The Brian Zoubek Dispute

I, like most of my colleagues at the Chronicle, often have strong opinions about Duke Basketball. So do my friends. So it isn't uncommon for my block-mates to have to deal with (very) loud arguments coming out of my dorm room, with the topic ranging from the possibility of Andre Dawkins starting (my opinion: not when Scheyer and Smith are upperclassmen) to whether Kyle Singler will go to the NBA next year (I'm personally pessimistic). But there is one topic that we return to time and time again: whether Brian Zoubek is a solid big man or just a man who happens to be really big.


I am, and have been for a while, strongly in the camp of the former, while a particular few of my friends are vehemently of the latter opinion. Their arguments normally consist of highlighting Zoubek's lack of athletic ability (one of today's arguments was: "When's the last time you've seen Zoobs dunk?") and inability to consistently make the easy put-backs a 7-foot-1 player is expected to make.

But despite Zoubek's shortcomings (as indeed, both above arguments and others are valid), I've come to the realization that Zoubek provides much more to the team than his offensive numbers would indicate.  For one, Zoubek is tied with Miles Plumlee for the team lead in rebounds with 55 so far this season, despite playing 47 minutes less than the starter. Zoubek is also shooting 53 percent from the field, and while one might expect better from a big-man, the percentage is third on the team, behind only Plumlee and freshman Andre Dawkins.  Finally, despite his propensity to collect fouls quickly, Zoubek has consistently played solid defense against similar big men (Florida State's Solomon Alabi comes to mind), even though he does admittedly struggle against more athletic forwards that like to congregate on the perimeter.

But perhaps the most interesting statistic in support of Zoubek was cited by's Luke Winn in his weekly power rankings.  Despite ranking Duke a surprisingly low 15th, in his analysis of the Blue Devils the columnist wrote:

One has to be careful about reading too much into individual statistics this early in the season, given the small sample sizes and wide variance in quality of opponents. How much stock, then, should we put in the national leaderboard for Offensive Rebounding percentage -- a stat that, in my mind, best measures who's making the biggest impact on the glass? Pitt's DeJuan Blair dominated this category last season en route to becoming a second-round steal in the NBA draft, and your leader through Tuesday's games was none other than ... Duke's Brian Zoubek, who was previously best-known for his Borat cameo in the Jon Scheyer in 75 seconds YouTube. Zoubek was pulling down an absurd 32.3 percent of available offensive boards in the 16.8 minutes he was playing per game. (Blair's percentage last year was 23.6).

The top five on were:

Rank OR% Player Team
1. 32.2 Brian Zoubek Duke
2. 24.5 DeMarcus Cousins Kentucky
3. 22.4 Tony Easley Murray State
4. 22.2 Papa Dia Southern Methodist
5. 22.0 Storm Warren LSU

Now, it is still very early in the season, as Winn acknowledges, but the statistically startling dominance that Zoubek has displayed on the offensive boards has to count for something, even if, as Winn concluded his article, "On Wednesday against Wisconsin, Zoubek grabbed just one offensive board in nine minutes, while committing four fouls. It was the Year of Brian Zoubek, and then all of a sudden, it wasn't."

I'm interested to see what the pulse of Blue Devil fans is with regards to this often contentious issue. Do you think Zoubek should be starting, getting 15-20 minutes a game off the bench, playing less than 10 minutes a game, or not playing at all (what appears to be the opinion of my unnamed friends)?


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