TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume VI, no. I - November 23, 2002
Welcome to this edition of the sixth (we can't believe it either) season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, learn maybe one or two facts about this Army game tonight, and enjoy a halfass review of "Black Hawk Down," provided as some sort of purported bonus. No, no one else can explain Matt either. We'd better get to it.
The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some obscure reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even weirder reasons, copyright 2002 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, to say nothing of your willingness to return after reading some of this pap.
Matt's comments and off-point movie review in blue.
Rob Mac K's more targeted comments in green.
ARMY (0-0, 0-0 Patriot League) @ #6 DUKE (0-0, 0-0 ACC)
The Duke Blue Devils open their defense of their indefensible 2001-2002 title defense with a fusillade of frenzy against the United States Military Academy, d/b/a "Army," based in West Point, New York. This early battle, pitting an apparently now-recovered Coach K against his alma mater and original coaching venue, isn't usually very exciting, in all honesty. In fact, although AG Johnny Ashcroft probably wouldn't be amused by the sentiment, I'm not embarrassed to admit that with K's former point guard, Pat Harris, no longer helming the Black Knights after getting the boot over the summer (ditto assistant Robert Brickey), Duke could stand to drop this scheduling matchup in future years. Of course, bear in mind that in the new No Exemptions NCAA, Duke sort of has to play 12 teams like Army every season at home. Sigh.
In any event, the de rigueur Duke-Army clash brings new meaning to the "all-volunteer military" - - in this instance, the military volunteers to get the crap beaten out of it in Cameron Indoor Stadium every season. You know, if this seems like an arrogant beginning to my contributions to (save us!!!) the sixth season of Two Dukies material, oh, perhaps. But I spent all last year being humble and getting no cred for it (not to mention having my team turn in a rather crappy final effort), and since Tool fans are already laughably crowing about some smashing renaissance of their fifth-rate team after blowing out Penn State’s worst attempt at a squad in 25 years and nipping a bad Rutgers club in the NCAA’s No Exemptions Dammit Depleteseason NIT, I think I can be allowed to posit that Duke will defeat the nation’s armed forces in CIS. In a moment, I may or may not (probably not, since Rob did) even knock out a few facts about the Black Knight team and its future Rangers, Deltas and supply sergeants who’ll be gunning for the Blue Devils on Saturday night.
But first, this:
I recently rented “Black Hawk Down,” and instantly elevated it to “five-plus” status, meaning that it transcends the one-to-five-star system. Great flick. Dramatizing (but not by much) the preposterously incompetent 1993 U.S. military operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which an ill-conceived raid on an urban warfare zone resulted in the tragic and needless deaths of 19 U.S servicemen and the downing of two UH-64 “Black Hawk” helicopters by rocket-propelled grenade fire, the film is the most realistic and incredible depiction of modern warfare I’ve ever seen, and yes, that includes Private Ryan. Even better, the acting from the ensemble cast is astounding, including grizzly Sam Shepard as real-life Task Force Rangers commander Maj. Gen. William Garrison; ubiquitous acting ace Tom Sizemore (the lieutenant on “Robbery Homicide”) as the lieutenant colonel commanding the light infantry column in the raid; Brit Jason Isaacs (the villain in “The Patriot”), nailing a Deep South accent (parodied by one of the grunts in a great scene) as the captain in charge of the Rangers’ ground security force; Aussie Eric Bana (blowing his Southern accent, but you don’t care) and Level 10 character actor William Fichtner as jaded, supraprofessional Delta Force studs; and numerous other bit players. It may be worth mentioning that Shep from “ER” plays one of the pilots that gets shot down. Yes, even monolithic clod Josh Hartnett, as a staff sergeant heading one of the ground squads, is passable, particularly in his scenes where hardened special ops soldier Bana assuages the younger man's conflicted feelings about the harsh realities of war. And for true genre fans, there’s even an extended scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Legolas from “Lord of the Rings.” However, it is a mystery why Ewan McGregor, who possesses the inhuman ability to shelve his native Scottish brogue (see “Trainspotting”) and sound EXACTLY like Alec Guinness in “Star Wars,” can’t really do an American accent - - but he’s still great here. This film is intense, brilliantly scripted, funny, visually stunning and truly scary. It also contains a very timely subtextual message about the real nature of war that some people in, say, big white buildings in a federal district on the East Coast might actually want to think about.
Rent this on DVD or VHS if you haven’t seen it. And is that a hot weapon? Here’s my safety, son.
Now that all of that is off my chest (hey, it was topical, bay-bee!), it’s hard to project the performance of NBA AAA franchise Duke, rebuilt again, without seeing the retooled group in action first. Williams and the amazing Shav Randolph are the obvious frontcourt starters in what I’m going to call an F/C/Triple G for fun, and Jones and Duhon will be out there (if Chris’ wrist is healthy), but did Redick outplay Ewing in the preseason and beat him out? I sort of doubt it, because Redick just looks to me like the sort of player that should come off the bench to hit big shots and play tight D, at least at the outset of his career. Incidentally, unless Duhon stupidly jumps (which seems unlikely), or K wants to play an even more dramatic F/C/3G next season with Redick at “three,” this backcourt PT battle is going to obtain for some time. Nice problem to have, right?
That leads me into why I think this is going to be another fantastic season: depth and muted expectations. As for the first factor, remember the last time Duke had 10 actual guys? Put another way, remember the last time Duke did not have a six-man team? 1997-1998. Yeah, it’s been that long (okay, I’ll give you seven guys in 1998-1999). And that 1998 team was a riot. Remember, if the craven imbeciles calling that squad's final game had whistled any kind of real foul on Magloire as he tried to kill Wojo on that loose-ball scrum (you remember), Duke would have stemmed the Zanykittens’ mo and made the Final Four. Hell, give us one single call during the last twelve minutes, or - - to be fair - - one minute of good basketball from anyone other than Ro McLeod, and same deal. Still, a fun year and a good team, and this year’s squad really reminds me of that one.
Then there’s the expectations factor. Yeah, I know, we’re #6 to open, but no one really expects us to win it all, and K is always better when expectations are lower; I think he finds more motivation in such opportunities. See 1998. See 1996. See 1991. See 2000. Heck, see 2001 - - and be careful not to make the retrospective mistake of positing that that squad, having lost its leading scorer and added only one new contributor, was some lock to win it all. No way. Shane Battier and Coach K's incredible effort, not the least of which was recognizing how to use Battier in mindblowingly unconventional ways, were the difference.
Depth and muted expectations. I think it means Final Four. But let’s see - - and first, let’s defeat the nation’s ground forces. I’ll let Rob handle the specifics, including new coach Jim Crews and whether Jamie K is still dating that Spatula dude.
Duke 103, Army 60.
Well, believe it or not sports fans, we are once again on the brink of basketball season. I can't decide if I'm more amazed that the offseason has finally passed or that Matt Christiansen finally used up all his eligibility.
Speaking of being on the brink, just last night I finished John Feinstein's The Last Amateurs, which recounts the 1999-2000 season in the Patriot League, which includes Duke's opening opponent, the Cadets from the United States Military Academy, or as they are known to their friends, Army. As with just about all of Feinstein's books, (I confess I could not force myself to finish A Good Walk Spoiled - apparently there actually is something more boring than watching golf on television) it is a fascinating read.
One fact I gleaned from this book is that Army sucked. They have been a regular inhabitant of the cellar of the Patriot League, which includes several schools that do not offer athletic scholarships. Granted, winning is even more difficult than usual at a military academy, but while Army has struggled, Don DeVoe built a winner at archrival (and fellow Patriot League school) Navy. Throw in a new adminstration at West Point (and one that canned the football coach a couple of years removed from a 10-2 National Coach of the Year season) and it's not a big surprise that Army coach Pat Harris - who played point guard on Mike Krzyzewski's Army teams - was let go after last season. He was replaced by Jim Crews, a Bob Knight disciple (Knight being Army's other Hall of Fame coach emeritus) who coems to the Academy from a long and mostly successful stint at Evansville. In 17 years at the helm of the Purple Aces, Crews's teams played in 4 NCAA tournaments and 2 NITs. Crews is a good hire, but Harris was making nice progress after taking over a moribund program, having guided the Black Knights to a 12-16 record last season, including a school record 6-8 mark in the Patriot League. Harris was the Patriot League Coach of the Year last season. Along with Harris, his assistant coaches, including Robert Brickey (Duke '90) were also let go.
Army graduated three starters off that team, and their talent level took another big hit two weeks ago, when junior point guard J. P. Spatola (9.1 ppg), the Knights' only established offensive threat, abruptly quit the team. Now, only senior Matt Collins (2.9 ppg) returns as a starter, while several role players from last season will have to step up and fill primt-time roles. Spatola is (or was, we don't really keep close tabs) engaged to Mike Krzyzewski's youngest daughter, Jamie. Under Harris, the Knights played tough defense, but had trouble scoring. It seems unlikely that that is going to change in the next day or two.
Like Army, Duke also returns just two starters, but needless to say, only new 6-9 walk-on Patrick Johnson would have trouble cracking the Knights' starting lineup. Let's call this what it is - a glorified scrimmage to start the season. Captain Chris Duhon and Dahntay Jones are certain to start for the Blue Devils, and Daniel Ewing will probably start (if not, he'll be the first man off the bench - Duke will probably start several different lineups before ACC play begins). Shelden Williams will man the middle, and revelation Shavlik Randolph will probably start alongside Williams and Jones in the frontcourt. We could also see Horvath and/or Casey Sanders on the floor at the start, but my guess is Williams and Randolph will see the bulk of the minutes inside. J. J. Redick and Dockery will see considerable time as well, providing a potent offensive and defensive spark off the bench.
Duke 102, Army 56.
Last Season: Well, sorta disappointing. This Season: Rob 0-0 (0.000) Matt 0-0 (0.000) Guests 0-0 (0.000) TD in Guest Editions: 0-0 (0.000)