Monday, March 12, 2012

Duke: the tourney and some fun with the past

I was pretty frustrated with the way Duke played this weekend. Not having Ryan Kelly hurts. That's 11 points and 5 rebounds a game we had to make up for. And Florida State is a really good defensive team. But I don't think that explains the poor offensive performance in the two games of the ACC tourney. Rivers and Curry were ok. But both of them struggled from the outside. And no one else stepped up to make up for it. The Plumlees were also ok. But they were inconsistent on both ends of the court. And to be fair to them, I don't think they got the ball enough to get comfortable.

I think the #2 seed was fair. We beat a lot of good teams and had mostly tough losses. But I'm not very confident in this team going into the tourney. Even with Kelly healthy we were inconsistent if not downright bad defensively. You can get away with that in the first few rounds, assuming you aren't equally as bad offensively. But if Kelly isn't healthy I think we could struggle in the second round. And beyond that we either need to find some solutions on defense or hope our offense finds itself again. If this team wants to get the chance at Kentucky every single player has to step up and play well.

I wanted to end this post with something fun to take my mind off the bad weekend. Plus there were two shows about the 91/92 Duke teams that got me in a nostalgic mood. So I wanted to give you my all time starting five Duke team. Feel free to criticize the fact that it's a very current list. But even with my youthful bias, I think this team would hold up against any.

PG: Jason Williams
SG: JJ Redick
SF: Grant Hill
PF: Shane Battier
C: Christian Laettner

Probably the most obvious one is Laettner. What more needs to be said about him? Battier is basically Laettner but a nicer version. He was a great leader who could defend multiple positions and shot the 3 very well. With him and Laettner as your leaders you aren't going to have an unfocused team that doesn't play hard.

Think about some of the games these two played in. Laettner had to play UNLV in the 91 Final Four after they had lost to them by 30 points in the national championship the year before. And obviously the Kentucky game in 92. Battier was in the Maryland game in 01 when they came back from being down 10 points in one minute. He was also down to Maryland by 20 points in the Final Four that same year and came back to beat them. These two guys would be fearless in any situation you gave them.

Grant Hill is kind of a more athletic Battier. The guy's last year at Duke was in 94 and he is still playing in the NBA right now. He could also guard multiple positions, could score in multiple ways and is a good leader. He rounds out a front court that all shot at or above 50% from the field for their career. So they give you great production on both sides of the floor.

My last two guys aren't exactly great defenders. But they are two of the more talented Duke players I've ever seen. Jason Williams could get to the basket almost any time he wanted. He was so quick with the ball that most defenders couldn't stay in front of him. On top of that he could pull up from anywhere and shoot the ball well, 39% from 3. It didn't matter if he went 0-15 for the entire game. If we need a basket he would have the guts to take the shot.

JJ Redick can't jump very high or run very fast, at least compared to the other guys on this list. But he is a great shooter who has just as much guts as JWill and just as much determination as Battier and Laettner. I can't believe he only shot 40% from 3 for his career because just about every time he shot the ball I expected it to go in. And it's nice to have a 91% free throw shooter on your team. I'm surprised that % isn't higher too.

That's a starting 5 that can score inside and outside. They can spot up and shoot, drive to the basket, and create shots for their teammates. And none of them are afraid to take tough shots late in games. Defensively the back court might struggle. But the front court can more than make up for their deficiency. And all of them encompass the toughness and will to win that makes Duke great. Some day I'll post my next 5 off the bench.

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