No surprise that top-ranked Duke won another basketball tourney, but it was encouraging to see the Blue Devils pushed to the limit in both games at storied Madison Square Garden.
Not that Memphis wasn’t expected to contend —you expect as much from a No. 11 ranked team. However, the Drexel Dragons gave Duke fits from tipoff to final buzzer in a 10-point loss. The Dragons are the ugly duckling looking for a date in Big Five Philadelphia basketball. Well, the "big uglies" should get a call this season from the NCAA Tourney committee.
As for the Tigers, they found a defensive jewel in guard Rodney Carney, who put the clamps on Duke sharp-shooter J.J. Redick in the second half. Carney held Redick scoreless from the field and nearly shotless, exposing the NBA’s biggest question about the Devils star — that he can’t create his own shots when not left alone to drill 20-footers.
Still, the Devils managed to win with their typical lack of bench and heroic play from Coach K’s tireless starting five, led by arguably the nation’s best player and tournament MVP Shelden Williams. But the wins weren’t nearly as convincing as the three at Cameron, where the Dukies went 3-0 ATS with an average victory margin of 33 points.
We don’t consider the college hoops season to really begin until conference play just after New Year’s Day. But the nice mix of tournaments and made for TV events like the ACC versus Big 10 Challenge offer a scouting report of what to look for in the coming months. Here are some early observations.
”¡ Gonzaga-Michigan State: That 3-OT instant classic in the Maui Classic, won at the buzzer by the Zags showed that both teams are easy NCAA invitees and Sweet 16 locks. We were especially impressed with Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) and Paul Davis (Michigan State) — two 6-foot-10 forwards, who are mobile, can shoot, rebound and make free throws.
”¡ West Virginia: It’s easy to overlook the Mounties with the well-deserved press the football team has received for winning the Big East. The school that gave us "Pittsnogle" is 2-3, but every loss has been a thriller and to quality opponents (Texas, Kentucky, LSU). If future lines are based on the record, we’ll jump all over the Mounties.
”¡ Hassan Adams (Arizona): Has the best springs since David Thompson reaped havoc on the ACC and the nation at NC State.
Future NBA first round pick.