Welp, here we are after a 68 – 73 loss last night to UVA. A loss that leaves me curious as to whether we even prepared at all. I don’t know how you go through the season that this team has gone through and have to make a statement like, “It was a very, very physical game and we’re not equipped to that type of game. We got knocked back,” Coach K said.
So Minnesota, Louisville, Kentucky, UNC not physical? I’m left shaking my head a bit at that.
I guess I’m just a bit bitter, I’m allowed to be I suppose, which is why this post is going to be less fact oriented and more editorial.
As much as I love this team its weaknesses are there for all to see and going into tournament season it leaves me a bit worried. I never thought toughness or being able to match the intensity of an opponent would EVER be an issue for a team in Duke blue. Too many tough competitors have come through those halls for this team not to live up to that standard. With 3 games left in this regular season the mission statement is clear, do the little things. Rebounding and boxing out are all about effort plays, plays that go to the aggressor and the most passionate, it’s a tell-tale sign and Duke losing that stat handily is a red flag and an obvious indicator of a lack of that passion, that effort. Everyone wants to shoot but no one wants to grab that board, or put a body on someone. Makes me wish Duke had a toughness coach. Someone has to place a premium on these things because UVA is not a great rebounding team. It was hard to watch flat-footed guys in blue while UVA is hopping and jumping and racing toward the ball. No excuse for Duke not having one person in double digits in rebounding, Mason had 7 no other player had more than 4. Duke as a team was out rebounded by 10. Simply unacceptable. It speaks to the toughness of this team. Finesse will only get you so far, it definitely won’t get you through the first 2 rounds of the NCAA tourney. I can’t harp on the team for shooting poorly, sometimes you just have those nights but to continually rely on the outside shot is a very good recipe for disaster. Just as you can shoot your way into a game, you can easily shoot your way right out of one. Seeing how the game was called Duke needed, in my opinion, a concerted effort to drive the ball to the basket putting pressure on the refs to make a call.
I love what Mason Plumlee brings to the table for Duke… what I don’t love is his lack of consistency. Everyone knew he was going to be double-teamed, everyone knew that UVA was going to be physical with him. What I didn’t know was that he wasn’t prepared to be physical back. Mason has to be able to absorb that bump and get his shot up, and at very least draw fouls. Giving in to the pressure is the exact wrong thing to do, letting the defense force you off of your spot creates many more problems for this offense. No one on that court should be able to body up Mason. I’m not being critical for the sake of anything other than I think that he can play better, I’m not writing off the big fella. I just don’t want to see him end his career with a bunch of “what ifs”. I’m not privy to what is said in the huddle, or practice or halftime but either it didn’t resonate or it was ignored. All I will say is that Mason is a much better player than that. I just hope HE realizes it before it’s too late to matter.
The team as a whole let the environment dictate the outcome and did very little, sans a tiny spurt here and there, to change that. UVA is not a bad team, no one thinks that, but talent wise they are not on Dukes level, so what does that leave you with to account for the fact that Duke lost? Passion? Heart? Effort? I’m not sure really. What I do know is that Duke teams in the past have been able to fend off the opposing teams energy, almost taking offense to it and at very least matching it and using it as a tool to push themselves. I haven’t seen that in this team. I want to see that in this team. The number of games to make significant change are few. The time is nigh for this team to really become who it’s going to be. March isn’t around the corner, March is now.