Here's a scenario for you to contemplate: Illinois goes up against Arizona
and outmuscles and outhustles a team which has promised greatness, then returns
to the mainland, flies to Greensboro, and takes advantage of Duke's
less-than-stellar inside defense to beat the Devils in the ACC-Big 10/1
Challenge and shoot up to #1 in the nation. Is it possible, and if so,
Well, yes it is, and it is possible because Bill Self is a driven man.
He's totally changed the way this team plays - last year under Lon Kruger they
played a more conservative game; this year, they seem to be playing with great
passion and a love of risk-taking and don't forget a love of pounding the
boards, which is where they totally crushed Maryland.
Now that's a possible scenario, and we'll pick them to beat Arizona because
we think the Wildcats are a bit full of themselves and thus ripe for an
upset. But here's the opposing scenario:
Illinois gets into a running game with Duke and tries to press
Williams. Jason breaks it down and gets into the open court where he gets
the ball to Dunleavy and Boozer and Duhon.
Duke passes through the still-scrambling defense for layups and then plays
excellent whole-court defense. If the layups aren't available, then Duhon,
Battier, Williams and Dunleavy line up for threes on the perimeter.
Illinois goes to a half-court defense, which cuts down on Jason's damage but
also takes them out of the pace they prefer and they run out of gas and stall in
the second half of a very tough defensive struggle.
The thing about Illinois which is really interesting, or at least was in the
Maryland game, is their rebounding . Is that a worry? Yes. But Duke has
traditionally been outrebounded under Krzyzewski and has responded with two
interesting attacks: 1) driving and getting to the foul line a lot which is not
only (potentially) free points but which progressively strangles the opponent's
aggressiveness and forcing turnovers, which might well be points for your side
but which certainly won't be points for theirs.
Against Villanova, Duke forced 29 turnovers and Villanova had 23 fouls, which
broke down to 4, 4,5 1,3, 1, and 1 for their players, meaning that one guy
obviously screwed up, two had to temper their aggression, and a third was on the
verge of serious trouble.
If you consider a turnover a shot or rebound denied, the stats take on a very
different perspective. For instance, though Villanova outrebounded Duke by
31-23, they were denied 29 attempts by their many turnovers. It's
obviously not scientific, but denying the shot by a turnover radically changes
the number of potential shots and rebounds. It's an interesting argument.
Anyway, we don't mean to get ahead of ourselves, since there are three games
between now and then and Illinois gets a big test from Arizona, but still, it's
an intriguing matchup.
We now return you to your Texan matchup.