Duke – Your 2010 National Champions

Like a bear emerging from hibernation to eat, I will take the chance today to return from my blogging hiatus, if only briefly, to celebrate one of my favorite teams reaching the pinnacle of their sport.

That’s right – I was one of the few non-Duke-alumni not rooting for the underdogs in last night’s NCAA championship game.  My college basketball allegiances are probably a story for another time, but I’ve been rooting for the Blue Devils since I reached middle school and started watching college basketball.

It’s really no fun to root against a team like Butler, a mid-major school which (as was evident last night) absolutely deserved to play in the title game.  The “David and Goliath” storyline existed only to drum up some interest in an otherwise star-less game.  Butler has an excellent team and a terrific coach, and they proved once again that they could execute against a bigger team.

In Duke and Mike Krzyzewski, Brad Stevens’ Butler team met their coaching-and-execution match, finding a team that was every bit as tenacious as they were and just a smidge more talented.  Duke finally wore down Butler’s defensive rebounding presence to get some second chances in the second half.

That was Duke’s calling card all year: efficient offense through offensive rebounding and passing to an open shooter.  On the other end of the floor, they played pressure defense around the perimeter, and Matt Howard couldn’t do enough inside to get them to back off Mack and Hayward.

The three seniors – Scheyer, Thomas, and Zoubek – played about as well as they could all year, and they’ll be remembered as champions, while other recent Duke greats like Williams and Redick moved on the NBA empty-handed.  Juniors Smith and Singler were bigger contributors in the tournament, and if they both return, they’ll be the keys to a title defense in 2011.

So, congratulations again to Duke.  Now it’s time for the Summer of Jason Heyward to get underway.  I know some of my readers moved on long ago (you’re still there…right?…….right?), but now I’m with you.

Curry makes all the difference in Davidson win at UTC

Stephen Curry needed a few minutes to get into the game, but he eventually took over in Davidson’s Wednesday night road win over UTC.  Although the Mocs played a close game at Davidson in December, they had no answer for arguably the nation’s most dominant player, who scored 32 points and handed out 8 impressive assists in the Wildcats’ 92-70.

Davidson, which has now won 46 consecutive Southern Conference games (including postseason) dating back to 2007, was in control from the very beginning, hitting seemingly every shot in the opening minutes and staking out a 22-8 advantage with over 10 minutes left in the first half.  They stretched the lead to 18 at the 6:16 mark, but the Mocs remained in the game until the end of the half, when madness ensued.

The Mocs turned the ball over with just under a minute to play, giving Davidson a 2-for-1 opportunity.  Curry drove down the floor, just inside the three-point line, and missed a quick jumper, leaving enough time for the Wildcats to get the ball back.  UTC scored on the following possession, cutting Davidson’s lead to 10 with 44 seconds left.  Curry then turned it over and gave the Mocs a chance to make it a single digit lead, but Nicchaeus Doaks missed a layup with four seconds on the clock.

Then, Curry did this (watch until about the 1:20 mark):

http://www.youtube.com/v/I6ijRA1uM0U&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1

I was at the game with frequent commenter Jay, and I think he and I would agree that it was the most incredible shot either of us had seen live – a 75-foot buzzer beater that took the momentum the Mocs were building and completely turned everything around.

Nothing else really mattered after that.  Davidson stretched the lead to 19 by the 18-minute mark in the second half, and UTC was never closer than 15 the rest of the way.  Curry finished with 32 points in a game where (aside from the ridiculous shot) he didn’t really seem to be firing on all cylinders.  He was just 9-for-21 from the field, but it was clear in the second half who was getting all the defensive attention.

It must be nice to be one of Curry’s teammates and get 2-3 open layups every game.  Several of those were on no-look or otherwise impressive passes from Curry, who handled the ball a lot but wasn’t really a “point guard,” per se.

Andrew Lovedale had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Davidson on the inside, making it clear that Davidson probably could have won this game even without Curry.  Stephen McDowell was the Mocs’ leading scorer with 17, although he was mostly invisible until the game was clearly out of reach in the second half.

The Mocs shot under 40% from the field and just 60% at the line, which was especially important because Davidson reached the bonus very early in both halves.  The Mocs attempted 35 free throws to Davidson’s 15 (9 of which belonged to Curry).  Rebounding was pretty even, but UTC also lost the turnover battle.

This was certainly a fun game, and I appreciated Jay getting us some good seats in the lower section.  If you’re in the Chattanooga area for the first full weekend in March, you should consider getting a ticket book to the SoCon tourney.  That should give you 3 chances to see Curry in action, as well as the chance to see if Davidson will get to relive their tourney run from a year ago.

Oh and Duke lost (on a play that resulted from a questionable call, of all things!).  SportsCenter had a nice graphic about the last five times a new #1-ranked team has lost to the previous #1 team.  Duke was the team that lost on four of those five occasions.  At least they’ve been ranked #1 a lot, I guess.

A little D-I basketball preview

Tonight I’ll be in attendance as the UTC Mocs attempt to derail the Stephen Curry express in Chattanooga, but while that game is going on, there’s a pretty good slate of other college basketball games.

Michigan and Ohio State will play a good bubble-watcher’s game as the next in their rivalry series.  #3 Pitt will try to keep up with the Big East leaders as they face #21 Villanova.  Tennessee hosts SEC West leader LSU.  The one I’ll be following most closely, though, is #1 Duke at #6 Wake Forest.  The Demon Deacons were the #1 team a week ago, and it’s possible (or maybe probable) that neither is the best team in the ACC, since Carolina still looms large.

Duke vs. Wake Forest

KenPom currently rates Duke #1, but Duke’s best ACC opponent thus far has been Florida State (#57).  The Blue Devils have beaten three of KenPom’s top 20 teams from other conferences (Purdue, Xavier, Georgetown), which is why they’re ranked so highly.  The road loss to Michigan in December remains their only blemish, and Duke had already beaten the Wolverines earlier in the season, so the Devils are riding a 10-game win streak into this game.

Tonight’s Duke-Wake game, though not quite as enthralling as the looming KenPom #1 vs. #2 matchup with UNC, should be an exciting game, and it’s a shame I’ll miss it.  The Deacons really like to push the pace of the game, ranking seventh nationally at 74.8 adjusted possessions per game, while Duke ranks 85th.  That should make this a fast-paced contest, probably somewhere in the upper-70s in terms of possessions for each side.

Recalling Wake’s win over North Carolina, Duke will have to figure out how to contain sophomore guard Jeff Teague, who takes a lot of shots and shoots very efficiently for a guard.  His primary weakness is turning the ball over, so Duke will hope to take advantage of that as one of the nation’s top 20 teams in steal rate.

Both teams are relatively young.  With the demotion of Greg Paulus, no senior starts for either squad, although the Devils still have an average experience level of 1.69 years, in the middle of the pack nationwide.  Wake ranks #270 with just 1.33 years of experience.

On paper, Duke looks very difficult to stop, with the sixth-ranked adjusted offense in the country: 110.3 points per 100 possessions.  That will be a strong matchup with Wake’s 5th-ranked defense at 84.2.  However, Duke’s defense has been even better this year, second overall at 81.2 (Louisville ranks 1st), while Wake’s offense is just 47th nationally.  Plus, it’s a road game, and that edge is enough to make KenPom’s prediction a close 74-71 Duke finish.

UT-Chattanooga vs. Davidson

The game I’ll be attending should be a good one, too, although KenPom favors Davidson by 12, 82-70.  This will be my first chance to see Stephen Curry in person, but it’s also a matchup between SoCon division leaders.  UTC, at 5-4, has a half-game lead over Samford and Western Carolina in the North division, while Davidson (9-0) has a two-game edge on College of Charleston in the South.  This game could be a preview of the SoCon championship game, which will also be played in Chattanooga.  UTC could make all of CBS’ prepared fluff pieces on Stephen Curry worthless with an upset performance at home in March.

Having built up UTC a little bit there, I’ll come back to the fact that Davidson is still favored by double-digits in this road game.  Curry is averaging 29.3 point per game, and just like every other Southern Conference team, the Mocs aren’t going to have an answer for him defensively.  They’ll need a great scoring effort from their own not-pronounced-“Steven” guard Stephen McDowell just to keep up.

For what it’s worth, KenPom gives Davidson a 63% chance to finish the SoCon regular season undefeated while rating UTC just a slight favorite over Western Carolina to maintain the lead in the SoCon North.  The Wildcats have lost to three of KenPom’s top 15 (Duke, Oklahoma, Purdue) and beaten one of them (West Virginia).  They also beat the only other top-100 team they’ve played (N.C. State).

Getting down to the numbers, the Mocs are ranked slightly below average nationally on both offense and defense, although they play at a fast 71.5 possession pace.  Davidson also likes to play up-tempo, but they rank in the top 50 on both sides of the ball.

The matchup to watch if this game stays close may be at the free-throw line, where the Mocs shoot an abysmal 63.9%.  Forwards Nicchaeus Doaks and Khalil Hartwell are the main culprits, since they both get to the line fairly often, and both are poor shooters.  Stephen McDowell, if he takes it to the basket, can make his shots at the stripe.

Davidson, on the other hand, shoots relatively well at the free throw line.  Perhaps most importantly, Curry is an 85.4% shooter there, and you can bet he’ll be handling the ball at the end of the game.  Other than Curry, though, the Wildcats don’t have anyone who gets to the line remotely often.  The team ranks in the bottom 25 nationally in free throw chances per field goal even with Curry’s contributions.

So, there you have it.  Forget about the Super Bowl for a minute and enjoy some college basketball tonight.  I don’t believe the Davidson-UTC game is on TV anywhere, but of course you can see Duke-Wake on ESPN.

The Diaper List

Inspired by a recent movie called The Bucket List, my friend Brandon started referring to his own version of such a list.  Unlike the stars of the movie (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson), his list isn’t about what he wants to do before he dies (or “kicks the bucket”).  Rather, he has what he calls a “Diaper List” containing things he wants to do or accomplish before he and his wife start having kids.  It’s on the front page of his new website, which I linked above.

This is something that’s been in the back of my mind, too.  Melissa and I have been married for over two years now, and we’re probably not as far away from having kids as I would sometimes like to think.  I’m still pretty young, 24 to be exact, and she’s 25, but we both feel that biological clock ticking a little.  For me, it’s more a matter of wanting to be around for my kids, since my dad’s health problems caused him to die “early” at 61, while I was just a year into college.  Having older parents is a great advantage in a lot of ways, especially from a maturity standpoint, but it would have been nice for him to have seen me get married or have grandkids.  At the same time, I’m in no hurry to have kids because there are lots of things I’d like to do.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share my own Diaper List, with some things I’d like to do before little ones come along.  These are in no particular order, and I probably haven’t thought of everything yet.

The Diaper List

  • Get CPA certified
  • See the following groups live: Muse, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, and Switchfoot (at least one more time)
  • See a Tennessee football game at Neyland Stadium
  • Become a better whitewater paddler
  • Keep going to at least 2-3 Braves games a year
  • Keep going to at least one Harding basketball game a year (and if I can, go to one in Searcy)
  • See a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Go on a snow-skiing vacation to either West Virginia or Colorado
  • Accomplish something important with my church family
  • Finish my basement into a nice office/entertainment room and learn some useful home improvement skills in the process
  • Start investing in the stock market in addition to keeping my 401k on track
  • Do some kind of service activity on a regular basis
  • Make the lifestyle changes necessary to start (or continue in some cases) good habits for eating, sleeping, exercise, and work
  • Take a big trip with friends (to echo Brandon’s idea)
  • Get out of the house more often

I don’t think that’s overly ambitious, although I’m probably behind the curve on CPA certification, since I haven’t taken any part of the exam yet.  It’s important that the items on the list are at least somewhat ambitious, but not totally unattainable.  I would love to go to a World Series game or some other huge sporting event, but that’s not likely to happen unless the event is somewhere nearby like Atlanta or Nashville.  There are also a few things on the list, like going to Braves games, that are not out of the question after I have kids.  None of it would be out of the question, I suppose.  Just more difficult.

Some parts of the list are bound to change, like the bands I decide I want to see.  I actively disliked Coldplay until recently, but I’m starting to come around on them, and I’m sure there will be others as my tastes keep changing.  This weekend I’ll get to go ahead and cross of one of those bands, since Melissa and I are heading to Memphis tonight in order to see DMB tomorrow.

If anyone out there keeps up with a similar list, I’d be interested in seeing it.  Perhaps you have something I need to add to my list before it’s too late.

Weekly Notes: February 8, 2008

The first week of February is in the books, so now you can get ready for Valentine’s Day next Thursday. Hopefully you take some time on days other than February 14th to make your special someone feel loved, though.

  • I don’t exactly keep a list of things I never thought I would do, but later did. However, if I did, teaching 3rd-5th graders would now be on it. Wednesday night was the second week of a six-week Bible study I’m doing with a group of 10-15 kids. It’s about Bible basics, trying to get them the knowledge they’ll need when they start thinking about becoming Christians. I’m just co-teaching, but it’s a new experience for me.
  • The Bisons lost their first GSC West road game last night at UAM after Trent Morgan missed a possible game-tying three at the buzzer. A full review will be on the way this weekend.
  • Tomorrow, Melissa and I are visiting the Nantahala Outdoor Center to outfit ourselves for kayaking this summer. A few months ago, we bought a second sit-on-top boat, and we’ve been looking for life jackets and other things we may need for paddling. Unfortunately, local shopping options are somewhat limited, so we’re taking a day’s drive into the mountains with the intent of getting ourselves completely ready.
  • I always love it when Congress passes legislation to solve problems and maintain our rights as citizens. Government can be a blessing for the unfortunate, and the power of citizens’ pooled resources can be great. Unfortunately, our lawmakers sometimes feel compelled to throw crap like this into otherwise reasonable pieces of legislation: campus-based digital theft prevention. Basically, colleges must sign up for an approved music subscription service, even if they don’t want to, and even when they’re doing nothing wrong. Why bother appeasing the MPAA and RIAA? This is a total waste of time, and because it’s part of a much larger piece of legislation, it’s tough to figure out who in the House really wants legislation like this and who just wanted to pass the entire education bill. It should come as no surprise that “Dr. No” voted against it.
  • Just for the record, as a Duke fan, I’m still not totally convinced they’re better than Carolina this year. Wednesday’s win was a fantastic shooting display, but will it hold up against a UNC transition game that was obviously somewhat crippled? I was hoping Ty Lawson would play, so that I could at least get a better understanding of how they might fare against a national title contender, but I guess that matchup will have to wait a month or so.

Weekly Notes: December 21, 2007

It’s been a light week around here with no basketball games. If you’ll let me extend the definition of a light posting week to “nothing since Monday morning.” So, I have a few notes:

  • I saw I Am Legend last night. I had fairly high expectations, as I seem to for basically every Will Smith movie (especially since Hitch). It was slightly disappointing for me in a similar way to The Pursuit of Happyness, because it was another great acting job by Smith in a movie that just didn’t have enough substance to really grab hold of me. The story was decent, but the movie ended somewhat abruptly, just as it was starting to get good. Before I spoil the plot, I suppose I’d better stop.
  • President Bush wished reporters “Happy Holidays” the other day, and frankly, I was offended. I mean, is he trying to kill Christmas or something? He’s just as bad as the other “secular-progressives” who hate Christians…
    …Seriously, I’m not sure if he just wasn’t thinking about what he said, or if it was a conscious effort to distance himself from the wingnuts who made up the ridiculous “War on Christmas” to appeal to the religious right. That’s the right wing, though: libertarian on issues like fighting poverty, but alarmingly ready to legislate frivolous social policies. Now, back to your regular de-politicized notes.
  • Duke lost its first game of the season last night to a strong Pittsburgh team, but they remained #2 in the Pomeroy ratings. I like this year’s Duke team: even without McRoberts, they’re very athletic and tough defensively, and I think they’re better positioned for a strong ACC run. Pomeroy’s stats still probably don’t mean a whole lot at this point in the season, but I am encouraged that Duke has already beaten #4 (Wisconsin) and #6 (Marquette) in those ratings, despite the loss to #8 Pitt.
  • My fantasy season came to an end on Brian Westbrook’s heady play that ended the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It was still a cool play, though, and smart football is always more fun to watch than the alternative. A day or two later, I was nearly the beneficiary of an opponent’s failure to make that decision in an NCAA 08 game, as I scored on the ensuing drive and recovered an onside kick, falling just short at the end.
  • Every man needs a name to go by if he makes the Brazilian soccer team. John Wright = “Wrincha.”
    Sammy Sosa = “Sosito”
    Jed Bartlet = “Bartlinho”
    Barack Obama = “Obamiano”
    Matt Hall = “Himo Santos”
    Mark Teixeira = “Teixeiraldo”
    “Barnett brings it down the floor on the fast break, lobs it up there…GOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Himo Santos!!!!” I think I could play with this for hours.
  • Mark Cuban has too many Facebook friends. I didn’t even know that was possible.

I probably won’t have anything else until after Christmas, although I am planning to update GSC stats over the weekend.  Have a great long weekend.

Weekly Notes: November 21, 2007

I suppose I won’t keep my usual schedule this week, with tomorrow being Thanksgiving.  We’ll have notes today and some basketball reviews over the weekend.

  • I’ve been slacking this week on basketball, instead spending my time looking at everyone’s Black Friday deals, most of which have already been released.  The Bargainist is a pretty reliable source if you want to check those out, and I’ve also been looking at Black Friday Ads and DealTaker for rumored deals.  I can’t blame you if you don’t want to get up that early, though.
  • The reason I’m checking out the deals so thoroughly is that Melissa and I are thinking about replacing her laptop.  Any laptop we get would probably also displace my desktop as our primary computer, so I’m probably putting even more thought into it than is actually necessary.  She’s going to hate me by Friday morning…
  • I’m rooting for the BCS Apocalypse now that I have no idea which college football teams are good and which are not.  If Tennessee beats Kentucky, it will be easy to root for them to beat LSU, and then I just have to root for Oklahoma to knock off the Kansas/Missouri winner.  If West Virginia can lose to UConn, too, then maybe we’ll have some riots on our hands.
  • Tom Glavine is back in a Braves uniform, and I’m kind of lukewarm on the issue.  I think he may not have much left in the tank, but at the same time, he’s better than the options Atlanta had last year, and it’s just cool to see Tom Glavine back again.
  • Tennessee beat MTSU last night in basketball just as badly as they beat UAM, and Duke knocked Illinois out of the Maui Invitational.  What’s shaping up this year might is probably the nightmare scenario for my college basketball fandom.  My home state’s school (Tennessee), which I root for in football, is finally good at basketball, possibly even better than the school I’ve been rooting for for the past 10 years or so (Duke) because of a campus visit I made as a seventh-grader.  I want them both to do well, but what if they face off in the Final Four?  My allegiances are totally screwed up, and I don’t know what I’ll do.

Have a great Turkey Day tomorrow.  I’ve been blessed in a number of different ways in the past year, from advancement in my career, to new and old friendships, to another year of marriage, so I have plenty of reasons to be thankful.  Even without those things, I would still have reasons to be thankful.  Tomorrow is a day to remember those things I’ve taken for granted and renew my commitment not only to remember them, but to take action and show my appreciation.

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