Saturday College Basketball Betting: Duke at Clemson Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 1/22/2010
I will never waste one single second of my life feeling sorry for the Duke Blue Devils. I, like so many other good people, despise them with every fiber of my being. But I will say this: you gotta respect a man for taking everyone’s best shot.
Every time Duke shows up in an opponent’s gym they have to know that the crowd will be louder and rowdier and the players will be hungrier and feistier than they are when anyone else comes to town. No matter where they go they are going to catch a team’s best game and they have to be ready to handle it at every turn.
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The Blue Devils better be ready to take another shot on Saturday when they head to Littlejohn Coliseum. No. 6 Duke will take on No. 16 Clemson at 8 p.m. on Saturday in the featured game on ESPN. Duke has been installed as a one-point favorite.
Clemson has even more motivation than usual heading into this game. Besides the general hatred for their prissy rival and the fact that they’re in the national spotlight, the Tigers will be looking to avenge a 74-53 maiming in Cameron Indoor back on Jan. 3.
In that game the Blue Devils rolled out to a 30-12 halftime lead. Clemson shot a stone-cold 33 percent from the field and was just 3-for-16 from three-point land. Duke hit 50 percent of its shots and after Clemson cut it to 30-23 out of halftime they hit the jets and turned the game into a joke.
In that meeting, 60 of Duke’s 74 points were poured in from Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. On the flip side, Clemson’s young guns peed down their legs in their first conference road game. Five freshmen and sophomores in the rotation combined to go 4-for-20 for 11 points. Not an altogether surprising response to the Cameron Crazies, but not fun to watch either.
I think it will be a different story now that the Tigers at are home. Clemson is 9-1 this year on their own turf and they are a stellar 6-0 against the spread in their last six in Littlejohn. Their lone loss this year – both at home and ATS – came in a game against Illinois in which the Tigers blew a 20-point halftime lead.
Conversely, Duke’s road woes have been well documented. Especially after its stunning 14-point loss as an 11-point favorite in North Carolina State this Wednesday. That setback left the Blue Devils at 0-3 SU and ATS this year in true road games. Duke is an unstoppable 15-0 SU and 11-3 ATS in neutral site and home games. But in trips to Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and N.C. State they have been laid out.
Littlejohn isn’t going to be an easy place for Duke to get that first win either. Last year Duke was rolled 74-47 by the Tigers and Clemson has already laid an 83-64 pasting on North Carolina in its last home game.
As far as matchups go, the one thing that Duke has working in its favor is that the Blue Devils have some power underneath. In the first meeting they completely shut down the lanes and challenged everything on the interior. They dogged Clemson’s stud lead, Trevor Booker, into a 4-for-11 night and earned an edge in defensive rebounding, 23-16.
Duke’s size and athleticism around the basket this year is the biggest change that I’ve noticed in the team from what they’ve marched out with over the last four or five seasons. However, their size up front has come at the cost of reliable guards.
Duke’s weakness is the lack of a true point guard. Scheyer has done a stellar job this year handling the duties and Smith is sort of a converted point man. But beyond that the Blue Devils have nothing in the way of proven ball handlers. That’s not a great place to be in the face of Clemson’s relentless 40 minutes of full-court pressure. The Tigers are No. 55 in the nation in scoring defense and No. 20 in three-point defense.
For the Tigers, they clearly need to shoot the ball better. They were shooting blanks at Cameron and also really struggled in their last outing, a 66-64 loss at Georgia Tech in which they hit just 37 percent of their shots from the field.
Another major concern for the Tigers, especially in what will likely be a tight game, is that they shoot a woeful 64.8 percent from the free throw line. That is No. 276 in the country and is a huge liability. Duke, quite naturally, is No. 2 in the country in knocking down freebies at 77.3 percent.
Right now second place and ninth place is one single game. This is obviously a key early conference game between a pair of clubs currently sitting in a logjam at the No. 2 slot. It should be a wild one and Clemson will obviously feed off its major home court edge. But I don’t expect the Blue Devils to lie down in this one. And the Tigers are going to have to execute if they want to leave Littlejohn with a big win.
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