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So our beloved Devils will face either Wake Forest or Maryland in their first game of the ACC Tournament. The winner of the 7 vs 10 game that will be played Friday night at 7pm will get Duke roughly 24 hours later. As for which team I would like to see Duke face..hmmm, I’d have to say Wake and that isn’t because Maryland defeated the Devils in College Park, but rather the size that MD brings to the table. Duke is thin in the front court size-wise and MD brings in a lot of size. If there is a chance we can get a big lead and rest Mason Plumlee then it will be against Wake. Not to say that Wake is an easy out because there are no real easy outs in the tournament, but I don’t see Wake being as taxing on our lone true “Big” as MD would.
Wake is not as physical a team as Maryland there is definitely more of a chance of being able to utilize the bench players against Wake. A game against could see significant minutes from Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. If Duke can find a way to get those players a bigger role it will bode well for them in the later rounds should they advance.
Against Wake in Cameron Duke won big but lost the rebounding battle by a large margin and in the closer game sans Ryan Kelly, Duke would win the rebounding battle and Mason Plumlee would have a huge night with 32 points. If Duke does find itself against Wake guard play and finding ways to prevent CJ Harris and forward Travis McKie from going off will be important.
As for MD, Duke will have to find a way to contend with MD’s physicality. They have lots of size and girth on their bench and Duke did a poor job of contending with that in College Park. Duke doesn’t really have to personnel to do that so hot shooting is going to be what carries them through if MD is the foe. Duke guards should be able to outplay and pressure the MD guards, in fact they will have to. Dez Wells could be a bit of a matchup problem, he’s a big tough physical guard, dangerous on the break. Wells has all the tools to give Duke fits but hasn’t played particularly well vs Duke this year and has been turnover prone in both games. It’s a new season and just as Sulaimon is an unknown for Duke, Wells is that for MD.
The x-factor is how Duke can utilize Ryan Kelly, one of MD’s bigs will be pulled away from the basket to guard Kelly and this could be the match-up issue that pushes Duke over the top. With that being said, if Kelly and Plumlee can avoid heavy minutes it will be a good thing for Duke. In addition to Kelly if Rasheed Sulaimon can return to the form he showed against MD in the first game when he scored 25 points this will take lots pressure off of Dukes big 3. A fast start is crucial whether the opponent is Wake or Maryland.
I’ll go further in-depth once the match-up has been established.