College Basketball

How the Duke Blue Devils and Wisconsin Badgers match up

Duke defeated Wisconsin 80-70 on Dec. 3 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Tyus Jones, in a breakout performance, led Duke with 22 points. Jahlil Okafor battled foul trouble in his duel with Frank Kaminsky. Okafor finished with 13 points and four fouls in 27 minutes. Kaminsky had 17 points. Much has changed since then. Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored 14 of Duke’s 21 bench points that night, is no longer on the team, and Traevon Jackson, who scored a game-high 25 for Wisconsin, is trying to regain his form after breaking his foot.

A closer look at Round 2:

POINT GUARD

Duke’s Tyus Jones vs. Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig

Jones and Koenig came about their starting roles in different ways, but they’ve achieved similar success. Jones started from his first college game. Koenig became a starter after an injury in mid-January to Traevon Jackson.

Jones (11.5 points per game, 5.7 assists per game) has better statistics than Koenig (8.7 ppg, 2.4 apg), but Koenig broke out of his supporting role during the Big Ten tournament, where he scored 18 points and had a career-high nine assists in the championship game victory against Michigan State.

Both players are good outside shooters, and both have the advantage of playing alongside a national player of the year candidate. One of Koenig’s strengths is avoiding turnovers. He’s averaging 0.8 turnovers per game.

Advantage: Duke

SHOOTING GUARD

Quinn Cook vs. Josh Gasser

Cook and Gasser have vastly different styles, but they’re both seniors who have played equal roles in their teams’ success. Cook (15.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is the superior offensive player, but Gasser (6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg) is a two-time member of the All-Big Ten defensive team.

They’re both known for their leadership, too. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski routinely has credited Cook with providing leadership and guidance to an otherwise young team, and Gasser’s teammates call him “Captain America” for his leadership qualities.

Gasser does a lot of little things well, and in 2011 he became the first Big Ten freshman since Magic Johnson to compile a triple double. But Cook is in the midst of a special season.

Advantage: Duke

SMALL FORWARD

Matt Jones vs. Nigel Hayes

Jones and Hayes are both sophomore small forwards, but the similarities mostly end there.

Jones (6.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg) has played a supporting role this season, though he did earn NCAA South Region all-tournament team honors after making four 3-pointers in Duke’s victory against Gonzaga. He has that kind of potential.

Hayes (12.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) earned the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year award after his freshman season and he progressed nicely this season. He ranks among the top three on the team in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots and field-goal percentage.

Advantage: Wisconsin

POWER FORWARD

Justise Winslow vs. Sam Dekker

What a duel this should be. Both players, who were pretty good in their own right during the regular season, have been at their best during the NCAA tournament.

Winslow (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), a freshman, has scored at least 16 points in Duke’s past three games. He has played aggressively but within the context of the offense, and his emergence has made Duke even more difficult to defend.

Dekker (13.9, 5.4 rpg) is among the leading candidates to win the most outstanding player of the tournament honors. He has scored at least 16 points in all five of Wisconsin’s tournament games. He scored a career-high 23 against North Carolina in the Sweet 16, and then he surpassed that with 27 points in the West Region championship against Arizona.

Advantage: Wisconsin

CENTER

Jahlil Okafor vs. Frank Kaminsky

When’s the last time the national championship game featured this kind of matchup between two of the best big men in the country? Kaminsky and Okafor might be the two best centers in the nation, but their games are about as contrasting as it gets.

Okafor (17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is a traditional back-to-the-basket post player at 6-foot-11, and one who has generated no shortage of success simply by overpowering people with his size and strength, both of which complement his touch around the basket.

Kaminsky, a 7-footer, is skilled on the inside, but he’s more versatile. He’s capable of making shots from the perimeter, and he’s a good enough ball handler – especially against taller players – to penetrate a defense from the wings.

Debating who’s the better player is a matter of perception. Okafor’s raw talent can’t be questioned, and he could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Kaminsky is a four-year guy who went from a lightly recruited prospect to the national player of the year.

Advantage: Even

BENCH

Neither team is especially reliant on its reserves for scoring, but Krzyzewski has been happy lately with what Marshall Plumlee (2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and Amile Jefferson (6.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) have provided.

Freshman forward Grayson Allen (4 ppg, 1 rpg) also has played well in stretches. He made a couple of memorable plays against Michigan State on Saturday.

At Wisconsin, none of its key reserves average more than 4.7 points per game outside of Traevon Jackson (8.7 ppg), the point guard who still is working his way back from the broken foot. The Badgers do have big man Vitto Brown to bring to defend Okafor. The sophomore has a 7-3 wingspan – the widest on the team.

Advantage: Duke

INTANGIBLES

Wisconsin is seeking its second national championship and Duke is seeking its fifth – all under Krzyzewski. The teams use different playing styles, prefer different paces and they’re built differently.

Wisconsin’s most important players are upperclassman who have years of college experience. Outside of Cook, Duke is reliant on three freshmen – though they often haven’t played like freshmen, especially not in the postseason.

What might give Duke the edge, though – aside from Krzyzewski’s advantage in experience – is the Blue Devils’ continued mastery of teams when they play for a second time. Their victory against Michigan State is the latest example.

Duke won by 20 Saturday night after beating the Spartans by 10 this season. In second-game victories against Wake Forest, N.C. State, Notre Dame Syracuse, North Carolina and Michigan State, Duke increased its scoring margin by an average of 21.8 points the second time they played.

They lost against Notre Dame the first time by four points, for example, and then they beat the Fighting Irish by 30 points in the second meeting (The Irish did win the team’s third meeting during the ACC tournament). Duke beat Wisconsin by 10 points on the road in early December. Will the trend of dominance continue for Duke in its second game against an opponent?

Advantage: Duke

  Comments