A Breakdown of the Davidson Wildcats (Daniel Labriola)

The time has finally come for Duke men’s basketball to play their first non-exhibition game of the season against the Davidson Wildcats. Here, I will break down the oppositions roster and compare them to Duke. I will start with the biggest question mark in size and rebounding. Davidson does have some size, but it only comes in junior Ali Mackay at 6-11. Not completely knowing their rotation, if Mackay does play, I would expect this to force Coach Krzyzewski’s hand and play Marshall Plumlee. Other than that, there are many wing players between the 6-6 to 6-9 range like sophomore Jake Belford, freshman Joe Aase, or even senior De’Mon Brooks. Duke does matchup well in this instance, as they have similar size in Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Alex Murphy, Josh Hairston, and Semi Ojeleye. Davidson is also very guard heavy, 9 guards to be exact. I would watch out for 6-2 senior Ryan Ansel, as seniors always try to raise their teammates games in situations like this. 

Things to Watch

Daniel Labriola: I would watch for that guard play and see how Duke will look against them. Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton will have to be very careful in their guarding because Duke can’t afford for either of them to get into foul trouble. I do expect to see a very athletic Duke team get out and run, but again, they need to rebound the ball first. Amile Jefferson will be a key point of emphasis in this topic, as he will be called upon to grab most of these rebounds. I would also be on the look out for a concerted effort for everybody, not just the big men, to crash the boards. With a small team, everybody will need to contribute on the boards. 

Thomas Eames: What will the rotation look like?
Duke fans have been wondering all summer who will start, who will play, and who will get stuck at the end of the bench on an incredibly deep team. This question will finally begin to get answered tonight. Coach K has already surprised Duke fans by listing Tyler Thornton as the final starter for this game. It will be interesting to see if Matt Jones plays as much as he did in the exhibition games, if Sulaimon plays starters minutes, and if Marshall Plumlee makes it off the bench. It will be extremely interesting to look at Duke's rotation tonight, as it will likely be reflecting of the rest of the season.

Can Duke rebound?
Duke is not playing a tall team in Davidson and will be expected to rebound well. It will be essential to get extra possessions against what will be a sharp offensive Davidson team. Duke needs to prove to themselves and the rest of the country that they can rebound, especially against a team they actually have more height than.

Does Duke have chemistry yet?
Duke's two best players will be playing their first games at Duke and their rotation is not truly known yet. That is not the perfect formula for a team with great chemistry. Duke will need to find what players play well together and it will have to happen on the fly. Will Duke have the leaders and the chemistry to overcome a bad run. Davidson will inevitably go on a run at some point during the game and it will be interesting to see who steps up and if Duke will be able to overcome the adversity.

Predictions

Daniel Labriola: Duke definitely has the tools to beat this Davidson team and I do expect them to win tonight. It won’t come easy, as Davidson will play the first half very close as they always do against Duke. The difference will be after halftime, after Coach K has talked it over in the locker room, I believe Duke will pull away. It will be close, but I see Duke winning this one 87-73 over the Wildcats. 

Thomas Eames: Davidson is not a team Duke should take lightly. Coach McKillop always has his team ready to go out of the gate, and this year will be no exception. I expect this game to be a lot closer than many people expect, but Duke will pull it out in the end. It may take Coach K playing his starters extended minutes, but I expect Duke to win a close game, 79-69.

Matt Knicely: 
Duke 89 Davidson 68
This will not be an easy game for Duke. Davidson plays the Blue Devils well everytime they match up, last year the game was tied at halftime. I think the Wildcats keep it close early but Duke’s athleticism and depth will break the game open early in the 2nd half and Duke will cruise to a win.