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devildownunder
03-19-2007, 03:57 PM
What follows is a rant on a pet peeve of mine:

OK, I'm firmly in the camp of those who believe Duke will win more games next year and be a better team. I'm not convinced we'll be final four material but I think the Sweet 16 will be back within our grasp.

So the overall point of the article is one I can support. What's troubling is the use of the closs losses to make the argument. Bill Parcells once famously said of football teams "you are what you are." His point was, there is no such thing as being better than your record. If you are 5-5, then you're a .500 team. Why? Because even if you lost 4 of those games by a combined 10 points, you didn't do the things necessary to win those games because it was beyond you to do them. If it weren't beyond you, you would've made those plays and won those games.

I think the same applies in basketball and pretty much every other sport. Duke this year wasn't somehow better than its record just because it had close losses.

To look at it from another angle, say we had won all of those close games. In that case, we'd be 27-6 and still playing. Would it then be fair to suggest that the team was somehow not as good as its record because many of its victories had been close? Of course not.

You are what you are. Words to live by in the sports world. We're slipping into delusions if we do anything else, IMO.

mapei
03-19-2007, 04:04 PM
By my very quick count, we lost five games by five points or fewer, but also won three by five points or fewer, including the first Clemson "win" that would have been a loss with a sharper timekeeper. So you really can't play the "if" game from only one side. Put another way, one could just as easily say we were three close games away from being 19-14, and 6-10 in the ACC.

hurleyfor3
03-19-2007, 04:13 PM
Yeah, by this measure the 1992 team won... five games it "should have" lost. The 99 and 04 teams "should have" beaten uconn, and so on. Endgames are never as trivial as one side's single made or missed basket.

More to the point, Duke fans should be the last people on the planet to argue endgame outcomes are random. Seriously, I even need to bring this up?

patentgeek
03-19-2007, 04:18 PM
But I think what he said is only true to a point, and less true in basketball than football. In football, the better team wins a much higher percentage of games than in basketball, particularly college basketball, and there is a great deal of parity in college basketball today. If we assume that two teams are basically evenly matched, and one has to win and one has to lose, if the teams play 1000 times the wins and losses may be evenly matched, but over the small sample of really close games in a college basketball season the sample size is too small for there to be any assurance that wins and losses will even out.

Take the recent Duke season - 6 games (Va Tech, Clemson, UVA, Fl State, NCState and Va Commonwealth) that were decided by one possession (I'm including NCState because it was an overtime game, so the game was even at the end of regulation). Duke won one of those and lost 5. If the final 2 minutes of those games were played 1,000 times each, would Duke win only 1/6 of those? I doubt it - the percentage would be much closer to half. So in that respect Duke had some hard luck in close games.

That said, I believe that Duke had some shortcomings that made it more difficult to win close games: (a) no real go-to guy on the offensive end; (b) inability to consistently create offensive opportunities by dribble penetration; (c) unreliable free throw shooting; and (d) some inability to shut down dribble penetration by very quick guards. Because of the nature of how close games are played (running the shot clock down to a few seconds and creating offense that way, drawing fouls, and making free throws), the team struggled in these types of situations (and ultimately seemed to lose confidence in those situations).

What changes for next year? Stronger, more experienced players that should be able to build bigger leads so that end game shortcomings aren't so apparent. Also, there should be some improvement in (a), (c) and (d). On the other hand, assuming McRoberts leaves (as some on this board who seem to have inside info have implied), there may be some other holes.

devildownunder
03-19-2007, 04:24 PM
But I think what he said is only true to a point, and less true in basketball than football. In football, the better team wins a much higher percentage of games than in basketball, particularly college basketball, and there is a great deal of parity in college basketball today. If we assume that two teams are basically evenly matched, and one has to win and one has to lose, if the teams play 1000 times the wins and losses may be evenly matched, but over the small sample of really close games in a college basketball season the sample size is too small for there to be any assurance that wins and losses will even out.

Take the recent Duke season - 6 games (Va Tech, Clemson, UVA, Fl State, NCState and Va Commonwealth) that were decided by one possession (I'm including NCState because it was an overtime game, so the game was even at the end of regulation). Duke won one of those and lost 5. If the final 2 minutes of those games were played 1,000 times each, would Duke win only 1/6 of those? I doubt it - the percentage would be much closer to half. So in that respect Duke had some hard luck in close games.

That said, I believe that Duke had some shortcomings that made it more difficult to win close games: (a) no real go-to guy on the offensive end; (b) inability to consistently create offensive opportunities by dribble penetration; (c) unreliable free throw shooting; and (d) some inability to shut down dribble penetration by very quick guards. Because of the nature of how close games are played (running the shot clock down to a few seconds and creating offense that way, drawing fouls, and making free throws), the team struggled in these types of situations (and ultimately seemed to lose confidence in those situations).

What changes for next year? Stronger, more experienced players that should be able to build bigger leads so that end game shortcomings aren't so apparent. Also, there should be some improvement in (a), (c) and (d). On the other hand, assuming McRoberts leaves (as some on this board who seem to have inside info have implied), there may be some other holes.



You are contradicting yourself. How can you start by saying that the law of averages would work in duke's favor if you kept playing close games and then finish by listing all the "shortcomings that made it more difficult to win close games" and talking about what will change for next year?

If it's all about averages then we should win more close games next year without making any changes.

mapei
03-19-2007, 04:43 PM
Look at it this way: there were 8 games decided by 5 points or fewer. We went 3-5 in those. I think you can argue that the law of averages would have had us go 4-4, but it's hard to argue that it would have us go 6-2 or something like that.

Classof06
03-19-2007, 05:29 PM
Personally, I'm of belief that we lost those close games for the same reason we're not in the tournament right now; we can't close games. We blew an 11-point 2nd half lead to VCU, we were killing FSU before they came back, we were beating UVA by 8 with under 4 minutes left. These are not shortcomings or hard luck; these are flaws. I agree with Parcells, you are what you're record says you are, and Duke's case was no different.

TNTDevil
03-19-2007, 05:38 PM
... the timekeeping error would have only allowed for the game to end in a tie and what would have happened in OT would be anyones guess.

jimsumner
03-19-2007, 05:40 PM
"including the first Clemson "win" that would have been a loss ."

Would have been a loss? And we know that how? Duke still would have had the ball in a TIE game. Sounds like a fair amount of doubt to me.

DukieGator
03-19-2007, 06:19 PM
What follows is a rant on a pet peeve of mine:

OK, I'm firmly in the camp of those who believe Duke will win more games next year and be a better team. I'm not convinced we'll be final four material but I think the Sweet 16 will be back within our grasp.

So the overall point of the article is one I can support. What's troubling is the use of the closs losses to make the argument. Bill Parcells once famously said of football teams "you are what you are." His point was, there is no such thing as being better than your record. If you are 5-5, then you're a .500 team. Why? Because even if you lost 4 of those games by a combined 10 points, you didn't do the things necessary to win those games because it was beyond you to do them. If it weren't beyond you, you would've made those plays and won those games.

I think the same applies in basketball and pretty much every other sport. Duke this year wasn't somehow better than its record just because it had close losses.

To look at it from another angle, say we had won all of those close games. In that case, we'd be 27-6 and still playing. Would it then be fair to suggest that the team was somehow not as good as its record because many of its victories had been close? Of course not.

You are what you are. Words to live by in the sports world. We're slipping into delusions if we do anything else, IMO.

Long time reader, first time poster.

I would have felt a whole lot worse about this season had all of our losses been complete blowouts. The Parcells quote is a bit too black and white for my taste. In my view, there are signs of encouragement in the fact that several of our losses were by 1 or 2 points. With some work, this team can get back to dominating the ACC, and hopefully contending for a national championship.

Clipsfan
03-19-2007, 06:26 PM
You are contradicting yourself. How can you start by saying that the law of averages would work in duke's favor if you kept playing close games and then finish by listing all the "shortcomings that made it more difficult to win close games" and talking about what will change for next year?

If it's all about averages then we should win more close games next year without making any changes.

I think that the point he is making is valid, given that he switched from the law of averages to trying to explain why we lost more than our fair share of close games. Our team was not good in the end game situations this year, as we took bad shots and didn't do a good job of stopping our opponents from getting their own shots off. I think that there were some game tying/winning shots which went in for the opponents that I wouldn't bet on the opponent making even 5 out of 10 times (Singletary) while others were good shots (VCU) and would probably fall a larger than 50% of the time. We had some bad luck in those circumstances, but we also had situations where Josh took shots as time expired and didn't make the shot. I think that he wouldn't make those shots more than 50% of the time because he took hard shots and shot the ball with little arc each time (as he tends to do), meaning that there was little margin for error. Next year the team will hopefully be better prepared for these sorts of situations, with a go-to guy (Paulus, Henderson) who can get off a better shot. If this is true, we should do better on the whole in close games.

johnb
03-19-2007, 07:10 PM
Everyone is sure in a bad mood these days.

To my mind, DBR's point is well taken. We lost many close games. We have a lot of excellent players. We were capable of playing even with any of the top 40 teams in the country, and our players were capable of making the jump shots, free throws, and layups that would generally lead to W's. Unfortunately for us, we did not have a team that could separate itself from those top 40 teams, which led us to many close games, and, inevitably to
5-12 losses.

This does not mean we need to reinvent the wheel or start 3 freshmen next year. Aside from perhaps 2 schools, we will have as talented a team as there is in the country. Our current guys will all be a year older. It will be fun to see how they do and see who takes over the reins as the best player on the team and see if we can win more games and get further in the tournament.

Everyone needs to lighten up about the "failure" of this team. These guys worked very hard (perhaps harder than the people who are writing to say that they haven't put forth the requisite effort-are you the very best person at what you do in the country? are you the very best person who has EVER had your job? Are your successes and failures highlighted on television and rehashed by a bunch of guys who have never remotely done what you do every day?).

Our guys didn't tank any games and always looked attentive and played everyone close. What more do you realistically want from a bunch of 19 year olds? If none proves himself to be Laettner, Hurley, or Hill, then perhaps we should shoot 'em? Sheesh...

Clipsfan
03-19-2007, 07:18 PM
[QUOTE=johnb;8784]
These guys worked very hard (perhaps harder than the people who are writing to say that they haven't put forth the requisite effort-are you the very best person at what you do in the country? are you the very best person who has EVER had your job? Are your successes and failures highlighted on television and rehashed by a bunch of guys who have never remotely done what you do every day?).
[QUOTE]

I don't think anyone in this thread is questioning whether this team worked hard during the season. I don't think that it is possible for a team coached by K to not work hard during the season, as he won't let them do anything but work as hard as they can. What I've seen mentioned is that they do need to improve from where they are currently as players (and as a team), which will take more work during the offseason. Given how dedicated the guys seem to be, and how much I am sure that they want to win (I would be willing to bet that Nelson, he of the Navy Seal boot camp workouts, will work his butt off to improve), they will make many of the leaps forward which they need to make. I haven't played collegiate basketball, but I have heard that it is difficult to make as many leaps and strides during the season as compared to the offseason. There are fewer time commitments during the summer, and many more chances to work on aspects of the game as well as bulking up where necessary. I know they take summer school, but the overall environment is more conducive to improvement. They will get better.

Forrest
03-19-2007, 09:41 PM
WRT 'close' games, where 'close' is apparently being defined as a win or loss of 5 points or less, I don't see any evidence that Duke won more or less 'close' games than it should have given its overall record, or that its record in 'close' games tells us anything at all about Duke's performance.

It's silly to say that Duke was 22-11 overall, but only 3-5 in close games. Conservatively, 10 of those games were against clearly inferior competition, meaning that Duke was 12-11 against non-inferior competition, including 3-5 in close games. I can assure you that there is no significant statistical difference between the 9-6 record in non-close games against competitive opponents and the 3-5 record in close games against competitive opponents. None. Parcells may or may not be right in asserting that a team is exactly as good as its record, but Duke's results certainly don't disprove that assertion.

Forrest

devildownunder
03-19-2007, 10:54 PM
Long time reader, first time poster.

I would have felt a whole lot worse about this season had all of our losses been complete blowouts. The Parcells quote is a bit too black and white for my taste. In my view, there are signs of encouragement in the fact that several of our losses were by 1 or 2 points. With some work, this team can get back to dominating the ACC, and hopefully contending for a national championship.



Agree that the team can be much better next year.

I will defend Parcells' comment though (and no, I'm not a giants fan). Part of his point, I think, is that when evaluating yourself as a team/franchise/program, it is way too easy to delude yourself into thinking that you are actually better than you are by saying "yeah, we lost, but it was close." And then you end up just tinkering with things that need to be totally overhauled because they simply do not work. After a difficult season like this one (yes, it was a difficult season. nobody who is a duke fan goes into a year hoping to achieve 22-11, 7th place and 2 1st-round exits in the postseason) I think it's best if everyone from the fans to the man in charge take a good hard look at things and see that some big changes need to occur for us to be successful. That is a realistic way of looking at things. And it is very black-and-white, which is 100 percent appropriate when everyone is measured by wins and losses.

devildownunder
03-19-2007, 10:58 PM
I think that the point he is making is valid, given that he switched from the law of averages to trying to explain why we lost more than our fair share of close games. Our team was not good in the end game situations this year, as we took bad shots and didn't do a good job of stopping our opponents from getting their own shots off. I think that there were some game tying/winning shots which went in for the opponents that I wouldn't bet on the opponent making even 5 out of 10 times (Singletary) while others were good shots (VCU) and would probably fall a larger than 50% of the time. We had some bad luck in those circumstances, but we also had situations where Josh took shots as time expired and didn't make the shot. I think that he wouldn't make those shots more than 50% of the time because he took hard shots and shot the ball with little arc each time (as he tends to do), meaning that there was little margin for error. Next year the team will hopefully be better prepared for these sorts of situations, with a go-to guy (Paulus, Henderson) who can get off a better shot. If this is true, we should do better on the whole in close games.


Clipsfan, maybe I'm oversimplifying here but isn't that like saying "I played well except I couldn't make any putts?" I mean, if the team did everything well except close, that one MAJOR flaw can easily prevent success. And given the results from the season, I think it's sugarcoating to say it was just that simple anyway. I mean, if the team didn't have a long way to go, it wouldn't have been in so many tight spots to begin with.

devildownunder
03-19-2007, 11:10 PM
Everyone is sure in a bad mood these days.

To my mind, DBR's point is well taken. We lost many close games. We have a lot of excellent players. We were capable of playing even with any of the top 40 teams in the country, and our players were capable of making the jump shots, free throws, and layups that would generally lead to W's. Unfortunately for us, we did not have a team that could separate itself from those top 40 teams, which led us to many close games, and, inevitably to
5-12 losses.

This does not mean we need to reinvent the wheel or start 3 freshmen next year. Aside from perhaps 2 schools, we will have as talented a team as there is in the country. Our current guys will all be a year older. It will be fun to see how they do and see who takes over the reins as the best player on the team and see if we can win more games and get further in the tournament.

Everyone needs to lighten up about the "failure" of this team. These guys worked very hard (perhaps harder than the people who are writing to say that they haven't put forth the requisite effort-are you the very best person at what you do in the country? are you the very best person who has EVER had your job? Are your successes and failures highlighted on television and rehashed by a bunch of guys who have never remotely done what you do every day?).

Our guys didn't tank any games and always looked attentive and played everyone close. What more do you realistically want from a bunch of 19 year olds? If none proves himself to be Laettner, Hurley, or Hill, then perhaps we should shoot 'em? Sheesh...


If we had "a lot of excellent players" this year, why was the team not "capable of making the jump shots, free throws, and layups that would generally lead to W's"?

I agree that we don't have to "reinvent the wheel" but what you're saying sounds way too close to "we just didn't get the breaks this year" to my tastes. Sports, IMO, doesn't work that way. Teams perform under pressure, in the public eye and they either win or they lose. It really is that simple.

This year, the team didn't win nearly as much as Duke teams usually do. I'm pretty darn sure the players and coaches view those results as unacceptable (they better!) and I don't think we as fans should be asked to view them otherwise.

That doesn't mean that people needed to be mocked or branded as failures but it also doesn't mean we should all be forced to come on and talk about how great the team was, as opposed to talking about why we didn't win as much as we all would have liked and how we can get back to that -- not to mention letting off a little frustration about it all.

Yes, everyone worked very hard. We should all be extremely proud of their effort. I posted words to that effect in the hours following the season's end. So did many other people. But I just can't feel right about posting praise for the team's overall performance. If this team was "great" and had "excellent players" what do we say about our championship teams? Are there even words that fit? There must be some merit in our superlatives or they lose all meaning.

Sir Stealth
03-19-2007, 11:48 PM
By my very quick count, we lost five games by five points or fewer, but also won three by five points or fewer, including the first Clemson "win" that would have been a loss with a sharper timekeeper. So you really can't play the "if" game from only one side. Put another way, one could just as easily say we were three close games away from being 19-14, and 6-10 in the ACC.

I completely agree with this point and this thread and I don't want to be nitpicky, but I was frustrated this year by the way the media treated the Clemson game as a game Duke would have lost with correct timekeeping. The game would have gone into overtime. Clemson would have had momentum, but Duke was at home at had been the better team that day except for the terrible gift pass at the end. Even with less time, they could have come up with a different play to get off a game winning shot faster. Clemson certainly didn't get robbed of a sure win. I know you probably think the same thing and I wholeheartedly agree with this criticism of the lost close games argument, but I think this is worth saying again.

gus
03-20-2007, 06:01 AM
Yeah, by this measure the 1992 team won... five games it "should have" lost. The 99 and 04 teams "should have" beaten uconn, and so on. Endgames are never as trivial as one side's single made or missed basket.

More to the point, Duke fans should be the last people on the planet to argue endgame outcomes are random. Seriously, I even need to bring this up?


good point.

If you add 4 points to each of duke's games in 1995, for example, their record is 19 - 11, and 9-9 in the ACC, likely getting a bid to the tournament.

That's the nature of basketball in a competitive league: there's really not much of a margin between success and failure.

tropical storm
03-20-2007, 05:02 PM
Devildownunder and others make a fair point that a "loss" is a "loss" but sometimes how a loss occurred gives you a good starting point on what you need to fix.

Initially a 3-5 record in "close" games would not seem that stilted, but lets look at the actual games in question a little more carefully. In the 3 "close" games that we won our half time leads were 12,11 and 15 respectively, so I would ask were these really close games, or games where we were comfortably ahead only to execute poorly down the stretch and have them become close games.

In fact, if one starts with the Clemson game at Durham a recurring theme starts to emerge.

Half final 2nd half deficit
Clemson 11 lead 2 Win -9
BC 8 lead 14 Win +6
Virginia 7 lead 2 Loss -9
Florida State 3 lead 1 loss -4
UNC 5 lead 6 loss -11
Maryland 12 deficit 12 loss 0
Clemson 15 lead 5 win -10
GT 15 Lead 9 Win -6
St Johns 24 Lead 17 win -7
Maryland 6 Deficit 8 Loss -2
North Carolina 9 deficit 14 loss -5
NC State 5 Lead 5 Loss -10
VCU 2 Lead 2 Loss -4

That equates to 11 of our last 13 opponents beating us in the second half including 5 blown leads and being outscored by an average of about 6 points in the second half.

Now all this conclusively says is that at some point we became a bad second half team. It is entirely possible that some combination of bad adjustments, bad player conditioning, using a short bench and/or having players that just happen to be better in the first half are responsible for this.

That said on a purely subjective basis I offer the following. This was a very young team without a go to scorer. It is entirely possible that at some point they simply lost confidence in their ability to make plays. The other teams inevitably made a run and we just lacked the team dynamics to know how to get that one key stop, or score that one bucket to break the run.
When the losses started to pile up the confidence just further eroded. Players started to feel pressure, they force bad shots, didn't play as a team, and it became inevitable that teams outplayed us in the second half.

The longwinded point of this comparison is to suggest that it may not be talent that is lacking from the team. This team was good enough to get some really big leads on some really good teams. Confidence and team chemistry is a fickle thing to predict and can change far more quickly than you can change a team's talent. I remain optimistic that even if the talent level is about the same as it was this year (making the completely hypothetical assumption that Josh leaves) the results may be quite a bit better through maturity and working together as a team.

A-Tex Devil
03-20-2007, 05:58 PM
The Parcell's quote is spot on. Sure you can take solace in certain losses and be dismayed by certain wins, but when it comes down to it, there is no shoulda, woulda, coulda about your final record (unless you are an OU football player in Eugene last fall).

This team struggled to close and to come back and it is reflected in their record and how they lost half of their games. Instead of looking at games where we won or lost by less than 5 points, look at the number of games we lost where we had 10 point leads or more. (Ummmm... UVa, FSU, NC State, VCU, Kerlina). How many games did we win when we were down 10? I can't think of one, although there may have been one or 2.

This was the team's identity this year. They will work on it in the summer, sure, but I think a lot of it is in between their ears. If they have the talent to get up by 10, they have the talent to do it again and get up by 20, or at least stay up by 10. They've shown the bursts this year, but nearly always reverted into the same patterns on O and D that allowed teams to make roaring comebacks.

I think some attitude will help. I think another year will help. I think the freshmen will help. But this team should come back next year angry. Everyone (except perhaps McRoberts) will be back. They'll have all experienced the embarassment of losing in the first round, and they should be.... to a man.... pissed off and take that out on everyone they face next year. Let's put the fear back in the other team. I really hated seeing it for the first time in our team this year.