11 Duke (13-3, 0-2) vs. Georgia Tech (9-8, 2-1)
Atlanta, Ga. - Alexander Memorial Coliseum
7:00 p.m., ESPN
Program Vitals Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference Nickname: Hurricanes Colors: Orange and Green Head Coach: Frank Haith (3rd year) Career Record at Georgia Tech: 43-37
Projected Starters: 33 Jack McClinton (6-1, 185, So.) - 17.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg 32 Brian Asbury (6-7, 214, So.) – 11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg 21 Dwayne Collins (6-8, 232, Fr.) – 7.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg 12 Anthony Harris (6-2, 187, Sr.) – 9.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg 3.9 apg 44 Keaton Copeland (6-5, 245, Sr.) – 2.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg Key Reserves: 15 Denis Clemente (6-0, 178, So.) – 8.1 ppg, 3.6 apg 42 Raymond Hicks (6-7, 238, Jr.) – 5.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg 23 James Dews (6-3, 200, Fr.) – 2.5 ppg
How They Got Here: If someone had been out of contact since the start of the season, only to return in time for the Duke-Miami game, they'd probably assume it was an episode of the Twilight Zone. Perenial power Duke sits winless at 0-2 in the ACC after racing out to a 13-1 pre-conference record. After losing at home to Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils were unable to capitalize on nearly 30 Georgia Tech turnovers in their 11 point loss to the Jackets in Atlanta on Wednesday night. Meanwhile the Hurricanes find themselves just one game behind unbeaten Clemson at 2-1 in the conference with wins over Georgia Tech and Maryland on their resume.
Sunday night's game will be the 10th overall meeting between the Blue Devils and Hurricanes with Duke holding a commanding 8-1 series lead. The Blue Devils have won eight straight in the series, dating back to February 19th, 1986. Since Miami joined the ACC the Blue Devils have won all four contests by an average of 14.5 points per contest. In Duke's only trip to Miami, the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half to win 92-83 on January 19th, 2005. The Blue Devils have never lost to the Hurricanes under head coach Mike Krzyzewski (8-0).
Injury Report: Sophomore wing guard Martynas Pocious is considered a game time decision for Duke. Miami will be without 6'9 C Anthony King who suffered a season ending wrist injury in December. The Hurricanes also lost forward Jimmy Graham in their upset win against Maryland to a hand injury. The sophomore will have an X-ray today (Friday) and if it shows a small fracture, Graham is expected to return within three weeks.
Those injuries leave Frank Haith extremely limited in the front court. The only available players are freshman Dwayne Collins, junior Raymond Hicks, junior college transfer Fabio Nass and walk-on Keaton Copeland, who has started the past three games.
Duke Must Learn To Finish:
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to point to his team's inability to finish plays around the basket as a key component in the offensive struggles. He certainly has a point as the Blue Devils are scoring an ACC low 68.4 points per game. And while the defense has been great throughout the season (an ACC low 55.4 points per game allowed), at some point Duke will have to be able to out-score some of its opponents.
The ACC Is Unforgiving:
The Blue Devils sitting 0-2 in the conference isn't a surprise when you look at the statistics. Though the team's field goal percentage is only one point down (to 45%), the perimeter shooting has tanked in the opening two rounds of conference play, dropping from 40% in the first 14 games to just 28.1%. Meanwhile opponents' perimeter shooting has improved from close to 26% in the pre-conference match ups to a sizzling 50% in conference play. The Blue Devils are also losing the battle of the boards in the ACC, and are averaging 6.5 fewer rebounds per game.
Valuing The Basketball Is Key:
After improving the number of turnovers significantly leading up the game with Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils have averaged a staggering 19.5 turnovers per game, while handing out only 13.5 assists. In two games sophomores Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus have each turned the ball over nine times. However McRoberts has done his best point guard impression as a power forward, handing out 6 assists, while Paulus has managed to log four in two games.
Upping Their Game:
Junior DeMarcus Nelson has upped his scoring average to 17.0 points per night in the ACC, while shooting 50% from the field. Similarly, McRoberts has been respectable with 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game. Meanwhile freshman Gerald Henderson has been the team's fourth leading scorer at 8.0 points per game in conference, while shooting 43%. Classmate Jon Scheyer has matched McRoberts' scoring output, but has struggled with his shooting (30% from the perimeter) as he logs double duty as the team's defacto point guard in addition to playing off the ball.
Hoping To Bounce Back:
Since 1984-85, Duke is 92-27 following a loss under Coach K and this is just the 21st streak of two or more consecutive losses in that time frame. Since 1996-97, Duke is now 45-9 following a loss and the current two-game streak marks just the eighth time Duke has lost two or more straight games since 1996-97.
You'll Probably Hear On FSN:
That the Blue Devils have gone back to basics after a sub par effort against the Yellow Jackets. As he's done many times in the past, Coach K came up with some very interesting motivational tactics this week as the team prepares for Sunday afternoon. The theme being that you have to earn the right to wear the royal and white at Duke.
With A Win, Duke Would...:
Should the Blue Devils earn a victory on Saturday afternoon, it would be the 1,810th in the program's history as well as the 225th this decade - more than any other program. Duke would also win their 18th overall game as the nation's No. 11 ranked team.
What We See Happening:
The time for excuses is past for the young Blue Devils. The team simply must learn how to win and how to manage themselves in pressure situations. That will call for big games from both McRoberts and Nelson. Duke is clearly backed into a corner at this point in the season. A loss would send the Blue Devils to 0-3 in the conference, with 13 games remaining - seven at home. With such a young team, road wins are going to be a huge bonus, but a loss Sunday would bring the post season into the category of slightly worried at least among the fanbase. That being said, its likely that Miami's injury problems and a fired up Duke team will combine to produce a sloppy, but important first ACC win.