clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Carlos on Liberty

Typically, when you are playing in a
holiday tournament, you can expect the competition to get tougher
each step of the way. That may not be the case for Duke tonight as
they go from opening round opponent Pacific to Liberty in the second
round of the Great Alaska Shootout. It's too early in the season to
make definitive statements, but the 1-2 Flames may not be as strong
as the Pacific team that Duke just defeated. None of that may matter
much though as the Blue Devils have yet to put together a dominating
performance for an entire 40 minutes thus far this season. You can
expect to see phrases like "was leading Duke at the half"
or "was within 8 points of second ranked Duke with 4 minutes
left" in upcoming articles about Detroit and Pacific.

The goal for Duke on Friday evening
will be to avoid being another reference in the Liberty media guide
later this season. The Flames may be looking for something positive
in a season that has thus far seen a 16-point loss to Miami (OH) and
a 27-point drubbing at the hands of a William & Mary squad picked
to finish at the bottom of the Colonial conference. The troubling
thing for fans in Falwell-land is that the Flames were picked to
finish near the top of their conference and those two losses - big
losses at that - may have them asking some questions. A strong
performance against Duke would go a long way towards giving them some

The odds facing Liberty coach Randy
Dunton when his team squares off against Duke grew a little longer 6
minutes into the Canisius game when starting guard Ryan Mantlo went
down with an ankle injury. Dunton, who once coached high school
basketball in Anchorage, will have to find a way to compensate for
the loss of his senior captain, the team's second-leading returning
scorer. Fortunately for Dunton, he has a strong nucleus of players
returning from last year's 14-15 squad and some talented newcomers
ready to help fill the void from Mantlo's injury.


The most likely candidate to fill that
void will be freshman Larry Blair, a 6-1 guard from Charlotte, NC.
Bob Gibbons said Blair "pound for pound may be the best scorer
in the Class of 2003," which, when you are talking about a guy
who is listed at 165 lbs., is a lot like saying that an ant is, pound
for pound, the strongest animal in the world.

Still, Blair
is a talented prospect who averaged 33 points at Gibbon's 2002
Tournament of Champions, an AAU event that fields the top prospects
in the country. Those numbers placed him ahead of guys like, Brian
Butch, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Nelson, and Charlie Villanueva. Blair is
an outstanding shooter from both deep and mid-range. With Mantlo on
the sideline, Blair stepped it up and led the team with 17 points on
7-11 shooting in the team's 65-48 win over Canisius.

Sophomore Jeremy Monceaux started 26
games for Dunton last year but was pushed out of the starting lineup
with the arrival of Blair. The 6-1 Monceaux should return to the
starting lineup this evening if Mantlo is unable to play. Monceaux
was a top-100 prospect until an ACL injury forced him to miss the
critical summer camps. He averaged over 30 ppg on his high school
team where he played with Linus Kleiza (now at Missouri). Monceaux
is a good shooter, but lacks exceptional quickness and has had
trouble controlling the ball.

Liberty starts a small lineup, with 6-4
senior Gabe Martin at the third guard spot. Martin is the leading
scorer returning from last year's squad and plays an athletic,
slashing game. He's a decent shooter, but not an exceptional one.

The Flames get backcourt depth from 6-5
freshman David Dees and 6-3 junior Brian Woodson. Woodson is a JUCO
transfer who played for a Community College of Beaver County team
that went undefeated in the regular season last year. He's a big
point guard who was a scorer in JUCO ball but is primarily a
distributor thus far at Liberty. Dees brings some size and shooting
to the backcourt, converting on a team-leading 36% of his three-point


Last year's starting center Jason
Sarchet returns for his senior season after leading the Flames in
rebounding last year at 6.8 rpg. The 6-8/225 lbs. Sarchet posted an
impressive 12 points and 9 rebounds in the opening game of the
tournament against the massive 6-9/295 lbs. Yaku Moton-Spruill of
Canisius. Sarchet will occasionally wander outside and launch a
three, but he's more of a garbage man underneath. He doesn't have a
wealth of post moves, but will work the offensive glass for some

He's joined up front by Louvon Sneed,
who at 6-7/255 lbs. brings the team a physical presence. Like
Sarchet, Sneed will occasionally take the outside jump shot but is
far more effective when he doesn't stray too far from the basket.

Sarchet and Sneed have to bear the
majority of the load inside for the Flames who don't have much proven
size on the roster. Their primary backup on the inside is JUCO
transfer Leo Lightbourne, a think (215 lbs.) power forward who is the
most athletic of the team's big men. The 6-8 junior (probably closer
to 6-7) is the team's leading rebounder, despite playing limited

Rounding out the frontcourt reserves is
6-8 senior Glyn Turner, who is primarily a defensive player.


If the Duke coaching staff is drooling
like Homer Simpson looking at a plate of donuts, it probably has
something to do with the 21 turnovers that Liberty coughed up against
Canisius. That's pretty typical for a Liberty game. For the season
they have a team assist-to-turnover ratio of .63, which is pretty
much in line with the numbers they posted last season. Without
Mantlo, their ballhandling options are a true freshman (Blair), a
JUCO transfer in his 4th game with the team (Woodson), and
a turnover-prone sophomore (Monceaux). That's not a good mix when
you're facing a Duke team that really extended the defense against

The problem for Liberty is compounded
by the fact that they are not a very good shooting team and lack any
proven post scorer. Outside of Blair - who will probably have the
ball in his hands a great deal - the Flames don't hit too many open
jump shots. Their primary means of scoring is to attack the basket,
usually on drives from Blair or Martin. If Duke's recovery defense
is sound, they can afford to step up the perimeter defense much like
they did against Pacific. The key matchups for the Blue Devils on
defense will be Duhon on Blair and Ewing on Martin.

For the Devils, perhaps the best sign
from last night was the presence of Shavlik Randolph. Other guys
posted better numbers from the field (Randolph was only 1-2) and his
time was limited to just 20 minutes. But Randolph's footwork and
offensive arsenal was clearly too much for anyone on the Pacific
roster as he ended up going to the FT line 10 times. What's more, he
finished the game with 2 assists, both coming on occasions where Duke
moved the ball inside and then back out for the open jumper.

From the rotation against Pacific it's
pretty clear that Luol Deng is going to spend most of his time at the
power forward spot and that the hopes of seeing a frontline of
Williams, Randolph, and Deng are pretty slim. But what Randolph's
performance last night showed was that he's able to make a
significant contribution as a post player without hurting the team on
the defensive end.

Duke is still a long way from coming
anywhere close to the #1 ranking that they may back into at the end
of the week. For a team that should be moving the ball crisply and
finding open players they have posted a very low number of assists.
But the Pacific game was a big step forward after Detroit. Look for
Duke to continue that trend against Liberty.