TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume XIII, Episode 5
November 25, 2009
RETURN OF THE SENDORK EDITION
Matt’s comments in blue.
duhomme's comments in red.
ARIZONA STATE (4-0, 0-0 Pacific-10) v. #7 DUKE (4-0, 0-0)
I must admit that this is a rare treat. We’ve already enjoyed a visit from Cliff Ellis this season, and now, it’s time for a stroll down memory lane as Duke opposes the unformidable Herb Sendek, consultant non-extraordinaire who uses his advanced egghead-shaped cranium to . . . well, nothing, really. He just designates one of the players from the school that is paying him to consult as the acting coach, then sits back and takes it all in from an honorary seat on the sidelines, observing in a mediocre, unimpressive, blink-and-you-missed it fashion. I never got to write about Cliff Ellis before last week, but ohhhhhhh did I write about Herb Sendek during much of his astonishing decade-long stint at North Carolina State. So, welcome back, the Carnegie Melon!
Probably because Herb is an inoffensive, mostly likable guy, few people actually seem to realize how value-subtracting his services actually are. For years, Herb would advise North Carolina State to schedule a variety of tasty baked goods (and bads) in November and December. Add in an 8-8 record in the ACC, and presto! NCAA Tournament berths, because as you know, the Selectostiffs are always looking to put as many “BCS teams” in the NCAA Tournament as they can. Remember the pitiful Southeastern Conference drawing three bids last season? Right. So Herb made it look like he was doing something, even though his NCSU teams never got further than the Sweet Sixteen - - and reached that level only once. More tellingly, Herb was involved in a ten-year stretch in which the Wolfpack went 71-88 in the ACC, beat Duke only a handful (three, actually) of times and UNC-CH hardly at all, and erected a 32-87 record against opponents finding themselves in the Top 50 of the RPI. Clearly, some constituents of those two figures overlap one another, but you get the idea.
One of the long-running debates that I have with more than a few Duke fans concerns Sendek’s merits. All silly jokes aside, the guy just didn’t succeed at his job. He brought in one top-flight recruit - - Julius Hodge - - in ten seasons, and recruiting is supposed to be his forte, at least in comparison to his minimal operational coaching skills. Most retrospective Sendek proponents are misguided by the admittedly mind-rending fact that the school hired El Sid to replace him, because while El Sid is many things, an ACC-caliber coach isn’t one of them. So, the argument goes, NCSU made a mistake when it fired Sendek (of course he resigned, but we all know he had no choice). In truth, the mistake that NCSU made was not getting rid of Sendek years earlier, and the other mistake was not hiring some young up-and-comer, say, Anthony Grant, to replace him. Sid Lowe - - I mean, are you kidding me? Sadly, as memories of Norm Sloan, David Thompson, Jimmy V, Gugliotta, Fire and Ice, and even Todd Fuller fade into the background, so does the concept that North Carolina State deserves an actual basketball coach. Everyone with a discernible pulse agrees that Lowe isn’t such a personage, but unfortunately, some people think that Sendek was.
He wasn’t. NCSU is a school that flies two national championship banners in its home arena, something that Wake Forest, Virginia, Clemson, Florida State, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Miami (FL), Boston College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and yea verily, even Maryland, College Park - - i.e. 81.8% of N.C. State's conference members - - can only dream about. So let’s not pretend that Sendek was an adequate custodian of that legacy. And while we’re at it, fire that redjacketed doofus and start working to rebuild and restore a viable program in the state capital already.
Now Sendek *is* an adequate custodian of Arizona State’s basketball tradition, and sure enough, powered by recruits supplied by predecessor Rob Evans and two key players - - including 2009 Neeba Draft third overall selection James Harden - - that he managed to find himself, the Melon assumed his usual consulting stance, got out of Harden’s way and watched as a 25-10 season rolled in a year ago. The Sun Devils even earned an six seed from the overwrought Selectospetznaz, and managed to get by Temple before losing convincingly to Syracuse in second-round action in Miami. By the way - - a team from upstate New York and one from the deserts of Arizona litigating in the Empire of David Caruso? Geographic bracket integrity pedant Sweaty of the Twerps demands an explanation!!!!
Sadly, Harden jumped, and 6-9 post stud Jeff Pendergraph (the key guy on last year’s squad whom Consultant Herb did not advise signing) graduated. However, the Pac-10 is so bad this season that ASU might just be a league title contender, well, except for Washington and Berkeley. Just take a look at some early-season action if you don’t believe me - - like hilarious UCLA dumping to CSU Fullerton; Oregon State going 1-3 out of the gate; Oregon losing to Montana and Portland (no, not the Jailblazers); Arizona going down to what does not appear to be one of the best Wisconsin teams in school history; and Berkeley leaving the Garden with a blowout loss to Syracuse (well, this can happen to the most overrated of us) and an unimpressive setback at the hands of what I deem to be a pretty mediocre Ohio State team. BAD season on tap, all ye railers against East Coast Media Bias! But can Consultant Herb’s current assignment give Duke trouble? Let’s delve deeper.
Consultant Herb’s advisory unit is coached by 6-1 senior point guard Derek Glasser (10.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 13-13 FT, 45.5% 3PFG). Glasser enjoys a deserved reputation as the best point guard in the Pac-10, with one massive caveat, in that the Pac-10 really does not have very many playmakers of note right now. In essence, Glasser is a very solid player at worst, and a very clutch one at best, who can occasionally provide the winning shot in key games with sharpshooting, but will usually not be the primary reason behind any particular victory. Last season, Glasser passed the ball away to Harden and Pendergraph and just kept his head down, amassing 4.8 apg and shooting 41.3% from the rifle range. If Glasser were an exceptional point guard, he would have likely notched in excess of six assists a game last season - - even allowing for the fact that Harden was a bit of a ballhog - - but that isn’t a knock on him, really. Basically, he’s Greg Paulus with a beard, a lesser propensity for turnovers, and he won’t be quarterbacking your football team anytime soon. He’s a player that I like, but I’m not certain that he can be the primary focus of an offense.
Joining Coach Glasser in the starting Sun Devil backcourt are 6-2 junior Jamelle McMillan and 6-5 freshman Trent Lockett, who was Glasser’s top signeee in the offseason. McMillan was the team’s sixth man last year; he can shoot it from long range, but it usually takes him far too many attempts to have an impact (1.06 PPS as a freshman, 1.19 as a sophomore). This season, McMillan has authored a 1.81 PPS by shooting 8-13 (61.5%) on three-pointers and 56.3% overall in just 23 minutes per game. However, he hasn’t seen a whole lot of defense just yet, and made half of those threes in the Sun Devils’ opener against the hapless Leathernecks of Western Illinois. Lockett could be a future stud, but he’ll have to have plenty of Dramamine to acclimate himself to Consultant Herb’s suggested substitution patterns. So far, he’s about as consistent as a teeter-totter, scoring 6, 17, 3, and 19 points in four games. Lockett mixes it up on the defensive glass and is the closest thing the Sun Devils have to a wing defender.
In the frontcourt, ASU has been starting 6-6 junior swingman and Latvistiff Rihards Kuksiks (13.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 52.0% 3PFG), who generally decamps near the Latvian-Lithuanian border and fires triples at unsurprised, nonplussed rims. Kuksiks took 210 shots from beyond the arc last season, and authored 57 attempts within its confines. Well, that’s only if you don’t count the 28 free throw attempts in 1,127 minutes. If you’re guessing that Kuksiks isn’t a strong defender, doesn’t much drive to the metal, and can’t create his own shot, you may have also wagered that the new Kelsey Grammer sitcom was not long for the small screen. Calling Rihards Ricardo a “frontcourt starter” is indeed a stretch; basically, this a four-guard offense.
But wait! Meriting his own new paragraph is Arizona State’s one true inside player - - ladies and gentlebeings, please put your hands together for Errrrrrrrrrrrrrric BOAT-eng!!!!!!! Yes, the same. Now, if you’re a Duke fan, you’re familiar with the Boateng Principle, a fascinating theorem in quantum mechanics that states: (1) McDonald’s All-Americans are selected based more on their stated college choice than their actual talent level; (2) the recruiting class of 2005 set Duke back for, oh, about four years; and (3) you really shouldn’t count on 6-10 guys from England who draw wows in airports, and only in airports. I have nothing against Eric, who seems like a nice kid, but it’s difficult to believe that Coach K and staff really thought he was or ever would be an ACC-caliber player, even projected out to his junior and senior seasons. Sensing a mistake had been made by all parties, the Boat pulled up anchor after one pine-shackled season and docked in Tempe, which is not a phrase you hear very often. Now in his fifth season of practicing and/or playing, Boateng is still searching for answers. Interestingly, the Boat *did* play like an NCAA basketball player against TCU two games ago, setting career highs, to say the least, in both points (21) and boards (12). And if you’re thinking that was the start of something special for Boateng, well, let’s cool off and think again. Remember all those insane substitution patterns in Raleigh during the Herbocene Epoch, which caused ACC analysts and clown-pretenders like yours truly to shake their collective heads in disbelief? Well, EB got 13 minutes in ASU’s follow-up game against the USF Dons, and scored - - uh, two points. So that was not a career high. Now, he did collect four fouls, but he had only two at halftime, so one suspects, with just a hint of certainty, that the relatively quick USF squad was running him in circles. Or that someone was smoking some Herb on the sidelines. It really doesn’t matter; Boateng still can’t defend, has hands of nontempered glass, and he can’t shoot free throws. He also gets out of position a lot. However, as Consultant Herb has sagely counseled, if ASU didn’t run him out there, no one would really be in rebounding position, or indeed anywhere inside the Arc de Trifecta.
Depth comes courtesy of 6-3 junior Ty Abbott, an average shooter who can at least mount credible backcourt defense; 7-2, 240-pound Moscow-based commando Ruslan Pateev (can’t wait to see THIS guy!); and 6-4 freshman Demetrius Walker. You have now been introduced to the eight individuals who were judged suitable to take the court against Texas Christian.
Thus far, the Sendekians have not exactly played a murderers’ row of a schedule; they have defeated Western Illinois (87-35), Texas State (84-62), Texas Christian (52-49) and San Francisco (104-65). Facing TCU at home in Tempe, in the game that sent them to New York City, the Sun Devils scored on a floater in the lane to go up by one with 21 seconds remaining, then capped two free throws to seal it. The game featured 37 made field goals - - by both teams.
Now, you’ve probably noticed some gaudy stats above so far, particularly the three-point shooting totals, but it’s important to note that against bad teams, Consultant Herb teaches the fun and gun. It’s a little-known fact, but it is true. Against real teams, however, it’s time for the Princeton slow-motion offense, bay-bee!!! HAHAHAHAH. Hooooo boy. And yes, when WIU, Texas State, and USF (now no longer coached by undead, cooling morgue occupant Eddie Sutton, by the way - - remember that cheap stunt??) are your opposition, you can hoist ridiculous three-pointers and even make a good deal. But let’s take a closer look at the TCU game. Arizona State canned 20 field goals, shot 3-13 from Tripledom, and clanged its way to 9-16 at the line. Assists? 12. Turnovers? 11. And it took a career night from a guy who normally can’t hit water if he falls out of a Boateng, oh, plus a last-minute shot, to win.
I suspect that Boateng will rapidly accumulate several personal fouls in this contest. Singler will harass Kuksiks, Dockett will be encouraged to shoot from way outside (where he has made his only two attempts this season) or battle amongst the trees, Scheyer will check Glasser and Smith will guard McMillan. And ASU will struggle to score, because I doubt that Coach K will be content to watch uncontested bombs flying from the perimeter. I have no idea, as usual, how the Sun Devils plan to stop Singler, but as a bonus for this edition, I also have no idea how they plan to stop anyone in Duke’s rotation. Glasser can grab some steals, but he gives up four inches to Scheyer, and I don’t see anyone contending with Plumlee or even Zoubeard down low. Zoubeard versus Boateng. This is what the World’s Greatest Arena was built for, my friends. Stopping Nolan Smith? Search me - - ask the bald guy.
Duke has not faced an elite opponent yet, which is the only reason that anyone doubts the notion that this edition of the Blue Devils may just be pretty strong. And that’s fine. I don’t think this game will settle that debate, but I do think that Arizona State would require just about a perfect offensive and defensive effort - - including some serious masonry from the Blue Devils - - just to keep this one close and have a real shot. Now, remember that Scheyer struggles to shoot at MSG, and Duke hasn’t ventured outside of Cameron until now. Still, I feel fairly comfortable projecting a Duke win.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Duke 81, Arizona State 61.
Every year that the ACC gets less than half its membership in the NCAA tournament, the coaches, including those with an invite, gripe all spring, summer and early fall that the league gets no respect. During their annual retreat, they re-commit themselves to pumping up the conference at every opportunity. But folks, I’m here to tell you that all the marketing in the world can’t make up for bad play, like what happened Tuesday night.
Where to start? How about those frightening turtles from College Park, Md., who struggled for way too long in their first round game in the Maui Invitational against host school Chaminade, a place so unheralded its name hasn’t been added to MS Word’s spell-checking data base. So, I have to put up with that red squiggly line until I type enough that it scrolls up and away. The Turds, ranked 22 in the country for some reason, followed that underwhelming performance by sticking around with Cincinnati for about 10 minutes until the Bearcats took over and pretty much handled them for the rest of the game. Assuming ESPN’s stats are correct (they still don’t have the minutes played right—I find it hard to believe that James Padgett had nine points and five boards in zero minutes), Maryland managed a whopping 18 points in the first 20 minutes, was 2 of 15 from downtown (ha ha! Now that song will be stuck in your head all day!), had eight assists vs. nine manapuas (it was the closest thing in Hawaiian cuisine I could find to a turnover. Hey, that actually took some time.), got out-rebounded by 10 and failed to convert 55 percent of their trips to the coupon line. Nice work! Keep in mind, however, that just like last year, this is allllllll Debbie Yow’s fault.
In other action Virginia, who have already distinguished themselves by scoring 49 points in a loss to USF, held Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford team to 57 points but … only put 52 in the box score themselves. The Calf’s leading scorer? Jeff Jones OFF THE BENCH! Landesberg was one point behind with 16, but the other starters, whose names will be withheld until their next of kin can be notified of their extreme brickery, totaled seven, four, three and two points. Wait, this is even better. Jones had the only made three-pointers of the entire team. He was 4-7, the other seven who put up attempts were Oh for 15. Strong.
Filling out the evening’s hat trick of mediocrity was Florida State, meeting up with down-state neighbors University of Florida and going into half-time down by 20 points, which was one more point than they themselves had scored. Um, Len, 18.8 percent from “Dowwwwnntowwwnnn, no scoring place for sure!” ain’t gonna get it done against pretty much anybody. Neither is tallying a paltry nine assists against 23 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) turnovers. If that kind of thing lasts more than four hours, well you know the drill (HA!).
The only bright spot was Weak putting a beating on what ESPN says is Winston Salem, I’m going to assume they mean the Winston Salem State Rams, and not that the Deeks took on all comers from the greater metropolitan area. But this was only one night. There’s not enough time to get into BeeCee’s drop to Northern Iowa on Monday night. Most folks hadn’t even started thawing their Thanksgiving turkeys by that time (although they should have) and Skinner’s squad was already 3-2 on the season. Oh, I’m so sorry, folks, we’re running late in this segment and won’t have time to pay proper attention to the Hoot’s win over Gardner Webb in which they made … One. Three. Pointer. In. Only. Four. Attempts. For. The. Entire. Game. And that one make? Someone named Thomas Thornton with 24 seconds left in the second half.
Now, let’s move on to a teams that takes, and makes, lots of three-pointers. That would be your Duke University Blue Devils, fresh off tying a school record 18 calling-card shots against Radford. This game will be in CIS: NY against the Arizona State Sun Devils and feature not just one, but two familiar faces. The first, notable motivator of young men Herb Sendek, who, if you recall (and there’s no shame if you don’t) used to be employed in some capacity by large state university located in Raleigh, N.C. Now, Herb has gotten a lot of heat around these parts for his apparent lack of game management, or even communication with his team while the game is ongoing. Turns out, as mere Earthlings, we totally misunderstood the situation and didn’t realize … he’s telepathic! In fact, here’s a photo of him addressing his team in the locker room before a recent game.
Turns out the Sun Devils weren’t always called that. They have been, at various times, the Bulldogs, the Owls and the Normals. And the mascot was designed by an illustrator for Disney. Look what a few minutes on Wikipedia can do for your material.
The other individual familiar with Duke-watchers is Eric Boateng, who spent one year as a Blue Devil before heading west in search of more playing time. He got it, but, in his first two years, didn’t do much with it. In fact, he went from averaging 3.9 points per outing as a sophomore to 1.9 last year. In this young season, he’s made a mockery of the term erratic, scoring two against San Francisco but 21 against TCU, plus 12 discoveries of misplaced shots.
This team is young and full of new faces, with six freshman plus a junior transfer on the roster. The only returning player who scored in double digits last year is Latvian transplant Rihards Kuksiks. Appropriate from someone who attended Florida Air Academy, he shot 44.2 from “Dowwwwnntowwwnnn, Thomas’ waiting for you!” last year and continues to light it up this year. Aside from the aforementioned fellows up front, Herby starts three guards who stand 6-4, 6-2 and 6-1, which spells trouble for him if he’s taken a glance at Duke’s roster.
I really don’t think I’ve seen this team since Sendek’s arrival. (Anyone else think his last name sounds like a software firm?) But there’s no reason to think he’s changed his ways, and we should all prepare ourselves for an evening of less-than-scintillating offense, which is graded using a scale where the Washington. D.C. NFL team’s offense *is* scintillating. On defense, he may use zone to protect the foul-generating Boateng, which could be a bit of a problem for Duke. It’s the first game outside of Cameron, and the team has had some bad shooting nights in the Garden. If memory serves, Scheyer historically has issues getting the ball inside the round metal thing there. We’ll also learn much about Dawkins in this one. If he can shoot well in possibly the largest arena he’s played in, sit back and get ready for several more years of Redick-ness.
But that’s not the only answer. Regardless of the defense, Duke’s backcourt should be able to see over, and pass over, Herb’s elves and get the ball into scoring position for Plumlee 1.0, Kelly and Treebeard. Hell, Lance Thomas might even do one of his early season teases and put up a dozen. This would also be a good game to employ a bit more of Czyz, as he can post up most of the Sun Devils who will be defending him.
Unlike many recent seasons, Duke has a full complement of upperclassmen (boy oh boy that sounds nice, huh?), many of whom have played in this building before. It might be close for part of the first half, but I would expect Duke to be up comfortably by intermission and then put this thing away early in the second. Hopefully on Thursday we’ll all give thanks that Coach K is (finally) using the players he has.
Duke 84, Arizona State 65.