Duke enters Saturday’s Round of 32 game against Rick Barnes and Tennessee on Saturday and it’s a tough draw (note to NCAA and media complex: can we do better than the Round of 32?)
Since discovering Barnes at Clemson, we’ve realized he likes a beefy roster. This year is no exception. Take a look at the list:
- Pissing Plavsic – 7-1/265
- Tobe Awaka – 6-8/250
- Jonas Aidoo – 6-11/241
- Colin Coyne – 6-9/239
- Olivier Nkamhoua – 6-6/236
All things considered, if you can pull it off, it’s better to face a team coached by Rick Barnes on the second day of a tournament weekend than the first.
Tennessee had a tough end to the season with a key injury and frustrating losses. The Vols finished 4-6 after being highly seeded for much of the season.
The last four of those games, minus three minutes, UT was without Zakai Zeigler. No matter who you are, losing your point guard is a big blow.
Tennessee is an elite defensive team, as good at that as anyone, but as we’ve seen with Barnes before, he doesn’t prioritize finesse or creativity. Does anyone remember the Slab Five?
It is not the most aesthetic style but it is effective.
Against Louisiana, Barnes pitched Plavsic, Nkamhoua, Jahmai Mashack, a 6-4, 200-pound senior, Santiago Vescovi, a 6-3 Uruguay, 6-6, 224-pound senior. Josiah-Jordan James. If JJJ sounds familiar to you, it might be because he seriously considered Duke before choosing Tennessee.
For Duke, there are several challenges: first, managing Tennessee’s physical style. Second, avoid fouls and minimize turnovers. Third, be effective offensively and fourth, don’t let Tennessee lull you into a bar fight.
And fifth, of course, continue to defend yourself at an elite level.
One of Barnes’ lasting ACC memories at Clemson is nearly coming to blows with Dean Smith in a game. It’s just how he is and how his teams have always been.
It’s not as bad as BennettBall, but it’s not pretty basketball.
Obviously Derek Lively is going to be critical for Duke – Jeremy Roach called him “the backbone of our defense”, which is true, but he could have said backstop. One of the benefits of having a skilled shot blocker on your team is that they allow perimeter defenders to play because they can clean up mistakes.
Tennessee will sue him hard. They will try to trick him into making mistakes and losing his temper too. He can’t fall for the trap.
They will also try to reach Filipowski, but it might be more difficult as he is about as tall as their guys.
And of course, Mark Mitchell and the perimeter players will catch him too. We won’t hit him. It’s just that’s how Barnes coaches. We’ve seen enough over the year and that’s not going to change.
The question is how Duke will react. Needless to say, a shooting performance without a light will undo much of what Tennessee tries to do.
By the way, this is the kind of game that Ryan Young will love – a tough, physical inside game. It’s more for his style. Don’t be surprised if he plays a key role on Saturday.