Preview: Duke (7-0) at Wisconsin (7-0)

A look ahead to Wednesday night's game between the Blue Devils and Badgers as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.

Wisconsin BADGERS

7-0 Overall; 4-0 at Home

PROJECTED STARTERS
F- 10 Nigel Hayes (13.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
F- 15 Sam Dekker (12.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
C- 44 Frank Kaminsky (16.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg)
G- 12 Traevon Jackson (8.4 ppg, 3.1 apg)
G- 21 Josh Gasser (5.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg.)

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STAR WATCH
You can’t find a National Player of the Year discussion or article that doesn’t mention Frank Kaminsky as one of the top choices. Listed at 7’0 and 242 pounds, the senior is one of the more unique big men in the country. He’s able to shoot the ball from all over the court with range out to the perimeter where he’s hitting 41 percent of his attempts, but he’s hardly just a shooter. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder (8.7 per) and makes a habit of cleaning up the defensive glass where the Badgers are very good at limiting second chance opportunities. Offensively, he’ll pose a number of problems for Duke as the Blue Devil centers will not be comfortable operating and defending 18-20 feet from the basket, and being pulled to the perimeter could add additional stress to Duke’s efforts on the boards. It was a problem last season, though should be somewhat alleviated so long as Jefferson and Winslow have good nights.


STORYLINES


THE NEXT BIG TEST:
Duke has played a couple of big name programs, but the Blue Devils have yet to be truly tested during a seven game win streak to open the season. Each of the seven games have been double-figure wins and the Blue Devils were never in any real danger or not coming out with a victory.

That will likely change on Wednesday night in Madison.

Wisconsin has started the season 7-0, and aside from the three point win over Georgetown, the Badgers have won each of their games rather easily. Both teams own a 1-0 record against the top 25 according to the Sagarin ratings with Wisconsin owning three wins over the top 50 (Duke is 2-0 v. top 50 teams).

Wednesday night’s game will represent the biggest challenge of the season for both teams, and the Badgers have the advantage of experience (starting a sophomore, a junior, and three seniors - each of whom played a key role in last season’s Final Four run), size, and a home court that is traditionally brutal on opponents. Meanwhile, Duke will start three freshmen, albeit talented ones who have yet to show any signs of being rattled.

That’s not to say there haven’t been the usual freshman mistakes committed by the newcomers, but so far the team hasn’t suffered a loss of composure for any measurable period of time. Wednesday night, however, will be the team’s first true road game of the season in front of a hostile crowd and against one of the best teams in the nation. It’s a huge step up in competition and environment for any player - much less a freshman, no matter how talented.

How will Duke’s youth respond? And if the freshmen do show signs of uncertainty for the first time, who takes the reigns and steadies the team while they collect themselves?

FINSIH THE POSSESSIONS:
Duke has already faced one Big 10 opponent this season when they beat Michigan State as part of the Champions Classic. In that game the Blue Devils were never in any real danger of losing, but the Spartans’ midwestern style of play and scrappy demeanor gave their more talented opponents fits for extended periods. Did it give the Badgers a blueprint?

Michigan State out-rebounded Duke 35-25 in Chicago, and the Spartans stayed close enough to prevent Duke from pulling away by grabbing 13 offensive rebounds and taking advantage of second chance opportunities. A repeat performance on the glass against a Wisconsin team currently owning the boards by a +8.3 margin could spell trouble for Duke.

Another key to Duke’s win over MSU was the Spartans’ poor perimeter shooting. Michigan State couldn’t score from long range (25 percent), and so Tom Izzo’s club focused on doing the dirty work on the glass and being first to loose balls. It resulted in a game that was probably closer than it should have been. Fast forward to Wednesday and the opponent will once again make a living on the glass, but this time Duke will face an opponent that can and will shoot the ball very well from outside.

It’ll be important for Duke to duplicate the level of defense displayed against the Spartans, but after defending the initial shot Duke must finish the play and secure the rebound and/or loose ball. Doing that will go a long way towards earning the biggest win of the year.

IT’S THE OTHER GUYS
The hype leading into the game will focus on the matchup between Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor, and rightly so. Both players are preseason first team All-Americans, and both play in the middle. Okafor is, perhaps, the best low post scorer in the country while Kaminsky presents all manner of matchup problems thanks to his ability to shoot the ball from distance. It’s like the reverse of the early 1990s when Duke’s Christian Laettner took LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal out to the perimeter as Duke beat the Tigers easily. And while that’ll be a fascinating dynamic to follow, it’ll be the other players who determine the outcome.

Assuming Kaminsky and Okafor cancel one another out, the next matchup to watch will be Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker against Justise Winslow. Both players occupy the “do it all” role for their teams, and both have some limitations coming into the game. For Wisconsin, Dekker has been plagued by an ankle problem that has limited him this week in practice though he’s expected to start on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Winslow’s been limited by foul trouble over the last few games.

Starting power forward Nigel Hayes presents an interesting challenge for Duke in that he’s bigger than his counterpart, Amile Jefferson, and can bully his way around the paint on most nights. Hayes is particularly efficient around the basket (27-of-41 on the season), but can step out to the perimeter on occasion. When Kaminsky goes to the perimeter, Hayes will often be his team’s best inside option and will challenge for any missed shots (he’s the team’s leading offensive rebounder). Given Kaminsky’s ability to step out, it’ll be interesting to see if Hayes doesn’t draw Okafor on the offensive end with the quicker and longer (and more experienced) Jefferson charged with following Kaminsky to the outside.

Also worth watching will be the backcourt matchup. Quinn Cook has been through the battles before, but not Tyus Jones. Of course the Duke freshman has been praised for his even keeled approach through seven games, as well as his ability to run his team. Look for Jones and Cook to play extended minutes along with at least one of Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon.

Question To Be Answered


Shorter Bench?
Against Stanford and Temple Duke shortened the bench a bit. The rotation stretched back out over the last two contests against Furman and Army, but neither team posed much of a threat to Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. When it’s winning time, however, Mike Krzyzewski usually caps the rotation around a top eight.

That begs the question of which two players of the usual 10 aren’t likely to see much time in Madison. The most likely bets would be sophomore forward Semi Ojeleye and freshman wing guard Grayson Allen. Allen, of course, is battling with Duke’s stable of high major wings including the three starters plus Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon. The biggest knock on the talented Florida prospect has been his desire to press the action when he does get on the court. That won’t fly against a veteran group of Badgers. Meanwhile, Ojeleye could be forced into action should Winslow be unable to shake his recent bouts of foul trouble. While Duke would most likely go with three guards in relief of Winslow (Jones or Sulaimon playing the small forward position), there have been times when Ojeleye has seen extended minutes as the reserve power forward, though any action against Wisconsin would be contingent on the sophomore’s ability to help on the boards and inside.

Interestingly enough, the Badgers have eight players in their rotation playing double figure minutes as well.


Notebook:


- This will be the third time the two programs have met. Each of the meetings has been in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge with Duke winning huge in 2007 and Wisconsin leading wire-to-wire in 2009 before a late Andre Dawkins shooting clinic brought the final score to a misleading four point Badger win.

- Coach K will win his 1,000th game at some point this season. His career record is 990-306 while his Duke mark stands at 916-247.

- Head coach Bo Ryan hasn’t been historically successful against ranked teams, but Wisconsin did go 8-2 against opponents in the top 25 a season ago. Overall, UW is 56-55 (.505) vs. ranked teams under Coach Ryan, having won 15 of its last 21 vs. ranked foes.

- The Badgers are 34-12 (.739) at the Kohl Center against AP Top 25 teams under Ryan, including a mark of 22-6 (.786) against teams ranked in the top 15. Over the last five seasons, the Badgers have won 17 of their last 22 home games vs. ranked teams.

- UW is shooting 50.5% on the year while ranking sixth in the nation with just 9.3 turnovers per game. Overall, the Badgers rank 21st in the nation at 1.19 points per possession.




They Said It:


“Everyone’s had this matchup circled on their calendar since we first heard about it, just because it’s Duke basketball and it’s one of those historic programs and everyone wants to beat them.” - Frank Kaminsky

“I think we can kind of throw those ranking things out the door. All that matters is how you come to play and how prepared you are come Wednesday night. It’s going to be a battle.” - Sam Dekker

“He’s got good feet. That baseline move he has, he’s pretty good that way. You can put names on guys, McDonald’s All-American, player of the year, freshman player of the year, but he backs it up.” - Bo Ryan on Jahlil Okafor


The Prediction


There are a lot of reasons to believe Duke is facing an uphill battle in this one. Wisconsin has more size, more experience, and a home court that’s been murder on opponents for many years. Couple that with Duke fielding a largely inexperienced roster and it’s not a stretch to expect this to end up as a learning experience for a team that has a very high ceiling. Duke hasn’t been challenged through seven games, and the Blue Devils have beaten some solid opponents during that stretch. If they can establish Okafor early and keep Winslow out of foul trouble, it’s fair to say that Wisconsin may be the team that has to answer some challenges. The Badgers, frankly, struggled with the physical nature of the Georgetown bigs in the Bahamas and that probably provided Duke with some ideas of how to attack in Madison. We look for the Blue Devils to fall behind early, but to even things up by halftime before heading into the stretch run. If the freshmen can refrain from pressing and follow the lead of Jefferson and Cook, Duke can win. We’re going with the upset here…

Duke - 74
Wisconsin - 70

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