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Duke takes on giant-killer Bucknell in an unusual Monday afternoon game,
thanks to the New Year's holiday. Bucknell had a remarkable upset of
Kansas last year in the NCAA tournament, which was widely considered a fluke,
never to happen again. Well, tell it to Syracuse. And Pitt. And DePaul.
Not only did Bucknell upset the Orange, they did it in the Carrier Dome no
less. And they topped that off by beating Depaul, also now a Big East
team. And last season, they also upset Pitt and ended up 24-8.
This season, they were clobbered by Villanova, and lost to Santa Clara.
But they are 9-2 and have played at a high level in two seasons. It
probably won't be a walk in the park.
Bucknell is out of the Patriot League, where there is little competition
honestly, outside of Navy, so their performance is doubly remarkable.
Pat Flannery, who graduated from Bucknell in 1980, has done a brilliant
job. Building a program is never easy, but to do it at a smaller school in
a lesser conference is truly a challenge.
Bucknell's starters run 6-11, 6-8, 6-3, 6-2, and 6-0, and they have about an
Their big man, Chris McNaughton, is shooting almost 70% from the floor, and
played against Shelden Williams this past summer in the World University games
(he played for Germany).
Bucknell as a team shoots very well -.506 from the floor. But perhaps more
impressively, they hold other teams to .364.
The upshot: this is a real team. It has a tough big man inside,
defends well, shoots well - a dangerous team, in other words, and a team which
must be respected.
On the other hand, they'll have to deal with J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams,
and find a way to defend two big guys inside. And then there's the
rest to defend. There's been concern in some quarters that Duke hasn't
developed a reliable "third option," but on the other hand, if you
don't know who it is going to be from night to night it's harder to
defend. Certainly Dockery, McRoberts, and Melchionni have all done it at
times, and Pocius is capable of an offensive explosion as well.
Still, the book on Duke is pretty straightforward: stop Redick above all
else, stop Williams, and you should be able to win. Only no one has pulled
it off yet. Virginia Tech did, honestly, before Duke snatched the game back on a
miracle shot. But the record still says 12-0, and the 0 will stay until
someone figures it out.
One of the tough things about playing Bucknell, or a very good smaller school
in general, is that while they see you all the time, it's harder to see them,
and that's an advantage to them. Teams do tape exchanges (or maybe DVD
exchanges now), and so each coach gets to study the other, but still, everyone
in America knows what J.J. Redick does offensively. It's harder to say
what Chris McNaughton's money moves are, though Shelden Williams probably saw
them this summer.
Bucknell may also have a way to answer Redick, and that's with their own
outside ace, Kevin Bettencourt. He scored 15 on threes against Kansas last
year, and has the ability to keep his team in the game from outside.
Anyone who thinks this is a cupcake game, a typical holiday snack, better
think twice. This team is eminently capable of springing an upset, and
they are very, very well coached. Duke is talking about their poor
defensive effort against Greensboro: though it was good in spots, it wasn't
entirely solid. Josh McRoberts goes so far as to say the team has a chance
to redeem itself.