David Aldridge over at DukeReport.com was kind enough to offer some insight into the 2013 Duke basketball team and what Alabama fans should expect come tomorrow night. Duke may not be as good as in recent years but they are still an elite program with elite talent.
What's in store of Coach Grant and the Alabama team? Plenty of opportunities to prove themselves worthy.
Hope for the best
1. Duke has had a huge amount of success offensively this year. Schematically speaking, what do the Blue Devils do so well on offense?
The Blue Devils are one of the best offensive teams in the country because they typically have five guys on the floor who can score. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are terrific at beating people off the dribble, and they're surrounded by players who can knock down open shots, creating a great system of drawing defenders with dribble penetration and then leaving open shooters. Hood and Parker are also outstanding three-point shooters, which makes them very difficult to stop.
This is also a team that likes to push the pace and make plays in transition. With this much offensive talent, Duke can get on a run and create a big lead in a hurry.
2. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are incredible players. If there is a weakness in their respective games, what would you say that they are?
Both players have fantastic offensive skills. They're lacking on the other side of the ball, which is a key problem for this entire Duke team.
Jabari Parker still needs to develop his interior defense. He can be exposed when a team catches him watching the ball and he loses his man around the basket. Duke likes to play an aggressive man-to-man defense that relies heavily on switching screens and good communication. There have been many times this season where Parker gets caught in a bad spot because he didn't talk or got lost in where he's supposed to be on a defensive rotation.
Like Parker, Rodney Hood needs to get better around the rim on defense, particularly in rebounding the ball. Hood relies on his athleticism instead of executing good fundamentals and boxing out, which has led to many easy put-backs against Duke this season.
3. Enough about Parker and Hood, who else should the Tide worry about in this matchup?
When Quinn Cook plays well, Duke is very difficult to beat. When he struggles, Duke is more than vulnerable. Cook is the junior point guard who runs the show for the Blue Devils. Duke fans have often been frustrated with his shot selection and perimeter defense, but he has nearly a 7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is flourishing with all the playmakers around him. If Alabama lets him get off to a good start, it could be a long night for the Crimson Tide.
Another player to keep an eye on for Duke is Andre Dawkins. The fifth-year senior has come off the bench to score in double figures in three of the last four games and is a very dangerous weapon if he's shooting the ball well.
4. In Duke's only loss of the year, what was it that Kansas did so well against the Blue Devils?
Duke actually played better in the loss to Kansas than it has in some of its wins to start the season, but the Jayhawks exposed what a poor defensive team the Blue Devils are. Kansas shot 56 percent and put up 54 points in the 2nd half, and created easy looks by attacking the basket and beating Duke's perimeter defenders. Kansas used its quickness to beat guys off the dribble and Duke did a poor job protecting the rim.
The Jayhawks also took advantage of their size and athleticism to control the glass in that game. Kansas finished +11 in the rebounding margin, and Duke had a difficult time matching up with Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid in the paint.
5. I think that there is a very slim chance of Alabama coming away with a win in this game, but what is your prediction?
Considering the way Duke played last week (narrow wins at home over ECU and Vermont), it wouldn't surprise me at all if Alabama wins this game. To say the Blue Devils are a bad defensive team right now is an insult to bad defense. They're atrocious.
However, this is still a young team that's learning to play together and a coaching staff that takes great pride in physical, aggressive defense. I expect Mike Krzyzewski to make some adjustments and start to get things turned around. Regardless of defense, Duke is still one of the best offensive teams in the country, and I think Alabama may have a tough time keeping up with the Blue Devils.
Duke: 84 Alabama: 76