Kyle Singler Gets Buckets 2.0 [video]

You may remember Kyle Singler’s first trick shot video. Well, he’s back for more and this time he’s going to get buckets from the top of the Duke chapel.

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Kyle Singler trick-shot montage [video]

This should get the Duke haters fired up…

Duke outlasts Baylor, 78-71, for first Final Four since ’04

Talk about a pressure-packed game. Neither team led by more than seven points until the 1:36 mark when Lance Thomas followed up a Kyle Singler missed with a dunk and a foul to increase Duke’s lead from five to eight. The follow-up punctuated what was the difference in the game — Duke’s ability to hit the offensive glass. Thomas had eight of the Blue Devils’ 22 offensive rebounds. (Baylor had 16, so the disparity doesn’t seem so big, but five came in the final minute when the Bears were in full catch-up mode.)

Nolan Smith (29 points) and Jon Scheyer (20 points) carried Duke offensively on a night when Singler simply couldn’t buy a bucket. He went 0-10 from the field and turned the ball over four times. In fact, Scheyer scored all of his points from the three-point line (5-10) and the free throw line (5-5). Smith and Scheyer hit back-to-back threes down the stretch to give the Blue Devils a six-point lead with 2:37 to play. (I’m really looking forward to seeing what Smith can do as a full-time point guard next season.)

Duke shot 48% from 3PT, but just 11-38 (29%) from 2PT. This was a result of Baylor’s zone forcing Duke to take open yet uncomfortable shots from inside the arc. Duke was successful offensively when they hit a post player with a pass at the free throw line and that player (usually Mason Plumlee or Brian Zoubek) found the open three-point shooter.

LaceDarius Dunn led the Bears with 22 points, but had just six in the second half before a made three with 0:10 to play. This was something of a coming out party for Ekpe Udoh, who posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks. Baylor hasn’t played on national television all that much so Udoh made the most of the opportunity.

In West Virginia, Duke will face a very similar team at the Final Four. The Mountaineers also like to play at a slow pace and have a pretty good 1-3-1 zone that will limit Duke’s playbook. One thing that this Duke team has that the last few teams have lacked is depth on the front line. In Zoubek, Thomas, and the Plumlee brothers, Duke has plenty of beef up front to battle down low. It should be a great game.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Kyle Singler’s problem is positional

Let’s not go off the deep end here. Duke junior Kyle Singler is still having a good year. He’s averaging 17-7-2 and is shooting 38% from long range. Those numbers are virtually identical to his sophomore season. The difference is in his overall FG%, which dropped from 44.1% last season to 40.7% this year.

Having watched at least half of Duke’s games this season — including last night’s 79-72 loss to Maryland — I think Singler is struggling with his accuracy because he is now playing a ton of minutes at small forward. Over his first two seasons, he played mostly power forward and even some center, and while he was at a disadvantage on Duke’s defensive glass, he had a big advantage on the offensive end.

Singler is a classic face-up forward. He has a very nice perimeter game in that he is accurate from long range and can take it to the basket when he gets his defender out of position. And over his first two seasons, he faced a lot of opposing 4s and 5s that weren’t comfortable covering someone on the perimeter. This season, in addition to Lance Thomas, Duke is giving big minutes to Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee and Mason Plumlee, which means that Singler is playing more small forward than ever. This allows the defense to cover him with their own small forward, who is generally quicker and far more comfortable defending on the perimeter.

As a result, Singler is getting far fewer good looks on penetration than he has in years past. During his first two seasons, it was relatively easy to get a bigger defender out of position on the wing and drive past him for a layup or short jumper. Now, his defenders are sticking with him on those drives and forcing tougher shots. Hence, the reduction in field goal percentage.

Duke certainly has more size this season, and that’s helping on the glass, but it’s hurting Singler’s efficiency on the other end of the court. It’s a trade-off that Coach K is apparently willing to live with, but I’m guessing that if Singler shoots 41% or less in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils won’t be making a Final Four appearance this season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

UNC beats Duke to clinch ACC regular season title

It was nip and tuck most of the way, but the Tar Heels got it together late in the second half to pull away over arch rival Duke, 79-71. North Carolina has almost a two-point lead over the next-best team in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings (which is the main way that I fill out my bracket), but I just don’t like this team to win it all. They’re sloppy with the ball, have poor spacing on offense and they missed a ton of free throws. But they have so much talent that when the game is tight in the second half, they always seem to be able to put together a run to put the game away. Really, they could win it all or they could lose in the second round to an eight- or nine-seed that plays a good, clean game.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures, led by Tyler Hansbrough’s 17 points. Conversely, Duke was very content to walk the ball up and run its half court offense, which put the ball into the hands of Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, and allowed them to go to work. Coach K really shortened his bench for this game — just three reserves played a total of 19 minutes (and they failed to score a single point).

The win should seal a #1 seed for North Carolina, and barring Duke winning the ACC tournament (coupled with an early round exit by Oklahoma or UConn), the Blue Devils are probably looking at a #2 or #3 seed. Check back tomorrow for a preview of all the major conference tournaments.

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