clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Next Up - UMES

As Duke heads into the exam break

NCAA Basketball: Jimmy V Classic-Iowa at Duke
 Dec 6, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Mark Mitchell (25) and center Ryan Young (15) fight for a rebound against Iowa Hawkeyes forward Kris Murray (24) and guard Connor McCaffery (30) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. 
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Date 12/10 || Time 5:30 || Venue Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video ACCN

Duke’s opponent Saturday is the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and that presents some issues when you’re trying to talk about an opponent.

First, for someone from North Carolina, having two coasts is an odd concept. Floridians can handle it and it’s fairly obvious on a map, but you don’t necessarily think of Maryland as having two coasts. Obviously it does though.

The Eastern coast is a distinct, more rural region than the interior, Western coast that hosts Baltimore and Annapolis. It has repeatedly tried to secede from Maryland, to no effect, most recently in 1998.

The university is in Princess Anne County and actually closer to the Western shore than it is the Eastern, so go figure. You also kind of expect it to be in a town, but it’s really not. It’s kind of like Campbell used to be, only Buies Creek is still a town, even if it was tiny until recently. Princess Anne County appears to be even more rural than Harnett County was until fairly recently.

UMES is of course an HBCU and plays in the MEAC.

How has head coach Jason Crofton done there? Well, it’s tough to judge.

He took over the year before the pandemic and went 5-27. UMES opted out of the pandemic season but in 2021-22 the Hawks improved to 11-15 and so far this season, UMES is 3-6.

The losses were to Old Dominion, Charlotte, George Washington, Virginia, Liberty and George Mason, while the wins were over D-III Bryn Athyn, Marist and Lehigh. Bryn Athyn is a joke, but Marist and Lehigh are decent wins.

As we see often in opponents like UMES, the team is not huge. There are just three players over 6-7 and two are rarely used: 6-10 freshman Marko Milivojevic appears to be redshirting and 6-8 Victory Nagoya, who doesn’t get much time at all.

Crofton, who worked for Jay Wright at Villanova for a time, uses an eight-man rotation. Ahamadou Fofana, a 6-1 senior, leads with 29.3 mpg, 6.9 ppg and 2.1 assists. Da’Shawn Phillip, 6-5 and also a senior, plays 27 mpg and is scoring 9.8. Nathaniel Pollard, another 6-5 senior, is the primary rebounds with 7.1 boards an outing. He also averages 7.9 ppg.

Chace Davis, a 6-3 sophomore, is putting up 6.3 ppg. Zion Styles, a 6-3 senior, adds 11.1 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Kohen Thompson, a 6-7 junior, has minor stats so presumably is playing for his intangibles. Kevon Vyles, a 6-3 senior, is the leading score with 11.3 ppg. Donchevell Nugent, a 6-0 senior, rounds out the primary rotation with 4.6 points, 2.9 boards and 2.1 assists a night.

Naboya, the biggest player UMES has, is generally one of the last off the bench.

Obviously size is an issue here, and more so since Duke’s 7-1 Dereck Lively and 7-0 Kyle Filipowski are both unusually mobile for bigs.

It’s going to be tough for the Hawks to get inside. If you take Jeremy Roach out of the equation for a second, Duke’s smallest starter, Tyrese Proctor, is nearly as big as anyone the Hawks have, or at least use on a regular basis.

So obviously Duke will be favored and would be if they for some reason sat everyone over 6-9 because no one would argue that the talent is equivalent. And don’t forget the background stuff that we never see that also works in Duke’s favor: outstanding facilities, nutritional science, a fat contract with Nike and training possibilities that are far beyond what UMES can offer.

These two schools just exist on different planes.

However, just because the odds favor the Blue Devils doesn’t mean that UMES has no hope. Here’s the case you can make for them.

  1. They have vastly more experience than Duke, which is annually one of the youngest teams in the country
  2. Duke is dealing with exam pressure, which means that practice time is minimal. There’s just not much you can do and, inevitably, things get ragged. Remember what we said about a fine edge athletes must have? It deteriorates about now, which could give UMES a critical advantage.
  3. Mismatches work both ways. If you get into a game where Duke’s bigger guys are wearing themselves out chasing the smaller Hawks up and down and all around, you just can’t make any guarantees. And as we’ve seen recently in the ACC, if you let lesser teams get you on the backfoot, then all the advantages Duke should enjoy, like home court, being national ranked, and so forth, turn into disadvantages.
  4. If Duke doesn’t take UMES seriously, that could be a big problem.

After Wagner famously upset Duke in 1983, Mike Krzyzewski learned the lesson and made sure that his team never took another team lightly again. He framed it as respecting your opponent and honoring them by giving them only your best effort.

We know Jon Scheyer heard that as a player and later as an assistant but what we don’t know is how well he conveys it to his guys. Coach K ran a very tight ship and one with consequences if you didn’t live up to standards, which reminds us a bit of Ol’ Roy Williams.

Williams took over at UNC after the gray era of Bill Guthridge and the brief, savage infighting of the Matt Doherty era, which Carolina types would prefer you never mention again, thank you very much.

Williams was not Smith’s direct successor but he was spiritually. Yet he was not Smith and one of his big changes was that he loosened things up in a way that Smith never would have allowed. The whole Late Night silliness he imported from the wilds of Kansas? Dean would have stayed home before he allowed that.

Williams was highly successful at UNC, assuming you can overlook the YEARS OF ACADEMIC FRAUD and won more titles in less time than Smith did. But he changed the character of the program.

Scheyer will inevitably change the character of Duke’s program. We’d be surprised if he jettisoned a principle like respecting your opponents though. That just seems incorporated into the DNA of Duke Basketball now.

So you can probably count on a Duke win, but upsets happen when the circumstances are right.

And if UMES does pull it off, you can expect to hear about it for some time.

As usual, we’ll add links as we find them.