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Next Up - Central Arkansas

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Duke is heavily favored but we’ve all been there before and still lost.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado State at Duke
Nov 8, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) lays the ball up during the second half against the Colorado State Rams at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Central Arkansas comes to Cameron Tuesday and while it’s a long shot that they’ll win you can’t simply rule it out as the Duke Chronicle has done. The names Wagner, Chaminade and UMBC should be warning enough for anyone (news for Glenn Morgenstern: Northwest Missouri State would beat Central Arkansas and several ACC schools too. People need to forget the D-II part and focus on 105-5 and the fact that that team is supremely well coached and now fully expects to win every game).

Aside from that, the Bears also have a solid coach.

Russ Pennell is back home after a meandering career that has seen him replace Lute Olson at Arizona when Olson had to step aside, assisting Eddie Sutton and Herb Sendek, coaching in the WBA and several other places besides.

Working with Olson and Sutton would have been great and whatever his other shortcomings as a coach may be, Sendek is a brilliant man. No one disputes his intelligence. Rick Pitino once called him the former assistant he’d least like to face.

When we say Pennell’s back home we refer to his playing career at UCA, where he transferred after starting out at Arkansas under Sutton (it says a lot that he was able to work for Sutton after transferring because Sutton was not a man to forget slights or perceived disloyalty).

By the way, he and NBA legend Scottie Pippen were teammates at UCA.

He’s a widely respected and capable coach.

That said, he’s struggled since returning to Conway. His overall record there is 49-108 and in five seasons he’s only had one winning team.

On the other hand, his first year back the Bears won just two games. So certainly he’s improved things.

And last time out, against the Big East’s Georgetown, UCA lost by just 11. We’ll go out on a limb here and say the Hoyas won because of a big game by former State star Omer Yurtseven, who had 17 points and 15 boards.

Georgetown also had 19 turnovers.

We’d keep an eye on two guys in particular: 6-7 sophomore Eddie Kayouloud and 7-0 Hayden Koval. Kayoloud had 15 against Georgetown and while Koval is slim, he averaged 12.5 ppg last year and 6.3 boards.

De’Andre Jones is slight but he’s been a good point guard. He’s averaging 4.0 apg and 1.3 spg so far this season.

Rylan Bergersen is a 6-6 transfer from BYU who seems like a solid player too.

For Duke, our advice in a game like this is to watch the first 5-10 plays because Coach K usually has a focus on something. It may be getting the ball inside to Vernon Carey, or letting Matthew Hurt grow more comfortable on the perimeter or maybe trying to work Wendell Moore in, well, more.

It’s probably safe to say he’s been forcing things a bit. Coach K, unlike legendary Boston Celtic Bill Russell, wants his players to behave instinctively (Russell once said that thinking was a much better strategy than reacting but both men have had massive success in basketball).

When, to borrow from the Japanese, all nails are hammered down, when Moore is fully in sync with his teammates, Duke’s going to have a tremendous weapon. That kid has a lot to offer this team.

Other than watching to see what Duke focuses on early, look for offensive refinement. Duke’s D is way ahead of schedule but the offense is behind. When the Blue Devils are scoring in aggressive ways, then you can start thinking big. Until then, it’s a very promising team with an outstanding defense.

It’s hard to really glean a lot from a modest program in a modest conference two games in and we don’t say that as an insult. It’s just hard to learn much. They don’t get much exposure.

However, we’d bet that as Duke prepares for the Bears, Coach K is reminding his team that they made the mistake of not fully respecting Northwest Missouri State and that they’d be foolish to make the same mistake twice. We expect that Duke will come prepared for a fight.

  • Time: 7:00
  • Date: 11/12/19
  • Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Video: ACCN