Game Info: Delaware (2-5) @ #2 Duke (7-0), Dec 1st, 2pm ET, Durham, NC.
TV Info: ESPN3
Everyone needs a break every now and then.
You, with the full-time job, you need a break. You, the full-time student with the underpaying part-time job, you need a break. And you, the basketball team that has just played one of the more brutal early season schedules in recent memory, you need a break, too.
The Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team has been phenomenal this year. With wins over top-five ranked Louisville, Kentucky, and Ohio State to their name, along with three other very impressive wins over non-ranked teams (VCU, Minnesota, and FGCU), Coach K’s squad has already proved they can hang around with any team in the nation. That being said, you can’t expect any team to hold up if they’re going up against such talented squads game after game after game, specifically in the early stages of the season, and the Blue Devils are in need of a nice, lower-intensity game.
Insert the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens.
It isn’t like the Blue Devils are playing a Division-II team, as Delaware isn’t too bad of a basketball team. They narrowly lost to a talented Kansas State squad, 66-63, and only one of their five losses has been by more than seven points. They haven’t, however, played a team anywhere near as talented as this Duke squad, and they haven’t played in an environment anywhere near the one they’ll face at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Do I expect the Blue Devils to run the Blue Hens out of the building? No. They’ll probably still be a little physically and emotionally lethargic following the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournmanet and Ohio State game, and the Blue Devils have looked a little…uninspired…against mid-major teams at home this year.
That being said, I don’t expect this to be a particularly close game.
Delaware’s offense has struggled so far this year, ranking 214th in the nation despite playing a somewhat underwhelming schedule. They do have two very talented players in junior point guard Devon Saddler (21.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.0 apg) and senior forward Jamelle Hagins (13.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.3 bpg) who carry the large majority of the scoring load, and carry the load they do. Jamelle Hagins has 47 points and 35 rebounds in his last two games and Devon Saddler had a three-game stretch this year that saw him score 32 points, 28 points, and 25 points. Unfortunately for the Blue Hens, they lack enough depth to consistently present an offensive attack throughout a game outside of Saddler and Hagins. This will be problematic for Delaware, as Duke has yet to allow anymore than 71 points this season despite facing teams far superior to the Blue Hens in terms of offensive firepower.
Their defense isn’t bad, as it was the primary reason they were able to knock off Virginia, one of Duke’s ACC foes, by a score 59-53. Outside of an 85-59 loss to Pittsburgh and an 80-75 loss to Temple, the defense has actually been pretty darn good. They rebound well, avoid mistakes, and apply constant pressure on both the perimeter and inside the paint, where Hagins and Saddler are also dominant.
So what are the keys to the game for Duke?
-Rebound: Duke looked pathetic on the boards at times during Ohio State, and Hagins has looked like one of the better rebounders in the nation ever since overcoming cramping issues earlier in the year. I would guess that Delaware saw Ohio State’s strategy of getting Plumlee away from the basket, opening up the offensive glass and allowing offensive rebounds to come in bunches, and will use it themselves throughout the game.
-Plumlee, remind Hagins why you’re in the running for National Player of the Year: Hagins has really only gone up against one team that had any sort of inside presence, and that was Pittsburgh. In that game, Hagins was completely ineffective, scoring four points and grabbing only seven rebounds. Plumlee and Kelly will be, by far, the toughest front court he will have faced so far this season. It will be up to Plumlee to keep Hagins in check on both ends of the court. You ready, Mason?
-Score 71 points: I really don’t think it is going to take much to win this game. Delaware’s entire offense revolves around two players and I’m sure Duke will do everything to shut those two players down. Because of that, I don’t expect Delaware to score anymore than 70 points, as they’ve only reached or surpassed the total twice this season. If Duke hits 71, they won’t be losing this game, you can count on that. Chances are they may only need somewhere around 60-65, but we’ll see.