November 10, 2017
Cameron Indoor Stadium
Where to watch:
Friday night Duke takes on the Elon Phoenix in the first true game of the season. Elon is coached by Matt Matheny (9th season), a took the Phoenix to an 18-14 record last season. Duke is coming off of two exhibition victories against North West Missouri State and most recently Bowie State. The Phoenix are coming off of a 99-63 drubbing of Randolph College on November 1. Elon returns a veteran team who played the Blue Devils tight last year, even going into the half with a 1 point lead before being outscored by 12 in the second half and losing 72-61. Much will be made of that happened last year with Grayson Allen being assessed a technical foul for tripping Elon guard Steven Santa Ana that led to an eventual suspension.
ELON: Elon is a veteran group who returns all five starter from last years team. Including leading scorer Tyler Seibring at forward who averaged 14.4 points a game as a sophomore. The Phoenix also return senior forward Brain Dawkins and a trio of guards in Steven Santa Ana, Dmitri Thompson and Dainan Swoope. All were double figure scorers for the Phoenix except for Thompson who average 8.9 points a game. Once again Duke will have a marked advantage in size with only one player (Karolis Kundrotas) over 6’9 expected to play meaningful minutes.
Although only shooting 35% as a team from 3 point range, Elon boasts 3 players that take the bulk of the 3 point shots who shoot it over 36%, with Dawkins last year hitting at a 45% clip. Tyler Seibring will be an interesting matchup for Duke. Seibring is listed as a forward and plays at around 6’8 / 225 but is 3rd on the team in 3 point attempts and second in percentage. He will surely test the versatility of the Duke defenders who have to be aware not to go under screens and leave the sharpshooter open beyond the arc. Even on switches the defenders have to be aware of who is a shooter and who isn’t.
DUKE: Duke lost Freshmen Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson and sophomore Luke Kennard to the NBA Draft. They also lost seniors Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones to graduation and Chase Jeter (AZ) to transfer. Duke will have to replace 76% of their scoring and 75% of their rebounding this season and these spots will be filled with a mostly freshmen team.
Duke should, barring any last-minute mischief, have it’s full complement of players and I expect them to attack the rim against Elon early and often. Duke will once again be bigger than their opponent but the experience is definitely in favor of the phoenix. Duke while heavy on talent in the paint should still have the ability to keep the Elon defense honest with Gary Trent and Grayson Allen both shooting at a high level. Both are capable of taking advantage of any sags in the defenses. Duke may have the best tandem of 2 guards in the nation with Allen and Trent and both have the strength and ability to score at all 3 levels and to finish at the hoop over defenders.
In two exhibition games Duke shot 33% and 28% from 3 point range but countered that with shooting 60% from the field overall.
Grayson Allen, who is already constantly under a microscope of his own making, will have the collective eyes of the basketball world fixed on every aspect of his behavior. Elon is no pushover and I expect them in some way to go at Allen. It will be a test to see if this Grayson Allen, a senior now, is able to more adequately deal with adversity on the court and keep his emotions and competitive fire trained on playing basketball.