If the Duke Blue Devils beat the Binghamton Bearcats, and the Texas Longhorns defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers, then Duke will play Texas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Below is a position-by-position preview of the possible game.
Point Guard: Jon Scheyer (Duke) vs. AJ Abrams (Texas)
Scheyer's 6'5" frame allows him to shoot over the top of many point guards who defend him, which he does efficiently. In addition, the junior dishes the ball out with ease, evidenced by his 2.8 assists per game, and turns the ball over minimally (1.7 turnovers per night).
Plus, Scheyer is an excellent on-ball defender who averages 1.5 steals per game.
Abrams is one of the smallest players in college basketball. At 5'11" and 161 pounds, he's quicker than almost anyone in college ball. His lack of bulk also likely makes fatigue less of a factor, which enables him to play 37.6 minutes per game, one of the highest figures in college basketball.
Abrams scores 16.3 points per game, and averages 1.3 steals to 1.4 turnovers per game.
He fouls a decent amount for a guard who should be really quick, fouling an average of two times per game.
Shooting Guard: Elliot Williams (Duke) vs. Dogus Balbay (Texas)
Williams' athleticism and quickness allows him to be a quality on-ball defender and a high-flying rebounder. If he'd just learn to take better shots, he could be just as good offensively as he is on the defensive end.
Balbay can score by shooting, but he often doesn't. His sound ball handling skills allow him to find teammates with better shots.
Additionally, the sophomore is a great on-ball defender.
Williams has a clear size advantage (6'4", 185 pounds to 6', 176 pounds), and his athleticism should serve him well in keeping up with the smaller Balbay. Williams should be able to prevent Balbay from dishing out too many assists.
Small Forward: Gerald Henderson (Duke) vs. Justin Mason (Texas)
Henderson is simply a star. He scores 16.6 points per game, and averages 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.2 turnovers, and .8 blocks. He also has a lightning-quick first step that allows him to get to the rim before his man has time to react.
Mason is the playmaker in Texas' offense and defense. He averages 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Additionally, he stays out of foul trouble (1.8 per game), and he takes care of the ball (1.9 turnovers per game).
Despite Mason's defensive talent and and playmaking ability, Henderson does everything for Duke. The advantage is clear...
Power Forward: Kyle Singler (Duke) vs. Damian James (Texas)
Singler is the other do-it-all guy for the Blue Devils. He shoots, posts up sometimes, rebounds, and defends. He leads the Blue Devils in scoring (16.7 points), boards (7.7 rebounds), steals (1.6), and blocks (1.1).
On the negative side, Singler also leads Duke in turnovers (2.4) and fouls (2.6). Apart from that, Singler's only weakness is inconsistency at the free throw line—he barely shoots 72 percent.
James is the closest thing to a double-double player I've seen in my research for these NCAA Tournament game preview articles. He averages 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. Plus, he only turns the ball over about two times each game.
In addition, he's a competent defender who averages a steal and nearly a block per game. But he fouls a bit much, even for a big man, with 2.7 fouls per game.
It's close, as both players are very good and well-rounded, but James squeaks out the victory for Texas.
Center: Lance Thomas (Duke) vs. Dexter Pittman (Texas)
Thomas is an adequate on-ball defender who, when he gets beat, compensates by fouling. He doesn't bring much to the table offensively, though. He's undersized for a center, though, at 6'8" and 220 pounds.
Pittman matches up with other true collegiate centers well due to his size (6'10", 298 pounds). He normally averages 10 points and five rebounds per game. Surprisingly he isn't much of a defensive force, and he's often the first starter to leave the game.
Even though he doesn't have much of a skill set, Pittman will eat Thomas alive if Coach K has the guts to start him against Pittman. If I were Coach K, I'd go with Brian Zoubek if I make it to this game against Texas.
Off The Bench:
Greg Paulus brings his teammates to life when they need rejuvenation, and he's got a mean jump shot to go along his energy.
David McClure does everything that no one notices, like boxing out, playing sound defense, hustling every second he's in the game, and providing an outlet for a teammates handling the ball under pressure or in a trap.
Brian Zoubek uses his seven-foot frame to pull down offensive boards with ease and put the rebounds back for second-chance points. He often gets fouled doing this, and when this happens he knocks down his free throws with surprising consistency.
Nolan Smith mainly comes in when Scheyer needs a brief rest, or when someone gets into foul trouble. But he's an awfully good sixth man, with a nice distance jumper and better lateral quickness than Scheyer on defense.
Gary Johnson scores (10.5 points per game) and rebounds (5.4 boards) in quality minutes. He doesn't turn the ball over.
Duke has a deeper bench, and they also win three of the five position battles. There's no shortage in quality opponents on either school's schedule, so that's a draw. But Duke is just better in more areas, so if these teams meet, Duke should be the one advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
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