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Duke/Villanova Preview

Carlos (not Boozer), a frequent poster on our bulletin board, has offered this excellent preview of this evening's game:

Center - Probably the best matchup on the floor for the Wildcats. Bradley
is clearly the best player on the 'Nova team while Boozer is generally
considered to be a very good power forward playing out of position. That's
not unusual for Duke because if you look back through the last 20 years of
Coach K's teams you'll find a noticeable lack of guys who would be considered
a true center. Bradley has been the focal point of the Wildcats attack in
the exhibition games as well as their opening round win over a Fairfield team
coached by former Duke Assistant Tim O'Toole. I'm sure Coach K and Tim were
on the phone Wednesday morning and the FedEx package with the game tapes
arrived later that day. I'm not sure Coach K saw anything in Bradley that
would make him feel comfortable about this particular matchup.

That said, Boozer has played especially well in Duke's games this season. He
was the team's leading scorer in both exhibition games including a 26 point
effort in the game against the Grand Rapids Hoop of the CBA. That was
particularly impressive as the opponents featured two 7 footers who have some
NBA experience (7-4 Priest Lauderdale formerly of the Hawks and 7-0 Eric
Riley out of Michigan and several NBA stops). To be fair, neither of those
players has the mobility of Bradley.

Look for both guys to try and play inside and outside. Boozer has shown a
nice 16 foot J and the ability to put the ball on the floor well for a big
guy. If Villanova plays a man D and Medley is unable to stay in front of
explosive Jason Williams then it will be a big night for Boozer. Because
Duke plays Battier around the perimeter the opposing center is the only guy
inside to help stop Williams' penetration. Boozer and Williams work very
well together with Carlos being able to garner a lot of easy baskets.

In the end Bradley should win the statistical battle, primarily because his
team will need his scoring more. However, Boozer may perform better than
many Cat fans anticipate.

Big Forward- Can you tell that I'm smiling as I type this one? Battier is
as good an all-around player as there is in the college game. What can you
say; he shoots the three, he rebounds, he's a great shot blocker
(particularly a weak side shot blocker), and he is a true leader. Battier
started his Duke career as a defensive role player. Last year, when Duke
lost so many guys to early entry in the NBA draft, Battier showed his scoring
ability. At one point he was shooting 65% on three pointers over a stretch
of about 7 games. His game does have some weaknesses though. He doesn't
really have any back to the basket, low-post moves. He is also still
developing a mid-range game off the drive. He can put it on the floor and
take it all the way to the basket, but as of late last year he hadn't
polished off the pull up J which would balance off the stationary J and the
drive to the hoop. He also doesn't accelerate well off the dribble. What
that all adds up to is that when Shane gets the ball on the per
imeter he's going to square up to the hoop. If he doesn't take the long
range J he's going to either pass or try and drive all the way to the basket.
On occasion he'll pull up for the J off that drive but he's not as accurate
with that shot. What he's not going to do is initiate a dribble and shake a
guy loose with a crossover move.

If that sounds like it harsh on what most consider the best player in college
bear in mind that those criticisms are all relative. He does most of those
things pretty well, but when compared to his exceptional defense and shooting
they tend to pale.

So, how does Villanova counter? Brook Sales has the size to trouble Battier,
but will he be able to hang with him on the perimeter? Last year's effort
against Troy Murphy would indicate that Sales has the ability to shutdown
premier power forwards. The trouble is that Battier and Murphy are different
players and while Murphy may go out and shoot the long ball (90 attempts last
year), Battier uses it as a principle weapon (178 attempts last year). Other
options available to Lappas would be to use Wright or Matthews to cover
Battier. Both guys would be quicker and present more of a challenge to
Battier on the perimeter but with both at around 6-6 they may not be able to
challenge the shot as effectively. The other drawback to using Wright is you
would lose Sales' contribution on the other end of the floor. Given that he
will be defended by Battier, a 2 time National Defensive Player of the Year
winner, Sales might not be posting big numbers anyhow.

No matter how you slice it, Duke will enjoy a big advantage here.

Small Forward- Things get kind of interesting here because of the unusual
makeup of Aaron Matthews' game. 6-6, 240? Are you kidding me? Shouldn't
this guy be playing rush linebacker somewhere? Duke has two options to
counter Matthews. They could use Nate James who is 6-6, 200 and very strong.
That would seem like the logical matchup, despite the fact that he gives up
40 pounds. But Duke's small forward is actually Mike Dunleavy who left high
school at 6-6, entered Duke last year listed as 6-7, and is listed this year
at 6-8 although Coach K has said he's really around 6-9. That last
measurement was taken this morning so he may be closer to 7-2 by game time.
Dunleavy has bulked up from last year adding about 12 pounds. Unfortunately
he's added 12 pounds to 192 so he's playing at about 204. That's 204 spread
out over 6-9. A lot of people call that skinny.

What is not skinny is Dunleavy's game. Dunleavy has the smoothest game
you'll see in a long time. He'll grab a defensive rebound and take the ball
up the court for a no-look assist in traffic on a routine basis. He shot 35%
from beyond the three point line as a freshman and has looked sensational in
each of Duke's games so far to date. He was a major contributor in Duke's
success last year and when he came down with mono late in the season it was a
major blow to Duke's NCAA hopes. Dunleavy did come back to play but was
clearly weakened. Defensively he may have trouble in this game. In the
first exhibition game against the California All-Stars he was forced to play
power forward because Battier sat out with a minor injury. On three or four
occasions the CAS player he was guarding was able to back him down low and
power over him. Matthews may be able to do the same but the guy from CAS was
6-9, not 6-6. Dunleavy's height may be able to help offset the strength
advantage enjoyed by Matthews. If Matthews is use his strength on Dunleavy then Coach K's still has plenty of
options. Because Dunleavy can play so many spots on the floor Coach K could
put James on Matthews and Dunleavy on Buchanan. Dunleavy is quicker than you
would expect but he could still have trouble sticking with Buchanan. Coach K
could bring in Chris Duhon off the bench who would matchup well with Buchanan
but then he would have to take Dunleavy out of the game. Dunleavy is simply
too good a player to have on your bench for any length of time. Another
option for Coach K would be to put Dunleavy on Sales and Battier on Matthews.

This is one of the key matchups to the game. Dunleavy is a better all around
player but Matthews could have a very big game because of his physical
advantages. On the other hand, Matthews seems to get sloppy with the ball on
occasion which is something Duke will definitely try to exploit.

Shooting Guard- Buchanan is probably the second best player on the team.
Duke may be able to contain him but if so, it will be at the expense of
opening up his teammates. When both starting lineups are in the game
Buchanan is going to be defended by a bigger player. James and Dunleavy will
have 3 and 6 inch size advantages which may make it difficult for Buchanan to
get off the long ball. However, Buchanan should be able to drive past either
player which will force Duke to rotate on D. That rotation, along with where
Buchanan is forced on the court, will determine just how effective Buchanan
will be.

On the other end of the court Buchanan is going to have his hands full. That
same size disparity will be more in play as the Duke player will be able to
shoot over Buchanan or post him low. Nate James is a good three point
shooter, but he needs some time to release the shot. He is also very strong
and a good offensive rebounder much like Aaron Matthews. James is
particularly good on the glass when defended by smaller players. He averaged
over 2 offensive rebounds per game. He's also one of those guys who is a
glue player, adding emotion to the team.

Again, like the small forward spot, one of the keys to the game for
Villanova. Despite the fact that Bradley is the best player on the team,
Buchanan may provide a bigger challenge. You may see Duhon defending him
frequently. Although he is only a freshman, Duhon is a strong defender and
heady player.

Point Guard- Remember the smile I mentioned when talking about Battier?
It's back. Jason Williams is the real deal. This summer he was a key player
on the college team that played against the Olympic squad. Ask Gary Payton
about how tough he is to defend. On the other side of the coin is Medley who
is a sound player but not terribly quick. That's not really good news for
you guys as is his 1.4 assist to turnover ratio. Look for the Duke guards to
really pressure Medley. On defense he's going to have to contend with
Williams who can really get to the rack.

Williams is much less effective when he tries to go for style points or carry
the team. He is prone to pulling the trigger a little quickly which is not
always good with a guy who shoots 35% from the three point line and is a
streak shooter. He also had a pretty low assist to turnover ratio but the
difference between he and Medley is that he is far more active. For the year
he finished with 220 assists and averaged 14.5 ppg. As I mentioned earlier,
if Villanova plays man and Medley is unable to contain Williams, it could be
a big night for Boozer.

Bench- The Duke bench is pretty much Chris Duhon who, as mentioned earlier,
is a good defender. He's also a superb shooter although he has yet to find
his shooting touch this year. Casey Sanders is a rangy 6-11 shot blocker
with limited offensive skills. If he can get out and run in the open court
he is much more effective. He does struggle with defending power post
players. The Wildcats have a deeper bench, but I'm not sure it has the
quality at the top like Duke's. Reggie Bryant is a good player, but can he
match up with Duhon? Besides, freshmen point guards usually have a hard time
playing at Duke. (I'm conveniently blocking out the memory of Stephon
Marbury here.) Bloch, Snowden, and Wright are all solid guys who may
contribute more than the rest of the Duke bench. Duke can counter that by
using the versatility of their players. James, Battier, and Dunleavy can all
play multiple positions allowing Duke different lineup looks with a limited
number of players.

General: It's rather early to get a good handle on either team from games
played although the Wildcat's exhibition loss to the One World All-Stars
should concern Wildcats fans. The One World All-Stars played several
exhibition games and despite playing most teams close it appears that their
only victory was the win over Villanova. For Villanova to win they are going
to need big nights out of Matthews and Buchanan. Bradley is going to get
his, at least to some extent. But the Duke defense is predicated around
pressuring the ball all at all times and that sometimes results in the
perimeter defenders over-committing. Buchanan and Matthews may be able to
take advantage of that and create opportunities for both themselves and

Overall I think Duke will win, but I never claimed to be objective. The Duke
pressure should be much greater than Fairfield's and if you turn the ball
over 25 times in Cameron it is usually a long flight home. Villanova has a
real dilemma on defense. Do they play zone and allow Duke some open looks
outside? Or do they go man and try and contain Williams?