I'm back at the United Center tonight. The occasion? Duke is playing Iowa State and -- wait. What? What did I just write? Yes, you read correctly. Duke is playing Iowa State at the United Center in Chicago in, oh, an hour or so. If this seems like a random match up -- or at the very least a random place for these two teams to play -- you're right. It is.
But it makes a certain kind of sense. For one, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is famously a Chicago native, and Krzyzewski's program has a tradition in which the coach tries to schedule at least one game in a departing senior's hometown. Jon Scheyer, who attended Glenbrook North High School in the North Shore suburbs here, is that departing senior. (Scheyer's high school exploits are legend in these parts; ask any Chicago-based "23-year-old about Scheyer's 21 points-in-75 seconds explosion as a senior in 2006 and you'll get at least a whiff of recognition. Never fails.) Iowa State also has a player -- freshman guard and former Whitney Young state champion Chris Colvin -- making a homecoming as well.
If there's one thing I know, it's this: When life gives you random college basketball match ups in your hometown, don't ask why. Just enjoy.
That's the plan, anyway, and much of that enjoyment -- in so far as you equate "enjoyable basketball" with a close game -- will hinge on how well Iowa State plays. Because, quite simply, Duke is beginning to look like a juggernaut.
The Devils have earned this reputation rather quietly. Their one loss -- at Wisconsin -- now looks forgiveable. The rest of Coach K's games have been handily won; Duke has the most efficient offense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy, and at No. 5 in the country, its defense isn't too shabby, either. You might also be interested to know that Duke is ranked No. 2 overall, ahead of Texas, in Pomeroy's overall rankings. See? Quiet juggernaut.
How has Duke done it? Scheyer and forward Kyle Singler are obvious reasons why, but Duke has received a big boost from the play of putative point guard Nolan Smith, who is averaging 18-plus points per game in 2009-10. It doesn't hurt that freshman Andre Dawkins is a lights-out three-point shooter. Nor is it bad that Duke's defensive toughness -- which took major strides in 2008-9, despite a few couple of rough run-ins with a vintage North Carolina squad -- has largely carried over (and maybe even improved) in 2009-10.
All of which means that Iowa State is likely to have a very tough time Wednesday night. The Cyclones are not untalented. Junior Craig Brackins ought to make an all-Big 12 team; senior Marquis Gilstrap has provided much needed balance in the post; and sophomore guard Scott Christopherson is posting a 66 percent effective field goal percentage in 2009-10. But if the Cyclones expect to compete with a deep, balanced, even-more-talented-than-themselves Blue Devils squad they'll need to go above and beyond. They'll need to be perfect, or some approximation therein.
Here's my question: Can you approximate perfection? Is it still perfection if it's merely approximate? Hmm. I think we just ventured into dangerous philosophic territory, and remember what we decided at the beginning of this post? Don't ask questions. Just enjoy. It works just as well for college hoops as it did for Plato.
Oh, and as always, I'll be around Twitter for much of the game. Follow me, dudes! Cowabunga! (This is what the kids say, yes?)