Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wake me up

Did DePaul actually win at Wake Forest last night? It's not like Wake was playing the other Blue Demons, these are the Chicago version. It was the classic, if cliched, trap game. Coming off exams with few students around, a lightly regarded but talented opponent, first action in 10 days, looking past the non-conference games to an opening ACC showdown with Duke in January. Still it wasn't a game that Wake should have lost.

The Wake fans will howl about the foul shooting, but it was the Swiss cheese defense that killed Wake. Whenever the needed a defensive stop they just could not muster the intensity to prevent DePaul from hitting a killer shot. You just can't allow 51% shooting and expect to win. In a stunning turn Wake was also outrebounded 38-30, something that a team with Visser, Ellis and Eric Williams should never allow. Ellis is Wake's version of Travis Garrison. You look at him and think he should at least be a reliable low post player, if not dominating, yet he is enthralled with shooting jump shots from 15 feet.

Justin Gray really struggled with the taller DePaul backcourt. Without a meaningless 3-point basket as time expired he had scored 9 points on 2-10 shooting. It may take until the end of January before Williams and Gray have adjusted to life without Chris Paul. They have to make sure they don't dig themselves too deep a hole with Duke at home and road games at Maryland and NC State in the span of two weeks.

News & Notes

Former Duke player Michael Thompson, who transferred to Northwestern at the beginning of last season, is apparently out of college basketball. He has left the team due to health issues according to reports. I mention this to make a point about recruiting. Everyone assumes that Krzyzewski's recruiting is the gold standard for how to build a basketball program, pulling in McDonald's All Americans like they were on the dollar menu. I'm not going to try to pretend that Krzyzewski isn't the premier college coach, but I will say that those who wish Maryland recruited like Duke need to really think twice. Being able to crow about how many burger guys your coach has coming in only matters in the off season. Once November rolls around that kind of stuff is meaningless.

Thompson was part of a Duke 2002 recruiting class that was widely considered the best in the nation. Looking back the UNC class of Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and David Noel was clearly better but at the time Duke reigned supreme. Two of those players, Thompson and Shavlik Randolph were 5-star recruits, both burger all americans and ranked among the top 5 players in the nation at their position. Neither are on the Duke roster this fall. JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams were certainly solid gold players from that class but other 4-star recruits Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni are merely roll players. Maryland's 2002 class of McCray, Garrison, Caner-Medley, and John Gilchrist was ranked only a few spots behind both UNC and Duke.

In the years since then Duke had Luol Deng in 2003 and Shaun Livingston, David McClure and Demarcus Nelson in 2004. Deng and Livingston both are in the NBA now, Livingston never even got on Duke's campus, and McClure and Nelson have been beset by injuries. So for the last three years Duke has only Sheldon Williams, Redick and Dockery to show for seven McDonald's selections. Not too great, though Williams and Redick are elite players. Even though Duke will still have about six McD AA players on their roster in 2006 I expect Duke to struggle with the departures of Williams, Redick and Dockery. This is an example of the importance of continuity over highly rated recruits.

Football Honors

More All-American honors for TE Vernon Davis and LB D'Qwell Jackson. Davis was voted to AP's 1st team and Jackson was voted to the 2nd team. This was the first time since 1952 that Maryland had two AP All-Americans in the same year and Davis was the first offensive player to win the honor since 1955. Don't think that the commitment of Drew Gloster, an All-Met selection at Good Counsel high school and top 30 WR in the nation, had nothing to do with the honors rolling in for Davis. Gloster will likely be tried at TE and used like Davis was in his two years as a starter. He'll be given the chance to start right away but I feel like Dan Gronkowski will be hard for him to beat out except on obvious passing downs.

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