Duke in the Final Four
8 | FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 2010
Defensive matchups define national semifinal If Singler guards WVU’s Butler, defensive responsibilities could mean a drop in offense
3-point shooting, physical rebounding key for Duke to dissect Mountaineers’ 1-3-1 zone
by Archith Ramkumar
by Jordan Siedell
While there was plenty of joy in the aftermath of Duke’s 78-71 victory over Baylor, allowing the Blue Devils to punch their ticket to the Final Four, there was also one small glimmer of concern. For the first time in his career, Kyle Singler did not make a field goal. And while the junior forward’s 0-for-10 shooting day was offset in part by a phenomenal performance from Nolan Smith, conventional wisdom after the game was that Duke needs Singler’s offensive production to advance to the national championship game. After all, coming into last Sunday’s contest, Singler had shouldered the load for the Blue Devils down the stretch in ACC play and had averaged 21 points per game through the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. When asked about his offensive struggles, Singler remained unfazed. “Against Baylor, I couldn’t find a bucket and was struggling scoring the ball,” Singler said. “But I just had the mindset of doing anything to help the team win. It’s not all about scoring.” In fact, Singler’s defense in the Baylor game was a key component of Duke’s victory. Bears guard LaceDarius Dunn, who led his team with 22 points—but needed 18 shots to do it—admitted afterward that Singler’s size and length bothered him. The end result was that while Singler’s production suffered on
After two weeks of Madness, the only thing standing between the Blue Devils and their first trip to the national title game since 2001 is West Virginia and its renowned 1-3-1 zone defense. More than anything else, how Duke attacks the Mountaineer zone will significantly impact who moves on from this marquee Final Four matchup. Winning against solid zone defenses has proven to be one of Duke’s biggest challenges this season, but one that it has managed to overcome several times already. Against Miami in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, the Blue Devils had to deal with a tenacious defensive effort from the Hurricanes that kept the game close throughout, with Duke finally pulling out a 77-74 win. In the Baylor game Sunday, the Blue Devils again had to put up with a 2-3 zone that limited penetration into the paint. For the most part, that strategy kept the Duke offense centered around outside shooting and second-chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds, but the Blue Devils were able to exploit the zone and earn a physical Elite 8 win over the athletic Bears. Like Baylor, West Virginia is stacked with players that are able to challenge opponents both on the ball and on the boards, resulting in one of the stingiest defenses around. Throughout the course of this season, the Mountaineers
Chronicle file photo
Duke’s Kyle Singler and West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler will likely be matched up on defense Saturday. the offensive end, he forced Dunn to work harder and harder, and it showed in the second half when Dunn went only 3-for-9 from the field. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that he thought Singler’s anxiety See singler on page 18
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have held opposing teams to only 63 points a game. Moreover, West Virginia is 27-0 when holding opponents to less than 69 points a game and 28-2 when holding the other team to under 50 percent shooting. And although man-to-man may be used occasionally Saturday, Duke is preparing to See zone defense on page 15
ian soileau/Chronicle file photo
Jon Scheyer’s role in attacking a zone defense is to take care of the ball and hit perimeter jumpers.