Practice sessions are essential to developing players and teams. But trying different lineup permutations, working out nerves and kinks, is often best accomplished in competition against unfamiliar opponents.
Taking the test before the results count is even better. Which is where exhibition basketball games come in.
Of course there are down sides to early forays beyond a team's comfort zone. Just ask Miami coach Jim Larranaga. His Hurricanes were snuffed at home by Division II St. Leo's, which Miami Herald writer Michelle Kaufman described as a "smaller but grittier" group from Tampa.
Then again, getting the hackneyed wakeup call when the clock has yet to start ticking isn't all bad. "Saint Leo's team sent us a message, and the players heard it loud and clear," Larranaga said hopefully.
Duke played a pair of exhibition games, winning both. But after easily handling Winston-Salem State, Mike Krzyzewski noted a troubling aspect of his team's performance. The Blue Devils missed 16 of 17 shots from 3-point range; he wondered whether that was the worst bonusphere efficiency ever for one of his teams.
No, but almost.
Had butting heads with the Rams counted, the 16 misses would have been the most by Duke in a game in which it hit a single 3-pointer.
We checked every official Duke box score since 1987, when threes became a permanent part of the college game. Twelve times over the intervening years the Blue Devils converted a single 3-point attempt in a game. In those instances Duke never tried more than a dozen from long-range.
The most notable and ill-timed inefficency occurred during the 1990 NCAA title game, a loss to Nevada-Las Vegas. The school standard for futility was set that same season, and a year earlier. Three times in 1989 and 1990, a Krzyzewski squad missed every 3-pointer it attempted.
|BAD BONUSPHERE BOMBING
Least Productive Team 3-Point Efforts In Duke History
|% Rainbow Classic
* NCAA championship game
** NCAA tournament