clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Scouting the Duke Blue Devils

The Kentucky Wildcats will face the Duke Blue Devils in the State Farm Champions Classic in their first real test of the season.

Lance King/Getty Images

For one of the top rivals of the Kentucky Wildcats, we don't see the Duke Blue Devils too often. In fact, Tuesday's game will be only the third time the teams have played since 2001.The Wildcats are currently on a three-game losing streak to the Blue Devils and haven't won since an 86-84 win in the South Regionals of the NCAA Tournament in 1998.

Kentucky leads the all-time series 11-9, but the recent series has heavily favored Duke. Since 1978, the record is 2-7 in favor of Duke. This is a trend that the WIldcats would love to reverse starting with a big win on a national stage.

Let's look at the Blue Devils and the matchups:

#2 Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) vs. #4 Duke Blue Devils (2-0): November, 17th- 7:30 PM on ESPN

Duke Stats:

Meaningful Games- Won 92-74 vs. Siena, Won 113-75 vs. Bryant

Leading Scorer- Grayson Allen 27 ppg

Leading Rebounder- Amile Jefferson 11.5 rpg

Assists Leader- Grayson Allen 4 apg

Points Per Game- 102.5 (Kentucky 82.5)

Rebounds Per Game- 43.5 (Kentucky 44.0)

Assists Per Game- 13.0 (Kentucky 15.0)

Points Allowed- 74.5  (Kentucky 61)

Match Ups:

Guards- Duke's backcourt will consist of sophomore Grayson Allen at shooting guard and junior Matt Jones at point guard. Allen has been playing great basketball dating back to last season's NCAA tournament in which he become a breakout player for the Blue Devils. Allen has scored a combined 54 points in two games this season. The sophomore is 6-5 and an extremely athletic player that shoots well from beyond the arc.

Jamal Murray will likely be matched up with Allen and watching these two go at each other will be a treat. Murray is also 6-5 and is every bit as athletic as Allen and may be a better shooter even though he struggled in that department against NJIT. This matchup is pretty even.

Where Kentucky will have an advantage is at the point guard position. Tyler Ulis has the combination of abilities of scoring and distributing while Matt Jones is more of a score-first point guard. Ulis is also a better defender than Jones. While Jones is shooting the ball better than Ulis, I would take Tyler's offensive brain and skill set over Jones'.

Advantage- Kentucky

Forwards- This is where Duke excels as a team with freshman Brandon Ingram and senior Amile Jefferson.

Ingram is a 6-9 small forward that reminds me a lot of Kevin Durant. He is a slightly built player that can drive to the basket and score as well as step up and shoot mid-range and long-range jumpers. He's averaging 18 points per game and is shooting 44% from the field and 33% from the three; not great, but he has the ability to do more. If the starting lineups remain the same as from Saturday against NJIT, and I assume they will with Duke's Personnel, then Derek Willis will be matched up with Ingram. Willis has been the surprise of the early going and he has much of the same skill set as Ingram. Willis has shown that he can defend well but Ingram is an entirely different opponent. The play of Derek Willis in this game may be the difference in the outcome.

Amile Jefferson gets his buckets more in the paint than from the perimeter. He and Marcus Lee are similar in their builds (Jefferson, 6-9 225, Lee 6-9, 224) but I give the athletic advantage to Lee. Jefferson is more of a potent offensive threat than Lee is and he actually is a better rebounder, as well. Lee, like Willis, is going to have his work cut out for him.

Advantage- Duke

Center- This matchup should heavily favor the Wildcats. Senior Marshall Plumlee is 7-1, 250 pounds and isn't much of a threat on offense. But, he could use his weight to bully a 25 pound lighter Skal Labissiere in the post. But with other shot blockers around the rim, Plumlee will have to be wary of taking too much time making his post moves. Plumlee could be effective rebounding the basketball and getting second chance opportunities against Skal.

As far as defending Skal?  Good luck. Labissiere started off slowly against Albany but ended with nine points. Then against NJIT, he blew up for 26 points as John Calipari got his big man more involved, which paid off. Skal is shooting 76% from the field and 90% from the line. So if he is fouled, he will make the Blue Devils pay. Plumlee will be charged with guarding maybe the best offensive post player in the country.

Advantage- Kentucky

Bench- This is an area in which I think Kentucky has a distinct advantage. There is muscle off of Kentucky's bench in the form of Alex Poythress. He and Isaiah Briscoe may be the two best defenders on Kentucky's team, and they are the sixth and seventh men coming on to the court. Both also add offensive and an attacking personality as well.

Isaac Humphries is another skilled big man that could spell Skal for a few minutes. While the athleticism drops with Humphries, he is almost as effective as Skal with scoring outside of the paint.

Charles Matthews also adds athleticism and a defensive/attack mentality much like that of Poythress and Briscoe, but he lacks the offensive punch. Another good defender and energy guy for Kentucky is Dominique Hawkins. Mychal Mulder adds instant offense as a three-point specialist.

The 'Cats have a good mixture of youth, experience, defense, and offense off of the bench. While it is a far cry from a platoon, the 'Cats have options and Cal can mix and match.

Coach K has limited offense. His main bench players are Luke Kennard, a freshman guard still finding his way, Derryck Thornton, another talented freshman guard, and Chase Jeter, a talented freshman forward. Duke will also play center Antonio Vrankavich who is also inferior to Skal.

I would take the combination of Poythress, Briscoe, Matthews, and Humphries before I would take anything Duke can throw out there. Poythress, Briscoe, and Matthews have the ability to severely disrupt whatever Duke is doing on offense and I don't think the Blue Devils have that option.

Advantage- Kentucky

Tying it All Together- This will be a close game and I expect Duke to even get a decent early lead, but with Ulis, Murray, and Skal on offense, combined with the energy and aggression they can get from their bench, I expect Kentucky to wear down Duke late in the game.

I also see Kentucky being able to outrebound Duke with Poythress, Briscoe, Matthews, Lee, and Skal. Defense and rebounding will be the key for the Wildcats.

Can Kentucky limit Allen and Ingram but still find their offense with their own key threats?

Kentucky 76-Duke 71