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November 19, 2005

Duke set to close busy week

Duke will play its third game in six days as the Devils look to improve to 3-0 on the season against the Davidson Wildcats at Cameron Indoor Stadium this afternoon.

The ESPN2 televised matchup is set to tip at 5:00 and will be the 101st meeting in the all time series between the two schools. Duke holds a massive 83-17 advantage.

However, the knowledgeable Duke fans know not to take a matchup with Bob McKillop's team lightly. Last year, Davidson had a legitimate shot at upsetting Duke before a late run from the Devils pushed the final margin to 74-61.

That Wildcat team went on to go undefeated in Southern Conference regular season play, posted 23 wins and recorded two postseason victories in the NIT before bowing out to Maryland.

A good bit of the talent returns from that team, set on avenging their conference tournament semifinal loss to UNC-Greensboro that cost them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Davidson is expected to start four seniors, including reigning Southern Conference player of the year Brendan Winters. The 6-foot-5, 205 pound guard pumped in nearly 17 points per game last year and is one of the country's best kept secrets when it comes to long range shooting.

In last year's matchup with Duke, Winters tallied 24 points to help Davidson's upset bid.

Winters is just one of three guards that pose a dangerous threat on the perimeter. In an offense that relies on good ball and player movement, fellow starting guards Matt McKillop and Kenny Grant are capable of carving up very good defenses.

McKillop, the head coach's son, is fifth on the school's all time list of three pointers made with 170 while Grant led the SoCon with nearly six assists per game last season.

Down low, the Wildcats will turn mostly to senior Ian Johnson, who was a double figure scorer last season. He's not alone in the paint though, as he is joined by Frenchman Boris Meno. The sophomore debuted this season in exhibition play with a 13 point outing against Concordia.

Concordia was a common exhibition opponent with Duke. Davidson took a nine point lead to the half against the Canadian university before pulling away for 93-67 win. Duke dominated from start to finish in their matchup with Concordia, taking a 123-66 victory.

Duke's picture perfect performance against Seton Hall Wednesday night in the second round of the preseason NIT was more in line with what fans and observers were expecting from this year's Duke team.

The Devils simply made the Pirates look silly, embarassing Louis Orr's team 93-40 after looking less than dominating against Boston University.

Davidson figures to put up a bit of a stronger fight, as McKillop's teams are known for their discipline, heady play, and grit.

That likely won't be enough to pull an upset at Cameron, but the matchup should definitely be an interesting one and very much worth watching.

Matchups to watch

J.J. Redick vs. Winters

The two guards could play a very entertaining game of H-O-R-S-E if left on their own in an empty gym and each should get several opportunities early in the game as both coaches want to establish their stars early.

Redick played well in the season opener despite not making a three pointer against Boston University, but he really found his groove against Seton Hall Wednesday night.

If the senior All-American gets the looks he got Wednesday and comes up with a repeat performance, the Wildcats could very easily find themselves blitzed just like Seton Hall.

Winters is a very similar player though, and while he doesn't have the array of skills that Redick does, he's a very similar performer on the SoCon level. If Duke has any lapses on the defensive end of the floor, Winters will make the Devils pay.

Mike Krzyzewski vs. McKillop

Coach K sent a starting lineup on the floor Wednesday night that Seton Hall simply couldn't match. By starting Redick along with Greg Paulus and Sean Dockery, Duke just out quicked a bigger Seton Hall team, forcing them completely out of any type of functional offense.

Davidson's three guard attack will pose a bit of a different look for Duke to handle.

How will Coach K match up in the early going? Regardless of who he sends out there to start the game, Duke will have the talent edge.

However, it's still intriguing to watch the chess game unfold between two very good coaches, even if Coach K has a lot more rooks and queens to work with compared to mostly pawns and knights on McKillop's side.

Stats to watch

For Davidson: Simple. Turnovers. For the Wildcats to have a chance to be competitive, they can't wilt under the pressure of the Duke defense. Even if they do protect the ball, there's no guarantee it will result in points.

Seton Hall turned it over a marginally respectable 17 times Wednesday night, but they simply could not get a decent look at the basket against suffocating defense from Duke.

Somehow, Davidson has to figure out a way to turn it over 15 or less times. After that, the next mission becomes getting quality shots. They're both tall tasks against Duke.

For Duke: Rebounding. The Devils controlled the boards Wednesday after getting outrebounded by BU Monday night. As long as the Devils control the defensive boards, Davidson will ultimately fade away in this game. The Wildcats have to come up with some garbage points off the offensive glass. Shelden Williams, Josh McRoberts and company should see to it that doesn't happen.

Also look for Duke to go out of its way to get some early shots for Williams in the paint. In the first two games, he has yet to fully assert control down low on the offensive end. Coach K doesn't want to let too much more time pass before he gets all of his offensive guns firing.

Final analysis

Davidson is a quality team, a team that will more than likely give a high seed fits in March, but this is Duke we're talking about. A Duke team coming off a dominating win and playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

It may be close for awhile, but this game will be markedly different from last year's tight contest. The Devils roll at home.

Randall's prediction: Duke 88-58


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