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Singler’s shooting biggest obstacle to Duke’s title hopes

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Unless Kyle Singler finds his groove from last year’s NCAA tournament, Duke isn’t winning it all. It might not even make Elite Eight.

The Devils survived Michigan’s monster rally on Sunday for a 73-71 win and reached its 12th Sweet 16 in the last 14 years. Yet Singler, the senior forward who was the Most Outstanding Player at last year’s Final Four, turned in another sub-par game. He finished with 13 points, but missed seven of 12 shots and never got comfortable against the Wolverines’ 1-3-1 zone.

It’s been more than a month of inconsistent offensive performances from Singler, who’s gone from forgettable nights (8 points on 3-of-14-shootin vs. UNC) to can’t miss-outings (29 points on 10-of-15 shooting vs. Maryland) to games where’s just another contributor (pretty much the last three games).

Sunday was just Singler’s fourth game with an offensive rating above 100 (the D-I average) in the last month and his sixth since Feb. 2. From StatSheet:

Note that orange line along the bottom. Singler hasn’t made more than one 3-pointer in a game since Feb. 13 and didn’t make any in six of those 12 games since. Unless he’s a threat from outside, defenders can slack off and collapse the middle, making it tougher for Duke to have dribble-penetration.

Duke’s loaded with guys who can score, but Singler’s perhaps the most important among their scorers (Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving) because he’s their lone frontcourt scoring threat. He has to stretch the defense.

Not that Singler’s irrelevant without hitting from outside.

He’s still an effective rebounder and is essential to Duke’s defense. When he left the Michigan game midway through the second half because of his fourth foul, it was hardly a coincidence that the Wolverines staged their run.

That’s one of the reasons why he plays so many minutes (35.6 since Feb. 2, including four games where played the full 40), but could also be the main culprit behind the shooting woes. Tired legs can sap even the best shooters this time of year.

But he’ll need find that range. And soon.

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VIDEO: Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has scary fall while carrying girl

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Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has turned into a fan favorite at Rupp Arena.

Every home game, during one of the TV timeouts in the second half, ‘Mony Mony’ will come on, Dancing Guy will hop into the aisle and he’ll break it down like only a middle-aged white guy from Kentucky can.

As you can see, it didn’t quite go all that well for Dancing Guy on Tuesday night, as he tried to do a rail slide while holding a young, female fan and completely ate it.

Here’s another angle of the fall:

It looks much scarier that it actually was, as all reports indicate that everyone made it through the fall healthy.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.