One of my favorite tweeps, a college hoops and politics junkie whom you can find here, is fond of saying that people are “wrong on the internet.”
Brendan Loy makes it a point to not argue with people who are “wrong on the internet” unless the principle or piece of turf is worth defending.
This morning, after Duke’s thrilling (and very 2012-ish) win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, it’s necessary to not only argue with people who are “wrong on the internet”; it feels as though the whole internet is wrong.
First of all, much of #CollegeBasketballTwitter kept asking for much of the night, “How is this game close?”
Just to offer proof, here’s what came up when I typed “how is this game close” in the search field on Twitter dot com. It is a small sample of what emerged on the TSS timeline during the contest in the Dean Dome.
The college basketball internet (for the most part — some tweeps and reporters were able to see this instead of succumbing to it themselves) often fails to make the distinction between performing well and shooting well. This is the very essence of basketball, at least when compared to football: You can’t just physically overpower your opponent, as is the case when a running play between the tackles leads to an eight-yard gain. In football, sheer physical prowess can and does win. You punch the other guy in the mouth without (enough) resistance. You overwhelm the man — and the linemen — in front of you. Game over.
In basketball, that’s not always — or necessarily — the case.
In hoops, you can certainly demonstrate superiority on the glass as North Carolina did. Brice Johnson feasted on the boards, and the Tar Heels’ best offense was generally found in the ability to chase down a miss and clean up the mess. However, chances are that against reasonably equal talent, you’ll have to make first shots at some point. You’re not going to grab every offensive rebound. You also can’t drive to the rim if someone’s standing in front of it.
In football, you can run over your opponent — it’s how the sport is played. In basketball, you either have to get around your man for a loose ball, or shoot a pull-up jumper or floater. You’ll probably have to make some of those shots; you can’t live on a diet of putback dunks and layups for 40 minutes — not in most cases.
Why was this game close, you ask? Why did Luke Kennard and the rest of a gallant Duke squad again win a nail-biter against Carolina?
Maybe the fact that North Carolina can’t shoot played a small part in the result.
North Carolina hit 1 of 13 threes.
Marcus Paige and Joel Berry, combined, hit 4 of 22 field goal attempts.
Those aren’t mediocre numbers. They’re abysmal. Mediocre perimeter shooting would have enabled the Tar Heels to win rather comfortably.
“How is this game close?” Seriously? The question never needed to be asked, because the answer was always apparent from the start… and never ceased to be.
Paige is the most important player for UNC going forward. He used to be a clutch shotmaker for this team in seasons past, but his broken jumper and a late turnover both fueled Duke’s comeback (as did the outstanding coaching of Mike Krzyzewski, who is the greatest coach in college basketball over the past 40 years, ever since that Wooden guy retired in Los Angeles).
However, as horribly as Paige played, it was Berry — his backcourt running mate — who played even worse on Wednesday. More than that, Berry made the game’s final, fateful and flawed decision.
Berry’s failure led to a mangled possession… and another round of the internet being wrong.
The college basketball internet has a long history of reaming Roy Williams for not using timeouts late in games (or at various points in games). The inclination to rip coaches for not calling timeouts when final possessions fail is an easy one — moreover, it’s not necessarily wrong.
The simple principle one must consider on the matter of endgame timeouts is this: Does the possession offer a legitimate opportunity to score, or is the possession so broken in flow and form that the coach must reset the dial?
Let’s look at that last possession, courtesy of our partners at The Comeback:
The final seconds of Duke's 74-73 victory at UNC. https://t.co/Ffn56aXqD1
— The Comeback (@comeback_sports) February 18, 2016
With 10 seconds left, the possession was in danger of going nowhere, but as soon as Justin Jackson gave the ball to Berry and cleared the floor with eight seconds to go, the Tar Heels had the spacing they wanted. Moreover, you can see Berry beat Derryck Thornton with the dribble. Berry had space in the lane, certainly enough to get by Thornton and create either a five-foot floater or draw Marshall Plumlee to him, thereby setting up a drop-off to Brice Johnson for a layup or dunk.
For whatever reason, Berry eschewed the drive to the basket, even though Thornton was no longer in front of him. Berry, who also hoisted a few ill-chosen fadeaway jumpers down the stretch, simply made bad decisions in good or neutral positions on the court.
Was the possession in position to succeed? Yes. The timeout was simply not necessary. Players have to carry through possessions to the end, and Berry simply failed to do so.
The internet was wrong.
Just to put a capper on the whole evening, this ludicrous statement emerged after Duke had won:
It's unbelievable that Duke is now just 1 game back in the loss column in the ACC standings. What a turnaround.
— David Aldridge (@davidmaldridge) February 18, 2016
It’s “UNBELIEVABLE” that Mike Krzyzewski engineered a profound turnaround?
First of all, anyone else recall the 2015 college hoops season? Secondly, saying a Coach K-authored turnaround is unbelievable is akin to saying, “I can’t believe Donald Trump said something incendiary or provocative.”
“It’s unbelievable that Kanye West lives a colorful life marked by bursts of creativity and public statements which hint of desperation but could point to many different realities.”
“It’s unbelievable that the University of Tennessee faces a lot of legal problems right now.”
“It’s unbelievable that the Golden State Warriors won another game.”
Come on, college basketball internet. You were wrong last night. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
YOU needed to take a timeout and reconsider all the shortsighted things you said.