Preview: Duke (3-0) v. Illinois (3-0)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Fightin' Illini who tip off in the semi-finals of the Maui Invitational. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN beginning at 9:00 PM EST.


Duke (3-0) vs Illinois (3-0)
Maui, Hawaii - Lahaina Civic Center
TV: ESPN / Tip: 9:00

Program Vitals
Conference: Big 10
Nickname: Fightin' Illini
Colors: Navy/Orange/White
Head Coach: Bruce Weber  (5th year)
Career Record at Illinois: 112-28 (215-82 Overall)

Projected Starters:
23 Rodney Alexander (6-7, 225, Jr.) – 9.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
42 Brian Randle  (6-8, 220, Sr.) – 14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg
30 Shaun Pruitt (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg
21 Chester Frazier (6-2, 190, Jr.) – 10.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg
 1 Trent Meacham (6-2, 195, Jr.) – 6.7 ppg, 2.7 apg

Key Reserves:
32 Demetri McCamey (6-3, 205, Fr.) – 6.0 ppg
25 Calvin Brock (6-5, 200, Jr.) – 5.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
54 Mike Tisdale (7-1, 215, Fr.) – 3.3 ppg
22 Steve Holdren (6-5, 220, Fr.) - 3.0 ppg

Storylines:

How They Got Here:
The Blue Devils opened their Maui Invitational schedule with an 83-61 blowout victory over the Princeton Tigers. After falling behind 2-0 on the first basket of the game, Duke put together a 31-2 run that had the outcome firmly decided by the midway point of the second half.

The Illini were even more impressive, opening up a 20-0 lead to start their game against Arizona State before cruising to an easy 77-54 victory over the Sun Devils. Forward Rodney Alexander scored 12 of those 20 points to help the Illini build as much as a 29-7 lead while making seven of their first eight field goal attempts.

Series History:
Tuesday night's game will be the seventh time the Blue Devils and Illini have met. The Blue Devils own a 4-2 advantage in the previous six meetings, and have won three straight. The most recent victory coming in the 2004 Sweet 16 where Duke earned a 72-62 victory en route to the Final Four.

Backcourt Questions For Illinois:
Coach Weber's inability to recruit high major guards has been one of the biggest questions surrounding his otherwise successful tenure at Illinois. After riding a tremendous backcourt of combo guard Dee Brown, point guard Deron Williams, and wing Luther Head to a National Title game against North Carolina, Weber has struggled to bring in any highly touted backcourt players. Illinois lost Shaun Livingston to Duke (and ultimately the NBA's perpetual injury list) in the class of 2004, before seeing Jon Scheyer choose to play in Durham over his home-state's power program. No loss may have hurt more than in the class of 2007 when Eric Gordon committed to Illinois before deciding to reconsider and head to Kelvin Sampson's Indiana program. Currently the Illini have just three regular rotation backcourt players in juniors Chester Frazier and Dayton transfer Trent Meacham, along with freshman Demetri McCamey. Illinois was also the victim of the NCAA's minimum qualification requirements after freshman Quinton Watkins, a three star prospect a year ago, was unable to qualify.

Illini Will Go Big:
To date the biggest team the Blue Devils have seen has been the New Mexico State Aggies, who started a frontline of 7'1, 6'9, and 6'7. That's a similar size to what Illinois will start, but the Illini will bring the seasoning and experience of playing several years in the Big 10 to the table. The leading scorer, Brian Randle, has his name on several pre-season award lists but his ability comes with an inability to to stay healthy. After undergoing two surgeries this offseason, Randle has played well, averaging more than 14 points per game in 23 minutes, while shooting 63% from the field. Joining Randle is big man Shaun Pruitt, who actually declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft before backing out after less than stellar workouts. Since returning, he's added weight and has improved his inside scoring. 6'7 wing forward Rodney Alexander was a key cog in Illinois' throttling of Arizona State. Able to play both the wing and power forward position, Alexander logged a game high 17 points in the opening round game.

Motivated Bunch For Weber:
Ever since the brackets for the Maui event were released, the Illini have been looking forward to their opportunity to play Duke. "We'll see how good we are," Weber told the media. "The one advantage, hopefully, we'll have is our athleticism. And if we can get it into Shaun (Pruitt) if we can beat their pressure, that should be an advantage. It's going to be a big challenge."

Balanced Scoring:
Though the season is just three games old, the Blue Devil offense has been far better than a season ago. Duke currently sports five players averaging 10.0 or more points, with an additional three players averaging 6.7 or more points. Freshman Kyle Singler leads the way with 15.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 91% from the free throw line. Sophomore reserve guard Jon Scheyer is second with 15.0 points per game.

Maui Wowee
The Blue Devils have never lost a game in the Maui Invitational, posting a perfect 10-0 record in Hawaii, winning the tournament title in 1992, 1997, and 2001. In those nine games, Duke has enjoyed a 20.5 margin of victory.

Notable Numbers:
This is the 103rd season of Duke basketball with the program holding an all-time mark of 1,821-802. Should Coach K guide the Blue Devils to another 25 win season, he'll have earned his 800th win. Currently Coach K has 778 wins overall and 705 at Duke.

Prediction:

Duke 81
Illinois 76


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