Skip to content

No. 6 Duke vs. No. 4 Arizona is more than just a matchup of freshmen

Nov 28, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Alabama Duke Basketball

From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.

NEW YORK — No. 6 Duke got the win they were supposed to get and they did it the way they were supposed to do it.

Freshman phenom Jabari Parker finished with 27 points on 9-for-12 shooting while adding eight boards as the Blue Devils overcame a slow start to knock off Alabama 74-64 and advance to the finals of the Preseason NIT. Parker is only the third freshman in the last decade to score at least 20 points in his team’s first seven games. The other two were Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon. Impressive company.

It took a couple of minutes for the Blue Devils to finally wake up, but once they did, they turned a 12-5 deficit into a 46-28 lead in the blink of an eye. Alabama threw a press at Duke in the second half, whittling the lead down to six at one point, but they never got any closer than that. Freshman Matt Jones, who has struggled a bit early on this season, hit a pair of threes midway through the first half to help kick start the Blue Devil’s run while it was Quinn Cook that hit some big shots down the stretch. Jones finished with 13 points and Cook chipped in with 17, production Duke desperately needed due to the foul trouble that Rodney Hood found himself in. He finished the night with just 21 minutes.

“When a run happens and a team doesn’t fold is spectacular,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “A lot of teams, in that situation, would lose the game. I’m very, very proud of my team.”

While none of the writers on press row will admit it publicly, this is the outcome we were all rooting for.

Because now, on Friday afternoon at the Garden, we’ll get a chance to see those very Blue Devils go up against No. 4 Arizona, who made a sterling comeback of their own on Wednesday night.

The game will be billed as a matchup between Parker and his fellow freshmen Aaron Gordon, which is to say anyone that buys into that tired story line will be doing the game a disservice. That’s lazy. There’s so much more to discuss that simply naming the two star freshmen.

Duke is not a big basketball team. In fact, when their best team is on the floor, Duke is as small as any nationally relevant team in the country, as they have been using three guards along with Hood at the four and Parker at the five. There aren’t many teams out there that are capable of fielding a team that can matchup with that array of perimeter talent, but Arizona can. The Wildcats have the ability to be an absolutely stalwart defensive team, and they may have the most versatile roster in the country. If Sean Miller so pleases, he can run Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson out there with T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson and Gabe York and be satisfied knowing that he won’t be breaking out of his rotation to go small enough to matchup with Duke.

Getting Arizona to go small will be a key for the Blue Devils because they won’t have an answer for Kaleb Tarczewski or Brandon Ashley in the paint. Tarczewski played a phenomenal second half against Drexel, dominating the low block and scoring every time he got a touch and Drexel neglected to double-team him. He did so despite playing a miserable first half, something that wouldn’t have happened in past years. Duke doesn’t have anyone that can guard Tarczewski down low. Not Josh Hairston, no Marshall Plumlee and not Amile Jefferson. Would they be willing to risk playing Parker on Tarczewski in the post if Arizona doesn’t go small? What happens to the Blue Devils if Parker gets into foul trouble?

Who will be the first coach to be forced to make a change? Will Coach K go big before Miller goes small?

That’s not the only fascinating part of this matchup.

Duke is one of the best offensive teams in the country, ranking first in offensive efficiency on Kenpom. Arizona’s strength is on the defensive end of the floor. Duke can push tempo with the best of them, but will they want to against an Arizona team who can struggle running half court offense? Will it matter given the fact that Duke has been as bad defensively as any of the teams that Coach K has had in his career?

With the exception of the couple of poor souls that made it all the way to the Garden in their Drexel and Alabama gear, everyone in that arena was hoping to see Duke and Arizona advance to the final.

We got what we wanted: another early season, neutral court, top ten tilt.

That’s awesome, and not simply because of the two freshmen on the floor.

Latest Posts
  1. Indiana begins new tradition at ‘Hoosier Hysteria’ (VIDEO)

    Oct 26, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

    Tom Crean Tom Crean

    Indiana’s nine newcomers received their candy-striped warmup pants from former IU players Saturday night.

  2. Tulsa lands verbal commitment from South Plains College guard

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:24 PM EDT

    Frank Haith AP

    Pat Birt was a Horizon League All-Freshman Team selection at UIC last season.

  3. Keifer Sykes repeats as Green Bay’s slam dunk champion (VIDEO)

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    sykes AP

    Keifer Sykes is one of the best dunkers in America, and he was at it again Saturday afternoon.

  4. Tom Izzo, Steve Mariucci discuss career possibilities in college ‘flashback’ (VIDEO)

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    tom izzo

    The intro video to Tom Izzo’s memorable entrance at “Michigan State Madness” Friday night.

  5. Hawaii considering its options regarding NCAA investigation of basketball program

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT

    Gib Arnold AP

    While head coach Gib Arnold released a statement saying that the school had yet to receive a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, the administration is considering the option of self-imposing sanctions.

  6. Transcript controversy leads to two Florida A&M players losing their scholarships

    Oct 25, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT

    Georgia Athletics Georgia Athletics

    Byron Samuels already had a tough rebuilding job in front of him as a result of Florida A&M being hit with a postseason ban for low APR numbers.

  7. Not even Wofford’s coach saw them becoming the Southern Conference’s best program

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Wofford guard Karl Cochran (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Mike Young has seen the Wofford men’s basketball program come a long way since he first joined the coaching staff back in 1989.

  8. Rice lands two commitments in back-to-back days

    Oct 25, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Under Armour Under Armour

    A three-star commit on Friday night, a top-70 pledge on Saturday morning. This has been a big weekend for first-year head coach Mike Rhoades.

  9. Syracuse center has put on 45 pounds, described by NBA scout as ‘chiseled’

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Cuse.com Cuse.com

    A story from Syracuse.com says the first-year big man does up to 500 pushups daily.

  10. Wake Forest gets 2016 commitment from assistant coach’s son

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    AP AP

    This is Danny Manning’s third commitment this month, first in the Class of 2016.

  11. 2014-15 Southern Conference Preview: Wofford, Chattanooga favored in Davidson’s absence

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Wofford guard Karl Cochran (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Davidson is gone, but that does not mean that the SoCon will be a bad basketball league.

  12. Top 10 recruit cuts his list to three schools

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Only three programs remain in contention for the nation’s top rated point guard.

  13. Makinde London juggles three basketballs, dunks two during Xavier dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Makinde London

    Pretty good dunk, but still not better than Chris Mack’s entrance.

  14. Roy Williams says he was ‘dumbfounded’ following Kenneth Wainstein’s report (VIDEO)

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Roy Williams Getty Images

    The Hall of Fame coach makes his first comments, several days after Kenneth Wainstein released his report.

  15. Tom Izzo performs with KISS cover band on stage at Michigan State’s Midnight Madness (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    tom izzo

    Tom Izzo does it again. Add it to the long line of amazing midnight madness entrances.

  16. Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ by the Beastie Boys (PHOTO/VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Instagram/XU Athletics Instagram/XU Athletics

    Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ at Musketeer Madness on Friday night.

  17. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker injured at practice on Friday

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Wisconsin forward is likely to miss a week or two

  18. Providence freshman forward, a top 100 recruit, is cleared to play this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Ed Cooley Ed Cooley

    Ed Cooley adds a 6-foot-8 forward to the Friars’ front court.

  19. Larry Brown talks about Ben Emelogu’s wavier to play this season (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Virginia Tech Hokie will be a big boost to SMU’s perimeter.

  20. Manhattan’s returnees look to build on the achievements of last season’s senior class

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards will be key players for Manhattan. (AP Photo) AP

    Manhattan and head coach Steve Masiello had some issues to address this spring, but thanks in part to their departed senior class the Jaspers are well-positioned to once again contend in the MAAC.