Flat Hat staffers talk Duke-Villanova

As their campus journalism careers draw to a close, outgoing Managing Editor Jeff Dooley and outgoing Sports Editor Andrew Pike locked horns for one last debate, with Dooley defending his Villanova Wildcats and Pike touting his Duke Blue Devils, right before the two teams meet in a Sweet 16 showdown Thursday night. Watch out – the gloves are coming off.

Why Villanova will win

1. Balance – The Wildcats have five different scorers who can go off on any night, and often it’s two or three at the same time. Dante Cunningham is a dynamic scorer inside, Scottie Reynolds and The Two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) are money from the outside, and do-it-all Dwayne Anderson just finds ways to put the ball in the basket. Each of the five averaged more than 9 points per game this year. There’s nobody for the Blue Devils to key on, and they’re going to have a tough time keeping up with the offensive penetration the Wildcats will be bringing from all sides. – Jeff

It won’t matter that five guys from ‘Nova can go off. Duke has plenty of offensive weapons too – Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer top the list. But Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams are also capable of double-digit nights. Plus, no one in Duke’s starting five is a slouch defensively. Smith, a great ball-hawking defender off the bench, and Dave McClure, a glue guy who takes care of the little things (boxing out, deflecting passes, blocking shots) give Duke more than enough answers for Villanova’s scoring quintet. – Andrew

2. Toughness – UCLA found out the hard way just how physical the Wildcats play. Every time a Bruin made his way to the bucket Saturday afternoon in Villanova’s 89-69 win, he was knocked to the floor with a clear message: there are no free passes against the Wildcats. Duke better be ready for more of the same Thursday night, as they’ll quickly find out the differences between ACC and Big East basketball. – Jeff

Duke is plenty tough. The Texas game served as a perfect example. Duke banged all night with a more physical Longhorns squad and won. Duke knows its opponents want to be physical. It won’t be a surprise. – Andrew

3. Senior leadership – Villanova boasts three seniors among their eight rotation players: Anderson, Shane Clark and Cunningham. As for Duke? They trot out just one senior – the twice-benched Greg Paulus. The extra years and games of experience have paid dividends for the Wildcats all season long, and already Anderson and Cunningham in particular have put their stamp on Villanova’s tournament run. If the game hinges on a final play, bet on the side of experience. – Jeff

Duke actually has two seniors, Greg Paulus and Dave McClure. Its junior class – Scheyer, Henderson, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek – knows what it’s like to play in close games and knows what it’s like to lose in the tournament. They’ve been on the big stage before and they’re tired of losing. – Andrew

Why Duke will win

1. Half-court defense – Duke thrives in the half-court. The Blue Devils will run when Villanova takes bad shots or commits turnovers, but Duke is most comfortable in a half-court game, which aids Duke’s man-to-man defense. A half-court game allows Duke to wear down opponents with its constant switches on ball screens. If Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds runs off a ball screen, a Duke defender will always be there because the Blue Devils communicate better than any other tournament team. – Andrew

Sorry Pike, but Duke’s half-court defense isn’t a concern for the Wildcats. Their guards (Reynolds and Fisher in particular) are too quick to the hole, and never pass up an opportunity to run in transition. Plus, as I’ve already noted, they’ve got five potent scorers on this team (six if you count Reggie Redding, a solid contributor), so good luck focusing in on one guy. – Jeff

2. The lineup change – Duke is 10-1 since the lineup change. Here’s why:
First, Greg Paulus, a defensive liability against guards like Villanova’s Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds, plays less. Second, long, athletic guards Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams, who can lockdown quick guards like Reynolds, play more. Third, it’s freed Jon Scheyer to run an offense that’s averaged just 9.6 turnovers since the shake-up. – Andrew

Get out of here with the lineup change. It’s all every analyst and their mother can talk about these days. Sure, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams are better than Greg Paulus, but so are you, Pike. And I hear you about Jon Scheyer not turning the ball over, but has he ever even attempted to take somebody off the dribble? Somebody teach the guy a crossover. – Jeff

3. The big three – Duke’s top-three scorers, Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Scheyer, make the Devils go. Each player brings something different to the floor. Henderson is the go-to-guy, the finisher and creator off the bounce. Singler is the 40-minutes-a-night player, who does everything (at one point this season he led Duke in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks). Scheyer is the heady, steady floor general. He won’t wow you with his athleticism, but he doesn’t need to. They’ve been clicking since their march to the ACC title and it’s carried over to the Big Dance. – Andrew

I’ll see your Henderson-Singler-Scheyer trio and raise you Pitt’s DeJuan Blair-Sam Young-Levance Fields. The Panthers’ triumvirate is far more dominating than the Blue Devils,’ and Villanova cruised past Pitt for a 10-point win earlier in the season. You get used to top competition when you play in the best conference in America, which is why the Wildcats aren’t going to have to sweat playing against these three Dukies. – Jeff


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