Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kent State Preview

Duke comes off of a ten day layoff tonight to face Kent State, which has established itself historically (and again this season) as one of the top teams in the MAC. This season's Golden Flashes are small (no one in the rotation over 6'7") but are not a typical perimeter-oriented guard heavy team, in that they don't just chuck it up from outside (only 29.7% of their shots are 3s), and rebound relatively well (35.5% offense, 70.6% defense). The Flashes have been extremely well balanced - 4 players average between 10.6 and 12 points per game, and another 4 average between 5.1 and 7.1, and no player in the regular rotation takes more than 22.6% of the shots. Armon Gates and Mike Scott have been their two leaders, with each doing a healthy dose of scoring and rebounding. Gates (brother of Antonio, former Flash himself?) is pulling in 5 rebounds a game as a 6'1" guard. He's also the only regular outside threat, and he loves chucking 3s - he's taken 52 from beyond the arc against 21 from 2. His 3 point percentage is good, but not great, at 38.5%. Scott has taken as many shots as Gates, but only posts a 0.99 PPWS, and is brought down by his 5-for-18 shooting from outside. 5'10" Jordan Mincy is the starting point guard, racking up 3.9 assists per game and a 2.4 a/to ratio, but he struggles on his shot, hitting only 31.4% for the year (and only 28% on 2s). Kent State as a team shares the ball well, with four players having over a 20% assist rate. Haminn Quaintance could be an x-factor - he's been out most of the last two games with a groin injury, but is their best rebounder and shot blocker, and tosses in a 1.22 PPWS to boot.

On the whole, Kent State is balanced in just about everything. They share the ball, shots, and minutes, and as a result can exploit weaknesses in the defense well, since there are really no offensive liabilities (except Mincy). Their profile as a team plays the same way - they don't excel in any particular area, but are above average almost across the board. Despite their size, they've been a very good rebounding team, particularly on defense. Still, size seems to be the one area Duke can reliably exploit. I'm at least hopeful that we'll get to see a little bit more of Brian Zoubek, who's proven to be an effective post scorer when he doesn't turn the ball over (which happens, unfortunately, often). McRoberts too could have a big game, as there's no one who can really match up with him. It will be interesting to see how often Duke goes big (McRoberts and Zoubek on the court at the same time, potentially with McClure or Thomas at the 3) and how well Josh guards a much smaller man on the other end of the court. Look also for a little bit faster game than Duke has been playing lately, possibly even hitting 70 possessions. I think Duke wins comfortably, something like 75-59, but you never know just how fresh they'll be after a layoff.

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