Tuesday, November 28, 2006

IU Preview (slightly more in depth)

IU has a relatively old team in the world of college basketball these days. All 5 of their starters are juniors and seniors, and no freshman or sophomore is currently getting 20 minutes/game. However, the Hoosiers aren't the most experienced of teams, and lost a healthy amount of talent last year (in Killingsworth, Vaden, and Strickland they lost over 43 points per game, as well as a lot of leadership). The starting lineup features AJ Ratliff, Earl Calloway, Rodrick Wilmont, Lance Stemler, and DJ White. White is a defensive threat down low - he blocks lots of shots and rebounds well (7.5/game in only 24.5 minutes/game), but he also gets in a lot of foul trouble. Ben Allen, a 6'11" sophomore, is his backup, but the talent difference between Allen and White is significant. Getting DJ into foul trouble should be a point of emphasis - look for Duke to go inside early, not just in post entry passes, but also sending Henderson and Nelson slashing to the basket to try to draw contact from White as he comes over to block shots. The other four starters are all essentially perimeter players - Stemler, ostensibly the other forward, has taken 24 of his 33 FGAs from beyond the arc (that's 73%, for those scoring at home). Of course, he shoots 50% from 3, joining Wilmont (46% from 3 on 26 attempts) as serious outside threats. Closing out on these two will be important. Look especially for Stemler to stay outside when Duke has both McRoberts and Zoubek in the game together. The other two guards are not outside threats - Ratliff is only a 27% shooter, and Calloway has only 1 3pt attempt on the year. Calloway, however, is remarkable at converting his twos - he's been 18 of 25 on the year for a .720 field goal percentage. The lesson here is that when Ratliff and Calloway have the ball, Duke's guards should play off a little bit and force them to take outside shots. The same goes when backup point guard Armon Bassett is in the game - he's a fine distributor (leading the team in assists despite playing only 18 minutes/game) but a lousy shooter - 30% overall and 0 for 9 from 3. The keys to containing IU will be to neutralize the outside shooting of Stemler and Wilmont.

When Duke is on offense, the Devils should have a distinct size advantage, regardless of the front court lineup - IU's starting backcourt is all around 6'3", Stemler is 6'8" (and he plays smaller), and even White is only 6'9" (though he plays bigger). With DJ White as really the only viable interior defender, look for Duke to try to hammer it inside early, both to draw fouls on White and to prompt the rest of the Hoosiers to collapse for help, resulting in some open outside looks. Wilmont and Calloway are both superb perimeter defenders (over 4 steals a game between them), and will put a lot of pressure on Paulus and Scheyer when they handle the ball. Sticking both Paulus and Scheyer in the backcourt with Nelson on the floor at the same time will either create a mismatch with Ratliff covering Nelson, or force Calloway onto Nelson, giving whichever guard Wilmont isn't covering a little more room to operate. IU has made a lot of its offense on the result of forcing turnovers on the defensive end, and we all know Duke hasn't been great at holding on to the ball. Keeping turnovers down (and accordingly keeping IU from getting easy transition buckets) will be a big key tonight. This looks like a game Duke should win by 7-10 points, but if the TO rate is up over 25%, it could stay very close all the way to the end.

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