Full-Court Press: Weekend Primer

Trying to avoid back-to-back losses, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils will square off with Georgia Tech on Saturday

True or False: The loss to Temple earlier in the week exposed flaws in Duke’s offense/defense

Zach Zimmerman (@Zach_Zimmerman): True. It’s no secret that Duke is vulnerable when it’s uncomfortable on the perimeter. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 16 times and only managed to drop in six shots from distance. But if I’m an opposing coach, I’m trying to find ways to take advantage of Austin Rivers’ fondness of shooting, because 3-of-11 performances from the freshman rarely end well.

Josh Riddell (@TheMikanDrill): I don’t think Temple showed us anything we didn’t know earlier. Duke doesn’t have enough players who can score on their own and even fewer people who can create shots for their teammates. Austin Rivers’ decision-making is drastically improved from the first few games but not enough to make Duke a top five team. On defense, the Plumlees demonstrated they are still not ready to be the post defenders a championship team needs. I don’t think Temple exposed anything new but they did remind us this Duke team is not very strong, which many thought at the beginning of the year but forgot after some solid early wins.

Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): It showed the Duke is vulnerable from inside the three-point line. 62.0% of their points allowed have come on two-point shots, the third highest mark in the nation. They don’t block shots and you can score on them closer to the basket. Not everyone will be able to take advantage the way Temple did, but the chink is there.

Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid): True. Not offensively; the Blue Devils are excellent there. On the defensive end, however, Duke’s inability to contain dribble penetration remains a glaring issue. Krzyzewski’s worst statistical defensive team of this millennium will need to find a way to guard the basketball—or switch to a scheme less predicated on ball pressure.

Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell): Exposed? False. The loss showed nothing we didn’t already know about Duke. They struggle to stop dribble penetration, but are typically effective at protecting the rim. A lot of Temple’s points came on contested shots. The Owls committed 17 turnovers. Duke’s shot selection, (cough…Austin Rivers), effort on the glass (minus-3 rebound margin), and poor ball-handling made the difference Wednesday.

You have been given a private plane and a golden ticket to any game in America on Saturday. Where are you going?

JR: Syracuse-Marquette. It’s the easy pick but I think we have the opportunity to learn the most from this game about each team out of all the weekend games. Can Marquette bounce back from its loss to Georgetown and hang with (or beat) a great Syracuse team on the road? This will be Syracuse’s second best opponent so far, behind Florida, and it will give us a better idea of whether they are a legitimate national title contender or not. For the record, I have Syracuse by seven. I don’t think people are realizing how big of a loss Chris Otule was for Marquette.

IL: Fresno State at the University of Idaho. I’m heading back to Moscow, Idaho to watch my alma mater get back on track after four straight losses. The Vandals are one of the hottest three-point shooting teams in the nation and should make some noise in the WAC this year. After the game I’m heading straight for John’s Alley for ping-pong, dollar PBRs, and the best local music in town.

AA: Give me a ticket to the Carrier Dome—and not because I like the January weather in upstate New York. Marquette-Syracuse figures to be a compelling match-up of two athletic teams: can senior leaders Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder orchestrate a road upset against the top-ranked Orange?

JP: Miami at Virginia. The Hurricanes are 4-0 since Reggie Johnson returned from an off-season knee injury, averaging 88 points per game in that span. Virginia allows just 50.4 points per game, which ranks them second nationally. Even though the Cavaliers have won 11 straight, they’ve been shaky of late against a soft schedule.

ZZ: I’d head to Ann Arbor on Sunday for Michigan and Wisconsin. I’m still not totally sold on the Big Ten as the supremely dominant conference in America. If both teams perform admirably, I’ll consider changing my tune. Plus, I want to see if Jordan Taylor can capitalize on his 28-point performance against Michigan State.

The most shocking upset from Saturday’s 141-game schedule will be?

IL: I’m going out on a limb here, but I say Marquette beats Syracuse. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom get hot from the outside, busting the zone and rendering moot Fab Melo’s presence in the middle.

AA: Given only a 22% chance by the Pomeroy computer, I’ll go with Miami on the road in Charlottesville. While Virginia has been an early-season ACC surprise, Miami’s red-hot offense and inside-out firepower (with the return of Reggie Johnson) will be too much for the Cavaliers. Jim Larranaga makes a road statement in his ACC debut.

JP: I think 3-12 Rhode Island will knock off Richmond. The Spiders aren’t knocking on the Top 25’s door, but they’ve lost to quality teams and are better than their 9-7 record indicates. Facing the Rams on the road could be a trap game for a young Richmond team that is still learning Chris Mooney’s system.

ZZ: Give me some West Virginia at home over Georgetown. Take away an embarrassing loss to Seton Hall and you’re left with a three-loss Mountaineers squad that came oh-so-close to beating Baylor. More importantly, Kevin Jones might be the best player the Hoyas face all season.

JR: I’ll go with Arkansas over Mississippi State. I’m still hesitant to trust the Bulldogs and Mike Anderson has the Razorbacks playing excellent defense as they haven’t conceded one point per possession in their last six games, although it was against weak competition. Arkansas doesn’t have a signature win yet but this is a chance to start SEC conference play off right and get a resume building win.

What road favorite needs to show something tomorrow?

AA: Entering the “Octagon of Doom,” Missouri will be a slight favorite against Kansas State. Will Bramlage Coliseum, a fired-up Frank Martin, and a physical Wildcat team be too much for Mizzou to overcome? Frank Haith’s conference road record at Miami was nothing short of abysmal: will that change in the Big 12?

JP: Mississippi State ought to win in Fayetteville, but Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks won’t make it easy on the Bulldogs. Rick Stansbury typically only plays three guys off the bench. His team’s depth will be tested against the Hogs’ high-pressure defense. A win for the Bulldogs means they should get to 4-0 in the SEC before going to Vanderbilt on Jan. 21.

ZZ: Mississippi State is coming off two underwhelming games against Baylor and Utah State. It’s not that I think the Bulldogs are overrated, it’s that the roster is comprised of guys that may not be the best at battling through adversity. Oh, and Arkansas, currently on a six-game winning streak, is no creampuff.

JR: Florida State needs to beat Clemson and start 1-0 in the ACC if they want to challenge for the third spot in conference. Clemson is an average team, if that, and FSU needs to keep its offensive momentum from the Auburn game going into conference play. FSU has Virginia Tech, UNC, Maryland and Duke after this game, so they need a win against Clemson in a tricky matchup on the road.

IL: Missouri. This Kansas State team is as good as anyone they’ve played this season. The Tigers have only won one true away game this season, they need to show they can power through a power opponent.

Okay, so it’s fairly conceivable that somebody will nail a buzzer beater on Saturday. Who ya got?

JP: Where’s Chandler Parsons when you need him? Shoot. In that case, I’m going to call William & Mary’s Kendrix Brown sending Kaplan Arena into a frenzy when he drills a last-second three to shock Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens in Williamsburg, giving the Tribe just their fourth win this season in a rebuilding year for Tony Shaver’s program.

ZZ: How about the aforementioned Kevin Jones? He’s averaging nearly 20 and 12, and although I’m not expecting a fading three as time expires, he is always around the rim. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a good tip-slam at the buzzer, and you know the Coliseum is always ready to explode.

JR: Kevin Jones of West Virginia will hit a shot to propel West Virginia to a win over Georgetown. And if it actually happens, everyone reading this owes me $5 so I can turn the luck it took to make this pick into something much larger.

IL: I made a bold assertion, preseason, that Hollis Thompson was the guy in the Big East I’d want taking a last second shot. I say he hits his second game-winner of the season knocking off West Virginia.

AA: Speaking of Missouri, my “pick to click” is Kim English from behind the arc (following a drive-and-kick pass from “Flip” Pressey). The Tigers answer the bell (barely) in their first conference road test. You can put it on the board… YES!