Thursday, January 12, 2012

game preview: Duke

Date/Time: Thursday, January 12, 9:00


History against the Blue Devils: 48-114

Last matchup: Duke 56, UVA 41; 2/16/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 52, Miami 51 (1/7); Duke 81, GT 74 (1/7)

Opposing blogs: Duke Hoop Blog

KenPom breakdown:

UVA: 60.7 (#339)
Duke: 69.9 (#45)

UVA: 104.4 (#104)
Duke: 119.8 (#4)

UVA: 86.6 (#9)
Duke: 92.3 (#50)

(Explanation of KenPom stats: "Tempo" number is number of offensive possessions per game. "Offense" and "Defense" numbers are points scored/allowed per 100 possessions. All numbers are adjusted, using the magic KenPom formula; therefore they are not actual, but projections of predicted results against an average team on a neutral court.)
Projected starting lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (6.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (9.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
C: Assane Sene (5.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.4 apg)


PG: Quinn Cook (5.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SG: Seth Curry (12.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.9 apg)
G: Austin Rivers (14.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.1 apg)
PF: Mason Plumlee (11.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
C: Miles Plumlee (7.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.5 apg)

Go time.  UVA fans are amped up for a game that has the attention of pundits and talkyheads all over the country.  Hell, UVA fans have the attention of pundits and talkyheads all over the country.  Dick Vitale is coming, and in between effusive praises of the building, the fans, everyone in white, Coach K, and whichever Dukie just scored a bucket, he might even have something nice to say about Mike Scott.  This is the big chance to make Tony Bennett a coaching superstar, because if we win, the entire storyline will be about how Bennett's picture-perfect fundamental defense shut down the mighty Blue Devils in their own barn.  And for once, the storyline will be right.

-- UVA on offense

Duke has more tall people than we do.  They don't have Mike Scott.  Scott is quicker than the powerful but ponderous Plumlees and stronger than Ryan Kelly, and it will take a concerted, all-out effort by Duke to stop him.  Scott can score one-on-one against anyone in this league, and if Duke doubles him, then he's smart enough and skilled enough to pass the ball back out (if he has to) and see if someone can't bomb from deep.  This is one of the Hoos' top two hopes for winning: having the best player on the court.

Sammy Zeglinski has been a potent weapon at times for UVA, and I expect that Duke will deploy Seth Curry, an excellent defender, to stop him.  (If they tried putting Curry on Brogdon or Harris, they'd just post his ass up.)  UVA will need to do good work on the screen game in order to get Sammy any open looks against Curry, otherwise Z will have a quiet game.

This is where Joe Harris comes in.  If he stays poised, he could potentially have a big game being guarded by one of Duke's freshman guards, almost certainly Austin Rivers, who is a jawjacker and a half and a terrific talent, but prone to going on tilt at times.  Again, making Rivers work through a thousand screens could frustrate him.  Another potential hole to poke is the other freshman guard, point guard Quinn Cook.  Jontel Evans is generally unflappable and has the persona and the patience to break Cook down.  It'll be a good matchup because both are quick players.  Because of Duke's height, though, potentially being able to put three 6'10" or higher players on the court (they can do this if they like because of Ryan Kelly's peculiar skill set, but it's not exactly common) Evans probably won't get many chances to drive the lane, which will nullify his veteran advantage a little.

The X-factor (oh, I really hate using that word, but it seems apropos here) is Malcolm Brogdon.  He's a freshman in his first time at Cameron.  But he's also a big, scoring guard.  Rivers is the only Duke starting guard with the size to guard Brogdon, and if Brogdon's really on, he's got a good chance to abuse Rivers on the defensive end.  If he can do that, Duke would probably be forced to use Andre Dawkins, taking their best scorer out of the game.  If Brogdon gets heated up, and Bennett deploys a big-guard combo of Brogdon and Harris, things could get interesting.

Overall, Duke is a good, solid defensive team - but not unbeatable at this end.  If your shots are falling, you have a chance.  Georgia Tech shot 49%, and Temple, 56%.  Washington, 48%.  If you only look at the crappy teams on Duke's schedule, even those teams have averaged better than 9 points every 10 possessions, which isn't exactly good, but we're talking about Western Michigan and UNC-Greensboro here.  If UVA brings good execution to the table, and the threes don't brick out too much, we will be able to keep the pace on the scoreboard.

-- UVA on defense

This is the part that everyone's looking forward to.  UVA has an elite defense that allows barely 8 points per ten possessions.  Duke has an elite offense that scores 11.5 per 10.  UVA likes to make you use all 35 seconds on both ends.  Duke prefers to get up and down.  Something's gotta give.

Duke never puts anyone on the floor that isn't a threat to score, forcing you to win the one-on-one battles.  Teams rarely do.  Duke will have a decided advantage in the post, as I think the Plumlees, particularly Mason, are too much for Assane Sene.  UVA must deny the entry pass, which fortunately the pack-line is designed in part to do, because Duke's shots are likely to fall if taken from the interior.

Another big question is: can the pack-line keep Austin Rivers out of the lane?  Rivers is their leading scorer, and Seth Curry happens to really like the two-point jumper as well.  Jontel Evans may be forced to guard the bigger Rivers, because I'm not sure who else on our team can really do it.  And then there's Ryan Kelly, the kind of player who just when you think you've got the game under some semblance of control, or are at least within striking distance, hits a damn three-pointer.  Kelly has been coming off the bench lately, which is probably just as well because I don't know who besides Akil Mitchell can guard him.

Frankly, though, let's hope this side of the ball doesn't come down to those individual matchups.  If it does, we lose.  Period.  This needs to be about Bennett's scheme and perfect execution thereof, and then Mike Scotting the rebounds.  All of the rebounds.  Rebound or die.

-- Outlook

I sort of gave it away just now.  Play great team defense in the context of the pack-line, and we can win.  Play perfect team defense in the context of the pack-line, and we should win.  Even against Duke.  Duke is talented enough to conquer the mighty Tony Bennett style, however, and perfect team defense is probably too high a peak.  UVA must find and exploit Duke's weaknesses on offense to make up for the inevitable cracks in our own defense, and play offense so patient and slow-paced that the Crazies get tired of bouncing on the balls of their feet.  Oh hell, let's just be honest: we need to play the kind of basketball that makes Tobacco Road declare us a stain on the holy purity of the game.  Embrace the snail as the symbol of our style, limit Duke's chances, and then stick the dagger when it counts.

Duke is so talented that common sense says I ought to be picking them to win, like always.  After all, practically every one of their players is an ugly matchup problem for our defense, one-on-one.  It's even more frightening that we were twice labeled an upset pick by ESPN writers, one even going so far as to say that it's a shame we only play Duke once.  But a couple months ago I wrote that I couldn't wait to see Mike Scott unleashed on an unsuspecting ACC.  If that doesn't apply to now, when does it?  This is a night for Mike Scott to be unleashed on an unsuspecting nation.  I will embrace the snail and my undying fanboi-ism and declare tonight's game an upset in the making.

-- Final score: UVA 66, Duke 62


Anonymous said...

Disappointing loss, but very good game.

Loved the defensive intensity. The first half went about as well as we could've hoped. Scott was dominating, which allowed everyone else to pick and choose spots to fill in, and the defense harried a Duke team with inconsistent point play.

Coach K out-coached Tony Bennett a bit in the 2nd half, though. I didn't like that Mason vs. Assane matchup, and thought Mike Scott should've been swtiched onto him (and using Akil or Darion to chase after Ryan Kelly). Their athleticism started to show, as they got into the lane a bit more, which caused problems for us.

I thought there was a stretch, roughly from around the 18 minute mark to the 14 minute mark, in the 2nd half where we started rushing things a bit on offense. Didn't take many bad shots, if any, but using a bit more time could've stemmed the tide a bit. The defense was a bit sloppy at times in the 2nd half (Austin Rivers easy put back on the backside where he wasn't blocked out).

Still, we had our chances, and had we been able to hit a few three pointers in the 2nd half, this might've been our game.

Very impressed with Akil and Darion. Darion's raw, but as he gets stronger, and develops some better post-moves, he should be a good ACC player. Akil was sort of the overlooked guy in the Bennett 6, but he's perhaps a great glue guy, a good hustle guy who has much better athleticism than typical hustle guys. If he gets a mid-range jumper, he could be a very solid starter.

Wish Jontel's shot was a bit better. Once Virginia started to struggle in the 2nd half offensively, and Duke started bouncing in hard and forcing Scott to either not get the ball or kicking it out, there really wasn't a good threat.

I thought there were times that Sene could've perhaps gotten some action/touches offensively, if only to force the Duke bigs into foul trouble, or to get better spacing.

Anonymous said...

great to see Jesperson get that dunk. more importantly, great to see him getting meaningful time. I think he can build on that, although I think they had him in once when Z and Harris were both out, which is, I think, a bit risky. Pure stroke, just need to be confident.

Brogdon seemed a bit off his game tonight. We need him in ACC play.

Brandon said...

Amazed that in a game where it didn't seem like _anyone_ besides mike could hit a jump shot, we were still right there at the end. That was about as one-man-band as I've ever seen him have to go it, and he really stepped up to the call. I remember harris hitting one or two, but did ANYONE else score a point from more than 3 feet? Seemed like everyone was playing with a ton of effort, but I sure wish a couple long tosses had found the bottom of the net to help mike get the win he deserved...