The Devil You Know

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We all saw that in Wednesday night’s ACC-Big 10 Challenge, Duke beat Wisconsin in imprssive fashion, getting great play from their freshman despite a great performance by Frank Kaminsky.

Before I start praising Coach K like some sort of deity, lets talk about Wisconsin.

For starters, this loss does not affect Wisconsin even in the slightest.  It just doesn’t. If anything, it’s going to be good for Bucky. So for anyone that is reading into last night’s 80-70 loss to Duke as a glaring red flag into Bo Ryan and the Fighting Redwood’s future you need to (in the words of every Badgers favorite quarterback) R-E-L-A-X. The only thing this game could potentially factor into is tournament seeding and I beg of you, go ahead and ask Bo Ryan if he gives two Frank Kaminsky’s about tournament seeding right now.

The answer will forever and ever be, NO.

Now, last night was rough, but I’m a glass half full kind of guy, so lets dive into some positives for Wisconsin that will surely help them come tournament time:

  • Ninth year senior Treavon Jackson took a sip from Michael’s Secret Stuff before the game having finished with 25 points on 3-5 from three and 8-8 from the line. At times, Jackson seemed to be the only one able to identify Duke’s defensive switches by driving right by a late rotation or stepping back and knocking down a jumper against a sagging big man. For the Madison faithful, this was a performance that you can rest your hat on because Jackson showed he was capable of holding this team together when the opposition throws the kitchen sink, bathroom shower and laundry room at Kaminsky.
  • The Badgers attempted 21 free throws and nailed home 17 of them. JUMP AROUND!
  • ONLY EIGHT TURNOVERS! That’s good…
  • If Taylor Swift could dunk on any of her ex-boyfriends, it would be a lot like this:

Anddddd that’s about all I got. Now for the negatives:

  • Needing milk for my bowl of Capn’ Crunch tomorrow morning, I ran to my local grocer. I walked to the dairy section and started debating between Fat Free and 1% when I noticed something odd on the 2% cartoons. It was Sam Dekker’s face under a giant red scroll that read “MISSING”. If you have seen him, please call Bo Ryan at 555-EFF-Duke.
  • The layups tho… good lord. I’ve seen an eighth grade girls youth basketball team make more bunnies than Wiscy did on Wednesday night.
  • Indecision against a switching defense. Should I go? Should I shoot? Should I shutter in sheer panic? YES! Shutter away!
  • Nigel Hayes… not your best. Four fouls. Four points. One turnover.
  • The inability to take it to Duke’s small ball lineup. With a little over five minutes left in the game, super freshman Jahlil Okafor drew his fourth foul on yet another Jackson dribble drive. Rather than putting in Marshall Plumlee and staying par for the course with Wisconsin’s size, Coach K elected to go small, having Amile Jefferson fill in the center spot and surrounding him with guards. Jacksons nails down both his attempts from the line to pull within three. The sequence of events after that were unfortunate and hurtful. Duke scored six straight points after Rasheed Sulaimon nailed an elbow jumper off a rub screen, a loose ball turnover snagged by Tyus Jones ended in a fast break lay-up and then there was the goaltend call on Kaminsky that forced so much blood into Bo’s head that I almost anticipated it to pop off.
  • When Wisconsin crawled back within two possessions thanks to (and forgive me for repeating myself) Jackson nailing a huge three pointer after identifying the switching big sagging off to stop his penetration. Then the following happened:

Followed by another Wisconsin turnover immediately after.

The good part is, all of the negatives listed above can be fixed. It’s as good of a certainty as any that Bo will have his team better prepared for defensive switches as early as their next game, as it was the proverbial thorn in Bucky’s side from the opening tip. While team’s may try to continue to double and triple team Kaminsky, few will be able to do so while retrieving back to their man at the same level as Duke. There is too much talent on this Wisconsin roster even so. Dekker, Gasser, Jackson and Hayes won’t be as bad as they were tonight, if ever against. Everything is alright in Madison, I promise.

But not as good as it is in Durham. Holy domination, Batman!

I can’t be the only one who watched Duke’s defensive performance and thought about how “Spoelstra” it was. Aggressively switching. Having off ball defenders dart over to double and triple team Kaminsky, only to retreat to their original assignments as if their lives depended on preventing them from getting any open looks. Blitzing everything. The all around effort of Dukes defense tonight was eye opening. The shear balls to have his defense continuously switch on a team like Wisconsin…I don’t even have an ending thought, it’s that crazy to me.

What makes it even more awe-inspiring is that Coach K convinced freshman to buy into this in front of a raucous road crowd. Do you realize how hard that is to do?

I’m telling you once again (and it won’t be the last) these kids don’t play like freshman. They really don’t.

#HotSportsTake warning, but this may be Coach K’s best coaching job I’ve witnessed in my 26 years of life. I know, I know it’s early and I’m a decorated and card holding Duke-booster, but actually think about this for a second. K’s defensive leader is a freshman (Justise Winslow), he’s turned Quinn Cook into a giant difference maker and irrational confidence guy, he’s keeping all of his youngsters happy and has even gotten Rasheed Sulaimon to come into games and become an X-factor. This after some what of a disaster of a season in 2013-14. He’s much, MUCH more intense this season and more efficient even without the influx of minutes I’m sure he expected.

Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but any coach that gets young, overly hyped, i-generation, offense is everything, check my YouTube highlight film kids to play defense the way Duke did Wednesday night deserves all the praise in the world.

Then there’s the offense. ERMAHGERD the offense.

There was zero struggle there either. Duke only missed six shots in the second half and shot 65% for the entire game. Much of that was in part to point guard Tyus Jones having THE coming out party of all coming out parties, registering 22 points, four assists and six rebounds. He was 2-3 from beyond the three-point line and 6-8 from the charity stripe while playing 37 minutes in front of his Minnesota-based family and friends. The Duke alumni might want to think about flying the family out for every home game this season if it means this is the type of play they’ll get.

It’s intriguing to watch Jones go mano-y-mano with other collegiate guards as he has so many one-on-one moves it’s basically like watching And-1 Mixtapes. Crossovers, backstops, hesitations, combinations of all three in one, it’s absurd. With two solid games under his belt, we might finally have a better idea as to who Jones will be for the remainder of the season. Make sure to yell your friends, the Real Minnesota Miracle Man is here.

Meanwhile, his counterpart Jahlil Okafor is officially more than a monster. He’s Jurassic World.

I can’t even begin to describe the decisiveness that the freshman center has when he’s got the ball in his one hand. I’ve been saying it since the first time I saw him in his collegiate debut. It’s art. The way he took it to Kaminsky takes my breath away just thinking about it. He’s an instant Vine. Every move he makes could be a “How To” video on post moves. He’s an ESPN Instant Classic.

But there is one offensive set in particular that has me eyes wide shut in pleasure: the Jahlil Iso on the block. It was absolutely unstoppable. Kaminsky couldn’t contain the force of nature. Okafor, who can run the floor very well for his size, parked on the left block while Jones worked in the pass. The rest of the guards/forwards hang around the right side of the arc. Once Okafor caught the rock, it was already too late as the freshman unleashed a plethora of offensive moves that all worked in his favor. He was able to bully his way to the basket by barreling at the chest of the Wisconsin stretch big man. Then he decided to face Kaminsky up and then decided to drive around him once the senior crept up to get better ground. And  just for grins and giggles, the freshman ripped a page out of Tim Duncan’s “How to be a Great Post Man” book by banking in a jumper from about 13 feet out.

Is it to late for a political candidate to run on the premise that they will make Jahlil Okafor’s post game a national treasure? If not, i’ll rock that vote.

And even with all of that, it says absolutely nothing of how smart J-O is as a basketball player.

After getting nailed with his second foul with 8:34 left in the first half and being subbed out, Coach K decided to throw his All-American Everything big man back into the game. Many coaches would just ride it out until after half, but I’m assuming K wanted to see how he’d play in a big game, on the road, with two fouls. Wouldn’t you know it, Okafor didn’t pick up his third foul until the seven minute mark of the second half.

That might not seem like much, but it is. This is the anchor of an all-out blitz defense who was matched up with one of college basketball’s best folk heroes and a Player of the Year favorite. That’s nothing to shrug at.

But I digress. Bottom line?

Duke is great.

They’re a defensive All-Star team that is also extremely efficient and electric on offense and they are being led by a Gold Medal coach who has spent a ton of time with players like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant and has taken bits and pieces from each of them.

Can we just fast forward to March and make Duke play Kentucky?


Jerry Scherwin Jr.