Mason Plumlee, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins

Duke beats Minnesota, becomes the nation’s No. 1 team?


The knock on Duke coming into the season was that Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were quality pieces, but that they weren’t be good enough to be the feature players on a team that would legitimately be able to contend for a national title.

The two seniors are making that line of thinking seem foolish early on this season.

Just nine days after No.5 Duke knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic behind 41 combined points from Curry and Plumlee, the Blue Devils rolled over Minnesota 89-71 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis out in the Bahamas.

Curry had 25. Plumlee had 20 and added 17 boards and three assists. Perhaps most importantly for Plumlee, he was 8-10 from the charity stripe. That’s been the place he’s struggled the most throughout his career.

It’s too early to make the claim that Duke is “for real”. The Kentucky team that they beat is incredibly young and struggled to handle Morehead State in Rupp Arena. This Minnesota team was predicted by almost everyone to be a potential tournament team, but that was with the understanding that Trevor Mbakwe would be back to 100%. He’s not, and the Gophers don’t have the depth to overcome an all-american turning into a role player.

In other words, I’m not yet convinced that Duke is worlds better than we thought, and I’m definitely not ready to drink whatever it is Ken Pomeroy cracked open on Thanksgiving simply because Duke beating Kentucky in November isn’t much more impressive than Indiana beating Georgetown. And I also don’t think that beating down a Minnesota team that is playing a long way from 100% on a night they happen to shoot 8-10 from three is the best game to base your opinion of this team around.

I will say this, however: after watching Duke through the first two weeks of the season, I’m really glad that I wrote their preview with the theme that the Blue Devils are better than they were given credit for.

The Blue Devils get VCU (*not Missouri, my bad) tomorrow. If all goes to plan, they’ll get Louisville in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

If Duke wins both of those games, than I may be asking Kenpom to pour me a glass.

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

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.