Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UNC overwhelming choice to win ACC

CHARLOTTENorth Carolina received 57 of a possible 59 first-place votes to finish atop the ACC media poll released Wednesday at the conference’s Operation Basketball media event.

The Tar Heels return all five starters, including preseason ACC player of the year selection Harrison Barnes, from a team that finished 29-8, reached an NCAA regional final and won first place in the ACC with a 14-2 conference record last season.

Duke was picked second in the poll, followed by Florida State, Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech and Clemson. N.C. State was selected to finish eighth, with Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College closing out the poll.

Barnes and teammates John Henson and Tyler Zeller were voted to the preseason All-ACC team, with Barnes as the only unanimous selection. Miami’s Malcolm Grant also was selected, and Duke’s Seth Curry tied Virginia’s Mike Scott for the final spot on the team. Barnes received 57 of a possible 59 first-place votes, with Henson getting the other two.

Duke freshman Austin Rivers was voted ACC rookie of the year, also receiving 57 votes. North Carolina’s James McAdoo and Maryland’s Nick Faust each received one vote for rookie of the year.

Here are the poll results:
ACC standings, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:
  1. North Carolina (57) 706
  2. Duke (2) 649
  3. Florida State 560
  4. Virginia 463
  5. Miami 455
  6. Virginia Tech 411
  7. Clemson 403
  8. N.C. State 316
  9. Maryland 264
  10. Georgia Tech 176
  11. Wake Forest 109
  12. Boston College 90

Harrison Barnes, UNC, 59 (unanimous); John Henson, UNC, 47; Tyler Zeller, UNC, 46; Malcolm Grant, Miami, 32; Seth Curry, Duke, 20; Mike Scott, Virginia, 20

Player of the Year
Harrison Barnes, UNC, 57; John Henson, UNC, 2

Rookie of the Year
Austin Rivers, Duke, 57; James McAdoo, UNC, 1; Nick Faust, Maryland, 1

Ken Tysiac

Duke preaches defense, rebounding

CHARLOTTE - Duke loses senior first-team All-ACC players Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler plus No. 1 NBA draft pick Kyrie Irving off the 2010-11 team.

So how are the Blue Devils going to win this season with just two returning starters? At the ACC’s Operation Basketball event today, junior co-captain Ryan Kelly said defense and rebounding will be Duke’s staples.

“At any time we can put five guys on the floor that can score the basketball,” Kelly said, “but our first and most important thing is going to be defense.”

Kelly said this season’s team will be built like the 2009-10 NCAA championship team, which used bruising big men Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas to dominate defensively and on the boards.

This season’s defense will be built from the inside out with Kelly, junior Mason Plumlee and senior co-captain Miles Plumlee.

“In our program, the big guys have been the backbone of the defense,” Miles Plumlee said, “and having experience there is going to be huge.”

Kelly said Miles Plumlee – who had six offensive rebounds in the Blue-White game Friday – has been a force on the boards in practice. But the team’s best defender, Kelly said, is sophomore guard Tyler Thornton, who has disruptive throughout preseason practice.

“He’s just a pest,” Kelly said, “on the ball and off of it.”

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 14, 2011

Curry shows leadership for Devils

DURHAM – Duke’s Blue-White scrimmage Friday night was an opportunity for a player to show he wants to lead the team.

Junior point guard Seth Curry did that in spectacular fashion.

Curry scored 16 of his 28 points in the second half and accounted for half the Blue team’s scoring in a 56-53 win at the preseason-opening “Countdown to Craziness” event.

He shot 8-for-13 from the field, and made nine of 10 free throws, rallying his team from a 13-point halftime deficit. After committing a backcourt turnover with 19 seconds remaining and the Blue nursing a one-point lead, Curry stole the ball from Ryan Kelly and made both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity.

“Obviously Seth was fantastic,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Very efficient 28 points. I thought he took really good shots, hit all his free throws, and he made two unbelievable steals. He made two great steals. And I thought he was the difference.”

Krzyzewski has said Curry is quiet by nature and is trying to get him to be more of a vocal leader.

“I just tried to do that tonight,” Curry said. “Our team kind of struggled at first, so we just had to pull out of that hole, and I was trying to be the guy to get that going.”

Miles of improvement. Senior co-captain Miles Plumlee appeared to be a much-improved player over last season.

He led the White team with 15 points and led all players with eight rebounds. He also won the dunk contest with a leap over younger brother Marshall in the finals.

“Miles is playing great,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s so powerful and he’s in such a good place. He’s talking out there. I’m really happy for him. He’s put a lot of work in.”

Krzyzewski said offensive rebounding could be a huge factor for the Blue Devils with Miles and Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly banging on the boards in a three-player rotation for two positions.

Miles Plumlee had six offensive rebounds, and Mason Plumlee and Kelly had three apiece.

“Our big guys are good,” Krzyzewski said. “The two Plumlees and Ryan, they’re very good basketball players.”

Freshmen make impact. All five players in Duke’s highly regarded freshman class made their presence felt in the scrimmage.

As expected, wing Austin Rivers was the leader of his class, as he scored 13 of his 14 points in the first half.

Point guard Quinn Cook scored seven points, shot 3-for-4 from the field and handed out two assists.

“They can all help us,” Krzyzewski said. “There’s no question about that. We’re going to need them to.”

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Krzyzewski despises 'pod' idea for ACC

DURHAM – Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski came out in favor of more ACC expansion Wednesday but cautioned against splitting up an expanded ACC too much.
“It seems to me that if you’re going to go to 14 [schools], you should go to 16,” Krzyzewski said at his preseason-opening news conference. “And anytime I hear the word ‘pod,’ it makes me vomit.”

Last month the ACC announced it is adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East, although their date of entry has not yet been declared. That would bring conference membership to 14 schools.

ACC commissioner John Swofford hasn’t ruled out the idea of expanding to 16 schools, and Notre Dame, Texas, Connecticut and Rutgers all have been mentioned in reports as possibilities.

One of the formats that’s been the subject of speculation for a 16-school conference is a split of four mini-divisions or “pods” of four schools each. Schools in each pod would play one another once each football season, plus home and away during basketball season.

That would allow the North Carolina “Big Four” schools of Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest to strengthen their rivalries. Krzyzewski doesn’t like that idea.

He said it wouldn’t help national recruiting.

“The pods, I think that’s one of the worst business models there could possibly be,” Krzyzewski said. “I just break out in a rash when I hear it. You’ve got to be kidding me. A pod.

“ ‘Well, what did you this year?’

“ ‘We won our pod.’

“What’s the trophy for that?”

Krzyzewski advocates a split into two divisions. He said that would create scheduling formats for basketball that would expand from the current 16 ACC games to 19 in the case of a 14-team conference, and 18 ACC games for a 16-team conference.

He also was asked about negative comments his friend, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, made about joining the ACC. Boeheim predicted that the ACC tournament would stay mostly in the South but also would occasionally be held in New York City, where the Big East tournament currently is played annually.

“It’s a great place for a tournament,” Boeheim told an audience in Birmingham, Ala. “Where would you want to go to a tournament for five days? Let’s see: Greensboro, North Carolina, or New York City? Jeez. Let me think about that one and get back to you.”

Krzyzewski said Boeheim was reacting to a big change for his program, but said Syracuse officials are happy to be in the ACC.

“He just needs his coffee early in the morning,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s all right. He’s not a glass-half-full guy

Ken Tysiac

Bigs to play major role for Duke

DURHAM For the last several seasons under coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has used a perimeter-first formula to build an elite basketball program.

But personnel losses from last season leave Duke with 6-foot-11 junior Ryan Kelly and 6-10 junior Mason Plumlee as two of its three returning starters from a team that went 32-5 and lost in the West Regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

The Blue Devils lone senior is 6-10 Miles Plumlee, one of three Plumlee brothers on the team. So for the first time in recent memory, Dukes focus is shifting away from the perimeter and toward veterans who play closer to the basket.

Our big guys can be very good,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wednesday at the team’s preseason media availability. “And they should be. They’re ready to be. And a lot of success that we’ll have this season will be dependent on their play.”

Krzyzewski said Duke’s coaches learned during their August exhibition trip to China and Dubai that the two eldest Plumlees and Kelly are much improved players.
The trip was a chance for players to impress the coaches because standout seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are gone from last season’s team, along with No. 1 NBA draft pick Kyrie Irving.

Kelly led the team in scoring in China, averaging 15.0 points per game. Miles Plumlee averaged 9.8 rebounds per game, and Mason Plumlee shot 18-for-22 from the field to average 10.3 points.

Miles Plumlee and Kelly were named team captains in September.

“Coach definitely told us over the summer when we saw him that we can be a central focus of our team,” Kelly said. “It’s been a little bit different. The talent level of our bigs has increased a ton, and guys have gotten better.”

Duke still faces a lot of questions as it prepares for the Countdown to Craziness festivities Friday night that will begin preseason practice. The departures of Smith, Singler and Irving leave a team that Krzyzewski said will be balanced but doesn’t have players who are used to leading roles.

The team’s only major threat to create a shot off the dribble is guard Austin Rivers, who won many national player of the year awards as a high school senior but still is just a freshman.

So when the Blue Devils need a big basket down the stretch, it’s unclear who will take it.

We dont necessarily have to have Nolan taking the last shot, Mason Plumlee said, although that was nice.

Instead, Duke may have different options each game and will rely more heavily on big men than in the past. In particular, the Plumlees and Kelly will quarterback the defense.

Krzyzewski said the coaches will figure out how to take advantage of the bigs’ ability to block shots and take charges. All around, for a team that has relied on Smith and Jon Scheyer and J.J. Redick for the past several years, the Blue Devils appear destined for a major change as the post players get more involved.

How we incorporate our bigs in what we’re doing both offensively and defensively is a change from the last couple of years,” Krzyzewski said. So there are some habits to break as far as how we score, how we defend. So we incorporate our big guys more. And we’re going to do that.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Devils to open practice with 'Craziness'

For the third straight season, Duke’s men’s basketball team will begin practice with its Countdown to Craziness event at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Doors at Cameron will open at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14, and the Blue-White Scrimmage will start at 8:55 p.m.

The event will feature live music, inflatable games, highlight videos, live performances and on court contests. Veteran analyst Bill Raftery will be on site as ESPNU will cover the event as part of its four-hour Midnight Madness special.

Ken Tysiac