Also, you can check out my answers to David's questions here.
Duke has already played two games against top ten competition, and both ended up losses where the Blue Devils were playing from behind late. What did you learn about this year's team in those losses?
Those two games against top teams have shown Duke can't rely entirely on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Parker was terrific in the loss to Kansas while Hood was very good in the loss to Arizona, but the Blue Devils failed to have other guys step up down the stretch in both contests. Whether Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins stretching the floor with perimeter shooting, or Amile Jefferson providing a stronger presence in the paint, Duke needs to find more balance against the best teams.
Jabari Parker is the obvious player to watch in this one, and he has made a huge impact on Duke thus far, leading the team in points per game, rebounds per game, all while having the 25th highest usage rate in the country. In what ways does Duke use Parker on offense, and what kind of defender/defense would Michigan be best served to use against him?
That's a great question. If I had a really good answer, I could probably find a few ACC coaches that would be willing to hire me this season.
Parker has one of the most well-rounded offensive games I've ever seen from a freshman. The comparisons to Carmelo Anthony are surprisingly accurate, as Jabari can do nearly everything on the offensive end. He's shown on multiple occasions this season that he's capable of grabbing a rebound in traffic and then leading the fast break and finishing at the rim. He's also comfortable beating his defender on the low block or knocking down outside shots with his range that extends to an NBA three-point line.
If I had the task of defending Parker, the one potential weakness I've noticed in his game would be shot selection. He hits some extremely difficult shots, but it doesn't change the fact that they're still difficult. I would do my best to try to force him to take contested 17-19 foot jumpers. If he proves he can make them consistently, it's just something the defense has to live with.
What happened in Duke's close call win against Vermont? Is there anything in that near-upset that Michigan could hope to replicate?
The game against Vermont was one of the worst defensive performances Duke has had in the past 25 years. Mike Krzyzewski was noticeably frustrated and disgusted with his team's lack of effort and communication as a defensive unit and basically treated the game as a loss. When Coach K refers to his team "disrespecting the game" because of the way they played, you know he's not happy.
The Blue Devils failed to talk and regularly allowed easy penetration to the basket. The rotations off screens and on the interior was laughable, and the inability to box out on rebounds should have cost them the game. Make no mistake - Vermont deserved to win. Duke was lucky.
If Michigan can attack the basket, they could create the same problems for Duke's defense. If the Wolverines settle for outside shots, it gives the Blue Devils an easy out because they don't have to defend the paint, which is this team's biggest weakness.
Mitch McGary isn't yet at full strength, but he is back on the court and has been doing McGary-like things in spurts. How will Duke defend McGary, and do you think there is anyone on the roster that can take away the rebounding and hustle play advantage that he brings - especially considering Dukes OR% is just 28.7 (253rd) so far this year?
The fact that McGary isn't 100% healthy is probably the only thing that will slow him down at Duke. For a guy with his size, skill and athleticism, I honestly have no idea how Duke is going to stop him. Jabari Parker doesn't have the size to keep up with him and hasn't proven to be a particularly strong defender, and Amile Jefferson is also undersized and hasn't been consistent enough to provide confidence he'll be able stop McGary.
I could see Coach K going with a committee approach to try slowing him down. At least, that's what I would do. Josh Hairston, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee will each have five fouls to use and Duke could keep rotating fresh bodies against McGary to try to wear him down. It would also help if Duke can make some plays in transition and test his conditioning. Other than those factors, I see no reason why the big guy can't have a field day.
Michigan's scoring load has fallen to a talented trio of long, versatile wing players this year, and all three can and will shoot from outside. Duke has very good three-point defense numbers so far (27.0% allowed, 29th nationally) but less than one-quarter of opponent attempts have come from outside, the 15th lowest 3PA/FGA ratio nationally. How does Duke handle a Michigan offense that will look to take advantage of openings on the outside?
This is an interesting aspect of the game because it's one of the few areas where Michigan's offense plays into the strength of the Duke defense. The Blue Devils are very aggressive on the perimeter and often overplay passing lanes, which is part of why they've become so vulnerable to teams that excel with dribble penetration.
As he's been many times this season, the key for Duke's defense will be Quinn Cook. (Duke fans shudder at the thought.) When Cook allows the opposing point guard to beat him off the dribble or get open without the ball, it opens up so many holes in Duke's defense. When Cook gets beat and has to have help from a second defender, it will create opportunities for Michigan's shooters to get open looks from three-point range.
Beat Cook and Michigan likely beats Duke.
What do you think are the keys to a Duke win, and what is your prediction for how things play out on Tuesday?
Everyone knows about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood when you talk about Duke this season, but this is a team that needs more than just those two players. Rasheed Sulaimon doesn't look comfortable at all with the ball in his hands, and it's amazing how consistently Quinn Cook is inconsistent.
For Duke to win Tuesday night, someone else has to step up. Whether it's Andre Dawkins coming off the bench, Cook playing solid for an entire game, Matt Jones giving quality minutes or Sulaimon finally playing up to his potential, it has to be more than the Parker & Hood show.
Coming off a loss, I expect Duke to be extremely hungry against Michigan. The atmosphere should also be electric and the Blue Devils won't want to go in to their two-week exam break on a two-game losing streak. Jabari Parker should have a bounce back game after a poor performance against Arizona and I think Duke's role players will improve with the game being at home. Michigan keeps it close for 30 minutes until Duke pulls away in the second half.
Duke: 84 Michigan: 73