Welcome to Big Duke Balls first pregame write up. Yep, outside of a handful of pregame thoughts of important tournament games, I’ve typically avoided these. I’m no expert, no reason to pretend to be one…until now. Let the pretending begin.
Before each game, I’ll present three keys to the game for each team. They will be a combination of things I’m looking for, things I’m hoping to see and what to expect from Duke’s opponent. It could be fun facts, facts that aren’t so funny and maybe I’ll just bag the keyboard with my thumbs over and over.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS
- Much of the talk this season has focused on Duke’s crowded and talented backfield. Yet, in this first match up of the 2010-2011 season, it’s Duke size that should be on display. No Princeton starter stands over 6’8 and none can match the athleticism of the Plumlee brothers. This is a good time for Duke to establish an inside game. It’s a good time to show the rest of the country that this team isn’t just going to launch threes all day. Someone, whether it’s a Plumlee, a Kelly, a Singler or even a Hairston should be get their back to the basket, get position, except a feed and make some plays.
- I can’t be the only person curious about Coach K’s rotation this year. The reality is, there is enough talent on this team to rotate a solid nine-man rotation. Now during big-time games, I expect Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to play heavy minutes, but on average, these guys should not be playing 35 minutes per game. I also look forward to seeing how much court time both Curry and Dawkins get. I’m also excited to see if Ryan Kelly get be legit backup. He’s looked great in practice and in exhibition games, but let’s see what he can do when it counts.
- Patience will be a virtue. The Tigers have always been a slow-it-down, grind-it-out bunch. They’ll do anything to slow this game to a crawl. They’ll use up every last second on the clock. The Blue Devils want to run, they want to gun, but they can’t get overly anxious. It will be a great opening test for freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry, who should run the show from time to time.
- The Tigers should not be overlooked. I’m not saying they can win (they can’t), but this is a team that won 22 games last year. This is a team that knows how to turn games into an ugly mess. They’re the Steve Buscemi of basketball (I still can’t believe this guy gets to do sex scenes). Anyhow, last year only one opponent was able to crack 70 against them (California). They’re a smart group, especially the front court and they will force you into making mistakes, playing a type of game you don’t want to be in. I know we all want to Duke to run and score 100 on opening night. However, if Duke hits 80, I’ll be ecstatic.
- For the Tigers, it is all about the guards, Douglas Davis and Dan Mavraides. Junior Douglas Davis was the team’s leading score last year, but that was as a shooting guard. This year he’s being asked to run the point. Senior shooting guard Dan Mavraides should be the best scorer on the floor (he poured in 26 against Rutgers already this season). They can be stopped though. The reality is, they like the long-ball. Against Rutgers, the pair took 25 shots and 19 of them were for three. For their careers, 53% of their shots have been three-point shots. What’s the one thing the Blue Devils do well? Besides looking marvelous in blue, they historically own the three-point line.
- Don’t be shocked if the Tigers decide to go even smaller. They can’t match Duke’s size, so why bother, right? The fact is, Princeton is a slow team. However, if there is speed, its on the bench. Freshmen guards T.J. Bray and Chris Clement can both offer up some quickness. Why not challenge Duke’s size with four guards, four guys who can all handle the ball?
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Duke, 83-54