North Carolina v Duke

Duke’s flaws are exposed as they get blown out by North Carolina


Well, that was anti-climatic.

It only took four minutes and 29 seconds for No. 6 UNC to open up a double-digit lead against No. 4 Duke. The Tar Heels were up 17 points by the second TV timeout. By halftime, the lead had swelled all the way to 24. And while the Blue Devils were able to trim the deficit to 11 at one point in the second half, there is no denying what we saw on Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium: a blowout.

All the buildup of the Duke-UNC rivalry. All the hype surrounding the rematch of what could very well be the best game of the college basketball season with the ACC regular season title on the line. The bright lights of ESPN’s Gameday in attendance. And the only thing we learned from UNC’s 88-70 win over Duke is that the Blue Devils may be the nation’s most overrated good team.

That’s not to say Duke isn’t talented. Because they are. Austin Rivers is a talented scorer. So is Seth Curry. Andre Dawkins is a lights-out shooter when he gets into a rhythm. The Plumlees are athletic freaks that can be very effective in the paint. Ryan Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor is valuable.

But never have we seen Duke’s flaws exposed so blatantly as they were tonight.

The Blue Devils are a bad defensive team. It really is that simple. Curry, Rivers and Dawkins would have trouble defending the chair that Yi Jianlian so infamously dominated in his NBA Draft workouts. They don’t have anyone capable of guarding a quality small forward, which is why 6’1″ Tyler Thornton spent the majority of the game trying to slow down 6’8″ Harrison Barnes. Is it any wonder that Duke’s run in the second half came when they finally started stringing together some stops?

Offensively, Duke can be dangerous because of how well they shoot the three-ball. Its what their offensive is predicated on. But as the saying goes, live by the three and die by the three. When they aren’t falling, you see performances like you did tonight from the Blue Devils.

Duke does not pass the eye test for a one or two seed, but the eye test doesn’t determine where a team is going to be seeded. That’s why the Blue Devils will, rightfully, end up being a one or a two seed in the tournament. They beat so many good teams in the non-conference portion of their schedule that its inevitable.

What that means that there is going to be some team sitting somewhere around a seven seed that will be licking their chops come the second round of the tournament. What happens if the Blue Devils draw a team like San Diego State (who is currently being projected as a seven seed) or Long Beach State (who is getting a ten seed in some brackets) or any other team with a quality back court?

I can already tell you who the trendiest upset pick is going to be come Selection Sunday.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?