If you don’t think that Duke has a chance of beating the Kentucky Wildcats when the two college basketball blue bloods square off tomorrow night, well then just listen to John Calipari.
Calipari admitted he has concerns about Duke during a Monday teleconference. The Wildcats coach essentially admitted that his team’s youth and health are something that the Blue Devils might be able to exploit.
Forgive me for having to agree with Calipari for once, but he is right. The Blue Devils are not necessarily the more talented team but they could be the better team and experience plays a big key there. Kentucky is trying to replace essentially its entire team from last year’s national title team and as talented as they are it stands to reason there will be growing pains.
The fact that this game is the second for both team has to favor Duke. The Blue Devils could potentially start three seniors versus Kentucky who will start perhaps none. In fact the Wildcats only have one senior on their entire roster. So in terms of game experience the Blue Devils have a decided advantage.
But that isn’t the only place where Duke has the edge. If you look at the post, most would think that Kentucky with the top recruiting class and one of the best freshmen big men but can he match up with Mason Plumlee? To me that could very well be the key to the entire game.
Plumlee is stronger, and again more experienced than Noel. If Kentucky can neutralize Mason Plumlee they should win the game. That being said, if Duke shoots the ball crazy well then the Blue Devils can win that way as well.
Both teams shot the ball well in their season openers, but Duke shot 11 more three point shots than Kentucky and made six more than the Wildcats. If that happens on Tuesday the advantage has to go to the Blue Devils again.
Duke’s three point shooting was another area of concern that Calipari mentioned in his teleconference. But you have to figure with Duke playing on the road for the first time this season, and playing in a large dome, the shooting could be a bit off. So, again the battle in the paint could be something to watch.
Kentucky had no answer for Maryland big man Alex Len who posted a double-double. If Plumlee can have that kind of game Duke will likely win.
Still Kentucky has talent and if their young guys can turn this into a track meet then the advantage goes to them. The Blue Devils need to make this a half court game and force whoever Calipari plans at playing at point guard to execute in a half-court set against a pretty big Duke lineup.
Kentucky’s point guard issues may be problematic. Projected starter Ryan Harrow played limited minutes against Maryland due to illness and Calipari has already said he won’t play if he doesn’t practice on Monday. But even with Harrow, Kentucky doesn’t really have an elite point guard.
There is no John Wall or Marquis Teague walking through that door for Calipari and while Duke doesn’t have Jason Williams or Bobby Hurley, I’ll take Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton right now over what we’ve seen from the Wildcats.
The big advantage that Kentucky has is athleticism so if whoever runs the offense can get the Wildcats out and running it could be very hard for Duke to keep up. Protecting the basketball will be key. Duke forced 16 turnovers in their first game while Kentucky only forced 11.
Granted the Wildcats competition was better and the game was played on a neutral court you have to think that their youth could be problematic when it comes to taking care of the ball. The team that forces more turnovers generally is in a good position to win the game so it is important to watch that statistic closely and young teams tend to turn the ball over more.
Duke will also have to neutralize Kentucky on the boards and limit their second chance opportunities, something they didn’t do particularly well in their opener.
The Vegas odd makers like this to be a close game and the Blue Devils have opened up a two point favorite. That makes sense and the experience of Duke probably ways into that line.
I would expect a lower scoring game that will come down to a possession here or there and perhaps even a game winning shot. That would be an appropriate ending for these two teams anyway.
But win or lose this is only the second game of the year and which ever team wins tomorrow does nothing to guarantee further success the rest of this season.
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