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Next Up - Miami

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At the beginning of the season, Duke was picked # 4 in the ACC, and Miami
was generally picked 10th or 11th, depending on who you asked. And after
Duke lost Shavlik Randolph and then Reggie Love, who would dared to think they
would be undefeated and in first place - and that Miami would be tied for
second, and that this would be a huge game?

Not us, although we did think Miami had a shot at a good year. Here's
what we said about the 'Canes at the beginning of the season: "Yet in the Big East, Miami had some moments, and we think they made an extremely smart hire in Frank Haith, universally regarded as a rising star in the coaching profession. And despite the concerns of basketball being watered down, we've come to think that Miami and Boston College have a chance of being pretty good."

Even so, we never thought they'd be in a position to challenge for first
place, and neither did anyone else, for that matter, with the possible exception
of a small number of people who know the program very well.

We sort of understood that Guillermo Diaz might be pretty good, but we didn't
think he'd be as good as he's turned out to be thus far. He's averaging
17.6 ppg, and as mentioned, is an extraordinary athlete. Miami is running
a three-guard offense, and Robert Hite is averaging 19.0 ppg. Anthony
Harris is also averaging 12.0 ppg, meaning the three are averaging 48.6 ppg.

Duke is also running a three-guard offense, with J.J. Redick, Daniel Ewing,
and Sean Dockery. And when DeMarcus Nelson is in, sometimes it's a four-guard

Down low, Miami has William Frisby, who is 6-8 and 235, and a senior, and
Durham's own James King, who is a 6-9, 230 lb. sophomore. They are
averaging 9.2 ppg/7.0 rpg, and 6.6 ppg. and 8.9 rpg. respectively. Duke's
Shelden Williams is averaging 14.8 ppg and 11.5 rpg, or a point less and 4.4
boards less than the Miami duo.

We'd expect Miami to double team Shelden Williams, just like everyone else
has done. We're not sure that either of their guys can go one-on-one with
him, but we'd be surprised if James King hasn't put some time in against him
during the summers at Duke. Pickup is pickup, and lots of guys gravitate
to Durham for some good competition.

The interesting things to us in this game are: 1) whether Duke can start slow
on the road - they've started slow all season but not on the road - and if they
do, how much that will snowball. Miami, team and fans, are going to be
incredibly pumped for this game, and if Duke starts slow and lets Miami think
they can push Duke around, they're in for a long night.

The second thing which intrigues is to see who guards who. Daniel Ewing
has maintained a Duke tradition of stepping up to guard the opponent's big star.
Will he guard Diaz? We'll see. Between Ewing and Sean Dockery, not to
mention DeMarcus Nelson, Duke can generate a huge amount of pressure on the

How well Miami defends Shelden Williams will also be critical. If either big
guy gets in trouble, Williams could run wild. And if Miami has to
double-team Williams, that means that they will at times have to guard DeMarcus
Nelson with a player his own size, and as we have seen, he can post up most guys
his own size with no problem.

And they certainly can't afford to let J.J. Redick get loose.

Miami is 12-3, but to an extent that is deceptive, because they have played
the likes of Tenn. Tech, Appalachian State, Norfolk State, and Florida
International, and their ACC games to date have been against Georgia Tech, N.C.
State, and Virginia. Tech won by 11, a crippled State lost by 1, and
Virginia lost by 11 as well.

Despite a terrible non-conference schedule, Miami has a chance to claim a Top
25 position with an upset, and you know the place is going to be pumped sky

For Duke, the keys are basically the same as always: 1) don't fall behind
early; 2) get Shelden Williams involved offensively; 3) play Duke defense; 4)
stay out of foul trouble, and 5) shoot well from outside. If J.J. Redick
explodes, the game could end quickly.

Miami is only shooting .348 from behind the line but allowing .359.
It's pretty likely that, say, Appalachian State for instance jacked up a lot of
threes in the presence of superior athleticism. That's probably distorted,
just like rebounding is (in their favor), since so many of their games were lame
opponents, but the opposite is true for their own shooting: if you play those
teams and still can't shoot better than .349 from outside, you might suspect
there is an issue. Overall, Miami is just shooting .443, which again considering
the schedule makes you wonder.

Driving on Duke is problematic because Shelden Williams can just throw that
stuff right back in your face. So we'll be interested to see just where
their shots come from.

It's also worth noting that against a fairly mediocre schedule, Miami barely
has an advantage in turnovers. That's something which might be negated by
the emotion this game will arouse, but it's still worth noting.

Despite all those possible issues, though, the fact is that this could easily
be the biggest game in Miami history. Fans are turning onto the program
for the first time, really, they're in a conference with a huge basketball
history, and they have a chance to stake a claim immediately, and to do it
against a team which has dominated the conference recently like no team ever
has. Against all this, what does Duke have to offer?

Well, a fair amount. As you know, in the Krzyzewski era, Duke has
almost always been ready for big games. They're going into a new
environment, a place they haven't been since Danny Ferry exploded for what, 58
points? his senior season. But then, no one cared. Now, the whole school
is getting buzzed, and so is a significant part of the town.

Duke brings a tremendous mental toughness to every game this season, and
while they are thin, they match up reasonably well with Miami, although the
'Canes do have a second big man inside. Duke has Shavlik Randolph, who played
against Virginia, but since he is still recovering from mono, it's not clear how
much he'll play.

The battle in this game is between Miami's surging confidence and their
desire to stake a claim, and Duke's hard-won self-confidence in the face of
great difficulty. Standard things apply: fouls have to be watched,
solid defense is a must, a slow start could be fatal - but this team has
overcome an awful lot to get to where it is. After preaching no excuses,
Coach K is now likely to appeal to their sense of pride and
accomplishment. This team has done some remarkable things, and is in
position to do something no one thought it could. It's possible they could
fall flat on their faces, but in similar situations in the past, Mike Krzyzewski-coached
teams have acquitted themselves well. We're pretty sure this one will