Duke's loss to Maryland Wednesday night in Cameron guarantees that the Blue Devils will finish with their worst regular season performance since 1996. In fact, with a loss at North Carolina Sunday, this year's team will finish lower in the ACC standings than any Mike Krzyzewski-coached team since 1983.
But before anyone starts jumping off any roofs or making statements about the current Duke players and the coaching staff that they might later regret (I'm afraid my warning is too late in this case), it might be worthwhile to take a moment and see what rock bottom really looks like.
For Duke, it's 22-8, 8-7 in the ACC, RPI No. 13 and a spot in the top 20.
Ask, Maryland - the team that overpowered the Blue Devils for the second time this season - about Duke's "disappointing" season. The Terps, coming off a national championship in 2002, have missed the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.
And for those Blue Devil fans who were cursing ESPN early last night as the neverending Villanova-UConn game wiped out the first quarter of the Duke-Maryland broadcast, did you happen to notice Connecticut's plight? The 2004 national champions are 17-12, No. 109 in the RPI and, barring a miracle in the Big East Tournament, are headed for the NIT.
Then there's LSU, which knocked top-seeded Duke out of the 2006 NCAA Tournament and stormed all the way to the Final Four. Even after this week's upset of Florida, the Bengal Tigers are 15-14, No. 98 in the RPI and dead last in the Southeast Conference West Division.
The recent struggles by Maryland and the current plight of UConn and LSU should as a pretty strong reminder of how fragile success is in the college basketball world. Fans of the top programs expect -- and indeed sometimes even demand -- that their coaches keep their teams in championship contention every year. But in a world of parity, almost NOBODY can achieve that level of consistency.
Gary Williams found out how hard it can be after winning the national championship in 2002. His hard-won title obscured his decade-long struggle for postseason success. Anybody remember that before 2001, Williams was routinely dissed for his failure to win in March? He had never won a conference championship and his first 10 NCAA trips produced a so-so 13-10 tournament record - without an appearance beyond the Sweet 16.
That all changed in 2001, when his Terps regrouped after a midseason collapse and reached the Final Four, losing to Duke in the semifinals. A year later, Williams won it all and set out to reap the rewards of success on the recruiting trail. That didn't happen. After two good, but not great seasons in the wake of the title, Williams failed to get the Terps in the NCAA Tournament in 2005 or 2006.
And Gary Williams, for all his annoying paranoia, is one of the best coaches in college basketball.
So is UConn's Jim Calhoun.
Yet, he's struggling with a young team this season after losing five starters off last year's No. 1 seeded team. It will be the second time since first winning the national title in 1999 that Calhoun's Huskies have missed the NCAA field. In fact, since he first established UConn as a national power in 1990, Calhoun has missed the NCAA field four times - plus had a fifth appearance vacated by the NCAA.
Yet, Calhoun is a great coach.
I'm not sure John Brady qualifies as a great coach, but he was certainly lionized by the national media last spring after his LSU Tigers upset No. 1 Duke in the Sweet 16, then beat Texas to reach the Final Four.
Brady's Tigers were supposed to be very good again this season with three starters back, including All-American Glenn "Big Baby" Davis. But after being picked No. 5 in the AP preseason poll, LSU has fallen off the map.
I don't mean to knock Brady - and certainly not Gary Williams nor Calhoun. I'm merely using them to illustrate that every top coach - and every program - comes up short from time to time. College basketball is just too unpredictable and there's too much parity to expect consistent results. I could have used almost any coach or program to illustrate my point. In fact, let's take a quick look at some of the best coaches working today:
- Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Between 1999 and 2005, he won a national championship and competed in four Final Fours. He's had the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament in 10 straight seasons and should make it 11 unless this year's team collapses down the stretch. However, three of his NCAA teams, including two of the last three, have been first-round NCAA Tournament losers. He's had two 18-win seasons, one 19-win season and a 21-win season stuck in the middle of his great run.
- Tubby Smith, Kentucky: Tubby has had 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, a streak that encompasses his time at Tulsa and Georgia. His Kentucky teams have won at least one game in nine straight NCAA Tournaments. The problem is that since winning the national title in 1998, his first season in Lexington, Smith hasn't returned to the Final Four. He's had a 19-win and two 21-win seasons in this decade.
- Lute Olson, Arizona: Olson's active streak of 22 straight NCAA bids is the longest in history (although his 1999 appearance was vacated by the NCAA). He won a national champion with a very young team in 1997. The problem is that despite returning that squad almost intact a year later, his No. 1 seeded Wildcats lost to Utah in the 1998 regional finals. His teams have lost in the first round five times, including as a No. 2, a No. 3, a No. 4 and a No. 5 seed. He's twice had No. 1 seeds lose in the second round. He won just 19 games a year ago and only has 18 so far this season.
- Jim Boeheim, Syracuse: The Hall of Fame coach was long regarded as an NCAA Tournament flop - even after reaching the NCAA championship game in 1987. As the tournament opened in 1991, the defunct national sports paper "The National" included an article ranking Boeheim as the nation's worst tournament coach - and the night the article appeared, his Orangemen became the first No. 2 seed ever upset in the first round. The nation's worst tournament coach has a national title, three Final Fours and a 40-25 tournament record. But it is also true that he's missed the tournament three times since 1993 and has lost in the first round on a number of occasions (including last year).
- Rick Pitino, Louisville: took Providence to the Final Four, then won a national title and appeared in three Final Fours at Kentucky. He earned another Final Four trip at Louisville in 2005. He followed that trip to St. Louis by missing the tournament last year.
- Roy Williams, North Carolina: The Tar Heel coach has a personal streak of 17 straight NCAA appearances - the first 14 at Kansas, the last three at UNC (although the Tar Heel program has missed the NCAA field twice in the last five years). Williams has a national title (at UNC) and four Final Fours (three at Kansas). He also had a stretch in the 1990s when Williams was regarded as one of the great NCAA Tournament underachievers. His No. 1 seeded Jayhawks lost in the second round in 1992; he had four straight No. 1 seeds miss the Final Four between 1995 and 1998; his Kansas teams lost in the second round in three straight seasons (1998-2000).
I don't recite these failings to denigrate any of these coaches, but to point out the lack of consistency of even the best coaches in this era. I picked them out because they are the very best coaches working today. I assure you that I can find similar (or worse) failings in the track records of Bob Huggins, Ben Howland, Billy Donovan, Lorenzo Romar (likely to miss the tournament this year), Rick Barnes, Kelvin Sampson, Paul Hewitt, Bruce Weber and Bill Self ... think Kansas people are happy with his two straight first-round NCAA exits?
My point is that NOBODY wins every year.
Obviously, I left one great coach out of my previous examination. Yet, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is the point of my essay.
I believe it's only fair to examine his record in the context of his contemporaries. Some of the criticism I've heard (and read on the DBR message boards) of his supposed shortcomings sound like a critic suggesting that Ty Cobb was not a great hitter because he failed to reach base six out of every 10 at bats. Krzyzewski has had his failures - but his failures have to be judged by a realistic standard and not by the inflated expectations of fans who have no sense of perspective.
[I'm reminded of Lou Holtz's definition of a lifetime contract: "That means if I'm undefeated in November, ahead in the third quarter and we're moving the ball well, then they can't fire me."]
Krzyzewski caught a lot of heat back in the early 1980s, when he was an unproven young coach trying to get his program established. But I'm not sure I haven't heard more criticism this year - granted, we didn't have the internet or sports talk radio in 1982-83. Just a few of the complaints I've listened to or read on message boards:
- K can't develop depth
- K can't develop unpolished players
- K doesn't know how to schedule (too many home and neutral games in December)
- K has made poor recruiting decisions (usually referring to lack of quickness on the perimeter or his choice of point guard)
- K is too reliant on a small lineup
- K slows it down too often with a lead in the second half
So how come Coach K has been the most successful coach in the country over the last quarter century? Since 1984, he's
- Won more games than any other coach (764)
- Has the best winning percentage of any long-term coach (83.4 percent)
- Has more 30-win seasons in that span than any coach in history over his career (nine)
- Has more NCAA titles than any other coach (three - note: Bob Knight also has three titles, but two of his came before 1984)
- Has more Final Fours than any other coach in that span (10)
- Has more NCAA Tournament wins than any coach (68)
- Has the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage of any active coach (78.2 percent).
Jeez, just think what the guy's record could be if he could develop depth or schedule better or recruit better or didn't use that lousy delay game down the stretch! I would argue that in the history of college basketball, only three other coaches can match (or maybe better) Krzyzewski's record of sustained success - Adolph Rupp, John Wooden and Dean Smith.
- Rupp has a better career winning percentage and won national championships in the 1940s and 1950s ... and just missed winning one in the mid-1960s. Heck, he twice reached the Elite Eight in the 1970s! His NCAA winning percentage (62.5 percent) is not as good as K's and he did have some off years. Still, he ruled the SEC with an iron fist for more than 30 years and made Kentucky basketball the standard by which all other programs are measured.
- John Wooden's stretch of 10 national titles in 12 years between 1965 and 1976 is not only unmatched - it's unmatchable. He won over 80 percent of the games he coached in his career - a better percentage than Smith or Krzyzewski (slightly below Rupp). However, it's worth noting that he coached 16 seasons before he reached the Final Four first the first time and won just three conference titles in his first 13 seasons at UCLA. If he came along today, would he last long enough to rule the college basketball world?
- Dean Smith was the single most consistent coach in college basketball history. Not the best ... but the most consistent. Once he got his program off the ground after five so-so seasons, he never again had a poor year - not even as "poor" as Duke is having this year. Between 1965 and 1986, he never finished worse than a second-place tie in the ACC regular season and never finished worse than third in his final 33 years as head coach. His worse seasons in that span were an 18-9 record (9-5 ACC) in 1970 and a 21-13 (8-6 ACC) finish in 1990.
Since Smith's career as UNC's head coach and my career as a sports writer basically overlapped, I like to think I know a lot about him. I can remember the constant criticism he took for not winning the big one - he "only" won two national titles (along with 11 Final Fours and 13 ACC titles). After he won his first national championship in 1982, he went through a dry spell that infuriated Tar Heel fans. Between 1983 and 1988, UNC averaged a 28-6 record, twice went undefeated in the ACC regular season and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 every single year - but Smith was severely criticized during that period because he failed to win an ACC title or return to the Final Four.
Although UNC would edge Duke in a terrific ACC title game in 1989, Smith's Final Four drought would last until 1991. Then he just happened to reach the Final Four four times in his final seven seasons, winning his second national title in 1993.
I bring this up, because it seems to me that Krzyzewski's career is going through a stretch since his third NCAA title in 2001 that somewhat approximates Smith's drought from 1983-90. There are differences - Coach K has continued to rule the ACC with four titles in the last five seasons and he does have a Final Four appearance in 2004.
Still, not too long ago, a certain ESPN commentator listed Coach K as "an NCAA Tournament underachiever" - I guess because Duke has lost in the regional semifinals four times in the last five years. It's kind of ironic, because with Smith was supposedly struggling in the 1980s, he was in the midst of a run of 13 straight Sweet 16 appearances - the NCAA record. Coach K is currently in the midst of an active streak of nine straight Sweet 16 appearances (the second-longest in history).
The ESPN commentator's point is worth pursuing. While no one can denigrate Krzyzewski's career achievement, is it possible that he's slipped in recent years? Maybe he's lost his touch. Maybe he's taken too many non-coaching assignments. Maybe he's just gotten lazy.
So let's look at Krzyzewski, not as the undisputed coaching champion of the last 25 years, but as the coach he's been over the last few years.
Where do we draw the line? If you investigate the 21st century, that would include Coach K's 2001 national title, which was just two years after his 1999 second-place finish and his 2000 finish as the AP's No. 1 ranked team. I doubt anybody was suggesting that Krzyzewski was slipping at that point.
So let's look at the period starting with the 2001-02 season. That gives enough seasons to evaluate (five full seasons and the current active one), but doesn't include the great 2001 season. So since 2002, Krzyzewski and Duke have:
- won 169 games - more than any other program in college basketball during that span. Duke's average record the last five full seasons is 29.4-5.
- won four ACC Tournament titles and gone 14-1 in ACC Tournament play. The only better stretch in ACC history was K's own 15-0 record with five titles between 1999-2003.
- Been ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll twice. Also ranked No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7 in that span.
- Gone 12-5 in NCAA play. With one Final Four and five Sweet 16 appearances. Not only are the five Sweet 16 appearances in this span the most for any NCAA team, the only team in this span to go to more Final Fours was Kansas (2002, 2003). Duke's 12 NCAA wins are tied with Kansas for second in that span with UConn (15).
In one sense, Duke's recent NCAA record is even better than it looks. While it's true that Duke has lost in the Sweet 16 three times as a No. 1 seed, look at the teams Duke has lost to - in 2002, Duke lost to Indiana, which ended up in the national title game; in 2003, Duke lost to Kansas, which wound up in the national title game; in 2004, Duke lost to UConn, which won the national title; in 2005, Duke lost to Michigan State, which reached the NCAA semifinals; in 2006, Duke lost to LSU, which reached the national semifinals.
In fact, Duke hasn't lost to a non-Final Four team in NCAA play since 1997, when the Devils fell to Providence in Charlotte. Of the 19 NCAA losses that Coach K has suffered in his career, eight have come at the hands of the eventual NCAA champion; three more have come at the hands of the national runnerup; three at the hands of a national semifinalist. That means that four of Coach K's NCAA losses have come to non-Final Four teams - 1984 Washington (which lost in the Sweet 16); 1985 Boston College (lost in the Sweet 16), 1996 Eastern Michigan (lost in the second round); 1997 Providence (lost in the Elite Eight).
Obviously, Duke has not been the best NCAA team since 2002. But the Devils are close to the top - so close that if you move the line back one year to 2001, Duke has the best NCAA Tournament record over the last six years.
So is there slippage in Coach K's program or only the normal fluctuations that beset all programs? Are his current critics (and you know who you are) measuring him against a rational standard or his own exalted record?
It might be different if this season could be perceived as the first sign that Krzyzewski's program was on a downhill track. But is it? Duke ranks with Wake Forest as the least experienced program in the ACC this season - even youthful UNC returned four starters and three experienced subs off last year's 23-win team.
It is not surprising that the Devils got pushed around Wednesday night by a Maryland team with four seniors and two juniors in the rotation (although to be fair, one of those juniors is a juco transfer). The real surprise is that Duke has held its own this season with a roster that doesn't include a recruited senior and includes just one junior.
How will the Devils look next year compared to its ACC rivals - after Maryland loses Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry ... after Virginia Tech graduates Zabien Dowdell, Jamar Gordon and Coleman Collins ... after Virginia loses J.R. Reynolds and Jason Cain (and very possibly Sean Singletary) ... after Boston College loses Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall ... after FSU loses Al Thornton?
Duke's 2007 season reminds me very much of UNC's 1990 season. The Tar Heels, caught short by the graduation of Jeff Lebo and Steve Bucknell, along with the early departure of J.R. Reid, struggled to a 19-11 record in the regular season - the worst for Smith in 20 years. But after a quick ACC Tournament exit, the Tar Heels bounced back to beat SW Missouri State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to get to 20 wins, then upset top-seeded Oklahoma to reach the Sweet 16.
That team, bolstered by the addition of a solid recruiting class (Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese) returned to the Final Four in 1991 and served as the foundation of Dean Smith's 1993 title team.
Next year's Duke roster will be bolstered by another influx of talent. More importantly, the Blue Devils will have an experienced core of players - kids who have paid their dues this season. Hopefully, Coach K will have a healthy Greg Paulus to run the point - one reason that this year's success should be appreciated is that it's come in a year when the team's playmaker and projected leader has had to overcome some major physical programs.
It strikes me that Paulus offers another connection with that 1990 Carolina team - I think Duke's sophomore is the most unappreciated player by his own fans since UNC's King Rice. In both cases, critics focused on what those players couldn't do and failed to appreciate what they did do very well. Rice answered his critics by leading UNC to the 1991 ACC title and the Final Four in Indianapolis. Can Paulus do the same?
I don't know whether Duke's 2007 season will lay the groundwork for a Final Four run next season - college basketball is too unpredictable to make predictions like that. But I think it's safe to suggest that Duke's program is still functioning at a very high level - as high as any other program in college basketball today.
And that's the standard that Duke fans should demand.
The final two weeks of the season have been frustrating for those ACC advocates who have been dreaming of getting as many as nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. The league's top six teams have solidified their status, but the ACC's three "bubble" teams have done little to bolster their shaky resumes:
- GEORGIA TECH (18-10; No. 52 RPI) - The Jackets still have the best case for inclusion after winning five of seven games down the stretch going into last night's home game with North Carolina. Two top 25 RPI wins and five top 50 RPI wins look good. A 1-8 road record looks back. If the Jackets could have held on for a win last weekend at Virginia, they might be in ... as it stands, Paul Hewitt's team needs a strong finish. By the time you read this, you'll know how Georgia Tech fared against Carolina - a victory over the Tar Heels in the Thrillerdome would go a long way towards securing a bid. Even with a loss, it's possible - although Georgia Tech would probably need to beat Boston College at home Sunday, plus have some success in the ACC Tournament.
- CLEMSON (20-9; No. 47 RPI): Last night's homecourt victory over Miami in overtime was almost certainly too little, too late. In fact, the Tigers slipped four places in the RPI after the lackluster win. If Clemson can follow up by winning at Virginia Tech Sunday, then do some damage in the ACC Tournament, it's still possible. But it's beginning to look like Oliver Purnell's team has squandered that great 17-0 start.
- FLORIDA STATE (18-11; No. 48 RPI): It all comes down to this - can guard Toney Douglas return to action for the ACC Tournament and spark the Seminoles to some success. If he can prove he's back and able to make FSU into the team they were before he was hurt (17-6 and No. 29 RPI), then that five-game losing streak without him won't be so damaging. But if he doesn't come back strong, the committee will see the 1-5 FSU team without him.
JUST A NOTE ABOUT THE about the ACC Tournament. Expansion has brought a lot of ills, including the unbalanced schedule, but it's possible that the newly expanded ACC Tournament will pay off this season.
Before expansion, the bubble teams would face difficult games in the quarterfinals against the ACC's top teams. Now, the expanded format gives each of them a winnable first-round game to pad their resume. In fact, one of the Thursday games will almost certainly pit two of the three bubble teams against each other - giving the winner a chance to add another top 50 win. Should a Thursday winner add a victory Friday - over a first-division team - and it would be a huge resume boost.
Playing Thursday may make it much tougher to actually win the tournament, but it makes it easier to add a quality win or two. That should help the bubble teams in the long run - since they almost never win the tournament anyway.
THE 20-WIN RULE: The NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Starting that year, 75 ACC teams have reached Selection Sunday with 20 wins. Of course, 21 of them actually won the ACC Tournament and earned an automatic bid.
But of the other 54 20-win teams, how many do you think make the NCAA field?
The answer is - all 54.
That's right, in the modern era, no 20-win ACC team has failed to receive an NCAA bid [Note: Remember, we're talking about the record on Selection Sunday ... quite a few teams got their 20th win in NCAA or NIT play].
That record may be in jeopardy this year - Clemson already has 20 and it wouldn't be surprising if either FSU or Georgia Tech reached that milestone. In Georgia Tech's case, 20 wins would probably be enough ... but Clemson isn't getting in with 20 and FSU's chances depend more on Douglas' status than on its record.
AWARD TIME: Duke is not going to have a first-team All-ACC player for the first time since 1996. Josh McRoberts probably will make the All-ACC second-team, but the five first-teamers will come from the following six guys: Jared Dudley, Boston College; Al Thornton, FSU; Tyler Hansbrough, UNC; Zabien Dowdell, Virginia Tech; Sean Singletary, Virginia; J.R. Reynolds Virginia.
It's a tough call - so tough that I'll be waiting until after Sunday's games to vote. I know that I'm going to include Dudley, Thornton, Hansbrough and Singletary. If Virginia wins a share of the regular season title, I'll vote for both Cavaliers guards. If Virginia Tech wins a share, then Dowdell's gets my vote. The truth is, I hate leave any of the six off.
The player of the year vote is also going to be interesting. FSU's Al Thornton is a strong candidate, even though if he wins, he'll become just the second ACC player of the year to come off a second-division team (Len Bias won for a Maryland team that finished sixth in an eight-team league in 1986). Dudley, Singletary and Hansbrough are also candidates.
It will be interesting to see how strong Hansbrough is in the vote. Personally, I think it's hard to make a case for him over Dudley - Dudley is leading the league in scoring and rebounding. He leads Hansbrough in field goal percentage, assists and steals (Hansbrough has a 13-8 edge in blocked shots). His team is just a shade behind UNC in the standings, even though Hansbrough is surrounded by much more talent.
The arguments for Thornton and Singletary are slightly different - but how can you possibly pick Hansbrough over Dudley?
Still, many writers think Hansbrough will win because they perceive a bias by many in the ACC in favor of Big Four players in general and UNC players in particular.
But as hard as I look, I can't see any historical basis for such a claim. In fact, in almost every controversial basketball vote over the years, it's the Tobacco Road player who's been overlooked. As I once pointed out:
- UNC's Charlie Scott twice lost to South Carolina's John Roche in hotly contest POY voting, even though Scott out-polled Roche in almost every national All-American vote in both seasons.
- Maryland's Len Elmore beat out N.C. State's Tommy Burleson for the starting center spot on the 1974 All-ACC team (which was picked by position in those days) even though Burleson had twice beaten Elmore head-to-head. In fact, in their seven career matchups, Elmore never once outscored or outrebounded Burleson.
- N.C. State's Hawkeye Whitney was the leading vote-getter on the 1980 All-ACC team, but Maryland's Albert King won the POY vote. King was also voted ACC Tournament MVP, although his Terps were upset in the championship game by Duke.
- Ralph Sampson beat out James Worthy in 1982 and Michael Jordan in 1993 for ACC player of the year honors. True, Sampson was also winning most national POY awards those seasons, but there was strong sentiment for both UNC players and considering that UNC and Virginia tied for the ACC regular season title in each season, you'd think if there was a North Carolina or UNC bias to the vote, it would have manifested itself in one of those two seasons.
- When Maryland's Bias outpolled Duke's Johnny Dawkins for ACC POY in 1986, both were consensus first-team All-Americans. But Dawkins won the Naismith Award as national player of the year ... and Bias failed to win any major national player of the year honors.
- UNC's Matt Doherty was voted AP national coach of the year in 2001, but the ACC voters gave their award to Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt.
- Maryland's Juan Dixon was voted the ACC player of the year in 2002, even though Duke's Jason Williams swept every major national player of the year award.
- That same year, N.C. State's Julius Hodge was clearly the league's best freshman, but somehow Georgia Tech's Ed Nelson stole the ROY award.
Where is the Big Four bias?
If Virginia or Virginia Tech ties UNC for this year's title and Hansbrough comes away with the POY vote, then get back to me. Or if Roy Williams wins another coach of the year award, we'll talk.
Actually, my COY vote will go to Dave Leitao or Seth Greenberg, dependent on the outcome of the final weekend of games.
My rookie of the year vote was going to go to Brandan Wright of UNC - and I still think he's the most talented rookie in the league. But N.C. State's Brandon Costner is scoring more and rebounding more. In fact, he leads all ACC freshmen in both scoring and rebounding. He's the only ACC freshman to lead his team in both categories. True, it's for a bad team, but he certainly doesn't have a Tyler Hansbrough to help him up front. I'm still undecided, but Wright's failure at the foul line at Maryland didn't help his case.
The rest of the all rookie team is another tough vote. I've got Javaris Crittendon of Georgia Tech, Ty Lawson of UNC and Jon Scheyer of Duke. However, I can see the case for Grevies Vasquez of Maryland (especially after Wednesday night's game), Wayne Ellington of UNC or Thaddeus Young of Georgia Tech. In truth, those are guys who won't make the all-rookie team this year who would have been rookie of the year candidates in a number of ACC seasons. Then there's another bunch of freshmen - Gerald Henderson and Lance Thomas at Duke; Ish Smith and LD. Williams at Wake Forest; Dion Thompson at UNC; Eric Hayes at Maryland to name a few - who would have been strong candidates for the all-rookie team in many years.
The defensive team will also be interesting. The feedback I'm getting suggests that Maryland's D.J. Strawberry and Virginia Tech's Jamon Gordon are the two locks. I've tried to suggest that Duke's DeMarcus Nelson and Josh McRoberts belong on the team. Ibene Ibekwe, who has a narrow lead on Josh in the blocked shot department, will probably get a spot.