Thursday, February 5, 2009

Matchups matter for Duke, ACC

How does North Carolina beat Clemson by 24 and Clemson beat Duke by 27?

If you haven't read Dave Odom's observations, please do and come back.

Good. Notice No. 1: "How is a team feeling about itself and its opponent?"

ESPN's Jay Bilas made this point last night. Clemson just doesn't believe it can win at Chapel Hill but it knows it can beat Duke (thanks to the semis of the '08 ACC tourney). That's certainly part of the equation.

But let's jump to Odom's last point: "Consider the contrasting styles of the two teams. Which team can impose itself on the other?"

North Carolina shreds Clemson's press and forces Clemson to get into a sprint. No one can beat the Tar Heels in sprint, certainly not teams that willingly leave Wayne Ellington wide open.

But against Duke, Clemson's press is more effective — although it shouldn't be given breaking a press is a function of coaching and scouting, but we'll tackle that another day — and Duke simply has no answer for power forward Trevor Booker.

Matchups matter. I know Clemson had a week off — and that matters, too — but Duke just got manhandled by Clemson on Wednesday.

Duke could have had a month off and Booker would have still scored 21 points with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

Mike Krzyzewski, to his credit, said so in as many words after the game, eschewing any excuses related to officiating (it was awful) or rest.

"It was 40 minutes of them dominating," Krzyzewski said. "They just kicked our butts."

-- J.P. Giglio