Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Guest Blogger: Blue Devil Hoops

We are all familiar with Duke, but I wanted to get a little more info before the game. I asked Paul from Blue Devil Hoops to give us some insight into this year’s team. Go to Blue Devil Hoops throughout the season for more on Duke, ACC basketball and college basketball in general.

1. JJ Redick has added more dimesions to his game. How would you recommend stopping him?

Redick has been very difficult to stop this year. In the past, teams ran out at him at the 3-point line and forced him to put the ball on the floor. This year, though, his inside game has become much more polished, and as a result, forcing him inside just means 2-points instead of three, rather than a stop or a turnover. So what can be done to stop him? Redick lives off screens - some on-the-ball, but mostly off-the-ball to get himself open. They key is to deny the effectiveness of these screens. For on-the-ball screens, the screeners man should show hard to force Redick back a step, and then try to trap him to force the ball out of his hands. He's a much better ball-handler, but he's still not excellent, and I think he's probably vulnerable to an aggressive trap 30 feet from the basket, particularly if it's off a screen on the wing where the sideline can serve as a third defender. And if he finds the open man out of the double team, at least it's someone else taking an open shot, and not Redick. When he's getting screened off-the-ball, you have to bump, grab, hold, etc. to try to keep him from getting free. This will likely result in some foul calls, but it will also wear him out a bit, which could matter if it's a close game late. This can also serve to deny him the ball since it will allow his defender to keep up with him better. But let's be honest - he's still going to go for at least 20.

2. BC will obviously try to follow the Georgetown blueprint. Was that game the way to beat Duke or was it just Georgetown playing the nearly perfect offensive game?

The Georgetown game is a blueprint only for teams that have the capability to do what they did. All five guys played out on the perimeter, and then back-cut on Duke's defense when they tried to jump passing lanes. One of the reasons this worked well is because all 5 guys on Georgetown's team could handle the ball and make good passes, and they could all hit shots if left open at the perimeter. Notice that they used this offense only when Green was playing the 5, not Hibbert, because Hibbert couldn't handle the ball up top well enough to make good passes under pressure, and couldn't shoot well enough to force the defense out on him. From what I've seen, BC doesn't have the personnel to make this run. They don't have the shooters to force the kind of tight coverage on the weakside that would prevent help-side defense from rotating to defend the back cuts, and their bigs - Smith, Oates, and Williams - aren't comfortable enough with the ball at the 3 point line to withstand defensive pressure and make a clean pass.

3. I think Paulus is the key to the game. Am I overlooking another factor?

Paulus is a key, but not necessarily the key - simply because he could have a sub-par game and Redick and Williams could still make this a Duke win. Now, if Paulus has 10 turnovers and no assists, the Devils would almost certainly lose, but I don't think there's anything in his performance history (or BC's defensive history) that would make this likely. More likely is a 5-9 assist, 3-6 turnover, 6-10 point performance, and I don't think that the difference between 10pts, 9 assists, and 3 turnovers and 6 points, 5 assists, and 6 turnovers from him will make the difference in this game.

I think the game comes down a lot more to whether BC plays defense. In conference play, they're 10th in defensive efficiency, but there are reasons to think that could turn around in this game. One of BC's biggest defensive weakness is denying offensive rebounds (they're last in the conference), but getting offensive rebounds is Duke's biggest offensive weakness. BC also has done a good job forcing turnovers, and Duke hasn't been excellent at holding on to the ball. If BC can control the boards and force turnovers, they'll limit the number of shot attempts Duke takes. But that won't necessarily fix everything, because BC's other big problem is FG defense. Part of this comes from weakness on the defensive glass - lots of offensive rebounds for your opponents usually means more easy shots. However, BC has been doing a terrible job defending the 3 - opponents are shooting 46.8% in conference from beyond the arc. They can do a fantastic job on the boards, but if Duke hits at this rate from the outside, the Eagles will be sunk. So I think the key is how committed BC decides they want to be to defense. If they control the defensive boards, force turnovers on 20% or more of Duke possessions, and actually get a hand in the face of Duke's shooters, they'll probably win. Of course, they've only done one of those three things well all year, so it might be too tall a task.

For more on Duke, go to Blue Devils Hoops.

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