 5, Kelly/Tony Lang at the 4, Brian Davis/Andre at the 3, and everything else the same. Think Mason isn't a beast with that kind of help? How good is that team defensively and offensively?


    At the end of the day, "bridge" is probably the wrong word. Feel free to pick a better one. I just know now that Kelly was key. Losing him derailed the season. I don't know how far Duke would have went in either tourney if Kelly never goes down, I just know now, without him, they were doomed to go home early.

    "[T]he tarnished Tar Heels that bear little resemblance to the revered program built by Dean Smith."- Ashville Times
    "UNC and the NCAA are trying to conceal that the fraud was specifically designed to pad the transcripts of varsity athletes" - Bloomberg

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Newton_14 View Post
    Since walking out of the Greensboro Coliseum 6 nights ago, taunted, cursed, and heckled by the worst of the worst UNC fans (All 15K+ of them), I have been searching for a word to describe the revelation I experienced. "Cog", "Cornerstone", "Linchpin", etc. 6 days later, having given it much thought, I still did not find the word I was looking for, so I settled on "Bridge". Forgive me if it does not accurately capture what I am ultimately trying to portray with this thread.

    On the ride home, having watched the 3rd of 3 Duke games without Ryan Kelly in the lineup in person, it hit me upside the head like a brick, that I had missed something with this team all year long. Silly me. I authored one of the Phase threads, totally missing this key point. Wrote numerous other posts on this team, totally missing this point. Yeah, everyone and their mother knew this team had a problem in trying to replace Kyle Singler at Small Forward, Wing Forward (hey K does not have positions bonehead). Position defined or not, we all knew it was a gap. Which it was. No rocket science there. However, it was not "The Gap". As Mr Sumner so eloquently reminded us earlier tonight in another thread, Duke has won and won big playing 3 guards before. Those teams though, all had very versatile "forwards" to bridge the gap I am speaking of, between the true bigs and the true guards. The bigs on those team had help in the paint on both ends. This year, the Plumlee's had Ryan Kelly and no one else. One guy. Very versatile of course, but not great at guarding small forwards that took him outside like he did big guys on the other end. Still, Ryan was the one guy.

    Ironically, earlier in the week preceding the Lehigh game, a good friend of mind at work who is a UNC grad, commented to me, "You know, the Plumlee's take way too much heat. They are not bad players at all. In fact, I view them as good players with Mason being a really good player. They just don't have any help. They are on the floor with 3 shrimps all night". I commented that he was correct, and we had a great discussion regarding the position the Kelly injury had put Duke in.

    I love Duke hoops obviously, but watching the guys play without Kelly was downright painful. So disconnected, disjointed, like trying to put together a puzzle without the corner piece. 2 Centers in Mason and Miles, trying to play with very small guards in Seth, Tyler, Austin, Andre and Cook. Foul! You cry! Andre is 6'5 and Austin is 6'5! Yeah, but how tall did they play? Do you see them as Forwards or Guards? Did they play like Forwards or Guards? I think the obvious answer is guards. Neither were great at mixing it up in the paint. Maybe they should be better at that, but that's not really my point here. Not to leave him out, Josh had some shining moments while Ryan was out, he just struggled with his jumper and could not stretch the defense like Kelly. I hope the experience bodes well for Josh down the road. The shame of it, is all of those guys are good players in their own right. Together though, without Kelly, they were dysfunctional.

    With Murph RedShirting, and Gbinije needing more time to develop, the only true "forward" this team had was Ryan Kelly. Ryan Kelly was the bridge that glued the Plums and the Guards together, and K did a wonderful job finding a way to take that one forward and make it work. With Ryan Kelly, 26-5, Maui champs, 2nd in the ACC, 8-0 on the ACC Road, with wins over Michigan, Kansas, Mich St, UNC, FSU, all away from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor. Without Ryan Kelly: 1-2 with a loss to some school named Lehigh.
    Time and time again, Mason and Miles (and Kelly during the season) would battle in the paint with other bigs, and in comes flying an opponents 6-7/6-8 forward to steal a rebound, followup dunk, block a shot, etc. Once Kelly went down, and it was just Miles and Mason, the bridge was gone. Everything down to a simple pass became more difficult to execute. Defenses packed it in against Mason, cut off driving lanes for Austin and Seth, and hedged hard on the perimeter with the threat of pick and pop gone. Ryan was just critical to this team. Way more critical than I realized most of the season.

    This is ending up longer than I had intended, but allow me just a few more thoughts. Imagine this team with Mason/Miles at the 5, Kelly/Tony Lang at the 4, Brian Davis/Andre at the 3, and everything else the same. Think Mason isn't a beast with that kind of help? How good is that team defensively and offensively?


    At the end of the day, "bridge" is probably the wrong word. Feel free to pick a better one. I just know now that Kelly was key. Losing him derailed the season. I don't know how far Duke would have went in either tourney if Kelly never goes down, I just know now, without him, they were doomed to go home early.
    We certainly missed Kelly, but I am not sure I follow your logic. There was never a situation in which both Plumlees battled for the boards and then Kelly helped out. He wasn't a bridge, because he was one of the bigs.
    I do think you are onto something with your lineup. But not because of Kelly providing a bridge. It is because the two other guys you mention (Lang and Davis) are exactly the type of tall athletic forwards we lacked.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDu View Post
    We certainly missed Kelly, but I am not sure I follow your logic. There was never a situation in which both Plumlees battled for the boards and then Kelly helped out. He wasn't a bridge, because he was one of the bigs.
    I do think you are onto something with your lineup. But not because of Kelly providing a bridge. It is because the two other guys you mention (Lang and Davis) are exactly the type of tall athletic forwards we lacked.
    Sorry, did not mean to imply Kelly was ever on the floor with the Plums at the same time. I see now one part kind of read that way. My bad there.

    My overally point is Kelly was the guy that helped the guards function with the true bigs (Mason and Miles). Without Kelly there was no other forward that could help whether Mason or Miles were on the floor together or just one of them were in there. We made that work during the season when Kelly rested, but once he was not available at all, it did not work at all.

    Does that make better sense?

    "[T]he tarnished Tar Heels that bear little resemblance to the revered program built by Dean Smith."- Ashville Times
    "UNC and the NCAA are trying to conceal that the fraud was specifically designed to pad the transcripts of varsity athletes" - Bloomberg

  4. #4
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    Apr 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by Newton_14 View Post
    Sorry, did not mean to imply Kelly was ever on the floor with the Plums at the same time. I see now one part kind of read that way. My bad there.

    My overally point is Kelly was the guy that helped the guards function with the true bigs (Mason and Miles). Without Kelly there was no other forward that could help whether Mason or Miles were on the floor together or just one of them were in there. We made that work during the season when Kelly rested, but once he was not available at all, it did not work at all.

    Does that make better sense?
    A little more. Overall, the way the team played without him clearly showed significant problems on offense. Kelly not only spelled the Plumlees, he opened up the offense for the other players too. Ryan being on the floor meant the other team had to send a big out to guard him, which opened up the lane a lot for both the smalls to drive and the Plumlees to maneuver. Without him, the other team knew they could pack it in on the Plumlees, fronting them early, then play right up on our smalls late, knowing they would shoot a three and couldn't deliver the ball to the bigs. Looked a lot like what happened during the disastrous 94-95 season, which had a very similar configuration team.

  5. #5
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    Seems to me, offense is about mismatches. Mason had a great season and is a really good player, but he represented a mismatch for us only against teams with very small interiors. Miles too. Andre could be a mismatch when he got the ball a lot and was hitting shots, but neither of those things were true in the last few games of the year. Seth can be a mismatch, but usually not when being guarded by a taller perimeter defender. Tyler, nope. Quinn, not yet. Austin was often a mismatch for us, but not when two defenders sat on his right hand.

    So really, that leaves Ryan. Most PFs can't or won't follow him out to the perimeter, and if they do he has enough ballhandling ability to get by them until he's guarded by a smaller man he can shoot over. Very few, if any, teams we faced this year had the ability to guard Ryan from the outside-in.

    Once a mismatch is established, the opposing team needs to either let themselves be hurt by the mismatch, or double-team it, and either of these options turns all our other almost-mismatches into real mismatches, and all of a sudden we have a top-five offense. Without that initial advantage, we were fairly easy to defend. I think that's what happened in our last three games.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Newton_14 View Post
    Does that make better sense?
    Yes Newton...you're making me get kind of teary eyed.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by hq2 View Post
    A little more. Overall, the way the team played without him clearly showed significant problems on offense. Kelly not only spelled the Plumlees, he opened up the offense for the other players too. Ryan being on the floor meant the other team had to send a big out to guard him, which opened up the lane a lot for both the smalls to drive and the Plumlees to maneuver. Without him, the other team knew they could pack it in on the Plumlees, fronting them early, then play right up on our smalls late, knowing they would shoot a three and couldn't deliver the ball to the bigs. Looked a lot like what happened during the disastrous 94-95 season, which had a very similar configuration team.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kedsy View Post
    Seems to me, offense is about mismatches. Mason had a great season and is a really good player, but he represented a mismatch for us only against teams with very small interiors. Miles too. Andre could be a mismatch when he got the ball a lot and was hitting shots, but neither of those things were true in the last few games of the year. Seth can be a mismatch, but usually not when being guarded by a taller perimeter defender. Tyler, nope. Quinn, not yet. Austin was often a mismatch for us, but not when two defenders sat on his right hand.

    So really, that leaves Ryan. Most PFs can't or won't follow him out to the perimeter, and if they do he has enough ballhandling ability to get by them until he's guarded by a smaller man he can shoot over. Very few, if any, teams we faced this year had the ability to guard Ryan from the outside-in.

    Once a mismatch is established, the opposing team needs to either let themselves be hurt by the mismatch, or double-team it, and either of these options turns all our other almost-mismatches into real mismatches, and all of a sudden we have a top-five offense. Without that initial advantage, we were fairly easy to defend. I think that's what happened in our last three games.
    Agree with both of you. I am still amazed we made it work during the regular season during the times that Ryan rested and both Plumlee's were on the floor. I even thought for awhile early on, that we need both Plums on the floor to battle in the paint. It only worked then because teams could not change their overall approach based on when Ryan was in and when he was out. Also, my theory on having both Plumlee's in based on success last season was flawed, because last season we had Kyle on the floor with them. Huge difference. This year, neither Andre nor Austin were able to give us any "forward" like abilities so it created that void. Having Ryan in with one Plum was the only way to have true balance, allowing both offense and defense to function. And I absolutely believe it hurt us just as much on defense as it did on offense. Even though our defense did improve towards the end, it was still not great.

    Not having a true small forward hurt as we all said it would. Not having any other true forwards beyond Ryan and a still young and developing Josh was just a very fragile deal. It stinks because few will ever give the appropriate respect to the Kelly injury when judging how this season ended. UNC can lament their injuries all they want, but this is two years in a row where injuries to a key Duke player has seriously impacted the outcome of the season.

    "[T]he tarnished Tar Heels that bear little resemblance to the revered program built by Dean Smith."- Ashville Times
    "UNC and the NCAA are trying to conceal that the fraud was specifically designed to pad the transcripts of varsity athletes" - Bloomberg

  8. #8
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    In two of the final three games of the regular season, with a healthy Kelly, we got blown out of the water by UNC at home and got taken to overtime by a 4-12 ACC team at home. Of course any team losing a starter to injury hurts, but that isn't the central storyline of the end of Duke's season.

  9. #9
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    Ryan did many things for this team, a few only he could perform. They were important. However, there was only one guy on this team that was indespensible. Mason Plumlee. Without Mason, I'm sure Duke would have won some games but not many.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    In two of the final three games of the regular season, with a healthy Kelly, we got blown out of the water by UNC at home and got taken to overtime by a 4-12 ACC team at home. Of course any team losing a starter to injury hurts, but that isn't the central storyline of the end of Duke's season.
    This is a very salient point. Kelly was absolutely a very valuable part of this team, and missing him for the Tournaments most definitely hurt us. But people who say he was the reason we lost to FSU and Lehigh are overlooking the fact that we barely beat VT at home, we let Wake make it a really close game down the stretch, and we got walloped at home by UNC, all with Kelly in the lineup.

    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    Ryan did many things for this team, a few only he could perform. They were important. However, there was only one guy on this team that was indespensible. Mason Plumlee. Without Mason, I'm sure Duke would have won some games but not many.
    I agree that Mason was indispensable. But I'd say that he, Kelly, Rivers, and Dawkins were the real keys. Rivers and Mason were the guys that held it all together. Kelly and Dawkins were the barometers for how good we could be. We had to have Rivers and Mason to win. Kelly and Dawkins (when hot) were the ones that pushed us over the top.

    Down the stretch (during the six game run I mentioned above) Dawkins disappeared. Not coincidentally we struggled.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDu View Post
    This is a very salient point. Kelly was absolutely a very valuable part of this team, and missing him for the Tournaments most definitely hurt us. But people who say he was the reason we lost to FSU and Lehigh are overlooking the fact that we barely beat VT at home, we let Wake make it a really close game down the stretch, and we got walloped at home by UNC, all with Kelly in the lineup.
    Completely true. I don't think RK would have gotten us too much further than we did. The likely outcomes were they would have
    (probably) beaten FSU, and gotten by Lehigh. Overall, the way the team was playing, I don't think they would have gotten much
    further, but it might have spared us the ignominy of a first round exit.

  12. #12
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    We just weren't hitting shots and weren't playing very good D. Didn't play great defense all season. I don't put any of that on Ryan. For some reason we weren't playing very inspired ball, and our offense sputtered, for some reason this team wasn't as good as past teams at creating its own offense, and K isn't one to set every play. But I'm not a big believer in the Ryan theory.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by BleedsP287 View Post
    We just weren't hitting shots and weren't playing very good D. Didn't play great defense all season. I don't put any of that on Ryan. For some reason we weren't playing very inspired ball, and our offense sputtered, for some reason this team wasn't as good as past teams at creating its own offense, and K isn't one to set every play. But I'm not a big believer in the Ryan theory.
    Me either. We seemed to get a lot of the same shots that we did before Kelly went down. They just didn't go in. I think the disappearance of Dawkins down the stretch had as much to do with our struggles as anything.

  14. #14

    Ryan

    When Ryan scored over 10 points in a game Duke was 16-0.

    Ryans shooting percentages were 52% FG and 47% from three in those 16 games.

    In the games he didn't play or scored less than 10 we struggled with a record of 11-7.

    Ryans shooting percentages in those 18 games were 32% FG and 32% from three.

    In the five losses that Ryan played in he only shot the 26% FG and 29% from three.

    When he played well Duke won.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by MIKESJ73 View Post
    When Ryan scored over 10 points in a game Duke was 16-0.

    Ryans shooting percentages were 52% FG and 47% from three in those 16 games.

    In the games he didn't play or scored less than 10 we struggled with a record of 11-7.

    Ryans shooting percentages in those 18 games were 32% FG and 32% from three.

    In the five losses that Ryan played in he only shot the 26% FG and 29% from three.

    When he played well Duke won.
    I think you can do a very similar analysis with Dawkins.

    Basically, we had two guys that were the glue (Rivers and Plumlee), and two guys that were the pendulum (Kelly and Dawkins). Curry is somewhere in between.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MIKESJ73 View Post
    When Ryan scored over 10 points in a game Duke was 16-0.
    When Andre scored over 5 points in a game we were 18-1.

    When Seth scored over 13 points in a game we were 15-1.

    When Quinn Cook scored over 8 points in a game we were 6-0.

    So maybe the answer is when we had any perimeter threat outside of Austin Rivers we won.

    Or possibly when a team goes 27-7 (or 26-5, as we were in games Ryan played), it's easier to cherrypick results like this (for example, I notice Ryan scored 10 in the first FSU loss and 8 in the Miami loss).

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Kedsy View Post
    When Andre scored over 5 points in a game we were 18-1.

    When Seth scored over 13 points in a game we were 15-1.

    When Quinn Cook scored over 8 points in a game we were 6-0.

    So maybe the answer is when we had any perimeter threat outside of Austin Rivers we won.

    Or possibly when a team goes 27-7 (or 26-5, as we were in games Ryan played), it's easier to cherrypick results like this (for example, I notice Ryan scored 10 in the first FSU loss and 8 in the Miami loss).
    Ding ding ding! Yup. When we lost this year it was in large part because we couldn't hit perimeter shots. When our shooters were on, we were very tough to beat. Unfortunately, all of our shooters stunk down the stretch. It's what happens when you have a team of shooters without a lot of offensive versatility. This team was REALLY efficient when we shot well and not very efficient when we didn't.

  18. #18

    Small forward

    Quote Originally Posted by Newton_14 View Post

    Not having a true small forward hurt as we all said it would. Not having any other true forwards beyond Ryan and a still young and developing Josh was just a very fragile deal. It stinks because few will ever give the appropriate respect to the Kelly injury when judging how this season ended. UNC can lament their injuries all they want, but this is two years in a row where injuries to a key Duke player has seriously impacted the outcome of the season.
    We did have a true small forward in Alex, but we chose to red shirt him. Hindsight is typically 20/20, but I still wonder what the case would have been had we given him PT during the season. He would have been available at the end and perhaps he would have provided what we so lacked at the end of the season. Would we have lost a couple more games during the season but gone further in the tournament? We are hopeful that he will be a force next season so maybe he would have been at least useful in this years tournament.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saratoga2 View Post
    We did have a true small forward in Alex, but we chose to red shirt him. Hindsight is typically 20/20, but I still wonder what the case would have been had we given him PT during the season. He would have been available at the end and perhaps he would have provided what we so lacked at the end of the season. Would we have lost a couple more games during the season but gone further in the tournament? We are hopeful that he will be a force next season so maybe he would have been at least useful in this years tournament.
    I don't think there was ever any question, even at day 1, that the team would have been better with Murphy. The decision to redshirt wasn't because we thought he wouldn't be able to meaningfully contribute.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    I don't think there was ever any question, even at day 1, that the team would have been better with Murphy. The decision to redshirt wasn't because we thought he wouldn't be able to meaningfully contribute.
    It wasn't???

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