Tonight Duke takes on the Portland Pilots in a game scheduled specifically to
fit in right after exams are over. In other words, like most schools, Duke
schedules an easy opponent after exams because the team hasn't been practicing
much for the last several days and continuity has been broken. A team like
Portland is scheduled so that the odds of an upset are minimized, and the team
gets to practice sets, plays, and routines which are probably a bit rusty.
Of course the quesiton in a post-exam game is eternal: will the designated patsy
play its role? Maybe not.
Like a lot of smaller schools, Portland schedules teams like Duke for revenue
and exposure. So far this season, they have scheduled - and beaten - Oregon
State, New Mexico, and Nevada. They also beat Long Beach State and
Portland State and lost their opener to Boise State.
We should also point out that they are in Gonzaga's confernce, and so they
are used to playing fairly tough teams.
So are the ingredients there for an upset? It's very hard to upset
Duke, especially at home, but there are some things in Portland's favor: the
exam break of course, and the injuries from which Redick, Ewing, and Melchionni
are recovering makes depth difficult for Duke right now.
Odds are the
combination of rustiness and nagging injuries won't be enough to do it
though. But don't be surprised if Portland makes a very credible showing,
a la Detroit.