With tonight's "Big Monday" ACC showdown between Duke and Virginia looming, David Alrdrige from DukeReport.com agreed to answer some questions to help us get to know the Blue Devil's squad and understand how Virginia will decide to beat them tonight. (I answered some questions about UVA as well over at Duke Report. Check out that post too!)
Streaking the Lawn: I know most Wahoos are terrified of Jabari Parker's scoring ability, and his potential to single-handedly breakdown even the best defenses. However, much has been made of his recent swoon, as he's shooting 11-35 from the field over the past 3 games. What's up with that, and which version do you expect to show up? (Hopefully not the terrifying one?)
Duke Report: It's a combination of a few things. Teams have started to figure out more effective ways to defend Jabari, and he's also played more into the hands of the defense. He's at his best when he's attacking the basket because that puts pressure on whoever is defending him, which usually leads to him getting better looks from the perimeter. Essentially, he needs to play an inside-out game to be at his best.
Over the past three games, he's relied too much on trying to score from the perimeter. He's settling for contested jump shots or open three-pointers instead of working in the post or beating his man off the dribble. It wouldn't surprise me if he continues to struggle against Virginia. The Cavaliers are known for being able to pack things in against guys who try to drive to the basket, and I could see Jabari just abandoning the lane and trying to get his offense going from the perimeter. From the Duke perspective, hopefully he's hitting his outside shots. If not, it could be trouble.
STL: The Blue Devils do have 7 players not named "Jabari" with ORtgs greater than 110. Besides Parker, which player do you think is most likely to have a big game against the UVA's Packline D?
DR: Rodney Hood is the most likely candidate. He's actually been playing better than Jabari Parker over the past couple weeks and he's averaged over 24 points in Duke's last three games. Hood has an impressive effective field goal percentage of 61% and he's shown he can beat teams in a variety of ways. Whether it's open looks from beyond the arc, knocking down mid-range jumpers or finishing at the rim, Rodney Hood can do it all.
I'd also keep an eye on Andre Dawkins. The fifth-year senior has been a dangerous weapon off the bench for the Blue Devils this season. He's got one of the purest shooting strokes in college basketball, and when he gets hot from the perimeter, he can quickly shoot an opponent out of a game.
STL: Duke's defense this season, ranked 99th on KenPom, is by far the worst in the Coach K's last 10 years. What has been the source of the team's issues on the defensive end - how have teams attacked Duke?
DR: There's not enough time in a day to explain how bad Duke's defense has been this season. The fact that the Blue Devils allowed Clemson to score 72 points this past Saturday should give you a good sign of how easy it's been to score on them.
The biggest problem appears to be a lack of any legitimate post defender. Duke has always been known to play an intense man-to-man defense where they extend on the perimeter and attempt to disrupt passing lanes. One of the keys to this is having post defenders who can protect the rim if a man gets beat on the perimeter. That doesn't exist this season. Instead, we see guys repeatedly blow by people with the drive and then get easy looks at the rim.
Duke's lack of size has also created major problems with rebounding the ball, which often leads to many teams getting easy put-backs and extra possessions. The fact that Mike Krzyzewski has a 7-footer (Marshall Plumlee) on the bench who could potentially be an impact defender and rebounder yet rarely receives playing time is driving Duke fans crazy right now.
STL: You asked us about the one-day turnaround before this matchup, and will pose the question it back to you - does this give either team an advantage?
DR: I think it helps Duke to be back in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It's a sign of an immature team when they play so poorly on the road, but the Blue Devils are simply a much better team at home. Considering the way they lost to Clemson and showed no fight in the second half, it's important for this group to get that behind them as quickly as possible and prove a point.
However, between the two teams, Virginia is the one playing better basketball right now. The Cavaliers were extremely impressive on the road against N.C. State and have a ton of momentum going into this big game against Duke. Based on who should be feeling good about themselves because of how they've played over the past couple days, the advantage has to go to UVA.
STL: Prediction time.
Hoo Who wins at Cameron Indoor?
DR: I'm really tempted to go with Virginia in this game. I really like what the Hoos can do in the frontcourt with Tobey, Mitchell and Anderson, and I think that combination will give Duke a ton of problems. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they come out of Cameron Indoor Stadium with a victory.
That being said, they'll be facing a Duke team that is almost in must-win territory and should be in desperation mode after Saturday's performance. Falling to 1-3 in conference play with upcoming trips to Pittsburgh and Syracuse on the schedule would have the Blue Devils in a spot where competing for a conference championship might not be an attainable goal.
And despite their terrible play over the past week, this is still an extremely talented team. A talented team that's backed into a corner. I think Virginia keeps it close in a low-scoring game, but Duke figures out how to make a couple plays down the stretch to scratch out a win.