February 5, 2010

The Preview: #9 Duke @ BC

The Eagles' season is on the brink of disaster, and with Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils coming to town, BC could find themselves staring into the abyss which is the NIT tournament. I wonder how many fans would show up for that game, assuming that BC would even get a home game in the first round.

As for Duke, their struggles on the road are well documented. They are 1-4 away from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium; however three of those losses have come against currently ranked opponents. Duke hasn't lost a game at home, and they didn't show any after-effects of the drubbing they received from Georgetown in front of President Obama, as they pulverized Georgia Tech last night 86-67.

Expect the Conte Forum to be rocking, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Scott Brown drive his truck up from his new gig in Washington for a little moral support. After seeing Duke's home court advantage last night, one has to wonder if the lack of a crowd at Conte Forum has contributed to some of the Eagles' bad losses (Maine, URI, Harvard).

In other words, if the Eagles can't get up for this game, with their season on the line, in front of a national television audience, with the assistance of a raucous crowd - this season will go down in the BC annals as a disappointing one.


Duke Leaders

PPG Scheyer 18.7

REB Singler 7.1

AST Scheyer 5.7

FT Scheyer 90%

BLK Ma. Plumlee 0.9

BC Leaders

PPG Trapani 14.5

REB Trapani 6.5

AST Paris 4.8

FT Trapani 81%

BLK Trapani 0.9

Why Duke Will Win

The Blue Devils will win because they do all of the little things the right way - boxing out shooters, running crisp in-bounds plays and make their free throws. Duke leads the nation from the stripe, shooting 77.4% on the season.

It also doesn't hurt that Duke essentially has two point guards that maintain the floor spacing on offense, and keep the ball moving in search of an open shooter. Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer will torture Biko Paris on the offensive end, and in the last meeting they played a court trap that forced Joe Trapani to bring the ball up the floor.

Duke's big men will force Josh Southern into foul trouble, and as they showed against Georgia Tech, they have turned drawing fouls into an art form. That will leave BC with Cortney Dunn and Evan Ravenel to try to check 6-10 Miles Plumlee, 6-8 [/db]Kyle Singler[/db], 6-8 Lance Thomas, and 7-1 sixth-man Brian Zoubek off of the offensive glass. Those four horsemen are unafraid to mix it up down low (Miles Plumlee especially), and are going to pose some difficult matchups in the paint.

Lastly, the Eagles have not played well at the end of games, as their flex offense doesn't support quick shots or instant offense. When the Blue Devils turn their defensive efforts up in the second halves of games, they have the ability to put scoring runs together that the Eagles simply cannot match on the offensive end.

Why BC Will Win

The Eagles certainly do "play up" to their opponent, as evidenced by a strong first half at Duke last month. They were only down three at the half, and 30 of their 35 first-half points came in the paint.

The Blue Devils' biggest chink in their armor is their interior defense. They got exploited against Georgetown last week, as their big men are very slow of foot for their size. The result is that their weak side defenders always seem a step late in rotating, which leads to a ton of layups - the Hoyas shot 71.7% from the field against Duke.

The Eagles seemed most effective when they were running a "1-4" offense where Reggie Jackson has the ball at the top of the key, and they have their swings guys just a step inside the 3-point arc in each respective corner, with their big men on their respective blocks. This allows Reggie to isolate, and when he gets room to move, he can be a nightmare to guard. On one particular play from the last game, this setup resulted in a Phi-Slama-Jama dunk from Reggie.

In a perfect world, Biko would see minutes in the Josh Southern 17-18 minute range, Reggie would be allowed to run the offense, and his slashing ability would free up Sanders and Trapani for some open looks. Biko shows the energy, but doesn't seem to have the court vision to be a play maker. It's almost like watching a middle-schooler dribbling down the floor with his head down. How many times is he going to drive into the lane and get swallowed up while he leaves his feet and throws the ball BACK OUT, as the suspecting defender takes it the other way for a dunk? He's going to turn me into Lewis Black. (NSFW and if you don't know what that means if you're at work headphones only when you listen to this)

Speaking of Southern, he showed some promising glimpses in the last contest at Duke, and he's not afraid to mix it up with these guys. I mean, just looking at Miles Plumlee reminds me of those practice warriors you went up against in high school - you know the guy that plays about 3 seconds too long after coach blows the whistle on loose balls - and that's the kind of fire that just might wake Southern out of hibernation.

Lastly, it should be amazing to watch the effects of rowdy fan base going buck-wild, which has been a rarity for the Eagles this season. That's gotta be good for 4-6 extra points off turnovers right there. BC can match Duke's physicality and they've shown the ability to slow the tempo of the game by playing their grind-it-out-'94-Knicks-style.

Matchup to Watch: Rakim Sanders vs. Kyle Singler

Singler was struggling since moving to the 3 from the 4, but leave it to Coach K to put in a motion offense that has him coming off more ball screens, which is where he is most dangerous. The result? 30 points and 8 of 10 from three point land against the Yellow Jackets.

The key to stopping him is to not let him get any room to shoot. There are occasions where he gets the ball at the top of the key with a defender in his face, and since doesn't have much in the way of moves he tends to force his shot. He's not exactly what I would call fleet footed, and with his frame he also can't seem to get out of his own way. Al Skinner needs to put a smaller, quicker defender on him because he gets most of his points from the foul line extended.

Sanders seems to have recovered from his nagging injuries, as he's been in double digits the past three games. In this season's prior contest at Duke, his play was sloppy; he didn't have any burst, and looked to be dogging it on his jaunt back to the defensive end. His stat line for that game is one he'd like to forget - 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting and 2 rebounds in 31 minutes.

This is the game to put all of his struggles behind him. He needs to be aggressive, attack the rim, and be confident in his outside game. The Eagles need his production to take the load off of Trapani and Jackson.


I wonder how many miles Al Skinner has on his truck. BC 79, Duke 78 - and the Eagles live to see another day.

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