Impish Plans for Mighty Devils

While certainly impressive, this year's Duke product isn't quite the name-brand intimidator associated with previous Blue Devil teams.

Yes, they have Player of the Year candidate J.J. Redick who can bomb from any spot inside the half-court line.

True, they can boast ACC Defensive Player of the Year Sheldon Williams, who is a load in the paint.

And I've seen enough Chevy commercials during this tournament to have figured out this Mike Krzyzewski character must be a pretty good coach.

All respect and accolades aside, this group of "Dookie ballers" taken as a whole shouldn't scare the Bayou Bengals right out of the Georgia Dome.

Their march through the usually treacherous ACC was reduced to little more than a cakewalk given the conference's massive drop-off this season. Household names such as Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech slid off the Big Dance map a month ago. The mighty Atlantic Coast Conference managed only four teams into the field of sixty-five, while the "weak-by-comparison" SEC landed six.

The post play and reputation of Sheldon Williams is also questionable given his performance against notable big men this season. Sure, his offensive numbers may be there and he'll grab his share of rebounds as many a 6-9 player will. However, his defense sorely lacked against the likes of Indiana's Marco Killingsworth (34 points), Texas' Lamarcus Aldridge (21 points) and especially UNC freshman Tyler Hansbrough (27 points).

The gang from Durham also lacks the depth and major production from players not named Redick or Williams.

Two true freshmen don the blue and black at every Duke tip-off- PG Greg Paulus and PF Josh McRoberts. These two highly touted recruits have played their way onto the court and have enjoyed respectable seasons.

Paulus, the one time big-name quarterback, has taken the reins and showed sparks of brilliance. The only problem is that he leads the team in turnovers with 3.3 per game and has a lowly scoring average of less than seven an outing.

McRoberts has continued to improve throughout the year garnering averages of nine points and five boars a contest. These are very fair numbers for a freshman, but they dwindle in comparison to those of LSU high-flying freshman Tyrus Thomas.

Other role players include DeMarcus Nelson, Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni. This cast does a few of the little things that help Duke tick, but their offensive production often goes A.W.O.L. in Duke losses.

Nobody is saying this bunch didn't merit their number one overall seed or continued national respect from the likes of national pundits like Dick Vitale. Simply put, they have holes that the Tigers could potentially exploit- especially with the never ending string of post players LSU boasts.

Sheldon Williams is a tough force to stop offensively. His baby hook shot has developed over his time in Coach K Land, and he can almost always establish solid position. The challenge for the Tigers will come in bringing Thomas and Rolle over from the backside block to contest his shots. In addition, Williams will have a whale of a time keeping up with Big Baby who looks to be a wrecking ball on the offensive end.

Reddick is never completely stoppable, but the combination of Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple provide taller obstacles for the sharp-shooter to overcome. Let's just hope they're both ready to run thousands of circles on the defensive end.

As far as clutch, the Tigers may hold a slight advantage with cold-blooded senior Darrel Mitchell. Refusing to end his collegiate career, Mitchell buried a three from way out against the Aggies (a feat he also accomplished against Arkansas this season). Though it merits mention that Reddick is the NCAA all-time leader in three-pointers and Sean Dockery hit one from the equator earlier this season to top Virginia Tech in Cameron Indoor.

All in all, a Tiger win would surely still be considered an upset. But it should bring a slight devilish smile to the faces of Tiger fans to know that this Duke bunch is vulnerable.

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