Monday, November 30, 2009

Duke's Mason Plumlee may play at Wisconsin

DURHAM - Freshman center Mason Plumlee, who has missed Duke's first six games with a broken wrist, may return for Wednesday's game at Wisconsin, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Monday.

Plumlee's brother, sophomore forward Miles Plumlee, said Mason went through a full practice with the team Monday. Mason Plumlee suffered a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist during practice on Nov. 11.

The injury didn't require surgery, prompting coach Mike Krzyzewski to say Plumlee might be out for weeks rather than months. Plizga said team medical personnel will monitor Plumlee's progress after practice early this week.

Barring complications, Plumlee probably will dress and play in the 9:15 p.m. ACC-Big Ten Challenge game at Wisconsin, Plizga said. Plumlee is a 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American who was named a likely starter by Krzyzewski before preseason practice started.

Junior guard Nolan Smith said he has seen Plumlee's spirits improve as the date of his return to practice became closer. Miles Plumlee said Mason's return will bring another dimension to the Duke offense.

"He's big," Miles said. "He can finish inside. He's athletic. We can run the ball through him and (he can) pass. When he's on the floor, it's a whole other person we can go to."

Ken Tysiac

Krzyzewski jabs Gottlieb over 'athletic' comment

You know basketball season is hitting its stride when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is jousting with the media over treatment of the Blue Devils.

Following Duke's 68-59 defeat of Connecticut in the NIT Season Tip-Off final Friday, Krzyzewski was asked if the win answered ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb's questioning of the Blue Devils' athletic ability. Krzyzewski showed his sarcastic wit with his response.

"He should be an expert on alarmingly non-athletic," Krzyzewski said of Gottlieb, formerly a pass-first point guard for Oklahoma State. "So I'll have to take a look at that a little bit closer because it comes from an expert who actually knows what it feels like to be alarmingly non-athletic.

"Actually we're pretty athletic; we're just not as athletic as Connecticut. (Kyle) Singler is a really good athlete. Lance (Thomas), Miles (Plumlee). Jon (Scheyer) is not leaping tall buildings with a single (bound), but he's a really good athlete. But I wouldn't call us like, this athletic team, but we're not amazingly non-athletic. And I would rather not get into a discussion with Doug because I have respect of his stature and he should have his arguments with people of similar stature. That would be a good thing."

Although Krzyzewski hit that softball question out of the park, Gottlieb made a legitimate point. He just overstated it a bit. Because of the stature of its program and coach, Duke has an overwhelming recruiting advantage over most schools.

So it's surprising to see that schools in the ACC such as Clemson and Florida State have a collection of guys who probably move their feet more quickly and jump higher than Duke's.

It's true that Scheyer and Brian Zoubek aren't going to win many foot races with other guys who play their position in the ACC. Also, Singler doesn't move laterally as fast as a lot of the small forwards he will guard this season.

But Nolan Smith and Miles Plumlee are as athletic as anybody else at their positions. Lance Thomas has the size and quickness to guard just about any position on the floor, and Mason Plumlee will add to Duke's athletic ability at center when he returns to the lineup.

So the Blue Devils are hardly a bunch of stiffs.

The most important thing about Duke, though, is that it has three players in Singler, Scheyer and Smith who all are among the best players at their respective positions in college basketball.

Singler and Scheyer will never throw down a 360-degree dunk on a breakaway, but they're highly skilled and smart and always play hard. Yes, Duke could struggle when it plays a freakishly athletic opponent like Kansas or Kentucky.

But any team would. On most nights, the Blue Devils will have enough athletic ability to win as they head into Wednesday night's game at Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 6-0 record.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, November 29, 2009

UNC notes: Ol' Roy unhappy with empty seats

CHAPEL HILL -- Most of the tickets for UNC's 80-73 win over Nevada on Sunday night were sold, a team spokesman said.

But the Smith Center appeared to be less than three-quarters full, and only half-full at tipoff, a rather embarrassing turnout for coach Roy Williams' 600th victory.

And Williams noticed.

"Six hundred wins, I've been very lucky,'' Williams said. "I've been at two great institutions, I've been at places that really are passionate about basketball. I wish some of our fans who weren't here tonight would get a little more passionate and get their rear ends here. That was discouraging at the start of the game. But I love those, the ones that were here. The other ones, I think I should take a camera shot, and anyone who wasn't here tonight — stop them at the door if they try to come in for Michigan State [on Tuesday]. Tell them I sold their dad-gum ticket."

LOSING THE TIE: Williams may have to go back to the mock-turtleneck look for the next month or so, until he can get rid of the sling on his left arm that he had to start wearing after his Tuesday shoulder surgery. He began the game in his customary shirt-and-tie, but had lost the neckwear by halftime, probably because it was bugging him with the hefty arm contraption.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heels coach Williams has shoulder surgery

North Carolina coach Roy Williams will be wearing a sling on his left arm for the next four weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, the school announced.

He suffered the injury in early October when he slipped on a wet step at a golf course during a charity event.

The surgery lasted 90 minutes, Williams returned home later in the day, and he expects to return to work later this week. He should be on the bench Sunday when the 11th-ranked Tar Heels play Nevada, according to the news release.

The rehabilitation on his shoulder is expected to last several months.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 23, 2009

ACC honors Duke's Smith, Ga. Tech's Favors

GREENSBORO -- Nolan Smith of Duke and Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech have captured the weekly honors in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

Smith was named player of the week after averaging averaging 22 points, six assists and four rebounds as the seventh-ranked Blue Devils took victories over Charlotte and Radford.

On the week, Smith shot 56 percent from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range.

Favors earned the rookie of the week award. The 6-foot-10 freshman forward averaged 14 points and seven rebounds while shooting 81 percent to lead the Yellow Jackets to wins in two of three games in last week's tournament in Puerto Rico. -- Associated Press

AP poll: Duke, Clemson up, UNC down

Syracuse was so impressive in the 2K Sports Classic that it made one of the best entrances ever into The Associated Press' college basketball poll.

The Orange, who beat California and North Carolina by an average of 19 points in winning the tournament at Madison Square Garden, went from unranked to No. 10 on Monday, the third-best jump-in in poll history.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heels, Wildcats to play in Puerto Rico next season

North Carolina will be packing its bags the week before Thanksgiving next season, too.

The Tar Heels will be one of eight teams participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off; they will play Nov. 18, 19 and 21.

They will be joined by Davidson, Hofstra, Minnesota, Nebraska,, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky.

Tickets will go on sale next summer.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Duke faces familiar foes in New York

Duke will face a familiar foe in the NIT Season Tipoff semifinals on Nov. 25 in New York - and it's not just Herb Sendek.

With a 52-49 defeat of Texas Christian on Tuesday that ended long after midnight on the East Coast, Arizona State advanced to the meeting with Duke. Sendek, the former N.C. State coach, credited an ex-Duke player with carrying Arizona State against TCU.

Center Eric Boateng, a former McDonald's All-American who played just one season with the Blue Devils before transferring to Arizona State, posted career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Arizona State wasn't nearly as dominating in its second-round game as Duke was in a 101-59 thrashing of Charlotte. But Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said the 49ers might have been more competitive if he'd had some practice time to prepare them to adjust their uptempo pace and play at a slower tempo.

As N.C. State fans know (for better or for worse), Sendek is a master at playing at a slow tempo. And he has time to prepare, plus a big man in Boateng who will be eager to prove himself to his former teammates in New York.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wake's Aminu is ACC player of the week

GREENSBORO - The Atlantic Coast Conference has honored Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu and Miami's Durand Scott.

The ACC on Monday named Aminu its player of the week while Scott is its top rookie.

Aminu averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 64 percent in the Demon Deacons' two season-opening wins.

Scott had 10 assists in an 83-53 rout of North Carolina Central — the most by a Miami player in three years. -- Associated Press

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Duke's Mason Plumlee fractures wrist

Duke's big lineup just got smaller.

Freshman Mason Plumlee, the athletic, 6-foot-10 center who was on track to possibly start for the Blue Devils, is out indefinitely after suffering a fractured left wrist in practice Wednesday, the school announced.

The injury will not require surgery and will be evaluated weekly by the Duke medical staff.

"We are confident that he will make a full recovery," coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. "Mason is going to be a very good player for us and we look forward to him getting healthy and returning to the court."

Plumlee is a McDonald's All-American who averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots in exhibition wins over Pfeiffer and Findlay. Duke begins the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday against UNC Greensboro.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Devils expect pressure without Smith

Senior guard Jon Scheyer says Duke is ready.

With junior guard Nolan Smith sitting out a two-game NCAA suspension for playing in unsanctioned summer league games, the Blue Devils are down to two scholarship players in the backcourt.

On Friday and Monday, Duke will play without Smith against UNC Greensboro and Coastal Carolina, respectively. Those teams won't have the size to match up against the Blue Devils, who have their biggest team in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 30-year tenure.

So they're likely to pressure Scheyer, freshman Andre Dawkins, walk-on Jordan Davidson and whoever else handles the ball in the backcourt for Duke. Scheyer says the Blue Devils are ready.

"Obviously we're a better team with Nolan," Scheyer said. "There's no denying that. He gives us a lot, adds a lot, and of course takes pressure off me. So of course for the first two games we have to be ready to just handle the ball.

"I'm sure defenses will try to pressure us a little bit more, and that's something we're prepared to do. And it's something that, we can't have any excuses."

It's unclear exactly how Duke will rotate its backcourt. Without Smith in the first half of an exhibition game against Division II Findlay, the Blue Devils actually started with four forwards on the floor with Scheyer.

Krzyzewski wasn't pleased with the way that lineup played, but Scheyer said the team hasn't abandoned it.

"We didn't take advantage of it like we could have (in the exhibition)," Scheyer said. "We were a little sloppy and didn't go inside as much as we should have. So I think that lineup is really good for us. Just, when it's in there, we've got to go inside, get the ball in there."

Regardless of which lineups are used, playing without Smith should be good practice in overcoming adversity early in the season for Scheyer and the Blue Devils.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duke plans huge basketball reunion

Duke is planning a huge celebration of coach Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th game with the Blue Devils and the 70th year of basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Duke Varsity Club will play host to what's being billed as the biggest men's basketball reunion in the history of program on Feb. 12-13. Krzyzewski's 1,000th game at Duke will be the 1 p.m. meeting on Feb. 13 with Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Over 300 former players, coaches, managers and trainers will be invited back. The weekend will include a reception hosted by Duke athletic director Kevin White and an after-game party with the current Duke coaching staff.

"This will be an exciting weekend and a great way to celebrate the history of Duke basketball," White said in a statement.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Duke tops Findlay; Smith suspended 2 games

DURHAM – As junior guard Nolan Smith sat on the bench in the first half Tuesday night, Duke wobbled like a truck with one under-inflated tire.

Like it or not, though, the Blue Devils will have to get used to playing without Smith for a couple games. After Duke defeated Findlay 84-48 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that Smith will miss the first two games of the regular season because of an NCAA suspension.

Smith was suspended because he played in a summer league that wasn’t sanctioned by the NCAA. He will miss games Nov. 13 against UNC Greensboro and Nov. 16 against Coastal Carolina.

Outside of normal play on their own teams, college players are forbidden by the NCAA from participating in organized games that aren’t sanctioned or approved in advance by the NCAA. The NCAA rule governing this is in place in part to preserve players’ amateur status.

"He shouldn’t have done it,” Krzyzewski said. “The guys know. And this is what every basketball player has to know, don’t play in a game that has time and score (being kept), unless it’s a sanctioned game.”

Smith, who’s from Upper Marlboro, Md., said he played in a summer league game in the Washington, D.C., area while he was home before the second session of summer school. He said he didn’t realize he’d made a mistake until he got back to campus.

Krzyzewski said the suspension was for two games because Duke’s staff was uncertain whether Smith had played in one game or two and wanted to err on the side of caution in reporting to the NCAA. Smith said he accepted the punishment.

"I was definitely disappointed in myself,” he said. “. . .With the rules the NCAA has, you’ve got to get permission as a college athlete. I definitely learned my lesson.”

This will be the second time in six years that a guard from a Triangle ACC school served a suspension to open the season because of unsanctioned summer play. In 2004, North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton was suspended for the season opener for playing in an uncertified summer league.

The Tar Heels lost that game against Santa Clara but they went on to win the national title.

Maryland’s James Gist and Landon Milbourne were suspended for the 2007 opener for participating in a non-sanctioned summer league game.

Smith’s impact on Duke’s lineup was obvious against Findlay, as he was held out of the first half but played 12 minutes after halftime. Without him in the first half, a Blue Devil team that already was thin in the backcourt looked disjointed against the defending NCAA Division II champions.

Senior Jon Scheyer and freshman Andre Dawkins are the only other scholarship players on the team who are true guards. Kyle Singler, a post player in previous seasons who’s the starting “small” forward at 6-foot-9, moved to shooting guard in the starting lineup.

Walk-on Jordan Davidson was the first guard off the bench and played five minutes in the first half, which ended with Duke leading just 36-23. Without one of their primary ball handlers in Smith, the Blue Devils committed 10 first-half turnovers.

"Where’s Greg Paulus when you need him?” a female Duke student wondered late in the first half, referring to the 2008-09 senior guard.

In the second half, Smith scored seven points and handed out three assists as Duke outscored Findlay 48-25.

"We’ve known about it since the summer,” Krzyzewski said of the suspension. “So it’s no big deal. We’re ready to move on. We’re a different team without him, though. There’s no question about that.”

Ken Tysiac and Robbi Pickeral

Duke's Smith suspended two games

DURHAM - Duke junior guard Nolan Smith has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season for playing in a non-sanctioned summer league, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Tuesday.

Smith will miss the Nov. 13 season opener against UNC Greensboro and the Nov. 16 game against Coastal Carolina. Plizga said Smith thought the league he was playing in had been approved by the NCAA and didn't find out otherwise until he returned to campus.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will address the issue after tonight's exhibition game against Findlay is finished, Plizga said. Duke struggled without Smith in the first half, committing 10 turnovers, but led 36-23 at the intermission.

This will be the second time in six years that a guard from a Triangle ACC school served a suspension to open the season because of unsanctioned summer play.

In 2004, North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton was suspended for the season opener for playing in an uncertified summer league. The Tar Heels lost that game, against Santa Clara, but they went on to win the national title.

Ken Tysiac and Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 2, 2009

Singler named preseason All-American

Duke junior forward Kyle Singler was the only ACC player named to The Associated Press’ preseason All-America men’s basketball team Monday.

Singler, who also was voted the preseason ACC player of the year by the media, averaged 16.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season.

He received 30 votes from the 65-member national media panel to become the final member of the team. Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody was the top vote getter with 57.

Kansas teammates Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins also made the team along with Patrick Patterson of Kentucky.

Singler has 1,060 career points and last season became the sixth Duke player to surpass the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore. He also earned ACC All-Tournament team honors after helping Duke capture its first tournament championship since 2006.

Ken Tysiac