Duke v Clemson

Clemson latest to upset underachieving No. 16 Duke


Duke entered this week as the No. 16 team in the country, the first time in more than six full seasons that the Blue Devils found themselves sitting outside of the top ten of the AP poll.

That ranking isn’t incorrect, either.

Duke is 1-2 in the ACC for the first time since 2007 after losing to Clemson in Littlejohn Coliseum, 72-59, on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils are 12-4 for the first time since 1996. The last time Clemson beat Duke? February of 2009.

We’re bordering on unchartered territory for the Blue Devils here, and not because this is the first time that Duke has struggled under Mike Krzyzewski. They’ve slumped and they’ve lost a couple games in a row and they’ve been picked off in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. (Hello, Eric Maynor.) That happens with every team from time-to-time, I don’t care who your coach is.

But this year is different.

Duke’s issues have been evident since the start of the season. Remember, this is the same team that nearly lost to East Carolina and Vermont at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the same team that began the year outside of Kenpom’s top 150 in defensive efficiency. We know that Duke is going to have trouble defending on the perimeter, and we know those defensive issues are going to be exacerbated by the fact that there is no one around the rim to act as rim protector.

We know all that.

But it doesn’t change the fact that the Blue Devils were a mess offensively against the Tigers, who admittedly are a good defensive team but not one that should make this Duke team look that bad.

What do I mean by ‘this Duke team’?

Well, one that includes the potential No. 1 pick in Jabari Parker and a pair of potential lottery picks in Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon. One that also includes an underrated (because he’s inconsistent) point guard in Quinn Cook and a pair of sharpshooting off-guards in Matt Jones and Andre Dawkins.

Coach K has more than enough offensive weapons at his disposal and more talent on his roster than everyone in the country outside of maybe 10 teams, and that’s being generous. So why are they being outscored 41-22 in the second half by a Tiger team that’s bad enough that it could end up getting the coach fired? Why is this group getting outscored 26-9 to close out a league game?

The answer: I don’t know.

And it doesn’t look like Coach K does, either. At least not right now.

Because if he did, Duke wouldn’t be losing at Notre Dame and they wouldn’t be losing at Clemson.

The Blue Devils are underachieving right now. When was the last time you could say that about one of Coach K’s teams?

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
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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.