NCAA Tournament 2011: Michigan vs. Duke Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Duke (31-4) vs. Michigan (21-13) duke-logo[1]
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
When: ~2:45 ET, Sunday, March 20th (30 mins after UNC/UW)
TV: CBS / Online Streaming
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM
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Two years ago, Michigan upset Duke at home and rode the ensuing wave of momentum to its first NCAA tournament berth in over a decade. Now, the Wolverines have an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16 by upsetting the Blue Devils again. The stage is set with a mid-afternoon nationally exclusive tip off on CBS and excessive newspaper stories surrounding three lines from Jalen Rose’s Fab Five documentary circling through the newspapers. Plenty of eyeballs will be tuned in for this one. A Michigan win would be monumental, a loss means one of the most surprising Michigan seasons in quite some time concludes in Charlotte.

Mike Krzyzewski brought back 59% of last year’s national championship team and added one of the best guards in the country in Kyrie Irving. Repeat championships are rare in college basketball but Duke was the unanimous selection for preseason No. 1. The season derailed ever so slightly when Kyrie Irving suffered a turf toe injury nine games into the year. The talk went from “perfect season” to “how good is Duke without Kyrie?”. The answer is not nearly as good, but still good enough to earn a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The wrinkle: Kyrie Irving returned to action on Friday.

Despite losing Kyrie for two thirds of the season, Ken Pomeroy still ranks Duke as the second best team in the nation. With Kyrie back in the lineup the expectations in Durham are repeat or bust.  The first thing that stands out when you see Duke in person is that they are really tall. Ken Pomeroy ranks Duke sixth in effective height and 19th in average height. The Blue Devil starting line up demonstrates the dramatic front court height advantage with Kyle Singler (6-8), Mason Plumlee (6-10) and Miles Plumlee (6-10). There’s no 7-footer like Zoubek in the middle but there’s still a lot of size across the board considering Duke’s starting three-man is the same height as Michigan’s starting five.

Nolan Smith Mason Plumlee ACC Basketball Tournament K9zD9jfs-l1l[1]

Singler is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game this season but his three point shooting percentage is down 8% this year at just 31.9%. The 6-foot-10 Plumlee brothers anchor the post and while they aren’t key cogs of the Duke offense they are terrific rebounders. Mason grabs 25% of opponents’ missed shots while on the floor and Miles excels on the offensive glass, pulling down 14% of Duke’s missed shots during his playing time. Ryan Kelly is the third front court option and at 6-foot-10 he isn’t nearly as good of a rebounder but isn’t scared to step back and shoot a three, connecting on 22 of his 66 triples. Nolan Smith is a wired scorer that has developed into an effective point guard as well. Duke’s other two primary guards are pure shooters but they do it well. Seth Curry makes 44% of his 3’s and Andre Dawkins connects on 43% of his long range attempts. Kyrie Irving is the game changer, he’s an efficient scorer and setup man but most of all he’s one of the best guards in the country at pushing the ball in transition, a deadly combination with Duke’s multitude of great perimeter shooters.

With so much height in the front court, it should come as no surprise that Duke is a good rebounding team. However they are much better on the offensive glass, ranking 2nd in the ACC, than on the defensive glass where they rank 10th in the league. The most obvious benefit of Duke’s size is in field goal percentage defense. ACC opponents shot just 42% on twos and 30% on threes for a 43% effective field goal percentage, all of those are ACC-bests. If you are looking for a comparison in the Big Ten, look no further than Illinois. The Blue Devils won’t turn you over that often (7th ACC) but they just make it extremely difficult to find and make open shots. Michigan will need to execute its offense extremely well to get open looks against Duke’s bigger players.

Tennessee was a big team that couldn’t shoot while Duke is a big team that can shoot. Duke’s season shooting numbers are impressive, ranking as the 17th best shooting team in the nation. The Blue Devils 54% effective field goal percentage is made up of 52% two point and 38% three point shooting.  As mentioned, Duke does a great job on the offensive glass, rebounding 35% of its missed shots. The Blue Devils also take care of the basketball as well as anyone with a turnover rate of just 17%. You have to look deep into Duke’s statistical profile to find a weakness but a close enough look reveals the slightest chink in the armor. The Blue Devils didn’t shoot the three ball well in ACC play, making just 33.7% (8th ACC) of their three point attempts in ACC games. Duke’s three point shooting percentages in its four losses were 31.4%, 22.2%, 20% and 19%. The Blue Devils are still good enough to win some games without making threes but they are too good to lose when they are making threes.

Three point defense and defensive rebounding appear to be the Wolverine priorities in this game. Michigan needs to match its herculean rebounding effort from Friday and hope that Duke misses just enough threes to allow Michigan to hang around. Nolan Smith said that Duke needs to "be who we’ve been” and that couldn’t be more true for Michigan as well. This game tips off 48 hours after Michigan’s best performance of the season and the Wolverines are peaking at the right time. Duke is one of the best teams that Michigan has faced all season but Michigan has also faced teams as good as Duke. The Wolverines need to play their game and execute, putting aside the big stage, pro-Duke crowd, and importance of the game.

This is the opportunity that Michigan has worked for all season. It’s also an opportunity that any neutral observer would have deemed impossible two, three or four months ago. Now it’s time to make the most of it. Pomeroy projects a 73-61 Duke win and gives Michigan a 13% chance of advancing to the Sweet 16. Undoubtedly slim odds but this is March and we know all too well that anything can happen.

  • Chad


  • um basketball fan

    Let’s Go Blue.

  • Sean

    I’m betting that the crowd won’t be as pro-Duke as we may think. North Carolina plays in the same building immediately before us. UNC has a bigger fan base than Duke as a public university and they hate Duke. Hopefully the UNC fans will stick around after their game and pull for Michigan. If they do, we may have a pro-Michigan crowd for the game.

    We’d still need our best performance to beat Duke but the way this team has been playing, it’s certainly possible.

    • UMQuasi

      Also, don’t forget any neutral fans that are at the game will likely be pulling for us as well–both because we’re the underdog and most people hate Duke.

    • JR

      yeah a couple people have mentioned that possibility.. well, I’m assuming if they are allowed to stay for the Michigan Duke game (meaning the ticket they bought is for that game as well), then yeah, obviously they’ll stick around.. and they’ll cheer for us of course, but not voraciously.. well, we’ll see how loud they cheer.. I have an optimistic feeling about this game.. I can’t explain it, just feeling optimistic despite the huge odds (11 point underdog).. no love or respect from the vegas oddsmakers, ohwell, #SHOCKTHEWORLD!

      • JR

        oops, meant to reply to sean’s comment right above this one..

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        1 ticket for both games. But as you say, they might support us but they aren’t going to outweigh the Duke fans IMO.

        Michigan fans were impressive yesterday though.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I still can’t figure out what type of teams present our worst match up. I used to think it was long teams because our offense feels so limited when Morris and Hardaway can’t get to the hoop, but at the same time we seem to actually do alright vs. long teams. Purdue destroyed us with extended ball pressure but the back door helped us cope with that yesterday. Regardless Duke is pretty good at everything and we have to hope they aren’t hitting everything they see. If they don’t, I think we can at least keep it close enough to give ourselves a chance at the end.

    • Andrew

      I think it’s talented teams that are well coached so we don’t get a massive advantage from Beilein. Which makes this about the worst draw we could have gotten. I was really hoping for a talented team with a bad coach. Like SDSU, who I think we’d beat seven times of ten. Really wanted the 10 seed in their pod.

  • Ryan

    If Michigan carries momentum from the 2nd half against Tennessee and plays atleast that good for the whole game, Michigan has a chance here. Otherwise i do not see much chance of an upset.

    Heres to hoping for the best.

    • Brad

      if Michigan shoots something like 65% or something like they did in the second half, they will win…possibly comfortably…when 1 or 2 guys are hitting, in addition to morris getting to the rack and dishing to morgan down low, we are hard to stop…if 3/4 guys are hitting and morris/morgan/hardaway are getting to the hoop, no one will beat us…

  • Maizeyanks

    Let’s get those big boys guarding on perimeter to open up lanes for Morgan on the roll and have Smotz to knock down a few threes on the pick-n-pop when hes in. Got to withstand their patent duke runs cus they’ll happen. Need good ball control which we do and lets face it at this stage, a little luck is always nice and needed. CANT WAIT! Beyond proud of this team, but can’t help but get excited about the possibility that we’re 40 minutes away from extending this another week, wouldn’t that be “sweet.”

    • lavell99

      Absolutely. I think we stand the best chance if we can get Coach K to adjust to our lineup and go small. Back door cuts and three point makes will help that. Must happen early though. I guarantee their first goal will be to get Morgan in foul trouble. And the refs are NOT going to do us any favors today. Our other chance is if Hardaway decides today to go Jimmer Fredette on the Dookies. GO BLUE!

  • Alex

    Anything is possible. I don’t see Duke blowing our team out. We need our tram to hit open shots and seize any opportunities given such as FTs. Blue can do it.

    • ToBlav

      Just a quick edit if I may, Alex. Blue can do > Blue can do it.

      • Trevor

        Agreed. Rob Schneider references should always be used sparingly.

      • Alex

        Fair enough.

  • Steve

    I have to say I am a life long UM fan, born in Ann Arbor now living in FL. I am the same age as the Fab Five & back then those were the most exciting times ever watching UM Hoops. As I got older & learned what true character is, & this team has it, & that comes straight from the top with our Coach. I have never been more proud of any UM team than this years, that also includes 1989. The future is bright folks, sometimes you have to go through the valley to get to the top, we are close & man it feels so good! GO BLUE!!!

  • AG2

    I’m totally numb right now. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like what I just saw in that Butler/Pitt game ever happen in the history of basketball…

    • maxwell’s demon

      At least I think the final outcome was what it should have been

    • Jeff

      Agree, but that Pitt player was a moron. What the heck was he doing? One second left, 90 feet from the basket, and honestly, that was definitely a foul. Why risk it, especially after the previous call.

      • Tweeter

        I hope people remember that play the next time someone complains about Beilein pulling guys off the lane on foul shots. You never know when someone will make a terrible decision.

        • Fred_Ex

          It seems like bad fundamentals but I see what you mean. Most of the time you don’t get that offensive board anyway.

    • Tweeter

      incredibly tough way to lose a game, but what can the refs do? Those were two obvious foul calls. Its one thing to swallow the whistle on incidental contact or a play like the Morehead state block against Louisville, but those plays were clear cut.

      • Mith

        I’d rather them call that stuff that swallow the whistle for the last 20 seconds of regulation like the St. John’s- Rutgers game.

        • Gary

          Agree – both were obvious fouls. No one can or should blame the outcome on the refs. But if they didn’t call them……

      • MATTIZ

        Yea, they were perfectly valid, fair calls in both instances. If they weren’t called, it would’ve been the refs intervening in the outcome more than the players. This was a case of players making huge mental errors and it costing them.

        Honestly, Pitt’s coach might be at fault. Perhaps he didn’t outline how important it was not to foul, that it was the only thing you can ABSOLUTELY NOT do in that instance. I think if he made it clear that if they were to miss the second free throw and that they should just let the time run out, then the players would’ve responded to that and let the clock go. Instead the player fought for the ball stupidly. I don’t think he would have if the coaches would’ve reminded him not too. Then again, that’s such a high pressure situation.

  • Alex

    If Butler can do that then so can Michigan tomorrow. I should have sold the Big East teams in my bracket more. Hope the committee recognizes this as two years in a row.

  • Brian W

    Really getting tired of the LeBron commercials. I long for the days when commercials with NBA superstars were good and clever. Dry toast has more charisma than LeBron.

    • Mattski

      If you’re watching online you have to watch a Coke Zero commercial featuring the Cameron Crazies every time you cue it up. Probably builds the nation’s resentment toward them (certainly augments mine). Should also bring out the safety inspectors–those bleachers look like they’re about to collapse under a lot of annoying little White Devils.

      • Brian W

        Good call. Have only seen that one a couple of times, but it got the blood boiling a little. Really want U-M to beat the Dookies tomorrow.

      • Tweeter

        funny I always get the Rock chop jayhawk commercial. Dont think I have seen Duke once

        • Justin

          It’s Kansas, guys. They also are blue and have passionate fans. /lesson

          • MaizeNBlueJ

            There are two different commercials (that I’ve seen, could be more that I don’t know about), Kansas & Duke both have a commercial.

  • Champswest

    Unless Duke has one of those peak performance games where they make no mistakes and make nearly every shot, I think that we have a great chance for a big upset. Michigan is a difficult team to play, especially if you aren’t used to playing them on a consistant basis.

  • Tweeter

    Looking at this game, the pressure appears to me to be on the Michigan offense. Defensively, I am not that worried unless Duke catches fire from three. If they don’t I believe that we can hold them down by mixing and matching in man and zone. I just don’t know if we can score on them. Its going to be a lot tougher for a Novak to pull a three on Plumlee than it was to do it on Harris from UT.

    The big miss matches that we need to exploit in my mind are: Morris posting on whichever guard ends up on him. Especially when Smotrycz is at the five, we need to spread the floor and get Morris the ball in the post. Morgan in pick and rolls. I believe he is quicker than either Plumlee’s or Kelly. The tough part is passing to him around their length. And finally, Hardaway in iso’s against Singler. I’m not sure Timmy has the ball skills to really exploit this matchup but he does have the quickness. If we can get him a clean iso, a good pump fake might give him enough room to drive past Singler. Actual last point, Smotrycz at the five shooting threes. This is all dependant on him making them, but he is such a tough cover at the five.

    Again, on defense, I think there are enough things that Michigan does well that we can slow down their offense assuming they are not shooting lights out on threes. If they are, then we better hope we are unconscious. The final key on offfense is the tempo. This game must be about Michigan playing Michigan’s game. We can run and get things done against them, but we can’t beat them if they are running consistently on us.

  • gpsimms

    wow. that bruscewitz (sp?) kid is nails. wisconsin is not going to miss a beat when leuer’s gone (and i am the biggest leuer fan there is…at ;east on a um site)

    • Tweeter

      bruscewitz has had a solid game and offers a lot of grit plays, but he does not have the offensive refinement of Leuer.

      Taylor’s block was one of the best plays I have seen this tournament, not to mention that it kept my bracket alive!

      • gpsimms

        i was actually shocked a few times when he put the ball on the floor and drew fouls when guys came out on him. he’s not just a shooter (like nankivil). anyway, yeah, “not miss a beat” is def an overstatement. he does look good though, and it’s just funny how every year people predict wiscy won’t be in the race because they lost leuer, or hughes, or butch, etc.

        • Alex

          It seems like Wisconsin makes it to the Sweet 16 every year. They just can’t get dieter for some reason. Pitt completely screwed one of my brackets but Michigan winning is the most important thing.

    • Mattski

      When Luer missed the pair of free throws I was sure the game was over; there was still a lot of action left! Don’t know when I felt as badly for a player as I did for K State’s Pullen, eager as I was to see Wisconsin win.

  • JimC

    Duke by 5.
    I hate that I did that, but the score v TN is distorting things.

  • Kainkitizen

    I’m thinking today’s game is going to be a nailbiter and we will be the second team to knock off a #1 seed. Michigan by 4.

  • ScottGoBlue

    ” … and excessive newspaper stories surrounding three lines from Jalen Rose’s Fab Five documentary circling through the newspapers”.

    Concerning Jalen’s comments, it’s ironic that this Beilein team is more like Duke (black players from good family and school backgrounds [to use Jalen’s words]) than like the Fab Five era Michigan. There’s not a right-wrong, better-worse thing here. It just is. And Beilein had two stars from Detroit last year in Manny and Peedi, so it’s hasn’t always been the case. Still, I’m just saying.

  • JayRich

    I just hope that the refs don’t decide to give Duke every call. I don’t want to be that guy but Duke does get a ton of calls, no matter who they play. I think it has to do with them not really being trash-talkers and coach K being so respected throughout the basketball world.

  • MarcO

    A lot of homers predicting the upset, I hope all of your beer goggles are right!

    Tweeter, nice analysis, thx.

  • Alex

    I think the refs are trying to call fair games. If they’ve made it this far they mist be pretty good. Refs can only participate in later round games if they did a good job in the earlier games.

  • Tim Kim

    I think that we are grossly over-matched in this game…I feel like we have about a 10% shot at winning this game. That being said, there is still a chance. We will have to stay out of foul trouble, make roughly 45-50% of our threes, not turn the ball over, and play some smart help defense.

    • ForeverBlue23

      More grossly over-matched than Ohio State? I don’t think so, though I’d say Duke is better coached.

      1) They are going to need Stu and Zach to score the ball. They need closer to 20 combined from them as opposed to the closer to 10 they got in the last 2 Ohio State losses.

      2) Morris, Hardaway and Morgan/Smotrycz need solid but not out of their head performances. Season average type games without foul trouble might be good enough if Stu and Zach can take it up a notch.

      3) Keep the game within reach. Michigan is a tough team to defend down the stretch in that Stu, Zach, Hardaway and Morris are all capable of knocking it down when we need it most.