Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Duke v. UNC - Final Preview

Some thoughts while counting down the remaining hours.

Tempo: UNC plays the fastest game in the conference, while Duke plays the slowest. UNC's decision to play fast is personnel driven in two different ways. First, they place an emphasis on team speed that starts with the lightning quick Lawson and even includes Hansbrough at center. Second, they tend to be more talented than their opponents, and I've always felt that more talented teams should want more possessions because it helps minimize the impact of random chance. For example, at the absolute extreme, a collection of pick-up players might be able to beat the Heels in a one possession game because it's essentially random chance. Similarly, good teams often trail inferior teams at the half, only to come out and blitz them in the second half. The more possessions you have in a game, the more your team is likely to regress to its own mean. Forcing a slower game, however, is a great way for a less talented team to equalize the game and presents a better opportunity to win (this has actually presented a problem for Duke this year - close losses in slow games to FSU, V. Tech, and Virginia). If UNC gets out and runs and racks up fast break points, watch out. Duke really needs to strive to make this a half court affair, because in the half court, the Heels are merely above average, not great.

Rebounding: UNC is the best overall rebounding team in the conference, sitting 2nd in both offensive and defensive %. A big part of Duke's success this year has been keeping opponents off the offensive glass, and they lead the conference in that stat. Duke needs to pull down 67% or more of UNC's misses. If the number drifts down closer to 60%, the Devils are in trouble. Between Hansbrough, Wright, Terry, Ginyard, Green, and Thompson, UNC has lots of guys who love attacking the glass and take advantage of putback opportunities. The Devils must commit to boxing out, and probably will send all 5 guys to the defensive glass. On the other hand, Duke's offensive rebound numbers will likely be low, as the perimeter guys will be more concerned with cheating back to prevent fast breaks than with crashing the boards. We're likely to only get as many second chances as McRoberts, McClure, and Thomas can generate.

Turnovers: UNC is only slightly better than Duke at avoiding and generating turnovers. One particular area of weakness for the Heels is giving up steals (last in the conference at 13.77%). The fact that a high percentage of UNC's turnovers come from steals suggests that their turnover numbers will fluctuate depending on the strength of the defense. Duke's numbers on the season are good as far as forcing steals and turnovers, but they were unable to generate that many against UVA and FSU. Duke's own turnovers have also dropped considerably since the start of conference play. If the turnover numbers are low and close to even, it's advantage Duke.

Shooting: This is a bit of a no duh, as you can't win if you don't hit shots, but Duke's ability to convert outside will be critical. Duke leads the conference in 2fg%, but is below average in 3fg%. UNC has the stingiest 2fg% defense in the league, which means Duke will need to create opportunities inside by making the Heels respect them outside. At the start of the game, expect UNC to collapse hard onto drivers and post players to try to force turnovers and frustrate shots, and make Duke beat them from 3. Nelson and Scheyer have struggled from long range - Duke needs Paulus to keep up the hot shooting, and needs one other player out there keeping UNC honest.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I enjoy your site. I am a 1979 UVa graduate and have been an ACC fan since the early 70's. Since the 70's I have always routed for Duke against all other opponents (except UVa). Hopefully, Virginia can hang on this season and get an NCAA bid.

As for the Duke-UNC game last night, as I was watching, I just knew that Carolina was going to make a run. Duke plays with such incredible intensity that as the game progressed, one knew that fatique may become a factor. Carolina has more athletic players and just wore down Duke. Duke has a tough schedule ahead and may not fair as well this season as in the past, but should have a strong season next year.

There are some good teams out there, Kansas, UCLA, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Texas A&M....the tournament should be good as always.

Keep up the good work on your blog and thanks.

Paul Rugani said...

Thanks for reading!