TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume IX, Number XIV - January 6, 2006
Welcome to this edition of the ninth (we truly wish just as much as you do that we were making that up), yes, ninth, season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, grab the latest racially attuned movie recommendations from Wal-Mart, engage in sidesplitting police chicanery after some dude unloads his ex-wife on you, and if you honestly read every word of the tripe below, check yourself into an urgent care facility and skip triage.
The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some ridiculous reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even more ludicrous motivations, copyright 2006 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, and even though you may have had reservations yourself, we'd like to seat you anyway.
Matt's comments in blue.
Rob Mac K's comments in green.
Guest Dukie Al White’s comments in red.
#13 NORTH CAROLINA STATE (12-1, 1-0) @ #25 NORTH CAROLINA-CHAPEL HILL (8-2, 0-0)
Wow; the timing is interesting for this matchup, which is a Top 25 tilt since the Tools are still renting space in the polls by virtue of their win over silly Kentucky. Not that this is really that big of a deal, because this is usually a fun game to watch, but having it so early is presumably another consequence of the stupid schedule we’re all saddled with. Thank the stars the league is run by competent, strapping donut hounds.
With that complaint out of the way, I am loving the outpouring of affection from Chapel Hill for the 2005-2006 Tools. Wow - - they’re 8-2!! Yeah; um, what did anyone honestly expect them to be at this point, realistically? Not knowing about Randy Mo’s wee eligibility problem, nor understanding how bad Kenfucky really was, I assumed as far back as Halloween that the Twinks would lose to the Mildcats and beat Southern Cal, but instead, they flipflopped those games and have the same record after ten games (P.S., way to stretch yourself, Horseface - - everyone else in the conference has played at least 11, and most far more) that I, and every sane person, should have expected. Their only impressive win of any stripe is St. Louis, not Kentucky. But, since these are Tool fans, naturally, we’re hearing talk of a 20-win campaign, NCAA berths, Green in bronze, and so forth.
The unfortunate problem is that State, as everyone reading this (hi, Mom!) knows, has a regrettable tendency to cooperate with the Soiled Pedestrians. Remember Ishua Benjamin and his inability to inbound the ball at Reynolds? I was there and will never forget. So, how’s the Pack so far this season? Pretty good - - I was on the fence about whether they were for real until they beat previously unblemished GWU like a drum at the ESA for - - get this - - their first home win over a ranked OOC opponent in almost exactly 20 years. (Most of that is due to the fact that they never play anyone good out of the ACC, but still; this was a statement game and a very nice win.) The most impressive element of the triumph had to be the total ease with which NCSU socked it away - - they were leading the Colonizers 34-22 at the half and never looked back.
State has the best FG% defense in Division I, they’re just outside the top 40 in free throw shooting, and they’ve proven to be very competent from behind the arc. They’re also shooting 48.3% from the floor, good enough for #41 overall in the nation, and as a measure of how good their defense can be, GWU was nearly in the top ten in FG% before running into the Pack’s buzzsaw defense.
Good defensive play does not usually mix well with youngsters running uncomfortable offensive sets, and the State players are actually (this is shocking) pretty cerebral this season under Coach Alien Vasectimov, so I’m going to be pretty surprised if the Pack don’t take this one. If they can beat GWU, they ought to be able handle this group of overrated infants.
North Carolina State 77, North Carolina-Chapel Hill 65.
O overrated Tarholes, why can't you just suck like you are supposed to? Ever since your victory over the Chokin' Illini, I have consoled myself with the knowledge that you would stink this year. And while you do stink, your stinkage is not to the level that I have come to expect, no, the level that I have come to demand as my rightful due.
Even worse, now you will welcome Consultant Herb without Coach Hodge, he of the gawky physique and punchin' bag nuts. While the Tarholes are most assuredly overrated at being considered one of the top 25 teams in the country, are the Wolfies truly one of the top 15? My Magic Eight Ball says, "Probably not." (I'm not sure that that's actually one of Magic Eight Ball's canned responses, but I was drunk when I consulted it, so I'm just giving you the general gist.) The Herbinators have beaten up on a variety of crummy teams, have a single loss at Iowa, and recently beat the bejesus out of #12 George Washington.
Poll hilarity: #14 Iowa beat #13 NC State, who beat #12 GW. Transitive what?
Anyway, based on what I've seen so far, State has the better team this year, but I still bet they choke in Dean's Tomb. It would be nice to be wrong about that though, wouldn't it?
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 67, North Carolina State 61.
In the Battle of the John Edwards alma maters:
We asked a panel of distinguished experts to name the worst team to win the NCAA Championship in the past 20 years. The panel unanimously concluded that there were only two possible nominees -- the 1993 champions and the 2005 winners. When asked to pick the worst of the two, the panel refused to do so, stating that it was too demeaning a task to have to consider any further these two unworthy squads. While we (meaning my vast research staff and me) sympathize with the panel's desire to wash the tar off its hands as quickly as possible, we think that the worse of the two is so apparent that this odious chore can be dispatched quickly. In our minds, while the 1993 Webberbrainlock-enabled winners were indeed unworthy, the 2005 UNC-CH team will stand as the worst winner of the past 20 years and probably of all time. Suffice it to say that whoever won last year would have been a very weak winner. In fact, a good case could be made that last year's Final Four was the worst ever. That would not have been the case if only Aldo Deng had managed to keep his hands off his son's money for another year, or if Shivlak Randope had not occupied the slot on the Blue Devils roster that could have been filled by 300 other better big men. Well, enough about the past.
This should be a very interesting game. The Wolfpack has played very well so far this year, with the only loss coming in that 45-42 throwback at Iowa. The Carnegie Melon must have been thrilled to have such a Princetonesque score in an ACC-Big 11 Challenge game. Did the power go out at Carver Hawkeye or did the clock malfunction? (Who was Carver Hawkeye anyway?) [Even more amazing, the game was played . . . AT CARVER HAWKEYE, not at, e.g., the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. --Matt] So far, the Pack has looked like their predicted top 4 finish in the conference could come to pass. The Euro-American ensemble cast has stepped up to replace the numbers of departed 8th team All-ACC mainstay Juligan Hodge, without Julie's attitude. The team has the positive characteristics we have come to expect from Sendek's squads -- fine free-throw shooting, good 3-point marksmanship and decent defense. The question is whether it also has the negatives -- an inability to adjust offensively and an inability to win tough games, especially on the road.
Knowledgeable Tool fans (if any be found) had to be wondering before the year if this team would go 8-20 (just to pick a bad record at random). Given the cupcake early schedule, they need not have worried. The close win over a reeling Kentucky team (that got annihilated by Indiana a few days later) "earned" the Tools a Top 25 ranking they barely cling to, despite a second-half blowout by a very mediocre USC team. The Twinks' other loss was by 4 points at home to an overrated Illinois bunch. The inexperienced Chapel Hillites have committed 17 turnovers a game and have not shot well from three-land against weak competition. Their rebounding has been suspect.
This is a game that State should win. For once, Herb will have more talent and experience on the floor. The Pack administration has been very patient with a coach who obviously will never be a big success. He should reward that patience with a win in the Wine and Cheese Den of Iniquity a/k/a the Deandome (named for the coach of the second worst NCAA champion of the past 20 years).
North Carolina State 80, North Carolina-Chapel Hill 71.
#14 MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK (11-2, 1-0) @ MIAMI (FL) (8-6, 0-1)
Oh, you just have no idea how much I would love to pick against Sweaty, who never fails to amuse me. Did you hear that he is quietly taking legal action to prevent Photoshopping of the famous “wing-grilling” pic from Summer of Love 2005? Look, dude, if you’re going to show up three batteries shy of an Energizer Bunny at some weird gathering of Delmarva Peninsula beachcombers and be dumb enough to get yourself snapped looking like you just jammed your pecker into an electric fence, you’ve got to know that people are going to do something with that. Now, go change your suit. And put that thing away.
For some reason, the Twerps have played well this year, although their talent level is pretty thin, and if you’re thinking that “Sweaty’s expert coaching” is the answer to the riddle, you’ve come to the wrong playpen. I’ll go with “lucky” and “BC is overrated” instead, since, when you boil it down, the Drops lost to the only other rated teams (Gonzaga and GWU) they’ve faced. However, it must be admitted that they haven’t embarrassed themselves, either, and of course I’m speaking only of the players here. You know, I had hoped that the universally hailed departure of the Apostle John Gilchrist in the offseason (actually, before the NIT, as you’ll remember) might have reduced Sweaty’s pathological tendency to get in the face of and excoriate some poor benchriding scrub for an on-court error committed by one the stiffs in his lineup, but no such luck, as I saw him chewing out hapless Dave Neal and Gini Chukura in a recent game following an on-court boner by Sterling Bedwetter. Classssssssssy!
Then there’s Miami, who recently mounted a fierce campaign to turn back Sacred Heart by six points. Huh? Look, when you’re having trouble against Blessed Liver, Hallowed Spleen, and other members of Division I’s newest association, the Sainted Organ Athletic Conference, it’s time to take stock. Were the departures of Anthonys King and Harris that critical? Oops - - they’re still on the team! My bad. However, when you have six losses at this stage of the season, and you’re heading into ACC play, it’s time to start reading those NIT eligibility rules very closely. Unfortunately, while a win by the Hurryclowns would be hilarious, it isn’t in the cards. Grill on, Sweaty!
Maryland, College Park 74, Miami (FL) 69.
I thought Miami would be pretty decent this year, as they returned a solid nucleus of Diaz and Hite in the backcourt and King up front. But so far it hasn't really worked out that way - the Canes have really struggled, even against what should be far inferior competition. They come into this one off a 63-57 win over Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart! Isn't that a convent?
I haven't quite put my finger on what's wrong with them yet - I watched most of their game with #5 Florida recently, and they were nip-and-tuck with the Gators until a very late Florida spurt pushed UF to a 77-67 win that was much closer than the final score indicates. But that performance aside, the Hurricanes have been singularly unimpressive.
The T(w)erps come in riding a six-game winning streak that includes a narrow win over #6 BC, and their two losses were to nationally-ranked opponents. One would think they wouldn't have too much trouble with lowly Miami, but nothing is sure on the road in the ACC. Still, I like the Terps take this one.
Maryland, College Park 81, Miami (FL) 74.
The Twerps come into this game with a gaudy No. 12 national ranking, earned on the strength of their 73-71 win over Boston College on December 11. Their two losses were at the hands of Gonzaga in Hawaii and on the road against George Washington. The latter was the Terps' only true road game of the season so far. It is tempting to say that this first ACC road game will tell us whether the Turtles really are better than last year's NIT team (heh heh), presumably due to the addition by subtraction of "Little Cookie" Gilchrist. Fortunately for the Cable Box Crew, the Hurricanes have been awful so far. A blowout at Michigan, a failure to be competitive at N.C. State and a narrow win over Sacred Heart (sacre bleu!!) must have Frank Haith very disappointed.
We know that "Gary" Williams (the first time he has ever been called that on this site, but we have to admit that after getting those magic pills from Balco, he lamentably doesn't gush those buckets like he used to) is as "loveable as Karl Rove", but can "Gary" be as resilient as the Devil of Staff, or will the ACC season show this team to be as bad as last year's? (By the way, is Andy Card still the nominal White House Chief of Staff? The only times I have heard of this guy in the past 5 years were when (a) it was reported in September that he was on vacation in Maine during Katrina [Crawfurd in August not good enough for you, Andy?] and (b) it was reported recently that "Seckertary Andy", as Dubya likes to call him, accompanied Abu Gonzales to the Confederate-flag draped bedside of the gravely ill John Ashcroft to try to get warrantless wiretapping approved. That digression was required by my guest writer contract.)
Miami took this tilt by a two-point margin last year, but until results prove otherwise, the Twerps have to get the nod.
Maryland, College Park 73, Miami (FL) 65.
VIRGINIA TECH (10-4, 0-1) @ FLORIDA STATE (9-2, 0-1)
Bobby Sura. Doug Edwards. Al Thornton. Diego Romero. Casaan Breeden. Matt Zitani. The richly appointed Semen-Hole Basketball Tradition Express just keeps rolling on down the tracks, and it is already clear that this is going to be yet another great season in Tee Hee. Given that Nebraska is just historically awful and that the 2005-2006 Purdue edition is one of the worst Big Ten teams (excluding certain varieties of Northwestern) in the last 30 years, FSU played a worthless OOC schedule that looks more like a round-robin twirl through some obscene fusion of the Big South and the SWAC, and now they’ve flashed out to a strong ACC start by losing to Clemson, which is always a humiliating experience for anyone.
And here comes VPI! But wait! Is this the “we plan to lose to Bowling Green and Old Dominion” VPI (hereinafter the “Chokies”), or the “we can blow Duke off its own court for seven or eight minutes of clock until we get beat by a 45-foot Dockery bomb” VPI (hereinafter “Magic, Jordan & Bird”)? Of course, as we’ve all figured out, Duke’s performance in that ridiculous win said more about Duke and the legendary, copyrighted tactic of STALLBALL than it did about the Polyps, and the big discovery was that copyrighting a basketball tactic doesn’t imply anything about your ability to execute said tactic. Unless the point of STALLBALL is to fritter away a comfy lead, in which case I retract my statement: it works to total frigging perfection.
All seriousness aside, I believe that any team that can challenge Duke in Cameron, irrespective of the level of Duke’s ready cooperation in the venture, should be able to beat this miserable Florida State team. I don’t think Len Hamilton is done Reverse Peter Principling himself down the coaching ladder: his next stop, Jeff Jones-like, should be something like UCF or more likely Jacksonville State. For now, he’s a real down-and-goer.
Virginia Tech 79, Florida State 71.
Hey, it's a rematch of the inaugural ACC championship game! Well, yeah, in the sport with the funny-shaped ball, but give me a little credit for finding something to talk about in this matchup of former Metro conference rivals. (Weren't they both in the Metro at some point? I can't keep track any more.) Like they used to say in the old Virginia Slims advertisements, "You've come a long way, baby." Or was that a Benson & Hedges ad?
I can't recall. But I suspect there is some truth to the rumor that Swofford is right this second on the telephone, trying to see if Benson & Hedges would be interested in joining the ACC, too.
I guess I'm supposed to use this space to tell you who's going to win the game. Quite frankly, if I really knew, I'd be in Vegas right now, rather than pecking away at my computer keyboard. Based on what little we've seen so far, I'd say Tech is the better team, but are they good enough to win in fair Tallahassee, that picturesque jewel of the Gulf Coast? Who knows.
I'll roll the dice.
Virginia Tech 71, Florida State 65.
Unfortunately, this writer doesn't think there is anything funny about these teams. The Hokies are chokies against almost everyone except Duke, a position that the 'Noles found themselves in for a few years until order was restored. The Deminoles have actually played fairly well this year, the most glaring exception being a loss this week at Clemson. If the home team can join the vast majority of teams in the league that can somehow contain Coleman Collins instead of propelling him to the Hall of Fame (a la Duke), then it can win. Based on the Chokies' poor play since the Dockery game, the hunch here is that Badeye Leonard's guys will goon their way to a win at home.
Florida State 68, Virginia Tech 67.
CLEMSON (12-2, 1-0) @ VIRGINIA (6-5, 0-1)
The Tiggers didn’t let us down, winning at home in the Hey, Why Aren’t You Watching The Rose Bowl? Bowl on Wednesday night in front of 312 fans who far preferred to see Vernon Hamilton and ninth-year senior Shawan Robinson rocket off silky smooth bricks rather than take in USC and Texas. Heck, I hate college football and even I watched the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl, and never once considered figuring out if anyone, anywhere, was televising the ACC’s meager counteroffering. Low irony that that "game," between a couple of schools that are really only in the league for their football contributions at this point, was deliberately scheduled against the “national title game” to get it out of everyone’s way, and maybe that’s Morrisette irony rather than true, bona fide irony, but I don’t care.
By law, Clemson is only permitted to play other crappy ACC teams this year (and there are plenty to choose from), so now it’s time to visit C-Ville and see what ridiculous scheme UVa used to repaint its court this season. I’m still laughing over the 100:1 scale Thomas Jefferson signature from a few years back, which just summed up everything about Virginia in general - - not like that guy ever signed anything ELSE of value other than the court at Close Encounters Coliseum, right? Talk about a grave-turner. Dave Lightload still can’t believe the mess of stiffs that Macrocephapete left him, and until he, uh, brings in his own recruits (bwah hah hah), I can’t pick the Hos to beat anybody without payment therefor, and no such deposit has hit my bank account at press time. Tony the Tigger to 2-0? Wow! I can sense Elon’s RPI swelling faster than Rick Majerus’ parachute pants, but then, Rick, by his own admission, is “not a big gay guy.” Glad we got that conundrum cleared up. And this just in - - a resident of suburban Bangalore with a fake Brooklyn accent working for my bank just reminded me via phone that, payment or not, Virginia is playing Clemson. Good call, "Mike."
Virginia 67, Clemson 62.
How appropriate that this inaugural contest of 2006 for ACC games, in a year where the conference is as a whole not at the top of its usual game, is between these two clubs that basically aren't any good at all. Clemson has grown fat on beating up on their usual diet of glorified CYO league teams, like Davey Odom's USC, but it's still obvious even to the most unqualified observer - like me - that they are destined for a Thursday opener when ACC Tournament time rolls around. And when they are there, they will most certainly see this Virginia squad again, either on the court or passing by in the bowels of the Greensboro Coliseum between games. Virginia hasn't even had the good grace to beat all their cupcakes, dropping decisions to powerhouses like Western Kentucky and Fordham.
So who gets what will surely be one of their few conference wins this year? Well, when in doubt, go with the home team, I reckon. It makes as much sense as anything else.
Virginia 61, Clemson 60.
Alas, this game just isn't the same any more, without Chris Hobbs and Elton Brown bludgeoning each other under the basket and then exchanging recipes during the four first-half timeouts called by Pete Gillen. (If anyone knows how Hobbs's restaurateur career is going, please let Tim Brando know so he can update the rest of us.) While some might now be tempted to blow this game off as being of little significance, that overlooks the fact that the winner of this game will have the upper hand in the race for the coveted 11th seed in the ACC Tournament and will have taken another important step toward NIT eligibility.
After its embarrassing 5-point loss at home to Elon, Purnell's Pussycats have a new team motto: "He who lives by the cupcake dies by the cupcake." Apparently those contests against Bethune Cookman, Coppin State, Charleston State, Wofford and Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (a new Big East member?) did not prepare the Kittens for Elon as well as Ollie had hoped. He seemed like a good hire when he was enticed from Dayton, but one has to wonder at this point.
Virginia is looking as if Pete Gillen is still there, having lost to Fordham and Western Kentucky on its way to a 6-5 mark so far. At least this will be a "give-him-time" year for Dave Leitao as long as the 'Hoos manage to keep from really disgracing themselves. Of course, a home loss to Clemson would be pretty disgraceful, especially since this will be one of the ACC games the Cavs will have a very good chance of winning.
This game has inspired one idea. The fancy new 12-team ACC could go to a 2-division format for basketball that, like British soccer, divides the teams each year based on how they finished in the regular-season standings the year before. Every school would play the teams in its division twice and the squads in the other division only once. What a hoot it would be to see Maryland in the bunny division next year with Clemson, UVA, UNC, etc.
Back to reality. Virginia has played a better schedule to date than the Clemcakes and that should help the Wahoos eke out a home win.
Virginia 63, Clemson 60.
#11 BOSTON COLLEGE (11-2, 0-1) @ GEORGIA TECH (7-4, 1-0)
As far as I’m concerned, the Nutcracker and the Sugar Plum Fairies have been the league’s biggest early season disappointment (now, I’m talking relative to expectations here; we all knew, e.g., that the commencement of the Leitao Era in Charlottesville was not going to yield an undefeated season). Sure, their 11-2 record is pretty good at a glance, but they played pretty poorly in the two losses (to Michigan State and Maryland, so at least the competition wasn’t of the bunny variety, but still), and none of their 11 wins carries any weight whatsoever, except mayyyyyyyyyyybe the 76-68 defeat of so-so Oklahoma State at Gallagher Iba. Incidentally, did anyone see that recent list (I think it was spewed by ESPN) of the allegedly greatest Division I venues? The whole idea of the ranking seemed to be to ensure that Cameron wouldn’t be #1, and by the end of the top ten “winners,” it was obvious that the author was just plugging in venues s/he had heard of. Assembly Hall made the list, and not the one in Bloomington. That’s all you need to know - - according to this pap, a UFO Hall lookalike located (I’m not joking) next to a smelly on-campus farm with flatulent barnyard denizens (plus some actual animals - - not just UIUC frat members) and populated with the most disgusting fans in Division I other than Twerp homers is “one of the top ten college basketball venues in the country.” Actually, you dolts, it’s not even the top venue in its conference named Assembly Hall. Pitiful.
And yes, remodeled Gallagher Iba (which topped that phony list, and which RoadDukie is trying to get to this season) is impressive on television, but still . . . that’s about it for quality Eagles wins. Drake, 87-84? Duquesne, 81-69? Erg. Dubious! Even the Nutcracker’s tightly-hinged jaw weapon would drop if he saw any other coach try to foist this slate off as a legitimate Division I schedule - - although ESPN would probably call it one of the greatest of all time.
As for the Institutional Insects, no disappointment here; they’re horrible, as expected. Most impressive of their seven wins - - uh, Elon? Hahaha, just kidding, Clemson! Probably Vanderbilt, but check out those losses! No shame in getting nipped by Michigan State by a pair (like so much else, that sounds like a Chris Paul joke), but those blowouts at the hands of Georgia and yes, the Flames of Illinois-Chicago are just ugly, and the 54-46 loss to Air Force screams “clueless coach” loud enough so even Hewitt can hear it. You know, now that Jackass and his entourage are gone, and Pugnacious Paul is depending on a weirdly-named group of sophomores to carry his banner, I am pretty much hoping that his recruiting declines, and that he eventually slides into irrelevance. Such is the repayment for adopting thugball as a way of life.
Boston College 75, Georgia Tech 71.
BC hopes to have better luck in their second ACC road game than they did in their first, as they travel to the McDonald's Dome to take on the Bugs. This represents a matchup of one of the ACC's most talented teams with one of its thuggiest.
Random trivia: Georgia and Air Force are both 2-0 versus ACC teams this year. Georgia Tech lost to both of them. Way to help the league's RPI rating there, Jackets.
Wouldn't it be funny if, a year after Miami and VPI joined the ACC and had far more success in their first year than anyone expected, the Eagles turned around and laid an egg in their first year in the league?
Despite that first loss at Maryland, I don't think BC will drop to 0-2 in ACC play. It'll be a struggle, but I'll take the birds over the bees.
Boston College 81, Georgia Tech 76.
Nutcracker Al’s first ACC road game didn’t work out real well, as his team crumbled before those clever D-cell tossing Terp students. Having been handed a real gift by the schedule makers – no trip this year to Cameron – the Eagles gave back that advantage by laying an Eagle-sized egg in the Cable Box. B.C. may or may not be a threat to go deep in March. Their efforts thus far don’t answer the question. This game will give an indication whether the Eagles are at least going to be able to meet their ACC second-place expectations this year.
On the other hand, Hewitt’s Insects have been horrible. He gave the returnees enough minutes last year that they should not be this bad … unless, of course, they’re just not very good players. Sadly for Cheap Shot Paul, that is probably the truth. Smith, Dudley & Co. should win this one easily.
Boston College 79, Georgia Tech 68.
#1 DUKE (13-0, 1-0) @ #23 WAKE FOREST (11-2, 0-0)
I took the editorial liberty of reading Rob's trenchant breakdown of this game before posting my own miasma, and he's right - - Sunday night games do blow. I was sort of hoping Villanova would lose on Thursday so Duke could have some margin for error to stay #1 if Wake rises up, but since the Wildcats were playing preposterously overranked Louisville, that wasn't realistic, and I also like Villanova a lot, and can't credibly root against them. Speaking of the Big East, however - - and you have a 27.8% chance of doing just that if you're discussing a Division I team - - I guess we all saw what U-Con was made of, eh? I watched the whole thing with A.J. Price on pirated satellite TV, with real-time stat tracking via a nearby borrowed laptop. In style! Calgoon looked about as lost as Pete Carroll observing Vince Young as he saw his group of individually talented, yet collectively stupid and inept group suddenly realize that they weren't playing the nation's worst team, Morehead State, anymore. Did Marquette just destroy those felons, or what? Nice welcome back party for the paroled Marcus Williams. Memo to Andy Katz: this win by Marquette was not a fluke, and does not mean that Steve Novak is the #1 pick in the Association Draft. (In fairness, I didn't read Andy's column to see if he did indeed write that, but I assume that he almost certainly did.) It means that Connecticut is really not that good.
In contrast, I think Duke really is that good (I mean, genuinely good, unlike the Stealers of Storrs), and I don't think there's much that Wake's pretty horrid defense can do about it. Colonial Viper pilot Justin Gray is trying to carry the whole club on the offensive end, but without Ballpuncher around, he's looking more like a genetic hybrid of Shea Seals and DeJuan Wheat (or, hell, Tony Rutland and Steve Goolsby, post-Duncan versions) every day. 17.8 ppg on .397 FG% won't cut it against Duke, particularly when 37 of Gray's 71 made field goals (that's 52.1% of his output) have come from behind the arc. The problem? Well, Duke is one of the nation's better teams, and by far the ACC's best, at shutting down the distance shot, with opponents making fewer than four per game against the Blue Devils, and shooting a dismal 25.8% from long range. (Or, "on longs." I just made that up! I hereby announce that "long" is the new "big". Isn't that a cool? And a hip?) With adjectival noun mutations thankfully behind us, we can relax and admit that that's some darn impressive perimeter defense. As more than a few commentators have pointed out, the overplay sometimes leads to easy buckets, but McRoberts is getting better at helping from the weakside, and the gimme hasn't been available to Duke foes much in recent games. The flip side, however, is that the wing defense has been absolutely fantastic, and that has continued even as the easy looks have diminished.
Eric Williams is having an okay season, but he's a butcher at the line, he really can't hang with a mobile big man like Shelden, and while the Deacs are far superior to Duke on the boards (their only real statistical edge in this matchup), as I keep yelling and screaming, Duke isn't getting nearly as many boards as some teams, because (1) they're making so many of their own shots, and (2) opponents are really tossing some masonry from the arc, leading to long rebounds, which have not always been going Duke's way (although that, like several other facets of the Blue Devils' game, has improved since McRoberts woke up and Dockery moved to the next plane of existence following The Shot). So, Wake can try to pound it down low, but I don't think they're going to score enough points that way to best Duke, even in their own building.
Another problem for Wake, as mentioned at the top, is their defense. Wake has given up 65.2 ppg to a less-than-robust pre-ACC slate of opponents, while allowing 103 made threes and .336 shooting from distance against that same