Duke Preview

After four years of RPI griping over the non-conference schedules, ASU finally gets a chance to play with the big boys when they travel to New York for the right to play the Duke Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden in the Preseason NIT semifinals.

This game also serves as a bit of a reunion for Sun Devil head coach, Herb Sendek and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski – former ACC rivals from Sendek's time at NC State where the Blue Devils dominated the Wolfpack with 21 wins in 24 meetings.

Another story that will surely be rehashed is Eric Boateng going to battle against his original school. Boateng played sparingly for Duke as a true freshman before transferring to ASU.

Duke enters the game with four victories thrashings over inferior opponents. In three of their four wins, they've scored over 95 points and their closest game was a 25-point nail-biter over Coastal Carolina. Leading the Blue Devils is Kyle Singler, a big forward with a solid inside-out game as well as Jon Scheyer, a player who seems like he's been at Duke for about a decade and can shoot the lights out. Another player to keep an eye on is Nolan Smith, a lightning quick PG that can fill up a stat sheet.

Arizona State has also been impressive in the first couple weeks of the 2009-10 campaign with three blowouts and one incredible comeback against TCU in a game that they seemingly had no chance to win. The Sun Devils have had a different scoring leader in all four games thus far and have been very efficient shooting the basketball and even more stout on the defensive end surrendering just under 53 points per game.

Head Coach – Mike Krzyzewski (837-274 Career)

Projected Starters

G – Nolan Smith – (22.0 PPG, 6.0 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.5 PPG, 4.5 APG)

G – Jon Scheyer – (16.5 PPG, 48% 3PT) vs. Ty Abbott (10.0 PPG, 70% 3PT)

F – Kyle Singler – (18.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG) vs. Trent Lockett (11.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG)

F – Lance Thomas – (6.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG) vs. Rihards Kuksiks (13.8 PPG, 52% 3PT)

F – Miles Plumlee – (11.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (11.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG)

Backcourt

The Blue Devils have an all-world talent in Smith, a big floor general who is not only bigger but faster than any other point guards that he will match up with. Along side him on the wing is Scheyer, a heady player who is deadly coming off screens. Off the bench is Andre Dawkins, an athletic combo guard who has shown that he can score at will.

For ASU, experience runs deep between Glasser and Abbott but also Jamelle McMillan off the bench. The Sun Devils will likely try to slow the game down and try to force the more athletic Duke guards out of their rhythm and if they can do that, they will cause enough frustration to stay within reach.

Edge – Even

Frontcourt

This is one of Coach K's biggest teams in recent memory with Singler, Thomas, and Plumlee all big and versatile in the starting five as well as Brian Zoubek, Ryan Kelly, and Olek Czyz off the bench and all capable. Singler is a big forward but much of his game stays on or around the perimeter while Plumlee has proven to be a solid inside force with Thomas doing a lot of the dirty work down low for the Blue Devils. The bench is deep with Czyz as the most dangerous scoring threat.

Coming into the season, the frontcourt production was a MAJOR concern with Boateng not having shown a whole lot of promise in the recent seasons backing Jeff Pendergraph and Kuksiks not having shown much variety aside from being a great long-range shooter – both players have come out of the gates very strong. Boateng has been a very strong force underneath showing good fundamentals and a soft touch around the hoop. Kuksiks has stretched his game quite a bit as defenses have zoned in his sharp shooting and are forcing him to beat them in other ways. He has been a great passer in traffic and even shown a pretty strong approach to the basket.

The biggest story of the early part of the season though has to be Lockett. A superb athlete that seems to be involved all over the floor on both ends. A tenacious rebounder with a soft touch, Lockett has been tough to stop so far. As for the reserves, the big Russian, Ruslav Pateev will spell Boateng while another freshman, the talented and eligible (!) Victor Rudd will likely see an expanded role.

Edge – Duke

X-Factor

The Matchup Zone of ASU. After years of handling Sendek with ease, Coach K will see a new side of his former rival – the vaunted matchup zone that has frustrated opponents since Sendek arrived in Tempe and implemented the defense. If Duke can manage to find holes early on, they will have no trouble scoring and putting the Sun Devils in a bind. However, if the Sun Devils can throttle the high-energy Duke attack, then ASU will be able to dictate the rhythm and maybe pull off a shocker.

Who will win and why

While this ASU team has given us a TON to be excited about in the first four games since James Harden and Pendergraph left, Duke is still Duke and Coach K is still Coach K and while an upset is very possible, I think the Blue Devils will prevail in a close win. The Blue Devils will prove to be too tough to defend in the paint and the Sun Devils are still looking for that one go-to guy in crucial offensive possessions.

Final Score – Duke 73 ASU 66


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