So what to make of the Duke win over Oregon State? Lots of things to factor in here.
First and foremost, a win is a win and, barring highly unusual circumstances, a win is better than a loss.
But then the secondary questions come in: did the team play well? Was it unprepared? Did the nature of the win cause a loss of confidence?
Last one first: we can’t answer that but it seems doubtful.
Did the team play well? That depends. Duke did defend well and rebounded very well and took care of the ball with just eight turnovers.
But the offense wasn’t there yet.
Kyle Filipowski scored 19 points and had 14 boards while Ryan Young had a nice inversion with 11 points and 15 boards.
That’s 30 points and 29 rebounds. They combined to shoot 9-18 but Young shot 4-5.
Of course that means the rest of the team scored just 24 points.
Jeremy Roach shot 3-14. Jacob Grandison shot 0-4. Jaylen Blakes shot 0-3.
Mark Mitchell was 0-4. Dariq Whitehead was 2-9. Derick Lively was 1-1. Tyrese Proctor was 1-7. lLeaving Filipowski out for now, the freshmen shot 4-21 which is 19 percent.
Duke shot 16-60 overall for 26.7 percent and 5-29, or 17.2 percent on threes and really had trouble getting the ball inside. Really Young was basically the inside presence.
Duke apparently learned from Kansas and was much steadier in crunch time and the defense, generally speaking was outstanding. The Blue Devils also got OSU into serious foul trouble: Rodrigue Andela fouled out and Tyler Bilodeau and Chol Marial got four each. That basically killed their front court.
Remarkably, according to ESPN, Bilodeau had four fouls in three minutes.
There was a missing element in this game and that was penetration. Roach tried but they did a good job on him (see: 3-14). Whitehead attempted a drive but he isn’t fully himself yet after his summer injury.
Duke is also waiting for a bigger impact from Lively. He’s also missed a significant amount of time. These guys operate on a razor’s edge of conditioning. They’ll get there but they’re not there yet.
Whitehead will help a lot when he’s 100 percent. And both will kick the defense up another notch.
Bottom line on offense is that the only freshman who was really good throughout was Filipowski, and he shot just 5-13.
Blakes didn't shoot well but that’s irrelevant: his great chance to contribute is on defense, and he’s a load on D. Certainly he was Thursday.
Fans will have to be patient as this team rounds into form, especially on offense. But look at the defensive potential too: when you have Lively in the back and any combination of Roach, Proctor, Blakes, Whitehead and Mitchell, this is a team that can absolutely strangle you.
Date 11/25 || Time || 3:30 || Video ESPN
So what about Xavier?
Now coached by Sean Miller, who left Arizona after the Adidas scandal, the Musketeers are 4-1. The loss is to Indiana, which was coached by MIller’s brother Archie until last season. That was just a two-point loss.
And of course they beat Florida Thursday 90-83.
Like most teams, Xavier has vastly more experience than Duke. They have four of their top six scorers back and solid guards in Souley Boom and Adam Kunkel looks like a hardass. At 6-6, Colby Jones looks like a prototype wing.
But Miller's got some size too: Zach Freemantle is 6-9 and 225 and he’s averaging 15.5 ppg, 7.3 boards and 5.0 apg. Not bad.
Jack Nunge is 7-0/245 and he’s averaging 17 ppg and 6.8 rebounds
They’re both seniors. In fact four of the five are seniors and Jones is a junior.
Miller, in his second stint with Xavier, had obvious flaws at Arizona. Nonetheless, the guy can coach.
If Duke plays young Friday, Xavier will likely win.