Blue Devils present tall task for Hoosiers

Representatives from 26 NBA teams have requested credentials for Wednesday night’s showdown between Indiana and No. 1 Duke.

For good reason. The Blue Devils are bringing a roster full of draft prospects to Bloomington.

A tall task — quite literally — awaits the Hoosiers in this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup, which tips off at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. Undersized Indiana will be the latest team trying to topple top-ranked Duke, which boasts the nation’s most impressive frontcourt coupled with a cadre of guards ready and able to attack from all angles.

“We have our work cut out for us,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We know that. We’re trying to get ourselves mentally and physically prepared to play.”

Duke is loaded with first-round draft prospects, including guards Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr., along with forward Wendell Carter Jr.. But the list begins with freshman forward Marvin Bagley, who has managed to immediately meet the lofty expectations set for him in Durham, N.C.

Bagley would have been a high school senior this fall, but instead reclassified and committed to Duke in August. In a span of months, the 6-foot-11 Bagley has gone from the No. 1 high school player in the 2018 recruiting class to arguably the top prospect in the 2018 NBA Draft class.

The reigning ACC Player and Rookie of the Week, Bagley is tied for the NCAA lead with six double-doubles. He’s also the first player in Duke’s rich history to post consecutive games of 30-plus points and 15-plus rebounds. Bagley poured in 30 points and grabbed 15 boards in Sunday’s win over No. 6 Florida.

Most worrisome for IU and the rest of the nation, he doesn’t do it alone.

Carter Jr. has four double-doubles this season, teaming with Bagley and company to form a fearsome frontcourt. Duke leads the nation with an offensive rebounding percentage of 43.2 percent.

“Both of them are very, very good players in and around the basket,” Miller said. “They score, they command a lot of attention. They’re also just unbelievable rebounders. If you just watch the Michigan State game alone, I think they got 25 offensive rebounds, and Marvin Bagley didn’t play but about 10 minutes in that game. Wendell Carter and the other guys, whether it be (Marques) Bolden or whoever is in there, they present a serious challenge.

“It is a daunting task, and I think it starts with, one, the glass and how we keep them off it, and two, clearly trying our best to keep the paint crowded and make them make those guys as uncomfortable as possible.”

So how does IU attack this particular challenge? There’s no easy answer.

Among the most important keys for Indiana — and this will be true for every game this season — is keeping sophomore forward De’Ron Davis out of foul trouble. Beyond Davis, IU will need help from junior forward Juwan Morgan, freshman wing Justin Smith and maybe even freshman forward Clifton Moore, too.

Moore, a lanky 6-foot-10 rookie, has played sparingly while appearing in only two games this month. But against the likes of these Blue Devils, Moore’s length could help occupy space, at the very least.

“You’re dealing with elite size, not just from (Bagley) but even their subs when they come in,” Miller said. “We’ll be undersized at times. I think De’Ron is probably the only guy that’s going to look the part in terms of standing next to him. But we have to be smart. You have to be tenacious. You have to use your quickness and you have to have a team approach.”

Duke’s size and length presents matchup questions in other ways, too.

With eight newcomers joining this roster — a group considered the No. 1 recruiting class nationally by ESPN — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has leaned heavily on a 2-3 zone while his youngsters learn how to consistently lock down and commit to man-to-man principles.

With Duke’s length and quick lateral movement ability, the zone has been an interesting wrinkle inside Krzyzewki’s toolbox this season.

Indiana, meanwhile, has seen plenty of zone during the first month of the season. The Hoosiers’ zone offense appeared as effective and efficient as it has in recent memory during Friday’s 87-67 win over Eastern Michigan and its Syracuse-inspired 2-3.

“If you look at the size they put on the floor in the zone, you’re probably not going to be able to see a bigger team in college basketball when it comes to the back line that they’ve been able to put out there,” Miller said of Duke. “The Michigan State game, they were very active in that zone and caused some turnovers and whatnot. We’ve seen a lot of zone here early, as much as any season I’ve been a part of.”

The Blue Devils essentially challenge opponents to beat them from the perimeter, where the Hoosiers haven’t always found shooting traction.

IU ranks eighth among Big Ten teams with a .351 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, though the Hoosiers are coming off a game in which they made 12 of their 21 3-point attempts against Eastern Michigan’s zone.

Duke, of course, presents a much different degree of difficulty.

The Hoosiers know it, and they’re eager to measure themselves against the nation’s best.

“This is the kind of game that I came here for in the first place,” senior forward Collin Hartman said. “These are the kinds of games I came back for. I’m really excited to have this opportunity to compete with my guys.”

6 comments

  1. Well at least the game is in Bloomington so that the refs won’t be too biased in favor of Duke. Not that it will matter.

  2. a. We’ll defeat Duke in a stunner.

    b. Did anyone catch Tom Crean doing the Northwestern vs. Georgia Tech game on ESPN2? My Lord, is he on a straight caffeine drip? Don’t give up your day job, Tom. Oops…. Never mind.

    1. Dan- Are you new to Scoop…or just new screen name?

      Of course we’ll give good effort….Do you think we’re going to roll over dead because it’s almighty Duke? Do the apologists ever leave this site? It was also a given that Mike Davis’s Hoosiers would lose to #1 Duke at a regional semifinal in Lexington.

      Don’t ever underestimate the candy stripes. Archie is cleansing out the demons. Don’t underestimate the power of knowledge in X’s and O’s, confident sideline demeanor, and the calming presence of a legit teacher. Don’t underestimate the camaraderie born of an entire roster having value to a coach. Don’t underestimate accountability on defense. We are back to building teams in Assembly rather than simply finding distant stars for a draft night.

  3. With all due respect, your first sentence in this piece pretty much sums up the sad distortions in finding the truly worthwhile side to playing sports.

    So sad how we’re all bamboozled by the constant infatuations and billions in dollars used to displace whatever tiny remaining altruistic purpose team sports once held.

    26 kids who could never afford to personally witness a game in Assembly Hall should be granted the tickets so gloriously reserved for those privileged “representatives from 26 NBA teams” who have “requested credentials.”

    I mean, why should we even watch? It’s already a given that we’ll be obliterated because Duke has all the NBA talent…?

    Very grateful that we now have a coach who doesn’t have to use statements like “playing at the next level” in every other sentence to fill podium time….or talk of some new infatuation.

  4. anyone check lately on the “Crystal Ball” for Romeo Langford?? It shows Indiana at 44% and Vandy at 39%. Indiana is DOWN from 70%.

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