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Carlos on Pacific

University of the

After opening the season against a
Detroit team that was built around quick perimeter players, Duke
faces the exact opposite. Unlike Detroit, the University of the
Pacific features a roster filled with size. Of the 15 active players
on the Tigers' roster, 8 are 6-7 or bigger.

Head Coach Bob Thomason, in his 15th
season at Pacific, has put together a team built around a nucleus of
California talent, complimented by a group of international players.
It's also a roster that features six new players, something that is
likely welcomed after last season's 12-16 record. That record was
largely the result of some key injuries on a roster that was already
thin thanks to the departure of 8 letterwinners from the 20-win
campaign of 2001-02. With the limitations of the 3 and 5 rule on
scholarships, the Tigers were left with just 10 active players - a
number that dropped to 8 after 2 starters were injured.

Thomason is happy just to have enough
players to run a full scrimmage in practice. But he's also happy
because with the deeper roster comes versatility and the ability to
play a more up-tempo game. Pacific will look to do just that, with a
new motion offense and a focus on scoring in transition. In the
halfcourt sets, the Tigers will look to drive the ball more and use
their numerous big men to post up on the blocks.


The best of those big men is sophomore
Christian Maraker. The 6-10/230 lb. native of Sweden has was the
leading scorer for Pacific last year before an injury sidelined him
for part of the season and limited his effectiveness for the
remaining games. Maraker is a highly skilled big man but, like many
European players, isn't very physical. He's a sound threat from deep
- at least by big men standards - and handles the ball well - again,
by big men standards. He's especially effective on the blocks with a
soft, turnaround jump shot which, when he's on, is very difficult to
stop. Maraker sprained his left foot in late September and missed
both exhibition games for the Tigers, but returned for the team's
season opener against San Jose State.

Joining Maraker in the Pacific
frontcourt is Guillaume Yango, a 6-8/240 lbs. JUCO transfer. Yango
is originally from France, so you can assume he's skilled in
transition defense as it involves running backwards with your arms in
the air. Yango, who played with Ricky Clemons in junior college and
Tony Parker on the French National Junior team, gives the Tigers a
powerful presence down low. He averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds
last year at Southern Idaho and has led the team in rebounding in the
exhibition games on one official game thus far this season.

Thomason has a number of options to
round out the frontcourt. If he wants to continue with the
international flavor, he can go with 6-7 Jasko Korajkic, another
player from Sweden. Korajkic recently returned to action after being
sidelined with a dislocated shoulder. The Tigers are hoping that
injury isn't similar to last year when a broken bone in his shooting
hand hindered his play the entire year. Korajkic is a sound
all-around player but struggles from the outside.

If Pacific wants to go with a big
lineup - make that huge lineup in today's college game - they can go
with either Matt Kemper or Tyler Newton as starters. Newton is a
6-10/218 lbs. red-shirt freshman who is a surprisingly good outside
shooter. The same can be said for the 6-9/250 lbs. Kemper. Newton
will give the team a little more athleticism while Kemper is the
stronger player. Neither guy has much of a post game, although with
Yango in the lineup Thomason can afford to let his other post players
roam the perimeter more on offense.

Rounding out the frontcourt are two
players who aren't expected to see many minutes this year. Miquel
Flores is a 6-8/240 lbs. sophomore who saw action during last year's
injury-filled season and Michael White is a 6-7 freshman who may end
up as a red-shirt this season.


The Pacific backcourt will be bolstered
by the addition David Doubley, another JUCO transfer. The 6-2 junior
spent a red-shirt season with the Tigers last year and should play a
prominent role in the backcourt this year. Doubley can play either
guard position and, despite his ability to post some impressive
numbers, seems to be willing to be a distributor of the ball. He's
also the best shooter of the Pacific guards.

Although Doubley is likely to play
extended minutes, he may not start. Miah Davis returns to the team
after starting 26 games last season. The 6-2 senior is perhaps the
quickest player on the team and their best perimeter defender. Davis
is a streak shooter who will occasionally play out of control.

Doubley and Davis will play together
for much of the game but Thomason will also give extended minutes to
the uber-athletic Myree Bowden. Bowden possesses an explosive
vertical leap in the David Thompson range of 44 inches.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Bowden's shooting touch can also be
described as explosive as he hit on just 24% of his outside shots
last year. He's also somewhat of a defensive liability, despite his

The backcourt reserves are Tom Cockle,
a steady 6-5 senior, and another pair of JUCO transfers Marko
Mihailovic and Allan Purnell. (9 out of the 16 players on the
Pacific roster are JUCO transfers.)

Cockle is a sound spot up shooter and
plays reasonable defense but isn't going to take anyone off the
dribble. He saw plenty of action last year but with the influx of
players on the Tiger roster his time will be cut substantially this
season. The 6-4 Mihailovic is originally from Yugoslavia and comes
to Pacific with the reputation as a shooter. That reputation has yet
to be supported though as he's gone oh-for-everything on three points
attempts thus far. His size allows Thomason to use him at the small
forward spot when the Tigers go with a smaller lineup. The same can
also be said for Purnell who, like Mihailovic, is 6-4 and supposedly
a good shooter.


Pacific will presents a great
opportunity for Duke following the Blue Devils' lethargic
season-opening win over Detroit. That close win over a lightly
regarded opponent, combined with a rotation that resulted in a three
guard lineup for most of the game, produced enough angst amongst the
fans for an entire season. With a bench full of 6-9 players and the
history of watching being out-rebounded by teams in the NCAA
Tournament while sticking to a small lineup, the question is whether
Duke will ever play a large lineup consistently.

The more specific question was whether
the rotation against Detroit was something that Duke will use against
smaller, quicker teams like the Titans, or if it is something that
will be the standard for Duke the rest of the season. The answer to
that should be clearer after Thursday night's game with Pacific. The
Tigers can play large or small, but at some point during the game
they will likely feature a frontline of three guys 6-7 or larger.

In public statements during the
preseason, Krzyzewski was adamant about his desire to play a larger
lineup. One of the factors that may limit the use of that lineup is
the ability of Duke to defend other power forwards when Shavlik
Randolph is in the game. In exhibition contests against EA Sports
and Nike Elite, Randloph struggled to defend players who were
essentially small forwards. Pacific, unlike Detroit, will present
Duke with it's first look at a large opponent this season.

Maraker is exactly the type of forward
that Duke will need to successfully defend if they want to play a
larger lineup. He's not particularly mobile with the ball - he's
most often compared to Utah Jazz forward Andre Kirilenko - but he can
use his size to get off a shot. How well Duke does defensively
against Maraker with the larger lineup will give a good indication of
what you can expect to see the rest of the season.

Duke should look to be very aggressive
defensively against the Pacific guards. Davis is an average
ballhandler, Doubley is adjusting to his new role with the team, and
the rest of the team is even more suspect with the ball.
Consequently Duke should be able to force the tempo against Pacific,
something they could not do successfully against Detroit.

Pacific is a team with some interesting
components but some fundamental flaws. Their best perimeter threats
may be their big men (Maraker, Kemper, and Newton) while, other than
Doubley, their guards have struggled from the outside. They have
size, but other than Yango, their inside players aren't very
physical. Additionally, they are still adjusting to the new motion
offense Thomason installed, marking the first change of that type in
his long career at Pacific.

The Blue Devils should prevail if they
can contain Maraker, which might not be the easiest thing to do as he
is a legitimate NBA prospect. Hopefully for Duke they can do just
that and hopefully it will be with the large lineup.

Otherwise I'll be back the next day
with another round of hand-wringing and angst.