Former college coach Denny Kuiper breaks down Duke's 79-69 win over Michigan.
This was a very intense game. Both teams played very hard, especially on the defensive end. I thought Duke was outstanding in not letting Michigan get comfortable or into the flow on the offensive end. The Blue Devils contested every pass and shot.
You have to give the Wolverines some credit simpley for not geting blown out. They walked into Cameron arena against a highly-ranked team that had already lost two games this year and was more than ready to prove it was better than that.
Let’s go to the three pointers to take a look at this game and what may be in store for Duke as the season progresses.
1) Very Good, But No Great
The good news for the Blue Devils is that when they play as hard and focused as they did last night, they can beat anybody in the country. The bad news is that they are not talented enough to beat the best teams in the country without that type of effort. They have to win as a team, with each player playing his role. That's what Mike Krzyzewski is trying to develop and what he is a master at doing.
If you break down the roster of the Blue Devils it is evident they have a great player in Jabari Parker and an outstanding player in Rodney Hood. I love how both players play the game with energy and without exhibit an “I'm a star" mentality.
Duke does not have the inside forces it had the last couple of years in Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumnee. This year it will be done by committee of Josh Hairston, Marshall Plumnee and Amile Jefferson. I suspect Coach K will ride the player who is going well in a particular game.
There is a ton of competition at the 2-3 spot, with Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins, Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulamion in the mix. Again, I think K plays the guy helping the team the most in a particular game. Dawkins was huge last night in a two-minute stretch in the second half with an eight-point scoring burst. Sulamion right now is as low as he can get, having not played a single second last night. He has a big challenge ahead of him in proving he deserves playing time and in getting back to showing the talent he exhibited last year.
Quinn Cook is a really good point guard. The question for the Devils is: Can they continue to play as tough and well when he is not in the game?
2) Duke's Defensive Strategy
I thought Duke had a great game plan last night. Michigan may be the most skilled team in the nation. They all can shoot and pass. The spacing they have on the floor is outstanding. What the Blue Devils decided to do was to put unbelievable pressure on the ball and force the Wolverines to try to beat them off the dribble.
The Dukies were determined not to let the Wolverines beat them from the 3-point line. Michigan attempted 13 threes, making only 3. As talented as Michigan is they got out of their comfort zone on offense. Other than Caris LeVert, the Wolverines are not a great team in taking the ball to the basket. Whenever you make a team do something they normally do not want to do, you have taken a big step towards a win. Duke did that last night.
Also, I am a big believer in stopping the top scorers of an opponent. Nik Stauskas came into the game playing great on offense, but Duke made life miserable for him, allowing him no good looks, limiting him to two shots from the field and no field goals.
3) What if Duke Had Mitch McGary?
Of course, that is not going to happen, but as I was watching the game I could not stop myself from thinking that a McGary-type player is exactly what Duke is missing to truly have all the pieces of a great team. He is what every team that plays the style Duke does would want.
McGary is a great rebounder, screener, low-post scorer and passer. When he gets a defensive rebounder he is capable of leading the fast break and making the correct pass to a teammate.
McGary makes his teammates better. He has talented teammates at Michigan, but they are not as talented as Duke's players.
And One: K's Technical
Very rarely does coach K get a technical at Cameron. I don’t know what he said or if he deserved the technical, but the call that preceded it was correct. Hood was taking the ball out of bounds and moved 3-4 steps before he tried to call time out. The rule states you cannot move on inbounds expect after a made field goal or free throw.
Also, Duke got a couple of breaks on ocalls early in the game. Parker made a 3-pointer from the corner well after the shot clock had expired. Also a loose ball was out of bounds off Plumlee and the officials ruled it Duke’s ball.