I’ll go ahead and be controversial and say that I think last night was possibly our best win all season. Before you judge, hear me out.
Since I’ve now started chronicling my sports and Duke obsessed life on the internet it’s probably difficult to believe that in person I am extremely shy with people I don’t know (once I get to know you, or you start the conversation, it’s a whole new ballgame). I had every intention of changing that while in the Bahamas, meeting Duke friends and family, and of course the team. Yet when the time came at a special meet and greet we went to, I could barely muster the courage to ask for a picture or get the players to sign a basketball for my sister’s fiance who couldn’t make the trip. I failed at both the meet and greet aspects of the evening. I soon realized that I knew I could redeem myself.
Fast forward to the next three days, in the Imperial Ballroom, and my inner Cameron Crazy was unstoppable – yelling my heart out at coaches, fans, and players – with no mercy, no fear, and not many other people yelling with me. I’m not sure why anyone in my family is still speaking to me. Heck, I don’t know why they walked out of the arena next to me.
The “stadium” was smaller than Cameron Indoor and full of fans from eight schools. LOUD fans from these schools. If I never hear the monotone C-A-R-D-S CARDS chant again in my life I’ll feel lucky. (I wrote this yesterday, and as of this morning Louisville is in the ACC. Guess I’m going to eat my words and hear it many more times – but I still hate that chant). The Duke fans were disappointingly quiet in the first two games (major props to VCU for being totally out of control) and apparently I decided to make up for that by myself. During the championship game, I had a family of fake Louisville fans in front of me (I know because they only cheered so their son could get free prizes, not for the team), who apparently found me very loud and annoying based on the looks I kept getting. As any good Cameron Crazy knows, this is just fuel for the fire and made my cheering even louder and even more annoying.
Though I wasn’t in Cameron anymore, I acted like I was, and that’s why I had an incredible time. I went to see my team win, and that’s what I was going to do. When the championship game got close, Duke fans woke up. When we lost the lead, instead of getting down we took over the arena, silencing Cardinals fans and helping close out the game. We were hungry, and it was electric.
Jay Bilas’ new “power rankings” came out yesterday.
Not more than a few hours after Duke upended Louisville, guess what the former Blue Devil player and coach and law student did?
Mr. Bilas is the most serious and most cerebral of basketball commentators. But he’s also got a sharp wit (which probably explains why he gets along so well with Coach K).
This wit has manifested itself in his Twitter musings, which range from the incisive to the nonsensical. All, however, tend to be part of Bilas’ comedic schtick.
I reacted like everyone else when I saw this ranking of Bilas’, which echoed his ranking from earlier in the season when Duke beat Kentucky…only to result in Bilas ranking Kentucky just ahead of the Blue Devils.
But as one Duke fan posited, Jay Bilas is not being serious: he’s messing with Duke fans.
Jay knows that many Duke fans think he’s biased against Duke. He’s addressed this in a contemplative way before.
[T]he discussion of my “loyalty” or “objectivity” is misplaced. It has always struck me as funny that some Duke fans would readily admit a lack of objectivity themselves, yet steadfastly maintain that I go out of my way to “tear down Duke” to “appear” objective or unbiased. The upshot of that is that I am thought of as biased, but I am somehow dishonestly trying to appear otherwise. That strikes me as silly. If you disagree, say why. To suggest that I have ulterior motives for my comments is about my integrity and not my opinions.
What I say on the air, I believe. I may not always be correct, but I know of no commentator that is. Having played and coached, I have the utmost respect for those that compete, and would never allow where I went to school to control the content of my commentary. When I think Duke is the best team, I say so. When I think that another is better, I say so. It is a pretty simple formula.
So he’s tried the serious tack. It didn’t quell the tide of those calling him an anti-Dukie Dukie. So why not have some fun with it?
I suppose if Mr. Bilas were asked to genuinely defend his current rankings, he’d say that Duke’s win was not pure in that both Louisville and Kentucky were missing a star player. His rankings would be based on potential rather than reality in that case, and would be dismissive of Duke’s own injury situation. I think he would know the latter, and wouldn’t make the former argument as a result.
So the only other explanation: he’s messin’ with us. Because he can. And because it’s likely hilarious to him, knowing that one ranking can stir up so much emotion.
If this theory is right…well played, Mr. Bilas. Well played.
This past week I was lucky enough to share my Thanksgiving holiday with my family and the Duke basketball team in the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. After extensive brainwashing, I convinced my family how wonderful Thanksgiving on the beach would be. I’m going to try to write a few different posts over the next few days about my experiences there, but with Ohio State looming I’ll start today with my thoughts from the tournament.
Most importantly, Duke played like a team. Last season was rife with rumors about discord between players and coaches, and the lack of team chemistry was often obvious during games and through Coach K’s press conference comments. As a fan, it was frustrating to watch, especially with talented players who didn’t seem to be playing up to their potential. That being said, I saw none of that over the weekend. The communication was obvious in the passing game, our players supported each other on and off the court, and Coach K openly talked about how lucky he was to have such a strong team bond. This showed in tight games, especially during the championship game when Louisville played a stifling full court press. Duke lost one 4-minute stretch of the game before adjusting, retaking the lead, and closing out the victory.
Much of this is probably because Duke finally has a point guard. Whatever Coach K told Quinn Cook when he benched him earlier in the season worked, and he was the leader on the floor this weekend. His tournament MVP honors are certainly exciting, but I’d like to think that the best news is that he still has plenty of room to grow. Other teams had scouted him well, and a few of his drives to the basket were (badly) blocked. Where Seth Curry can switch to his off hand around the basket, Quinn doesn’t seem to have that kind of depth yet and needs to be stronger going to the basket.
I’m impressed with the play of Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston. While in the past I’ve been concerned about the team’s strength when they came in off the bench, I think the two of them add a lot to an already well-balanced team. Thornton adds a spark on defense that we often need, and can put in some good minutes especially with the uncertainty of Curry’s nagging injury (he was walking around the resort with a boot on).
Rasheed Sulaimon is, for lack of better words, very good. He picked up his first collegiate dunk this weekend off a long inbounds pass to beat the Lousiville press, and looks to be a good shooter. While I think he needs to be more confident in his shot – sometimes it’s better to go strong to the basket than make that last pass underneath and lose the ball – I assume this will come with time.
Mason Plumlee learned how to make free throws. In the past 5 games, Mason Plumlee has gone 33 of 37 from the free throw line (89%) and, for the year, he’s shooting 80%. He was 53% a year ago. While his shot still isn’t pretty, this is a game changer.
We shot terribly from behind the three point arc and we won against some very good teams. Maybe we finally have a team that doesn’t live or die by the three?
All that being said, I’m done cheating on Duke basketball with Duke football and I’ve decided that I can love both teams equally. Duke has proved a lot already with two big wins over top five teams, but another huge test comes on Wednesday versus Ohio State. Coach K schedules a tough pre-conference schedule for a reason, and so far we’ve proven our worth. I hope Wednesday night doesn’t disappoint.
First, much of the chatter this morning is about John Calipari’s petulance. That’s old news. That’s Kentucky’s problem and no one else’s. You ignore the people that chirp and you pay attention to the guys that do their job, and the guys that do their job did it well last night in defeating the latest free agents from Kentucky. Calipari’s puerile antics must not distract–well, any further–from Duke’s terrific team win over an otherwise impressive WWWildcat team.
Some quick postgame thoughts, as I must scurry off to work:
(1) This was a game of halves for Duke’s offense. As expected, everything ran through Mason Plumlee early on, and Plumlee showed why, going 7 of 8 and racking up a number of rebounds and altering a number of shots as Duke took a (surprising?) lead into the locker room. He quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls, however, and the guards took over, notably Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon. It’s easier to understand why Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson are having a hard time getting playing time at this earliest of stages once you see those two guards operate with Cook in at the point. Alex and Amile both bring a lot to the table, but neither has shown (or had the opportunity to show) the sort of polish that Curry and Sulaimon clearly have.
(2) You knew Kentucky was going to make a big run despite being down for double digits for a considerable chunk of the second half. When it came, slicing the lead to three from twelve, Duke did not panic in an environment that was pro-Big Blue Nation. That’s a positive sign, and precisely why games like this can be very beneficial down the road.
(3) I must eat some crow. I anticipated that this would be a very sloppy game. Instead, the teams committed just three turnovers in the final, what, ten minutes of the game? Awfully impressive.
(4) Mason’s free throw shooting, while not the most aesthetically pleasing in all the land, is clearly improved. He’s more comfortable in the post, has a few new moves, and seems like he finally believes he’s the best big man on the court.
(5) I spoke briefly with Airowe of DukeHoopBlog after the game, and he made the extremely insightful remark that last year, Duke needed to lose a game early to stay humble; this team needed a big win early to get confident. No better team to beat early on than UK on national television.
(6) Poythress is an excellent basketball player. Noel will become an excellent basketball player. UK will go as far as Harrow can take them, I suspect, and while I think this is the least capable team Calipari’s had in Lexington, it’s still probably a top-5 squad. But not yet.
(7) Duke belongs in the upper echelon once again, and ensures its continued place in the top 10 of the rankings. We’ve been there for a (modern) record of 94 weeks. UCLA’s Wooden-era teams have the record of 150-something weeks.
Helluva win. Now it’s back to work (for the team…I’m leaving in a minute, I swear). Things to look for:
(1) Did Cook earn back the starting spot? Is that the Cook we’ll see for the rest of the season? He was good last night…
(2) Can Plumlee and Curry be that steady and excellent night in and night out?
(3) Will Murphy and Jefferson work their way into the rotation?
(4) There was a chance Marshall could play last night. What will the youngest Plumlee bring, and how will that added depth/length change how we play?
(5) How quickly will Sulaimon grow? He’s awfully good as is–confident on offense and capable on defense. His ability to attack the rim and dish is going to be invaluable, I suspect, moving forward in the top-heavy ACC.
(6) Speaking of the conference, we’ve got three powers again with N.C. State returning after a long hiatus, UNC and of course Duke. But we also have facepalmers in Virginia and Miami bringing up the rear. The conference must continue improving. A decade ago, the Big 10 was floundering in basketball and elite in football. My how times have changed. Sustaining excellence as a conference is tough, but it’s time for the ACC to get back on top where it belongs.
With so many ways of communicating, the awkwardness of breaking up is no longer reserved for uncomfortable in-person conversations. More and more, it’s happening with no semblance of intimacy. As is the case with Matt Feeney’s breakup with Duke basketball via Slate.com, it’s being done to advance an idea–a polysyllabic one at that–rather than to send a message to the dumped.
Mr. Feeney, in stereotypical PhD fashion, piles his argument high and deep. Duke is unworthy because it is a “hysterical lie” whose players “condescended” the author when they passed him the ball in pick-up games (Mr. Feeney was a self-professed former jock who “ran” in pick-up games with the then-current players, but he sensed condescension when these Division I athletes shared the ball with this PhD student in a pick-up game). Why is it a hysterical lie? Mr. Feeney says that though he once drank in the idyllic portrayal of Coach K as the anti-Calipari, he drew inspiration from the Penn State imbroglio: Coach K isn’t the anomaly, he’s just another part of the problem. Mr. Feeney hopes you’ll need your thesaurus for this:
I’ve faced this truth head-on only in the last year, thanks to Penn State. Now I can go back and consider Coach K for what he actually does in his job. Besides the degraded admissions and academic standards, whose products I saw first-hand, I can ponder his recruiting methods. I’d always heard he was a “great recruiter,” but I avoided thinking about what this really entailed. Now, thanks to UCLA freshman and former Las Vegas prep standout Shabazz Muhammad (who was just benched by the NCAA for violating its ideological obfusc- , er, “amateurism rules”), I can hear it in my head: “He talks a lot about the Duke brand. … I think the thing that makes his sales pitch so good is that he’s really speaking from the heart.”
Did Coach K really try to recruit a high school star by telling him that Duke is the finest epiphenomenal projection of synergistic marketing strategies in all the land? I might not have believed it, except Julius Randle of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, received the same pitch late this summer. After getting Randle “hyped” by flattering him with LeBron James comparisons, “Krzyzewski,” USA Today reports, “went on to talk about branding.”
Coach K, then, solves the sleazy prisoner’s dilemma of college recruiting by talking like a Don DeLillo character. From the heart, he sells 16-year-olds on the honor of entering his great simulacrum, “the Duke Brand,” which consists largely of the hysterical myth of Mike Krzyzewski. I imagine that comes somewhat easily to him.
Mr. Feeney opens himself up to a great deal of criticism here: his misunderstanding of the recruiting process, his misunderstanding of the Coach K effect on the University, his misunderstanding of the brand that Duke is in fact pitching. Indeed, Mr. Feeney sounds more like Rabbit Angstrom here than a grand PhD scholar writing from on high at Slate.com.
Amusingly, a lot of the elite recruits Duke is after aren’t worried so much about Duke’s Brand–Elton or otherwise–but about their own brand. A lot of the recruits want to know about, for example, the sort of marketing deals they might be able to secure, and how having been a Duke or UNC or UK alum might affect that, positively, negatively, etc.
To avoid the silliness of the author’s presentation and to hone in on what I suspect was his point, there’s no doubt that college basketball has become (or has long been) an incubator for future economic gain for particular individuals that are particularly gifted at the game itself and at being…marketable.
I get all gesticulated just thinking about it, but Duke is not alone in being proud of what being a former Coach K/Duke-trained player can mean in the world of basketball and the world that can accompany it. And though it may say something about the purity and purpose of the game itself (it does), that the young men (and women) coming into the NCAA are already thinking about the economic ramifications of their college choices…isn’t that something we want them to think about, too? Come and get an education on top of playing top-flight ball, and prepare yourself for long-term success no matter what you end up doing, or what careers you go into down the road? Isn’t that what we want them to do wherever they go to school? I for one do not think Duke has the secret to such outcomes. But there’s nothing wrong–and shouldn’t be–with pitching your University’s ability to help with long-term success. You think high school seniors looking to become PhdDs aren’t thinking about the Duke brand, too, or what their brand might be, too? Or the name-that-university brand?
We Duke fans may think the University does this well, but we’d all benefit (and I suspect, all root for) a system in which those coming in and going out of the system (athletically and otherwise) are better in every way for the world that awaits them. Whether this approach accomplishes that, I’m not so sure…but the culpability the author places on Duke here seems to be more than a little misguided.
Or as Stanley Fish once wrote, “The purpose of a good education is to show you that there are three sides to a two-sided story.
Edit: I erroneously wrote that Mr. Feeney’s story appeared on Salon.com. The story, of course, appears on Slate.com. I apologize for the error.
In a case of bad though likely naive judgment, a white Duke women’s lacrosse player donned black facepaint at a Halloween party hosted at head coach Kerstin Kimel’s house. Worse, this did not seem to raise any red flags amongst University employees, as the photo was later posted to a GoDuke.com blog as part of a recap of the festivities, as penned by one of the student-athletes.
Six days after the photo was posted, the Twittersphere took notice, including members of the media like Bomani Jones, Mike Freeman and Laura Keeley, herself a Duke alum.
By early afternoon, the photo had been scrubbed from GoDuke.com, and head coach Kimel had issued an apology.
This year, some of our costume choices were insensitive and entirely inappropriate. No offense was intended, but that does not matter because we should have realized how these choices would be viewed by those outside of our program. On behalf of our coaching staff and our student-athletes, we apologize to anyone we may have offended and understand while we believed we were making decisions in good fun, we should have been much more sensitive to the implications of our actions.
This reminds me of an incident from when I was the sports editor of the Duke Chronicle. One of our star writers, who incidentally just left his post at Esquire.com for The Atlantic Monthly’s website, drew fire after writing a metaphor that he genuinely intended to describe the length of a particular player’s arms. The metaphor, comparing this player’s arms to those of an orangutan, stung of centuries-old racial stereotypes. Our paper apologized, amid hisses from across the Internet (it was still yet to become the mass media marketplace it is now, sans Twitter).
But we did not stop there. We knew, as Kimel and Duke’s athletic department surely know now, that the offense may not have been intended…and that the offense was real nevertheless. But the real problem is that such mistakes can still be made. I fear that the teaching moment for Duke women’s lacrosse may be lost. This isn’t remedied with an apology and a deleted photo. It’s remedied by understanding why this action–however unintended it may have been–shouldn’t cross anyone’s mind, and shouldn’t be able to pass through the vetting process to publication.
As fate would have it, Duke University libraries is currently hosting an exhibit: “From Blackface to Blaxploitation.” (The image at right is from the exhibit.)
It describes itself as follows:
African Americans have had a long and rather complex history in the American motion picture industry. Early depictions of African American men and women were confined to demeaning stereotypical images of people of color. During the first decades of the 20th century, many films depicted a nostalgic and idealized vision of life in the antebellum South. Memories of the Civil War were still fresh, and these films served as a means for creating some measure of reconciliation between the North and South by glorifying the image of the Old South and its “Lost Cause.” African American characters, in keeping with the dominant stereotypes, were portrayed as incompetent, child-like, hyper-sexualized, and criminal.
I think it would be unfair not to give the Duke student-athlete the benefit of the doubt here and assume that she meant to further these antiquated and wrongheaded stereotypes. And yet, by seemingly not being aware of their existence, she’s opened up an old wound. But this doesn’t have to be a net negative. One hopes the Blue Devil lacrosse team takes a trip to the library and studies up on the history of this unfortunate part of our culture’s past so that we can stop making these mistakes in the present.
We took a similar tack when our star writer published his unfortunate metaphor. If memory serves, he was suspended for a few weeks to allow time for reflection, and to review a few books I checked out for him on the odious history of the metaphor he had drafted.
These are students. They should know better and don’t. And though the Twittersphere doesn’t allow or care that good may come from this bad situation, one hopes this does not become a moment when something is merely swept under the rug, but embraced so that these students–and heck, these adults–can keep moving forward in their understanding of the ripple effects of their actions, and their place in the sequence of things.
Caveat: I am a Duke fan who laments a Kentucky program that argues only that its coach’s fingerprints have never been found at the scene of the crime, and is therefore God’s pristine gift to basketball, despite a trail of NCAA violations that the bloodhounds always fail to catch wind of until after Calipari’s tracks have been scrubbed.
That whine aside, I think Kentucky’s superior depth and talent, player by player, is as impressive as ever.
Noel will grow, as Davis did, over the course of the season. Now, how will this group play together in mid-November? How will Duke’s chemistry play out for its first game on the big stage since losing to Lehigh in round 1?
I don’t know, of course, but I will confess that I’m not looking forward to this game. It may provide a barometer of where both teams are at in the infancy of the season. But it will be sloppy and I doubt will have the majesty that a game between two blue bloods ought to have. These programs should meet in the tournament, and nowhere else. That does not mean that I think Duke should avoid playing non-ACC bluebloods in the regular season; I just am looking for any excuse to suggest we not reward Calipari’s tomfoolery with a UK-Duke matchup when not absolutely necessary. He thinks we got his title in 2010. I really hope we shine that chip on his shoulder Tuesday night.
That said, I suspect we will struggle to stop UK from attacking the rim, though I think we may succeed if we can goad UK into playing one-on-one basketball. Has Calipari been able to mold this group into a team yet, as he quite obviously and–gulp–miraculously did a year ago? I guess a broken coach is right at least once a career. Perhaps he’ll get lucky again in 2012-13. Here’s hoping the luck has run out.
This morning I went to GoDuke to look up information about game start times…the Duke – Georgia Tech FOOTBALL game time. It was a weird feeling, sitting here in November, on the first official day of the college basketball season, checking on the football team. I’m not a traitor, Duke Basketball, I promise.
The last time Duke went to a bowl game I was 12 and though I probably could have told you the starting five for the Duke basketball team, I guarantee that I didn’t even know Duke was in a football bowl game. Part of that was because my dad and I focused on one sport per season (baseball and basketball are the two I’ve grown up with) to spare my mom and sister, and the other part because I didn’t really care much about Duke football until I started there. That clearly makes no sense because there wasn’t exactly a huge Duke football following during my four years and eight total wins as an undergrad, but I’ve never said that my actions always make sense.