NCAAT Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Yale Bulldogs – March 19, 2016

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NCAA Tournament Game Preview (West Region – Round 2)

Duke Blue Devils [24-10] vs. Yale Bulldogs [23-6]

Saturday, March 19, 2016 • 2:40 PM • CBS • Providence, RI • Dunkin Donuts Center

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

Team Overviews

About the Bulldogs

yaleYale made history on Thursday, winning the first NCAA Tournament game in the 121-year history of the program. Next up, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to become the first Ivy League team since Cornell in 2010 to advance to the Sweet 16 when they play Duke on Saturday at approximately 2:40 PM at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

The winner of the Yale-Duke game moves on in the West Region to Anaheim next Thursday. It has been a memorable year for the Bulldogs, who have won 23 overall games, the most victories in a season since the 1906-07 team went 30-7-1. Yale has won six straight games, 18 of its last 19 and has lost only once in the calendar year 2016. In the last 19 games, Yale’s scoring margin is +16.2 points.

Thursday’s win over Baylor in the first round was not quite that easy. The Bulldogs had a 12-point lead with eight minutes left but the Bears rallied, closing within one, 76-75, with 14 seconds left. Nick Victor, though, hit 1-of-2 free throws, Baylor turned it over on its next possession, and Brandon Sherrod sealed the win with two free throws with two seconds left.

Makai Mason paced the Bulldogs with a career-high 31 points. He was 9-of-18 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Mason’s 31 points tied for the fourth highest single-game total in an opening round game. Only Kevin Mullin (38 for Princeton in 1984), Aaric Murray (38 for Texas Southern in 2014 and Tyler Haws (33 for BYU in 2015) scored more.

The Bulldogs reached the tournament after rolling through Ivy League play with a 13-1 record, which equals the best mark in school history, tying the 1962 team. Yale’s average margin of victory in its 13 Ivy wins was 13.6 points, and the Bulldogs had a double-digit lead at some point in all but two of its Ivy games.

The Ivy League title is the sixth in school history and the second straight. Yale shared the 2015 crown with Harvard before losing a one-game playoff for the league’s automatic NCAA bid. It is the first time the Bulldogs have won back-to-back championships since 1962 and 1963. Yale’s other Ivy titles came in 1957 and 2002 (shared with Penn and Princeton).

Yale’s formula for success has been rebounding, defense and sharing the ball. The Bulldogs have been among the national leaders in rebounding margin throughout the season, and they lead the Ivy League in scoring defense (63.6 PPG.) and assists (15.1 per game) and are second in field goal percentage defense (.408). Yale features the Ivy League Player of the Year in Justin Sears and the league’s Coach of the Year in James Jones. Sears, who also won the award last year, is the first two-time winner in school history and the first back-to-back winner in the league since Penn’s Ibrahim Jaaber in 2006 and 2007.

Sherrod and Mason were also first team selections.

Probable Starters

Position           Name                        Ht.          Wt.         Cl.           PPG       RPG       APG

G                         Makai Mason         6-1          185         So.          16.3        2.7          3.7

G                         Anthony Dallier     6-6          190         Jr.           4.7          3.1          1.3

G                         Nick Victor              6-5          220         Sr.           6.8          7.2          2.5

F                          Justin Sears            6-8          205         Sr.           15.9        7.4          2.9

F                          Brandon Sherrod                 6-6          240         Sr.           12.4        7.0          2.5


About the Blue Devils

DUKEOne season ago, when everyone expected that undefeated Kentucky would march to the NCAA title, fellow blue blood Duke clipped the nets instead. Can they repeat? That might be a bit much to expect. Thanks to Grayson Allen’s grit and scoring touch, the Blue Devils have had a fine season in the ACC, upsetting North Carolina on the road, but this is not one of Mike Krzyzewski’s better teams. Still, Coach K is one of the best tournament coaches ever, so a Final Four run is not out of the question.

The Blue Devils took a huge hit when they lost Jefferson, a post presence and veteran leader, and their youth has shown at the defensive end. There is plenty of offensive firepower with sophomore guard Grayson Allen (21.6 points) leading the way, but two of the team’s top three, Brandon Ingram (16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds) and Luke Kennard (11.9 points), are freshmen who are unproven on the big stage. Allen, Ingram, and junior guard Matt Jones (10.8 points) all love to shoot from the outside and are the first trio in program history to each make at least 70 3-pointers in a season.

The Duke Blue Devils aren’t the same team they were a year ago, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Being as talented as they were a year ago or not, they will enter the 2016 NCAA tournament with a No. 4 seed, and they still have the goods to make a deep run. Although records, rankings and basically everything in general goes out the college basketball window once the dance begins, Yale comes into this matchup off a major upset of the Baylor Bears.

As March Madness rolls around, the defending champions come in playing some of their most inconsistent basketball of the season. Duke will have to see if they can flip the switch to get back on track if they hope to defend their crown. Duke is 17th in the nation in scoring offense with 81.5 points per game. The Blue Devils are shooting 45.9 percent from the floor as a team. Duke knocks down 9.3 three-point field goals per game while shooting 38.7 percent from long range. The Blue Devils get to the line 24 times a night this season. Duke is converting 72.2 percent of their chances. Grayson Allen leads Duke with 21.6 points plus 4.5 boards and 3.6 dimes per contest.

The Blue Devils are pretty average on the defensive side of things as they are 182nd in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 72.1 points per game. Opposing teams are hitting 44.5 percent from the floor against the Blue Devils. Duke is giving up 6.1 three pointers per game on 33.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils send their opponents to the line 15.7 times per contest and their opponents are knocking down 68.4 percent of those chances. Brandon Ingram (16.8 points, 6.8 boards), Matt Jones, Luke Kennard, and Amile Jefferson are all averaging in double figures. Derryck Thornton and Marshall Plumlee each contribute at least 7.5 points per game. Jefferson played in only nine games before breaking his foot and he’s been ruled out for the year.

Probable Starters

Position           Name                        Ht.          Wt.         Cl.           PPG       RPG       APG

G                         Grayson Allen        6-5          205         So.          21.6        3.6          4.6

G                         Matt Jones             6-5          200         Jr.           10.8        2.8          2.3

G                         Derryk Thornton 6-2          175         Fr.           7.4          1.9          2.5

G/F                    Brandon Ingram   6-9          190         Fr.           16.9        6.9          1.9

C                         Marshall Plumlee                 7-0          250         Gr.          8.6          8.6          1.1


Statistical Comparisons

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/.]

 

Four Factors (Offense) Current [Duke vs. Yale – % (National Rank)] First Game
Shooting (eFG%) 53.8 (32) vs. 52.7 (53) 54.3 vs. 42.9
Turnovers (TO%) 14.3 (5) vs. 20.0 (292) 13.6 vs. 17.5
Free Throws (FTRate) 41.2 (67) vs. 42.6 (39) 41.4 vs. 19.0
Rebounding (OR%) 34.0 (47) vs. 38.9 (7) 37.5 vs. 33.3

Here, I have illustrated the current and previous game’s offensive factors. Essentially, the first game is for an illustrative comparison for so much has changed since last November.

Currently, these teams are split. As noted below, the most telling difference reflects the absence of Amile Jefferson in terms of OR%.

 

  • When it comes to shooting the ball more efficiently, Duke has a slight edge, 53.8% vs. 52.7%
  • The Blue Devils have a huge edge in taking care of the ball (TO%), 14.3% vs. 20.0%
  • When it came to getting to the free throw line (FTA/FGA), Yale has a slight edge, 42.6% vs. 41.2%
  • Finally, Yale has a demanding edge in terms of offensive rebounding, 38.9 vs. 34.0%

Following are scouting reports for both teams to illustrate their overall offensive & defensive statistics as well as where they rank nationally.

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Game Notables

Yale

  • Yale’s five non-conference losses came to teams that currently have a combined record of 108-54 (.667). Three (SMU, Duke, USC) of the teams that beat the Bulldogs are or have been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
  • The Bulldogs are 13-0 when they commit fewer turnovers than their opponent does.
  • Yale outrebounded its opponent in 22 of its 28 games and is 20-2 when winning the battle of the boards. In three of the remaining six games, the rebounding totals were equal.
  • Yale head coach James Jones’ 141 Ivy League victories are tied with former Bulldog head coach Joe Vancisin for the third most in league history, and his 253 overall wins are the third most in league history. In addition, Yale has a .592 winning percentage in league games during his tenure, by far the highest in school history.
  • Yale is 0-2 against teams in the field. The Bulldogs lost at Duke 80-61 on Nov. 25 and fell 68-56 at USC on Dec. 13.

Duke

  • Fourth-seeded Duke will face Yale for the second time this season when the teams square off on Saturday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
  • Duke had four players score in double figures in its 80-61 home win over Yale on Nov. 25.
  • Duke has been a No. 4 seed or better in 29 of its 32 NCAA Tournament trips under Mike Krzyzewski.
  • Duke has the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage in the event’s history (.757) and ranks third all-time in NCAA Tournament wins (106).
  • Krzyzewski has won an NCAA-record 89 NCAA Tournament games, including 41 this century.

 Endgame

Lest we not forget that we have played this team before, way back on November 25, 2015. Obviously, these are two different teams now. Yale most definitely is a contender after upsetting the Baylor Bears on Thursday. This game will likely be very similar to the UNCW game with one glaring exception, rebounding in that Yale ranks 5th nationally in OR%.

It took 54 years for the biggest win in the history of the Yale program. The 12-seed was thought by some to be the safest upset pick of the No. 12 vs. No. 5 games, and the Bulldogs delivered, defeating the Baylor Bears 79-75.

From the start, this was a poor matchup for Scott Drew’s Bears. Not only is Yale impossible to keep off the offensive glass, the team is equally as skilled keeping teams from accumulating additional possessions. The Bulldogs held Baylor, a team that grabbed 40 percent of its misses in 2016, to a scant 28 percent offensive rebounding clip Thursday.

Even though the Bears scored 1.11 points per possession, the squad flailed on the other side of the ball, and Yale, who dropped 1.19 PPP, now moves on for a rematch with No. 4 Duke, a team that defeated the Bulldogs earlier this season, 80-61.

However, that was a much different Duke team. In addition, things could be very different in Round 2. Amile Jefferson, who is now out for the year, logged 25 minutes, and grabbed 12 boards in that first contest. His absence will make Saturday’s dynamic more interesting.

Even though Duke’s small-ball lineup with Matt Jones, Derryk Thornton, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen scores at an obscene efficiency rate, Yale relies on Nick Victor and Justin Sears to help on ball-penetration near the rim (12.6 percent block rate) and is adept at preventing additional possessions.

Yale is terrible at forcing turnovers, coach James Jones would rather the team stick with their man and funnel opponents to the waiting shot blockers, but the Bulldogs could be able to contain the Blue Devils. One issue, though, might be the Bulldogs’ lack of depth. Brandon Sherrod and Sears both had foul issues against Baylor, and while Jones was able to lean on his reserves, that might be more of a problem against an offensively resplendent Duke.

Because of their size advantages in Thursday’s game against UNC-Wilmington, Duke (Brandon Ingram, in particular) was able to grab a board and immediately morph into their transition offense, sparking quick points and trips to the foul line. That shouldn’t happen versus Yale. First, those defensive boards shouldn’t be available. And second, the Bulldogs are the rare team that crashes the offensive glass but is also stingy with its transition defense, allowing opponents to notch an effective field goal percentage of 45.7 percent, the 20th best mark in Division I.

During the first meeting with Duke in late November, Yale’s offense struggled, making just four of its threes. But back when Duke was a much better defensive squad with Jefferson. Per HoopLens, Duke’s small lineup with Jefferson at center held opponents to 0.90 PPP. Without him, it jumps to 1.00. Yale should be able to not only take advantage of the offensive glass, a significant trouble spot for the Blue Devils, who are sieve-like at securing boards. And while Duke does press up on the perimeter, there could be significant opportunities for backdoor cuts from the Ivy Leaguers.

This could be particularly advantageous for Makai Mason, who scored 31 points in the win over Baylor, and is adept creating off the bounce. According to Hoop-Math.com, just 17.0 percent of his shots within the arc in are assisted. As a whole, the team’s non-transition effective field goal percentage is just outside of the nation’s top 50 (51.8 percent). And the Bulldogs are not known to hurry their offense. It takes about 18 seconds for the squad to attempt a shot. That pace could limit the superior athleticism of Duke.

Yale does struggle with teams that apply ball-pressure, but that won’t be a factor against the Blue Devils. Duke’s ball-hawking tendencies are non-existent, forcing an opponent to commit a giveaway on just 16.8 percent of its possessions during ACC play.

Keys to Watch For

Keys for Yale

  • Duke has looked vulnerable, and UNC Wilmington made the Blue Devils sweat in the first round, and the Bulldogs are playing with house money at this point
  • Guard Makai Mason opened eyes during Yale’s upset win over Baylor, but he isn’t a one-game wonder
    • He can score from the perimeter and plays smart basketball on both ends
  • The biggest key for the Bulldogs will be controlling Brandon Ingram, whose athleticism will create problems for Yale
  • Getting him in early foul trouble is critical

Keys for Duke

  • Marshall Plumlee had a field day during the first round vs. UNCW, but that came because he was the biggest guy on the court
    • He needs to fill that same role in the second round, and when Plumlee is an active part of Duke’s attack, they are tough to stop
  • Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram can fill up the box score by scoring inside and out, but Duke is at its best when it finds a third option, and Plumlee needs to be that guy vs. Yale
  • The Blue Devils also need to crank up the defense to get to the Sweet 16
  • Finally, If Duke can prevent the Bulldogs’ shooters from getting hot from beyond the arc, the Blue Devils should be able to take control of the game

Prediction

The Blue Devils unquestionably have the best talent, but Duke has been sloppy with the ball and aren’t the disciplined team we’ve come to know this year. That said, Yale simply doesn’t have the horses to hang with the Blue Devils, and look for Grayson Allen to have a huge game. Duke wins 73-61.

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