ACC conference play begins: Bring it.
Preview and game thread inside.
If the tournament started today, and if Joe Lunardi held the keys to the NCAA Tournament: we're in. Let's see if we can make a statement today against one of college basketball's elite: The Duke Blue Devils.
After a blistering 13-2 start to the season, the Noles look to enter conference play with one of the youngest teams in the country. We have written extensively about our team's OOC play, suffering through some growing pains at times and demonstrating we can play with the country's best. Now it's time to take center stage and prove to Duke, to the rest of the ACC and to the country that we have an excellent basketball team.
In the current Pomeroy ratings, Duke is listed number 1. Their defense is number 1. Their offense is number 20. This is an excellent team that has skilled players at all positions and they have one hell of a coach. Pitt was an excellent early season test for this team, but I think how we come out and play this game will dictate how the rest our ACC season goes. With such a young team, a blow out early in conference play could be devastating. Stan Jones, one of our assistant coaches summarized Duke quite well when he said: "They get guys frustrated. I think late in the shot clock you can get good shots against Duke. So many teams aren't mature enough, they get impatient."
The Talahassee Democrat has a nice article about the history of this rivalry. Yes, I used the word rivalry, particularly of late. Remember 2006, we beat the Blue Devils twice (This is the 2007 game, when we beat them...notice a trend?). Let's set the tone and make a run in this conference.
Let's take a closer look at the match up. I'll start with Duke first.
Raw Efficiency : 115.5 ( 18) 85.1 ( 7)
Adj Efficiency : 115.5 ( 20) 80.8 ( 1)
Effective FG% : 53.1 ( 52) 43.6 ( 31)
Turnover Pct. : 20.2 (133) 24.4 ( 30)
Off. Rebound% : 42.0 ( 9) 28.7 ( 31)
Free Throw Rate: 32.3 ( 21) 29.8 ( 55)
3-Point FG% : 33.0 (215) 30.3 ( 47)
2-Point FG% : 54.8 ( 19) 42.9 ( 45)
Free Throw Pct.: 74.8 ( 23) 67.4 (122)
Block Pct. : 8.0 (127) 11.3 ( 65)
Steal Pct. : 8.4 ( 56) 13.5 ( 17)
3PA/FGA : 32.7 (174) 27.6 ( 27)
A/FGM : 53.3 (200) 43.3 ( 9)
On first impression, these stats demonstrate what a balanced team looks like. On the offensive end, they are efficient, playing a modest tempo game. On the defensive end, they slow you down, frustrate you and force you into making mistakes. Their effective FG% is excellent and would be much better if they shot the three better. This has been one of their worst years in recent times in terms of 3-point shooting percentage. Take note that they are taking less threes this year than they typically do. They make up for it by shooting 54.8% from the floor. They rebound extremely well on both ends of the court, making easy put-backs, likely inflating their 2-point FG% a bit. They get to the free throw line and make opponents pay, shooting almost 75% from the line. I do find it interesting that they have a relatively low A/FGM ratio. This typically represents a lot of one-on-one play. Duke can do that and get away with it. They have skill players at every position, with their centers being their weak spot. Zoubek, a 7'1 junior, is having a good year, but he isn't playing a ton of minutes. Kyle Singler, 6'8 Sophomore, certainly makes up for it, doing a nice job on the glass and blocking shots. He also distributes the ball well. More on the individual players later.
They have two chinks in the armor. They don't shoot the three well and we all remember Duke teams that have crashed and burned in the ACC tournament because their ability to shoot the three disapeared or was taken away. This plays to our advantage. Our size inside with Alabi and Reid, as well as Gibson (I hope he continues to get more minutes) shuts down the paint. We are one of the top teams in the country in block percentage. We are also an extremely long team and force teams to rely on jump shots. If we get Duke to rely on the three or long twos, we're in good shape. We're good at defending the three but not as good as we are defending 2-pointers: 114th in the country vs. 9th. Duke is also prone to turnovers, giving up the ball on 1 out of 5 trips down the floor. We're much worse at 1 our of 4. We force turnovers. The problem is that they force a lot of turnovers as well, in fact they for a lot more.
Let's take a look at how Duke has done in individual games:
|Mon Nov 10||Presbyterian (s) (sr)||W, 80-49||H||79||101.9||50.0||26.8||45.7||33.3||62.4||33.0||34.4||26.3||35.9|
|Tue Nov 11||Georgia Southern (s) (sr)||W, 97-54||H||75||128.7||54.5||14.6||55.4||74.2||71.6||32.0||22.6||33.3||32.8|
|Sun Nov 16||Rhode Island (s) (sr)||W, 82-79||H||66||123.5||49.1||13.6||39.4||58.2||119.0||64.2||25.6||40.7||30.2|
|Thu Nov 20||Southern Illinois (s) (sr)||W, 83-58||N||74||112.7||51.2||25.8||29.6||111.9||78.7||40.4||20.4||20.9||33.3|
|Fri Nov 21||Michigan (s) (sr)||W, 71-56||N||66||107.2||50.0||22.6||36.8||48.1||84.5||41.5||16.6||16.2||30.2|
|Sun Nov 23||Montana (s) (sr)||W, 78-58||H||69||112.6||48.4||15.9||47.4||35.9||83.7||52.0||28.9||20.0||28.0|
|Fri Nov 28||Duquesne (s) (sr)||W, 95-72||H||77||123.7||62.5||22.1||36.5||29.7||93.8||41.9||24.8||47.2||27.9|
|Tue Dec 2||Purdue (s) (sr)||W, 76-60||A||70||108.7||49.1||21.4||43.4||45.6||85.8||39.0||15.7||18.8||33.9|
|Sat Dec 6||Michigan (s) (sr)||L, 81-73||A||70||103.7||53.1||18.5||28.8||9.2||115.1||54.3||15.6||27.7||37.9|
|Wed Dec 17||NC Asheville (s) (sr)||W, 99-56||H||76||130.0||60.1||19.7||52.2||27.5||73.5||44.6||31.5||23.8||17.9|
|Sat Dec 20||Xavier (s) (sr)||W, 82-64||N||66||123.5||60.2||16.6||32.2||23.7||96.4||52.8||24.1||32.8||30.2|
|Wed Dec 31||Loyola MD (s) (sr)||W, 92-51||H||79||116.2||55.3||21.5||50.8||50.0||64.4||34.2||30.3||31.9||25.0|
|Sun Jan 4||Virginia Tech (s) (sr)||W, 69-44||H||63||108.9||46.3||25.3||45.1||37.0||69.5||37.8||26.8||27.9||24.5|
|Wed Jan 7||Davidson (s) (sr)||W, 79-67||H||70||112.1||49.1||17.0||37.8||45.8||95.1||46.5||21.3||30.3||29.3|
The one blemish is the Michigan game. In their only loss, Duke stopped doing what they do well. They had one of their worst games rebounding and they didn't generate turnovers. Additionally, Michigan was able to get to the free throw line; Duke didn't get to the line. We get to the line, but we haven't been doing as great a job on the glass as we should and our turnovers have been a major issue.
Here are our numbers on the year, for comparison sake:
Raw Efficiency : 99.3 (200) 89.2 ( 24)
Adj Efficiency : 97.8 (219) 88.1 ( 20)
Effective FG% : 49.1 (155) 42.8 ( 22)
Turnover Pct. : 24.1 (300) 23.0 ( 70)
Off. Rebound% : 35.5 (103) 34.1 (195)
Free Throw Rate: 32.9 ( 19) 31.5 ( 78)
3-Point FG% : 34.6 (146) 32.6 (114)
2-Point FG% : 47.7 (180) 39.3 ( 9)
Free Throw Pct.: 69.9 (135) 63.5 ( 25)
Block Pct. : 6.4 ( 42) 18.6 ( 6)
Steal Pct. : 10.4 (207) 12.7 ( 29)
3PA/FGA : 33.1 (162) 36.7 (284)
A/FGM : 55.0 (153) 46.7 ( 24)
We have to defend better than we have all year and frustrate Duke. We will likely be the best defense they have faced all year. That delightful turnover percentage makes me cringe as we enter into ACC play.
|Sat Nov 15||Jacksonville (s) (sr)||W, 59-57||A||69||85.6||52.4||26.1||18.8||73.2||82.7||36.0||16.0||33.3||26.5|
|Tue Nov 18||La Salle (s) (sr)||W, 65-61||A||71||92.0||45.8||25.5||26.9||58.3||86.3||40.0||19.8||31.5||30.0|
|Thu Nov 20||Stetson (s) (sr)||W, 79-77||H||73||108.3||45.5||23.3||46.1||60.7||105.6||53.1||19.2||33.3||20.0|
|Sat Nov 22||Coastal Carolina (s) (sr)||W, 82-70||H||71||116.0||56.7||21.2||32.8||50.0||99.0||51.8||31.1||37.5||30.9|
|Mon Nov 24||Western Illinois (s) (sr)||W, 67-55||H||62||108.6||48.0||19.4||36.5||44.0||89.1||40.9||21.1||21.0||47.7|
|Fri Nov 28||Cincinnati (s) (sr)||W, 58-47||N||64||90.7||42.0||28.1||43.2||50.0||73.5||36.1||29.7||40.5||31.5|
|Sat Nov 29||California (s) (sr)||W, 80-77||N||78||102.7||55.2||23.1||25.6||70.8||98.8||44.1||16.7||20.8||54.2|
|Wed Dec 3||Northwestern (s) (sr)||L, 73-59||A||69||86.0||47.1||30.6||33.9||37.3||106.4||49.1||18.9||42.9||55.4|
|Sun Dec 7||Florida (s) (sr)||W, 57-55||H||64||88.8||37.3||21.8||38.9||51.0||85.7||43.1||24.9||31.3||33.3|
|Sat Dec 13||Georgia St. (s) (sr)||W, 62-57||A||54||114.1||64.5||27.6||44.2||50.0||104.9||44.3||12.9||32.8||28.3|
|Tue Dec 16||Tennessee Tech (s) (sr)||W, 69-59||H||75||92.3||53.9||32.1||34.5||39.2||78.9||41.7||29.4||33.3||28.3|
|Thu Dec 18||Charleston Southern (s) (sr)||W, 71-48||H||66||107.0||49.2||19.6||45.2||35.5||72.4||39.3||28.6||35.9||19.6|
|Sun Dec 21||Pittsburgh (s) (sr)||L, 56-48||H||67||71.8||34.0||26.9||27.8||46.8||83.8||38.1||22.4||38.1||20.6|
|Sun Dec 28||Western Kentucky (s) (sr)||W, 82-69||h||65||127.0||54.1||13.9||40.0||34.4||106.9||50.0||23.2||44.7||25.9|
|Sat Jan 3||Texas A&M Corpus Chris (s) (sr)||W, 69-48||H||72||95.3||52.4||22.1||33.8||22.6||66.3||35.3||29.0||31.8||27.6|
We need to shut down Duke in the same manner that we held Pitt and Cincinnati down. We need to maintain our focus through the entire game, limiting our mistakes. We can't come out of the second half flat and watch Duke make one of their major runs, running off into the sunset.
Here are the likely matchups:
Toney Douglas 6'2 205 Sr. 18.4 ppg 4.2 rpg 4.2 apg 2 steals A/T ration 1
Nolan Smith 6'2 185 So 10.6 ppg 2.6 rpg 2.3 apg 1.2 steals AT ratio 1.2
We all know about Toney so I won't belabor all of his details: he is our leader and how Toney goes the Noles go. Smith is having a productive year and has earned his minutes, as Elliot Williams 6'4 Fr is one Coach K's big recruits and was expected to take the starting role. Smith has an ORtg of 117 (228th in the country) He distributes the ball well and is tough on D. He is one of the lesser known Dukies. Douglas should shut hime down.
Jon Scheyer 6'5 185 Jr 14.4 ppg 3.6 rpg 2.6 apg 1.8 steals 56% eFG%
Jordan DeMercy 6'7 208 So 4.3 ppg 3.4 rpg 2.5 apg 1 steal 48.1% eFG%
DeMercy must have the defensive game of his life. He did well in the Pitt game and he must continue his defensive presence. Of late, he has been playing consistent ball on both ends of the court. He has the definite size advantage, but Scheyer is a smooth player who navigates defenses easily away from the ball to get open shots. Scheyer playing less minutes than he did his freshman year, but his points are ever so slightly up as is his FG%.
Brian Zoubek 7'1 280 Jr 7.5 ppg 5.2 rpg (2.2 off rpg) 1.1 blocks pg 14.6 minutes/game
Solomon Alabi 7'1 241 Fr 6.9 ppg 5.4 rpg (1.9 off rpg) 2.1 blocks 19.9 minutes/game
This should be a good battle in the paint. Neither player is an offensive threat but both contribute significantly on the defensive end, Alabi much more than Zoubeck. Zoubeck has a 64% eFG%...lots of tip ins. What we need to do is go after Zoubeck and get him into foul trouble, he typically gets 2.6 fouls per game and has already fouled out of one game. Alabi needs to show up and play aggressively on both ends. His ability to defend the paint will be one of the major keys to our success.
Kyle Singler 6'8 235 So 16.9 ppg 7.7 rpg (2.7 off rpg) 3.6 apg 2.1 foul/game
Ryan Reid 6'8 235 Jr 7.5 ppg 4.4 rpg (1.6 off rpg) 0.8 apg 2.8 fouls/game
Singler is their everything man. He has a high ORtg, take the most number of shots, has the highest number of possessions and is rebounding well. He also causes the highest steal percentage on his team. He is however prone to turnovers (18.5% of possessions and fouls. You can get under Singler's skin and take him off his game. Reid, like DeMercy, is going to play an incredible game. Singler floats between the PF and Center position and can create difficult match ups. Echefu will also have his hands full. He is scheduled to play this game as he took the last one off with a groin injury.
Gerald Henderson 6'4 215 Jr 12.2 ppg 4.3 rpg 1.9 apg 1.1 blocks/game
Chris Singleton 6'9 220 Fr 9.8 ppg 6.5 rpg 1.1 apg 1.2 blocks/game
Clearly, Henderson isn't a pure small forward and SIngleton is on the taller side for a college small forward. I'm not sure how much we will see of this match up. Look for Loucks to get in quite regularly. Look for more of a Lance Thomas v Singleton and Loucks v Henderson. We may also see Kitchen take on the responsibility of guarding Henderson. Singleton is remarkable and he will only continue to improve. Expect big things and get mad when he doesn't do well. He will be a start in this league; I don't care that he is a freshman. Henderson is their 3rd best offensive player if you use Pomeroy's ORtg. He handles the ball extremely well. He currently has an eFG% of 53.4. This typically trends down as the season continues.
What are your thoughts on the game? I think it will be one of Duke's closest games of the year in the ACC. This will be a low scoring, rough game. I'm not sure if we can win it, though there is a tiny part of me that thinks we can pull of the surprise victory. If its close or if we win, we will be all over the national map. Its big for the NCAA tournament and recruiting.
Enjoy the game.