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Duke welcomes Valparaiso into Cameron Thursday night for the first time
ever. Although they are only 13-11, don't think Valpo is not a worthy
opponent: they are very tough, well-coached, and will be a useful game for Duke
before the NCAA Tournament starts.
One of the things which should be immediately obvious is that the Crusaders
have been starting four European players lately, with none of them abandoning
the team to play in Spain for money, either, unlike Florida's Benedict Euro,
Just kidding! But international players have a really different approach to
the game. First, everyone is fundamentally sound. Most Duke players
are, but most American players no longer are. So you might see a big man
penetrating on the break, or pulling up for a 3-pointer. They usually pass
really well also. So for purists, chances are Valpo will be a pleasure to
watch, and they'll be well-coached, too, since Homer (doh!) Drew is a
past-master. Who can ever forget that magnificent play in the NCAA Tournament,
when a last-second inbounds pass was caught and instantly conveyed to Brice
Drew, son of Homer, who had started running and was in perfect position to drop
the ball in with time running out. It's the same basic play Cincinnati ran
in Alaska to beat Elton Brand, Shane Battier, and the gang.
Duke will have advantages in talent and in Cameron, but you can legitimately
expect a very tough, stubborn opponent. Remember how Davidson comes in
every so often and gives Duke a tough game? Kind of like that.
Valpo will be expected to simulate an early-round opponent and to hopefully
spot a weakness no one else has spotted yet. It's a smart strategy to
prepare for March, and as long as it doesn't snow a ton Thursday evening, a
great time should be had by all.
As long as Valpo doesn't get to run that funky play again, anyway.