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


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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No. 23 Xavier makes statement, blows out Dayton

Chris Mack
Associated Press
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With in-state rivals No. 23 Xavier and Dayton meeting for the first time since 2013, there was a lot of anticipation for Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational title game in Orlando. But after 20 competitive minutes the Musketeers removed any doubt, blowing out the Flyers by a final score of 90-61.

The depth, talent, experience and toughness of Chris Mack’s team was on display throughout the event, most especially Sunday evening. Eight players scored at least eight points against Dayton, and as they had throughout the tournament Xavier dominated on the boards. The Musketeers grabbed 37.1 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities and limited Dayton to just four offensive rebounds, turning that into a 17-2 edge in second chance points.

Add in 27 Xavier points off of 22 Dayton turnovers, and it was clear who dictated the terms of engagement in this much-anticipated meeting.

The offensive rebounding and turnovers issues took their toll on the Flyers, who managed to keep the game close until late in the first half. But Xavier was able to stretch out the margin to eight by the intermission, and a 21-0 run pushed the margin out to 29 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game. Dayton’s gotten off to a good start, despite not having the suspended Dyshawn Pierre, and they’re going to win a lot of games this season.

But there was a clear difference between these two teams Sunday night, with the deep Musketeers looking like one that can not only build on last season’s Sweet 16 run but exceed it.

On the season six players are averaging at least 9.7 points per game, which makes it hard for the opposition to focus its defensive efforts on one or two players. Jalen Reynolds and James Farr can take control of games in the paint. Trevon Bluiett has the ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor, and this team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either. Add in a redshirt freshman point guard in Edmond Sumner who’s hit the ground running in filling the role left vacant by the graduation of Dee Davis, and this is a team capable of being a factor nationally.

Xavier’s reached the Sweet 16 in five of the last eight seasons, so success is to be expected from this program. And if their start to this season is any indication, this group of Musketeers is more than capable of not only challenging Villanova atop the Big East but adding to that recent run of success.

POSTERIZED: Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds dunks on two defenders

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Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational title game between No. 23 Xavier and Dayton was the first meeting between the two in-state rivals since 2013, the year in which the Musketeers moved from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East. Of course the game was highly anticipated, and Xavier forward Jalen Reynolds made a powerful statement early in the first half.

What did he do? A rip-through and one dribble around Dayton’s Steve McElvene, then a one-handed dunk over Kendall Pollard with McElvene attempting to challenge the finish from behind.

Video credit: ESPN