Saturday, March 15, 2014
game preview: Duke
Date/Time: Sunday, March 16; 1:00
Record against the Blue Devils: 49-116
Last meeting: Duke 69, UVA 65; 1/13/14, Durham
Last game: UVA 51, Pitt 48 (3/15); Duke 75, NCSt. 67 (3/15)
UVA: 61.0 (#345)
Duke: 66.0 (#196)
UVA: 113.6 (#28)
Duke: 124.6 (#2)
UVA: 89.5 (#3)
Duke: 101.0 (#95)
UVA: .9394 (#5)
Duke: .9177 (#8)
PG: London Perrantes (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.3 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.3 apg)
PG: Tyler Thornton (3.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SG: Rasheed Sulaimon (9.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SF: Rodney Hood (16.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Jabari Parker (19.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Amile Jefferson (6.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Now they've gone and done it: they've got me working overtime. I couldn't pass up the chance to write about this blog's first crack at the ACC title game. This serves as your official welcome to Cloud 9. If there's a storybook finish in store, then it would have to come not only against the one team that all right-minded people in the country will root against, but the one ACC team UVA hasn't yet beaten this year. It's time to find out if there's another banner at the end of the rainbow.
-- UVA on offense
There are two flavors of Duke teams. One is elite. When they go to the tournament, if they lose, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The other is still in the top echelons of the country, but beatable. This year's Duke is the latter. Unless they win on Sunday and win the national title, Duke will finish with eight losses, which is more than all but one of their teams since 1997. (That "one" finished 22-11 in 2007.) Defense is the reason for this.
And the reason for their mediocre defense is their size. Former UVA target Marshall Plumlee can't unglue himself from the bench, and Josh Hairston has seen his minutes swirl the drain all season. Hairston has only played in four of the last nine games, one being a Senior Night start. Duke's CGNFT (Close Game No Foul Trouble) rotation has only three bigs: Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson, and Rodney Hood - and Hood is more of a tall wing. And only Jefferson is taller than 6'8" - he's a 6'9", 210 beanpole.
Duke has tried to cover up their soft middle with their athleticism, but it's been a struggle; most decent teams, and some not-decent teams, will score on them. They struggle to rebound on defense and they've allowed better than 50% shooting from two, sitting at 237th in the country.
This means the way you should attack them is just the way UVA wants to attack. Deliberate, and work the ball inside, which has the added benefit of limiting the number of possessions. Duke actually defends the three very well (12th in the nation in opponents' 3-point FG%) on account of all that perimeter athleticism, which has the effect of skewing opponents' point distribution ridiculously toward the two-pointer. Opponents get 17.4% of their points from three and 61.0% from two; the former number is the lowest in the country and the latter, 2nd-highest. The game plan, then, is pretty obvious.
A final point on the operation of the offense: if in fact UVA does earn a lead of some kind in the last quarter of the game, trying to sit on it for eight minutes the way they did against Pitt will probably fail miserably. Pitt has a good, athletic defense and all that dribbling around was probably a poor idea. This'll be even more so against Duke.
-- UVA on defense
This is the end of the court where the game becomes a clash of titans. Duke's current KenPom O-rating of 124.6 is higher than any team has ever finished the season with in the KenPom era. (And it's still more than two points behind Creighton, which explains a lot about why Doug McDermott is such a runaway Wooden winner.) UVA is third in the country with an outstanding, but non-historical, D-rating of their own.
It's really not just Jabari Parker - he is in fact eighth on the team in individual O-rating. (That said, usage tends to drag one's rating down, and it's very hard to find someone else who can be so high in possession usage - 31.4% - and keep his O-rating that high too.) Still, Parker is KenPom's #3 player in the country for a reason. There's nowhere he can't score from.
Just about everyone in Duke's rotation - Amile Jefferson being the one exception - is a scary three-point shooter. Leaving the lightly-used Matt Jones out of it, their worst distance shooter is Quinn Cook at 35%. Four of these guys are over 41%. Kinda frightening. And Duke as a team doesn't hesitate to fire away. For the most part, when they lose it's because their three-point shooting failed them, the shots just didn't fall, and their defense couldn't keep them in it.
Complicating the matchups a bit is that K has switched Quinn Cook out of the starting lineup in favor of Tyler Thornton. Thornton's a better distance shooter but Cook is otherwise the better player; Cook scores and distributes much better. In UVA's case, "complicating" might be the wrong word, since seeing Cook come off the bench might well be a cue for Justin Anderson to stand up as well. Anderson would be wasted on Thornton in any go-defend-that-point-guard assignment. (Then again, Anderson might well be deployed on anyone from Hood to Parker as well.)
Beating Duke this year tends to involve a little luck; you basically hope their threes don't all drop at once and get everyone involved in chasing down the misses. This is not to say they have no inside game; unlike on defense, they're plenty effective from two. Jefferson, for example, is shooting .652, and four rotation players are over 50% as well. But I see this as an area that'll cancel out. They'll get a few, we'll stop a few, and what we'll really hope to do is keep those threes from being shot in the first place.
The arena will probably be reasonably noisy for UVA and much louder for Duke. But for the rest of the country, the TV audience, when you play Duke on a big stage like this, for two hours you become America's Team. And we don't want to let America down, do we? 1976 - the nation's bicentennial - is the most recent, and only, number on the ACC Tournament banner in the JPJA. Kind of lonely-looking. It's high time to get another one. For America.
Final score: UVA 67, Duke 66