Top 10 Reasons the Cal Bears Can Beat the Duke Blue Devils

Kevin BergerCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Mike Krzyzewski head coach of the Duke Blue Devils instructs his team against the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Jacksonville Veteran's Memorial Arena on March 19, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This would probably go a bit better if you read it in your Bobby Knight voice and it had two decades worth of goodwill built up from its gratuitous appearance on a popular late night television show. But oh well.

1) Interior Worries. As in the Bears shouldn’t have any defensively even if Cal is an undersized group. Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas aren’t going to drop step and dunk you to death on the low block so Mike Montgomery can get some sleep tonight. No need to game quick big-to-big doubles or guards digging down to help the post. Put Robertson and Boykin on Zoubek and Thomas, which is as simple as making a PB&J. Then box out.

2) Scheyer’s Shadow. You have a guy with the perfect mindset, size, and crazed willingness to run through the gauntlet of screens that comes with chasing Jon Scheyer around the arc. Jorge Gutierrez is the Don Quixote perfectly cast for tilting at the Scheyer two guard windmill. Plus he’s got that hair. Forecast: Solid chance for a double technical here.

3) Who guards Randal? After Duke was flayed by Villanova’s guards and their relentless blow-by’s in last year’s tournament, Coach K decided it was best to soften pressure and play more of a Wazzou, circa Tony Bennett, style pack-line defense. (I hope our Pac-10 readers appreciate my range here).

To defeat this style defense, you need a blow-by guard, and a couple wing shooters. Well you have that blow-by guard in Randal, who will find some relief this game knowing he won’t be pressed 94 feet on each possession.

4) Wing Shooters. A short jaunt to item three will show that I mentioned that wing shooters are necessary to defeat Duke’s style of defense. Not only does Cal have them, but they have them from not only the guard spots, but the 4 spot as well. Which means Coach K will have to make a decision on how he chooses to guard Theo Robertson. If he wants to play his base personnel that include Thomas and Zoubek, Robertson is going to have success finding clean looks because Thomas and Zoubek aren’t comfortable away from the bucket. But if…

5) No Double post threat. …Coach K wants to guard Robertson with Singler and go to a smaller lineup, he costs himself not only rebounding, but also the double post look that gives the Bears trouble. Rakeem Buckles had a career high against the Bears for a reason. The Cardinals put him on the floor with Samuels and there wasn’t enough interior help to go around. Not that Lance Thomas is Rakeem Buckles or Brian Zoubek is Samardo Samuels, however. But talk of Duke’s interior weakness is passé, and so “item number one″ at this point.

6) Kyle Singler’s Shadow. Speaking of good matchups, the Bears have 6′6″ Patrick Christopher who not only has the quickness to roam around the perimeter with Singler and contest the arc, but also has the size to not “give up the store” on the block playing post defense against the big wing.

7) Mike Montgomery. If you have to play a No. 1 seed this is the one to play. The Blue Devils are the only No. 1 seed in the tournament with such a lack of scoring balance 1 through 5. Smith, Scheyer, and Singler are great players, but the other two players on the floor are terrific sources of help. Mike Montgomery is a great coach and he’s probably smarter than 95 percent of the bloggers coaches out there so he should be able to figure this out.

8 ) Depth. Usually the Bears would have a decided disadvantage in the depth department, but the Blue Devils aren’t going to wear out Cal by throwing bodies at them. Not live bodies anyway. Unless you count the Plumlee brothers, Andre Dawkins, and the ghost of Joey Beard.

9) History. It’s been a while since Duke was, well, Duke. They are beatable and the Bears may be the team for the job if they shoot as well as they did against Louisville. Same rims fellas. I’d make that infinitely clear to my players. Maybe do the whole measure the hoop thing that worked in “Hoosiers."

10) History II. The last time Cal played in a tournament game versus Duke, Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray HANDLED a top seeded Duke squad coming off of back-to-back National Championships. That was a great game. If you’re Bears fan you have to hope the players channel their inner ‘Ason Kidd for this one. He had no “J” back then either.

Cue the catchy song by the in-studio band led by Paul Shaffer or somebody more talented.

Then check out this primer on how to beat Duke . I predicted Louisville could beat them so that means Cal’s a lock. Right?


Kevin writes the leading college hoops blog March To March

Follow him on Twitter: @MarchToMarch


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