This game felt bad as a fan. Scoring 49 points felt bad as a fan. Well I’m here to, hopefully, give a little perspective on what went wrong, how Duke is a uniquely bad matchup for us, how we might combat similar personnel in other teams, and to digest what is and isn’t something we’ll need to worry about as we close the season.
My file got corrupted so, apologies, these videos will be in the old format and I’m really going to just talk mostly free form throughout in this one, discussing the overall point of why Duke is unique but also what we’ll need to do in order to see better performances against the similar teams we do encounter down the road (should be be so lucky).
Duke, quite frankly, is huge, long and athletic across the board in a way that we aren’t likely to face again this season. Alabama in the Sweet 16 would be the closest near proximity, but even they aren’t as universally long. Duke starts the 7’1″ Dereck Lively II, 7’0″ Kyle Filipowski, 6’8″ Mark Mitchell, 6’5″ Tyrese Proctor, who often plays point for them, and 6’2″ Jeremy Roach, more recently converted into a scoring role. If that isn’t enough, they bring just a slew of size and athleticism off of the bench as well. At 6’7″ Dariq Whitehead is often running the 2 or 3 for them, and same for the 6’6″ Jacob Grandison. Probably their lease impressive player athletically is 6’10” Ryan Young who gives Lively and Filipowski breathers. There’s length everywhere, and it’s oppressive both in the lane, and even on the perimeter reaching in to get hands on balls and blocking passing lanes.
THIS was the game in which we most felt the BVP loss. The ability to pull one of their two 7 footers out of the lane was huge in the first game and BVP did a really good job defending Filipowski with active hands. Our best and most effective lineup in that game was pairing him with Ryan Dunn, allowing him to defend Filipowski and Dunn to help off of Lively who isn’t a volume scorer, while creating space in the middle of the floor on offense and forcing their big men to work more in space. That wasn’t an option this game and isn’t, really, an option moving forward, so even though we still did an admirable job defensively (even better than in the first game on the whole), points were a terror to find. When I’ve talked previously about how BVP’s injury hurts our ceiling based on how he could be optimally implemented, this is the most extreme but also the most perfect example. When not paired with Gardner and when healthy, he allowed us to attack these kinds of teams on a different axis. Spread them out, get them away from the rim, make them cover space. The first contest against Duke was almost certainly his best and most complete game as a Wahoo. This will be something we’ll need to find a best approach for if we’re to have success in the tournament as it won’t come up often, certainly initially, but it will almost certainly come up the farther we get in the bracket.
Jayden Gardner was our best player against both UNC and against Clemson, but this is a matchup where he’s almost entirely negated on the offensive side of the ball. I’m going to jump right into this clip below in the second half (will back up later) because it’s from the basket camera and gives a different perspective on the size and spacing of the players. If I had just one clip to illustrate the challenge of our squad, with many of its primary scorers in Clark, Franklin, and Gardner undersized at the positions they’re playing, facing Duke, this would be it. We’re running sides with Dunn and Gardner at the 4/5, Clark and Beekman at the 1/2 and IMK at the 3. Beekman catches the ball on the wing after running off of a screen from Dunn. He drives baseline and BOTH 7 footers, Filipowski and Lively sink off of Dunn and Gardner who are both closer to the free throw line. Proctor, who had been guarding Beekman, was left in the dust and is entirely behind this play attempting to cover. Filipowski and Lively are effectively guarding three of our players between them. Given his driving line of sight and Proctor’s recovery angle and Filipowski’s angle, Dunn isn’t the clean option but Gardner sets up just outside of the free throw line hunting a shot he’s very good at and has basically made at will all tournament. Beekman actually finds him incredibly cleanly, quickly jumping and somehow throwing a pass OVER Lively that slightly repositions Gardner but still allows for a rhythm jumper. At the time of the pass, Lively’s back is completely turned to Gardner and he’s standing entirely under the hoop with both feet in the restricted area. He’s basically just ignored Gardner entirely to this point. And then he turns, takes two quick steps to cover the entire lane, and soars like a condor at Gardner’s shot. You can actually see Jayden flinch a little on the shot, fade slightly to his left like he’s trying to steer the shot away from Lively. Despite this being normally a quality look within our offense that created an open shot that Gardner hits with regularity, it misses abnormally WAY off to the left because of how intrusive and distracting this contest from Lively is.
So, yes, perhaps he could have made that shot and it was technically an open look, but that view should give quality perspective at how Beekman really had nothing to do but make that pass despite getting a great advantage off of his drive, and how a typically wide-open shot becomes a difficult, contested, jumper. This was the theme all game, and we’ll see in several clips below how shots that would normally have been open were not or were much harder, and how comparatively unsuccessful taking the ball into the lane was. But, giving up at least 6 inches to either of their bigs, Gardner’s offensive game was especially impacted. He didn’t have the ability to post either, could only score inside in wide-open scenarios, his midrange game was clearly bothered – he took many of those shots fading away from the hoop where he normally wouldn’t, and many of those scrappy second chance opportunities that he created earlier in the tournament just were not an option for him in this one. By the end of the game, he really wasn’t looking for his own offense at all and was often just being used either as a screener or was positioned outside of the three-point line in an attempt to create more space, which is basically the role that any of our other bigs play, but with more length on defense and to hopefully be able to finish around the rim.
This length obviously didn’t just impact Gardner, it impacted everyone, but I bring he (and soon to be Clark) up specifically to illustrate a couple of concepts. Here is our first possession of the game, though. This possession, below, ends in a desperation runner from just inside the three-point line at the end of the shot clock from Clark that missed badly. But it was a result of running a full offensive set that theoretically should have produced several opportunities but didn’t because Duke’s length and help deterred the shots. Beekman got a good drive baseline but Lively just hovered around him. Gardner ended up doing the same with both Lively hovering around him and Proctor being relevant behind him. Both had the ball close but just thought better of shooting and also couldn’t find/see any passes to Caffaro.
Here’s a different look, below, a little later in the game where we now have Gardner and Dunn playing together in the frontcourt, Beekman, McKneely, and Taine Murray on the floor. This is another great view where we run every single guard on the floor off of a screen by Ryan Dunn and neither Murray nor Beekman have anywhere viable to go in the lane after catching the ball. McKneely catches a pass on the three-point line that probably should have been effective enough to get him a shot, but Whitehead’s length deters that notion. With time running low, McKneely attempts to take Whitehead off of the dribble, gets into the lane, and jumps but realizes he has nowhere to go with the ball, so he turns and finds Gardner on the perimeter who is forced to shoot only his 3rd three-point attempt of the season, which is not his shot, and misses. When watching this, I encourage you to consider where we could have viably taken a shot. IMK could have pulled the trigger immediately upon catch after running off of the Dunn screen, which would have faced a very challenging contest from the 6’7″ Whitehead, he could have tried a wild runner in the lane that likely would have been blocked or, it was the one we got, a three-point attempt from a non-three-point shooter.
Here’s a great shot by Franklin later in the game, below, but I want to highlight how challenging it was to get this look. First, Kihei runs off of a curl screen and Gardner flares to the baseline where he likes to shoot that midrange. Clark finds him on point and there’s space, but Filipowski is the closest defender and Gardner doesn’t fancy taking a jumper over him. Instead he resets up top to Clark, who gives the ball to Beekman coming off of a curl around a Shedrick screen. Beekman gets space and Shedrick rolls toward the hoop (we saw an alley oop on a similar play to this against UNC and a pass/authoritative dunk on a play like this against Clemson). Both Proctor and Lively’s length bother this attempt, with Proctor getting wide to deny a bounce pass and Lively staying off/close enough to Shedrick to deter any other passing opportunities. They reset to Clark AGAIN, and literally go back to the exact same thing, with Shedrick screening for Beekman to get him into the paint and rolling toward the hoop. This time they carry more momentum into it and Beekman attempts the lob, but Lively is long and athletic enough that he can both stop Beekman’s progress AND get back to deflect the lob attempt, keeping Shedrick from getting his hands on it. The ball deflects back to Beekman and, with Lively slightly off balance from the deflection, he drives back toward him, drawing both he and Proctor, and then swings a pass to the opposite wing to Franklin who is wide-open…. Only, the 6’8″ Mitchell is able to cover so much ground flying out to the shot, despite having been down by the block, that Franklin STILL can’t shoot, has to pump fake, step to the side as Mitchell flies by, and Mitchell STILL somewhat gets back into the play to distract the shot, which Franklin is still able to knock down. Phew!
That’s a lot of different things we had to try that normally would work, and it took a somewhat broken play/recovery and Franklin making a high-quality individual play just to get one close to clean look from three!
Here’s one more quick look for now, this time Gardner attempts to slip a screen toward the hoop and Franklin attempts to find him. You may remember if you read my Clemson review how effective these two were with these kinds of plays and working together to find new attack angles to exploit the defense. This time Gardner sets the flare screen for Franklin which doesn’t create an opening so he turns to set a pin down the other way and instead slips wide-open to the basket. The cut worked and freed him up. But Franklin simply isn’t able to get the pass there because Whitehead’s quick and active hands deflect the pass and a great opportunity for us turns into a fast break the other way. Bonus highlight of Shedrick blocking Filipowski because it’s a nice play, but it’s relevant to a talking point later.
“Just make a better pass” you may be saying. But this was not, at all, uncommon, and illustrates just how hard even passing lanes were. We lead the nation in assist to turnover ratio exactly because we’re able to take and convert the looks that we created but were not taking in the clips above.
Duke was so effective at taking up space and getting their hands on passes. Beekman had a stretch of recent games with 30 assists to 1 turnover. He had 4 assists and 4 turnovers in this one. Clark had 1(!) assist and three turnovers in this one. Franklin had two assists and 3 turnovers. Regularly, they were getting into the lane and just not having anywhere to go with the ball. Clark was often getting blocked around the rim, we’ll see one later, Franklin and Beekman were both missing highly contested shots they were having a much easier time converting earlier in the tournament, all three even threw some uncharacteristically careless passes that resulted in turnovers simply because we under-estimated Duke’s ability to get their hands on the ball.
Clark, especially, had a very tough time. The 1 assist was a season-low for him and he want a combined 1-9 from the field. You would expect him to have trouble finishing inside without the same spacing and with their size, but he was also 0-4 from three despite some open looks coming from flare screens or in transition. Sometimes when it’s so hard to find space, you can start to tense even with your open looks. As we know and have established, Clark has been a key catalyst for us offensively throughout the entirety of the season. Any tradeoff we’ve had have tended to be more than compensated by his play making and improved scoring. But, it’s safe to say that a lot of what had been working this season offensively was not working on Saturday.
We played really solid defense, collectively, in this one. Jeremy Roach had 23 points on 7-12 shooting, Kyle Filipowski had 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-17 shooting… that’s 43 combined points of their 59 total, with only Roach scoring at a very efficient clip in bulk. Clark, unfortunately, had some struggles in this one as well. I mentioned after the UNC game that he has issues with players like Roach and Davis who are quick and secure with the ball but who are also comfortable elevating over him to finish. In the first Duke game, our defense dramatically improved when we put Clark on Proctor and Beekman on Roach. But, we started out the game as we did initially in that one, with Clark on Roach, and this was the first possession of the game:
The Duke offense was not making hay until they isolated Roach on the wing with Clark and he just took him off the dribble and elevated over him with the runner in the lane. Far too little resistance there, compounded by the fact that Gardner and Caffaro had to work so hard to keep their men off of the offensive glass and helping off wasn’t a big option.
The dribble penetration and the finishing was a problem, but it was also an issue on the help side and struggling to offer a compelling contest when recovering to the shooter after helping here, below, where he steps in to deter Lively’s potential drive and has to try to get out to contest Roache’s shot from the wing:
Ane here, below, where he had to try to get out to Proctor after trying to help on Young in the lane in response to the double team on Filipowski:
This was actually Proctor’s only field goal of the game as Beekman primarily defended him. But, despite this, on the whole we were far more effectively defensively with Clark in the game when he was covering Proctor and someone else was on Roach, as I’ll show later, so it was odd that we again closed the game with him covering Roach one-on-one.
Roach taking Clark off of the dribble, getting into the lane, and finishing became Duke’s go-to strategy to close the game, drawing fouls, hitting shots and, on top of the turnaround jump shot he stuck toward the end, there was this drive and finish below:
Duke consistently looked for this matchup and it was their most effective regular source of offense.
The other was Kyle Filipowski, who was far less efficient but was still a reliable place for them to turn, and often a mismatch.
Gardner played solid defense on him, in general. There were a couple of times Filipowski scored on him, like here when he left him alone outside to double the post near-side:
This double was on Young, who had Shedrick on him in good position, and didn’t come from the blind side, and didn’t obscure the passing lane to his man so, not a good decision.
There were a couple of times he got the ball in space and looked to take Gardner off of the dribble, like here:
But, despite the size disadvantage, Duke didn’t really target him intentionally most of the time and Filipowski still had some success in other areas, getting an offensive board over Shedrick once, and using his size and footwork on Dunn a couple of times to either score or draw the foul, like here, with Caffaro paired on Young at the time:
There were also good chunks of time where Gardner’s mobility gave Filipowski trouble, when his strength forced a miss, or when he was on Lively and Lively still wasn’t a considerable factor in their offense. That being said, it was still, generally, a little easier sledding for Filipowski when he didn’t have one of the centers or Dunn defending him as he was more comfortable getting his shot off.
Duke just played through their size advantage, generally, pretty well. Here’s a look, below, at Mitchell, 4 inches and 40lbs heavier than Isaac McKneely, posting him up on the block, forcing a double team from Shedrick, and then hitting Lively down the lane before the help could come from Beekman:
Note, both Filipowski and Lively are on the floor but Duke opts to post through Mitchell, which forces the defense to react in different ways and forces a third player to have to be mindful of the double on.
But, all of that said, defense wasn’t the collective issue and there were some very effective stretches in this one as well. Let’s take a look at some so that we can appreciate when we were effective, how it looked very good.
Here’s a very good possession, below, which resulted in a shotty violache. Clark is on Proctor, Beekman is on Roach (IMK gets switched onto him some), with IMK, Gardner, and Shedrick on the floor. First, Shedrick hedges with Clark on Proctor, Gardner does well to tag Young and recover to Filipowski while Shedrick returns to Young. IMK, somewhat unnecessarily, gets switched onto Roach with Beekman popping back out to Grandison, but Roach seems reluctant to attempt to drive on him. Possibly because Shedrick is directly behind and with just Young to occupy him, or possibly because IMK is a slightly bigger player. Either way, he picks up his dribble and passes back out. With the clock winding down, Filipowski gets the ball at the three-point line and attempts to create enough space to get a clean shot over Gardner, but Gardner does a great job of getting into his body/bubble without making contact and making the shot uncomfortable without fouling. Filipowski airballs and the shot clock expires.
Here’s another one, below, where Duke is running with only Filipowski and neither Lively or Young. Clark is on Proctor, Reece is on Roach, and deters him from using a pick and roll with Grandison, who Gardner is covering. The ball goes back to Filipowski and then, after Proctor continues through the lane on a curl screen, Whitehead, who Franklin is covering, plays a two-man game with Filipowski. Shedrick hedges the screen and, as Filipowski attempts to slip toward the baseline, Franklin keeps active hands and deflects the pass for the steal. Notice how, with Clark on Proctor, perhaps he’s not as confident with his handle, but he’s not a main part of this offense where, with Clark on Roach, that becomes the targeted matchup.
This one, below, is just a really great effort play, this time Duke has Lively on the floor, who we match with Caffaro, and Mitchell is playing the four, who we match with Gardner. Clark is again on Proctor and Beekman is on Roach, with Franklin on Grandison. Caffaro hedges on a ball screen with Roach and follows him to the wing as Beekman recovers to Roach, and then recovers back to Lively. Roach picks up his dribble and all of our guys just plaster to their men, denying ball passes across the board to eventually force a five second call (hey, some refs can count to five against Duke!).
And this is the last of these I wanted to show but it’s a cool wrinkle because Clark is out of the game and rather than having Beekman on Roach and Franklin on Proctor, as I’d have expected, it’s the other way around and Franklin is covering Roach. Duke senses this might be a mismatch, so they spread the floor and send a screen from Lively. Franklin just gets over it, stays on Roach’s hip, and actually blocks his shot and recovers it himself. Contrast with some of the clips earlier of Roach driving.
So What To Do, and What WAS Working?
Not much, offensively, and that’s kind of one of the conclusions that I think we needed to draw in this situation and will need to draw if we run into a similar situation, moving forward. When most of our most skilled offensive players are significantly less effective than normal, where do we turn our focus. I’d argue, that you have to look at what is bringing you incremental advantage on both ends.
Beekman, obviously, is still our best two-way player, and you don’t need to change that, even if he’s impacted and not at full strength, not only did he shut Proctor out from the floor and find success when guarding Roach, he was our only perimeter player who found any relative success at all going into the teeth of their set defense and still having the ability to create/finish, like here:
But also this, out best shooters converting from the outside was also a source of potential advantage to get points without having to go into the lane. The clip of Armaan earlier, we saw how hard it was to come by, but especially from McKneely who was still shooting well when he had even just the smallest amount of room. Here’s the quick strike he was able to land off of a pin down screen from Gardner:
And here’s another look from earlier in the game that came off of a bit of a broken down play where Franklin lost his dribble in the lane, causing Duke to collapse momentarily, and allowing Dunn to set a flare screen for IMK, who Franklin found:
The problem was, that for MOST of the game, whenever either were in, it was alongside Beekman and Clark, which meant that they had someone like Mitchell or Whitehead following them and contesting their opportunities. This is a big reason Franklin (who still hit two threes) had such a lot shooting % and so few opportunities from outside, and is also a big reason IMK didn’t get as many open looks from out there. I mentioned that second McKneely three as being a busted play, and it kind of was, but what really happened is that Proctor is on Clark, but BOTH Franklin and IMK are in the game, leaving Roach to take Franklin and Grandison to take McKneely. When Franklin curls around the Caffaro screen, he actually has an advantage on the smaller Roach. Grandison reaches in to help, which disrupts the dribble but, in doing so, take himself out of position to get back to McKneely and allowing for the opening.
They played together some, but playing Franklin and IMK TOGETHER for MANY more minutes would have forced Duke into some more difficult choices, especially if paired with Beekman. Either they put Proctor (or Roach) on one of the shooters, making their looks much cleaner from out there, or they play two wings. But, if they play two wings, it takes one of their playmakers off of the floor and either would leave Beekman with Roach guarding him, which would be an advantage for Reece, or would leave Beekman with Proctor on him still, but would take Roach off of the floor (which, that’d be a huge advantage considering his offense). In either scenario, that’s an incremental advantage for us and something that’s harder for us to defend.
As it stood, with BOTH Beekman and Clark on the floor, Duke was just hiding Roach on Clark, giving him some space since he wasn’t shooting well, and trusting that if he did get into the lane that their length would be a problem for him. All of those things were good gambles.
In the frontcourt, offensive advantage was even harder to find. Where it would normally be Gardner, now NONE of our guys was able to reliably create their own offense. Where we were getting some incremental advantage was just through length, hustle plays, hitting the offensive glass and, drawing fouls. Shedrick, Dunn and, to a lesser extent, Caffaro were providing the bulk of these plays. Shedrick had 3 offensive rebounds, like here, where Clark gets blocked and he tracks down the loose ball, but then the play develops such that Reece misses an open three and he grabs another board and feeds Gardner on the elbow for the jumper:
Gardner was 3-9 from the field and passed on a number of looks he would normally take (as illustrated before), but THIS play was open for him, similar to the McKneely three earlier, because we were able to track down the offensive board and convert the opportunity against a non-set defense.
Here’s the chaos play that drew some ridicule. Firstly, notice that this IS a lineup with both Franklin and IMK, so Proctor is following Franklin around and Roach is on Beekman. That’s favorable. Franklin gets one of his better opportunities to finish inside as a result, but still misses. Shedrick collects the offensive rebound and saves it to McKneely, who resets with Beekman. Beekman then runs a two-man game with Shedrick in a pick and roll and throws him a pocket pass, which actually hits his knee as he’s running and ricochets wildly up toward the hoop. Shedrick sticks with it, though, comes down with the ball between Young and Filipowski, scores over both and draws the foul on Filipowski.
Yes, in an ideal world he would have caught this cleanly before it got into his knee BUT, the hustle and the physical ability to get the ball back twice in traffic against this team AND finish inside against them (which was a struggle all night) pick up a foul on one of their bigs, while doing so, was valuable. Sometimes you have to win ugly by just effort and athleticism when nothing else is working and generating second chances and being a threat to draw a foul was a big deal.
Similarly, earlier in the game, here’s an example of Beekman driving and Lively coming over to help to disrupt the shot, leaving Caffaro. Caffaro is able to go up and grab the board over Filipowski who is trying to get back into the play, drawing the foul. He had two offensive rebounds, the other being a tip out.
Dunn had an offensive rebound on his own, was huge on the defensive glass, and led the team with two blocks as well. I thought this one below was really impressive as not only did he block Mitchell, but it seemed like he hung in the air forever to do so:
Additionally, both he and Kadin (Caffaro not so much, he was still fading away from the hoop) were the main players capable of threatening to finish around the rim despite contests, drawing several fouls from the Duke bigs inside.
Jayden Gardner played 34 minutes in this one, ostensibly because of his offensive prowess and we were severely struggling on offense, which theoretically makes sense. But, if his brand of offense isn’t reliable against Duke’s personnel, which it wasn’t, it likely would have been better to fight fire with fire and add a lot more size to the floor. Play two of Shedrick, Caffaro, and Dunn more often. Have them crash the glass hard, muck it up, attempt to create broken plays and second chances while also protecting the rim better. Perhaps play all three with Dunn at the three, some, or even Dunn at the three with Gardner AND one of the other bigs. Force them to have to account for our length and size without being able to help off of everyone to contest shots in the lane. Some creativity with lineups, even ones we haven’t traditionally used often, could help in a situation where we only scored 49 total points anyway. In this one, I would have loved to see a lot more of the Beekman, Franklin, McKneely, Dunn, Shedrick lineup as a base, with some of the other variations mentioned above as alternatives, being willing to play Shedrick and Caffaro together at times, keeping Clark on Proctor when he was in, trying to keep multiple other players with length on the floor when Gardner was in, etc.
Where have I been going with all of this? Please do not read this as some comment about either Clark or Gardner’s general playing time. Both have been great most of this year and both are some of our most important players heading into the NCAA Tournament, especially since the BVP injury. What I am saying, is that we cannot be rigid with our rotations, come tourney time. CTB often plays to his comfort zone regarding his most experienced players. There are times, especially as the total size/athleticism of our opposition increases, that we need to be more focused on matchups. Where are we not gaining any advantage on either side of the ball and where can we create advantage or better matchup with what our opponents are doing. Other than Beekman, and even in his case if the hamstring is flaring, there isn’t a player on the roster who we should feel like we can’t afford to sit more than usual no matter what’s going on, and they all bring their own strengths and weaknesses.
Our best chance at making it as far as we can in the tournament is going to be leaning on ALL of the jigsaw pieces in our puzzle as much as we need, in any given game, to fit any unique situation. It’s not going to be ride or dying with the players we’re most comfortable with no matter what. Most teams are not going to match up with us even close to how Duke does, but for those that get close, we can’t be afraid to try something outside of the box, or even just simply against our normal tendencies, to respond.
Go Hoos! Beat Furman!
One response to “ACC Tournament Final vs. Duke”
Clark played great in the first half of the season. Since Jan. 1, IMK’s +/- shows exactly what we saw in the Duke game: IMK needs to play more and Clark less. Scheyer had Duke give Kihei the 2019 Tre Jones treatment, except UVA doesn’t have three other NBA slashers to compensate. Even then, once teams learned to sag off Tre, Duke struggled in the rest of the tournament despite having so much talent elsewhere.
I know Kihei is a beloved Hoo and has been a lightning rod for controversy, but the second half of his fifth season has revealed the issues longtime fans have seen in prior seasons. CTB is completely loyal to Clark, so he won’t be benched, but the Hoos have a lower ceiling due to that choice.
Here’s hoping Clark has one last run in him to return to his November-December 2022 form.