Duke (10-0) vs Pittsburgh (10-0)
New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
TV: ESPN / Tip: 7:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big East Conference Nickname: Panthers Danes Colors: Navy and Gold Head Coach: Jamie Dixon (4th year) Career Record at Albany: 104-31 (104-31 Overall)
Projected Starters: 23 Sam Young (6-6, 215, Jr.) – 17.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg 31 Mike Cook (6-4, 220, Sr.) – 11.2 ppg, 2.9 apg 45 DeJuan Blair (6-7, 250, Fr.) – 11.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg 2 Levance Fields (5-10, 195, Jr.) – 10.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.8 apg 4 Ronald Roman (6-1, 180, Sr.) – 7.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg Key Reserves: 1 Keith Benjamin (6-2, 190, Sr.) – 6.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg 5 Tyrell Biggs (6-8, 245, Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg 11 Gilbert Brown (6-6, 190, Fr.) – 5.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg 22 Bradley Wanamaker (6-4, 200, Fr.) - 3.5 rpg, 2.3 apg
How They Got Here:
Both teams enter Thursday night's game with a perfect 10-0 overall record. The Blue Devils are in the midst of a 40 day stretch in which they play only four games. Duke defeated Davidson 79-73 in Charlotte on December 1, and followed it up with a 28 point win over Michigan and a 41 point victory over Albany. After the game against the Panthers, Duke will next return to the court on January 6th against Cornell.
The Panthers have cruised through their first 10 games as well, though the Blue Devils will be the first ranked opponent Pittsburgh has faced to date. Coach Dixon's team has been in a couple of tight games already this year - beating Washington 75-74 on December 8th, and defeating Duquesne 73-68 on December 5th. Still, in those first games the Panthers are winning by an average of 23.5 points per game, while out-rebounding their opponents by a 10.8 margin per night. All this while averaging 82.1 points per contest.
The Blue Devils and Panthers have met 11 time before, but not since the 1980 season. Duke leads the all-time series by a 6-5 margin. Duke has an all-time record of 100-41 against teams in the Big East Conference.
Injury Report: Sophomore forward Lance Thomas is listed as questionable for Thursday's game. Prior to the Albany game, Thomas had started each of Duke's first nine contests. For the season Thomas is averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1% from the field.
Two Superb Programs To Meet:
Over the past seven seasons, Pitt and Duke have combined to win 349 games between them, while dropping just 79. Those seven seasons include a combined 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, nine Sweet 16 apperances, one Final Four, 10 conference titles, an in-conference record of 142-51, 11 seasons of 10+ conference wins, and a combined 195-16 record on their home courts. This season the two teams are two of only 14 remaining unbeatens; while the Panthers are enjoying their fifth straight 10-0 start.
Familiar Surroundings For Both:
Duke usually plays at least one game in Madison Square Garden. Under Coach K the Blue Devils are 15-5 at the historic arena. Last year Duke defeated Gonzaga 61-54 and St. John's 67-50. Overall the Blue Devils have won seven straight in MSG.
The Panthers have also experienced success in the Big Apple, posting a 17-8 record at MSG since the 2000-2001 season, including a run to the Big East Conference Title in the 2003 season.
Key Freshmen May Decide This One:
Duke's highly rated class of Kyle Singler, Taylor King, and Nolan Smith may have gotten more national attention coming into school - with each of the three being named McDonald's All-Americans, but Pitt's DeJuan Blair is eager to make a name for himself as well. Blair is averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game (along with 11 points), but his play recently has been even better. In Pitt's 85-68 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday, Blair logged his fourth double-double of the year with 20 points (8-of-10 FG), 10 rebounds, and five blocks. It's the third time in the last four games Blair has recorded double figure points and rebounds.
Duke's trio has combined to average 30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. For the season, King is ranked 29th nationally and fourth in the ACC in 3pt field goal percentage - shooting 47.3% from long range (26-of-55). King is scoring more than 11 points a game despite never playing more than 21 minutes this season. That career high in minutes came against Eastern Kentucky when he scored 27 points.
A Battle of Floor Generals:
Pitt's Levance Fields has been among the best in the country in controlling the game and taking care of the basketball. The junior has racked up 58 assists in 10 games against just 16 turnovers, giving him a 3.63/1 assist to turnover ratio. That's easily on pace to break the school record (set by Fields a season ago) of 2.41/1. For his career, Fields enjoys a school record 2.44/1 ratio.
Duke has also seen much improved point guard play from starting guard Greg Paulus this year. In 10 games, Paulus ranks eighth in the conference at 3.9 assists per game, while holding a 2.29/1 assist to turnover ratio. In addition, Paulus leads the Blue Devils with 17 steals. After playing iron man minutes most of the second half of the season a year ago, Paulus has played 30 or more minutes just three times this season, and has played only 23.0 minutes in the last two games.
Non-Conference Success For Pitt: The Panthers have won 34 of the previous 36 match-ups with non-Big East teams. Last season Pittsburgh put together a 13-2 non-conference record, after winning all 11 such games in 2005-2006. In each of the previous seven season the Panthers have won at least 10 non-conference match-ups, and have never lost more than two in any season, while posting two undefeated OOC schedules in that time.
Coach K continues assault on wins list
Duke's victory over Albany was Krzyzewski's 785th, good enough for seventh on the all-time list. Coach K has 785 wins overall and 712 as the head coach of Duke. A win against Pitt would move Coach K into a tie for sixth on the all-time list with Lefty Driesell. With 712 victories at Duke, Coach K is just seven victories short of tying UTEP's Don Haskins for seventh on the all-time wins list at one school. Coach K trails Texas Tech's Bobby Knight by 110 wins on the all-time list.
Duke's bench is averaging 35.1 points per game through the first ten games of the season. Last year, the Blue Devil bench averaged 14.4 ppg. Duke has had 15 double-digit scoring games off the bench, including seven by Jon Scheyer and five by Taylor King. The Blue Devils have seen five 20+ point scorers in the first 10 games. Gerald Henderson, Singler, and King all have a pair of 20 point games between them. DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer have also topped the mark once apiece. The Blue Devils are averaging 89.1 points per game this season to rank second in the ACC and fourth nationally. In every game Duke has scored 75 or more after reaching that mark just 11 times all last season.