We said this before the Clemson game:
“This is probably not going to be a pretty game. It’s highly likely to be scruffy and rough around the edges, and it won’t surprise us in the slightest if things get a bit chippy (just as we won’t be surprised if Clemson tries to egg Allen into doing something rash).
“However, it may be one of the most intense games of the season. Clemson has struggled but that’s one tough bunch of Tigers. They’re well-coached and capable of (at least) being in striking position in winning time.
“Don’t expect prettiness but do look for toughness. If the Blue Devils show that, win or lose they'll gain from playing a team like Clemson.”
All things considered, reasonably close, no?
We mention it because we think that over at CBS Sports, Kyle Boone got it totally wrong.
Here’s the headline (in fairness, Boone may not have written it: Named an early top-16 seed, Duke back to its ways of barely beating bad teams
Well first of all, who said Clemson is a bad team? Certainly not here. Clemson is a very tough team. They have a solid backcourt, a star forward in Jaron Blossomgame, and a solid if off-and-on forward in Donte Grantham.
The Tigers lost to Xavier and Oklahoma by six, beat Alabama and South Carolina, took UNC to overtime before losing by three, lost by four to Virginia, lost to Virginia Tech and Syracuse by one and Saturday to Duke by two (with a chance to win at the buzzer).
Louisville and FSU crushed them, but that’s no great surprise this year. The ACC has laid some big whippings: FSU also beat Duke by 16. Miami beat UNC by 15 (it wasn’t that close) and Georgia Tech has had some notable upsets.
So by what measure is Clemson bad? The record?
Well that is pretty much the baseline - you have to win - but Clemson has been very competitive in America’s most competitive league. Calling them a bad team is ridiculous.
NC State you can call a bad team. Up until recently you could call Pitt a bad team. After its humiliation by Louisville, what has Pitt done? Lost to Clemson by seven, UNC by two on the road, and to Duke by eight, again on the road, then beat BC at BC and Syracuse at home.
In other words, Pitt appears to have pulled together and at this point aren’t really a bad team. They’re not a great team certainly but they’re vastly improved in a short period of time.
But here’s the other misreading of the Duke-Clemson game.
It came just 39 hours after the toughest, most emotional game of the year for the Blue Devils.
Here’s a stat Boone may have overlooked: Clemson hit just five shots in the first half and shot just 17.9% before the break.
Defense was a big weakness of Duke’s earlier in the season but lately, Duke has really stepped it up.
What matters, as we said Friday, is that Duke showed toughness. Luke Kennard carried them in the second half, true, but the team was smart enough to know who could do that and let him. One of the potential issues Duke had/has this year is a lot of guys who are all talented enough to be The Man. Well, so far this season, Kennard has been the biggest gun in Duke’s arsenal.
It happened later than it should have due to the freak string of injuries Duke suffered this year, but roles are being sorted out and Kennard is the go-to guy on offense at this point.
In his most recent DBR chart, Barry Jacobs points out that Duke has relied on the three point shot even more than it usually does. After we read the afore-mentioned column, we realized that Duke is largely playing offense without its best inside presence, Amile Jefferson.
Before his injury, Jefferson was averaging 13.6 ppg, almost exclusively around the basket. He failed to reach double digits only three times in 16 games.
Since his return, he has scored 5, 5, 4, 6, 15, 2 and 6 points for an average of 6.1 ppg.
Duke lost two game before he was injured, both while he was out and just one since he returned.
When you factor that in, it’s not a big surprise that Duke has been shooting more threes; until someone else emerges who can score consistently in the lane, it really has little choice.
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