(Editor’s note: Special thanks to the folks at http://www.crazie-talk.com/ for assisting on this preview and advanced scouting in Duke)
The Old Orange Bowl, Yankee Stadium, Lambeau Field, …….Cameron Indoor!! All are intimidating arenas because of rabid fan bases and talented home teams. Miami returns to action Super Bowl Sunday (3pm EST ESPNU) at Duke, faced with the challenge of overcoming a talented Blue Devil squad and an intimidating venue. The good news you ask? The ‘Canes come in riding a three game winning streak and a white-hot hand in Durand Scott. In his last 2 games Scott is playing like an All-American averaging 21.5 points, 7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and just 1 turnover on 65% from the field shooting. To beat Duke however, Miami will need someone else to step up and match DScott’s all world play. Fortunately for UM Kenny Kadji should return to the line-up. The Hurricanes will need K2 to resume his outstanding play if they hope to knock off Austin Rivers, Mason Plumlee, a raucous home crowd at Cameron, and the # 5 team in the country.
Projected Starting Lineups:
C Reggie Johnson 6’10 300 JR
F Kenny Kadji 6’11 260 SO
G Shane Larkin 5’11 160 FR
G Malcolm Grant 6’1 188 SR
G Durand Scott 6’4 198 JR
F Mason Plumlee 6’10 235 JR
F Josh Hairston 6’7 235 SO
G Austin Rivers 6’4 200 FR
G Tyler Thornton 6’1 195 SO
G Andre Dawkins 6’4 200 JR
Keys to the Game: Pride, Patience, Poise. In order to beat Duke at home, (it has only happened one time in the last 47 games) every possession has to matter. Rivers, Seth Curry, 6’11 Ryan Kelly, and particularly Andre Dawkins, can all light it up from three if given just an inch of space. The Canes perimeter defense needs to remain air tight when the ball goes inside, and they must pursue their man around screens with all out effort.
Additionally when the big Duke run comes, and it will, Miami can not let it snowball. There will be 50/50 balls and 50/50 calls that go Duke’s way, and you can bet the Dookies will capitalize. The ‘Canes need to stay calm and maintain their poise when Duke surges. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant in particular need to have cool hands, and knock down big shots to keep UM in it.
Best Match-up: Austin Rivers VS Durand Scott. There may be no better freshman in the country than Rivers, but of late is there a better player in the conference than Scott? Rivers can score in bunches and create his own shot on both drives and jumpers. Scott flirted with a triple double last time out and has been incredibly proficient getting to the rim of late. Whichever of these two has the bigger game, could decide the outcome come Sunday. Also look for Shane Larkin to get some looks at his former high school state rival.
Prediction: Miami will look to get the ball inside early on but Duke’s swarming defense will force some long jumpers. Kadji and Reggie Johnson will pass effectively to Grant and Trey McKinney-Jones for some good looks, but Dawkins, Curry, Kelly, and Rivers will match them shot for shot. The game will either be close or tied at the half, but Coach K and the Devils will come out spitting fire and build a workable margin midway through the half. How the ‘Canes respond will define the game. Look for Scott to take over and lead the comeback. Miami pulls off the upset 77-76.
Here is our full Q&A with http://www.crazie-talk.com/ Please check out their site to see our answers to their questions.
C6: Everyone knows about Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee, but who are Duke’s unsung contributers? Who istheir best defender? What players have been pleasant surprises?
CT: Ryan Kelly has really come on strong as an offensive force this year, but leaves much desired on the defensive end. At 6’11, he’s a matchup nightmare for most big guys because hecan shoot the three and run the floor pretty well. That said, he doesn’t match-up too well with beefy big guys and can be a defensive liability.
Tyler Thornton has been lauded by Coach K as the team’s best defender and “hustle guy”. While he doesn’treally produce much on the offensive end (other than the occasional three pointer), he manages the game well from the point guard position and is an especially vocal leader on defense.
C6: In the games Duke has struggled/lost what has the opposition down to give the Blue Devils problems? What players on Miami do you feel match-up well with Duke?
Ohio State, Temple, and Florida State took advantage of Duke’s porous perimeter defense. There have been games where Duke has defended very well – Michigan, , Kansas, Virginia, and Virginia Tech come to mind – but for the most part, Duke has struggled to defend effectively for much of the year. Teams who have been effective against Duke have had guards that can break defenses down off the dribble and create easy offense for the rest of the team. In that regard, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant look especially dangerous.
C6: Going into almost every game Coach K & staff give Duke a huge advantage in the Coaching department. Do you feel Coach Larranaga and his staff can matchwits? In your opinion what makes Coach K so good year in and out?
CT: Sorry – but no way. After defeating St. John’s in Cameron last weekend, Coach K made it very clear that he wasn’t happy with the performance of this team and that changes would becoming. After two grueling days of practice, Duke headed up to Virginia Tech and looked like a much more focused, balanced, and poised team. Coach K’s stillat the top of his game when it comes to getting his players to give 150% every single time – and it looks like he’s done just that.
And what makes K so goodyear in and year out? He knows how to emphasize the strengths of his current group. You won’t see us playing the run-and-gun “showtime” offense without Kyrie Irving at the helm. You won’t see us playing a slow, motion-oriented offense to suit the tastes of Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler either. On Sunday,you will see us get the ball of Mason Plumlee or Ryan Kelly in the post, and work the ball inside-out to guys like Austin Rivers and Andre Dawkins – because K knows that the strength of this team lies in its versatile frontcourt, not in the backcourt as in years past.
C6: How do you see the game playing out on Sunday? What is your prediction?
CT: As I said before,K has got this team motivated to win, especially at home in Cameron after the lackluster performance against St. John’s. Austin Rivers continues to play very, very well and Duke turned in its most complete performance overall against VaTech. While Kadji and Johnson will be tough to handle inside, Duke’s offensive talent will be too much for the ‘Canes.
Duke 85, Miami 73
C6 Finally, What is your all time starting 5 for Duke? Who would be the captain? The go-to scorer?
CT: At the point, you’ve got to with Jason Williams. He was unstoppable at the college level; and would have likely been just as effective in the NBA. He had the total package at the point guard position – he could score at will, distribute very, very well, and was an incredible leader on and off the court. J-Will would definitely be the go-to scorer; with the game on the line, there was no one better at finding a way to score – even when it looked like it wasn’t possible.
Johnny Dawkins is my pick at the two-spot. Dawkins, the former Duke assistant and current head coach at Stanford, was a prolific scorer back in the day. The center piece of Coach K’s 1986 recruiting class, Dawkins was the first in a long line of dynamic guards under K.
Duke has boasted some incredible talent at the three during Coach K’s 30-plus years, (including Shane Battier, Luol Deng, Corey Maggette, and Kyle Singler) but Grant Hill gets the nod here. Grant was an absolute freak athletein his younger days – and it’s a testament to his versatile skill set that he’s still in the NBA at age 39.
Elton Brand is my pick at the four. I wish he had stayed at Duke for at least another year to win a championship – but the guy was and continues to be an exceptional basketball player. Had he stayed on and graduated, there is no doubt that #42 would be hanging in the rafters.
No question who starts at center and is the captain of this team – it has to be Christian Laettner. Sure, he’s the most hated Duke player of all time, but the dude was flat out awesome during his four years at Duke. He started in four straight Final Fours, won two National Championships, holds four NCAA tournament records, and of course, made the shot that won the “greatest college basketball game ever played”.
Thanks again to crazie-talk.com for working with us on this preview.