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Randy Dunson (@RandyDunson) & Brian Horace Preview Duke (16-4, 5-2) – University of Pittsburgh (18-2, 6-1)

By January 27, 2014No Comments

Duke (16-4, 5-2) – University of Pittsburgh (18-2, 6-1) Preview

Randy Dunson (@RandyDunson) & Brian Horace

January 27, 2014


Currently on a four-game winning streak, Duke heads to Pittsburgh, PA, to face ACC newcomer Pittsburgh (Pitt) Monday at 7. Duke is currently ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.  The Blue Devils are 4-4 away from home this season, including a 1-2 record in true road games. Pittsburgh (Pitt) will be the fourth top-25 team Duke has faced this season. Duke is 1-2 with a win over No. 22 Michigan (79-69) and losses to No. 4 Arizona (72-66) and No. 5 Kansas (94-83). Head coach Mike Krzyzewski recorded his 900th win at Duke Saturday, becoming the second coach in NCAA history to win 900 games at one school.


Pitt, who is currently ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll hosts Duke in an ESPN Big Monday contest at the Petersen Events Center. At 6-1 in ACC competition, Pitt enters the game in a second place tie with Virginia (6-1) and trailing league leader and undefeated Syracuse (6-0). Duke is fourth in the ACC standings at 5-2. This marks the 22nd game in the 12-year history of the Petersen Events Center history where two nationally ranked teams have met. Pitt is 15-6 in those 21 contests. Over the years, Pitt has hosted six contests where both teams were ranked in the top-10.


Team Seasons Thus Far

Pitt Panthers

In its last outing, Pitt improved to 18-2 on the season and 5-2 in the ACC with a four-point road win at Maryland (83-79). The Panthers completed a 2-0 sweep of the Terrapins and maintain a tie for second place in the league. The Panthers held a 42-37 advantage over the Terrapins at the half, the first halftime road lead this season (four road games). With the victory, Pitt has now claimed five of its last six road games and nine road wins over its past 12 road contests. The Terrapins had more field goals (26) than the Panthers (25), the first time this season Pitt won a contest in which its opponent had more field goals. Senior Lamar Patterson scored a team-high 28 points, the most for the forward since his career-high performance of 30 on December 21 versus Cal Poly. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon now owns a 17-0 record vs. previous ACC teams and a 33-11 overall record vs. current ACC teams.

Pitt returns three starters, senior forward Lamar Patterson (17.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG), senior center Talib Zanna (13.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG), and sophomore guard James Robinson (8.3 PPG, 4.2 APG), and two of its top three scorers from a 2012-13 team that finished 24-9 overall, 12-6 and in fourth place in its final year in the Big East Conference.

Patterson has emerged as a national player of the year candidate (Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List) and an ACC Player of the Year candidate. With a perfect 12-0 home record and current 14-game home win streak intact, Pitt is in its 12th season at the Petersen Events Center and carries a 192-22 record (.897) in the arena. The Panthers have won 98 of their last 110 home games and 41 of their last 51 conference home games. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon owns a 17-0 record vs. previous ACC teams and a 33-11 overall record vs. current ACC teams (including Syracuse and Notre Dame). When comparing ACC basketball programs over the last 13 years, Pitt ranks second among league programs in overall winning percentage (337-98, .774), league winning percentage (147-64, .697), home court winning percentage (.897), and NCAA Tournament appearances (11).

Pitt has won its 18 games by an average of 16.2 points per game. Sixteen of Pitt’s 18 wins have come by nine or more points and 12 of its 18 are by 17 points or more. Offensively, the Panthers are averaging 76.3 points per game, converting 48.8 percent (533-1092) of field goals, 35.0 percent (96-274) of 3-point field goals and a decent 72.1 percent (365-506) of free throw attempts. Pitt is also outrebounding its opponents by a sizable plus-9.2 margin. Defensively, Pitt is holding its opponents to 60.2 points per game and yielding a 40.2 (424-1056) field goal percentage. Seventeen of Pitt’s 20 opponents have been held to 70 points or less and 11 have been limited to 60 points or less.


Duke Blue Devils

Duke’s last game, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Satrurday, was a very impressive win over a very tough Florida State team, 78-56. Duke outrebounded Florida State 47-24 with a season-high 27 offensive boards. The +23 rebounding margin was a season-high, while the 27 offensive rebounds were the third most in the Coach K era. Rodney Hood shook off an illness that made him a late scratch from the starting lineup and scored a team-high 18 points. Hood only hit 4-of-12 shots from the field, but connected on 9-of-11 free throws and hauled in a career-high nine rebounds in the win. Jabari Parker recorded his second straight double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass. The 10 offensive boards tied Elton Brand for the most offensive rebounds by a Duke player in the Coach K era. Marshall Plumlee broke out for a career-high seven points and seven rebounds, all on the offensive end.


Duke’s defense has been strong during its current four-game win streak as the Blue Devils have allowed just 56.8 points per game. The opposition has shot 42.7 percent (85-of-199) from the field, including just 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from three-point range, in that span. The Blue Devils have held the opposition to five or fewer three-point field goals in 18 of 20 games this season, including three straight games with just two made three-pointers. Duke opponents are shooting just .293 (80-of-273) from behind the three-point line this season with just 4.0 made three-pointers per game. Duke has outrebounded its opponent by double digits in back-to-back games, posting margins of +14 against Miami and a season-high of +23 against Florida State. Parker is averaging 14.5 rebounds per game in that two-game stretch, including 8.0 offensive rebounds. He also has recorded a double-double in back-to-back games. His six double-doubles this season rank tied for the most in the ACC and tied for the third most by a Duke freshman. His six double-figure rebounding games rank tied for fourth most by a Duke freshman. Duke is 9-0 this season and 38-2 in his career when Andre Dawkins reaches double figures in scoring. Rodney Hood leads the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (.449 – 40-of-89), ranks third in field goal percentage (.511 – 116-of-227) and fifth in free throw percentage (.844 –81-of-96). Hood is the only player in the conference to rank among the top five in those three shooting categories. Rasheed Sulaimon is shooting .591 (13-of-22) from three-point range over his past 10 games and is Duke’s leading scorer off the bench with 10.3 points per game when not in the starting lineup. Amile Jefferson is averaging 7.0 points and 8.7 rebounds since returning to the starting lineup on January 7. He is shooting 64.0 percent (16-of-25) from the field during that five-game stretch.



Pitt and Duke meet for the 13th time in series history. The series is tied at 6-6. The last time the two schools met was on Dec. 20, 2007, a 65-64 Pitt victory at Madison Square Garden in the Aeropostale Classic. Pitt’s Levance Fields converted a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime. The last time Duke played at Pitt was on January 12, 1974, a 62-46 Pitt victory at Fitzgerald Field House. Several of Pitt’s greatest basketball performances have come against Duke.


Game Keys

When we look at the Four Factors to Winning this week, we find that these two teams are very evenly matched. Duke has a slight edge in shooting (eFG%) at 55 vs. 53.2 and ball handling (TO%) at 14.3 vs. 16.1. Pitt holds an advantage offensive rebounding (OR%) 39.1 vs. 33 and shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 46.3% vs. 42..5.



Key Stats

As one twitter follower said to me, Pitt plays a grown mans game and Duke will need to mature on the boards to keep up with Pitt. Duke will need to prove that what they did against Florida State on the boards was not an aberration and really crash them against Pitt. Duke will also need to shoot a lot better than it did against the Seminoles. Pitt is so far perfect at home and riding a 14 game home winning streak. Duke has not played particularly well this year, especially on the road. Most are saying this game will show a lot about Duke and how much they have progressed on both ends of the floor but moreover in the trenches. Rebounding, 50-50 plays and free throw shooting will be important stats to look to at the end of this one. It will tell the tale. Duke will need to choke off the leading scorer and assist leader for Pitt, Lamar Patterson. Patterson is also 2nd on the team in rebounds. The offense will try to run through the senior guard/forward who is averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game.



If Duke does manage to win, and we do think they will. It will be by a slim margin. Pitt is one of the toughest outs in the ACC much to the surprise of most who, including me, judged them on the softness of their schedule. If Duke has an off shooting night tonight fans will have every reason to worry.  Duke has the advantage from beyond the arc but they must pay close attention to shot selection. If Duke gets in the habit of depending on the 3 instead of using it as it comes naturally or in the flow of the offense or in transition, the advantage shits to Pitts favor in a big way. Establishing a rhythm and secondary scorers like Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Andre Dawkins are a must if Duke is to pull off the win at Pitt.