Next up: the exciting, young, oh-so-fresh Florida Gators.Â What to
expect? Well since Billy Donovan tutored under Rick Pitino, and pretty closely
mirrors his system, one can expect a Pitino-esque team: pressing, running, and
the same sort of thing we got used to from Pitino's UK squads.
Generally speaking, Duke has handled pressing teams well over the
years.Â We think back to Maryland and Iowa as specific examples, but there
were others. Duke manages a press fairly well. They did so the last fewÂ
years with Wojo at point, who was not the most gifted guard, though he was one
of the guttiest, and Avery, whose ballhandling skills, while adequate, were
never superb (he didn't go to his left that well, a flaw the NBA picked up on
Under Amaker and Hurley, Duke really had no major problems with pressing
teams, except for Kentucky in 92, when Pitino turned Duke inside out at the end
and used Hurley against Duke, forcing him, he said later, to try to do to much.
Quin Snyder's time at point was a struggle to learn the position, for a
while, and Duke teams of that time were known to get behind by scores like 21-5
and have to battle back into it, which they did through rugged defense.
In the years where Duke had not great point guard, Duke used what Coach K
calls "conveyance" - essentially passing the ball upcourt when
challenged, rather than dribbling. It worked too.
This year Duke has Jason Williams as the primary ballhandler, and Carrawell
and Dunleavy as secondary handlers.Â Jason is a fairly hard guy to press,
unless, like anyone, you can trap him.Â But he's gotten smarter about
things like that and doesn't get in those spots on the court where you can be
easily trapped (corners, baselines, etc).Â
A secondary point about this game, which just occurred to us, is this: if
Florida wants to run, who on Duke's team will particularly like that? We're
betting Mike Dunleavy, who has had some brilliant moments in the middle of
breaks this season.Â He barely played against Kansas, but a half-court,
grind it out game isn't for him at this point, at least partly because of his
lack of bulk. In an open game, however,Â he could be sensational.
So could Brett Nelson, of course.Â But after Maryland decided not to run
with Duke in Cameron, and then Greensboro (and after watching UCLA run them back
to high school who can blame them), and after the grinding Kansas game, a
running game might be just what Duke needs.Â Johnny Dawkins has been the
unsung hero of this team, the guy who put together the conditioning program that
lets a thin team keep going, and we'll see this week how it pays off. Florida
has considerable depth, and they will try to wear Duke down, but basketball, as
Roy Williams said, is a funny game, and we'll have to wait until tip-off to see
how the various strengths and weaknesses play out.
One final note: Florida has likely not forgotten the 40 point whipping they
took last season in Durham.Â In Coach K's way of thinking, though, that's
fine.Â It just means Florida is focused on failure rather than success, and
that's an advantage for Duke.