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Next up for Duke is 1-3 Toledo. The Rockets have started slow a lot this season, and are making their first ever visit to an ACC arena on a day when Coach K's players are playing for his 700th win. Duke is 157-3 in their last 160 non-conference games at Cameron. They are most likely up against it but good, but Toledo has some hope.
First, they are a stable program. Coach Stan Joplin has been there for
nine years, and has pulled off big wins in his career over Cincinnati and
Michigan State, where he was an assistant, like Tom Izzo, under Jud Heathcote.
And all five starters from last year are back, which means they are probably a
coherent group, despite struggling at times.
Toledo is not a huge team. Their starters are 6-5, 6-10, 6-2, 6-4, and
6-3. Their main bench players are 6-6, 6-8, and 5-9. They are missing
6-10, 260 Haris Charalambous, who is out for a bit longer with a separated
shoulder. The freshman came to Toledo from the hilariously named Hun
School of New Jersey.
The immediate question to us is who will Shavlik Randolph guard? This
is a game where he could be at a significant disadvantage on defense, and we
wouldn't be surprised to see Duke go small, perhaps giving DeMarcus Nelson a
chance to follow up on his outstanding performance against Valparaiso.
Toledo's top two threats are sophomore Florentino Valencia, who is a thick
6-5 and 240, and who averages 15.5 ppg and yanks down 7.0 rpg.
That's who Shavlik would likely be guarding.
And senior Keith Triplett (6-3, 185) averages 14.5 ppg. He is
also Toledo's career steal leader at 215. He's the pre-season pick for MAC
player of the year by Athlon, Basketball News, Lindy's, and the Sporting News.
Their point guard, Justin Ingram, was last year's Freshman of the Year in the
MAC, and he's a good distributor.
And the record? Toledo finished 20-11 last year. This year, they've
beaten Wayne State and Nevada, and lost to Vandy, Wright State, and ECU.
As an example, despite falling behind to Nevada 21-8, they ran off a 20-2
spurt to be tied at halftime, which actually is the best they have done at
halftime: they haven't led at the half at all.
And for another, ECU had a 16 point second-half lead before Toledo fought
back with a more physical game, almost winning on a late three point shot.
Against the Pirates, nine players got double-digit minutes.
One thing which might surprise Duke fans is that center Allen Pinson doesn't
mind shooting three pointers, which might make life easier defensively, if
Randolph can guard him and Shelden Williams can take on Valencia down low.
Duke is outscoring Toledo 86.8 to 68.8. Toledo has allowed mostly
average teams to score 73.8 ppg to Duke's defensive average of 57.2, also
largely against mediocre teams. Duke's win margin is 29.6; Toledo is
losing on average by 5 ppg.
Toledo is allowing nearly 50% from the floor overall (48.6%) to Duke's
37.1%. They are also allowing an average of 42.9% from three-point range.
Duke outrebounds by 39.2 to 33.0. Toledo averages 13.0 turnovers per
game to Duke's 12.8, but the turnover margin is in Duke's favor at +1.3 to +6.8.
Toledo is getting seven steals per game, largely thanks to Triplett.
And Duke blocks 7.8 shots per game, largely due to Shelden Williams, to Toledo's
measly 1.0 per game average.
So what hope does Toledo have?
Well, obviously Triplett and Valencia are solid, an Keonta Howell is coming
on lately as well. He had 16 second half points against ECU, was 8-13 and
3-4 from behind the line and also got five boards. He's shooting 50%.
Their bench is averaging 28.5 ppg and has outscored the opponents in every
game, which kind of leads you to think that maybe those slow starts get overcome
by intelligent substitutions.
If we're Stan Joplin, who has been through some wars as a coach and as an
assistant, we're trying to do this: first and foremost, keep up. Second,
get Duke's big men in foul trouble. Third, avoid zone and play Duke's
three point shooters Redick and Ewing face-up. Fourth, hope Triplett has a hot
game and that Pinson can pull Shelden Williams away from the basket so that
Valencia can bang underneath.
They can also take some comfort from Duke's traditional slow starts during
and after the exam period, and that could keep them in this game for longer than
one might expect.
And also, having worked the bench for Michigan State while Bob Knight was at
Indiana, Joplin has seen a number of principles which were incorporated into
It's a tall order though, no matter how you cut it. And at times like this,
the near-mythical status of Cameron is a huge advantage for Duke, because people
hear and read about it and so often when they come in for the first time, they
struggle. We wouldn't expect that from Triplett, but if a couple of
players get rattled, including maybe Justin Ingram, which is where Sean Dockery
could lock this game down, and they continue to defend the long shot poorly,
either Redick or Ewing or both will cut them to ribbons.
Still, Toledo has the slim hope of keeping up, fouling Dukies out, and
letting their bench push past a supposedly thinner Duke team. It's
unlikely to work, but certainly not impossible.