As you may know, the Duke Blue Devils will start their road through the 2009 NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, NC against the Binghamton Bearcats on Thursday night. A position-by-position breakdown of that game is below.
Point Guard: Jon Scheyer (Duke) vs. Malik Alvin (Binghamton)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski switched Scheyer to point guard awhile back for two reasons. The first is that he doesn't turn the ball over—Scheyer has averaged only 1.6 turnovers this season.
The second is that he can use his 2-guard height to shoot over the top of smaller defenders, which he does exceedingly well.
In addition, Scheyer is an excellent free throw shooter, at 83.4 percent, and is Duke's best three-point shooter. He also ranks second on the team in steals per game (1.5), and he plays with discipline, only occasionally getting whistled for a foul.
Malik Alvin scores 11.7 points per game, which is tied for lead on the team. He also distributes the ball well, as he averages 3.6 assists. But he also turns the ball over more than coach Kevin Broadus would prefer—about three times per contest.
Alvin is by far Binghamton's best free throw shooter (82.6 percent), and its second-best perimeter defender—he averages 1.3 steals—and doesn't get into foul trouble. Additionally, Alvin's tiny physique (6'0", 175 pounds) allows him to be very quick.
Both Scheyer and Alvin are obviously great players. But Scheyer has a major size advantage (he's five inches taller and ten pounds heavier), and his game is mostly shooting. Alvin won't have a chance to stop Scheyer from draining shots all over the court throughout the game.
Alvin should be able to make up most of the points he'll give up on the offensive end with drives ignited by explosive first steps, but not quite all of it.
*Coach K might start and/or play Nolan Smith at the point for much of the game because Smith is a better defender than Scheyer and has his shot. The only thing Smith doesn't have that Scheyer does is an extra three inches.
Shooting Guard: Elliot Williams (Duke) vs. Chretien Lukusa (Binghamton)
Williams is Duke's second-most athletic player. He's also long and lean. These things combined make Williams an excellent on-ball defender. His athleticism also allows him to slash to the basket for layups as well as go up for tough rebounds.
But Williams also has substantial downside. His inexperience leads him to commit bad fouls or make bad decisions that often result in a missed three-pointer or a turnover. This is likely why his experimental stint at point guard was short, and he hasn't played the position since.
Lukusa has considerable bulk for a two-guard (6'2", 210 pounds). He's the guy who provides the intangibles that don't show up on the stat sheet—he hustles, defends, and helps keep the offense moving by giving pressured teammates a place to go with the ball. Lukusa averages .8 steals per game.
Lukusa is the Binghamton equivalent to Duke forward David McClure.
Lukusa has 30 pounds on Williams, but he also surrenders two inches to Williams, so chances are he won't post Williams up looking to score. Frankly, there's not much of a way for Lukusa to use his extra bulk on the offensive end. But look for Williams to use his superior quickness and athleticism to drive by Lukusa.
Small Forward: Gerald Henderson (Duke) vs. Emanuel Mayben (Binghamton)
Henderson had his breakout season for the Blue Devils this year, averaging 16.6 points 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. In addition, he shot 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the three-point arc. Plus, he upped his game in conference play later in the season.
Not to mention that he's Duke best clutch shooter—he always the guy the Blue Devils go to when they need a key basket at the end of a game. And he's incredibly quick and fast. He goes from one baseline to the other just like that.
However, Henderson sometimes tries to force things on offense, and that's why he isn't the most reliable ball handler—he averages 2.2 turnovers.
Henderson is simply a well-rounded, clutch, electrifying player—even if he does try to do everything himself at times.
Mayben is small for a three-forward, at 6'3" and 180 pounds, but he still the Bearcats' offensive catalyst. He scores (11.5 points), passes well (4.6 assists) and crashes the boards better than any other guard on the team (four rebounds).
Mayben is also the team's best long-range marksman (he shoots 37.2 percent from three-point range), and the second-best field goal shooter (42.6 percent). In addition, he doesn't turn the ball over, nor does he commit many fouls.
This matchup between Henderson and Mayben should be great fun to watch. Both players are excellent offensively, but Henderson is definitely better defensively.
Power Forward: Kyle Singler (Duke) vs. DJ Rivera
Singler does it all. He scores (16.7 points), rebounds (7.7 boards), distributes the ball (2.5 assists), and defends with decent discipline (1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks to 2.6 fouls). Singler is also Duke's second-best field goal shooter who has played in at least 31 games (he shoots 44.3 percent) and three-point shooter (38 percent).
But he also turns the ball over more than any other Blue Devil (2.4 turnovers), and his free-throw shooting is suspect at times.
Despite the publicity Henderson has received for his breakout season, Singler is the heart and soul of the Blue Devils.
DJ Rivera seems undersized at first—he's only 6'4" and 190 pounds but listed as a four-forward. But in truth, his role in Binghamton's system is much more like that of a guard or three-forward.
He averages 20 points, 6.5 rebounds (second on the team), and 1.8 steals (tops among the Bearcats). He also only turns the ball over about 1.7 times per game.
But Rivera fouls a little too much for a guy who plays more like a perimeter player than a post player.
Singler has the clear size advantage on Rivera (6'8", 235 pounds to 6'4", 190 pounds), and that should allow him to shoot over Rivera. But Rivera should blow by Singler on his way to the basket throughout the game.
Both players' respective games cancel each other out.
Center: Lance Thomas (Duke) vs. Reggie Fuller (Binghamton)
Thomas doesn't do much offensively. He scores 5.1 points per game, but most of his points come from close in—he can't shoot to save his life, particularly from the charity stripe, where he has shot 54.3 percent on the year.
It's a relief that Thomas takes care of the ball—he almost never turns the ball over—because otherwise his offensive worth would be even more limited than it already is.
Defensively Thomas isn't especially quick, and this forces him to take a lot of fouls in an effort to keep bigger, more skilled players from getting easy baskets down low. But Thomas is a good on-ball defender, and that's what really makes him a starter.
Fuller is almost a double-double type of player despite the fact that he is smaller, at 6'6" and 195 pounds, than most big guys who normally earn double-doubles. He averages 10.2 points and 7.1 rebounds.
But only is he a dominant offensive player, he's an excellent shot blocker—he rejects 1.7 shots per game. In addition, he's a good ballhander (1.4 turnovers) and provides a physical presence inside (3.4 fouls).
Fuller is a top-notch player who can take over a game on both ends. Even though Thomas has adequate defensive skills, he just doesn't even come close to measuring up offensively.
Edge: Fuller (Binghamton) Off the Bench
Greg Paulus brings tremendous energy and a very long-range shooting touch (although not a particularly efficient one).
Nolan Smith can come into a game and be a defensive force right away. It helps that he shoots well.
David McClure does everything that goes unnoticed—boxing out, rebounding, hustling, defending, providing an outlet for the ball in case a teammates gets double-teamed.
Brian Zoubek uses his tremendous size to rebound effectively and score second-chance points. He's also a surprisingly good free-throw shooter for a seven-footer.
Dwayne Jackson scores in double digits nightly and rebounds decently well for a guard. However, he is currently suspended and will be unable to play against Duke.
Duke has the edge in three positions, as well as the bench, but Binghamton only has the edge in one. Duke also had a much tougher schedule, and won their conference championship. There's a reason why Duke got the No. 2 and the Bearcats got the No. 15. Duke is far superior.