Pre-Game Thoughts, Etc.
Greetings from lovely Durham! (Okay, technically I’m at a friend’s place near Durham, but I’ll be moving on soon enough…) In order to kill time during my day of pre-game, I’ve been pondering a few lingering questions about the Wisconsin-Duke game tonight. We’ll see how things shake out (I’m expecting a close, hard fought game), but here’s what’s running through my mind right now.
1) Greg Paulus vs. Trevon Hughes is the matchup that most of my friends have been talking about all week, and I think most of my fellow Badger fans are overrating just a bit the advantage that Hughes has. Hughes is undoubtedly much quicker, but his advantage is overrated because a) I believe that Paulus’ ability is widely underestimated after his injury plagued sophomore year (he’s looked improved to me this year), and b) the last time I checked, Duke was pretty good at help defense. Nonetheless, I’ll look forward to seeing Hughes play with the big boys. He’s definitely capable.
2) Forget Trevon Hughes and Greg Paulus—I’d pay attention to Michael Flowers and DeMarcus Nelson, the most underrated matchup of the night. Duke’s senior captain that no one seems to be talking about despite being arguably the most important guy on his team against Wisconsin’s senior defensive leader. How do more people not recognize how entertaining this is going to be?
3) What will Wisconsin’s bench look like tonight? It’s so tough to tell what the real distribution of minutes will be when the Badger keep blowing inferior teams out. You know that 7 key Badgers will get minutes, but if Duke ups the tempo, it’s going to take more than that to keep people fresh. How deep do they go, and who gets the extra time? I don’t know how this plays out, but my bet is that it’s going to be Jon Leuer’s unofficial welcome to the team tonight. He and Kevin Gullikson are the fringe guys who’ve been getting the spare non-garbage time 8th man minutes, and Leuer’s skills seem more suited to tonight’s contest. Is there a more interesting place for a freshman to get some of his first meaningful minutes than Cameron?
4) I’ll be interested to see how much time Brian Zoubek, Duke’s 7’1” sophomore gets tonight. I’ve generally been impressed during Dukes’ brief periods of using the Zoubek-infused lineup, and if the Blue Devils can’t use a 7’1” guy against Wisconsin, I’m not really sure where they’re going to use him.
5) Will Brian Butch’s streak of putting up obscene rebounding numbers continue tonight? I’m thinking that Butch will be solid (say, 8-9 boards), but no longer off the charts. Wisconsin has yet to face a team with reasonably talented players over 6’8”, and tonight Butch is going to be battling with Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, and the aforementioned Zoubek. Picking those boards up is a little tougher when the guy next to you isn’t either 6’5” or completely mediocre.
6) Keep an eye on Taylor King. I’m told by a trusted friend down here that the freshman sharpshooter could wreak havoc on Wisconsin’s defense. Now, given that this is a guy who pumped in 27 points against Eastern Kentucky last week, this shouldn’t be news. But if you’re like me, all you’ve seen of King firsthand was the 3 total minutes that he played against Illinois and Marquette in Maui. Based on what I’ve heard and read, though, Wisconsin is exactly the type of matchup that should allow Coach K to get King lots of minutes. So be aware of the weird-looking bench warmer that barely even got off the bench against Marquette’s parade of guards. He’s apparently dangerous.
7) Since I’ll be at the game, I won’t get to watch it on ESPN, but I’m putting the over-under on announcer references to the superior won-loss records of Bo Ryan and Mike Krzyzewski at 6 tonight.
8) I’m hoping to see a decent smattering of red in Cameron, but I’m not holding my breath. Lots of excitement over this game, and Badger fans travel well, but it’s still an insanely tough ticket. Sadly, I won’t be helping the cause much (more on that in my post-game write-up), but here’s hoping I’ve got someone to high five at the game if the Badgers bring home a win. It will be a hollow win if I can’t high five a random Badger fan and buy a beer for someone wearing red somewhere in the greater Durham area tonight.
I could go on and on, but frankly, I’m ready to relax for a few hours before I head out to watch tonight’s battle. For the record, I’m going to predict a score of 77-73 in Wisconsin’s favor (yep, I’m still a homer). But however things work out, it should be pure fun. Enjoy the game!