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UB Gameday: What to watch for when Bulls play Duke


UB at Duke

5:15 p.m., Radio 1520, ESPNU

DURHAM, N.C. -- The University at Buffalo offense will not face a tougher test this season than it meets Saturday night at defending national champion Duke.

Expectations are low for the Bulls, who have struggled at times on offense, which is no surprise given they have a lot of new faces. Odds are, the result is going to be ugly for UB.

But UB’s non-conference season is largely about getting the offensive roles figured out in time for Mid-American Conference play. UB has the talent to be a decent MAC team.

UB coach Nate Oats on his offense heading into Duke:

“We’ve got to get better offensively. I don’t know that Duke’s the game to get better offensively, with all the athletes they have everywhere. But I do think we have some guys who can play better than they’ve been playing. I think we’ve got some athletes. I don’t want to say they’re more athletic than their position at Duke because they’ve got McDonald’s All-Americans. But we’ve got some guys who can play in game with those guys. I think we proved it last year at Kentucky. Bearden played well, Jarryn Skeete played well. Rodell Wigginton played well. Blake Hamilton can go at those guys. We’ve got some guys who can play athletically. We can’t give away possessions on the offensive end as often as we’ve been doing because they’ll capitalize going the other way.”

UB has the athletes to aggressively attack the rim. That’s what they did last year at Kentucky. That’s one thing to watch for against Duke. . . . That doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily score when they attack the rim, because Duke has big-time rim protectors. But UB isn’t going to face those kind of rim-protectors in the MAC.

Here’s a primer on Duke to get ready for the game:

MP3: Duke senior center Marshall Plumlee has two older brothers who starred for the Blue Devils, and both were NBA first-round draft picks. Marshall, known as MP3, would like to get a shot at the NBA. But his No. 1 post-college commitment is to the U.S. Army Reserves. He’s a student in Duke’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He signed a contract in January to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves when he completes his ROTC requirements in the spring. The 7-foot Plumlee is 4 inches taller than the maximum height allowed to join the Army but received a special waiver. His passion for the Army spiked when he visited an Army base in Germany during an international tournament as a high schooler. That’s where he was inspired by Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, one of Mike Krzyzewski’s former players at Army. Marshall Plumlee was a bit player for Duke last season. But he’s a key guy this year, averaging 25 minutes a game. Miles Plumlee plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, and Mason Plumlee plays for the Portland Trailblazers.

Allen steps up: Sophomore 6-5 shooting guard Grayson Allen leads Duke at 21.8 ppg. He was a bit player most of last season, too, but had a big second half in the title-game win over Wisconsin, with eight points in a 55-second stretch. He won the slam-dunk title at the McDonald’s All-America high school game a few years ago.

Point guard matchup: Few players can stop UB point guard Lamonte Bearden from penetrating the lane. We’ll see if Duke’s 6-5 Matt Jones shuts Bearden down. Jones is averaging 14 ppg. He’s a combo 1-2 guard, but he has started the past two games at the point.

Super Frosh PG: Freshman point guard Derryck Thornton, a 6-2 player from California, figures to be the starter at the position by the time the conference season starts, if not sooner. He didn’t start the past two games, but he is a big-time player. He was rated the No. 10 recruit in next year’s high school class, but he graduated early and reclassified himself. So he became the No. 14-rated player in the 2015 class. He’s averaging 8.6 ppg. Duke has a pretty fair history of starting freshman point guards – Tommy Amaker, Bobbby Hurley, Jason Williams, Kyrie Irving, Tyus Jones.

Giant wings: It’s hard to see how UB will match up on the wing, where Duke has 6-9 stars Brandon Ingram and Amile Jefferson. Ingram, a freshman from North Carolina, was the No. 4 rated prep player in the nation this year. He picked Duke over the Tar Heels. He’s averaging 12.5 ppg. Jefferson, a sophomore from Philadelphia, played strong defense on Frank Kaminsky in the NCAA title game last April. He’s averaging 11.3 ppg.

Cameron crazy: Duke has won an NCAA-record 121 straight non-conference home games, dating to a 2000 loss to St. John’s. . . . Duke is 100-4 at home this decade and 174-12 at home over the past 10 seasons. . . . Duke has sold out 393 straight home games. The last non-sellout at home was on Nov. 16, 1990.

D is for dominant: Duke has ranked in the top 25 159 straight weeks, seventh longest streak in history. The record is UCLA at 221 weeks (from 1966 to 1980). Duke is 252-3 in its last 255 non-conference games.

Coach 1K: Mike Krzyzewski last season became the first men’s coach in Division I to reach 1,000 career victories. Coach K is 1,025-311 over 41 seasons. Jim Boeheim is second in wins at 972 and Bob Knight third at 902. . . . Last year’s national title extended Krzyzewski’s record for longest stretch – 25 years - between a coach’s first and most recent title. The second longest stretch is 14 years, by Indiana’s Butch McCracken (1940 to 1953).

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