Game #1: Duke vs. Presbyterian
Wow, that snuck up on me. I found out early yesterday that last night was the first televised basketball game of the year–Duke vs. Presbyterian, on ESPNU. No better way to kick things off than with the team I’m most embarrassed to admit that I like–Duke. Upon finding out that this game was on ESPNU, I immediately re-ordered the Directv sports package, which I typically cancel during the offseason. Yep, I’m back on the hook for $12 per month to watch whatever is on ESPNU, an assortment of west coast games, and when I have absolutely nothing to do, Friday night Patriot League games. Hopefully that ridiculous low-level, Cleveland-based pro wrestling organization is still on the air, too.
And so another season begins for me without grandeur. I’m back again. I’ll probably be good for another 2-3 updates per week from here on out, some of them undoubtedly half-assed as I try to better balance basketball and sleep than I have in the past (last night being a good example, as I didn’t quite make it to the end of the game on my DVR). It’s good to be back. But enough of the self-reflexive nonsense, and on to some game points:
1) Among the first things told to us by the on-screen graphics and the announcers is that Presbyterian's mascot is the Blue Hose, which is apparently some sort of Scottish warrior. Still not a great mascot choice, though, since as awkward as it looks in written form, it's even more ridiculous when one hears it spoken. Hearing the words "Blue Hose" out loud didn't make me think about fierce Scotsmen. Rather, it made me conjure up images of inbred Kentucky mountain-people prostitutes. Certainly that's not what university leadership was going for.
2) Kind of shocking to hear that Greg Paulus is not starting for Duke this year. Obviously Paulus will still play big minutes for the Blue Devils, but that had to be a hit to his ego anyway, after spending his first three years as starting point guard and leading the team in assists. (This is where I’d make a Friday Night Lights reference, if this season of that stellar show was being seen by more than 15-20 people watching it on a hard-to-find, Directv-only channel.) Paulus may have his flaws, and Nolan Smith might be plenty good, but it's not every day that you see a three-year starter for one of the top programs in the nation displaced without him getting arrested for something. And to my knowledge, Paulus’s record is squeaky clean.
3) The three-point line has been moved back to 20'9" this year, and that fact was made abundantly clear during the broadcast, as it was seemingly noted as often as possible to the TV audience. Normally I'd be annoyed by the constant reiterating of this point every couple of minutes, but it was actually kind of nice to have the new rules beaten into me last night. This way I'll be readily aware of the change for the rest of the season, and will for once in my life actually know the correct distance of the three-point arc.
4) One point that had been confusing to me and which was nice to clear up last night was why, with the new three-point distance in effect, the old three-point line was still out there cluttering things up. Turns out it's not just to serve as a constant reminder that shooters are better than they were 20 years ago. The line is still there because there has been no distance change to the women's three-point line. While this is somewhat understandable, it is sort of upsetting from an aesthetic perspective that almost every college basketball court will be cluttered by two lines this year. I don't like that the every college court is one step closer to looking like a high school gym floor with lines for every sport imaginable. I know virtually nothing about the women's game, but I would implore them to move their line back a few inches to be congruent with the men's rules. I doubt the shooting percentages would fall of much (women marksmen always amaze me in the end-of-season college three-point competition), and it would really make things look more attractive.
5) Jon Scheyer seemed automatic with his mid-range jumper last night. While he's always been one of the more capable scorers that Duke has, last night he showed the type of consistency from 15 feet that makes it boring to watch an NBA game.
6) This game was touted as being the first game ever broadcast in HD on ESPNU. While I like that fact, I have to wonder who carries ESPNU in HD. I'm a Directv subscriber, and the main benefit to Directv is that they tout something like 9 billion HD channels. Well as far as I could find (and please, someone correct me if I’ve missed something), ESPNU isn't one of them. I can't imagine that ESPNU HD is in a lot of places if I'm not seeing it in my home.
7) I like Kyle Singler more every time that I see him. He’s seemingly everywhere on the court. I can’t think of too many forwards that you see constantly tipping opponents perimeter passes like Singler does. He was excellent last year, serving as Duke’s main interior player as a freshman, but look to hear his name a lot more this year, now that most of the nation’s bizarre crop of super-talented freshmen have gone to the NBA. Few things are more scary than a classic inside-outside Duke forward.
8) Last night the broadcast featured the "Cameron Crazie Cam," a camera located in the Duke student section, designed to give a student section view of the game. At various points in the game, they would show this camera feed next to the live game footage. Not a bad idea, in theory, but I think it only works if you have the game in HD. Because on my standard definition feed, whenever they went to the Crazie Cam, the only thing that going split-screen accomplished is making my already mediocre view of the game look even smaller and more hard to decipher. Oh, and I got to see a shaky, even more mediocre view of the game on the left side of my screen.
9) You know things aren’t going well for Duke 7-footer Greg Zoubek when he goes to the bench against Presbyterian and the first thing that the announcers can say about him is that he’ll be useful for Duke during the ACC season because “he’ll give them some fouls.” The assessment got more positive from there, but it was hard to buy after going straight to the “this guy has 5 fouls to give” analysis.
10) In the surprise of the night, I was not wowed by, or even particularly aware of any of Duke’s freshmen. Usually after the first Duke game of the year, I find myself saying to one of my friends “You won’t believe this new guy that Duke has!” I remember it with J.J. Redick, Luol Deng and even going way back to Elton Brand. But last night none of the new guys distinguished themselves. I can only assume that will change over time, though, as freshman Miles Plumlee started the game, and classmate Olek Czyz has a ridiculously cool name.
Struggling to keep my eyes open during the second half (again–I DVR’d it), and having already seen the final score of the game during an inadvertent glance at the crawl during the Monday night football game, I called it a night. We’ve got one in the books, and the season is on. Now it’s time to start going to games. Tonight I’ll be heading to watch Wisconsin vs. UW-Whitewater (I’ll talk more in the near future about how I managed to miss Marquette and UWM’s exhibition games last week). Since Whitewater’s the #4 division three team in the country, I won’t just be getting a chance to see my favorite team compete for the first time this year, I’ll also get a look at one of the state’s premier division three teams. Should be fun, and I’ll share my thoughts from the Kohl Center tomorrow.