Duke makes it a point every year now to schedule a home game in Madison Square Garden, and this year, the opponent is Pitt. And the matchup is definitely intriguing.
Duke will have a matchup problem with 6-7, 265 lb. freshman DeJuan Blair, who is off to a tremendous start. He's also a bit irritated at not being recruited by Duke and would like to make his case in person. The closest real matchups Duke has for him are Kyle Singler and Taylor King. Lance Thomas, who may or may not play after spraining his ankle recently, is much improved but still thin, at least compared to Blair. And while Brian Zoubek towers over him, he'll have a tough time controlling any drives by the young big man. He's a classic front court tweener, and that makes things tough for Duke in that matchup.
But Blair aside, Pitt's not a huge team, at least not as far as the starting players go. Sam Young is 6-6, Mike Cook is 6-4, Ronald Ramon is 6-1, and Levance Fields is 5-10. But everyone except Blair is an upperclassman.
Fields runs the team, and runs it pretty well, ranking 10th in the nation in assists-to-turnover ratio.
Ramon is averaging just under 8 ppg, and Cook is hitting for 11.2. The most effective player for Pitt, though, is probably Young. A long 6-6, Young is also a relentless gym rat who works his body very hard, actually injuring himself last year when he pushed too hard.
He's learned his lesson, though, and is back with a vengeance.
Pitt's running a nine-man rotaton, with eight guys They're not a huge team but they are careful with the ball and highly efficient. They do average around 82 ppg, but they're a more deliberate team than Duke is.
To a large extent, the game will likely come down to temperament and tempo: if either team can control both, they'll likely win. If Duke can continue to run and gun, and is hitting threes, it's hard to see how Pitt can win.
However, Pitt is spoiling for Duke in a major way, and it's not just Blair.
We're also curious to see how Greg Paulus plays. His game in the garden last year, against Gonzaga, was remarkable. He showed brilliant leadership too.
Although no one thinks much about it these days, Duke and Pitt had a remarkable game in Cameron during the Foster years. Sam Clancy Sr., who was about the same height as his son (around 6-7) but far more powerful, took it to Mike Gminski, taking the ball down low on the big guy time and time again. It was an incredible display.
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