2 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
Relive Duke’s 2008-2009 season with a series of The Chronicle’s best photos
To win in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, it’s going to be a mix of science and art for Duke
Editor: Ben Cohen Managing Editor: Matthew Iles Photo Editor: Chase Olivieri Associate Editors: Stephen Allan, Joe Drews, Will Flaherty, Laura Keeley, Sabreena Merchant, Archith Ramkumar, Gabe Starosta, Felicia Tan, Madeline Perez, David Ungvary Senior Staff Writers: Tim Britton, Taylor Field, Sam Levy, Sean Moroney, Katie Riera, Meredith Shiner First-Year Writers: Daniel Ahrens, Ryan Claxton, Harrison Comfort, Taylor Doherty, Caroline Fairchild, Kevin Fishner, Alex Keller, Kyle Lambrecht, Andy Moore, Lucas Nevola, Jason Palmatary, Scott Rich, Jeff Scholl Photographers: Larsa Al-Omaishi, Emily Bray, Courtney Douglas, Emily Eshman, Glen Gutterson, Jianghai Ho, Max Masnick, Michael Naclerio, Sam Sheft, Zachary Tracer Special thanks to: Chronicle Editor Chelsea Allison, Managing Editor Eugene Wang, Photo Editor Maya Robinson, Online Photo Editor Lawson Kurtz, Editor For New Media Alex Klein and former Sports Editor Meredith Shiner
One columnist’s opinion on why Duke’s inability to win on the road will doom the Blue Devils
The Women’s ACC Tournament Preview is a sports supplement published annually by The Chronicle. It can be read online at: www.dukechronicle.com
In the second half of the year, sophomore guard Jasmine Thomas has emerged as a star
There are more than three teams in the ACC’s elite, which leads to greater parity in the league
Founded in 2007, The Chronicle’s Sports Blog is the section’s daily presence on the web. It can be read online at: www.dukechroniclesports.com
The Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the year—and why it will carry over to March
Eight games this season helped define the Blue Devils’ fate more than any others
Senior Abby Waner’s shooting percentage is down, but she has learned to lead in other ways
Head coach Joanne P. McCallie has plenty of thoughts about this season, and she shared them Monday
All season, rebounding has been one of Duke’s hallmarks. Will that translate to the postseason?
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ACC TOURNAMENT PREVIEW PREVIEW:: TABLE OF CONTENTS sportsstaff sports staff 8-9
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 | 3
POSTSEASON PREVIEW ACC TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK
In Tournaments, Duke looks for boiling point by Ben Cohen THE CHRONICLE
When water sits at 211 degrees Fahrenheit, it simmers, sitting on the precipice of chaos. But something strange happens when its temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit: It boils. And when water boils, it bubbles furiously and emits small clouds of steam, fogging everything in its path. At 212 degrees, in short, all hell breaks loose. There is a reason, after all, why Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie decided to use one number as the team’s defining motto this year. And if the No. 8 Blue Devils have their way, they will hit 212 degrees sometime this month, when they begin ACC and NCAA Tournament play in an effort to bring home their first ACC Tournament title in five years and the program’s first-ever national championship. “Once water steams, it boils over, and that’s how they power locomotives, apparently,” senior forward Carrem Gay said. “We’re trying to get to the boiling point, to get that extra degree or effort.” The team’s motto in McCallie’s second season, though, evokes just as much art as it does science. For Duke, the idea behind “212” extends past the chemistry lab or images of smoke-belching trains because there are 12 players on the squad. “We want to be 12-for-12,” senior Abby Waner said. “Like, 12-for-12 in everything we do. Everybody completes a sprint, everybody is in the moment.” Having a team phrase is nothing new for the Blue Devils. Two years ago, their guiding mantra—“What is delayed is not denied,” a phrase former head coach Gail Goestenkors picked up from the late N.C. State head coach Kay Yow—became popular fodder for television analysts. This year, the slogan has been confined, for the most part, within the team and the staff. Waner mentioned it after her last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, an 81SEE PREVIEW ON PAGE 13
JIANGHAI HO/CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO
The No. 8 Blue Devils closed the regular season third in the ACC standings. They wrapped an undefeated home season with an overtime victory over North Carolina Sunday.
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4 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
POSTSEASON PREVIEW Q&A WITH THE COACH
McCallie says Duke about to start its ascent Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie sat down with The Chronicle’s Ben Cohen Monday, the day after the Blue Devils closed their ACC slate with an 81-79 overtime win over North Carolina. It seems like there was a look in Jasmine Thomas’ eyes in overtime against North Carolina. Did you see that, and have you seen that type of play from her before? I’ve seen it, but I haven’t seen it all the time. And it was there last night. And I knew it. That’s why we kept calling “down,” and it was sort of stating the obvious, keep doing it, calling her play. It’s just an iso for her, but I tell you what, she was in that mindset, and that mindset’s very important because she’s a very skilled guard. But you’ve got to keep that focus. That’s a key, and she’s really maturing in her ability to do that.... Freshmen are never consistent. Zip, zero, never. Well, sophomores are right next to freshmen, and often not as consistent. So I think she’s kind of crossing over to juniorhood a little early. What are the qualities of the best NCAA Tournament teams, in your opinion? The ability to execute broken plays, both on offense and defense. The ability to command the boards, and the ability to make stops. It’s so funny, shooting percentage doesn’t mean a thing, because it’s all just a few shots going in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to shoot well—it’s always good to shoot well—but the point is, it’s the hustle plays, the maturity, the leadership, the time and score. It’s getting the ball at the right place and right time. So it’s a lot of subtleties, but what surrounds that is the ability to make stops and rebound the basketball. I mean, 32 offensive rebounds was the reason we won that game. And does Duke have those qualities? Oh, absolutely. I think we’ve grown in
all those areas I discussed. I think we’re getting better. When we’re highly motivated and focused, we can beat anybody. But we’ve got to have those two parts. You’ve got to be highly motivated, and you can’t have to have lost to somebody to be motivated. Does that make sense? We were highly motivated against North Carolina. Well, we had lost to them fairly recently. That’s kind of elementary. You want to be highly motivated regardless of outcomes, and your focus comes with that. Has the development of the frontcourt and progress on the boards been the hallmark of this year’s team? I think so. Do you know the last time a Duke women’s team had 32 offensive rebounds? But again, it’s consistency. You can’t have it one night and then have it disappear. You’ve got to have it, because it’s hustle plays, and it creates offense for you. It’s offense we need, because these teams are all pretty good. And after a while, we get to know each other pretty well, and we get to know our sets, and we’re scouting each other so well, at some point, it gets down to who wants it more. And rebounding is a good test of who wants it more.
one game. Was it more significant than just another win? It might have been. It was sort of a story in a game. We were so apathetic, and we were so affected by flying out there and playing this late game. It was really late for us, the start time was 11 p.m. our time. I think it was an incredible example of dealing with adversity, and then just deciding that you’re going to make it go your way. And those kids made incredible plays. Abby’s three was incredible, I think she had the game-tying score, and then Chante, in overtime, went bananas. Bottom line is, yeah, I think it was a highly significant game. What was the locker room like after that game? It was just a moment. It was a moment for Abby to step up and hit that type of game-winning shot. In her career, she had the opportunity to do that. Of course, she made a game-winning shot last night. The locker room was very, very proud. The locker room was recognizing what we could possibly be at that time. It was sort of an eye-opener, like, hey, we can be pretty good.
It’s been said that in the past, some Duke teams have hit their peak in January, but you’ve been clear in molding teams to peak in March. Is this team hitting its peak right now? I think we’re starting our ascent. It’ll be interesting to see how high we can push it. We’re definitely much better now than we’ve ever been at any time this year. True statement. Now it’ll be interesting to see what we can do with it, and how we use it as a motivator.
In your opinion, what have been the highlights of this year’s season? All these games at home. I do think that’s incredible, to go undefeated at home, because I think a lot of [quality] teams came in here. But I think just the ascent right now, this is the highlight to me, heading into March and April and heading into these Tournaments. It’s a lowlight to finish third when you want to finish first, that’s the lowlight, but we have an opportunity to do something about it.
It seems like the overtime win at Southern California Dec. 20, when the team came back from a 17-point deficit in the second half, was more important than just
For more audio excerpts from The Chronicle’s exclusive interview with McCallie, check out The Chronicle’s Sports Blog at www.dukechroniclesports.com.
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THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 | 5
POSTSEASON PREVIEW BATTLE ON THE BOARDS
Rebounding proves to be a strength for Duke by Caroline Fairchild THE CHRONICLE
When Joanne P. McCallie became Duke’s head coach in April 2007, she had many goals. Her biggest, and one of her most challenging, was to take a team that was plagued by low numbers on the boards and transform it into a rebounding force. And after two seasons and countless hours in and out of the gym, McCallie has done just that. The Blue Devils head into the ACC Tournament leading the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounds. After averaging 42.3 rebounds per game last season, Duke has increased that number to 45.5—and three more rebounds per game is no small feat. As a team, the Blue Devils have brought down 50 or more rebounds in eight games over the season while being outrebounded only seven times. For the season, Duke averages eight more rebounds per game than its opponent. The turning point in the Blue Devils’ season was when they were outrebounded by 16 against North Carolina Feb. 9. The performance led McCallie to stress rebounding more in practice and to push her players even more in games. Working with such an aggressive team offensively, McCallie knew her players were capable of more production on the other end of the hardwood. “By making our rebounding an emphasis, everyone has stepped up to the challenge,” junior forward Bridgette Mitchell said. “[Our] willingness to do anything to get the ball and not letting the other team get it is really... what’s been good for us.” For McCallie, national championships
COURTNEY DOUGLAS/CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO
Sophomore Krystal Thomas rises for a rebound in Duke’s home win against Maryland. As a team, the Blue Devils average 45.5 rebounds per game this season. are won in the paint. Any team can shoot the ball and get numbers offensively, but it’s the teams who have the heart as well as the drive to crash the boards day-in and day-out who see success all season long. Looking toward the postseason, McCallie knows continual improvement on the boards is crucial for Duke. “The thing is consistency, you can’t have it one night and then let it disappear,” McCallie said. “[From rebounds], you get hustle plays, and you can create offense out of it.... It’s offense you need because all these teams are pretty good, and after a while, they get to
know each other.... At some point it comes down to who wants it more, and rebounds are a good test of who wants it more.” On the verge of the postseason, the Blue Devils know that rebounding will become even more essential. McCallie sees her team as highly motivated and focused, and as long as Duke can maintain those qualities, she believes it will have what it takes to continue to command the interior. “The ability to execute broken plays, the ability to rebound, the ability to command and dominate the boards, and the ability to make stops,” McCallie said in listing the
qualities needed to win a championship. “It’s always good to shoot well, but the point is... it’s all about the subtleties and rebounding the basketball.” After a year of ups and downs, the Blue Devils consider themselves at their best at the right time. Following a thundering win over North Carolina, Duke goes into the tournament with smiling faces, filled hearts and focused minds. As McCallie said, it’s about who wants it more, and at the end of the day, the Blue Devils hope to prove that they not only want it more, but deserve it more than any other team in the ACC.
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6 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
POSTSEASON PREVIEW SENIOR SPOTLIGHT
Waner seeks to close by cutting down nets by Daniel Ahrens THE CHRONICLE
In her speech on senior night, Abby Waner reminisced about her ambitious goals when she entered Duke as the Gatorade and McDonald’s National Player of the Year four years ago. “When I first came to Duke, and Keturah Jackson and I were on our visit together, we decided we were going to win four national championships in four years,” the senior guard said. One national championship loss and two Sweet 16 exits later, Waner is finding that such a task is not as simple as it sounds. And now, after three postseasons of frustration, the senior guard faces her final opportunity to raise Duke’s first national title banner to the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium. “You don’t want to look back and say that you should have done something differently,” Waner said. She learned that lesson well the final game of her freshman season, when the Blue Devils watched ACC rival Maryland celebrate its overtime victory in the national championship game. Duke let a 13-point lead slip away en route to a 78-75 overtime loss. “The only thing that I will say for now, that I learned from that game, is knowing that I never want to feel that again,” Waner said. “I still haven’t watched the game and I’m not planning on it. I mean, that’s just such a raw emotion, and when something is taken from you, that’s when you learn how much it means to you.”
The senior guard has achieved great statistical success throughout her four years in Durham. She holds a Duke record with 211 career 3-point field goals. She has been named to the All-ACC team each of the past three seasons. She has helped lead the Blue Devils to 112 wins in her career, including a perfect 30-0 regular season as a sophomore. But she has yet to cut down the nets in early April, and has yet to live up to her own lofty expectations. “You learn here that it is not only about results,” Waner said. “That being said, that can also be a cop-out for someone who hasn’t had a result.” Despite a drop in statistical output each of the past two seasons, Waner has grown in immeasurable ways that could finally push her team over the top. “Shooting percentage doesn’t mean a thing,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said about keys to success in the postseason. “The point is it’s the hustle plays, it’s the maturity, the leadership, it’s time and score. It’s a lot of subtleties.” Trailing 78-76 with less than a minute left in overtime against North Carolina Sunday, Waner showed a tremendous understanding of all of the above. Putting the emotions of senior night and her 14 consecutive missed field goal attempts behind her, she calmly set her feet and hit a deep 3-pointer from right in front of the Duke bench. That shot ended a four-game losing streak to the Tar Heels. As the Tournament nears, Waner finally
CHASE OLIVIERI/THE CHRONICLE
Senior guard Abby Waner has a chance to live up to her lofty expectations and give Duke its first national title. has a different kind of shot—a shot to end a long history of Blue Devil futility, which includes 34 years without a national title. “The way that I function is that I set standards for myself, and the only way you
can really do that most of the time is by quantifiable things, and I don’t have a national championship yet,” Waner said. “To feel some form of worth in my own eyes, I would need a national championship.”
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THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 | 7
POSTSEASON PREVIEW SOPHOMORE SENSATION
Thomas emerges as scoring threat late in season by Taylor Doherty THE CHRONICLE
Head coach Joanne P. McCallie has seen the competitive fire in Jasmine Thomas’ eyes before. But by torching her team’s biggest rival down the stretch of an overtime nailbiter, Thomas proved her mettle to everyone else. With 19 points in an 81-79 win against the Tar Heels Sunday in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s sophomore point guard made it clear that she has the ability to put the team on her shoulders, scoring eight of Duke’s 14 overtime points. That’s when McCallie saw it—that fiery look of confidence. “It was there [Sunday], and I knew it,” McCallie said. “And that’s why we kept [calling out for isolations]. It was sort of like stating the obvious to keep doing that and to keep calling that play. I tell you what, she was in that mind-set, and that mind-set is very important because she is a very skilled guard.” Against the Tar Heels, there were certain times when, no matter what the defense threw at her, Thomas would get to the basket—and during those moments, it seemed that every shot that found its way out of her hands hit the bottom of the net. “I just wanted to be aggressive and keep attacking,” Thomas said. “Sometimes in games I tend to settle for outside shots and not get to the paint enough....[My teammates] need me to be aggressive and get to the paint, and so that’s what I did.” But when Thomas speaks about what she’d like to improve, the discussion quickly turns to dependability. “There are things expected of me,” Thomas said. “To take care of the ball, make better
decisions, score when I need to and kick it out when I need to. I mean, just stepping into that leadership role.... Just being being vocal. I mean when you’re the point guard, you know a lot about what’s going on on the floor. And [it’s about] asserting that you know.” As a freshman during last year’s campaign, Thomas’s natural athletic gifts allowed her to make an instant impact. The guard not only started in 20 of Duke’s 35 games, but also averaged 7.9 points to go along with 2.3 assists. And Thomas showed an early knack to come up big when the stakes were highest, notching six assists in her first matchup against rival North Carolina. As her first season neared its end, Thomas started each of the year’s final six games, averaging 10.2 points per game over that stretch. But if freshman year was about flashes of brilliance, the theme of Thomas’ sophomore year has been about stringing together quality performances game after game. “She fights for consistency,” McCallie said. “She’s had some not so good games, and she has had some excellent games. She’s trying to get to that place where she can be really consistent every game.” Big games against Stanford, Tennessee, Maryland and most recently North Carolina have helped the Thomas grow tremendously as a player. But as much as success fuels Thomas, sometimes her team’s lowest points have driven Thomas to become a more dominant point guard. At Maryland Feb. 22, the Blue Devils were run off the floor in a 77-59 rout, and Thomas had perhaps her poorest shooting game of the year, finishing 1-of-15 from the
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LAWSON KURTZ/CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO
In Duke’s overtime win over North Carolina Sunday, Jasmine Thomas scored 10 of Duke’s last 16 points. field and 0-for-7 on 3-point attempts. But knowing Thomas’ approach to the game, it seems like no coincidence that in the next two games she scored 16 points and 19 points against Wake Forest and North Carolina, respectively. “It’s not just all the positives that fortify you,” McCallie said. “It’s the negative. I mean, we had a horrible game at Maryland,
we had a not-so-good game at Florida State. [Thomas] tends to remember those, too.” This growth comes at a great time in the year for Duke as it closes in on the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. And although recollections of tough losses may motivate her, Thomas’ emergence may allow her to create March memories she’ll be much happier to remember.
8 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
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ST. LOUIS ARCH CUT-OUT PHOTO BY PHOTO BY SHAWN PEREZ, AVAILABLE UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION THROUGH FLICKR.
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THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 | 9
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10 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
POSTSEASON PREVIEW THE CASE FOR DUKE
Blue Devils are as good as anyone in the country
he times, they are a-changin’. Gone are the days when only a handful of teams were relevant in women’s basketball. To think, Tennessee, the two-time reigning national champion, is currently ranked No. 19, the lowest it has ever finished the regular season. And look at the ACC. Florida State is the second seed in the conference ahead of traditional powers— like UNC and Duke— that up until this year Laura basically had birthrights that said they finished no lower than third in the conference. Blue Devils head coach Joanne P. McCallie said last week that aside from one team—No. 1 Connecticut, the only undefeated squad in the country—the next 15 are all about even. And in the what-have-you-done-for-melately basketball world suddenly full of parity, the Blue Devils have excelled recently. All signs point up for Duke. The Blue Devils are coming off of their biggest win of the season, an emotional come-from-behind overtime thriller against their biggest rival. Not only did they win, but they did it despite off nights from their two biggest stars, first team All-ACC center Chante Black and honorable mention All-ACC senior Abby Waner. Black failed to register at least 10 points for the first time this season and only played 18 minutes–none after the 4:13 mark in regulation–due to foul trouble. And while Waner did come up with the game-changing shot, she still only scored
JINAGHAI HO/CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO
The No. 8 Blue Devils are playing some of their best basketball of the season, head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. six of Duke’s 81 points. The rest of the Blue Devils stepped up their level of play, with unheralded senior Carrem Gay posting her fourth career double-double and Jasmine Thomas, Karima Christmas and Bridgette Mitchell posting double-digit point totals.
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This balanced scoring attacked has evolved over the course of the season. Eight different players have led the team in scoring this season, and 10 players have scored in double figures at least once. With this kind of offense, opponents will have to do more than just double-team
Black down low to stop the offensive fireworks. Duke’s defense is clicking, as well. The Blue Devils are holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting, the best in the ACC and 11th-best nationally. After struggling to pull down rebounds earlier this season–culminating with the Tar Heels outrebounding them by 16 back in early February–Duke crashed the boards with a vengeance last Sunday, collecting 54 to North Carolina’s 42, including 32 offensive rebounds. As Gay pointed out after the win, rebounds win championships, and rebounds and other hustle plays are coming frequently for Duke. The Blue Devils’ average of 14.0 steals per game tied for tops in the NCAA, and their 23.9 forced turnovers this season are the highest-ever in school history. Add this all together, and you have yourself a defense looking sweeter than Al Brown’s sweater collection. So the question is: Why not Duke for the Final Four? The Blue Devils have been playing as well as anybody recently, and the momentum is swinging in their favor. There is no reason why they can’t beat anyone they face along the way, and Duke knows better than anyone that a perfect regular season does not guarantee postseason success. When Waner came to Cameron on her official visit, she decided she wanted to leave with four banners hanging in the rafters. While that might have been slightly ambitious, she can still leave as a national champion, all thanks to a whole new world of women’s college basketball.
The Chronicle Congratulates
Duke Women’s Basketball
Good Luck in the ACC Tournament!!
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POSTSEASON PREVIEW THE CASE AGAINST DUKE
Struggles away from home could doom Duke
et me start by saying that Duke looked about as good as it has all year Sunday at home against North Carolina. The Blue Devils defeated their biggest rival by playing with poise, making stops and getting into the paint at will— the marks of any championship-caliber team. That being said, I’m not convinced that this team is championshipcaliber, at least not yet. Because in spite of how well Duke played, it doesn’t change the fact Sabreena that the Blue Devils were playing at home, in their gym, in front of some of the rowdiest fans in the country. And the NCAA Tournament isn’t played in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which could spell doom for Duke, which has yet to prove that it can win a big game away from home. Sure, the Blue Devils battled back from a 17-point deficit at Southern California, but they shouldn’t have been down by that much against a team that isn’t even Tournament-bound. And Duke did pull out a victory in a hostile environment against Tennessee. But while it has been surprising to see the Lady Volunteers’ fall from grace, the team that the Blue Devils beat wasn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination. In contrast, in the team’s biggest chances to make statement wins, it came up short on the road each time. Duke coughed up a six-point lead in the final minute of regulation to let Florida State steal a victory in overtime, and the Blue Devils wasted a double-digit advantage against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Even the road wins haven’t been that pretty. Remember Duke’s three-point nail-biting win over Western Kentucky? Or how about the over-
time victory over North Carolina State by the same margin? Often, the problem for the Blue Devils is that they build early leads but cannot follow through in the second half once the crowd gets into it. The offense looks good early when the team is pounding the ball inside to Chante Black, but when the opposing defense adjusts, the paint gets closed off and it’s up to Duke’s other playmakers to score. And the team has yet to find a second reliable scoring option. Against North Carolina, the Blue Devils turned to Jasmine Thomas, who was able to exploit a size advantage on Cetera DeGraffenreid, who was also saddled with foul trouble all game. But Thomas, and consequently Duke, has yet to piece together two consecutive dominating performances. For a while, Karima Christmas looked like she might emerge as the Blue Devils’ spark plug after breakout performances against Stanford and Miami. But she, too, has been plagued by inconsistency. Although head coach Joanne P. McCallie lauds the ability of each individual on the team to step up, Duke needs to have a player it can turn to other than Black in order to develop a measure of consistency. On the road, when the referees aren’t always favorable and Black finds herself in foul trouble, the Blue Devils need someone else who can take the big shots when the defense is denying the ball into the post. Until then, Duke will only go as far as Black can take it. Until then, Duke is only a streaky team that sometimes lacks the motivation and fire necessary to make plays in close games. Until then, Duke is not the kind of team I’d pick to win it all in March.
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Duke has struggled on the road this season. All of its four losses have come away from Durham.
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POSTSEASON PREVIEW THE ACC FIELD
Greater parity defines resurgent conference by Sabreena Merchant THE CHRONICLE
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Maryland and North Carolina, two teams that typically join Duke at the top of the conference standings, finished first and fourth, respectively, in one of the most competitive seasons in ACC history.
A year ago, the ACC’s big three of Duke, Maryland and North Carolina breezed by the rest of the league. The three teams only lost to each another. Fast forward a year, and the tide is turning in the ACC. Five teams from the conference have been ranked in the top 25 since the fifth week of the season, and upsets have been commonplace. And as the ACC Tournament begins, for once, more than three have a viable shot at the crown. “It’s a remarkable thing to see all the schools, everybody, just everybody, be better,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Any game we take on this year, it just seems like everybody is better in certain ways. I think the conference is remarkable that way. It is very different from last year. There was such a break last year. There were so many times when the games were not as challenging. Not at all the case this year. The parity has been fantastic.” Virginia, which produced two All-ACC first-teamers in Monica Wright and Lyndra Littles, started the season off on a high note for the league by upsetting defending national champion Tennessee 83-82 in its second game. Since then, members of the ACC have beaten seven ranked teams out of conference, including the current No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country, Stanford and Oklahoma. And that high level of competition has
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Florida State, which beat Duke in January, surprised the league by finishing second in the ACC this year.
“It just seems like everybody is better in certain ways. The conference is remarkable that way.” — Joanne P. McCallie carried over into league play. The usual suspects have maintained their consistency. Maryland won the conference crown as seniors Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman—both of whom garnered All-ACC first team honors—have the Terrapins on track to potentially capture their second national championship in four years. Four-time defending conference champion North Carolina faltered after graduating its starting frontcourt of Erlana Larkins and LaToya Pringle, but the team still features the league’s deadliest offense at 83.5 points per game. Chief among the new contenders for the tournament title is Florida State, which made its claim as the newest ACC powerhouse by knocking off the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils during the regular season. Led by All-ACC guard Mara Freshour, the Seminoles earned a share of the conference title with Maryland a year after finishing sixth in the 12-team league. “They are interesting,” McCallie said of the Seminoles. “To be quite frank with you, they remind me of my Final Four team [Michigan State in 2005]…. I think they are a very extraordinary team.” Georgia Tech and Boston College have also become forces to be reckoned with. The Yellow Jackets snapped North Carolina’s 23-game win streak against ACC opponents Jan. 22, and the Eagles upset thenNo. 24 Texas Christian, a team that had previously defeated Maryland. Senior guard Abby Waner attributed the growing number of contenders to a trend throughout women’s basketball of recruits choosing schools with less name recognition. “It’s just like a sample of women’s basketball as a whole, that there’s just a lot more parity,” Waner said. “It’s becoming more enticing to women’s players to go to a program that hasn’t yet been established…. Especially with what Florida State did this year, I think you’re going to see even more parity in the ACC next year.”
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he use of statistics gives insight into the types of problems many teams struggle with. In analyzing the Blue Devils’ four losses, the three categories that emerge as deciding factors in the game’s outcomes are turnovers, rebounds and field goal percentage. In each of the four losses, at least two of these statistical categories were drastically below the team’s season average. Each of these categories represents a different part fn the game, whether it may be defensive or offensive struggles, or simply sloppy play. Duke must improve in these areas to make deep runs in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. —by Kevin Fishner
FIELD GOAL %
The Blue Devils averaged 19.9 turnovers per game, with an average margin of +4 this season. In its four losses, however, Duke averaged 21.5 turnovers and averaged a margin of +1. With the exception of the loss at North Carolina, the Blue Devils had a negative turnover margin in all of their defeats. A negative turnover margin reflects lackadaisical play, as shown by the two-turnover increase per game. By making clean passes and securing the ball, the Blue Devils will be able to keep their turnovers down, thus improving their defense and keeping games close.
Rebounding has been one of the Blue Devils’ major strengths, but when they struggle to dominate the boards, they tend to lose. As a team, Duke averaged a +8.4 rebounding margin this season. But Florida State, North Carolina and Maryland all outrebounded Duke in their wins, turning a +8.4 rebounding margin into a -9.3 average. A difference of almost 18 rebounds can turn the tides of any contest, and so while the Blue Devils do not necessarily have to own the boards, they must at least match their opponents’ output to remain competitive against top Tournament foes.
When its field goal percentage is down, Duke, like most teams, isn’t immune from losing. Against Hartford, North Carolina and Maryland, Duke shot less than its season average of 40.5 percent, averaging a 29.9 percent clip across those three games. Often, this statistic relates to poor shot selection, and to turn field goal percentage into an advantage, the Blue Devils must be patient and take open shots, rather than forcing lower-percentage attempts. If Duke’s shooters are patient, their field goal percentage is likely to rise.
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If senior Carrem Gay and the No. 8 Blue Devils have their way, Duke will cut down the nets in St. Louis for the first time in history.
PREVIEW from page 3 79 overtime win over North Carolina Sunday, and the players have T-shirts with “212” emblazoned on them. The Blue Devils even had the number stitched onto their custom-made Nike shoes for the ACC Tournament. In previous seasons, Duke hit its peak too early. When Waner and Gay were sophomores—and used a loss in the previous year’s national championship, encapsulated in Yow’s inspirational quote, as fuel—the Blue Devils capped an undefeated regular season before losing twice in their last four games. That team played its best basketball in January. And that was the type of mentality McCallie wanted to erase when she arrived in Durham two years ago this April. Her teams would peak in March, she said–the Blue Devils would hit 212 degrees Fahrenheit when it mattered most. It’s no surprise, then, that McCallie’s team is becoming more vocal about its motto and its implications: that Duke wants to hit its boiling point now, and then continue to heat up the rest of the season. “I think we’re ready,” Gay said. “We’ve seen what we’re capable of. We’ve seen us at our worst, and we’ve seen us at our best. This is a time that we can really pull it together.”
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POSTSEASON PREVIEW SEASON RECAP
THE BLUE DEVILS’ YEAR IN PHOTOS
DUKE 77, OKLA. ST. 68 HART. 53, DUKE 51 DUKE 56, STAN. 52 Nov. 14 Nov. 21 Dec. 16 Durham Chicago, Ill. Durham
DUKE 68, MD. 65 Jan. 12 Durham
The Blue Devils fight back from a nine-point halftime deficit for the win behind center Chante Black’s 28 points.
Duke drops one against lowly Hartford in the the DePaul Invitational in the team’s first game away from Durham.
Late-game rebounding gives the Blue Devils their best win of the season against the No. 2 Cardinal in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke frustrates Terrapin Kristi Tolliver, and clutch play by guards Jasmine Thomas and Abby Waner seals the ACC win.
FSU 82, DUKE 75 (OT) Jan. 29 Tallahassee, Fla.
UNC 75, DUKE 60 Feb. 9 Chapel Hill
DUKE 62, TENN. 54 DUKE 81, UNC 79 (OT) Feb. 16 March 1 Knoxville, Tenn. Durham
Then-No. 3 Duke blows a six-point lead in the final minute of regulation, and the Seminoles earn the win in the extra period.
Rashanda McCants’ 22 points lead the Tar Heels past the Blue Devils in a disappointing conference defeat.
Duke takes down the Abby Waner, Chante Black Lady Volunteers, one of and Carrem Gay make women’s basketball’s most their last game in Cameron storied programs, for an Indoor a memorable one important road victory. with a win against UNC.
For up-to-date information about Duke in the ACC Tournament over Spring Break, follow
The Chronicle’s Sports Blog dukechroniclesports.com
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 | 15
Friday No. 4 North Carolina
No. 5 Georgia Tech
2009 ACC Tournament Bracket
No. 12 Clemson No. 1 Maryland No. 8 N.C. State
3 p.m. No. 9 Wake Forest
2009 ACC Tournament Champion
No. 2 Florida State No. 7 Boston College
6 p.m. 3:30 p.m.
No. 10 Miami
No. 3 Duke No. 6 Virginia 8 p.m. No. 11 Virginia Tech
16 | THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
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