College basketball has begun in all its glory. A nation has already discovered the Duke Blue Devils could probably beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, tempo appears to be quickening, and we should probably just hurl sample size out the window in favor of hyperbole.
Yes. Sure. While small sample size theater is a dangerous game, especially this early in the process, let’s kick it to the curb in order to provide superior entertainment to the general public.
These are our topics in this week’s CBB Today Stock Watch.
Duke Blue Devils Are America’s Team (Buying)
If you had Duke beating a legitimately good Kentucky Wildcats team by all the points, you’re a liar.
Plenty of experts did predict the Blue Devils, magically positioned as the underdogs prior to the Champions Classic, would come out on top. However, there’s not a human trotting about the planet who believed — even with three of the (at worst) four top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft on the roster — Coach K and company would humble John Calipari in such ungodly fashion.
Furthermore, even the most ardent Zion Williamson supporters couldn’t predict the absolute monster of a game he had. He did all the amazing feats (dunk!) everyone knew he could, but it was his passing, dribbling and ability to transport himself to various areas of the court with the blink of an eye, which should leave people hot and bothered.
Seriously. He managed to bang a few jumpers, too. Williamson was so interstellar, (fake) reports have surfaced, claiming people changed their underwear after watching him play.
Heading into the season, many would have told you RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish were Duke’s two actual best players. This handsome Internet Scribbler still believes that to be true with Barrett, but my goodness is Zion like the baby of Shawn Kemp, Shaq, and a T-Rex all in one. Heavens to Betsy, it appears someone added a sprinkle of the T-Virus for solid measure.
Zion Williamson ran point guard for moments in that game. It was all absurd.
A few other, less touched upon notes from Duke’s first game of the season.
Tre Jones is legit. The focus is on the Blue Devils’ Big 3 freshmen, though he’s the perfect fourth-wheel. Unselfish and terrific ball handler, he is legitimately that far too often cliched extension of a coach on the floor.
Jack White took time away from making neat music to grab a bunch of rebounds. Didn’t have him pegged as a Duke guy.
Alex O’Connell, jokes aside, can stroke it. It’s unclear if he’ll see more time on the floor compared to last season, but his role seems obvious for now; to be randomly inserted into games, shoot a few threes, witness the ball travel through the rim, then bounce. A 49 percent shooter from three last season, O’Connell made all but one of his four attempts against Kentucky.
Anyway, as to why we’re buying this, it’s not only because Duke appears to be great at shooty hoops. It’s the idea of a dominating Blue Devils dancing around the college basketball landscape as dominant, being coupled with them operating as, you know, expletive Duke.
You either love or hate Duke. Everyone already understands the people who love Duke. You either went there, idolize Coach K, are a frontrunner, buy in on some nefarious narratives, etc. Nevertheless, the best time to hate them is when the program is at an otherworldly level of greatness.
Duke is America’s team.
Fifteen of the 20 ranked teams that played on Tuesday scored at least 80 points or more, nine of those going for 90 or more, with five of them going for 100 or more.
What in the hell? Is the pace revolution coming to college basketball?
Yes… and no.
If there’s a knock on legendary coaches like Jim Boeheim or gifted younger ones such as Tony Bennett, it’s they enjoy micromanaging their teams. To either insert themselves to the point of ruining the flow of an offense, or refuse to run any earnest sets until there’s 15 seconds (or so) left on the shot clock.
However, and this extends to programs outside the top 25 such as Marshall, it’s not just a new wave of coaches embracing small ball and quicker styled tempos, it’s stalwarts in the sport who’ve decided to build a system around their talent instead of shoehorning incredible players into a basketball ideology.
Don’t expect the majority of ranked teams to average over 80 points per game this season — as college kids do remain the least reliable folk on the planet in regards to consistent efficiency — but be less than shocked if the majority of them average a much higher possessions per game number compared to prior seasons.
Sample Size (Selling)
Having long been opposed to hyperbolic reactions after one event, Duke thrashing Kentucky changed something deep inside my soul. Instead of going through my usual routine, thinking about corrupt data and small sample size theater, I wanted to create bold declarations about the Blue Devils in my hot take lab.
When people began to tweet jokes about if Duke could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, something so silly anger would usually fill my bones, I embraced it.
It was fun.
In the grand scheme of just about everything, the size of the sample matters. Data is important. Data this early on, especially with so many teams playing cupcakes, can be corrupt. The reality is, by the time we have enough solid data on a team to evaluate it with sincerity, the season is over. After all, the season (for the majority of teams) is barely over 30 games long.
Screw that. It’s no fun. Hurling “how many” games are the correct amount before reacting to the eyeball test and mathematical information gathered to the wayside, basketball is more fun to consume when being reactive.
Duke or the original Dream Team?
Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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