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Next Up - Eastern Michigan

A better than expected opponent with size and Boeheim’s zone? Interesting.

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Army v Duke
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Next up for Duke is Eastern Michigan out of the MAC.

If you don’t know, the MAC, while perhaps a step down from the so-called power conferences, is still damned good.

Buffalo is #25 and just beat West Virginia but look down the list: these schools play some serious basketball: Akron, Kent State, Ohio, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green, Central, Eastern and Western Michigan, Toledo, Ball State and Northern Illinois.

And they aren’t Johnnie-come-latelies: Toledo has a Final Four under its belt, Toledo has always been a tough out and Akron is a passionate basketball school.

That doesn’t even get into the rest but Duke fans might remember that Gary Trent Sr. was the Shaq of the MAC when he played for Ohio.

Eastern Michigan has played three games so far, but you can’t learn too much from them: Goshen and Rochester are both NAIA schools while Drexel is winless and finished 13-20 last year.

However, the Eagles come to Cameron with something you don't usually see in these sorts of matchups: as much if not more size inside than Duke.

EMU has Boubacar Toure (6-11), James Thompson (6-10), Jalen King (6-9), Andre Rufus (6-9) and Elijah Minnie (6-9).

There are only four guys under 6-5, which is atypical for what people call, for whatever reason, mid-majors.

So it’s a different sort of challenge for Duke.

We don’t know a whole lot about the Eagles, but in their three games so far, EMU has put up 77, 66 and 97 points.

Given their size, we’d expect Eastern Michigan to try not to run with Duke, but we could be wrong. It might make more sense to pound it inside and try to get Duke in foul trouble.

Defense is likely to be more familiar: coach Rob Murphy picked up the 2-3 zone from former boss Jim Boeheim, and all those long guys are there by design to make ball movement more difficult.

If Duke gets stymied on the break and struggles from three point range, then the Eagles have a chance.

For Duke, we’re sure Coach K has been down in the lab mixing up new experiments. We’re assuming that practice has focused on defense, communication and maintaining intensity.

We’re not totally sure about this, but our guess is that Eastern Michigan is going to be the first in a long line of teams that try to slow Duke by zone or pack-line or some other form of mud designed to make Duke spin its wheels.

And as Boeheim has shown us, that zone can rough a game up and disrupt offense enough to give an inferior opponent a puncher’s chance.

That’s what the Eagles have in this game. It may not sound like a lot, but keep it close and you never know, particularly with a team that relies heavily on freshmen.

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