Next up for Duke is UAB, now coached by a familiar figure, Mike Davis, formerly of Indiana.
Both head coaches are former Bob Knight proteges, although Mike Krzyzewski has managed to maintain a relationship, although not without some rough patches.Â As far as we know, Knight has not spoken to Davis since Davis replaced him after he was fired at IU.
Replacing Knight wasn't going to be easy for anyone, but Davis changed a lot of things and that didn't go over really well with the fan base although it might have gone better had he won more.
They were expected to fall back significantly this year after losing four starters, but it hasn't happened. The Blazers come to Cameron at 10-2 and with some significant talent.
Among the better players on this team are seniors Aaron Johnson (5-8), Jamarr Sanders (6-5), sophomores Cameron Moore (6-10) andÂ Ovie Soko (6-8).
Birmingham isn't scoring as well as Duke is but is holding opponents to 58.6 ppg and they are defending three point shots well (.267 ppg).
The teams are close in a number of statistical ways:Â Duke is a slightly better rebounding team, but both teams are giving up an identical 34.5 per game.Â UAB is slightly better at turnovers than Duke is - 12.1 to 13 - but Duke is almost double their steal totals.Â Duke is also shooting better from the floor and three point range (.504 to .457 and .436 to .359).
This is just a hunch since we haven't seen Birmingham play this year, but when they look at Duke, they're going to attack inside And we think we have a reasonable chance of success.
Therefore, as critical as Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are, Ryan Kelly and the Plumlee may be more important.
While both Plumlee have immense potential, at this point, Kelly is the most consistent big man for Duke. He lacks their eye-popping talent but is outperforming them by basically playing smarter.Â To date, he's also more fearless.
If Davis's big men fit the template he had at Indiana - big, strong, and highly athletic - Duke will need the Plumlees at a high level as well.
Miles has been doing it defensively for some time now, and his offense is coming along, but Mason hasn't played well lately. This would be a great time to break out of that.
We don't follow the odds closely, but Duke will surely be favored. Don't let that fool you into a sense of complacency. You can reasonably expect a team coached by a guy who learned from CM Newton, Wimp Sanderson and Knight to play hard-nosed basketball.
They're certainly not going to come in and roll over, and Davis can certainly tell his kidsÂ that he's beaten Duke before.
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So look forward to a highly physical verging on brutally physical match up. This is not going to be as easy game as many of you expect.