Friday, January 16, 2009

Duke Preview

So, what do the Blue Devils look like this year?

As usual, here are the current four factors for Duke:

.                    Offense         Defense

Adj. Efficiency 115.7 (18) 81.5 (2)

eFG% 52.4 (61) 43.0 (16)

Turnover % 20.0 (127) 24.3 (29)

Off Rebound % 41.2 (12) 30.5 (81)

FT Rate 45.6 (21) 29.5 (49)

Duke is Pomeroy's #1 ranked team, and the only predicted loss on Georgetown's remaining schedule.

So, it's not going to be easy. And especially not at Cameron and likely playing a bit of five on eight.

More importantly, this isn't the Duke team from 2006, despite what most Hoya fans seem to think. Duke will likely play almost exclusively man to man, as they did in 2006, but this team is much quicker and much more athletic than that team.

That Duke team featured mediocre defenders at the point guard, two guard and power forward, as well as a center who was considered strong down low but had no ability to defend on the perimeter.

That Duke team was a good defensive team in 2005-2006 because Duke always plays quality team defense and exerts consistent effort. But they had an overall weakness in team quickness that certain teams could exploit.

This Duke team is quicker. Nolan Smith has taken the reigns from Greg Paulus. Gerald Henderson is extremely athletic and Kyle Singler is going to be much more prepared to cover another combo forward than Josh McRoberts.

However, the Hoyas still have strong advantages against Duke.

The matchup of Greg Monroe versus Brian Zoubek is a particularly bad matchup for the Blue Devils. Because of this, expect Lance Thomas and possibly even Kyle Singler to play most of the center minutes.

The upside of this is Duke is likely going to play smaller than they usually do. Which is going to be helpful because Zoubek is the strongest per possession rebounder on a strong rebounding Duke team.

The downside is that even without Zoubek on the floor, Duke is an extremely strong rebounding team across the floor. Singler and Henderson use their athletic gifts to offset their slender builds and rebound very well for wings. Unlike Syracuse, Duke's guards will also get after rebounds, and the result is a team that rebounds at a level closer to Pitt than to Syracuse.

To pile on, Duke also forces turnovers and draws fouls.

And they haven't lost at home to a non-conference foe this millennium, I don't think. (I know that's a junk stat. But it is an impressive one.)

But enough doom and gloom. The keys to the game, which I suspect are getting rather repetitive:
  1. Rebound. Duke is much more a rebounding team than they are a three point shooting team. In fact, on the season, they don't shoot a much different percentage than the Hoyas. Scheyer is dangerous, and Henderson has been good in limited shots, but rebounding a bigger strength for the Blue Devils than shooting.
  2. Active cutting on offense. Like in 2006, use the Blue Devils' aggressiveness against them. Sitting back on our heels and passing around the perimeter will lead to those lazy turnovers we love to commit. Passing forward and driving forward will create opportunities.

Like every individual game, this will likely come down to who makes shots. But while our offensive gameplan to beat this Duke is similar to 2006 despite their quickness improvements, our defensive gameplan has to acknowledge their ability this year to get on the boards.

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