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Carlos on the Shootout

Pacific | Liberty

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 athleticism.

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.