With the Runnin Utes preparing for a big matchup at the “Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden, which is the same team that knocked off the Utes in the sweet sixteen in the NCAA tournament last season, 63-57. That would end up being the second smallest margin of victory over the defending National Champions in the tournament (first was title game against Wisconsin, 68-63). That Duke team produced 3 NBA players that went into the draft as freshmen. Jahlil Okafor become the 3rd overall pick to Philadelphia, Justise Winslow was selected 10th to the Miami Heat and Tyus Jones became a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves as the 24th selection.
With those pieces leaving Coach K and the Blue Devils, the question is how do they reload? Well, when you are the best coach in College Basketball, it isn’t that hard. Here is some key players to watch at MSG on Saturday:
Grayson Allen – 6’5 sophomore guard out of Jacksonville, Florida – He was a standout in the tournament last season and has carried that to this season as he leads Duke with 21.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3 APG in 33 minutes per game. He is a great shooter, averaging 50% from the field, 88% from the charity stripe and 45% from downtown. He will be in the NBA next season if he chooses to take that step. NBAdraft.net has him projected as a mid to late first round pick.
Brandon Ingram – 6’9 freshman forward/guard from Kinston, North Carolina – He is filling the void of the Justise Winslow as he has become the second leading scorer for the Blue Devils with 15 PPG, 5.4 RPG in 27 MPG. He is a spotty shooter as he averages 48% FG, 60% FT and 35% from the 3-point line. With his potential, the experts have him as a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Matt Jones – 6’5 junior guard out of Desoto, Texas – Weird to see upperclassmen in College Basketball but he has been a good role player for Duke as he averages 13.6 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 31 minutes and is a decent shooter averaging 45% FG, 72% FT and 45% from downtown. He could be that sneaky threat against the Utes.
The 4th player to watch will not be available is senior F/C Amile Jefferson who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The Blue Devils will be missing 11.4 PPG, 10.3 RPG with his absence. That means that senior center Marshall Plumlee who is the 3rd Plumlee brother to come through the Duke program. Both brothers are currently in the NBA. The other fill-in for Jefferson is 6’10 freshman Chase Jeter who was ranked 11th in the ESPN 100.
The Blue Devils are 9-1 on the season having lost to Kentucky, 74-63. Their 8 wins came against Siena, Bryant, VCU, Georgetown, Yale, Utah State, Indiana, Buffalo and Georgia Southern. Utah will be the last real test for this squad before they enter into ACC play.
I see this game as a battle of the guards. Can Brandon Taylor and company shutdown Grayson Allen. The Utes have surprisingly struggled on the defensive side of the ball. If I am Utah, I would make sure that Jakob Poeltl gets a touch in the paint almost every time down the floor.
This game will begin the “Super Saturday” of Utah Athletics as our coverage will begin at 8am with tipoff at 10am on ESPN 700.