Kansas City, Missouri. -- KC Sprint Center
MEET THE WILDCATS
Head Coach: Frank Martin (4th Season)
Record at Kansas State: 76-32
Record v. Duke: 0-0
15 Freddy Asprilla (6-10, 280 Jr.) – 3.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
33 Wally Judge (6-9, 250, So.) – 5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
0 Jacob Pullen (6-0, 200, Sr.) – 16.5 ppg, 4.0 apg
12 Nick Russell (6-4, 200, So.) – 7.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg
22 Rodney McGruder (6-4, 205, Sr.) – 11.3 ppg, 7.3 apg
3 Martavious Irving (6-1, 210, So.) – 8.0 ppg, 2.5 apg
32 Jamar Samuels (6-7, 220, So.) – 8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg
24 Curtis Kelly (6-8, 240, Sr.) - 3.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
55 Will Spradling (6-3, 170, Fr.) - 7.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg
10 Victor Ojeleye (6-6, 225, Jr.) - 1.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Series History: This will be the second meeting between the Blue Devils and Wildcats with the Blue Devils holding a 1-0 series advantage. Historically Duke has been sharp against opponents from the Big 12 Conference, enjoying a 22-4 mark all-time against teams from that grouping.
Quote To Note: "It's not my personality [to be intimidated]. And it's not my team's personality, either. I'm not going to let them [be intimidated]." - KSU Coach Frank Martin on facing Duke.
Season To Date: The Wildcats entered 2010-2011 with high expectations after surging into the Elite Eight a season ago. Kansas State began the year ranked as the nation's third best team and has opened with four wins including blowouts of two ranked opponents - Virginia Tech and Gonzaga. K-State enters Tuesday's game ranked fourth in the country with a perfect 4-0 record.
All Is Forgiven: That Kansas State began the season ranked in the top three is impressive enough. To date the Wildcats have certainly lived up to the hype. However, it's been that much more impressive to see the Wildcats storm through the early competition while sitting first team all-Conference selection Curtis Kelly for disciplinary reasons. The 6-foot-8, 240 pound senior averaged 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a season ago after sitting out following a transfer from Connecticut in 2008. Kelly's return immediately makes K-State much more effective on both ends of the floor. He finished last season ranked in the top five in the conference in blocked shots per contest.
Neutral In Name Only The Sprint Center holds roughly 19,000 fans at full capacity. On Tuesday night you can expect roughly 18,000 of those supporters to be in purple and black. It'll be the first true road game the Blue Devils have faced this season as Monday's semifinal saw the gym fairly empty and benign until late in the second half with the KSU faithful began showing up for the Wildcats' late tip-off against Gonzaga. How players such as Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry respond to their first look at a hostile college crowd may very well determine the outcome of this highly rated contest.
Depth For Days: It was a fairly mundane performance and they were never really challenged. However, head coach Frank Martin's team showed off a fair amount of depth against Gonzaga on Monday night playing 10 players nine or more minutes and nine for double figure minutes. While the Blue Devils got a taste of a team who could bring just as many athletes off the bench against Marquette, the Wildcats pose a much different challenge as their depth covers all five positions. For the season the Wildcats have 10 players averaging 14.3 minutes or more on the season.
Backcourt Transition: A season ago the Wildcats enjoyed tremendous play at the point guard position from now departed senior Denis Clemente - a very quick and efficient floor general capable of scoring the ball, but more adept at breaking down a defense and finding the numerous weapons available to him. One of those weapons, scoring guard Jacob Pullen, has been asked to fill the role. It's a work in progress for Pullen who has been a scoring guard for the entirety of his career, though he's lived up to the job so far. A season ago he shot 40 percent from the perimeter and earned the reputation as one of his conference's most deadly scorers. This year he is once again leading his team in scoring but is also dishing out a team high four assists per game…and yes, he's still lethal from the perimeter hitting at a 41 percent clip. The knock on Pullen is that he's a bit of a gunner and sometimes careless with the ball, though so far in 2010-2011 he's maintained a 1.6/1 assist to turnover ratio.
Duke Noteables: The Blue Devils will be looking to move to 5-0 on the season against Kansas State, but there are some additional notes worth following:
- Duke is now 6-1 in the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic after posting wins over Marquette, Princeton, and Miami. The Blue Devils went 3-1 in 2006, losing to Marquette in the championship game, 73-62. On Tuesday the Blue Devils will look to gain the championship for the first time.
- Duke has won 26 consecutive games in November, dating back to a 73-62 loss to Marquette in the championship game of the 2006 CBE Classic. The Blue Devils are 106-10 all-time in the month of November under Coach K.
- Duke's starting backcourt of Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving is combining to average 30.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 13.1 assists per game.
- Sophomore Mason Plumlee posted a career high 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five blocks against Marquette on Monday night. The 6'10 Indiana native has moved into the post to start the season - taking over for his elder brother, Miles.
- Turnovers were the tale of the tape on Monday night against Marquette. Despite shooting 55 percent from the field and winning the battle of the boards against the Golden Eagles, Marquette was able to hang around and convert a number of opportunities thanks to a season high 19 turnovers from Duke. Had Marquette been able to better capitalize off those 19 giveaways (MU scored just 14 points in those situations) the game could've been much different.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Turnovers certainly jump out of the box score early on. Despite the emergence of Plumlee in the middle, Duke needs to find a secondary big man to help inside against more physical teams such as Kansas State. Kyle Singler was knocked around quite a bit inside all while playing a game high 38 minutes. Whether it was fatigue or just an off night in general the senior All-American launched a couple of air balls down the stretch and finished just 5-of-13 from the field including 2-of-7 from the perimeter. For the season Singler is shooting just 40 percent from the field and 25 percent from the perimeter. Over the last two games he's 10-of-29 from the field and 3-of-13 from the perimeter. It is no surprise that Singler's dip in percentages has corresponded with the offense struggling to maintain a rhythm and settling for spurts. To avoid being knocked from the nation's top spot, the Blue Devils are going to need for Singler to get going which means saving his legs and helping out on the boards. Kansas State has a number of big bodies who can pound on Singler throughout the evening should general ineffectiveness require him to spend long stretches in the paint on the defensive end. The most likely candidate is Miles Plumlee, who has struggled tremendously to start the season.
The old adage is that a season is a marathon and not a sprint. National Title runs are made in March, not November. On Monday night the Blue Devils received their first real test of the season. Despite some troubling developments, Duke came away with a victory and showed some toughness when a battled tested opponent seemed to have swiped the momentum. Kansas State provides a similar test and will make Duke pay if the Blue Devils approach anywhere near 20 turnovers. If Singler finds his range and his teammates cut down on turnovers, Duke can win. If not, Kansas State will likely lay claim to the nation's top ranking for the first time in 50 years. Should that happen, it'll be a teaching moment for Mike Krzyzewski. But a little adversity isn't necessarily a terrible thing for a team whose praises have been sung for months.
Duke - 75
Kansas State - 79