Game Preview – Duke

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by: John Chase

So if you haven’t heard the news yet, Scott Suggs will be redshirting this season following a surgery in mid October on his foot to repair a broken bone. He was projected to return this week for the games in the Big Apple, but continuing foot pains slowed his recovery and places him more at a mid January return, leaving only 16 regular season games. Rather than play only a small section of his senior season, Suggs has opted to return next season. This could work out great in the long run, especially if Terrence Ross leaves early for the NBA. Right now, it sucks. We needed Suggs’ senior leadership on the court, especially in crunch time situations where a cool head and sweet shot are critical. Anyways…on to Duke.

The Blue Devils are coming off a big loss to Ohio State and a more recent win over Colorado State. Duke enters the game as the Number 7 team in the nation with an 8-1 record. UW and Duke have not played each other since 1989 so all previous games between the two squads are essentially null and void. The only common thread between then and now is Mike Krzyzewski.

To say Duke is going to be a tough match-up is an understatement. There is a good reason why they are in the top 10 and why many people projected a win over Marquette, but a loss to Duke. Duke has a very potent line-up from top to bottom and their frontcourt is just as strong as their backcourt.

Five players are averaging double digit scoring for Duke thus far in the season (Andre Dawkins is averaging 9.6 ppg so I’m including him). Austin Rivers, son of Doc Rivers, leads the team with nearly 16 ppg. Four players have hit 10 or more 3-pointers this season led by Andre Dawkins with 20 makes on 43 attempts.

The Plumlee brothers, Mason and Miles, dominate the glass for Duke with Mason clearly the superior ball player. Mason is averaging 9.8 boards per game and has four double-doubles on the year. Miles is averaging a second best 5 board per game. The two account for nearly 50% of Dukes 33 rpg average. Mason is also averaging over 2 blocks per game and is as much of a threat on defense as offense.

Duke is rounded out by a pair of more than capable shooters in Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. Each average over 12 ppg and 3 rpg. Curry is the assist leader with 3.3 per game, while also committing 2 turnovers per outing. Overall, Duke is averaging just as many assists as turnovers (13).

As with Marquette, Duke plays a pretty similar style of basketball. The differences come in a much better frontcourt than Marquette and a slightly better backcourt. The Duke perimeter players are all deadly play-makers, but are not as skilled in the rebounding or assist category.

Keys to the Game:

  • Rebounding: If there is one category UW can capitalize on to keep themselves in the game or possibly win it, it is rebounding. Duke averages a very low 33 boards per game and two players make up half that number. Mason will not be shut down. As strong defensively Aziz N’Diaye may be, Mason is quicker and more skilled and N’Diaye will likely struggle to keep him contained. What this means in terms of UW’s strategy is containing the rest of the Blue Devil squad and our backcourt crashing the glass hard. Keeping Duke’s sharpshooters from getting a second chance at the hoop is going to be huge in limiting the number of open shots they get. There is no better time to take a 3-pointer than after an offensive rebound. At that point the defense has likely collapsed, leaving the perimeter open for easy jumpers.
  • Ball Control: Abdul Gaddy gave up the last possession against Marquette with 34 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 75. Instead of UW taking the game winning shot, Gaddy threw a terrible pass that was deflected and recovered by Marquette. We cannot afford those types of situations ever. Our turnovers in general have been much higher than they should be, due to not only Tony Wroten’s usual antics, but lately the unusually poor play of Gaddy. If UW wants to have any chance at an upset, they need to limit their turnovers and not give Duke extra possessions.
  • Pressure the Backcourt: As good as Mason Plumlee is, he can be contained by limiting the touches he receives. The happens by containing the backcourt and forcing them to stay near the top of the key rather than on the wings where they can work the ball inside. Backcourt pressure will also help limit the number of 3-point attempts that Duke can take. If N’Diaye can somehow manage Mason and Miles, the backcourt will be able to breathe a little easier.

Projected Starting Line-Ups:

Duke:

G – Tyler Thornton 6-1 195lb (Andre Dawkins is having back problems and is doubtful to play Saturday)
G – Seth Curry 6-2 180lb
G – Austin Rivers 6-4 200lb
F – Mason Plumlee 6-10 235lb
F – Ryan Kelly 6-11 230lb

Washington:

G – Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
G – C.J. Wilcox 6-5 190lb
G – Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
F – Darnell Gant 6-8 230lb
C – Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb

Final Thoughts:

Darnell Gant will likely draw the assignment on the tall, mobile, and sharp shooting Ryan Kelly. Wilcox will hopefully be put on shut down duty against Seth Curry, while Terrence Ross takes on Austin Rivers. Without Dawkins on the court, UW may stand a better chance of containing the perimeter shooting Duke is well known for.

All things considered this is another tough, but perhaps winnable game for the Huskies. An upset here would go a long ways towards calming the fan base and establishing some confidence in the teams ability to get it done on the road. It will also give UW and the Pac-12 a marque win that will be extremely important in March for the selection committee.

At this point, at least two projections leave out the Huskies from the NCAA and the highest seed they received in any projection is 10th. Unfortunately, a loss is a loss and a win is a win come selection time so while the close loss to Marquette may be a sort of moral win it does nothing for our record and chances at a fourth consecutive NCAA berth. The Huskies need to be firing on all cylinders, rotations on defense need to go smoothly, and shots need to drop.

Final Score Prediction: UW-78 DUKE-84

The skill level of the Duke frontcourt is going to be extremely difficult for UW to match, giving them a great advantage they will be sure to exploit every chance they can. It should be a close game thanks to our perimeter players, but if our starters cannot get to the foul line we will be hurting. Thank god Tony Wroten draws fouls, if only he could make his shots. We need high percentage shooters like Ross and Wilcox stepping to the line to convert the easy baskets. I’m still quite pessimistic about our chances against Duke, but I’m hopeful they can at least make it a competitive game. While this may not exactly be a “must win” game for UW, it will certainly make their lives easier to just go out there and win.

Go Dawgs!