Here's another MAGNIFICENT preview from Carlos:
There was a time when a Duke Â Davidson game would have been a major national event. If there were an ESPN at the time they would have been there. Of course there was also a time when this weekendÂs Army Â Navy game would have determined the national champion in football. Nevertheless, during the late 60Âs and going into the 70Âs the Wildcats were amongst the nationÂs elite. During that span, Duke alum Lefty DriesellÂs Wildcats were a respectable 1-2 against Duke with no game being decided by more than 8 points.
Fast forward 30 years and college basketball has changed considerably. Davidson and the Southern Conference are no longer part of the nationÂs basketball elite and the Duke Â Davidson game is no longer a major event. Duke renewed their series with Davidson five years ago and the closest game in that time has been 23 point Blue Devil win in 1997, a year that Davidson won the Southern Conference tournament. The other games have been 30 point affairs and that shouldnÂt change much this year.
Davidson finished at 15-13 last year with a team built around senior leaders Stephen Marshall and Landry Kosmalski. Marshall and Kosmalski were the teamÂs leading scorers at 15.9 and 14.6 points per game as well as the teamÂs leading rebounders. Also departed are the other starting forward and the best outside shooter from last yearÂs squad. The result so far is a 3-4 squad that has struggled to find their identity thus far in the season. That record looks even worse when you realize that the teams Davidson has defeated have a combined 1-13 record thus far this year with the lone win being a Carnegie Mellon victory over a fellow Division III school.
The Wildcats started the season participating in the Top of the World Tournament in Alaska where they finished 7th out of 8 teams. Their losses to South Florida and Santa Clara were marked by plenty of turnovers and being unable to stop opposing forwards. ThatÂs not good news for a team facing the Blue Devils and Shane Battier. In their only other game against significant competition the Wildcats lost by 31 points to Georgia Tech.
Usually when Duke plays a team from one of the smaller conferences you can expect them to pound the ball inside against an overmatched opponent that lacks the size to match up with Carlos Boozer. While Duke will definitely look to score inside, the Wildcats will provide more of a challenge than most casual observers would expect.
DavidsonÂs starting frontline measures 7-2, 6-9, and 6-5 and they have two other big guys on the bench they can turn to. But then again, thereÂs 7-2 and then thereÂs 7-2. While he may have size, starting center Martin Ides is not a particularly dominant player. In fact, despite a schedule that featured Jackson State, Penn, and Carnegie Mellon, Ides did not record a blocked shot until their last game against Elon College. Offensively he is a big drop off from their last few years when Marshall did a great job for them in the post. Ides is unlikely to repeat the 20 point, 14 rebound effort that Marshall gave Davidson in their 1997 game against Duke.
Coach Bob McKillop is probably hoping to get more out of Ides than he did in the matchup against Georgia TechÂs Alvin Jones. In that game the Davidson center tallied 1 point and 1 rebound in 15 minutes of action. Ides is does have some game after spending the summer playing with the national team of his native Czech Republic. However he is still raw and he can be turnover prone as witnessed by his 7 turnovers in 17 minutes in the game against Santa Clara.
For athleticism in their frontcourt the Wildcats look to 6-9 sophomore power forward Chris Pearson. A native of England, Pearson adds to the international flavor of a roster that includes 6 players from overseas. Like Ides, Pearson didnÂt see much playing time last year as he sat on the bench behind Kosmalski. This year he has responded to the increased playing time and is leading the team in blocks and is second in rebounds.
Pearson has only been playing basketball for 9 years and is still learning the finer points of the game. On offense he will roam out to the three point line and attempt about 1 shot each game but he rarely hits them. He also rarely hits shots inside the three point line where he is converting at a 37% clip. On defense he is foul prone and has had some trouble defending versatile forwards.
Boozer and Battier should be able to dominate on both ends of the floor. Shane is coming off a great performance against Temple where he hit 4-7 threes and pulled down 9 rebounds. Most nights that would get you noticed but then most nights donÂt include a teammate going off for 30. As noted earlier, many opposing forwards have had big nights against the Wildcats and Battier could continue that trend.
Boozer has also played well this season and could be the teamÂs most improved player. The Temple rematch had the potential for Boozer to try and do too much. With the Owls slumping in the paint to try and prevent another big night from Boozer it would have been very easy for him to try and match his earlier numbers despite the change in the defense. Instead Boozer played a heady game and didnÂt force any shots. Defensively he was able to hold Kevin Lyde to 6 points.
Davidson is a deep team and not afraid to play some of their reserves. 6-8 sophomore Jason Dickens sees as many minutes as most of the teamÂs starters. Dickens is the Wildcats most experienced big man and compliments his aggressive interior play with an ability to step outside for the jumper. Overall he is the teamÂs 3rd leading scorer who gets many of his buckets off from offensive rebounds. His best performance came last year against Stanford where he finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Also coming off the bench for Davidson is another sophomore, 6-10 Michel Lusakueno from The Congo. Lusakueno honed his game in the basketball hotbed of France and will probably be used sparingly in this game.
Meanwhile the faces off the Duke bench are as familiar as the refrain of cries for their development. 6-11 Casey Sanders and fellow sophomore 6-10 Nick Horvath combined for 20 minutes in the victory over Temple. The Duke staff would dearly love to get those kind of minutes out of that pair in a close game. Neither player had an exceptional outing but both did score 3 points which is an improvement over prior performances. For Horvath, the team needs him to gain some poise on the offensive end of the court. He came to Duke as the Minnesota Mr. Basketball and possessing a gaudy 28 point average as a high school senior. At Duke he has shown flashes of that ability but often times seems to rush his shot. Duke needs to get him as much playing time as possible so that he is more comfortable in game situations. In addition to Horvath and Sanders, Duke will also use 6-11 Matt Christiansen off the bench.
At the small forward position, 6-5 junior Emeka Erege from Nigeria is arguably DavidsonÂs best player. He is their leading scorer and rebounder. He also has their most interesting medical history after missing most of 1998 with a broken leg. He returned the following year and played the entire 1999 season with a metal rod in his leg and then missed the following year after surgery to have the rod removed. Erege scores a lot of baskets off offensive rebounds as well as drives to the basket. He will remind some of David Hawkins from Temple although he doesnÂt shoot the ball as well from the outside. For the season Erege has only 5 three point attempts.
His counterpart on the Duke side is Mike Dunleavy who will, as usual, enjoy a considerable height advantage. Duneleavy may have the most well rounded game of any player on the Duke team. Consider that he is scoring in double figures, is third on the team in rebounds, third on the team in assists, third on the team in field goal percentage, and second on the team in 3 point field goal percentage. More importantly consider that he is able to use that versatility to step into almost any role that the team needs on any night.
Off the bench the Davidson is getting some minutes from Jouni Eho, a 6-6 freshman out of Finland. (Side note here- break out the atlas. So far weÂve covered Finland, Nigeria, England, the Czech Republic, and the Congo.) Eho has a well rounded game and can play 3 positions.
Duke will get some playing time for a similar player- Andre Sweet. The 6-6 freshman could turn out to be a pleasant surprise for the Blue Devils. Sweet is making the change from a high school post player to a college wing player much like teammate Nate James had to do a few years ago. The surprise is that Sweet has shown a better shooting touch than anyone would have expected. He has a reliable mid-range jumper and has shown a willingness to step outside for the three. He is a long armed player who will go underneath and mix it up for a rebound. Although it is too early to tell, Sweet may be able to emerge as one of the quality reserves Krzyzewski is looking for.
This was supposed to be the part of the team that Davidson could build around. Starter Wayne Bernard was the leading returning scorer and was joined by point guards Fernando Tonella and Michael Bree.
Bree is a tough little point guard from Ireland that Coach McKillop recruited when he was using up some frequent flier miles from that trip to The Congo. Unfortunately for the Wildcats he has been injured and only able to play 16 minutes this year.
Bernard is a different story. The 6-3 sophomore began the year as the teamÂs point guard after starting at the off guard last year. He has been struggling from the three point line this year falling off from his 37% shooting as a freshman to 26% this year. Overall he is shooting just 30% this year. Those problems may be partially attributable to the switch to the point guard position where he has not seemed terribly comfortable this year. The additional ball handling responsibilities have resulted in him turning the ball over far more frequently than last year in addition to his shooting woes. Despite all that, he is still the teamÂs second leading scorer.
However, the real problem for Davidson is that nobody is sure if Bernard will actually play in this game. He missed their last game against Elon for unspecified "personal reasons" and it appears doubtful that he will play against Duke.
That leaves Tonella alone as an experienced player in the Davidson backcourt. The 5-10 junior started the year as a reserve when Davidson attempted to play a larger lineup with Bernard at the point and Eho at the 2 guard. Tonella quickly returned to the starting lineup after two games in which the team had nearly twice as many turnovers as assists. He is a solid point guard who is surprisingly quick. and is good with the ball as indicated by his 2.75 assist-to-turnover ratio. Given an opportunity to release shoot from the outside he will make defenders pay as he is a good shooter.
With BernardÂs status uncertain, Tonella also may see some time at the off guard. What combination Davidson uses in the backcourt is still in doubt although 6-5 freshman Nick Booker is likely to figure prominently in their plans. Booker may turn out to be a sleeper recruit for Davidson after missing his senior year of high school with an injury. His progress this year was slowed by a preseason foot injury but he has been able to contribute nearly 20 minutes a game thus far. He gives Davidson some athleticism in the backcourt that will be sorely needed if Bernard is unavailable. He is not a particularly adept shooter but can use his size to contribute inside. HeÂs also the kind of free throw shooter that would make Chris Burgess feel skilled.
DavidsonÂs other options in the backcourt include Peter Anderer and Jarred Cochran, a pair of 6-1 sophomores and 5-11 freshman walkon Jason Ford. Oddly enough the walkon is seeing the most minutes of that group. HeÂs also the most accurate threat the team has from beyond the three point line.
For Duke the backcourt story begins with Jason Williams who continually elevates his game to new heights. ItÂs hard to imagine where Duke would be at this point in the season without Williams. In the first Temple game he carried the team to victory with his penetration down the stretch. Against Illinois he was the teamÂs best offensive threat in the first half when Duke was struggling. In the Temple rematch, well everyone knows that story. He is playing like a National Player of the Year and there are not many other players out there who are performing on his level.
Starting alongside Williams in the backcourt is 6-6 senior Nate James who is becoming more aggressive with the basketball. James has been driving the ball to the goal more in recent games and thatÂs probably a good thing. After starting the season strongly from beyond the three point line, James has fallen into a 2-14 slump. Fortunately for James and Duke, he has adapted his game and is still giving Duke valuable minutes on both ends of the floor.
Off the bench the Blue Devils will turn to freshman Chris Duhon who has done nearly everything the staff has asked of him. Everything but perhaps shoot the ball. Duhon is attempting only 5 shots per game but I doubt the coaching staff is terribly upset with that given what the he brings to the team in other areas. Duhon is a player who can give you 6 steals one night and the next night give you 12 assists. Duhon has the instincts and movement of a guy who can really play defense. Watch the Temple game and see what he did to Lynn Greer when he was matched against him.
Little used reserve Andre Buckner should also see some action in this game.
This a game Duke should win by whatever score they want. The Wildcats havenÂt been competitive with Duke in recent years and by all accounts this is not one of the better Davidson teams. Couple that with the uncertainty and inexperience in the backcourt and you have the makings of a tough night for the Wildcats.
Look for Duke to come out and press hard in the early going and to generate a lot of turnovers. The Devils will want to put this game away early to afford them an opportunity to develop their team further. Some of the things they are most likely to want to work on are the half court offense and depth. Duke may try to force Davidson into a man defense if they can. If they do get that then Boozer and Battier should get some work on low post offense against a sizeable opponent.
For depth, look for Sanders, Horvath, and Sweet to get some early minutes working with the starters. TheyÂll also get minutes together as a unit but the key for their development is to get them ready to play with the starters. Individually I think theyÂll want to get Horvath involved with the offense and Sanders more comfortable on the defensive end of the court. Hopefully Duhon will be more assertive on offense as well.
The bonus on the evening could be seeing what football player Reggie Love has to offer. Coach K was upset when an administrative error kept the former North Carolina High School Player of the Year from playing against Army. He should see some minutes in this game and it will be interesting to see if he can contribute in game situations.
Oh yeah- look for that little extra "gonna get some PT" spring in the step of Caldbeck and Simpson when they come out for those second half warmups.