Kuiper’s 3-Pointer: Duke-Virginia

College coaching consultant Denny Kuiper breaks down Duke’s 69-65 win over Virginia.

Sometimes it is not who you play, but when you play them. Playing at Cameron after Duke has suffered a tough loss is not a good situation for any team. But I thought Virginia showed tremendous resolve and came so very close to pulling out a stunning victory.  The Cavaliers missed several makeable shots inside, but refused to get discouraged and quit.  However, it was not to be, as the Blue Devils found a way to make the plays down the stretch, after losing the lead in the last four minutes of the game.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair a team has to lose a game. Duke got a great bounce on Rasheed Sulaimon’s three-pointer with 19 seconds to go, which proved to be the game winner.  It’s not that Duke did not deserve the victory; it did.  The Blue Devils played very hard and intensely from start to finish. But UVa deserved the big road victory as well.

Let’s go to the three pointers to take a look at this hard-fought game.

Virginia Is For Real

This is Tony Bennett’s best team. The players struggled early in the year, but now they seem to have found their rhythm and have determined who does what on the floor. Joe Harris exerted himself in this game and showed why he is an All-ACC player. Akil Mitchell was strong inside, Justin Anderson is not afraid to make plays and Malcolm Brogdon is starting to show how talented he is as an all-around player.

I also liked how the Cavaliers are a little more assertive on both ends of the court than they have been in the past. On the offensive end they are not afraid to attack on the break or early in the shot clock. That is different from previous years.

UVa is also playing its pack-line defense a little more aggressively than in the past. The Cavaliers only caused 10 turnovers last night, but they also forced Duke several times to go late into the shot clock while struggling to find a good shot. Also Virginia rarely turns the ball over, so in most games the Cavaliers will more shot opportunities than their opponent.

Amile Jefferson And Rasheed Sulaimon

These two guys were the stars of the game for Duke.  Sulaimon had 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three point land.  Of course, he also had the big three-pointer for the win. Jefferson was sensational, scoring 10 points, on 4-of-4 shooting. More importunately, he grabbed 15 rebounds, including the offensive one that led to Sulaimon’s game winner.

It was rather obvious to me that Mike Krzyzewski was going to play a lot of guys last night, getting his team fresh. When is the last time you have seen a Coach K team in a tight game in which the most minutes any player getting was 29? Not in a long time, I’d imagine. At times he was subbing like hockey line changes, one new five-man team at a time. 

I think we may continue to see more of this in the future because in the past several guys the Duke players were not solid on defense, especially on the perimeter. Tonight they were better.  By having players fresh and understanding they will come out of the game if they don’t play defense well, a powerful message is sent.

Jabari Parker’s Recent Struggles

The stats don’t lie; Parker has not played well the past several games.  That being said, I think too much can be made of that situation. What has impressed me about Parker is that his energy and enthusiasm seems to have not been affected.

I think they are three considerations to look at when examing Parker’s game of late. 

One: Let’s not forget the first 13 games of the season Parker was playing at an extremely high level.  No one was going to continue that pace forever.

Two: Four bad games in a row in college, especially in conference play, alarms everyone. But when that happens in the NBA no one seems to notice. Because the college has so many fewer games, more attention is put on an individual or team’s performance in the short-term.

Three:  I think Parker would be well-served to try and score more inside. Last night he took 11 shots, with seven of them being three-pointers. Plus, he only had three rebounds. He is so talented that he does not have to rely on his jump shot. He can and should go get more inside points.

And One:

I just hate the fact there will not be a rematch of these two teams in Charlottesville.  That would be a great game.  Unfortunately, with the ACC expanding the number of teams in the conference there are not many teams that play each other twice.