Adding Williams to a lineup that already featured the Horizon League's Preseason Player of the Year, Marcus Banks, gives Illinois Chicago the inside track to get back to the NCAAs where they were summarily spanked by Kansas last year. With most of that lineup returning this year, the Flames are likely to be unafraid and un-intimidated by Cameron. Meet the Flames
C- Jovan Stefanov- (6'9, 215lbs JR): More of a finesse player than a bruiser, Stefanov presents an interesting match-up for Duke. He was rated as a top 150 player out of high school, but tore his ACL in the 2002-2003 season and took over a season to rehab and recover. Now, fully healthy, he's showing off the ability to score in a variety of ways, though has yet to truly master any facet of the game. However, he does have experience after being a starter on the Yugoslavian Under-16 National Team that captured the European Championship in Slovenia in 1999.
Stefanov has a reliable jumper out to the perimeter and is coming off a 3-for-3 performance from the three-point line against UNC-Wilmington, which is not an aberration for him at all. On the season he's averaging just under three perimeter attempts per game, and is connecting on 29% of those attempts. On the glass he's able to use his long and wirery frame to "out-quick" his opponents to the ball to the tune of 7.0 boards per game.
Matchup: Duke will look to continue the momentum built by junior power forward Shelden Williams against Toledo. There, the 6'9, 255lbs Blue Devils logged a game high 18 points and 15 rebounds while over powering the Rocket defenders. Against Stefanov, Williams will face an opponent who is unafraid to face the basket and play as a big wing, which could lure Williams into fouls away from the basket if he's not careful. Still, look for Duke to go inside and for the powerful junior to win this one. Edge: Duke
F- Elliot Poole- (6'7, 225lbs JR): After a year off for academic reasons, Poole entered his junior year with his expectations for the Flames. At 6'7, he plays much taller and is the team's best post defender. His offense is consistent, and has improved throughout the season as he's gotten more and more comfortable in his new starting role.
Though not a take charge scoring threat at this point, Bowen has shown the ability to score in bunches inside, putting up 12, 10, and 12 points in three straight games while averaging just over six rebounds per contest during that stretch. The one place he hasn't improved is at the free throw line, where he's hitting a paltry 50% of his attempts.
Matchup: Duke may go back with 6'11 junior forward Shavlik Randolph after a particularly strong showing against Toledo that saw him score, rebound, and display the kind of aggressive streak on offense that has been lacking for so much of his career. If not, it'll be freshman wing forward David McClure, who has settled into his role as a hustle player, getting rebounds and playing solid on the ball defense, while helping out inside. Either Blue Devil will need to keep Poole closer to the perimeter and not let him establish position inside, where he can and will finish. Also, given Poole's relentless pursuit of the ball, it'll be imperative that Duke box him out or he'll get a number of put backs on the offensive end.Edge: Push
G/F- Justin Bowen- (6'6, 220 SO): Despite playing on the wing, Bowen is not a threat to shoot the ball from the perimeter. Instead he prefers to put the ball on the ground and go to the rim where he uses his size and athleticism to finish or draw the foul. Another player with a long and wirery frame, Bowen is quick off his feet and can log double-figure rebounds if not watched.
His best game of the year came against South Dakota State where he hit 7-of-9 from the field, and 4-of-5 from the free throw line to finish with 18 points and six rebounds before fouling out in just 21 minutes.
Match Up: Bowen's size could present a new challenge for Duke sharp shooter J.J. Redick, who's matched up with players of similar stature this point in the year. It'll certainly be a chance to see if Redick's new found ability to put the ball on the floor can keep the Flames' defense honest enough to allow him open looks from the perimeter. Edge: Duke
G- Cedric Banks- (6'2, 165lbs SR): Had he gotten a little more lift into his final jumper, Banks would have single handedly beaten Georgia Tech to open the season. In that game the senior guard was on fire, hitting 8-of-19 shots including 5-of-11 from three point range to log a game high 23 points. It was the kind of game the Flames have come to expect of the conference's preseason player of the year.
Despite being just 6'2, Banks is unafraid to mix it up inside, and is averaging a remarkable five rebounds per game. A streaky shooter, this left hander can put up a bunch of points early if his first shot falls. Another player with a long frame, Banks can go either left or right, and has elevation to spare on his jumper. He's also unafraid to crash the boards and has made a living picking up second chance points on put backs.
Matchup: Defending Banks will likely fall on either Sean Dockery or Duke's senior captain, Daniel Ewing. Over the course of the game it's likely that both will take turns trying to contain him. Offensively Ewing will challenge banks off the dribble, but will have to make sure his ball handing is crisp as Banks' long arms have a knack for getting in the way of driving opponents, and allow him to play more like a 6'5 wing on the defensive end. Edge: Slight Duke
G- Marcetteaus McGee- (6'1, 175lbs SO): The team's starting point guard is a steady ball handler, but isn't a serious threat to beat you with his offense. Averaging close to seven points per game on the strength of a 91% conversion rate from the foul line, McGee is content to run the offense and defer to his more capable teammates. That's not to say he doesn't provide great value for UIC. In fact he has one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the country (4.7 to 1) and can stay in front of his man on the defensive end. Still, his scoring struggles fail to keep opposing defenses honest, as he's hitting just 25% from the field so far and just 11% from beyond the arc.
Matchup- When not taking turns on Bowen, either Dockery or Ewing will take the responsibility of checking McGee. Dockery, who was an unknown commodity heading into this year, has taken big steps towards improving his overall offensive game this season by working on his jump shot and improving his decision making with the ball. The result has been a solidified place in the starting line up, and the ability to put extraordinary pressure on opposing lead guards. He should be able to keep McGee on his toes, and will probably lower that stellar assist to turnover ratio by the end of the night, and is likely to log a few fast break points and maybe a jumper along the way. Edge: Duke
With Armond Williams (6'5, 205lbs SR) being cleared by the NCAA, the Flames have another legitamit scorer coming off the bench. At 6'4 and 205 pounds, Williams plays as a poor man's Charles Barkley, crashing the boards relentlessly and making himself seem like a power forward at times. So far that's proven to be the case as he's averaging 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench any of four positions depending on the lineup. Karl White (6'2, 170lbs FR) provides a scoring punch off the bench with a 42% three point conversion rate, and Luther Boyd (6'8, 230lbs JR) adds reserve muscle in the post.
Meanwhile the Blue Devils have gotten some unexpected lifts off their bench in the form of senior Reggie Love and junior forward Lee Melchionni. Love's tremendous athletic prowess and NFL body have allowed him to take a 6'5 frame and play as if he were nearly 6'9 thanks to long arms and agility. Melchionni has stepped up his rebounding and has also proven to be a competent shooter from the anywhere on the court. Freshman DeMarcus Nelson continues to recover from an injured thumb and is quickly adapting to the college game by posting big rebounding numbers and finding ways to score without the use of his jump shot. Edge: Duke
The Blue Devils should certainly come away with another victory on Tuesday night, but this game could be a potential pitfall as well. If the Blue Devils are looking ahead to the weekend in the Big Apple, then this veteran Flames squad could certainly pull an upset if either Banks or Williams gets into an early scoring zone. Duke has shown the ability to be sluggish out of the gate, but will be looking to shake that habit in a big way. The keys will be the same as they usually are for Coach K's troops: Establishing the inside game, working on the defensive end, and having good shot selection will likely translate into Coach K's 701st win and Duke's seventh on the season.