|Final Four Matchup: Duke vs. West Virginia|
Jon Scheyer (AP)
Jon Scheyer was a strong candidate for ACC player of the year, while Nolan Smith exploded for a career-high 29 in the regional final win. Both have been very legitimate lead scoring options this season, with Scheyer's passing complementing Smith's three-point marksmanship. Scheyer is one of the nation's most efficient individual scorers while also maintaining an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio. It will be interesting to see if WVU uses Devin Ebanks to bother him with his length while putting solid defender Joe Mazzulla on Smith.
Joe Mazzulla (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
The Mountaineers' offensive capabilities (when not sticking back a miss) start with Da'Sean Butler, the team's leading scorer and big shot-taker/maker. For a relatively low-percentage shooter, Butler is a very efficient scorer, helped by his almost 80 percent rate from the free-throw line. Joe Mazzulla will remain the starting point guard with Darryl Bryant's ongoing foot injury. He had a huge game against Kentucky in the regional final, but Duke should be better prepared to stop his left-handed penetration.
|EDGE: DUKE |
Kyle Singler (Bob Rosato/SI)
The third piece of the Blue Devils' Big Three, Kyle Singler, has finally gotten comfortable in his adjusted role as a more perimeter-based small forward. His late surge has him on par with Scheyer in terms of possessions used and two-point and three-point FG percentages, even though the popular belief is Scheyer was great this year and Singler struggled. Forward Lance Thomas and center Brian Zoubek spearhead the Devils' four-headed post monster with the Plumlee brothers.
Devin Ebanks (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones are both extremely capable rebounders, with Jones grabbing almost half his boards on the offensive end. Ebanks doubles as the team's best on-ball defender, with his disruptive length and agility a key, whether in man or at the top of the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone. Wellington Smith is a sneakily efficient role scorer and rebounder, especially on the offensive glass, and also provides the team's with a solid shot-blocking presence when he's on the floor.
|SLIGHT EDGE: WEST VIRGINIA, although Duke's frontcourt bench advantage mitigates this |
Miles and Mason Plumlee (Getty Images)
Having the Plumlees ready to roll gives Duke a much deeper frontcourt reserve of talent. Mike Krzyzewski can mix and match combos as the game dictates and provide multiple looks for the WVU frontcourt to handle. The only guard off the bench is freshman Andre Dawkins, who's almost exclusively a three-point shooter.
John Flowers (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
The Mountaineers' bench is weakened by having to move Mazzulla into the starting lineup. In the regional final, the 'Eers only went 1.5 players deep, with John Flowers the only principal cog off the bench. More minutes from Cam Thoroughman may be needed on Saturday. The tempo of this game shouldn't necessitate a deep bench, but the lack of a second ball handler should Mazzulla again get in foul trouble is a big concern.
|EDGE: DUKE (applicable to frontcourt section) |
Mike Krzyzewski (Bill Frakes/SI)
Making his 11th Final Four appearance, Krzyzewski obviously has seen this/done this before. The fiery motivator likely will also keep feeding his players the disrespect card -- about how people think the Duke program is sliding and about how the Blue Devils are just a bunch of soft jump-shooters going against a "physical" WVU team. You know Duke will be ready.
Bob Huggins (Randy Snyder/Icon SMI)
Despite facing the nation's preeminent coach on the other sideline, the Mountaineers are in no way outclassed in this category. Bob Huggins' gruff personal demeanor sometimes detracts from the fact that the guy can really coach. He should have a savvy mix of various zones and man defenses ready to baffle the Blue Devils and has successfully crafted this WVU team in his own image.
|SLIGHT EDGE: DUKE |
Brian Zoubek (AP)
After hearing for several seasons about how Roy Williams was killing him on Tobacco Road, and now with the surge of Tom Izzo love, Coach K has a chance to make a significant statement over the next few days. Plus the Blue Devils themselves have lived with an underachiever rap for several seasons, and the seniors will want to pass on the program's legacy in the "proper" condition.
Kevin Jones and Da'Sean Butler (AP)
WVU has spent much of the season being doubted, as the more glamorous Big East teams like Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova got disproportionate attention. This is a battle-hardened team that has thrived in close games down the stretch, plus they can rally around Bryant, whether the injured PG tries to play or not.
|SLIGHT EDGE: WEST VIRGINIA |
|Despite the clichéd storyline that pits Duke's finesse versus West Virginia's physicality, these teams are statistical mirror images in a lot of ways. They are both elite offensive rebounding teams and just decent on their defensive glass. Both are low-turnover teams that are extremely good in both offensive and defensive efficiency categories. Duke is a way better defensive team than perceived, leading the nation in three-point percentage defense and also holding foes to just 43.9 percent from inside the arc. This Duke team also plays a lot slower than most people believe, so a grind-it-out affair is both likely and not something the Blue Devils will be afraid of. More or less, everything WVU is really good at, Duke is as good or slightly better, plus the Mountaineers are still dealing with Bryant's injury.|
|West Virginia shot the lights out from beyond the arc in the first half of the regional final and then exposed youthful Kentucky in the second half with some crafty dribble drives. That's unlikely to happen against Duke's perimeter D, and the Devils won't panic if they fall behind. They have more consistently good perimeter offensive weapons to help defeat the zones WVU likely will mix in. The Devils also boast an underappreciated (and improved) frontcourt, which makes them well-equipped to handle this opponent. Duke is a superior free-throw shooting team in a game that could have a lot of fouls. Sometimes, you have to trust the numbers, and the numbers say Duke is better overall.|
DUKE 73, WEST VIRGINIA 67