Duke (9-2) – Eastern Michigan (7-3) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
December 28, 2013
Beware the Eagles? Duke should remember their one and only game with the Eastern Michigan (EMU), a humiliating 70-65 loss in the First Round of the NCAA Championship in 1996. The Eagles are currently 7-3, having played two “quality” opponents to date, then ranked No. 3 Kentucky in November and now No. 23 Massachusetts, both losses, 81-63 and 69-57, respectively. EMU returns only 3 seniors only 1 of which currently contributes significant minutes. Given that Mid-American Conference (MAC) teams give tougher teams fits, they should not be overlooked.
Team Season Thus Far
Eastern Michigan Eagles
The Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-3, 0-0) come to the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC for a college basketball showdown against the Duke Blue Devils ( 9-2, 0-0) at 2:00 PM on Saturday, December 28. This will be the Eagles first journey to historic Cameron, and as noted above, only their second time facing the Blue Devils.
On the season, the Eagles have had most of their success on defense, holding opponents to only 65.3 PPG. If they want the victory over Duke, they will need to rely on that strength of their game to hold the Blue Devil’s high powered offense in check. The Eagles are leading the esteemed MAC in multiple categories this season. EMU posts the best field goal percentage defense (36.7 percent), most blocked shots (7.6 BPG) and greatest turnover margin (+4.8). EMU ranks second in scoring defense (65.3 PPG), steals (8.4 SPG), and third in three-point FGP (35.8 percent), assists (13.4 APG) and scoring margin (+7.5).
Individually, the Eagles are led by junior forward Karrington Ward who currently ranks first on the team in MPG (29.8) Ward also leads the team in points (15.4 PPG; fifth-best in the MAC), rebounds (6.2 RPG), and steals (15). Ward has gotten assistance from several teammates who are also off to a great start this season, including senior center Da’Shonte Riley who leads the way in blocks, averaging 3.8 per contest, while senior forward Glenn Bryant is fourth, turning away 2.4 per game. Additionally, junior guard Mike Talley who leads the team in assists with 40 (4.0 APG) and has an A/T ratio of 2.7, which is the best in the MAC. Freshman guard Ray Lee also adds 12.8 PPG and 14 steals.
In their last outing, behind 21 points and nine assists from Talley, the Eagles defeated Oakland 81-79 on December 21. In the win over Oakland, the Eagles turned the ball over a season low five times, which is the least amount in a single game since February 6, 2013, when the Eagles coughed up the rock just four times in a 65-46 win over Buffalo at home. The 2013-14 EMU squad is turning the ball over at an 11.7 per game clip, which is over two turnovers less than the previous two seasons under Head Coach Rob Murphy.
Following its contest with Duke, the Green and White will complete the 2013 calander season with its final non-conference road game of the year, which will not be a cake walk for the Eagles. EMU will head out of Michigan to Syracuse, N.Y. for a New Year’s Eve battle with the No. ranked (AP Poll) 2 Orange of Syracuse, December 31.
Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils will go in search of a fourth consecutive victory on Saturday when they entertain the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. Winners over Michigan, Gardner-Webb and UCLA since losing to Arizona at Madison Square Garden, the Blue Devils, appear somewhat under-ranked, even at No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25, with defeats only to the Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks, and each on a neutral floor.
Duke last played on December 19 in Madison Square Garden (their home away from home) where they defeated the unranked UCLA Bruins 80-63. For the Blue Devils, Jabari Parker finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He puts up a team-leading 22.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook scored 14 points apiece, with Cook getting a career-high eight steals in the win. Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon contributed 11 and eight points, respectively, off the bench for Duke (9-2).
When speaking of Parker’s early season success, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “Well he’s played 11 games and he’s played them very well. The main area he needs to work is defense. He is an outstanding player but he can become better.”
Duke is one of the best shooting teams in the country. They are No. 2 in the nation in eFG percentage at 58.9 percent. They have no shortage of players who can put the ball in the hole. However, the Devils make a relatively low percentage of their points (63 percent) from two-point shots, an abysmal ranking at No. 275 in the nation. To compare, North Carolina is the No. 1 team in the nation in two-point rate with 83.4 percent (Teamrankings.com).
The Blue Devils need to do a better job of challenging their opponents’ interior shooting. In their first 11 games, Duke’s opponents are connecting on 51 percent (No. 240 in the nation) of their inside-the-arc attempts. This percentage is too high for a team that should be challenging for the conference championship and making a deep run in March Madness. No. 1-ranked Arizona is limiting its opponents to 40.6 percent (No. 8).
After one last game on December 31 at Elon, January brings the start of ACC play for the Blue Devils and a visit to South Bend, IN on January 4 to play the Notre Dame Fighting before returning home to host Georgia Tech on January 7.
Head to head, Duke needs to realize that this team is not going to shy away or be intimidated by Duke. Having played Kentucky, Umass and Purdue in a two week span, Eastern Michigan is a team primed for an upset. Duke once again will have to to contend with a team that will zone them and so passing and shooting the outside shot will be at a premium but if Duke can make threes at a high enough clip early it will open up chances at the rim for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Playing against this team, while it shouldn’t result in a loss, is a very good tune up going into ACC season.
Duke will need its bench to step up and give good minutes as Eastern Michigan does get good minutes form its bench players. guard Darell Combs and Forward Glenn Bryant are consistent contributors off the bench, Combs is averaging 8.2 points in 17 minutes off the bench and Bryant 10 points in 20 minutes. If current trends hold, Duke should have the advantage bringing in Amile Jefferson, Andre Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones to counter.
The keys for Duke in this game are to keep it simple, Duke has seen this zone before and patience will be rewarded. Good passes from the middle of the zone out to shooters should provide good looks for the likes of Andre Dawkins, Matt Jones, Rodney Hood & Quinn Cook. Duke could also benefit from penetration and good interior passing, if Duke can get that from Amile and Jabari then they should be able to get easier looks at the basket. It’s been noted that Duke has lacked the “knock-out” punch against lesser opponents and it is true that they have not been totally able to put teams away. Duke has been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot with costly turnovers and shotty selection on their offensive trips when they manage to get a lead. If Duke can play a game where they aren’t forcing passes and looking for the hay-maker and instead being deliberate and methodical they should be able to coast to a victory without much game pressure.
Duke will need to pay special attention to rebounding the basketball against Eastern Michigan, as well as protecting the basketball. EMU is a team that can turn you over, just ask Kentucky who turned it over 20 times against the Eagles.
Duke will also need to defend without fouling, the Eagles are a team very adept at getting to the line. Duke will have to play staunch position defense and move their feet. While making a conscious effort to drive the ball when the situation allots. Duke will increase it’s chances of an easy victory if it can not only turn the Eagles over but get out on the break and turn those live ball turnovers into instant offense.
Even though MAC teams can be dangerous, EMU should be no match for Duke’s overwhelming talent and depth. That said, both teams will be a bit rusty, more so the Blue Devils. If they can shake off the rust early on, Duke should be able to dispatch the Eagles relatively easy. However, Duke continues to go through the process and making the adjustments needed, particularly in the paint, more than anything else. Not to say that the unthinkable can’t happen, but unlikely. Duke will test out what they have in 2 very short days to work on and absorb.