Once again, the time has come for yet another big game early on for the Duke Blue Devils. This time it comes on only the second game of the year against the #5 team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks. Here is a breakdown of their roster and how Duke matches up:
The Kansas Jayhawks are a stacked team who is already looking Final Four bound. They are led by who Coach Mike Krzyzewski said some consider as the best player on Kansas, Joel Embiid. Embiid is only a freshman, so it will be interesting to see how he plays in such a big game early in the season. He stands 7 feet tall and has 250 pounds to his name coming from Gainesville, Florida. Expect to see Coach K’s hand be forced and he will bring in redshirt sophomore Marshall Plumlee to combat that size. Landen Lucas is another big man, standing 6-10 as a redshirt freshman and they also have Hunter Mickelson at the same height as a 245 pound junior. It will be interesting to see how Duke will combat this size, as Amile Jefferson has usually been playing at the 5, but that might have to change depending on how he is able to do down low.
Next up is guard play, where Duke has a clear advantage, but it won’t come easy as Naadir Tharpe, AndrewWhite III, and Niko Roberts will most likely hold down the guard slots. Duke would take that on with Tyler Thornton, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Matt Jones. All are capable of playing well and how they play will determine Duke’s success. The matchup everybody wants to see is at the ¾ swing position with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Based on the situations, I would expect to see Rodney Hood guard Wiggins as they are of the same build whereas Parker can also guard taller men in the post. It will be interesting to see how Wiggins plays, as he has struggled early on even getting benched for a portion of time in the first game for the Jayhawks. Some feel Wiggins has been overrated and overhyped thus far, some even going as far to say he might only be the 5th best player in practice.
Big things to watch (Thomas Eames)
Rodney Hood vs Andrew Wiggins
While many people are awaiting the matchup between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, it likely will not happen much throughout the game. Instead, Rodney Hood will be given the challenge of guarding Andrew Wiggins, with Parker likely on Perry Ellis. Rodney Hood does not recieve the attention of Parker or Wiggins but this could be the game he proves himself to the country. Wiggins is far from a finished product and Hood will be counted on winning this matchup for Duke. He will have to avoid foul trouble and continuously attack Kansas bigs in the paint. It is a huge stage for Hood but I expect him to deliver against the likely first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
What players will be in foul trouble?
Both teams have a lot of depth but they are reliant on their stars to win them games. With the new hand checking rules, it is inevitable that there will be a lot of fouls between these aggressive and attacking teams. A huge key for each team will be avoiding major foul trouble on their top guys. Both teams are extremely reliant on their starting forwards (Hood, Parker, Wiggins, and Ellis) and cannot afford to see them play minimal minutes. Fouls will likely be an issue at points during this game and each team will need to find a way to deal with the fouls and the new rules.
How will the young teams react to adversity?
Both teams are extremely young, as there are just two returning starters between both teams. In their first games, neither team experienced much trouble. It will be extremely interesting and telling for each team to see how they react to adversity. Both teams will go on runs during the game. These young players will need to show composure to overcome these spurts. This game will test the these young players ability to overcome bad runs.
Thomas Eames: I believe it is in Duke's advantage that this game is so early in the season. Both teams can improve greatly, but Duke is currently the more polished team. Duke will have to deal with Kansas' size but they have the scoring and skill to overcome this disadvantage. This game will be close but I expect Duke to win this one 82-75.
Daniel Labriola: After all that, I do feel Duke will come out with a hard fought victory in Chicago. There is emphasis on the hard fought part because Duke will have to keep their ground down in the low post. Duke does have a slight advantage in the other areas and I do believe that the fast-paced style Duke will play will be even faster than against Davidson. Duke will win a close one, 87-82.