By: Jamen Blake
As a Michigan football fan living in the state of South Carolina, I can confidently say that I am glad college football season is over. While 99 percent of the reason is that the Jadeveon Clowney hit on Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl can finally stop being replayed, the other 1 percent is that college basketball has finally made its way back to media headlines.
But it’s been a little bittersweet. They’re talking about Duke again, but I think their analysis is off-base. I’ve heard some pretty surprising remarks on XM radio about Duke basketball. Here are some of the standouts that I would like to refute.
“Duke is bad at defense.”
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it, there’s not much to refute here considering Duke’s performances. What I can offer is a bright outlook towards the rest of conference play.
I was only able to catch the second half of the Duke vs. Pitt game on Wednesday and what I saw reminded me of the Fab Melo days at Syracuse. Duke played a 2/3 zone that absolutely suffocated the Panther’s offense. As soon as Pitt looked like it might be making a comeback, Duke swallowed them whole forcing turnover after turnover.
Duke needs to completely abandon the man-to-man approach and stick with the 2/3 zone. In the PK80 tournament, when Duke made all of those miraculous comebacks to beat good teams, they switched to the 2/3 zone. Against Michigan State, when Duke was struggling to keep Michigan St. out of the lane, they switched to the 2/3 zone.
Why bother with a man-to-man defense that this group is unable to grasp in the time frame they’re given?
There isn’t enough time in the season to try and teach one-and-done players two defensive schemes. Keep it simple and play to your strength. Duke needs to stay in a zone defense for 40 minutes every single game.
“But Duke is clearly the most talented team in the country.”
College basketball analysts are proclaiming Villanova and Michigan State as head and shoulders above the rest of the country. This statement is followed closely by, “But Duke is still the most talented team in the country.”
Look, I get it, proclaiming a team or two head and shoulders above everyone else makes good headlines. But if you’re going to do that, stop throwing the “But Duke could be better come March” caveat in there every time.
Duke will be better come March, and I have absolutely no issue with that proclamation.
I’ve been in the shoes of a two and three seed plenty of times in my Duke fandom tenure. There is always that one seed you would rather play over a two or three seeded Kentucky team any day of the week. That’s because you know what you’re going to get with a 1-seed. You know their strengths and their weaknesses, and you can try your best to mimic the few teams that were able to beat them that year.
The two and three seed teams are the most dangerous in my opinion. They’ve likely beaten a top three team throughout their season and shown flashes of brilliance. They’ve also had a setback or two that should have never happened, hence the two seed.
I see Duke as being that type of team this year. They still might figure it out early enough to be a one seed, but I would expect another blunder or two due to their youth. Duke is the most talented team in the country bar none regardless of what they are seeded in the tournament. And when Coach K sinks his canines into them come March, I’d be very afraid to pick a team against them.
“Trae Young is the best player in college basketball.”
I would do almost anything to get Trae Young on Duke’s basketball team. I’d even go so far as to throw Adidas a $100 bill and ask, “How far can this get us?”
I have done a lot of research as to disprove Trae Young’s ability on the court and find some weakness, but I’ll admit it is not easy to do.
Aside from the fact he’s been needing Bosley For Men since he was 15, Trae Young really does have it all. (It’s even hard to find pictures supporting my theory of him prematurely balding)
The kid can shoot, dribble and dish it out. The Steph Curry comparison is a bit of an overreach, but not by much. Trae Young is putting up ridiculous numbers by any standard and doing so as a freshman.
Marvin Bagley III is another freshman averaging a double-double and is doing so in spectacular fashion. But it’s actually pretty hard to even compare Bagley to Trae Young. Their play styles and positions are so polar opposite it’s hard to know who is actually better.
This is where I like to use the playground methodology.
Try to picture yourself on a playground basketball court. You’re first captain and get to pick from a group of average players to make up your basketball team when a Subaru Outback pulls up and out walk Marvin Bagley III and Trae Young. You’re faced with the decision of picking Bagley or Young for your team, but you can’t have both. Who would you pick?
If it were me, I’d go Bagley every time. I have to believe 9/10 people in that position would go with Bagley. Maybe I’m wrong, but nobody can overlook the differences. Bagley stands nearly a foot taller than Young. His athletic ability far exceeds that of Young’s. Bagley’s God-given ability can’t be taught, and it’s what separates him from the rest of the pack.
While their skills and production are both out of this world, sometimes you have to go back to the playground to decide who’s the best.
- While Duke hasn’t started conference play the way they’ve wanted, hopefully they pick up where they left off against Pittsburgh. Duke plays Wake Forest on Saturday, January 13th at noon.
- Duke heads into Miami on Monday night where they have lost three out of the last four games they’ve played there. Cross your fingers that they can right the ship.
- Both Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen have made this month’s Wooden Award watch list.