Today we are joined by Julian King of Duke Basketball Report to answer five of our most burning questions about Duke, not including the one questioning the reason for their existence other than to unite college basketball fans around the country through hatred. The Cavaliers and Blue Devils face off at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the first matchup of the season between two ranked ACC teams.
I also provided them some of my own insight on this Cavalier squad, which I'll link to once it gets published on their end. In the meantime, here is the interview below. (Update: Here are my thoughts over at Duke Basketball Report)
1. Duke had a rough last week, taken down by Temple and nearly dropping one to Georgia Tech (who missed a number of late free throws). What did these two teams do successfully against Duke that Virginia needs to replicate? (Please don't let the answer be, "score a lot.")
DBR: They're very different teams. I am not sure that Virginia has the same level of perimeter athleticism those two have. Duke's had issues with athletic guards.
However, Virginia can't and shouldn't replicate what they did. The pack-line defense they run has given Duke problems since Tony Bennett arrived.
DBR: Good question. Sene is a big guy but not necessarily a great basketball player. I'm assuming he'll stay under the basket? That means that Scott will end up with Kelly, who can drive, shoot or pass. Plumlee can pass too, but that's of limited value against such a dense defense. If it was one on one defensively, I'd give the edge to Duke. But it's a team defense. Virginia does a great job in theirs.
I should point out though that Plumlee almost had double digit rebounds against Virginia at the first or second media timeout last year. Also we tend to combine the brother's stats, and if you do that, you get a solid 19 points and and 16 boards. Toss in Kelly and you get 31.6 ppg and 21 boards. That's a real luxury.
I expect Virginia to depress the score and therefore the scoring and rebounding as well.
3. Somewhat relatedly, Miles Plumlee got the starting nod over Kelly in the Georgia Tech game. What was the reason for this and what should Virginia expect to see on Thursday?
DBR: Well quite often after a loss, especially early in the season, Coach K tries different things. I used to think it was punitive and maybe it partly is. But now I think it's more just seeing what works. Miles is a solid player and really strong and athletic. Kelly is a better offensiver player. It just depends on what works at that time.
The bigger deal is the emergence of Quinn Cook. That guy is going to be really good.
4. Duke's been held to under 70 just twice this season, by Kansas and Ohio State, losing the latter. Even Duke's opponents have a tendency to get some points up - there aren't too many sub-60 scores. Is there any chance that Virginia will be able to dictate the tempo on Thursday, and if they are, does that favor Virginia enough to make the difference?
DBR: I think it depends on defense. If Duke gets a lot of loose balls, your defense is largely negated, because Duke will score in transition. If you prevent that, they won't be as explosive, although Duke has a ton of three point shooters. If someone gets really hot, say Andre Dawkins, Virginia's life gets tougher.
5. What's your final score prediction? Do we stand a chance?
DBR: Oh, absolutely. Look, even though Duke has clearly been better since Tony Bennett arrived, none of the games have been easy. If memory serves, UVa stuck around for about 25-35 minutes, differing periods in each game, but still: they hung around until the talent was too much.
The talent gap is not as wide now, nor is the experience gap. Duke is favored and a lot of people expect a cakewalk. Not me. Why would you expect that when it hasn't happened yet between these two coaches and their teams?
Virginia's defense is a major pain in the ass and it's getting better.
Final prediction? I'll take Duke by five. But it won't be easy. Virginia is vastly improved and the future is bright, which, as an ACC fan, makes me happy.