Monday, April 6, 2015

Duke vs. Wisconsin

A quick look at the match-ups in what should be a fascinating game.

C: Jahlil Okafor vs. Frank Kaminsky:

1) Does Kaminsky have the strength to push Jahlil off his spots? Duke's offense is built around creating 1-on-1 opportunities for their 275 pound freshman C. Gonzaga and Utah played Duke tough but they had C's who are much bigger than Kaminsky. The problem for Wisconsin is there's really no one else on the bench or in the starting line-up they can have stand behind Jahlil. They are going to need their #1 option to be able to make Jahlil work for his points without getting into foul trouble. If they try to double down, Duke has the shooting to make them pay. This won't be like Kentucky when Wisconsin could pack the paint and dare the Harrison Twins to shoot the ball.

2) How does Jahlil try to defend Kaminsky? Kaminsky is going to try and face up Okafor and go by him on the perimeter or from the mid-post. Can Jahlil slide his feet enough to contest Kaminsky's shot without creating driving lanes to the rim? I imagine he's going to start the game playing off of Kaminsky and daring him to beat him with the off-the-dribble jumper. What you don't want to do as a defender is let him get comfortable in the paint either off the dribble or in the post. Wisconsin wants you to double Kaminsky and I wonder if Duke is going to live with him taking contested jumpers.

3) The foul trouble dilemma: Coach K has a lot more options with this match-up than Bo Ryan. If Kaminsky gets going, does he try to slide Justice Winslow over to guard him and hide Jahlil on Nigel Hayes? That's what Sean Miller tried to do in the Elite Eight when he put Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on Kaminsky. It's definitely a much different look you can throw at him over the course of the game. Even Marshall Plumlee at least has the size and athleticism to run with Kaminsky, if not the overall feel for the game. Conversely, if Hayes or Duje Dukkan ends up on Okafor, Winsconsin is going to have to send double teams.

If I'm Wisconsin, the #1 thing I'm worried about is keeping Kaminsky out of foul trouble and in his offensive rhythm. With two NBA-caliber 7'0's going at it, how the refs call this match-up could go a long way towards determining the outcome. For Jahlil, the main thing is not to commit any silly reaching fouls. You want to make Kaminsky earn his points by scoring over the top of you - you don't want to make his life easier by sending him to the foul line, especially if this is a guy whose going to take a bunch of shots over the course of the game.

PF: Nigel Hayes vs. Justice Winslow

This is the big difference from their first game in November. Winslow was playing as a SF and going up against Sam Dekker while Hayes went up against a more conventional PF in Amile Jefferson. Duke switched line-ups and started playing 4 out, with one of the main motivations to get the match-up of Winslow on a bigger, slower PF. Hayes is a pretty good athlete for 6'7 250 and he has an outside shot at the NBA, but will he able to keep up with Winslow at the three-point line? Just as important, can he use his size to punish Winslow on the block? Kyle Wiltjer was not able to do that in the Elite Eight and he's one of the best PF scorers in the country. If Hayes could force the mismatch and force Duke to play 2 big men at the same time, it would change the complexion of the game.

The match-ups could switch pretty fast in the front-court, with domino effects up and down the line-up. Winslow is the main wild card to watch on the Duke side of things. If he guards Kaminsky, that leaves Okafor on Hayes. If he guards Dekker, that leaves Matt Jones on him. Hayes would try to take Okafor off the dribble and he'd try to punish Jones on the block. What's unique about Wisconsin is their C, PF and SF can all A) post up smaller players and B) face up slower ones on the perimeter and score off the drive or the shot. They might try to play a game of Whac-A-Mole and try to attack Matt Jones since he's the smallest guy on the Duke frontcourt.

When Wisconsin is on D, they might try to put Dekker on Winslow, since Dekker has an edge in quickness and length on Hayes. Matt Jones is a good jump-shooter but Wisconsin isn't really worried about him as a shot-creator so they can hide Hayes on him in order to get Dekker on Winslow. This is two Top 20 picks at combo forward going at it on both sides of the ball. Both guys have been instrumental in their teams run to the Final 4 and if either can get a consistent edge on offense is gong to give their team a huge edge.

SF: Sam Dekker vs. Matt Jones

I think it's going to be important for Dekker to try and utilize his size on Jones because that really forces Duke hands on a number of fronts. Jones is a really good 3-and-D defender so it's not going to be easy by any stretch, but if Dekker can score over the top of him, either off the drive or the post-up, it makes life so much easier for Hayes and potentially forces Jones off the floor altogether since he really doesn't have the size to stay with Hayes or Kaminsky in the post. If Duke becomes a two-post team they are infinitely easier to defend since Jefferson isn't a huge threat on offense. Wisconsin's best chance at winning might be to dictate the types of line-ups Duke puts on the floor by virtue of Dekker's presence at the 3.

That's what happened against Kentucky - they didn't really have a true SF with the size on the perimeter to match up with Dekker. They were forced to go with Trey Lyles, a converted PF, which in turn affected their spacing on the offensive end of the floor, since they couldn't play with three guards. Duke has the SF in Winslow but playing him at that position really affects the rest of their line-up and the dynamic to why they have been so effective over the last few months of the season.

SG: Josh Gasser vs. Quinn Cook

The battle of the under the radar senior guards. Wisconsin is going to need Gasser to score because their guards got lit up in the first game in Madison. Cook and Jones combined to 35 points on 16 shots and they were going wherever they wanted on the court. The best way to defend the Duke guards is to go right back at them on the other end. Both these guys live primarily off other guy's offense but this is a position where Duke should have an edge. If Cook can get around Gasser, it limits the margin of error for everybody else.

PG: Tyus Jones vs. Bronson Koenig/Traevon Jackson

Jones (6'1 185) isn't that big or that fast by NBA standards but he made quick work of the Wisconsin guards earlier this season. The problem with trying to defend Jones if you don't have a physical match-up with him is that he doesn't have any huge holes in his game. If you play off him, he can shoot the 3's. If you press up on him, he can go by you and then hit you with the floater. If you send help, he can dissect the defense. Jones is a lot like Tyler Ennis in the #1 concern with him is his overall size/speed ratio when he gets to the NBA - he's already an NBA-caliber guard in terms of feel for the game and scoring ability. Wisconsin made a ton of hay by leaving the Harrisons open and letting them pound the ball into the ground. That's not going to work against Duke. Their guards are too talented and they play in too much space. The Wisconsin guards are going to have to get out and guard.

If I'm Wisconsin, I'm thinking the best chance to win is Hayes and Dekker. Winslow can only guard one of them at a time - can the other guy take advantage and force Amile Jefferson into the game? Add Kaminsky getting Okafor into foul trouble and your guards controlling tempo and turning it into a half-court game and I think that's the formula for success for Bo Ryan.

The formula is a lot simpler for Duke. Take advantage of Okafor. Take advantage of Tyus Jones. Take advantage of Quinn Cook. I would at least try to see if Matt Jones can hang with Dekker but even if you have to go to Plan B, having Winslow ice out Dekker puts a ton of pressure on the other Wisconsin bigs to create offense. If you can keep the big men bottled up and force the guards to try and create, you should be able to stifle the Wisconsin. Speed the tempo of the game up and let your superior athleticism take advantage, especially on the perimeter.

In terms of the overall match-up, this is another example of a 4-out team going up against a 2-post team. Can Wisconsin use their size to punish Duke playing 4 wings? Or will Duke's superior speed and playmaking ability on the perimeter spread out Wisconsin's size and attack them at the front of the rim? Kentucky couldn't do the same thing because they were a 2-post team that didn't get a ton of shooting from their big men. 4-out teams spread the floor a lot better than 2-post ones so the only real way for the 2-post team to get the advantage is for their 2nd biggest big man to take advantage of the 4-out team's biggest wing defender. If the match-up of the game is Nigel Hayes vs. Justice Winslow, I'm taking Duke.

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