DUKE Q&A and Game Thread

1/25/2012 11:28:45 AM

 This is the least emotionally ready that I have been for a Maryland-Duke that I've been in years.  I have an emotional hangover from the brutal stomach-punch loss my Ravens took on Sunday plus I'm frustrated with the Terps recent play.  The Temple game left me deflated. 

So, I'm trying something a little different.  The folks at Crazie-Talk asked if I would mind doing a Q&A with them about to tonight's game.  They asked me a few questions and I responded in kind with a few of my own. 

We'll start off with their responses to my questions:

1. How do you compare this year's Duke team to the team's of the last 5 years?  What areas do they excel?  Where do they lag behind?
This is a very different Duke team than those of years past. With a deep guard core (Rivers, Curry, Dawkins, Thornton, and Curry all regularly see double-digit minutes) and an eccentric group of forwards, this team excels on the offensive end. Duke has a balanced scoring attack that works best when our big guys cause the defense to collapse on the key, leaving the court open for our bevy of three point shooters. The three most talented guards - Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins - can all put up 20 on a given night, but Duke hasn't had a night where all three have been firing on all cylinders. 
Conversely, this is one of the worst defensive Duke teams in recent memory. Ranked 84th in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency ratings, Duke struggles to defend on the perimeter and has gotten beaten up inside on multiple occasions. 

2. What have the teams that have beaten Duke been able to do that has led them to victory?  What have they stopped Duke from doing?
All three teams that have beaten Duke this season have shot extremely well. Granted, this is probably because Duke failed to play good defense, but the point remains. They have also successfully shut down Ryan Kelly (5 total points in losses to Ohio State and Temple; he averages 12.4 per game) and Andre Dawkins (0 points in losses to Ohio State and Temple, he averages 10.4 per game). Duke will need both guys to show up big in order to leave College Park with a win. 

3.  Outside of Austin Rivers, who's the most difficult Duke player for team's to defend this year?
Mason Plumlee. He's been Duke's most consistent player all year, especially on offense. He's been able to master an array of moves around the basket, which has made him extremely difficult to defend in the post. He rebounds the basketball very well, and has also vastly improved as a shot blocker. He doesn't usually put up big offensive numbers, but that is probably more a result of Duke's offense than a testament to his skills. He's been integral to the success of this team thus far. 

Prediction: Duke 72, Maryland 62

Now, for my responses to their questions:

1. Terrell Stoglin has been excellent so far this season. Other than him, who should we worry about the most?

Well, it depends on the day.  This Terps squad is undermanned and relatively untalented as compared to past seasons.  Alex Len has been the wildcard since he was cleared to play in late December.  He's 7'1" with good agility and nice jump shot.  He will absolutely wind up playing at the next level, but he has struggled fitting into the offense.  He's only a freshman and will improve as the season goes on. He sprained his ankle in the Terps loss to Temple on Saturday and is listed as day-to-day.  He may not play at all against Duke. 

The other player to look out for is Sean Mosley.  He's a well rounded player who does all the little things; but has frustrated fans over his 4 year career because he is not a consistent scorer.  He'll score 20 points against Georgia Tech and follow that up with 3 points against Temple.  If he gets hot, the Terps are hard to stop.

2. What does this Maryland team do best? Where do they struggle the most?

This is easy.  With Alex Len in the lineup; the Terps can be elite rebounding team.  For the first time in years, the Terps can simultaneously play a frontline of three players taller than 6'9".  James Padgett (6'8") and Ashton Pankey (6'9") are both good rebounders who become more effective when Alex Len is occupying defenders.

In terms of struggling, the Terps are a dreadful free throw shooting team.  They are averaging an FT% in the low 60s but it is so much worse than that. The misses come at the worst possible moments. I can point to at least 3 losses where the outcome would have been different had the Terps knocked down their shots from the charity stripe.  The most frustrating aspect of the woeful FT shooting is that the Terps are getting to the line a TON.  They just aren't converting those opportunities.

3. Gary Williams will be in the house on Wednesday tonight. How has Mark Turgeon done in his first year in the post-Gary era?

Terp fans LOVE Mark Turgeon.  The guy can coach.  He has won everywhere he has been.  He took Wichita State to a Sweet 16 and then led Texas A&M to 4 straight NCAA Tournament berths.  We was the point guard on the 1988 Kansas Jayhawk team that won the national title so he knows how to flat out win.  The Terps are lacking talent but it is easy to see that he runs good sets and make the most of the talent he has.  Often, it is the little things like beautiful plays that lead to lay ups coming out of a time out; so Terp fans can tell he is going to be good.  Gary Williams loves him too which is always a plus.  I honestly think in 5 years that MD fans will be glad the Sean Miller stayed at Arizona.

4. Prediction?

This season, Maryland is not in Duke's class.  However, the Terps do play tough at home, and you know the crowd will be fired up for Duke.  The additional element of the court being named after Gary Williams will only increase the emotional intensity.  If Alex Len plays, I think the Terps have a 50/50 chance of pulling the upset.

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