OK, let's get this over with. I need to finish this recap before I finish my second Eagle Rare neat or it will quickly get R-rated...
Miami had a week off before the game against Duke, so the Devils decided to let them shake off the rust and continue their pre-game layup and shooting drills throughout the game itself. Duke rarely put a hand in a shooter's face and seemed to stop the ball even less rarely. Seriously? Kadji gets the ball 70 feet from the basket and dribbles straight to the rim for a dunk while 3 Duke "defenders" waive at him as he goes by?
Sure, Miami started hot, but Duke's half-hearted defensive effort only fueled that fire. The backcourt played some nice "ole" defense while Mason Plumlee's fear of fouls caused him to challenge exactly one shot the entire game. He basically stands under the basket and lets the opposing player shoot uncontested. Guess what? Those are high percentage shots. Coach K needs to tell Mason to foul out of the next 3 games. He needs to find the happy medium of not fouling out and actually playing defense.
Here's what's most concerning about this loss for Duke. You may remember I said something about Quinn Cook having swagger and that making him a leader of this team, perhaps even its MVP? Well, not Quinn, not Mason, hell, not even Tyler Thornton had any swagger in this game. Not even any pride. Duke got punched in the mouth early on and failed to respond. Layed down, in fact. If not for Jefferson and Murphy auditioning for more playing time, the entire Duke roster just wouldn't have shown up. Coach K teams usually center around defense. When all else is failing, you go back to defensive fundamentals and hold the other team down while your offense finds itself. Duke responded in the opposite way in Coral Gables. The offense wasn't clicking, but instead of digging in and making some stops, they hung their heads and allowed a 25-1 run by the ‘Canes. They couldn't even muster enough pride to win the second half, the overall game being decided in the first. Duke lost this game in all the important categories: effort, toughness, desire, and, of course, points.
Here's where I am going to try not to rant. You haven't heard so much about Mason Plumlee and the Naismith Award lately, huh? There are two reasons: he can't score and he doesn't defend. Not sure what happened, but sometime in late December or early January, his offensive game disappeared. When he goes straight to the rim, he gets stripped or blocked or loses the ball. Rarely does he even get fouled. So, he goes away from the basket with hook shots or fall-aways. And he doesn't make many of those. Then there's his aforementioned reticence to challenge anyone on the defensive end of the court. I am trying to do the math here and calculate the positive impact on the game. One alley-oop per game just doesn't cut it... Did you see Kadji completely stuff his ish when he went for the huge dunk? Yeah, we all saw that.
On the plus side, Duke laid a complete egg against Georgetown in 2010, and K was able to use that as a teaching moment, round up the troops, make the proper adjustments, and make a run the a title. Let's hope this game will stick in the minds of the Duke players and motivate them the rest of the year. In K's own words after a bad loss early in his career, "here's to never forgetting tonight."