Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
The championship game of the 2K Sports Classic will feature perennial power Duke against an upstart Michigan team working their way back to prominence. The tournament final will be an ESPN2 feature and tip off at 7:30pm EST at Madison Square Garden. Duke (4-0) struggled in the early going of their semifinal game with Southern Illinois. The Blue Devils had 10 turnovers in the opening 12 minutes as they were a bit flustered by the SUI defensive pressure. But after a sloppy first half that saw Duke shoot just 30% from the floor, the Blue Devils found their rhythm and pulled away for a 25-point win. Talented guard Gerald Henderson took over and scored 20 points after the break. Interesting to note that Duke only took 42 shots from the floor, yet made a regular visit to the foul line in the second half and made 40 of 47 free throw attempts in their 83-58 win.
Duke will face more contested shots against Michigan and their tricky 1-3-1 zone defense. The Wolverines are extremely well coach by John Beilein and their zone trap frustrated UCLA and causes many opponents problems. Yet we can anticipate even more 3-point attempts by Duke, as they are a terrific perimeter team and among the very best at getting the ball to one spot on the floor and then reversing the ball to the other side for open 3-point shots. Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer are all solid shooters and the main scorers for Duke. If they can get another strong game inside from 7’1 center Brian Zoubeck, then Duke will be even more formidable and force Michigan to play at their preferred pace.
Sophomore guard Manny Harris is a terrific scorer for Michigan (3-0), and can beat you in many different ways. With DeShawn Sims really emerging and providing Michigan’s top rebounding presence, the Wolverines are going to continue their improvement as a team under coach Beilein’s guidance. Must note that Michigan was out-rebounded by margin against UCLA and only shot 30% FG in the first half before finishing with 42% shooting including 5-19 from the arch. Their problematic zone defense may fluster Duke for a short while, but the Blue Devils have more capable shooters and scorers than Michigan has faced this season or last.
The weakness with Duke is on the interior, yet Michigan may not be able to exploit that area completely. With such energy and effort exerted by Michigan to pull off a big win and upset of UCLA, the Wolverines are not likely to have enough energy left or the scoring power to stay with Duke in the second half. Much respect for coach Beilein and his ability to teach, plan and prepare. Michigan played poised against UCLA and was never rattled despite trailing the Bruins the entire first half. Yet while Michigan had time to get ready and prepare for UCLA, they won’t be as fortunate on back-to-back night’s facing the more skilled shooters on Duke. The Blue Devils ultimately figured out how to handle and attack the defensive pressure and ball screen defense of Southern Illinois, and Duke will find a way to break down Michigan’s zone and forge to the finish with their perimeter players to win the championship game.
Winner: Duke Margin: 10+ points
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.