Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kent State Wrap/Gonzaga Preview

I love watching games like the Duke-Kent State matchup, because it reminds me that, no matter how in depth we go, there's simply no predicting human performance in a single game through mathematics. In the draft version of my preview, I had a (later deleted) single sentence on Omni Smith, which essentially said he was the 5th starter and 4th double figure scorer, and nothing else. I thought Gates, Scott, and to a lesser extent Quaintance would be responsible for the success or failure of the Golden Flashes. Instead, Gates and Scott scored only 14 combined, Quaintance was sensational with 10 points, 10 assists, and 6 boards, and Omni Smith went Bootsy on us and scored 33 points on 14 of 20 shooting.

The other part of the game impossible to capture with math was Duke's ball movement. There were several offensive series that feature no fewer than three assist-worthy passes, and some brilliant passes that went unfinished (McRoberts to Nelson for a just missed reverse layup). We as Duke fans have been lucky over the past few years to see teams filled with players that are used to playing with one another, and know where each other will be on the court at almost all times. I think it was tough for some people to realize just how long it might take for this group to develop that kind of knowledge and familiarity (and don't get me wrong, they still have a long ways to go). But in the last couple games, we've started to see the potential this team has on offense - there are good passers and scorers all over the court, and as time goes on, the motion offense will prove perfect for this group. All in all, Kent State was a fun game to watch.

Tonight's game should be fun too. Gonzaga is a solid team, with very good guard play from Raivio, Pargo, and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes. Heytvelt, Mallon, and Pendergraft give them strength and size down low, and could create matchup problems for Duke. The Zags have almost exactly the opposite turnover profile as Duke - the Devils force a lot but also give up a lot, while Gonzaga doesn't turn the ball over, but also never takes it away (327th in the country - yikes!). They're a good shooting team whose focus is primarily inside (Heytvelt alone takes 30.4% of the team's shots while he's on the court), but with the ability to hit the three when open - like Duke, the Zags have a very good team 3pt%, but a very low ratio of 3s to 2s. All in all, this should make for an exciting game.

Tempo-free stats for Duke and the ACC leaderboard will be updated after the game tonight, or tomorrow at the latest. And stay on the lookout for more team previews (hopefully they won't all make me immediately look like an idiot, as Virginia did after getting blown out by Utah a day after I predicted 21 wins and a tournament bid).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! Keep up the good work.