Thursday, December 02, 2010

Duke Survives Michigan State

#1 Duke 84, #6 Michigan State 79
This was by far the toughest game that Duke has faced so far this season, and they probably won't be tested like this again the rest of the regular season. Duke won't go undefeated, of course - at least once this season Duke will have a stinker and will lose. It's just so close to impossible in modern college basketball to play that well every single game. But Duke came to play here, and narrowly pulled out the win. The star, of course, was Kyrie Irving. With 31 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and even 2 blocks, he will soon be the face of Duke basketball. For Michigan State I do see some room for growth. Kalin Lucas still seems like he's not all the way back to 100% from his injury. In addition, freshman Adreian Payne showed some flashes, and could help provide some interior help once he develops. I'm not a big fan of any of the Michigan State bigs other than Draymond Green, so Payne would be useful. The next tough game for Michigan State will be on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden against Syracuse, which will be a virtual road game for them since Syracuse fans always show up at MSG. As for Duke, they prepare for a Saturday showdown with Butler. Assuming they get by Butler it shouldn't be too long before we start hearing talk about a possible undefeated season for Duke. But like I said, it's just so hard to show up every single night. I expect Duke to be upset by somebody at some point.

#18 Purdue 58, Virginia Tech 55, OT
Has there been another team in the nation that has had more games like this the past two or three years than Virginia Tech? I can't even imagine the stress of being a Va Tech fan, just constantly expecting to lose these close games. Neither team could hit a shot in this game, so Purdue got a real boost from JaJuan Johnson (29 points on 11-for-24 shooting), who was pretty much impossible to stop in the paint. But with a game like this, it could have gone to either team, and it will go down as a solid victory for Purdue's resume (as well as the clinching win for the Big Ten in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge), and another missed chance for Virginia Tech. Purdue's performance should ease the fears of some fans after that loss to Richmond. They don't have any tough opponents remaining before Big Ten play begins, the best being Alabama and Indiana State. They do still have a game at West Virginia in mid-January as well. Virginia Tech hasn't had a bad loss yet, but they're 4-3 with only a win over Oklahoma State worth anything. They open up ACC play on Sunday against Virginia, a team that proved this week they're no push over. They will also play Penn State and Mississippi State before the end of the calendar year.

#19 San Diego State 69, Saint Mary's 55
Saint Mary's is always much better at home than on the road, but they actually shot really well here (9-for-18 behind the arc), but San Diego State just was better (seven fewer turnovers, four more offensive rebounds, 11 more free throws). San Diego State's size and length really bothered Saint Mary's and kept them out of the paint, so it was only the Gaels' hot shooting that even kept this game close. UNLV and BYU have both been off to a tremendous start this season, and you can never sleep on New Mexico, but San Diego State deserves some attention as well. They're now 7-0 with this win and a win over Gonzaga. They face Wichita State on Saturday, and then will head to Cal on Wednesday night. After that they shouldn't be too challenged before being Mountain West play. Saint Mary's is now 0-2 against the Mountain West after also losing to BYU, but they do have a win over Saint John's and a 20 point thumping of Texas Tech. But unless they can knock off Gonzaga they're going to head into Selection Sunday without any really big win, meaning that any at-large resume is going to rely on strong computer numbers and a very impressive won-loss record. They have to avoid any bad losses.


Anonymous said...

Hello Jeff do you know what happened with L.Mushatt ? The last year was one of the best players of Murray State.

Jeff said...

I don't recall anybody named Mushatt on Murray State. Are you sure you didn't get either the name or the school wrong?

Mark L. said...

Hi Jeff,

I wouldn't consider myself a big Duke fan but something about this team and the weakness of the ACC has me thinking they could "run the table". UNC is down, Georgia Tech is down, the usual suspects like Maryland, Wake, UVA seem suspect to me. Tomorrow, they play a Butler team who is very beatable. What are the possibilities? I know every team can lay an egg on any given night but.....hmm, I dunno.

Jeff said...

Absolutely it will be a shocker any time Duke loses a game this season. But statistics aren't always logical that way.

For example, let's say that Duke has a 95% chance of winning each and every game they play the rest of the season, which is well above reality. To put that number in perspective, Pomeroy gives them a 90% chance of beating Butler, a 93% of beating Boston College at home, and an 80% chance of winning at St. John's. But they have 24 regular season games left. With even a 95% chance of winning each game they only have a 29.2% chance of going undefeated.

Of course, their odds are even lower than that. Pomeroy gives them at least a 72% chance of winning every single game remaining (the toughest game being a road game at Maryland on February 2nd, believe it or not), and yet only gives Duke a 9.3% chance of going undefeated. He projects an overall record of 29-2, despite considering them heavy favorites in every single game.

But that's why it's so hard to predict the future - no matter how much better Duke is than their opponent, there is still a non-negligible chance of a loss almost every single night.

Mark said...

Jeff, is this Duke team as good as the 1991 UNLV squad in your opinion? To me, that was the best college hoops team that ever played. What's your opinion on the best college hoops team in the last 20 + plus years(minus the UCLA dynasty and the undefeated Indiana squad)?

Jeff said...

At this point I definitely would not put Duke at that level. The fact is that this Duke team is incredibly deep - they've got a guy like Andre Dawkins scrambling for minutes. But at the same time, they don't have the extreme talent in the starting lineup that a team like the '91-'92 Duke team had. In Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Christian Laettner they had a point guard, swing forward and power forward who were all among the best at their positions in the history of college basketball. The only player who is potentially great on this Duke team is Kyrie Irving, and he's a freshman. I just can't compare Mason Plumlee to a guy like Laettner, or Kyle Singler to Grant Hill.

I actually don't think Duke is too far ahead of the field this year - their dominance will be exaggerated by the lack of another elite team in the ACC. If Duke was playing on the road this year against a team like Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas, Texas or Pitt, I'd make them the underdog.

As for the best team of the past 20 years, that would be hard to do. I think I'd probably take those Duke teams from '91 and '92, honestly. If I had to pick somebody else, I'd actually say that the most dominant (but not the best) team was the 2008-09 North Carolina team, honestly. They were the only time that I never had a doubt all season long that they were the best team in the land, to the point that I was on this blog mocking anybody who wasn't voting them #1. But I think they benefited from a weak set of opponents. I actually think the 2004-05 UNC team would have beaten the 2008-09 team head-to-head.

Other than the Duke teams, I actually think that the best team was the 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats. That team had star power in players like Tony Delk, but also had a complete team with bruisers, rebounders, scorers and shooters. In addition they played that frenetic pressing defense that gave them a huge number of possessions per game, and make it impossible for inferior teams to hide. Remember, that team had nine future NBA players on it. Think about how ferocious Missouri can be under Mike Anderson, but with a team where even the last guy in the rotation is as talented as anybody that the current Missouri team has.

So if I had to pick a team it would be that one. But it's so hard to compare across eras, so I'm willing to listen to the opinion of others.

Anonymous said...

My name is correct the player i told you is Latreze Mushatt and yahoo sports have that player in the 2009-10 stat with 28 games started and 11.3 point per game. Maybe in yahoo the name is wrong.

Mark L. said...


I love youor blog but I disagree. I've been a huge college hoops fan for the past 20+ years and I think the 1991 UNLV squad with Augmon, Johnson, Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, Moses Scurry, etc. was one of the best I ever saw...Granted, they lost to Duke in the Final 4 but, man, they steam-rolled teams that year.

I can see Duke rolling through the ACC in a similar manner this year. This type of team comes along every few years or so, and they look pretty good. Kyle Singler is a Robby Hummel or Chris Cramer type of player where losing isn't an option.

FYI, I didn't go to Duke, I went to UMass..but that's what I think..

Jeff said...

Anonymous, I figured out what happened. Murray State does have a player named Latreze Mushatt - the reason I hadn't heard of him is because he hasn't played for them ever. Those stats you saw on Yahoo were from his career at UMKC. He has transferred to Murray State where he will sit out this season and will play as a redshirt junior in 2011-12.

And Mark, I actually misunderstood your question. For some reason I thought you were talking about teams since UNLV, which is why I didn't talk about them. You are right that those UNLV teams were amazing. You are right that the '91 UNLV team was better than the '91 Duke team that knocked them off. But the '92 Duke team was at another level, in my opinion. I do give the edge to that '95-'96 Kentucky team, but like I said, you can make an argument for a bunch of them.

... Not all of them, mind you. Anybody that thinks the 2005-06 Florida team is among the all-time greats is nuts. Or that UConn team from '98-'99. And I think that anything from the '99-'00 season should be thrown out because of how ridiculously that Tournament played out.

But '90 UNLV, '92 Duke, '96 Kentucky, '05 UNC, and several more are all in the discussion. As far as I'm concerned, there's no wrong answer.