Game Preview by @RandyDunson – Duke Blue Devils vs. Buffalo Bulls – December 5, 2015

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Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (7-1, 0-0] vs. Buffalo Bulls (4-3, 0-0]

Saturday, December 5, 2015 • 5:15 PM • ESPN2 • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]

Team Overviews

Duke

Winners of five in a row, No. 7/5 Duke will return to action on Saturday when it welcomes Buffalo to Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Blue Devils are 252-3 in their last 255 nonconference games.

Duke has the best winning percentage (.838) and second-most wins (192) in the NCAA since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 121 consecutive non-conference home games, a streak that started in November 2000.

Grayson Allen’s average of 21.8 points per game ranks fourth by a player in the six major college basketball conferences. Allen’s five games of 20+ points are the most in the ACC this season. Allen is shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc in Duke’s last four games. He also has a 4.67 assist-to-turnover ratio (14:3) over that stretch. Amile Jefferson ranks third nationally in offensive rebounds per game (5.3) to lead a Duke squad that has a 41.2 offensive rebound percentage and averages 16.9 second-chance points per game. Luke Kennard has averaged 12.3 points in Duke’s last four games to lead a corps of reserves that is providing the Blue Devils with an average of 22.1 points per game for the season. Marshall Plumlee is one of two ACC players to at least share his team lead in both blocks and steals (UNC’s Kennedy Meeks).

Duke has forced teams into an average of 13.1 turnovers per game, turning those miscues into an average of 15.3 points.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Forward – Freshman Brandon Ingram

Forward – Senior Amile Jefferson

Center – Grad Student Marshall Plumlee

Buffalo

Duke hosts Buffalo on Saturday in what would have been a homecoming of sorts for coach Bobby Hurley, but the former Blue Devils standout left the Bulls after two seasons for greener pastures at Arizona State. What is left is a matchup that pits Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski and No. 5 Duke against Nate Oats, who tries to keep the Buffalo program moving forward after it reached its first NCAA Tournament following a 23-win season in 2014-15. Oats will never take the easy way out for his basketball team. Even as a high school coach at Romulus, he sought out the toughest competition to ready his players for the brunt of the season. Moreover, the competition cannot get any tougher for the men’s basketball team than what it will face on Saturday, facing reigning national champion Duke.

After a tough loss to Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure Wednesday night, the Bulls (4-3) faceoff against two of the top-10 teams in the nation in No. 7 Duke (7-1) on Saturday and No. 5 Iowa State (6-0) on Monday. Buffalo will first travel to Durham, North Carolina to face the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium, considered the Mecca of college basketball.

It is tough to assume Buffalo will grab a victory over the defending champion Blue Devils. However, Oats just wants to see a well-played, fundamental basketball game. In addition, he thinks he has the pieces in place for a competitive game. Nevertheless, Buffalo may still have work to do.

In its loss to St. Bonaventure (3-2), Buffalo shot just 19-of-32 from the free throw line and just 1-of-13 from deep for just 58 points – tied for its lowest scoring output of the season. Oats noted that the combination of freshman forwards Ikenna Smart and Nick Perkins need to improve around the rim offensively and defensively.

That may pose a big problem against a team like Duke. The Blue Devils are one of the premier teams in the country on both offense and defense. Duke ranks 36th in the country in offensive boards (14.38/game) and are tied for 26th in the country with 311 total rebounds through eight games played.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils are 23rd in the nation with 86.5 points per game, led by an array of talented guards and dominating forwards. Duke guard Grayson Allen is one of the top players in the nation with 21.8 points per game. Allen, a sophomore, first broke onto the national scene with a scintillating performance during Duke’s 2015 NCAA Tournament run.

However, Buffalo has a talented sophomore guard of its own. Lamonte Bearden’s all-around game has improved this season, as he has averaged 13.6 points and 2.7 assists per game. Bearden said the team would try to play loose in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“We’re going to go in, try and play normally,” Bearden said. “We’re the underdogs, so we have nothing to lose. We’re going to go in there fighting to the best of our abilities.”

However, even if Buffalo leaves North Carolina with a loss, it would still be considered a win in Oats’ mind. He prepares his teams for conference play and beyond, not early in the season.

This would not be the Bulls’ first time playing two national contenders in the same season. Last year, Buffalo played both Kentucky and Wisconsin and held first half leads over both before eventually losing.

Buffalo may be more prepared to play in a big basketball venue this season compared to last, after playing at Kentucky and Wisconsin and in front of a packed out Nationwide Arena in the NCAA Tournament last march.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Lamonte Bearden

Guard – Junior Willie Conner

Guard – Senior Jarryn Skeete

Guard/Forward – Senior Rodell Wigginton

Forward – Freshman Ikenna Smart

Last Time Out

Duke

Duke freshman Brandon Ingram swished his first shot, so he kept letting them fly. They kept going in. and they all added up to another blowout for the Blue Devils. Ingram scored a season-best 24 points and No. 7 Duke routed Indiana 94-74 last Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Amile Jefferson flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 11 rebounds, eight points and eight assists for the Blue Devils (7-1). Matt Jones added a career-high 23 points with five 3-pointers and Grayson Allen had 16 points for Duke, which won its fifth straight by shooting 53 percent and holding Indiana without a field goal for the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half.

Troy Williams scored 17 points, Yogi Ferrell had 15 and James Blackmon Jr. finished with 14 for the Hoosiers (5-3), who have lost three of five, and this was by far the most lopsided.

This was supposed to be one of the marquee matchups of the made-by-TV event, but two losses by Indiana at the Maui Invitational took off some of the luster. In addition, Ingram and the Blue Devils turned this one into a rather ordinary rout at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In surpassing the previous high of 21 points he set against Bryant in his second game, Ingram finished 10 of 15 while hitting four of his six 3-pointers, after making just 6 of 25 all season.

Notables:

  • Things got chippy at halftime when an Indiana player bumped Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on his way off the court at halftime. Krzyzewski and Crean had a lengthy face-to-face chat, but the discussion ended amicably with a handshake. “I didn’t even know what the hell happened,” Krzyzewski said. “All of a sudden, boom, I got hit. … It was probably an accident. I don’t blame anybody, and I didn’t want it to become, that shouldn’t be the thing in this game.”
  • On paper, this shaped up as the toughest test of the season for Duke’s 15-year winning streak in nonconference games at Cameron, but the Blue Devils had no trouble earning their 121st straight home win against non-ACC opponents
  • The Hoosiers came to Cameron averaging 88.3 points per game, shooting 54.7 percent, hitting 44.9 percent from 3-point range and averaging 9.1 steals, all Big Ten bests
  • They are 5-0 when scoring at least 80 points and 0-3 when they are in the 70s or worse.

Buffalo

St. Bonaventure’s Marcus Posley hit a jumper with eight seconds remaining last Wednesday night, leading the visiting Bonnies to a 60-58 win over the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York men’s basketball team. The loss drops the Bulls to 4-3 on the season.

It was a tough night offensively for the Bulls who went just 1-of-13 from three-point range and 19-of-32 from the free throw line, while also committing a season-high 21 turnovers. Despite that, the Bulls played solid defense over the final six minutes of the game to force a late tie before the game-winning basket.

The Bonnies led for the majority of the evening as the Bulls never held more than a two point advantage, their last one coming with 11:15 left. A layup by junior Willie Conner gave UB a 22-21 lead, but St. Bonaventure went on an 8-1 run to take a 29-24 lead with 4:29 left. A late three pointer from Nelson Kaputo, one of just two on the night for St. Bonaventure, gave the Bonnies a 38-33 lead at the break.

Wigginton finished with his third double-double of the year as he had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Bearden had 12 points and three steals, while junior Blake Hamilton finished with 10 points off the bench. Conner and freshman CJ Massinburg each had seven points, while Smart added five points and a career-high nine rebounds.

Notables:

  • Negatives were pronounced in this game for Buffalo
    • 1-of-13 from three point range, 19-of-32 from the free throw line, a season-high 21 turnovers
  • Wigginton had 3rd double-double of season
  • Smart had career-high nine rebounds

Head-to-Head

Duke and Buffalo have never met before.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has a significant edge in most all of these parameters. Duke is much more efficient in shooting the ball. The Blue Devils are the better 3-point shooting team & they defend the arc better when paired against the Bulls. Buffalo does have a slight advantage in RPG but opponents rebound slightly even with them. Duke also turns the ball over less than Buffalo does, but the Bulls force more turnovers. Based on stats alone, this game is in the books for Duke.

 

Duke 2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Buffalo
86.5 (+15.9) PPG (Scoring Margin) 79.0 (+6.3)
70.6 Opponents PPG 72.9
56.2 Effective FG% 46.5
49.4 FG% 41.4
44.7 Opponent FG% 45.7
39.8 3PT FG% 32.9
38.2 Opponent 3PT FG% 34.2
38.9 (+7.3) RPG (Rebound Margin) 39.9 (+1.7)
                           31.6 Opponent RPG 38.1
70.4 FT% 71.0
12.8 APG 12.0
7.8 SPG (%) 6.7
10.5 (+2.5) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 11.7 (+4.0)
12.9 Opponent TOPG 14.33
5.8 BPG 3.1

Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here, https://www.dukeblogger.com/four-factors-winning/.]

 

[Please note that the graphical depiction is forthcoming.]

 

Duke has the edge in all the four factors. When it comes to shooting the ball more efficiently, the Blue Devils have a significant edge at 56.2% vs. 43.8%. Duke has the edge in handling the ball at 15.3% vs. 17.4% & when it comes to getting to the free throw line, 45.0% vs. 44.9%. Finally, Duke has a healthy edge in offensive rebounding (41.2% vs. 38.6%).

 Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:

Duke

  • Highly efficient attack
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Defensively challenged at times, particularly dribble penetration
  • Low turnover rate

Buffalo

  • Up tempo offense
  • Defensively challenged

Now, a few key points to consider (refer to the Endgame). These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Duke Appears to Have Found its Point Guard
    • It appears that Freshman Derryck Thornton is comfortable coming off the bench and running the team
    • The growing pains will begin to ease off and when Duke begins to face larger lineups when I expect to see him getting the start more
  • Work Jeter into the Rotation
    • Chase Jeter did not even take his warm-ups off while walk-on Nick Pagliuca actually saw a small amount of PT
    • With Duke running all over Indiana in the last 3 quarters of the 2nd half, would it not make sense in providing him some PT to get solid game-time experience…apparently not
    • He is definitely not ill as he was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the bench sitters
    • I will be shocked if he does not play when Duke faces larger lineups; Duke going small is not a bad thing, but I do not feel that it is sustainable
  • A Defensive Paradigm Shift – Use the Zone More
    • Man-to-man defense is the embodiment of Duke basketball, however several times so far this season, the Blue Devils have been torn apart so easily when playing man that Krzyzewski has gone to zone in an effort to stop the bleeding
    • They played very little zone against Indiana as it simply was not the type of matchup where it would have been beneficial
  • Better Utilization of Brandon Ingram
    • I do believe the last two games, particularly against Indiana, was this young man’s coming out party
    • Unless he becomes injured or has the inevitable slump, I do not foresee him leaving the starting lineup; he is simply too versatile
  • Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
    • Duke went only seven deep against Indiana, but that rotation only worked as they were shooting lights out and finally began to connect better at the free throw line
    • With six more games before the ACC schedule starts, even further shuffling can only help identify which five is the best to go with for conference play
    • Wednesday’s game against visiting Buffalo and the mid-December contest against Utah in the Big Apple might not be the best times to try out a different lineup, but the games against Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Elon and Long Beach State are.
    • Once we hit January, the rotation of players and their roles should be set

Endgame

The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York men’s basketball begins the 2015-16 season coming off their first Mid-American Conference Title and NCAA appearance, but if the Bulls are going to look for the repeat, they are going to have to do it with a retooled squad, led by first-year head coach Nate Oats. Oats, an assistant for the last two seasons under previous coach Bobby Hurley, was selected to lead to the team in April and he has put together a quality staff and team comprised of seven returning guys from last season and eight newcomers, including three from the Junior College ranks.

Leading the returning group is senior guard Jarryn Skeete, the only four-year player on the squad. One of the top three-point shooters in the entire league, Skeete played in 29 games last season, while making 28 starts. Skeete shot a team-high .386 from behind the arc, going 61-of-158 from three point range. Skeete is a versatile guard, who can play with both the ball in his hands and at the shooting guard position. The guard that is expected to run the majority of the offense is sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden, who was named to the All-MAC Freshman team last year. Bearden played in all 33 games last season, starting 31 of those contest. He finished with 144 assists on the year, second most on the team,while averaging 8.3 points per game. Sharing point guard duties last season, Bearden will now be the primary ball handler for the Bulls.

Senior guard/forward Rodell Wigginton had a solid first year for the Bulls last season after playing junior college ball his first two years. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia native averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and was one of the most athletic players on the floor. This season he will provide veteran leadership as one of just four players returning who were part of the regular rotation last season. Also returning this season is sophomore guard Christian Pino, who played in 11 games and sophomore guard Mory Diane, who played in four games. That group of seven will be joined by a versatile group of eight newcomers, who each bring a different aspect to the team.

Junior college transfer junior guard Willie Conner is a dynamic shooter, who played his junior college ball at Odessa Community College where he averaged 18.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, while shooting .430 from three-point range. Conner played his freshman season at Florida A&M. Fellow wing player junior guard/forward Blake Hamilton played last season at Mt. San Antonio College where he averaged 13.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while shooting .614 from the field. He has Division I experience as he played his freshman season at Northern Arizona. Junior forward/center David Kadiri played last season at South Plains Junior College, leading his team to a runner up finish in NJCAA National Championships. Kadiri had 13 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots in the championship game. Kadiri played his freshman year at Maryland-Baltimore County, where he started 10 games. Freshman forward Nick Perkins joins the Bulls from Ypsilanti, MI and is expected to make an immediate impact in the post. He helped lead his team to four league and district titles as well as two regional titles and one state crown. His team went 22-3 as a senior, while averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Fellow freshman guard CJ Massinburg comes to Western New York as UB’s first recruit from Dallas, TX. He helped lead his team to a 30-5 record as a senior as he averaged 22.3 points, 4.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. He recorded 42 points in one game during the season. The Bulls also bring freshman guard/forward Nikola Rakicevic in from Serbia where he was named to the All-Tournament Team at the U-17 World Championships where he averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He scored 19 points against the United State and 17 points against China. UB has also added a pair of walk on guards in Zac DiSalvo and Tyler Moffe. DiSalvo played at Greece Athena High School where his team went 24-1 and he averaged 18.0 points and 5.0 assists. Moffe graduated from Elmira High School as their all-time leading scorer, averaging 20.0 points and 3.2 assists during his senior season.

There is not really much to say with regard to the outcome of this game. With its superior athletes, Duke will have no problem in this game. I expect a very high scoring game here and do not be surprised if Duke approaches triple digits, with the final score being 102-73.