There's a very simple way to measure Fran Dunphy's success at Temple: no one is talking about his predecessor.
That's not a knock on John Chaney. We've admired him for a long time, even though he at times tended to be, well, just this side of sane.
But you know you're doing well when you replace a legend and no one really talks about the legend.
Think about it.
Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson never escaped Bob Knight's shadow. UCLA is a black hole in this regard. Roy Williams has to an extent escaped Dean Smith's gravitational field, but even he gets pulled back at times. Same for Georgetown and John Thompson.
Duke and Syracuse will one day go through the same experience.
At Temple, Dunphy had a relatively modest transition and since then he has certainly made his own way and reputation.
Chaney, at the end of his career certainly, was crotchety and set in his ways. He wasn't getting as much talent as he had in earlier years and there was no escaping zones and, frequently, massive frontcourt players who had little more to offer than bulk.
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Hasn't been like that with Dunphy, a long-time Krzyzewski buddy. His teams have been faster, more aggressive and certainly not locked into things like always taking players out after two first-half fouls.
Unlike Chaney's matchup zone, Dunphy uses a lot of man-to-man, which he did last year when Temple rode the subway to the Wells Fargo Center before upsettingÂ Duke 78-73. Temple forced 16 turnovers for 21 points, shot 56% and outrebounded Duke 32-29.
And lest you get too happy about Duke's hot start, Duke was 12-1 going into this game, with the one loss coming to Ohio State after they flew back from a very tough Maui Invitational.
This year's matchup should be an excellent game also.
Temple is also undefeated and just thumped Villanova by 15.
Khaliff Wyatt, who had a sensational game last year (8-12 for 22 points), is back. So is Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (7-12 for 17).Â So too is 6-9 Anthony Lee, who started last year's game as a freshman and shot 5-10 for 11 points.
They're also starting senior Scootie Randall, who didn't play last year, and Will Cumming, a guard who came off the bench for four minutes last year.
So it's a different bunch but obviously still solid.
Randall, Wyatt and Lee are all averaging in double figures, and the 6-6 Randall is averaging 7.2 rpg.
Of course it's not the same Duke team either. Last year, Temple just ate Duke's perimeter alive.
Austin Rivers was just 3-11, while Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry were both just 2-5 each. Quinn Cook came in and shot 2-6; Andre Dawkins whiffed at 0-3.
For that matter, Ryan Kelly played just 19 minutes, shot only twice (1-2) and got just two boards.
The Plumlees had one of the Plumlee Daily Doubles, with Mason hitting 7-13 for 16 points along with 13 boards, and the now-departed Miles shooting 8-11 for 17 and getting four boards. That adds up to 33 points and 17 rebounds, a nice night for the family franchise.
Duke's perimeter is completely transformed.
Seth Curry is still dealing with his shin problems, but as he showed in Hawaii, his savvy is immensely better.
Toss in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, and Thornton now off the bench, and Duke's perimeter is radically better.
Rivers had a particular genius for getting to the basket and with an explosive first step, but Sulaimon is a better all-around player, far more complete than Rivers ever became at Duke.
And Cook has handled everything that's been thrown at him by Minnesota, VCU, Louisville and Ohio State with aplomb. The four of them have immensely improved Duke's perimeter defense, and Cook, and increasingly Sulaimon, are doing a great job at getting the ball inside to Plumlee.
Here's a factoid for you to mull over: in the long, glorious history of the ACC, only two players have averaged as much as 19 points and 11 boards, Plumlee's current averages, for an entire season: Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan.
Much of the credit for that goes to Plumlee of course (and to Wojo, who supposedly can't coach big men despite an increasingly impressive track record: Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and now, Plumlee). It's Plumlee who has learned to maneuver in the lane, Plumlee who can shoot a hook or a jump hook with his left or right hand, Plumlee who has learned to go up assertively rather than trying to fake smaller players first.
Some of the credit though must go to his guards who are doing a vastly better job of getting him the ball where it's useful. You may remember that Kyrie Irving did this in his all-too-brief Duke sojourn and that, before Irving's injury, Plumlee looked sensational.
You can add another name to the list-of-big-men-who-improved-dramatically-under-Wojo: Ryan Kelly.
Kelly went from a little-used freshman to an outside force as a soph to a pretty solid all-around player as a junior to a guy who, as a senior, does many things which don't necessarily register statistically. He's defended brilliantly thus far, guarding smaller and more athletic players with great success. He's driving in a way we never expected to see him do, and his passing now is nearly as good as Plumlee's, who is a vastly underrated distributor.
He also has one other absolutely critical talent, one which people are noticing but only just: Kelly is the go-to guy for inbounds plays, and we could be wrong, but we can't remember a single turnover he's had in that role. He's been particularly good at getting the ball to key foul shooters late in tight games.
You have to wonder about Tony Parker and what he's thinking now: UCLA is collapsing, his coach is in jeopardy, and Duke, a school he passed on largely because he felt they didn't use big men properly, is riding Plumlee's sensational season to a #2 ranking to date. Parker, meanwhile, is barely getting off the dysfunctional bench for the Bruins. Second thoughts?
We talked about Cook's passing abilities, but against Delaware, Sulaimon was just about as good, and made a number of sharp passes which were bobbled or dropped. You could tell he was really trying to polish this aspect of his game. Down the road he could be an effective point guard.
Bottom line here is both teams have changed. Duke will be ready to meet Temple in ways that were not possible last year. That certainly doesn't guarantee victory, but it probably does guarantee a better game this time out.