Remember back when a Duke-North Carolina game meant someone – maybe everyone – was going home bloody? Ah, the good old days.
This year, the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels easily, trotting up and down the floor and barely seeming to break a sweat in a 69-53 rout. The perils of small-ball, one supposes.
For Duke, this game proved that, to quote Dennis Green: “They are who we thought they were!” With Ryan Kelly back, and Carolina already playing a small lineup, there was simply no room for a happy ending for local fans in Chapel Hill. Duke got 23 points and 13 rebounds from a rampaging Mason Plumlee, and kept the interior loose by feeding Seth Curry to the tune of 20 points, mostly on smooth jumpers.
The futility of the evening was best captured by the @DaggumRoy Twitter parody account:
Duke heads into the ACC tournament as the league’s No. 2 seed, and Coach K’s boys would no doubt love to end up facing Miami on the final day. The question all season long has been “how many games would Duke have won if Ryan Kelly had been healthy?” That question can’t be answered, but the Blue Devils can show they have what it takes to match up with the Hurricanes if both make it to the title game.
For Carolina, this isn’t the worst news ever. Small ball has gotten them to this point, and it could still get them to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, if they manage not to run into another accurate, rangy, speedy team full of collegiate All-Stars coached by a Hall of Famer. It’s doable – there aren’t a lot of them out there.
Duke-North Carolina still holds the title of Best College Hoops Rivalry, but it was pretty flat this year. Here’s hoping both teams get up to their old tricks again before the season is all said and done.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.
LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.
While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.
Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?
Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.
Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.