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TD: Lion It Or Not

Date: 11/12/2006

2006 Archive  
Posted By: Matt


Volume X, Number I November 12, 2006

Welcome to this edition of the tenth (it's crossed the line from generating wan smiles to causing outright grimaces of pain), yes, we said tenth, season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, enjoy the Macacalypse, listen to "Our Country" for the 487th time without actually having purchased the new Mellencamp record, toss a phone at a nearby service worker, and at least try to make it through the below without engaging in any voter-suppression tactics.

The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some ridiculous reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even more ludicrous purposes, copyright 2006-2007 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, including the right to offend as we see fit.

Matt's comments in blue.
Rob Mac K's comments in green.

COLUMBIA (0-0, 0-0 Ivy) @ #12 DUKE (0-0, 0-0)

One of the downsides of bringing in these huge recruiting classes filled with future stars is that they are usually followed, perforce, by smaller groups for a year or so until the next big haul - - or at least, that's how Krzyzewski has been doing it now since time immemorial. And who are we to argue with success? Even if, you know, "success" means, in four of the last five years, crapping out in the third round of the NCAAs against generally inferior competition. Hey, it's good to be back! Thanks. No bitterness over that Louisiana State loss whatsoever.

As a result of the departure of the big class of 2006 - - including the school's all-time leading scorer and its all-time leading rebounder and shotblocker - - this year's lone (contributing) scholarship upperclassman is DeMarcus Nelson, and of course, Duke litigated its mercifully brief exhibition schedule against Shaw and NCCU without the services of Greg Paulus, who may return tonight, but will almost certainly be back on Monday.

This year's team is very interesting, with Krzyzewski seemingly assembling a squad designed to address near-institutionalized Duke flaws of recent seasons, including the lack of more than one legitimate rebounder and the total absence of GHill/THill/BDavis/Lang/Carrawell/James-type athletic swingmen. Massive Brian Zoubek, the sleeper in this year's four-man freshman class, small forward Gerald Henderson and power forward Lance Thomas hearken back to another era of Duke basketball, which really wasn't all that long ago - - we're just spoiled. Meanwhile, Paulus' injury was actually serendipitously timed, giving Jon Scheyer a low-pressure chance to show that he has skills that make him more than just a shooter - - he's an above-average defender and passer already, for example. Why, I thought I even spotted Marty Pocius sporting some strong defense in the two preseason contests. Three-pointers may be in shorter supply this season, but for many fans, that's not much of an issue if it leads to higher percentages on conventional buckets.

Interestingly, the two exhibitions showcased the new talent more than the returnees, like Paulus (obviously), Josh McRoberts and Nelson, as the latter two seemed content to play quasi-supporting roles and see what the new kids on the block could do.

Most refreshingly of all, Coach K seems to realize that this team's best destiny does not lie in playing his team members 37 mpg or more; Boykin and McClure supplied key time along with Zoubek in the exhibitions, and I can only hope that this marks the beginning of a trend, and not more of the usual folderol where we all have to check TiVoed shots of the bench to make sure these guys are even in the building during the ACC unround robin.

Enter Columbia, a middle-of-the-pack Ivy League team coached capably (like most Ivy squads) by Oswego State alum Joe Jones. Columbia had its moments last season, sweeping traveling partners and traditional conference powers Penn and Princeton in a weekend for the first time in several years. However, poor ballhandling and sievelike defense sent the Lions to an 11-16, 4-10 record.

This year, Columbia hopes to capitalize on its growing experience - - in contrast to Duke, seven of the Lions' top eight scorers return, including 6-9 junior Ben Nwachuku (10.5 ppg) and 6-8 junior John Baumann (13.7 ppg) up front, and in the backcourt, Ivy League assist leader and 6-0 junior Brett Loscalzo (5.1 ppg, 3.0 apg, which apparently was good enough to top the league), 6-4 junior and former sixth man Justin Armstrong (10.3 ppg) and K.J. Matsui (6.5 ppg), a 6-2 sophomore who has his own personal Japanese media retinue, because he's the first-ever Division I basketball player from the land of the rising sun. Matsui struggled with the ball last season, as did Loscalzo, but Armstrong is unflappable (he hit three game-winning shots a year ago), and the frontcourt starters is a pair of accomplished rebounders and polished defenders.

All in all, this isn't a bad opening test for Duke at all - - Nwachuku and Baumann will provide an early measuring stick for the inexperienced Blue Devil frontcourt, while the savvy backcourt will test Nelson (expected to shine this season after bulking up under the tutelage of a former Navy SEAL over the summer), Pocius, and Scheyer, particularly if Paulus is not quite ready to go yet.

This game will probably be close in the first half before Duke takes over, but I'm not looking for many blowouts until the team finds its groove. How many times has Duke opened its season on a Sunday night before? The media notes were, sadly, no help. Enjoy, Duke fans! It's on.

Duke 83, Columbia 62.

Duke opens tonight against the mighty Lions of Columbia. Despite the massive losses from last year's line-up, Duke is still loaded, and should not have much trouble with their Ivy League foes. The Devils have used their first two games (exhibition blowouts against Shaw and NC Central) to experiment freely with different combinations, and don't be surprised to see more of the same against Columbia.

Duke's offense had probably not had much opportunity to get a lot of meaningful work with the absence of Greg Paulus from pretty much the entire preseason. The good news is that the sophomore tri-captain reportedly returned to practice Thursday, and there's a chance that he could play against the Lions. I would certainly expect him to play in Monday's game in at least a limited role. The blessing in disguise has been the opportunity for freshman Jon Scheyer to play extended minutes as the primary ballhandler, a role he may need to fill should Paulus get into foul trouble or (God forbid) injury trouble during the season.

Tonght's game wil be televised on ESPNU, which means it may be available for those with satellite TV, but those of us with cable (at least if you have Comcrap or TW) are likely out of luck. Fortunately tomorrow's game (assuming Duke beats Columbia) will be seen at 7:00 on the Deuce.

Anyway, rather than use up all my material on the season opener as I traditionally do, I'll save some of my wittier lines and deeper analysis for games to come (assuming I can come up with some witty lines or deep analysis at some point), I'll end here.

Duke 92, Columbia 68.

 Last Season: Rob 106-42 (0.719) Matt 103-45 (0.699) Guests 35-25 (0.583) TD in Guest Editions 68-42 (0.618)


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