West Virginia-Duke: Tale of the Tape

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West Virginia-Duke: Tale of the Tape
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Setting

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the stage for Bob Huggins and his No. 2-seed West Virginia Mountaineers (31-6) to take on Mike Krzyzewski and the No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils (33-5).

 

Plot

Big East meets Atlantic Coast Conference for a spot in Monday night’s national championship.

 

Sub-plot

The status of WVU’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant looms over the result of this national semifinal. Will the sophomore point guard play despite a foot injury?

 

Flashback

Joe Alexander scored a game-high 22, Alex Ruoff added 17, and Joe Mazzulla chipped in 13 off the bench as the Mountaineers upended the Blue Devils 73-67 in the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament. 

Duke leads 17-7 in a series that began in 1951. The teams have split 4-4 on neutral floors. Tonight’s game marks just the third meeting in the past 32 years.

West Virginia is making its 23rd appearance in the NCAA tournament and second trip to the Final Four. This is Duke’s 34th appearance in the NCAA tournament and 15th time in the Final Four.

 

Foreshadowing

Thirteen Mountaineers have played in the NBA . Joe Alexander is the only current alum of West Virginia basketball in the Association. 

Fifty-one former Blue Devils have made their way to the NBA. Fourteen of those alums currently dot NBA rosters: Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Henderson, Grant Hill, Dahntay Jones, Corey Maggette, Josh McRoberts, Shavlik Randolph, J.J. Redick, and Shelden Williams.

 

Conflict

Duke’s rebound margin is 6.5. WVU’s advantage on the glass is 6.6. The margin on the boards is as slim as tonight’s result.

A quick glance might lead someone to believe the Mountaineers are a one-man team.

Da’Sean Butler leads WVU in points per game (17.4), assists (3.2), three-pointers made (70), free throws made (162), free throws attempted (207), free throw percentage (78.3), and game-winning shots (6).

But the Mountaineers are much more than that.

Butler’s success is the result of a team effort. WVU has held its last two opponents well under their season average.

Kentucky entered play last weekend averaging almost 80 a game. The Mountaineers won 73-66. Washington’s Huskies averaged 79 points. They lost to West Virginia 69-56.

Huggins deploys seven of his troops for double-digit minutes.

Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks combine for 25 points and 15.5 rebounds for the Mountaineers. Jones has 131 offensive rebounds.

Joe Mazzulla has taken over at point since Bryant’s injury. The junior scored 17 and handed out three assists in the victory over Kentucky.

The emergence of Brian Zoubek and freshman Mason Plumlee gives Duke a well-rounded attack. Zoubek grabbed 13 rebounds to go with 14 points in Duke’s victory over California.

Make no mistake. WVU must slow down Duke’s big three: Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler. The trio combine for 53 points and 13 rebounds per game.

Scheyer scores 18 a game to go with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.9:1. If Duke holds a late lead, Scheyer is deadly from the line—186-211 (88.2).

Singler’s offensive production dropped as he drew the assignment of staying with Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn. Still, Singler has 22 double-digit performances in Duke’s last 23 games.

Smith averages 17. The junior guard mixes a long-range game (56-139) from behind the arc with a quick first step that allows him to get into the paint.

Lance Thomas scores slightly below five a game and grabs 4.9 rebounds.

 

Resolution

West Virginia used a 1-3-1 zone to slow a young Kentucky team. The Mountaineers will need more against Duke. The Blue Devils will not be confused by any defenses.

The common criticism of Duke is that the Blue Devils can not handle athletic teams. Duke dispelled that theory in their victory over Baylor.

Both teams average 18.2 fouls per game. In a game sure to be decided in the paint, WVU and Duke will more than likely each commit at least 20 fouls.

WVU finishes 70.3 percent from the free throw line. Duke scores 75.8 percent of the time from the stripe.

Duke will advance.

 

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