C- Logan Kosmalski (6'8, 230): Kosmalski, a two year captain, played at Baylor for two years before transferring to Charlotte for his final two seasons. With good size and a deep bag of tricks on the offensive end, he's widely expected to be one of Davidson's best frontcourt players this year, as well as the Southern Conference. It was certainly the case last year as he averaged eight rebounds per game in conference play while scoring just over 12 per game.
"Logan's consistent improvement and development was ever-present in each performance last year," said head coach Bob McKillop. "He is expected to be an effective inside-outside scorer and an anchor to our post defense."
Defensively Kosmalski has become a bit foul prone, especially against bigger opponents who can overpower him inside, though he's a capable shot blocker and interior defender who understands positioning and uses it to his advantage.
PF- Conor Grace (6'9, 215): After leading the Southern Conference in rebounds as a sophomore, Grace suffered a number of back problems that hindered his productivity last season. Like Kosmalski, Grace can take his opponent out for jumpers, only his range extends comfortably out and beyond the three point arc.
"Conor is now a seasoned veteran who had a hard-working and productive summer," said McKilop of his power forward. "We kept his injury pretty close to the vest last year, but he really struggled with it. He took the spring off to heal and has now regained some of the fire and passion that made him so successful."
Grace will match up with Duke's Shavlik Randolph, who opened the season with an 11 point, 13 rebound effort in limited minutes. Randolph is coming off two years of various injuries and now looks completely healthy, which has translated into big expectations of the Raleigh native. Against Grace, Randolph will see close to a mirror image on both ends of the floor. The key for the Duke big man will be to keep playing with the fire and killer instinct we saw in the early first half against the Skyhawks in the first game.
Grace went to the sideline with an injury in the first game of the season, allowing Ian Johnson to step in for a big game (16 points, 6 rebounds).
SF- Brenden Winters (6'5, 200): Reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year Wright enters his junior season with a big target. He averaged better than 20 points per game in league play last year while shooting nearly 40% from the perimeter and 85% from the free throw line.
A prototypical wing who loves to slash and drive, Winters spent last year developing the ability to beat his opponents from the perimeter if they decided to play off him trying to protect against the drive. Defensively he's got the ability to check opposing wings or even can step in and make things tougher for bigger interior players if needed.
"He had a prolific sophomore year following a superb freshman season," said McKilop. "He continues to get better because he's got an outstanding work-ethic. He's willing to score, play defense, and rebound – he's willing to do the dirty work as well inside."
Winters will certainly provide a test for Duke freshman defender David McClure, who has earned the starting nod early on in the season thanks to his ability to stay with any opponent and unwillingness to leave his feet or bite on ball fakes. Offensively no one is expecting McClure to kill you with his jumper, but he's able to pick up garbage buckets and always seems to be in the right position on both sides of the court.
SG- Matt McKillop (6'1, 180): Despite serving as a point guard early on, McKillop has developed into a lethal outside thread for the Wildcats. Against Missouri he connected for 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting including 5-of-8 from distance. He also drew the task of checking the opposition's best shooting guard throughout the season, and that's likely the role he'll draw against Duke.
McKillop will have his defensive prowess and stamina tested when he matches up with Duke's J.J. Redick, who will spend the evening running him off screens and forcing him to stay honest off the dribble. In the season opener Redick scored 20 points including just four threes, showing the ability to hit the midrange jumper when open as well as get to the basket.
On the flip side, Redick will have to deal with McKillop's quickness off the dribble and scrappy demeanor on offense, where he's content to pick up points where ever opportunity presents itself. In addition Redick won't be able to sit back as McKillop has the ability to simply catch fire from the perimeter.
PG- Kenny Grant (6'1 185): Relieving McKillop of his point guard duties is JUCO transfer Kenny Grant. A true ball handling point guard, Grant orchestrated the upset of Missouri by hitting 11 assists against four turnovers in 36 minutes of action. He also converted both of his perimeter attempts to finish with 10 points.
Grant will be charged with containing Duke's defacto point guard Daniel Ewing, who is making the change from scoring guard with some success after a 20 point opening night performance. Offensively Grant won't be able to out-quick Ewing, but he should be able to keep him honest with his perimeter ability. Defensively he'll test Ewing's handle and will force him to make quick decisions with the ball.
For all the experience in the starting lineup, the Wildcats' bench is an unknown quantity entering the 2004-2005 campaign. Still, McKillop can go as many as nine deep with confidence this season. Still in the season opener the six players played more that 25 minutes including four players logging over 30.
Against Mizzou the Cats used Thomas Sander (6'8, 205 FR) for 13 minutes, and Ian Johnson (6'9. 230 JR) to spell the post with Johnson logging a game high 36 minutes, after starting strong and finishing with 16 points and six rebounds while Sander chipped in with 13 minutes at the power forward spot.
In the backcourt Davidson went with Jason Morton (6'2, 180 JR) for five minutes and Eric Blancett (6'4 185 JR) for 12 minutes. Both players are typical Davidson players who can hit the perimeter jumper, but will usually defer to the starters that may be on the floor.
Meanwhile the Blue Devils bring a pair of guards and some developing size off the bench. Freshman DeMarcus Nelson was the team's third leading rebounder in the first game with nine board and 10 points, showing off a quick first step and high major athleticism. Mike Krzyzewski was pleased with his freshman, and expects that kind of contribution to continue as he adjusts to the college game.
"When he gets healthy, instead of three-for-eleven in that amount of time, he might go seven-for-eleven," said Coach K. "With nine rebounds, that's a pretty good contribution and that's what we need to focus on."
Meanwhile junior point guard Sean Dockery is expected to see an increased role against the Wildcats' guard oriented offense. Despite his offensive struggles throughout his career, Dockery continues to be one of the better on the ball defenders in the ACC.
In the post the Blue Devils have made a living out of stealing minutes with Reggie Love (6'4, 240) and walk-on Patrick Johnson (6'9 225). Neither is expected to provide any kind of scoring punch, though both provide size and rebounding ability on any given night.
If the Blue Devils had any thoughts of a cake walk through the Wildcats, the season opening win over Missouri has to have erased them. Davidson is certainly capable of beating Duke in Charlotte, but it would take the Blue Devils playing less than their best game and the Cats' being super efficient.
That's what happened with the Tigers as Davidson shot a sizzling 70 percent from the floor in the second half and 60 percent for the game. They also out-rebounded Mizzou by 10, and recorded assists on 19 of their 27 made field goals. However the Cats did turn the ball over 21 time against Missouri, which can spell trouble against the Blue Devils.
The key for Duke will be establishing Williams and Randolph early and allowing them to work inside and try to wear down and draw fouls on the starting Wildcat big guys. The perimeter defenders must also stay on their men and not give up open looks to any of the Wildcat shooters.
In the end this will be a step up in the level of competition, but Duke should still come away with the victory.