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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.

    DBR's Posts of the Month - June 2012

    In this thread, you'll find links to posts from June 2012 that the DBR community has decided are particularly noteworthy. Here's the post where we described this whole process.

    Please continue to use the "Report Post" feature to bring exceptionally good posts to the moderators' attention. If we agree, we add it to this list.

    Thanks, and enjoy!

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.

    Duke's Best Backcourts

    There's not a whole lot of Duke basketball news in June, typically, so the boards tend to slow down and take a look back. Luckily, we have several regular contributors here that have followed Duke for decades and often use their perspective and their writing talents to enlighten the rest of us. A thread on Duke's Best Backcourts generated several really excellent posts, which I've grouped into a couple of posts here and rearranged according to topic. However, the whole thread is excellent, and if you'd like to read it from the top, here's the start of it.

    Olympic Fan starts off comparing the Hurley/Hill backcourt to the Amaker/Dawkins one, and then lists his top eight Duke backcourts and adds some of his reasons for the ranking in this post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    Thomas Hill and Hurley kind of started for three years together -- Hill was a sporadic starter in 1991. He started 23 of 39 games - two more than Billy McCaffrey. In 1992 nd 1993, Hurley and Hill were the starters (except when Hurley was hurt). They did start together on two national championship teams (since Hill started during the 1991 NCAA Tournament).

    I would still argue that Dawkins and Amaker were better. Hurley was a great playmaker (greater than Amaker) and a great on-the-ball defender (almost as good as Amaker). Hurley was the better offensive player, averaging 12.4 ppg for his career to Amaker's 8.5 (although Amaker did shoot over 46 percent from the floor -- Hurley was 41 percent). On the other hand, Thomas Hill -- as good as he was -- was not in Dawkins' class. It's not close.

    Hill did make All-ACC three times -- all third team and twice the final player picked to the third team. There was no third team when Dawkins (two time first team; twice second team) and Amaker (once second team) played.

    Hill and Hurley did have a bit more team success -- but a couple of guys named Christian Laettner and Grant Hill might have helped a little.

    Don't get me wrong -- I think Hurley and Thomas Hill deserve to be in consideration, but not at the top. After reading this thread and thinking about it, I'd rate them:

    1. Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker
    2. Chris Duhon and Jason Williams
    3. Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill
    4. Bob Verga and Steve Vacendek
    5. Chris Duhon and JJ Redick (they actually started more games together than Duhon and Williams ... the only reason they are not higher is that Redick only became a GREAT player as a junior in 2005 ... he was still good in 2003 and 2004, when he played with Duhon, but was a fairly one-dimensional player at that point).
    6. Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer (only one year as the starting backcourt, but it was a pretty good year)
    7. Tate Armstrong and Jim Spanarkel (only together in 1976, when Spanarkel was a freshman and through the first 13 games in 1977)
    8. Quin Snyder and Kevin Strickland
    (tie) Quin Snyder and Phil Henderson (I wanted to include Quin -- a much underrated player -- but he really only started with Strickland in '88 and Henderson in '89. Still, Duke went to the Final Four both years).

    That's about as far asmy memory goes back. I'd like to include Buzzy Harrison, but he never really played with a first-rate guard. Same with Gary Melchionni. He overlapped with Dick DeVenzio (who was prett good) one year, but Melchionni was sick most of that year and played less than Jeff Dawson. Maybe Bob Bender and Spanarkel in '79 or Bender and Vince Taylor in 1980, but that would be stretching things. Heck, Nolan Smith and Seth Curry in 2011 were a better combo (even if Curry started just 19 of 37 games). Maybe Redick and Paulus in 2006 (Redick was a great SG and OPaulus did lead the ACC in assists as a freshman).

    Personally, i can't rate Smith and Irving in the top 10 off eight games ... but they would have been awfully darn good.

    A little earlier in the thread, the topic of longevity was introduced - that is, how much should we take into account how long a pairing played together. Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving had great talent and potential, but we only got to see them together for 8 games. We had 3 years of Johnny and Tommy. Here are Olympic Fan's thoughts on the matter:

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    To a large degree, how much does his question hang on time played together?

    For instance, Irving and Smith are two of the most talented guards to ever play together ... but they were really only Duke's backcourt for eight games (WhenIrving returned in the NCAAs he came off the bench, so even though he and Smith were often on the court with each other, it was often one or the other -- along with Curry).

    That's the prblem wih he Vacendak-Verga backcourt They were great together in 1965-66 when they helped Duke win the ACC and reach the Final Four, but that was the only year they were Duke's backcourt. In 1964-65, when Verga was sophomore, he shared the backcourt with point guard Denny Ferguson, while Vacendak played small forward (and he really was a foward and not a third guard in Bubas' system). In 1966-67 Vacendek as gone. Duhon and Jason Williams started together for the last 10 games of the 2000-01 season and for all of the 2001-02 season. They won two ACC championships, a national championship and played together on two teams that finished No. 1 in the final AP poll. Duke's record was 41-4 when they started together.

    Still, I think Duke's greatest backcourt has to be Dawkins and Amaker. They started together for three years --the three years that saw the rise of Duke basketball under Coach K. Their three teams were 24-10, 23-8, 37-3 -- 84-21 overall ... and they started every one of those 105 games together. Dawkns finished his career as the top scorer in Duke history (holding that mark until 2006) and Amaker finished his career as the first official National Defensive player of the year. Granted, that was in 1987 (the year after Dawkins left), but Amaker averaged more than two steals a game in 1986 (before there was a NDPOY). Nobody applied ball presure like Tommy Amaker (although Wojo and Hurley were close). Amaker ended his career as Duke's al-time steals leader and when they finished Dawkins and Amaker were 1-2 in Duke history in career assists -- even now, they are No. 3 and No. 6 on Duke's list.

    I think they get the nod for (1) how well they fit together and (2) how long they played together (more than twice as long as Vacendek/Verga or Williams/Duhon). I suppose that Irving and Smith were a more talented combo -- so were Jason Williams and Chris Duhon -- but when you measure the overall impact of Duke backcourts, Dawkins an Amaker have to get the prize.

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Other Great Backcourts

    The thread on Duke's Best Backcourts expanded in scope a bit, as threads are wont to do, to include first some discussion about other great ACC backcourts and then other great backcourts in all of college basketball. Here's the link to the thread, again, should you wish to read from the top. Otherwise, here are some more posts as the discussion started to drift away from just Duke backcourts:

    Jim Sumner posted this gem discussing UNC's Phil Ford and the contention that his execution of Dean Smith's Four Corners offense changed the game:

    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Ford finished his college career in 1978. The ACC got permission to experiment with a shot clock and 3-point shot in 1983. Remember that 17'-9", 3-point shot? Mark Price, Terry Gannon and Chip Engelland sure do.

    The death knell for the traditional four corners was the 1982 ACC Tournament title game between North Carolina (Worthy, Perkins, Jordan) and Virginia (Sampson). A national television audience watched some of the nation's best college players stand around and twiddle their thumbs for much of the second half.

    47-45. Enough was enough.

    I know it's easy to demonize Dean Smith on this. But his teams were just better at it. Smith wasn't behind the 12-10 game that Duke lost to State in 1968.

    I remember K's first Duke team going over to Reynolds, spreading the court and beating Valvano's first State team 56-47. State returned the favor later that season, 52-51. Duke beat Georgia Tech 47-46 the next season in Cameron, beat State 49-48, beat Clemson 50-44.

    Duke lost at home to Maryland that year 40-36, an abomination that I consider the worst basketball game ever played in Cameron, maybe anywhere.

    So, we're talking about Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, Bobby Cremins and Lefty Driesell. Duke had four ACC games in 1982 in which fewer than 100 total points were scored.

    So, it was something that was all over the place and something that had to be fixed.

    And it was. I don't know anyone who would go back to the old days. But don't blame Ford. He did what he was asked, when it was legal and did it with extraordinary efficiency. But he didn't start it and he didn't end it.
    And here's a great post from Olympic Fan, again, discussing the short-lived Kenny Smith / Michael Jordan backcourt at UNC, with an apt comparison to Duke's 2011 backcourt experience:

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    Actually, Kenny Smith was injured long before that Indiana game -- he was hurt Jan. 29, 1984 in a 90-79 victory over No. 10 ranked LSU. UNC was 16-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation coming into that game. There are those -- including myself -- who consider that as the best ACC team ever (right up there with '74 State and '99 Duke) -- starting senior Sam Perkins (two time concensus first-team All-America), junior Michael Jordan (the national player of the year), sophomore Brad Daugherty (late a first-team A-A and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft), senior Matt Doherty and freshman Kenny Smith (later a first team A-A). Off the bench, they had future pros Joe Wolf and two pretty good college guards, Steve Hale and Buzz Peterson.

    Before the LSU game, they really weren't tested. Virginia (which would wind up in the Final Four in that first post-Sampson year) played them fairly close in Chapel Hill and a young Dukie team took them to the final minute before losing 78-73 in Cameron (the famous "Double Standard" game). Against LSU, UNC was rolling to a 17th straight easy when when Smith was tackled from behind on a breakaway by LSU guard John Tudor. He suffered a broken wrist.

    Smith was sidelined for a month. Steve Hale took his place in the starting lineup and did well. They got to 21-0 before suffering a one-point loss to No. 14 Arkansas on the road (actually in Pine Bluff). They got to 25-1 before Smith returned for the regular season finale against Duke, wearing a soft cast on his wrist.

    He came off the bench in that game, which went into double OT before UNC pulled out the win in Carmichael. He moved back into the starting lineup for the ACC Tournament. UNC beat Clemson easily in the opener, but lost 77-75 to Duke in the semifinals.

    UNC was still seeded No. 1 and after beating Temple in Charlotte, went to Atlanta and lost to Indiana in the Sweet 16. Smith averaged 33 minutes a game over the four postseason games. I agree that he wasn't as sharp as he was before the LSU injury ... in a real sense, the story of UNC's 1984 season was a lot like Duke's 2011 year -- the star freshman point guard returned for the NCAA Tournament, but it was too late to recapture the rythm that the team had established before the injury.

    As for UNC's loss to Indiana, the main culprit was Michael Jordan, who had a dismal game -- 13 opoints on six of 14 shooting, one rebound, one assist, four turnovers and five fouls. Dean Smith cometimes gets criticized for sitting Jordan for six minutes in the first half with two fouls, but he played most of the second half and was terrible before fouling out. A fairly mediocre player named Dan Dakish usually gets the credit for frustrating Jordan in his final college game.
    Back to Phil Ford, Olympic Fan added this post addressing Ford's assist numbers and the evolution of how assists have been tallied:

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    Allow me to second Jim's points about the evolution of assists ...

    The ACC and NCAA didn't begin keeping assists until 1973. Before that, there were sporadic counts -- we know Dick Groat's assist totals because a young Bill Brill kept them. But it's meaingless to say Groat led the nation in assists because most schools didn't keep assists for most games. The ACC did keep assists for ACC Tournament games in the early days, but not regular season games.

    When assists started being kept in the mid-1970s, there was wide variation on the intepretation as to what is an assist. Today, almost any pass that is followed by a basket is an assist. Chris Corchiani racked up a lot of his assists by merely throwing the ball to Rodney Monroe, who made a jump shot. That wasn't not an assist anywhere in the ACC in the mid-1970s. Greg Paulus led he ACC in assists as a freshman in 2006 -- many of his assists coming on passes to JJ Redick, who would then nail a 3. Agan, not an assist in the mid-70s.

    The first school to approach the modern interpretation of assists was Clemson, where SID Bob Bradley was the ACC's chief statitician (he kept the official scorebook for every ACC Tournament game not involving Clemson until the 1980s). The last place to loosen up was Virginia, where for years, statistician Doyle Smith was notorious for awarding just three or four assists game. Doyle didn't really loosen up until John Crotty came around at he end of the 1980s.

    In that context, Phil Ford's 753 career assists between 1975-78 are a monumental total. He still ranks 11th in ACC history even though he is the only guy in the top 25 who played before 1980. He's 12th in ACC history in career points scored -- the highest rank of any true point guard. He was ACC Tournament MVP as a freshman (when UNC had to win the tournament to go to the NCAA Tournament) and was ACC player of the year as a senior. In between, he was three-time first-team All-ACC. I can't think of another ACC PG who cn match that accomplishment. Oh, he was the starting point guard on the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal team.

    Ford is also the only true ACC point guard to be consensus naional player of the year. He's one of two ACC point guards to be two-time consensus first team All-American (along with John Lucas and it could be argued that Lucas gave up the PG job to Brad Davis in 1975). I realize that Jason Williams is a special case, since he shared the point with Chris Duhon at the end of the 2001 season and for all of 2002 (when Jason was natonal player of the year).

    I would pick Ford over Hurley, Lucas, Jason Wlliams and maybe Kenny Anderson (he was great for two years) as the ACC's greatest point guard.

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    All-Time ACC Greats

    So, as the "Duke's Best Backcourts" thread continued to evolve to take on other ACC schools and eventually other schools across the nation, it also evolved into a discussion of the ACC's all-time best by position. At that point, the mods decided to create a new thread, since we'd come a long way from talking about Duke backcourts. So, here's the new thread, if you want to just pick up on the ACC All-Time discussion.

    Once again, Olympic Fan provides an excellent post on the topic, naming his top 3 "non-debatable" picks (and don't miss the Jordan-JWill comparison at the end):

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    My personal observation of ACC basketball dates back to the late 1950s, so I can't really talk about Shavlik, Rosenbluth, Hemric or any of the stars of the '50s. I always hate these internet threads because they are so biased towards recent years and negate the old-time guys. Other players are judged superficially.

    But we all have opinions.

    My question is: Are we picking the top 5 by position? Are we putting together a team that could play together? Are we basing it on peak performance? On overall career perforance? On actual talent?

    If I were picking a five-man team based on cumulative college performance, I think there are three non-debatable picks:

    (1) David Thompson is the greatest player in ACC history and it's not even close. Len Bias? Are you kidding me? Len Bias led the ACC in scoring twice, averaging 18.3 ppg in 1985 and 23.2 in 1986 (with a shot clock). He was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior ... never national player of the year (in fact, in his best year, a conference rival won a major national player of the year award). The two years he was a great player, his team finished a cumulative 14-14 in the ACC.

    Thompson on the other hand, averaged 24.7 as a sophomore, 26.0 as a junior and 29.9 as a senior. He shot better from the floor (over 55 percent to 53.6 for Bias). At 6-4, he was a better rebounder than the 6-8 Bias (8.1 to 5.7 for their careers). Thompson was three times consensus first-team All-American and the only reason he wasn't four time was that freshmen weren't eligible his freshman year. His three State teams finished 79-7 (and 32-4 in the ACC). Thompson had better individual stats, won more national awards and played on more successful teams. There is not one criteria that puts Bias -- or anybody else -- in his class.

    (2) Christian Laettner's numbers are great (he finished his career as the No. 5 scorer and No. 10 rebounder in ACC history ... he's still No 7 and No. 14 in those categories). It could be argued that hhe was the greatest 3-point shooter in ACC history (his 48.5 career average is the best for anybody who attempted more than 100 3 pt field goals in a career). His individual honors are good -- three-time All-American, 1992 national player of the year. But what earns him a spot on this team, ahead of a few other guys with similar or better numbers, is the fact that he is the greatest postseason player in ACC -- and maybe NCAA history. The first and still only player to start on four Final Four teams -- he is justly famous for his clutch NCAA play, especially in regional victories over Georgetown, UConn and Kentucky, plus of course his Final Four MVP in 1991. Still the leading career scorer in NCAA Tournament history. He was 21-2 in NCAA play!

    (3) Phil Ford is a lock IF we have to pick a point guard. If positions don't matter, then he becomes borderline top 5 (but still top 10). But he's clearly the No. 1 point guard in ACC history -- the top scorer at the position and while only 10th in assists, his assist numbers are better than his rank because of how they were awarded in his era. Obviously, the rules at the time helped make him greater than he would be today with a shot clock, but those were the rules at the time and Ford made the Four Corners the most fared (and hated) tactic in college basketball.

    I'm not going to be pick a 4th and 5th guy because I think you can make the case for a lot of guys and there's little to choose among them. You want to argue Bias in the top 5, I'm fine with that -- just don't compare him to Thompson. You can make a case for Tim Duncan, Len Chappell, Larry Miller, Charlie Scott, Johnny Dawkins, Grant Hill, John Lucas, Shane Battier, Tyler Hansbrough, Tommy Burleson, Jason Williams. You could push for one of the '50s guys -- certainly Shavlik and Rosenbluth have eye-popping stats and played on dominant teams.

    However, I will argue that Ralph Sampson is NOT a lock and wouldn not have a place on my team, despite his three national player of the year awards. I can't dispute that he won them, but I would argue that he didn't deserve them -- any of them. Ralph was the greatest choke artist in ACC histiory. A guy with all the talent in the world, but a guy who never wanted the spotlight and never wanted to take the clutch shot. I think the way his career ended is illustrative -- down one point to NC State in the West Regional finals, Ralph passed up the potential game-winning shot. When a teammate missed at the buzzer, Ralph ran down the rebound and at least two seconds after the buzzer (when the pressure was off) he swished a turn-around 15-footer. That was Ralph Sampson. He averaged a modest 16.9 points and a solid 11.9 rebounds and blocked 462 shots in his career. Just compare that with Tommy Burleson, who averaqed 19.0 points and 12.3 reounds for his career; Tim Duncan, who averaged 16.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and blocked 481 shots in his career. Or Mike Gminski (whose career overlapped Sampson's) who averaged 19.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and blocked 345 shots or Tyler Hansbrough, who averaged 20.6 points and 8.2 rebounds. Of course, none of those numbers compare with Wake big man Len Chappell, who averaged 24.9 points an 13.9 rebounds (we don't have his blocked shots).

    Not only did Duncan, Gminski, Burleson, Hansbrough and Chappell put up similar or better numbers, they all did it on teams that actually won something (each of them played on teams that one two ACC championships ... Ralph won none).

    PS One interesting note about Michael Jordan and Jason Williams. By almost any measure, they had almost exactly the same college careers. Actually, Jason scored more -- 19.3 ppg to 17.7 (although some of that may be due to the 3-point shot). Jordan rebounded better, while Jason was one of the top assist men in ACC history. But look at the awards they won -- both were two-time first-team All-ACC and two-time concensus All-Americans. Each won a single NPOY award as a sophomore (Jordan the Sporting News; Jason the NABC) and both were consensus national players of the year as juniors. Jordan won an ACC POY and Jason didn't, but Jason was ACC Tournament MVP and Jordan didn't. Their teams had similar success -- each winning a national championship; each was also upset by an SEC team in Syracuse's Carrier Dome in one East Regional (Jordan and UNC by Georgia in 1983; Jason and Duke by Florida in 2000); each ended his career on a dismal note, being upset by Indiana in the Sweet 16.

    Jason played on three teams that finished No. 1 in the AP poll and on three ACC championship teams; Jordan played on two teams that finished No. 1 and one ACC championship team.

    Jason did go higher in the draft -- No. 2 as opposed to Jordan's No. 3.

    So which had the better COLLEGE career?
    And a little later, another post from Olympic Fan, this one talking about the greatness of David Thompson:

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    Thanks for the video clip. Every few years we need to remind a new generation of basketball fans what a great player Thompson was.

    There's really no way to describe it if you weren't there, but just a few comments might help. Providence All-American Marvin "Bad News" Barnes, after giving up 40 points (on 16-of-19 shooting) to Thompson in the East Regional semifinals in 1974 said:

    “Now you know why we call him Superman. I couldn't stop him. How many did get, 40? You just try and not let him get 50. I don’t think anybody can stop Thompson, except himself. He’s probably the best around.”

    Fred Schaus, who coached Jerry West at West Virginia and later with the Lakers, saw Thompson play as a freshman and said: “Thompson is better right now than Jerry West was as a college senior. Thompson is one of the 10 best basketball players in the nation, pros included.” That was in his freshman year.

    Thompson avereaged 35.8 points in his first five college outings -- albiet against weak opposition. But in game six, the Pack faced Wake in the Big Four Tournament. With Burleson in early foul trouble, Thompson carried the load. He scored 29 points and had 12 rebounds. I mention this because the next day, several papers lamented his "disappointing performance."

    It was like that for Thompson. When he scored a mere 28 in the 1974 title game, people compained that he had a mediocre performance. Well, it was mediocre compared to his two previous performances against Maryland when he scored 39 and 41 points: “I’ve guarded him with 6-10 people and 6-4 people and 6-6 people,” Driesell said after the second game. “You just couldn’t stop him. He was unstoppable.”

    Thompson scored 26 to beat UNC for the sixth straight time, despite the best efforts of 6-9 Bobby Jones, probably the best defender of that generation (eight times an all-pro defender):

    “He will just not let them lose,” Jones said of Thompson. “If State needs something, Thompson will get it for them. He’s just the best I’ve ever been around.”

    According to Virginia's Wonderful Wally Walker:

    “What can you say, except he’s the greatest,” Walker said. “David does everything on the court well. I’ll bet he can even get dressed faster than anybody else in the conference because I’ll tell you, he can jump quicker and higher than anybody I’ve ever seen. I can’t see anybody beating State when State has David Thompson on its side.”

    After the Final Four, the cover of sports Illustrated showdd the 6-4 (or 6-2?) Thompson soaring OVER the 6-11 Bill Walton.

    Thompson had a tremendous impact on the game of college basketball. It was his noteriety as a freshman at State that helped convince the NCAA to pass freshman eligibility. It was his dramatic performance in the 1973 Super Bowl Sunday game at Maryland (37 points, including the game-winning tap-in) that convinced NBC to sanction a college basketball game of the week. And maybe it was just coincidence, but Thompson sacrificed the last regular season basket of his career to dunk -- and take an intentional technical foul -- to protest the anti-dunking rules of his day. Just happened that the NCAA lifted the ban on dunking the next season. And what we missed -- Thompson later beat Dr. J in a dunk contest at the ABA all-star game (then won the all-star MVP award).

    The great tragedy of his career was that he was hurt with 10 minutes to go on the 1975 ACC Tournament semifinals. Thompson had scored 38 points in the opener and had 30 with 10 minutes to go against the top-seeded Terps when he went down and was helped off the floor. State, up 20 at the time, hung on to win 87-85. The next night, Thompson tried to play on one leg and had a miserable night as UNC edged State 70-66. That loss kept Thompson and State from defending their NCAA title. It was his last college game.

    But he went out as the greatest the ACC has ever seen and -- I would argue -- the greatest non-center in college basketball history. (and don't bring up Oscar -- whose team actually improved AFTER he left or Maravich, whose LSU team was never any good when Pistol Pete was scoring all those points). Maybe Jabbar, maybe Russell ...

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.

    We Love You, Too, Chuck!

    Not every post worth highlighting has to be long, profound, or even serious. For example, this post from Greg Newton in the NBA Playoffs Thread is absolutely worth bringing to everyone's attention:

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_Newton View Post
    I love Charles Barkley. While Kenny Smith's promo for UNC basketball camp (?) is on the screen:

    Kenny: "Chuck! If you wanna learn how to play basketball, where you gonna go? The Carolina basketball ca-"

    Chuck: "I would have gone to Duke."

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.

    Tommy Looks at Coach K's Scheduling

    Tommy has a rep around here for posting long, thought-provoking analytical posts. His series on defense during the last season was excellent. Here's his latest, which takes a look at Coach K's scheduling philosophy and it's impacts on the team's success. It's also long enough to qualify as a tome:

    Quote Originally Posted by tommy View Post
    As this year’s schedule is finalized and publicized, I wanted to revisit an issue which has been discussed on these boards a couple of times over the years, indicating continued interest here in the topic. The assertion has been made that at some point in his long career at Duke, Coach K had a change in scheduling philosophy, and began to schedule fewer on-campus road games and more neutral-site games in tournament-style arenas, in an effort to prepare the team for the atmosphere it would face in the NCAA Tournament.

    I wanted to take a look at our scheduling from a historical perspective and examine a couple of questions. First, has there indeed been a shift over the years in the relative numbers of nonconference on-campus road games, nonconference home games, and neutral-site games at tournament-like arenas? And if so, has the shift in scheduling preferences had any discernible impact on the team’s NCAA tournament performance, as such an impact is assumed to be the goal of the change in scheduling, if such change has occurred in the first place.

    OK, methodology. I looked at the schedules from each year beginning in 1983-84, as that was the first team that K took to the NCAA tournament. I counted of course only nonconference games, but I counted only games against what I deemed to be significant or high quality opponents, or even traditional power opponents who happen to be in a down cycle – like teams such as Michigan or St. John’s have been during certain stretches. In other words, I counted games over the years against teams like Washington, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Temple, and Arizona, for example, but not Stetson, Davidson, Northwestern, ECU, or Harvard. On some of the mid-majors I had to make a judgment call on whether to count them. For each year I tallied the number of these higher quality nonconference opponents we played at home, the number on the road at on-campus arenas, and the number at neutral sites with tournament-style arenas. Then I considered for each season the number of NCAA wins the team achieved.

    Note that I included ACC/Big East and ACC/Big 10 challenge games, Wooden Classic and Coaches v. Cancer games wherever they were played, as well as other pre-season or in-season tournaments that we played in with the exception of the Hawaii and Alaska tournaments, because while those were neutral sites, the gyms were so small that the atmospheres were nothing like an NCAA tournament game. So they didn’t fit into any of the three categories described above. We’ve also played pre-season tournament games at places like Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium, in front of crowds of 7000 or 8000. I didn’t count those, as those aren’t NCAA tournament-like environments. I considered games played at the Greensboro Coliseum as being played at a neutral site/tournament-like arena, assuming the opponent was the type I described above, not someone like UNC-G or NC A&T. Madison Square Garden games were always considered as neutral site, tournament-style games regardless of whether they were NIT Pre-Season tournament games, made-for-TV games like the JJ game against Texas or the recent Gonzaga and Washington games, or games played as part of the St. John’s series.

    So here are the numbers, then I’ll take a crack at analyzing them.

    Neutral Tournament-Style Road On Campus Home NCAA Wins
    83-84 0 0 0 0
    84-85 1 0 1 1
    85-86 2 1 2 5
    86-87 1 1 0 2
    87-88 0 2 1 4
    88-89 1 2 1 4
    89-90 1 1 3 5
    90-91 3 2 2 6
    91-92 1 3 1 6
    92-93 1 1 4 1
    93-94 0 2 2 5
    94-95 2 2 1 0
    95-96 1 1 2 0
    96-97 3 1 1 1
    97-98 0 1 2 3
    98-99 4 0 2 5
    99-00 4 1 2 2
    00-01 5 1 2 6
    01-02 2 1 2 2
    02-03 3 0 2 2
    03-04 2 1 1 4
    04-05 3 0 2 2
    05-06 5 1 1 2
    06-07 2 0 3 0
    07-08 2 0 3 1
    08-09 4 2 1 2
    09-10 5 1 1 6
    10-11 5 0 2 2
    11-12 3 1 1 0

    What do these numbers tell us? Well, first of all, I do see a shift in the number of neutral site tournament-style games we’ve played as opposed to on-campus road games, and it appears that shift began in either 1996-97 or 1998-99. Let’s call it ’96-’97. From 83-84 through 95-96 we played a total of 14 neutral site tournament style games in those 13 years, for an average of 1.07 per year. But during those same 13 years we played 18 on-campus road games, for an average of 1.38 per year, and 20 home games, for an average of 1.54 per year. The most neutral games we had in any of those 13 years was the three we played in 1990-91, and one of those was actually a quasi-road game against Georgetown at the old Capital Centre.

    But starting in 1996-97 and running through 2011-12, we played a total of 52 neutral site tournament style games in those 16 years, for an average of 3.25 per year. This total includes a zero for 1997-98. In those same years we played only 11 on-campus road games, for an average of 0.69 per year. We played 28 home games against quality nonconference opponents in those 16 years, for an average of 1.75 per year.

    So utilizing 1996-97 as a cutoff point and looking at our scheduling pre- and post-that season, the reality is that while we continued to schedule approximately the same number of home games against these types of opponents, we cut our on-campus road games by half while we more than tripled the number of neutral site, tournament-style games we played.

    That’s the answer to question number one.

    Question number two is much more difficult to answer: what effect has increasing our scheduling of neutral site, tournament-style games had on our actual tournament performance?

    The first thing I looked at was our championship years of 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010. In ’91 we played 3 neutrals and two on the road, and in ’92 it was only one neutral and three on the road. Not much to say there except that the great ’92 team was able to go the distance, including winning the last two in the 50,000 seat Metrodome, without the benefit of much tournament-arena experience, as even the one they did have was in Greensboro against St. John’s. But that was a veteran team and had the experience of the three neutrals from the prior season, for whatever that’s worth.

    The most neutrals we’ve ever played in a season is five, which we’ve done four times, including two of the least three seasons. One of those four times was the championship year of 2001, and in that year we played only one road game of the sort I’m talking about in this analysis, at Temple. I counted the Stanford game at the Oakland Coliseum as a neutral, as it was not on campus and was at a tournament-style arena.

    Likewise, in the championship year of 2010 we played five neutrals and only one road game, against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, which seats over 17,000. Could’ve easily counted that one as a neutral in that it’s a tournament-like environment there, but didn’t because it’s on campus. On the other hand, I counted the Georgetown game at the Verizon Center as a neutral, as it’s big and not on campus.

    There were only two other years that we played five neutrals. One was 2011, and that year we played no roadies (of the type I’m considering) at all. I counted the Singler game against Oregon at the Rose Garden as a neutral. It’s difficult to really consider this year in any kind of analysis, as Kyrie’s injury disfigured the entire season, including of course the way we played in the humbling loss to Arizona in Anaheim.

    The other was 2006, where it was one roadie against the five neutrals, and yet we went out to LSU in the Georgia Dome. That was not a good night.

    What about other years we’ve made the Final Four? What did the scheduling look like in those years? Well, a lot of them were in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when we were scheduling more roadies and less neutral site games. 1988: no neutrals, 2 roadies. 1994: no neutrals, two roadies. But then there was 1986 where there were two neutrals and one roadie, and 1991 with 3 neutrals and two roadies. Not much to make of that era, really. Mixed bag.

    But of more recent vintage, the 1999 Final Four team played four neutrals and no roadies. The 2004 Final Four team played two neutrals and one roadie as again I counted the Georgetown game at the MCI Center as a neutral, which I know can be argued.

    Another way to look at the data is as follows: we’ve played five neutrals in four different seasons, and those seasons resulted in two championships, one sweet 16 loss, and one “incomplete” due to Kyrie’s injury.

    Taking this data together, it appears that in many of the years in which we’ve reached the Final Four we have indeed utilized a scheduling formula that included more games at neutral site, tournament-type arenas, and less at quality opponents’ on-campus arenas.

    But it’s not that clear cut. Why not? Because in a number of other years, we’ve utilized that formula, and had little or no success in the NCAA’s.

    What about when we’ve played four neutrals? We’ve done that three times, in 1999, 2000, and 2009. We reached the final game in ’99 (which we lost to UConn due solely to the fact that I was in China and couldn’t watch the game), and lost in the Sweet 16 in 2000 and 2009 Not so good.

    What about three neutrals? In 1997 we played three neutrals and one roadie, but got bounced in the second round by Providence. The program was on the rebound from the trauma of 1995, and clearly Duke was not a top tier team, but even if discounted, it still has to be counted.

    In 2003 we played three neutrals and no roadies and again went out in the Sweet 16, this time to Kansas. Young, rebuilding team, but it counts. In 2005 it was three neutrals and no roadies and out in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. And then even last year where we had the three neutrals (Michigan State, Washington, & Temple) and one roadie (Ohio State) and then came Lehigh.

    So what that looks like to me is that even when we’ve picked up our neutral-site games to three or even four, we haven’t had any corresponding type of success in the NCAA tournament. It’s not until we’ve really extended the philosophy to play five such games that we’ve had greater success, but because we’ve only done that four times (two titles), it’s a pretty small sample size from which to draw many conclusions.

    Another perspective on this: what about when we have played zero neutral-site tournament arena games? How have we done? Well, it’s only happened four times, including all the way back in 1984, but the answer is “quite well, thank you.” In ’84, which again was K’s first NCAA tournament team, we didn’t play any of these types of quality opponents anywhere – home, road, or neutral, and the young team lost in the first round. In 1988 we played no neutrals but made the Final Four. In 1994 we played none and made the final game. And in 1998 we played none and lost in the Elite Eight to Kentucky, which never should’ve happened.

    So looking at this history, I’d say this. There’s no question that K’s scheduling philosophy changed about 15 years ago. But I don’t think the NCAA results support the position taken by some that scheduling more neutral-site, tournament-like arena games in the regular season and playing correspondingly less on-campus road games against quality teams leads directly to greater success in the tournament, with the possible exception of when we really ramp up the neutrals and play five of them in a single season. But really, the numbers are all over the map. Some of our championship and Final Four years we’ve played a lot of neutrals, in others not really, but we won big anyway. Some years where we’ve played a lot of neutrals, we’ve had great success in the tournament. Other years, not. In a number of years when we’ve played no neutrals at all, we’ve done quite well in the tournament.

    One last thing I noticed though. Maybe it’s not where these games against these quality nonconference opponents are played. Maybe it’s the mere fact of playing them at all, no matter where, that leads demonstrably to NCAA success. Well, maybe so. The highest number of these types of games we’ve played was the eight in the national championship year of 2001. We played seven such games a number of times, including 1991 (championship), 2000 (Sweet 16), 2006 (Sweet 16), 2009 (Sweet 16), 2010 (championship) and 2011 (Sweet 16/Kyrie). That’s two times out of six with a national championship, and three out of seven championships when we’ve played either 7 or 8 such nonconference games. When we’ve played six such games, we lost in the second round once (1993) and went to the final game once (1999).

    Note that in thinking about it this way – playing quality teams no matter where, the numbers are somewhat skewed because I haven’t included in my analysis games, for instance, in Hawaii and Alaska tournaments, where we’ve of course played many, many excellent teams, because I didn’t want to go back and recalculate all the totals for each year when I came up with this hypothesis just as I was about to post this. I'm also aware that it's possible that scheduled more of these types of games in years he knew he had a strong, championship-caliber team, a team that could handle a more demanding schedule, and if so, that weakens any cause-and-effect argument that one might make.

    But keeping in mind that my original goal here was to try to determine if increasing the neutral-site, tournament-style arena games and scheduling less on-campus road and home games corresponds with increased NCAA Tournament success, all I can really say is that I don't think it does. Now maybe somebody out there smarter than I am can crunch these numbers in a more sophisticated way than I can and come up with different conclusions. I understand that there are other reasons to play these large arena neutral site games, including revenue enhancement, recruiting, and playing in front of larger numbers of alumni. But if – if – the sole reason to be playing these games at these sites is to improve our chances in the NCAA tournament, the numbers don’t appear to support it. Better idea: have the better team.
    You can read the reactions/responses to Tommy's analysis in the thread he started with this post.

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.
    DBR regular Greg Newton gave us this look at how Shane Battier's 3-point prowess in the 2012 NBA Finals fits in with other great 3-point shooting displays in the Finals:

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_Newton View Post
    If my calculations are correct, by shooting 15-26 (57.7%) from three in the series, Shane Battier has set the following NBA finals records:

    -Best 3PT% ever for a player who made 15 or more 3-pointers in the NBA Finals.
    -Most 3-pointers ever for a team who won the NBA Finals in 5 games or less.
    -Second most 3-pointers ever in any 5-game NBA finals series (Rashard Lewis went 16-40 (40%) in 2009).

    Here's where he should stack up on the all-time lists:

    All-time NBA Finals 3PT Made

    1st: 22, Ray Allen, 2008
    2nd (t): 17, Derek Harper, 1994; Dan Majerle, 1993
    4th (t): 16, John Starks, 1994; Rashard Lewis, 2009
    6th (t): 15, Shane Battier, 2012; Kobe Bryant, 2010; Reggie Miller, 2000; Robert Horry, 2005; Bryon Russell, 1997
    All-time NBA Finals 3PT%*

    1st: .688 Isiah Thomas, 1990
    2nd: .632 Glen Rice, 2000
    3rd: .609 Michael Cooper, 1987
    4th: .577 Shane Battier, 2012

    Someone might want to doublecheck my numbers, but based on the link, I believe they're correct. Congrats, Shane!

    *minimum 11 3PT made to qualify
    (credit to for the original leaderboards)
    Follow-up discussions are in this thread.

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

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