17 Duke (14-3, 1-2) vs. Wake Forest (9-7, 1-3)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
7:00 p.m., ESPN
Program Vitals Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference Nickname: Demon Deacons Colors: Black and Gold Head Coach: Skip Prosser (6th year) Career Record at Wake Forest: 120-59 (285-137 overall)
Projected Starters: 10 Ishmael Smith (5-11, 155, Fr.) - 8.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.3 apg 42 L.D. Williams (6-4, 210, Fr.) – 7.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg 55 Kyle Visser (6-11, 244, Sr.) – 18.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg 34 Michael Drum (6-6, 204, Sr.) – 8.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg 31 Jamie Skeen (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg Key Reserves: 4 Harvey Hale (6-2, 186, So.) – 7.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg 23 Kevin Swinton (6-7, 225, So.) – 4.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg 2 Shamaine Dukes (6-1, 175, So.) – 3.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg
How They Got Here: With both teams being extremely young, bumps in the road were expected for both the Blue Devils and the Deacons - though fewer for Duke given the differences found in the two recruiting classes. The Blue Devils will enter Thursday's contest with a 14-3 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the ACC. After dropping in-conference games to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils rebounded with a convincing 85-63 win over Miami on Sunday night on the Hurricanes' home floor. The Deacons also jumped out to a fast start to the 2006-2007 season, winning their first five games by an average of 11.4 points per contest. Unfortunately those five games were hardly murderer's row, and Wake was quickly exposed with a 46 point thrashing at the hands of Air Force. Three straight losses later, the Deacs sat at 5-4. Since that point Skip Prosser's bunch had won four of five, but have dropped two straight in conference games by an average of 12 points per night.
Thursday night will mark the 230th time the Blue Devils and Deacons have faced off, with the Blue Devils holding a commanding 154-75 lead. Duke has won four straight in the series, and the last nine meetings in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Deacons' most recent win in Cameron Indoor came on Jan. 11, 1997. Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser is 3-9 all-time versus Duke, while Mike Krzyzewski is 35-21 all time versus the Deacons.
Injury Report: Duke sophomore guard Martynas Pocious will be unavailable for the Blue Devils for the third straight game as he rehabs from an ankle injury. He is expected back in another week.
The last 23 times Wake Forest has played Duke, not only were the Blue Devils nationally-ranked, but ranked in the top 10. Thursday's game marks Wake's first against a Duke team outside of the top 10 since Feb. 11, 1996 when the Blue Devils were not ranked. The Deacons and Blue Devils will meet just once this season -- the first time since 1943-44 that the two teams haven't met at least twice on the hardwood.
Must Defend The Post Game:
The Demon Deacons feature one of the conference's best big men in 6'11 senior Kyle Visser - the only Wake Forest player averaging double-digits. He also ranks fourth in the ACC in both scoring and rebounding.
"There's been no better big guy so far than Visser," said Mike Krzyzewski. "When you watch him, you can tell he's a kid on a mission. At seven feet and experienced, he can put a lot of pressure on him if you let him.
Must Protect The Home Court:
By losing to the Hokies in the conference opener, the Blue Devils have fallen behind when it comes to protecting the homecourt. With road wins likely to come at a premium for any young team, Duke must rebound and "hold serve" according to Kryzewski.
"We talked about that this week. This game is big for us because our only other home game was a loss. We need to play well, because we have a very quick turnaround before we go to NC State."
A Blip On the Radar Or Start of Something?:
The Blue Devils scored more points against Miami than they had since the season opener against Columbia nearly two and a half months ago. Freshman Jon Scheyer had a career best 25 points to pace Duke, which shot 69% from the floor for the game - the 8th best performance in school history. The question now centers around the Blue Devils' ability to continue to score more than their ACC low 68 point per night leading up to the game against the Hurricanes.
McRoberts Continues To Stuff The Statsheet:
While many may wonder why he doesn't consistently average more points per contest, Josh McRoberts is happy to impact the game in other ways. The 6'10 junior only player in the ACC to rank in the top 10 in rebounds (t-fi fth - 7.7 rpg.), blocks (fourth - 2.47 bpg.), assists (ninth - 4.12 apg.), assist-to-turnover ratio (ninth - 1.71:1) and minutes played (sixth - 34.24 pg.). McRoberts is also 24th in the league in scoring at 12.6 points per game. Over the last four games, the 6-10, 240-pound forward is averaging 15.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
Duke hasn't been ranked this low (17th) in a number of years. However, the Blue Devils have enjoyed success as the nation's No. 17 team in the past, posting a 15-8 all time mark when slotted in that position. Despite not being near the top spot this season, the Blue Devils have been ranked No. 1 in 14 of the last 21 seasons under Coach K.
What We See Happening:
With a win under the belt, it's now time to see how the Blue Devils react at home against a team they will be favored to defeat. A win pulls Duke to .500 in the conference heading into Sunday's game against a struggling, yet scrappy NC State squad. To achieve that, Duke will have to continue to use the same offensive mentality that allowed the scoring outburst against the Hurricanes. McRoberts should be able to operate against Visser (as he's done in the previous meetings), and the Duke defense may be able to rattle Wake's freshman point guard. Still, if the opportunity presents itself Coach K's team must put the Deacons away.
Wake Forest 61