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Friday, January 18, 2008
Duke-Clemson rematch should be a dandy

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Trevor Booker will be a handful for Duke to handle down low.

Must-See Game

By Jay Bilas

No. 23 Clemson at No. 5 Duke, Saturday, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN360.com)

Why Watch: Clemson brings its very best effort against two teams: North Carolina and Duke. I don't know whether it is the Tigers' survival instinct or their desire to steal from the rich, but Clemson plays hard and without fear. Last season, Clemson seemingly had the Blue Devils beat in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Duke was able to escape from the jaws of defeat in the final seconds through a David McClure layup, just as North Carolina did this season in Littlejohn Coliseum with a Wayne Ellington jumper. That has been Clemson's fate in these games: play your tail off, get close enough to taste a win and leave with your tail between your legs.

This Clemson team has the ability to attack Duke where the Blue Devils can be had. Clearly, Duke is better and more consistent. However, Clemson has good inside strength with Trevor Booker, James Mays and Raymond Sykes. Booker has been on a tear lately, scoring 32 points against Charlotte and 29 points against Florida State, including a banked 3 to send a game into overtime. Booker is bigger and stronger than any player on the Duke roster, but the question is whether Clemson will be able to find him with Duke's pressure taking away vision. Mays is a Renaldo Balkman-type player who can rebound, run, defend and finish plays, and he points the Tiger press and makes it difficult to inbound and advance the ball. Lefty swingman K.C. Rivers is Clemson's best scorer and most consistent worker, and he has the strength and athleticism to put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. Rivers can also pull up and hit a contested jumper. Cliff Hammonds and Demontez Stitt are both good defensive guards, and both have had good scoring outputs. It will be important for each to handle the ball without turning it over or taking quick, contested shots.

In Duke, Clemson will be facing a team that grew up a great deal on the road against Florida State on Wednesday. The Blue Devils did not play their best against the Seminoles but still made winning plays down the stretch. This is a new team for Mike Krzyzewski, and he has been positive with them in trying to bring them along. He had to have been pleased with the physical and mental courage shown by his young players in their first ACC road game. DeMarcus Nelson plays better at home than on the road, and with his strength and 7-foot wingspan, he is the best guard rebounder in the ACC. Gerald Henderson, at 6-4, will jump center to start the game, and he has been using his athleticism and smooth mid-range game to aggressively look to score. Nolan Smith and Greg Paulus split time at the point, with Smith the better defender and Paulus the better shooter. Paulus played his poorest game of the season against Florida State, but then he came back and played a great five minutes with the game on the line. The key performer will be Kyle Singler, who will have to guard Mays or Booker or both. Singler is the most complete player on Duke's team and his great pick-and-pop ability will draw Clemson's bigs away from the lane.

Kyle Singler

Peyton Williams/US Presswire

How will Kyle Singler, Duke's lone inside presence, handle Clemson's trio of big athletes?

X-Factors: Terrence Oglesby and Jon Scheyer

Oglesby is an outstanding shooter and has great range. He plays only 18 minutes per game yet scores 11.9 points per game. Scheyer is a gamer and he competes on every play. Scheyer is bigger than Oglesby and he is the more complete player. Scheyer was the reason Duke was able to win the game at Florida State, with 21 points -- 16 coming in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting. Clemson has to pick up Scheyer in transition or he will pull the trigger on an opportunistic deep ball.

Key Matchups: DeMarcus Nelson vs. K.C. Rivers. The two team leaders are coming off less-than-their-best games and both should be prepared.

The other key matchup will be inside with Trevor Booker and Kyle Singler. If Booker can lock Singler down in the post and score inside, Clemson will have a good chance. Singler does not knock you over with his numbers, but once you watch him play, you find out quickly that he is one of the outstanding players in the ACC. Singler knows how to play and he is unafraid.

Key X & O: Watch how Duke tries to get good pressure on the ball and deny Clemson's vision. It is hard to hit the open man when you cannot see him, and it is hard to run offense when you are three or four feet farther out from the basket than you normally start.

Key Stats: Rebounding and the free-throw line. Clemson is bigger inside and has the more powerful and athletic frontline. The Tigers have to dominate the glass, especially the offensive glass. If Clemson can get second shots, the Tigers can win.

Duke did not get to the free-throw line until late in the game against Florida State, but the Blue Devils should be more aggressive drivers against the full-court pressure of Clemson.

Who Wins: Duke showed a tremendous amount of heart at Florida State. The Blue Devils did not play their best but were at their best when the game was on the line. Duke should expect a battle from an athletic and motivated Clemson team, but Duke should get the win at home.

Key Player

By Dana O'Neil

B.J. Raymond, Xavier
B.J. Raymond

AP Photo/Al Behrman

Xavier needs B.J. Raymond to have a better game than his goose egg in the spanking at Temple.

Xavier left Philadelphia, after a 78-59 spanking by a Temple team still struggling to find its identity, hoping to rediscover itself Saturday against George Washington (8 p.m. ET).

No one will be peering into the mirror harder than Raymond. The junior arrived in Philly averaging 16.4 points over his last five games, helping Xavier raise its national profile and its ranking to No. 20 with wins over Indiana (Raymond had 19), Kansas State (11), Virginia (12) and Auburn (18). But against the Owls, who are slowly shedding the remnants of John Chaney's zone defense and embracing Fran Dunphy's man-to-man, Raymond -- coming off back-to-back 20-plus-point efforts -- ended up with a goose egg. He was 0-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-6 from the arc in 18 barely-there minutes.

With three talented seniors gone from a team that almost pulled the upset of the year against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament, no one expected this much out of Xavier. But it is because of guys like Raymond that the Musketeers are soaring. A role player last season, he has become a reliable and consistent scorer on a team that might be the most fundamentally sound crew around. The X-Men thrive off team play -- six guys average double figures -- but still need all the parts to be working to win.

Xavier's loss, coupled with Dayton's stunning thud against UMass at home, sent the league into early-January mayhem and seriously dulled the luster on the Jan. 24 meeting of the two Ohio schools.

The question now is whether this was simply a one-game blip or a dangerous trend. Xavier is 1-3 on the road and GW is undefeated at home, so this ought to provide at least a clue.

Big men on campus

ESPN's College GameDay

Join Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps in Gainesville on Saturday as they break down the day in college basketball.
ESPN, 11 a.m. & 8 p.m. ET

Kentucky at Florida, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Billy Donovan has the young Gators hitting on all cylinders earlier than most expected. Nick Calathes has toughness to go along with his skill and feel for the game. Marreese Speights has scored inside and provided rebounding on both ends of the floor. Point guard Jai Lucas has made some clutch shots as the Gators already have a huge road win at Alabama in the books. After losing a heartbreaker in Oxford to the Rebels, the Gators must battle Patrick Patterson and the revived Kentucky Wildcats in Gainesville. After beating Vanderbilt in a thrilling double-overtime game, the Wildcats were brought back to earth with a 69-64 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville. The matchup between the Wildcats' tough man defense and the Gators' ballscreen offense should be a treat to watch in the swamp.

-- Reggie Rankin, Scouts Inc.

Key games this weekend

Notre Dame at Georgetown, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN Full Court, ESPN360.com) Luke Harangody must continue to play well after scoring a career-high 29 points to go along with 14 rebounds in a 92-66 blowout loss at Marquette. Guards Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson must be at the top of their game against the Hoyas. The Irish, who beat Cincinnati on Tuesday, are looking for a statement road win in the Big East. Notre Dame will need to take better care of the ball on the road after committing a season-high 24 turnovers against the Golden Eagles. The Hoyas must defend the 3-point shooting of the Irish and make Big Luke have to defend with Big Roy in the low post. After losing to Pittsburgh on Big Monday, Georgetown needs to redeem itself on its home court.

Ohio State at Tennessee, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
After a 20-point win against in-state rival Vandy on Thursday, the Vols will put relentless pressure on the young, talented Buckeyes. JaJuan Smith has been playing extremely well as he continues to lead Tennessee in scoring. Tennessee's full- and half-court pressure will be a major challenge for the Buckeyes. Jamar Butler will be the primary ballhandler and keep things under control for the Bucks. Ohio State will try to slow down the Vols with its token 2-2-1 zone press and then 2-3 matchup zone that has been productive thus far this season. It will be fun to watch who gets their way with the tempo as Tennessee will attempt to pay back the Buckeyes for the 68-66 loss last season in Columbus.

Texas A&M at Kansas State, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, (ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Forwards Michael Beasley and Bill Walker combined for 54 points at Oklahoma to secure a huge Wildcat road win. Beasley is a one-man wrecking crew, and Walker is a tough matchup with his ability to score inside and out. The A&M defense has been terrific, but having to game plan for Beasley will be a major test, especially on the road. The trio of Josh Carter, Joe Jones and 7-foot freshman DeAndre Jordan lead the defensive-minded Aggies as double-figure scorers. K-State head coach Frank Martin had a week to prepare since the win in Norman. And A&M, coming of a road loss at Texas Tech, can't afford to drop two in a row and stay in the Big 12 hunt.

Kent State at Ohio, Saturday, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN Classic)
This is an early clash of two of the MAC's top programs. The Golden Flashes beat Miami (Ohio) on the road Thursday, and now they must travel to Athens for an intense battle with Ohio. Kent State leading scorer Mike Scott is a matchup nightmare with his ability to score inside and out. Second-leading scorer Al Fisher leads the team in shots and assists. Forward Haminn Quaintance is the team's best rebounder and averages double figures as the third-leading scorer. The Bobcats will try to get forwards Leon Williams and Jerome Tillman off early and often as they try to pound the ball inside with their signature flex offense. After a road trip to an excellent Akron team that ended in a 55-54 loss, the Bobcats need to make a statement on their home court against Kent State in the always tough MAC.

Kansas at Missouri, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
To go with a balanced scoring attack, led by forward Darrell Arthur, the Jayhawks' pressure defense has made opponents start their offense out of the scoring area. The quick hands of guard Mario Chalmers sets the tone with constant pressure on the basketball as he leads the team in steals. Kansas uses speed, quickness and athletic ability to run through passing lanes to create easy baskets. After a Big Monday win against Oklahoma, Kansas must take on a Missouri team that surprised Texas in the conference opener, 97-84. Vandy transfer DeMarre Carroll and all-purpose guard Stefhon Hannah lead coach Mike Anderson's high-energy group of Tigers as they will attempt to make this game organized chaos. Kansas must outrun Missouri in the Tigers' arena to protect the Jayhawks' perfect record. This matchup will be a track meet.

Kentucky at Florida, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Billy Donovan has the young Gators hitting on all cylinders earlier than most expected. Nick Calathes has toughness to go along with his skill and feel for the game. Marreese Speights has scored inside and provided rebounding on both ends of the floor. Point guard Jai Lucas has made some clutch shots as the Gators already have a huge road win at Alabama in the books. After losing a heartbreaker in Oxford to the Rebels, the Gators must battle Patrick Patterson and the revived Kentucky Wildcats in Gainesville. After beating Vanderbilt in a thrilling double-overtime game, the Wildcats were brought back to earth with a 69-64 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville. The matchup between the Wildcats' tough man defense and the Gators' ballscreen offense should be a treat to watch in the swamp.

Arizona State at Stanford, Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek has the Sun Devils off to one of their best conference starts in years as they are 4-0 in the Pac-10 (14-2 overall) after a 99-90 double-overtime win at Cal on Thursday. Freshman guard James Harden is the leading scorer who can do it all on the offensive end. Harden has a strong mid-range game, can knock down 3s and is a dependable free-throw shooter. Inside, forward Jeff Pendergraph has been scoring in the post to help Harden and he has been consistent on the glass. The Cardinal will have to deal with Arizona State's tough defensive schemes of man and zone that has kept opponents scoring in the high 50s. For Stanford, Anthony Goods and the Lopez twins must continue to take care of business at home after beating Arizona on Thursday.

Michigan State at Minnesota, Sunday, 4 p.m. ET
Tubby Smith will have a few reminders for his Gophers as they prepare for the Michigan State rematch. After the 65-59 loss in East Lansing on Jan. 5, the three things on Minnesota's to-do list is to get a handle on Spartan star Raymar Morgan (who went off for 31 points), not get crushed again on the glass (State had a 41-24 advantage) and get better shots (Minnesota was held to 36.4 percent shooting).

Oregon at Washington State, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Two contrasting styles will be on display in this outstanding Pac-10 matchup. The Ducks' quick-shooting, high-scoring offense features five double-figure scorers, with Malik Hairston (18.1 points) leading the way. The Cougars are known for their suffocating man defense. Washington State will use the blocker-and-mover motion offense to get the ball to big man Aron Baynes, who, at 6-10 and 270 pounds, is a huge blocker who can screen and seal defenders with ease. On the perimeter, Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie give the Cougs a patient and effective offense.

-- Reggie Rankin, Scouts Inc.