Duke was overrated, but it’s too early to write them off completely

Grayson Allen gets his shot blocked (AP Photo)

CHICAGO — Duke entered the 2015-16 season as a preseason top ten team, one that snuck into the top five of most preseason projections.

But if we’re going to call it like it is, if we’re going to really be honest here, than the fact of the matter is this: Duke was overrated entering the season.

They’re going to get better. Teams coached by Mike Krzyzewski have a tendency to do that. But as of today, as of this moment, Duke is not a top five team. Kentucky exposed them in Tuesday night’s 74-63 Champions Classic win, their stifling perimeter defense eliminating any hope that Duke had of functioning offensively in the half court.

“The game was bigger for our guys that they anticipated,” Coach K said. “We’re not going to win when our perimeter plays like that.”

The “like that” that Coach K was referring to was the performance of the two guys that were supposed to star for the Blue Devils on the perimeter, Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. They combined to shoot 3-for-17 from the floor with eight turnovers on Tuesday night. Allen was 0-for-9 in the first half alone.

To be frank, this is something that we probably should have seen coming. Kentucky is going to make life miserable for opposing back courts all season long, and while Duke is the defending national champion loaded with McDonald’s All-American, it’s critical that we clarify that statement. The Blue Devils only return four rotation players from last year’s team, and the one true point guard on the roster — Derryck Thornton — is a freshman that essentially skipped his senior season in high school in order to enroll at Duke a year early. Someone had to fill the void Tyus Jones left.

That’s a nasty combination, particularly when the season is all of five days old.

But all is not lost for the Blue Devils. Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:

1. Grayson Allen needs another move: The scouting report on Grayson Allen is so glaringly obvious that the drunk, despondent Duke fans at the United Center last night were able to figure out exactly what he was going to do by the midway point in the first half. He’s going right, he going to try to turn the corner, and he’s going to drive right at the rim. That works against the likes of Siena and Bryant, where his long strides and explosiveness allow him to beat his man and finish over the help defender. But against Kentucky? When he’s being guarded by the likes of Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe and trying to finish over big dudes that are going to be first round picks? We all saw what happens then.

And to be fair, I believe the magnitude of the moment got to Allen. When I spoke with Duke assistant Nate James for this story, one of the things that he reiterated to me was that Allen almost cares too much. He tries too hard and he puts too much pressure on himself, and when things start going poorly, they can snowball. Allen entered this game averaging 27.0 points and 4.0 assists. He was Duke’s best player the first weekend of the season, meaning that the Wildcats game-planned how to stop him. It’s not easy to function being the focal point of a defensive scouting report, and it’s even tougher when everyone in the gym knows what you want to do with ball.

“You have to be able to do a lot of different things and adjust to whatever they’re doing out there,” Allen said after the game. On Tuesday, he didn’t.

2. Execution was the biggest issue: One point that Coach K drove home during his press conference was that the issue with Duke offensively wasn’t their ability to initiate offense, it was their problems executing the sets they were trying to run. In other words, they were able to run their stuff, they just didn’t run it well.

“Some of the turnovers at point guard were after we already initiated the offense and had to make a play and be strong with the ball,” Coach K said. “We have five really good perimeter players and you should just be strong with the ball. When someone is playing that strong you have to come back with that [same] kind of effort.”

3. Part of the issue is Duke has no pressure release: Having a powerful post scorer is good for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that having a player like Jahlil Okafor means that, when you get him the ball in the post, you’re more-than-likely going to end up getting a high percentage shot or a couple of free throws any time he touches the ball. But that presence also loosens things up for perimeter players. When an offense as a post player that has to be doubled — or, at the very least, respected with his back-to-the-basket — perimeter defenders must be aware of that; they’re the ones that will be making the defensive rotations to protect against weak-side layups and open threes.

Duke doesn’t have anyone like that this season. Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson were awesome on Tuesday night — they combined for 28 points and 25 boards, their 12 offensive rebounds providing Duke with their most consistent source of scoring — but neither of them are really a threat with the ball. In other words, you’re not leaving Matt Jones open from three or giving Allen an opportunity to attack a close-out in order to try and double-team Jefferson on the block, and that leaves Duke’s offense very one-dimensional.

4. Plumlee and Jefferson were really good, though: Plumlee kept Duke in the game early, scoring their first nine points, all of which came via offensive rebounds. He finished with 12 points, 10 boards and six blocks, a performance that was eerily reminiscent of Brian Zoubek, the senior center that came out of nowhere to arguably be the MVP of the 2010 national title team.

And Jefferson? He’s been Duke’s most consistent — and best? — player through three games. Duke’s front court was a red flag entering the season, and while their limitations are noteworthy, those two unequivocally outplayed Kentucky’s bigs on Tuesday night. That’s a very good sign for Duke moving forward.

5. Derryck Thornton actually played pretty well: This, more than anything, might be the most important takeaway from Tuesday night. He finished with seven points, three boards and three assists, and while he turned the ball over four times in 29 minutes, it’s not really shocking considering that he’s a freshman that was being guarded by arguably the best on-ball defender in the college game.

Ingram is going to be better. Allen is going to be better. Those two things are going to happen. But the ceiling for Duke’s season rests in the hands of Thornton. Can he get the Blue Devils into their sets without turning the ball over? Can he create easy offense — dunks for the bigs, open threes for the wings — when their offense stagnates? Can he protect the ball against the likes of Tyler Ulis? He’s never going to be Tyus Jones, and he doesn’t necessarily even need to be a starter, but if he can build on what he provided the Blue Devils on Tuesday night, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about where Duke is headed.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

brevin galloway
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”


The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.


Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.


The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.


Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.


Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.


The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.


Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.


Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.


Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.


Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.