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(Earlier we said we'd have more later. It's here now)
For part of the first half against Michigan, Duke put on an exhibit that was
equal to the '92 team, the '99 team, and the '78 team against Villanova. The
story of this game is that for part of the game, for the first time this season,
the pieces fit together precisely. When you think about it, whether it's a
musician, a dancer, or a sports team, you usually have a peek of potential, and
then bursts of excellence, and later, if you are lucky, a sustained level of
superior performance. Duke's not there yet, but the first half demonstrated the
potential this team has.
What was particularly thrilling to us and probably made the coaching staff
pretty happy was seeing not just a great deal of excellent teamwork but also
that everyone seemed to own a role and everyone played their role exceedingly
well. The defense was stifling, the break was efficient, the passing was
solid, and shooting 63% for the game ain't exactly chicken feed.
Since moving to the point, Chris Duhon is averaging 10.5 assists per game,
and he has done a superb job of running the team, and as expected, this frees
Jason Williams up to score at will.
By the way, Williams has really moved up in the history of the ACC when it
comes to guards. The last guard to show this level of
dominance....Randolph Childress? But as great a clutch player as he was,
he wasn't as good overall as Williams. To make that comparison, you have
to go to Bobby Hurley, Phil Ford, Johnny Dawkins, John Lucas, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury, Muggsy Bogues, Tommy Amaker, and players of that level. Actually, that's just about it at that level, although we forgot Mark Price. How many of those guys could have contained him? He could hold his own against any guard in the history of the ACC, and that's not something we say lightly. There doesn't appear to be anyone in college who can stop him, or really, slow him down much. When you can shoot like that from outside and drive the way he
does, forget it.
People are beginning to key on Boozer, and that showed up in his rebounding
in this game, but he still scored 23. People are also catching on to
Dunleavy, but in this case, we mean the cognoscenti - in other words, the guys
who should make you turn the sound down and put on some Joe Pass or Astrud
Gilberto so that you can appreciate the beauty of the game without some blowhard
like Packer talking down to you (Jim Nantz, a really nice guy, is excluded from
Incidentally, who told Dunleavy he could be more athletic? We had him pegged
as a modestly gifted athlete who was just 10 times smarter than everyone else,
but lately, he has taken to making some amazingly athletic plays. Looks like
Magic was right on when he said Dunleavy would make the league. His game
But those guys, you pretty much know what they could or at least should
do. The ones who impressed us are the others: Dahntay Jones, Casey
Sanders, Nick Horvath, and Daniel Ewing.
Jones had a really solid game today and fit in the offensive flow very
well. His defense, as it has been all along, was really good. When
he fits on the break and slashes, Duke is that much more dangerous. Casey
Sanders is evolving a role as an impact player, a shotblocker who can come in
and mix things up. This is the second game in a row that he has had some
startling blocks. Now he has always blocked shots, but usually (formerly?)
he was hesitant, and he got some chippies. Now he's pretty much stalking people
who dare come in the lane, and he's putting the fear of God in people. He
still has to work on his hands, but his defense is getting pretty intimidating.
Horvath, whose primary basketball identity is as a shooter, came in and got 5
rebounds in 12 minutes and a tremendous, Battier-like block. The outside
shooting will always be there for Nick. The key for him is developing
other aspects of his game. If he can grab a rebound every other minute or minute
and a half, he'll force his way onto the court.
This was not Ewing's best game, but he has already won us over: he's a very
solid member of the rotation, and he'll just get better.
And one more thought: Reggie Love is working his way back in. That
gives Duke a pretty deep bench.
And a word about Michigan: after the brave talk and bluster, things just
ended up starting off like last year's game. But to their credit, they
fought back and never gave up. That's not easy to do when a great team is
having a great game, but they didn't back down even though they were
outclassed. A lot of the credit for that attitude has to go to Amaker, who
got them as ready as possible for this game. Like some other coaches early
in their career, notably Matt Dougherty, he has to work with what he has, and
hope that his recruits will grow up fast. Fortunately for Michigan, he has
recruited well indeed.
As a measure of Duke's dominance, the game was so one-sided that we kept
wishing the clock would move faster. We almost felt sorry for Michigan at times.
So where from here? Well, if the team builds on the nuggets of performance in
this game, Duke is going to be a load for anyone. There were times when
they made Michigan look like a high school team, and there were times, on the
break, when they ran it as well as the Celtics in their glory days. We
wish everyone would shut up about going undefeated, but the fact is that this
team has the potential to be unbelievably powerful. There's no point in
adding pressure to it, so what we should all hope for is that all the variable
including health, luck, attitude, and intensity allow this group to achieve
their potential, because that potential is enormous. The start of the
Michigan game was only a foreshadowing of what is possible, but there are no
guarantees, and we should all realize how hard actually reaching your potential
is, let alone being perfect. So forget being perfect. Let's just enjoy the ride.
It could be tremendous.
Notes - while individual players are improving quickly, Duhon and Dunleavy
may lead the parade....Jones made big strides today....Sanders has developed a
great niche and could be a huge factor down the stretch...we've never seen
Amaker actually look nervous, until today...despite the lopsided loss, Michigan
has elements to build on - a solid center, a solid player in Blanchell, a really
quick if undersized point in Queen....Duke shot .478 from bonus-land, and .773
from the line...Michigan shot a remarkable .900 from the line...Chris
Young probably made some future money with his performance today...for the
conspiracy theorists, Duke got called for 5 more fouls than Michigan...