Test Time !
Which one of the following could cause you to lose a game?
- 4-20 3-point shooting
- Getting outrebounded 16-9 on the offensive glass
- Having 6 assists
- Getting 11 combined points from 3 starters
- Scoring 9 points in the final 10 minutes of the game
- Your senior leaders turning the ball over, taking bad shots and missing freethrows in crunch time
- Any of these
Now, nothing happens in a vaccuum, but, really, we all know 2 things : a) the answer is #7 and b) exactly where I’m going with this; if each one of the first six numbers was a cylinder, then Duke was clicking on all them last night.
Somehow, despite all of this awfulness, Coach K averred that we played “winning basketball” last night. Now, I may have gotten distracted by a Dorito falling on the floor and turned away for a few seconds when that happened, but I sure didn’t see any when I was paying attention. What I saw was Nolan and Kyle ( and a little bit of Mason) completely carrying a team for 33 minutes and then making a series of bad decisions and plays in crunch time to seal a deserved loss.
There were just tribulations aplenty in this one.Seth was rattled ( playing on his dad’s former home court) and overly aggressive which resulted in major foul trouble all game and no points. Ryan couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with another barn, despite numerous open looks and finished 1-6 ( he is now 0-8 from 3 land in his last 2 games). Kyle hit one 3-point shot with 11 minutes left in the game ( his first made 3 in nearly 4 games), took that as a sign from the basketball gods that his shot had returned, and proceeded to take ( and miss) as many 3 pointers in the final 11 minutes as he had the previous 3 games combined.
When it was all said and done, VT made winning plays down the stretch in a close game and Duke did not. I’m hesitant to throw too much blame Kyle and Nolan’s way,(since without them it wouldn’t even have been close), but it’s nonetheless fair to say that they did not perform well in the clutch. The real takeaway, however, is this : without a consistent 3rd scoring option ( read:Seth or, dare I say it, Kyrie) this ceiling for this team is clearly visible and not Final Four high. Kyle and Nolan, (and for his part, Mason) are known quantities and produce consistently game to game. We have had a lot of reason of late to think that Seth can be “that guy” when it comes to production from elsewhere, and maybe tonight was just a hiccup. But, the fact is, the way our bench usage is currently configured, if our non-senior starters have a collectively crappy night, we have virtually NO margin for error. This was evident in the Florida State game as well. Against the Noles, Singler and Smith combined for 39 points ( as opposed to 40 against VT) while the other 3 starters combined for 11 ( same as VT) and the bench had 11 ( 9 against VT). The St. Johns game too, looks very similar : 52 points for S and S, 12 points for the other 3 starters , and 14 points for the bench. Kyle and Nolan, as good as they are, just can’t do it alone, and if they feel like they have to they are probably more apt to force things as they did at the end of the game tonight. If our other 3 starters can’t combine for more than 12 points, we are pretty much sunk (as we should be).