Next up for Duke is a tussle with Miami, and Duke has periodically had trouble with Jim Larranaga’s program.
Remember when Larranaga turned up at Miami? Some idiots, including us, thought it might be a tough turnaround for an older coach, but he’s done very well. You could put the top tier of coaches as, arguably, Coach K, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Bill Self, John Calipari, Tom Izzo and a handful of others we’re not thinking of right now.
Larranaga isn’t quite at that level but he's never had that sort of job either and he consistently gives those guys trouble, not least of all Coach K.
The days of Miami being a patsy are over.
Larranaga is a resourceful coach who has had several different sorts of teams and adapted to whatever he has.
This year he’s built his team around defense and the ‘Canes have been a terrific defensive team.
Just go down the schedule and look at the opponent’s scores: 43, 56, 62, 53, 56, 61, 57, 46, 56, 64, 67, 63, 46.
Well those are the wins. In the losses, opponents have scored 73, 65, 70, 67 and 96.
It works out to 61.5 ppg.
Miami relies on Davon Reed (6-6 senior), Ja’Quan Newton (6-2 junior), Bruce Brown (6-5 freshman), Bruce Brown (6-5 freshman), Anthony Lawrence, (6-7 sophomore), Kamari Murphy, (6-8 senior), Dewan Huell, (6-11 freshman) and Dejan Vasiljevic (6-3 freshman).
Larranaga is pretty pleased with the defense he gets from Murphy and Reed.
His team has three significant issues though: size, experience and offense. All three bigs - Huel, Rodney Miller and Ebuka Izundu - are underclassmen
Aside from Reed, Murphy and Newton, the only upperclassman is Chris Stowell, who is a spot player.
Otherwise it’s young players, three sophs and four frosh. Don’t underestimate Brown. He’s going to be really good.
Miami did stick it to Pitt, 72-46, but it also lost to Iowa State by 17, to Florida by nine, to an up-and-down Syracuse by 15, to Notre Dame by five and to Wake Forest by 17.
And of course Cameron is a hard place for a young player to learn.
So how about Duke?
Well, unless we all get a major surprise, we don’t think Amile Jefferson will play. And it would be a bigger surprise if Coach K turned up this soon. His surgery was on the 6th, so that puts him two weeks and a day in recovery. It seems unlikely he’d be back this soon but you never know.
It certainly would fire Cameron up if he walked out on the court, wouldn’t it?
In the meantime, Jeff Capel is doing a solid job under trying circumstances. Without Jefferson, Duke has a problem inside with no experience and mostly injured young players. Imagine for a minute that Marshall Plumlee was back. Things would be very, very different.
Of course as admirable as Plumlee proved to be, he has a fraction of the ability Harry Giles possesses and perhaps a team with similar inside issues might be a nice fit for young Giles right now. At some point his talent will erupt.
Duke’s backcourt is not a problem. Between Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones and Frank Jackson, Duke’s backcourt is really potent.
The problem has been finding people up front who can match and complement that strength.
Giles is still getting up to speed, Marques Bolden is not over his injury, Chase Jeter is also a bit behind after his, and Javin DeLaurier is just now back after his injury.
As you know, Coach K likes to think outside of any box and if we had to guess, we’d wonder if he and Capel might talk about DeLaurier getting an expanded role with a very limited scope of responsibilities: defense and rebounding.
He’s athletic enough and big enough to bang with most guys and he runs like an East German wet dream.
He’s very raw, but his talent is undeniable.
Whether it’s Giles or Jeter or DeLaurier, or Bolden when he’s further along, someone will have to step up.
Duke can’t really run a four-guard offense because that would put Jayson Tatum in the post and though he’s a wonderfully mature young player, he’s not built like DeLaurier or Bolden.
Can Duke break through Miami’s defense?
You can make an argument. You can’t stop Allen in the open court. Kennard is a deadly scorer. Jones and Jackson are both solid options.
So yes, Duke can score against Miami, but can the Devils raze the ‘Canes offense?
Good defense would make a world of difference in this game.
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