[private]The 2008 – 09 basketball season gets underway for real on Monday when Duke hosts Presbyterian College in the first round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches versus Cancer. Presbyterian is led by Coach Gregg Nibert who is entering his 20th season as coach of the Blue Hose.
Presbyterian returns six players who saw significant minutes on last season’s 5 – 25 squad. Center Al’Lonzo Coleman (6’7″ 230) provides the Blue Hose inside presence. He averaged 11.2 points and five rebounds a game last season. Forward Bryan Bostic (6’3″ 200) chipped in 10 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Josh Johnson (6’3″ 185), Pierre Miller (5’10″ 160), Travis Sligh (6’4″ 210), and Walt Allen (6’4″ 220) are the other significant returnees.
Turnovers and free throw shooting will be key points in the game. With Duke being the bigger and more athletic team, Presbyterian cannot afford to give Duke extra offensive possessions, and the Blue Hose must take advantage of scoring opportunities, from the charity stripe, that result from the Blue Devils’ aggressiveness.
Taking care of the basketball is not Presbyterian’s strong suit as last season they averaged more turnovers per game (14.9) than assists (12.5). Exploiting this weakness will be a primary objective for a Duke team traditionally known for its high intensity defense. In a 70 – 60 exhibition game loss to Division II Augusta State, on November 6th, the Blue Hose turned the ball over eight times, while recording seven assists.
Presbyterian also struggled from the free throw line last season as they made 65.4 percent of their free throw attempts. However, against Augusta State they knocked down 11 of 15 attempts (73.3%). Duke only knocked down 69.7 percent of their free throw attempts last season, but has converted a very respectful 78.3 percent of opportunities so far this season in two exhibition games.
Look for Duke to press relentlessly on defense creating easy scoring opportunities in transition, while taking advantage of their size by pounding the ball inside when in their half-court set. Duke is deep with 12 scholarship players healthy and ready to earn a spot in the rotation, so Coach Krzyzewski will have fresh players available at all times. The Blue Hose do not have the talent, size, or depth to give the Blue Devils a challenge so this game should be well in hand by half-time.
My prediction: Duke 93 – Presbyterian 50.
Watzone’s pick: Duke 97 Presbyterian 46[/private]