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Jumbo
03-24-2010, 05:52 PM
Welcome to Phase VII, everyone. Glad we're all here! We'll define this stage as the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament. As I did with the last "phase" post, I'll try make this as broad (as opposed to game-focused) as possible. There's plenty to talk about in terms of matchups in the pre-game and in-game threads -- I'm more interested in talking about general trends/issues/areas of interest here. And with that said, let's begin.

1) Can Duke stay healthy?
Seriously.

2) Will the Scheyer Schooting Schlump continue?
I usually do these without regard to order, but this is definitely the second-biggest area of concern after health. It's also a rare repeated question from one phase to the next. For Duke to play at its optimal level, Scheyer has to return to shooting the ball at a reasonably efficient rate -- like we all know he can. We've been speculating about reasons for his struggles in another thread, but whether he's hurt, putting too much pressure on himself or anything in between, the bottom line is that he needs to start knocking down shots, particularly the wide open jumpers he is getting in the flow of the offense. I have confidence in Jon. Heck, at this point, I'm willing to bank on the collective consciousness of Duke fans believing in Jon as a way to will him out of this rut and the ball into the basket. Yeah, I just went in there. Heck, it can't hurt to try, right?

3) How will Duke react to playing in a dome?
The team has played in big NBA arenas this year, but not a domed stadium. There's that longtime myth about how domes make for bad shooting backdrops -- it will be interesting to see how the team shoots from the perimeter in Houston.

4) Is the offense truly becoming more diverse?
We saw some things last weekend that should have made every Duke fan stop and wonder what was happening. Zoubek was nailing jump hooks on the baseline. Thomas was making a post move against a smaller player and finishing with his left hand. Miles was successfully catching a pass off a pick and roll after Nolan trusted him enough to make that pass, and dunking with authority to finish. The first couple of these happened against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and the temptation was to write them off because of the quality of the opponent. But Plumlee's dunk came against Cal. So did Lance's pass to a cutting Singler. So did another jump hook by Zoubek. So did a face-up jumper by Miles. Granted, Cal didn't have a lot of size, but there are other teams that don't have much size, too. It is quite possible that Duke is continuing to evolve and improve, and in games where the bigs have distinct advantages, they are becoming legit scoring options. They really picked up the slack for Scheyer and Singler in the first half of the Cal game. Can we expect the bigs to contribute a bit more scoring than they did for almost the entire season now?

5) Has Duke's defense reached a point where it's a given strength -- against any opponent?
The team is third in the nation in defensive efficiency and has been improving all season. In particular, it's been incredibly hard for teams to score on the starting lineup, given the combination of versatility, talent and experience. I was worried -- like some other people -- about teams with smaller lineups and/or bigs who can spread the floor. But Cal was a team with those qualities, and Duke still clamped down. There are better teams with Cal with more versatile, athletic 4's and 5's who can play both inside and out. Will they test Duke more? Or have we reached a point where we know, at a minimum, that Duke's D will keep the team in any game, no matter how good the opposing offense is? That remains to be seen, but I like where things are heading.

6) Will teams gameplan differently against Duke's offense?
We've seen this go in phases. At the beginning of the year, teams tried to take away Singler and stuck their point guard on Scheyer. Scheyer then worked those guys off the ball and became a huge scoring threat. Teams then switched to a bigger guy on Scheyer and really focused their help schemes on all 3 perimeter players -- that opened things up even more for Duke's offensive rebounders. Cal stuck Guttierez, its best defender, on Scheyer, focused help on Singler when he attacked off the dribble, and tried not to leave the bigs completely alone to avoid getting killed on the glass. Now, I'm wondering if the bigs will stay at home more, because Duke's bigs -- particularly Zoubek -- have become such a force on the offensive glass, which is now a huge part of Duke's offense. I'm also wondering if a team's top perimeter player (say, Chris Kramer) will no longer guard Scheyer, but either be asked to shut down Smith or Singler instead. Perhaps teams feel like Scheyer is so deep in a funk that they can use a lesser perimeter defender on him and not offer much help. We'll see. But I do think opponents will make more of an effort to keep Duke off the offensive glass. That should open up driving lanes, as well as jump shots off ballscreens. If that happens, can Duke take advantage? And if guys -- especially those with size and athleticism -- focus more on staying with Zoubek and the other bigs, can they be as effective as offensive rebounders?

7) How will Duke's transition D be against better teams?
I still think the best way to beat Duke is to force tempo and get out and run at every opportunity. Duke is excellent at taking care of the basketball so, of the team plays according to form, there won't be many live-ball turnovers that lead to easy baskets. (If there are, that's a recipe for disaster.) But I'm interested to see what kind of an effort teams make in this phase to push the ball off both missed shots and made ones, and how Duke handles that tempo.

8) How will Duke handle extended stretches where the offense isn't working?
Duke can get bogged down offensively in at least three different ways. One would be the result of jump shots simply not going down. The second would be if a team that's just a great defensive team (such as what Duke will face Friday night) just clamps down and takes away primary and secondary options. The last will be a if a team is bigger and more athletic at most positions and through shot-blocking and movement, takes away Duke's offensive structure without sending the Blue Devils to the free throw line. Duke's weapon to carry itself through prolonged shooting slumps has been its exceptional offensive rebounding. But if a team is good enough to limit Duke on the boards, too, where will the Blue Devils turn? What other wrinkles does K have up his sleeve? And will it affect the team's play on the other end of the floor? Let's hope we don't have to answer this, but if so, it will be interesting what Coach K does to manifacture points if they aren't coming easily.

9) How will Duke handle the pressure of the coming moments?
We've now reached a level -- the Sweet 16 -- that no player on the current roster has surpassed. Much like Scheyer and his jump shot, it's evident how badly these guys want to break through that barrier, and not just stop at the next round, but win the whole thing. That's a great motivating force to play hard, but also a tough mental hurdle. Coach K certainly has made a living out of simplifying things for his guys and getting them to focus on the task at hand. Will they be able to strike the right balance between intense hunger and unhealthy pressure?

There are other questions that remain big from the last phase -- how the games will be called, how the team handles game pressure and how quickly K will make adjustments if things aren't working right, in particular. But I already discussed those in depth last time, and I didn't want this already-long post to be even longer. That said, I'll be watching out for those issues, too. Regardless, I know I'm excited for what this team can do, and I hope you all are, too.
Go Duke!

CDu
03-24-2010, 06:49 PM
Thanks for the discussion points, Jumbo.

1. Yup, let's keep our fingers crossed.

2. Again, let's keep our fingers crossed. He shot well in the opener last Friday, so hopefully he repeats that trend this Friday.

3. Hopefully.

4. The offense really did look different this past weekend. I do wonder how much of that was due to facing inferior defensive teams. Friday we'll face a team that is actually smaller than Cal, but they're much better defensively.

5. Friday will be a game against a Purdue team whose offense has struggled since the loss of Hummel. It's definitely an opportunity for our defense to again shine. Hopefully, they'll be up to the task, because Purdue is going to be feisty defensively.

6. Purdue will have some tough decisions. They almost have no choice but to go with Jackson on Smith, because otherwise he's at a HUGE size disadvantage (even moreso than against Smith). That leaves Grant, Moore, and Kramer to guard Scheyer, Singler, and Thomas/Mason (I assume Johnson will guard Zoubek/Miles). Regardless of how they distribute those bodies, we'll have a 4+ inch height advantage at two of those spots. Part of me thinks it makes more sense to put Kramer on Scheyer and let him be physical with Scheyer, and part of me thinks that they'll have to put Kramer on Singler because otherwise Singler will just wear out Moore/Grant in the paint.

7. Our colleagues in the Houston region are 149th, 160th, and 218th in the nation in tempo, so I don't think we have TOO much to worry about with regard to transition defense this weekend. Maybe our opponents will really change their style of play, but these three teams just haven't really pushed the tempo this year.

8. Purdue could definitely limit our scoring on first-chance opportunities, and will undoubtedly make like tough on the perimeter. But if we don't turn it over, we should have a big rebounding advantage (Purdue is small and doesn't rebound well anyway). I won't be surprised at all if we have a low FG% on Friday. But hopefully we'll get lots of second-chance points.

9. I'm hopeful that our experience will result in focus and confidence (but not overconfidence or tenseness).

bird
03-24-2010, 07:16 PM
It is quite possible that Duke is continuing to evolve and improve, and in games where the bigs have distinct advantages, they are becoming legit scoring options. They really picked up the slack for Scheyer and Singler in the first half of the Cal game. Can we expect the bigs to contribute a bit more scoring than they did for almost the entire season now?


In the most recent Inside Basketball with Coach K, K said the team is distinctly better than it was a month ago. His comments attributed this improvement to emergence of an attitude in Z, and Singler's continued successful adjustment to his perimeter role. K also claimed that the team is peaking at the right time.

SCMatt33
03-24-2010, 07:40 PM
2) Will the Scheyer Schooting Schlump continue?
I usually do these without regard to order, but this is definitely the second-biggest area of concern after health. It's also a rare repeated question from one phase to the next. For Duke to play at its optimal level, Scheyer has to return to shooting the ball at a reasonably efficient rate -- like we all know he can. We've been speculating about reasons for his struggles in another thread, but whether he's hurt, putting too much pressure on himself or anything in between, the bottom line is that he needs to start knocking down shots, particularly the wide open jumpers he is getting in the flow of the offense. I have confidence in Jon. Heck, at this point, I'm willing to bank on the collective consciousness of Duke fans believing in Jon as a way to will him out of this rut and the ball into the basket. Yeah, I just went in there. Heck, it can't hurt to try, right?

3) How will Duke react to playing in a dome?
The team has played in big NBA arenas this year, but not a domed stadium. There's that longtime myth about how domes make for bad shooting backdrops -- it will be interesting to see how the team shoots from the perimeter in Houston.

I think these two might end up linked together. To be perfectly honest, it can't really get much worse for Jon unless he goes 0-for (crossing fingers, knocking on wood, etc.). The way I see it, a change of backdrop can only help him. Duke as a whole shot poorly from three point land against Cal, so it's not like everyone loved Jacksonville as a shooters backdrop. Purdue did play at a dome last year, but only one player had a good day...you guessed it...Robbie Hummel. The players who played in that game and on Friday were a combined 2-9 from three. So everyone is pretty much in the same boat in Houston. Either no or only bad experience in a dome during the tourney.

BlueintheFace
03-24-2010, 07:54 PM
#7 is the biggest issue for this team in my opinion.

Duke's greatest strengths (and the themes for the tourney) are DEFENSE and REBOUNDING. Pushing Tempo is the #1 way to beat Duke.

greybeard
03-24-2010, 11:10 PM
I'm willing to bank on the collective consciousness of Duke fans believing in Jon as a way to will him out of this rut and the ball into the basket. Yeah, I just went in there. Heck, it can't hurt to try, right?

Some things are priceless. :)

Bob Green
03-25-2010, 04:44 AM
5) Has Duke's defense reached a point where it's a given strength -- against any opponent?

The team is third in the nation in defensive efficiency and has been improving all season. In particular, it's been incredibly hard for teams to score on the starting lineup, given the combination of versatility, talent and experience.

Go Duke!

I emphatically answer, Yes! This is a really good defensive team and has been steadily improving all year with the obvious exceptions of the N.C. State and Georgetown games. To quasi-quote Coach Krzyzewski, against Georgetown, we stunk. From this point forward, our defense must be our strength and will be our strength. NCAA Tournament games typically become lower scoring conservative affairs and this team is ripe for success.

Moving past the starting five, both the Plumlee brothers and Andre Dawkins have improved as the season progressed. Coach Krzyzewski now has eight solid defensive players at his disposal during Phase VII. Ryan Kelly is a valuable asset for spot minutes in key situations such as substituting in late in the first half to prevent another player from picking up a 3rd foul.

Go Duke!

jv001
03-25-2010, 08:42 AM
Good job as usual Jumbo.
1. Please God let them stay healthly.
2. I hope that Jon's schooting schlump ends. I think the problem has been mechanics brought on by a sore back coupled with loss of confidence. I bet Jon's worked it out in practice.
3. Dome..I look for our shooting percentages to stay about the same with Jon being the exception. He gets warmed up.
4. Our offense has gotten more diverse. Zoubs involved, LT shooting midrange jumpers, Kyle and Nolan have gotten better at being assist men.
5. Duke's defense given strength against better competition. Coach K has said that this team's defense is better than recent Duke teams because of our size. That's not going away this year. Our big men really help our guards.
6. Opponent's game plan against our offense. I don't think teams can take away all of our "big 4". Yes that means Zoubs as well as Jon, Kyle and Nolan.
7. Duke's transition D. Here is where we could get hurt by the right team. If we're relying on the 3 pointer and we're missing, that could lead to run outs for the opponent. I like that Coach K has not had the team relying so much on the 3 lately.
8. Duke's extended stretches withour scoring. I hope our defense continues to carry us through those stretches. Like Jumbo said, our offensive rebounding will be key in these situations.
9. How will Duke handle the coming pressure to advance. I say Coach K has turned this into a positive with a strong will to play hard every play and have fun in the moment.
Beat Purdue and Go Duke!

theAlaskanBear
03-25-2010, 08:59 AM
In the most recent Inside Basketball with Coach K, K said the team is distinctly better than it was a month ago. His comments attributed this improvement to emergence of an attitude in Z, and Singler's continued successful adjustment to his perimeter role. K also claimed that the team is peaking at the right time.

I don't remember what interview it was, but K was talking the role of ego in Thomas and Zoubs. Confidence and ego play an enormous role in BB. Who wants it more? Who has the confidence to slug the other team in the mouth (metaphorically speaking, of course ;)

Now its tourney time, Zoubs and Thomas have improved confidence, and now they are not merely satisfied being strong defensive players and offensively complacent, but they have the internal will to contribute offensively as well.

I'm really excited about this team!

JohnGalt
03-25-2010, 09:00 AM
In light of the multitude of other teams plagued by health issues, it seems that remaining healthy could perhaps prove to be even more important than we all realize.

As I've mentioned before, Zoubs' baby hooks are a breath of fresh air. I've been waiting to see those from him for 2.5 years now. Lance is always a stalwart on defense, but as you mentioned, his baseline putbacks seem to be actually going in now. I guess his confidence is growing? He used to get blocked so frequently, it must have been demoralizing...

As Bob mentioned, the emergence of quality minutes from the bench coupled with a solid starting rotation has really legitimized this Duke team. They have solid upperclassmen leadership with solid underclassmen contribution. Andre is capable of popping off a couple threes before we can blink and Mason and/or Miles are capable of an energetic dunk at the drop of a hat. I'm excited for a great game as I am for the possibility of a great Duke W.

Beat Purdue!

WiJoe
03-25-2010, 04:11 PM
As I typed after Phase VI, excellent job Jumbo. If I didn't know better, which, actually I don't, I'd think you were on the coaching staff.

As we go into the second weekend, I am very much afraid of purdue. On all levels. I'm not nearly as fearless as I used to be. Actually, I never was all that fearless.

SCMatt33
03-28-2010, 07:21 PM
Who's excited to see a PHASE VIII! Woohoo! As far as content, I think most of these questions were answered with a big time YES, except for perhaps transition against Baylor, but that was more the fault of the offense rather than the defense.

mph
03-28-2010, 11:43 PM
Who's excited to see a [B]PHASE VIII![/B

In the words of a guy only slightly crazier than I've been acting today... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrCEhRNgGHY)

Jumbo
03-29-2010, 12:44 AM
Who's excited to see a PHASE VIII! Woohoo! As far as content, I think most of these questions were answered with a big time YES, except for perhaps transition against Baylor, but that was more the fault of the offense rather than the defense.

It's coming, my friend -- as soon as I recap this phase tomorrow!

CDu
03-29-2010, 07:28 AM
Who's excited to see a PHASE VIII! Woohoo! As far as content, I think most of these questions were answered with a big time YES, except for perhaps transition against Baylor, but that was more the fault of the offense rather than the defense.

I'd say that the answer to #5 is still in question. Baylor had a pretty good offensive night against us (113.8 efficiency), and WVU offers yet another different type of challenge for our defense. Thankfully, our offense was up to the task against Baylor.

But we stayed healthy (for the most part), got Scheyer out of his funk, handled the dome, definitely got the bigs more involved offensively, handled scoring slumps, and handled the pressure. The transition wasn't really a factor last weekend unless we committed awful turnovers. Neither Purdue nor Baylor really looked to push tempo too much off of shot attempts. Most of the transition buckets we allowed came off of turnovers up top.

Delaware
03-29-2010, 07:40 AM
I'd say that the answer to #5 is still in question. Baylor had a pretty good offensive night against us (113.8 efficiency), and WVU offers yet another different type of challenge for our defense. Thankfully, our offense was up to the task against Baylor.

But we stayed healthy (for the most part), got Scheyer out of his funk, handled the dome, definitely got the bigs more involved offensively, handled scoring slumps, and handled the pressure. The transition wasn't really a factor last weekend unless we committed awful turnovers. Neither Purdue nor Baylor really looked to push tempo too much off of shot attempts. Most of the transition buckets we allowed came off of turnovers up top.

Very correct... our defense (and rebounding) was not very good in the first half and for portions of the 2nd half... however, we seem to get tougher both defensively and rebouonding wise late in games... must be those tired legs!:eek:

Jumbo
03-30-2010, 10:21 PM
Before we look ahead once more, it's time to look back.

1) Can Duke stay healthy?
Well, Kyle's hand/wrist didn't look so good in that picture, but he's still playing. So, it looks like the guys are still as healthy as we can hope.

2) Will the Scheyer Schooting Schlump continue?
No! (I think.) I love the way he attacked the basket against Purdue in the second half; I know that gave me confidence going into the Baylor game, and I imagine it did for Scheyer, too. Certainly 5-for-10 from 3-point range is a major step back in the right direction, and he hit some clutch ones!

3) How will Duke react to playing in a dome?
I think the team handled the dome just fine. Hopefully that bodes well for Indy.

4) Is the offense truly becoming more diverse?
I think so. We looked to go into the post against Purdue; we just had trouble actually executing that strategy. And against Baylor's zone, a bunch of other guys got different shots. There are other options beyond the big three, even though they are taking the bulk of the shots (as they should be).

5) Has Duke's defense reached a point where it's a given strength -- against any opponent?
This will be a "yeah ... but" answer. I do believe this D is capable of playing great against anyone. That said, it wasn't great against Baylor. I like what Coach K had to say after the game about how at halftime, everyone was talking in the locker room about the offense against the zone, but that he felt they were playing well on offense and needed to be reminded about their D. And even though there was a stretch in the second half where neither team could score, I thought Duke's offense was ahead of its D for the whole game, and I didn't feel as comfortable as usual about the team's ability to get stops. That said, I still believe strongly in Duke's team defense, and believe Baylor just had a very good combination of players that disrupted Duke's backline, in particular.

6) Will teams gameplan differently against Duke's offense?
Not really. Purdue (pressure man-to-man) and Baylor (active 2-3 zone) basically did what they do.

7) How will Duke's transition D be against better teams?
This was the biggest problem when Duke struggled against Purdue and Baylor, and it was a direct result of live-ball turnovers, for the most part. When Duke settled down on offense in the second half of both games, each team got fewer runouts. There were a few situations, though, where a guy took a shot a players forgot to rotate back, leading to easy fast breaks. The transition D can still get better.

8) How will Duke handle extended stretches where the offense isn't working?
Well, Duke did get bogged down in both games, but they didn't do anything special to get out of it. Against Purdue, they went back to the basics -- better, stronger screens, more motion, attacking off the dribble. Against Baylor, they just pounded the offensive glass.

9) How will Duke handle the pressure of the coming moments?
Exceptionally well. That was, by far, the most positive thing to come out of an extremely positive experience in Houston.

treborredneb
03-30-2010, 11:13 PM
Jumbo, from a long-time lurker and first-time poster, many overdue thanks for your contributions to this board. I really have enjoyed your posts, especially these "Phase" posts.

Vincetaylor
03-30-2010, 11:43 PM
Thanks Jumbo. Happy we have an VIII to look forward to.