Carlos returns with his excellent previews for Duke opponents! This is the most detailed, most engaging write-up of this game you'll see anywhere.
It's easy to have mixed feelings about the University
On one hand, they did give the basketball
world Dave DeBusschere, a cornerstone of some great
Knicks teams from back in the 1970's. DeBusschere teamed
with almost-a-Dukie Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Clyde
Frazier, and Earl Â»the PearlÂ« Monroe
to form one of the most memorable and likeable NBA teams of all time. Memorable and likeable except for old-time
Lakers fans who probably react to that Â»Willis Reed limping out for Game 7Â«
tape in much the same way Ram's Club members must feel whenever they see
footage of the press conference that announced the Tar Heels had just hired
But for all the positives that Detroit
gets to bank from DeBusschere, there is that that
other thing. Like the Hilton family having
to deal with Paris, the barest
heiress, Detroit has some to accept
some responsibility for the television career of Dick Vitale. Had UD made a better effort to keep him,
Vitale would stuck around as a successful college coach and never had the
opportunity to have the mediocre NBA career that would lead him into the world
of broadcasting. Don't get me wrong, I
love the passion that Vitale brings to the game, but he's taken the Al McGuire
approach of combining information and entertainment and somewhere along the
line decided to drop the information part of the equation. It's almost to the point where I look forward
to Billy Packer calling a game, and for that I can't forgive Vitale. So, the question is, how many DeBusschere's do you have to give the basketball world to
offset one Vitale?
One last thought on Dickie V; if
you bet the over for how long into the season Vitale would go before tossing
out his first annoying Duke reference, you would have most definitely
lost. Unless of course the over/under
was set at two minutes, which is how long it took Vitale to start hyping
Duke. And if you tried to cover your
losses by betting that Duke would have a player from last year's squad playing
the more minutes in the NBA this year than Detroit, well, you can expect a
visit from Paulie Walnuts any minute now. That's because former Titan star Willie Green
is playing about 10 minutes a night for the Philadelphia
76ers. Green's success in the NBA tells
you a little bit about the talent that you can sometimes find on mid-major
teams. It also tells you a lot about the
challenge veteran coach Perry Watson faces in trying to replace Green's 22
points per game from last season.
Compounding that challenge is the departure of Terrell
Riggs, the team's second leading scorer and leading rebounder. Fortunately for Detroit,
Watson is accustomed to rebuilding a team, something he has been doing successfully
for the last 10 years. He's done that by
consistently identifying local talent and managing to convince some of them to
pass up opportunities at larger schools to remain in Detroit. Watson's success in recruiting Detroit
is due in large part to his many years as a high school coach in the city where
he guided many of the city's top players, including Jalen
Rose. Watson followed Rose to Michigan
(or Rose followed Watson to Michigan depending upon one's perspective) where he
served as an assistant coach under Steve Fisher before taking the Detroit job
10 seasons ago.
How Detroit has
managed to hold on to Watson is somewhat of a mystery. Typically a coach with Watson's record lasts
as long at a mid-major about the same length of time as a Julia Roberts
marriage. But Watson has been a fixture
at Detroit and the school recently
rewarded him with new 6-year contract.
Job stability may be something Watson will appreciate this year as
losing Green and Riggs is more than losing scorers and rebounders,
it's also losing a pair of 4-year starters.
What's left for Watson to work with is a roster that is typical of many
mid-major schools Â a bunch of talent in the backcourt but little depth in big
Riggs provided the Titans with their most consistent inside
scoring threat last year and the team will look to senior Willie Wallace to help
fill that void. At 6-7/250 lbs., Wallace
should be the most physical player on the Detroit
roster. The Â»should beÂ« part of that
comes from the reputation that this William Wallace isn't always a Braveheart. When he
does play hard he can be effective as a post player and can step out for a
mid-range jump shot. But then there are
agonizing stretches where Wallace seems to coast on the floor. Watson and Detroit
are hoping that an expanded role the offense will foster more consistency and
intensity in Wallace.
The other starting big man for the Titans will likely be Ryvon Covile, a 6-9/230 lb.
has only played two seasons of organized basketball and is literally still
learning the game. Like a lot of guys
who come to the game late, Covile's defense is ahead
of his offense. He'll be the team's
biggest post defender this season and should lead them in blocked shots for the
second year in a row.
Rounding out the Titan's starting frontline is Elijah
Warren, the leading scorer returning from last year. Warren
is a 6-5/235 lb. senior and is the team's best outside shooter. Against mid-major schools Warren
can create a mismatch on the offensive end of the floor as he has the size to
post players up or can hit the outside shot against bigger defenders. It is questionable how well that will
translate against Duke, where for parts of the game he'll be matched up against
a bigger defender with similar quickness.
Warren's game is similar to Butler's
Mike Monserez, an 11 ppg
scorer last year who went 3-12 against Duke in Cameron.
Frontcourt depth comes from Tavoris
Baker, a thin 6-7 junior college transfer, and 6-9/220 lb. sophomore Clarke Headon. Baker will
give the Titans some rebounding punch while Headon
will give them 5 fouls and some anxious moments.
Predicting a rotation for the Detroit
backcourt is more difficult than the frontcourt. Will Watson start Syracuse
transfer, James Thues at the point? Or will he go with Rulon
Harris, a senior who started at the point for the Titans last year? Or, will Watson go with Jimmy Twyman, another senior who shared the point guard spot with
Harris last year? Will he move one of
those guys to the off-guard spot and if he does will it limit the court time of
talented Ben Green?
The early returns seem to indicate the 5-10 Thues will get the start at point guard. He's ultra-quick and is a disruptive defender
but can play out of control at times.
Despite being only a fair outside shooter, Thues
was able to put up some solid numbers for Syracuse
in the 2002 season. But with McDonald's
All-American Gerry McNamera coming in for the 2003
season, and with Billy Edelin coming back from a
season-long suspension, the backcourt picture was getting pretty cloudy in the
If Thues sees substantial minutes Â
and it's likely he will - they will like come at the expense of Twyman. The 6-0
senior is more conservative with the ball than Thues
but also not as explosive. He's the
team's second best returning three-point shooter but at 33% that's not saying a
great deal. Twyman
has gone oh-for-the-exhibition-season on three-pointers this year, including an
abysmal 0-5 in their last outing.
Another senior, the 6-1 Harris, is likely to get the start
at the off-guard position. He too is
struggling from the outside, going 1-5 on threes in exhibition games. That shouldn't come as too great a surprise,
given his 22% accuracy from deep last year.
Like Twyman, Harris and to a certain extent Thues,
will have to adjust their games from being distributors of the ball to becoming
scorers. For that reason you can expect Detroit
to struggle to score points in the early season.
Watson showed his faith in genetics with the recruitment of
Ben Green and Muhammad Abdur-Rahim. The 6-4 Green, who is the cousin of Willie
Green, brings more size to the Titan backcourt.
He likes to slash to the basket and rebounds well, but also struggles
from the outside. His game will take a
big step forward if he can ever improve his jump shot to compliment his ability
to drive to the basket.
Abdur-Rahim is the younger brother
of NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Unfortunately for Muhammad, he may share the
same skill set as Shareef, but that's a skill set
that works better at 6-9 than it does 6-4.
Muhammad spent most of his time in HS as a post player and spent the
last year as a redshirt while trying to improve his
outside game. Of the two, Green is
generally considered the better prospect and is the player that many feel will
lead the team next season.
When a mid-major school starts off a rebuilding season on
the road, in one of college basketball's toughest environments, and playing
against a top-ranked team, most would expect a lopsided affair. In fact, you could probably get better odds
on David Gest squaring off with Liza
Minnelli in Celebrity Boxing than you could get on Detroit
Duke should obviously win this game, but it might not turn
out to be the high-scoring affair that Blue Devil fans are looking for. Fittingly, the Titans play the type of
aggressive and tough defense that you would expect from the blue collar image
of Detroit. Last year the Titans finished just behind Butler
in scoring defense. That's second in the
nation, not just in the Horizon League.
If last year's contest between Duke and Butler
is any indication, the Blue Devils may have to wait until traveling to Alaska
before cracking the century mark.
If the Titans are to have any hope for keeping this game
close they're going to have to do it on the defensive end of the court. While they share similarities with Butler
on defense, the comparison should stop there.
Last year, the Bulldogs could fill the floor with 4 guys who were
threats from the three-point line.
That's a luxury the Titans don't have as overall, there are only two
real threats from deep (Thues and Warren). In fact, overall this team struggles from the
into this game 3 days after lighting up the scoreboard for a dazzling 65 points
in an exhibition game on Wednesday. In
the second half of that game the team shot just 25% on threes in the second
half. That would be bad enough except
that the second half actually improved their overall percentages because they
were just 1-6 in the first half. This
may be the only team in America
that would hire Ron Curry as a shooting coach.
If Detroit is unable to
score from the perimeter they'll find themselves in the position of having to
drive to the basket against bigger defenders.
Despite their shooting woes, the Titans do have some strengths. It's
likely that Duke will start their small lineup, which means JJ Redick or Daniel Ewing will draw the defensive assignment
against Warren. Redick will be the
likely candidate in that situation as Ewing provides a
better matchup with the Titan backcourt players.
In either case, Duke will be giving up some size and weight
to Warren who could exploit that matchup. How well Duke is able to defend Warren
is important to the game, but it also is an important indicator to the
season. Duke fans are going to see
plenty of the smaller lineup this year and the key for the team's success will
be how well they can defend and rebound against opposing forwards.
The other matchup for Duke fans to watch is how well Chris Duhon
plays defense against the Titans guards.
All three of Detroit's
potential point guards are quick, especially Thues
who plays like he had a pre-game venti espresso IV
hooked up for a few hours. In the
preseason, Krzyzewski played Duhon
against the opposing team's shooting guard much like he did early in Duhon's career. But
with Detroit, the line between
point-guard and shooting guard becomes blurred.
Be it Harris, Thues, or Twyman,
Duhon will find himself defending a quick opponent,
something that gave him trouble last year.
Saturday will provide a good indication if the 10 lbs. Duhon lost over the summer will allow him to return to the
type of defense he played as a freshman.
On the other side of the ball Â and here is a phrase I'll be
using more frequently this season than gratuitous cheap shots against the Tar
Heels Â the Titans will have a great deal of difficulty matching up against
Deng. In Duke's small lineup, Deng will
be defended by either Covile or Wallace. Neither of those players will be able to stay
with Deng if he takes his game out to the wing.
The matchup Detroit
faces when Duke goes large and Warren
draws Deng is equally as difficult.
Essentially Deng provides Duke with the same type of mismatch that Detroit
gets with Warren Â the only
difference being that the mismatch is more pronounced when the other team has
to deal with Deng. Look for Duke to run
the offense through Deng early, much as they did against Nike Elite.
The final, and perhaps most important thing for Duke fans to watch, will be how well the team plays in the first
half. In both exhibition games, Duke
failed to overwhelm opponents in the first half. In both games, the margin of victory was the
result of strong play in the latter half of the game against an opponent that
is typically playing their 5th game in 7 nights. How much of that was Duke and how much was
fatigue on the part of their opponents?
Saturday's game will give some indication to that answer. While Detroit
might not have the same level of talent as Duke Â or even as some of the
exhibition teams Duke has faced Â you can be certain that Watson's team will
play hard for the full game. For a team
like Detroit that's the whole
reason to play a game like this.
Well, that and to have opportunity to have Dick Vitale
broadcast your game.