Burning Questions: Duke

Over the weekend, Jim Oliver from DukeReport.com and I talked some hoops. He asked me some questions about Kansas and we discussed some of the bigger issues surrounding Tuesday night’s Champions Classic matchup. You can view the questions I answered for Duke Report here and below are the questions I had for Oliver:

RCB: Tie game with 20 seconds left. Which player other than Parker would Coach K (or the fans) want taking the shot?

DR: Coach K has said this season’s team will be built around Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and both will have the green light at the end of games depending on how defenses try to stop them. Hood has a wonderful all-around game and can use his dribble and athleticism to get himself good looks at the basket. His shooting range also makes it tough for defenders to play off him to prevent his driving ability. If Jabari isn’t taking the last shot, the Duke coaching staff is very confident in Rodney’s ability to win the game.

RCB: Friday’s game against Davidson was incredible. But it was Duke’s best shooting performance in 28 years. What kind of shooting performance are you expecting against Kansas?

DR: Duke shot lights out against Davidson at home. The Blue Devils are unlikely to shoot 70% from the field (62% from 3) against Kansas in Chicago. How well they shoot will depend on the tempo of the game. If the game is up tempo, Duke should shoot well as they’ll have more fast break opportunities. If it’s more of a half court, grind it out game, then they’ll more than likely have a shooting night to their exhibition game against Drury when they shot 40% from the field (14% from 3).

RCB: Can Duke sustain a lot of foul trouble? I know Parker sat with some foul trouble on Friday but how deep is the Duke team?

DR: It depends on where the fouls come from. Duke’s perimeter is very deep, which could be a huge factor with the new officiating rules this season. The Blue Devils can stay aggressive on the perimeter and still extend the passing lanes because they have five guys that can rotate between the two guard spots.

They become more vulnerable in the paint. Amile Jefferson struggled with foul trouble in the first half against Davidson this past Friday, and it will be key for him to avoid that against Kansas as he’s Duke’s best post defender. There are bodies that can come in off the bench for Duke to simply provide fouls, but they aren’t nearly as effective as Jefferson.

Duke’s depth becomes most effective when they can neutralize the impact of a team with a strong frontcourt. If they can speed up the tempo and force teams to play in transition, they have their best chance for success.

RCB: How has the hand checking rule change changed how Duke plays defense?

DR: Duke is a tough defensive team that likes to get up on the defender. The new hand checking rule forces the perimeter defenders such as Rasheed Sulaimon to lay off the defenders more. They have to be even more alert and quicker on their feet. As we saw against Drury, the new rule can allow easy baskets. Because of this, Duke will try even harder to get in the passing lanes hoping to have more fast break opportunities.

RCB: How different is this year’s Duke team from the one that played KU in Maui a few years ago?

DR: This team has more depth, plays better defense, and already has it’s go-to guys figured out in Parker and Hood. The 2011 team had more experience with five juniors and one senior getting the majority of the minutes. However, a lineup consisting of Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee may have been one the the worst defensive lineups Duke had seen in many years.

They were also trying to find their identity on offense, especially integrating Austin Rivers into the offense. Duke really needed a PG who could distribute the ball to the many offensive weapons, sadly, that wasn’t really one of River’s strengths. PG Quinn Cook, while not great, is solid most aspects of his game. With all the talk about Parker and Hood, the play of Cook may be the determinate factor in who wins this game.

RCB: Other than KU’s interior play and Duke’s perimeter play, what helps win this game for Duke from your perspective?

DR: If Duke can control the tempo of the game, then that helps them win the game. Kansas will like to run, but Duke has so many players than can initiate the fast break, it will be tough for Kansas to stop every one of them. Duke’s bench will allow them to run as much as they want, because they have several people capable of coming off the bench in a plug and play situation. Amile Jefferson will also be key. Duke will need his rebounding and defense to help offset Kansas’s interior play.

RCB: KU fans are loving the exposure Wiggins has brought to KU. From an outside perspective, do you see Parker getting an appropriate amount of coverage (considering Wiggins and Parker are both outstanding players)?

DR: I think so. So far, Parker has lived up to the hype, so from that point of view, the amount of coverage is more than appropriate.

RCB: Is Wiggins coverage annoying for outsiders (has it reached Tebow status?)

DR: I don’t think so. Maybe it’s an East Coast bias thing, but there really isn’t much talk about Wiggins in the coverage that I follow.

RCB: Fan submitted question from Twitter: can we trade football teams?

DR: In years past, many Duke fans may have been willing to do so. But with David Cutcliffe taking over at Duke and having the team heading to back-to-back bowl games, that answer is a resounding NO! Duke is no longer being considered just a basketball school. The football team had a near packed house for their thrilling win over NC State this past Saturday. Look for another exciting game this coming Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes.