I’ve heard from many Duke basketball fans this season who have expressed concern with how the Blue Devils match up against Kentucky.
Although the Wildcats entered the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country and the favorites to win the national championship, let’s look at why Duke doesn’t need to worry about Big Blue Nation.
The Blue Devils have plenty of things to be causes for concern as the season progresses. John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats aren’t one of them.
I’ve seen numerous people who are alluding to the fact that because Duke has been vulnerable to teams with a strong frontcourt, it means Julius Randle and the rest of the Kentucky frontline will have a field day against Duke’s smaller frontline. Last I checked, Kentucky isn’t on the schedule for Duke this season. The only time these teams could possibly meet would be in the NCAA Tournament, and since both teams will likely be higher seeds in the tournament, they wouldn’t face each other until the late rounds.
If Duke doesn’t meet Kentucky until the Elite Eight and Final Four, they’ll have had plenty of time and experience to learn how to prepare for teams that have an advantage in the paint.
The context is also important for a potential match-up between these two marquee programs.
There’s no question Kentucky is loaded with future NBA talent. However, it’s important to remember this is still young and inexperienced talent, particularly when it comes to postseason success. The Wildcats currently have eight players averaging double figure minutes. Of that group of eight, not one of those players has NCAA tournament experience.
At some point, that lack of inexperience often comes back to bite teams in the postseason.
When Kentucky won the national championship in 2012, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the freshmen who received much of the attention, but that team also talented, experienced players in Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. Who will serve in that role for this season’s team? Who can Kentucky turn to that’s been there before?
Duke might be built around two new players in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, but there are a number of guys on the roster who know what it takes to have success in the NCAA tournament, including a national champion in Andre Dawkins.
On paper, Kentucky appears to have a lineup that could create problems for Duke. They’re big, athletic and can beat people off the dribble, which are all things that have been exposed this season for the Blue Devils.
But, games aren’t played on paper. The current issues for Duke right now might not be the same issues in the postseason. And with late March being the earliest the Blue Devils could potentially face Kentucky, Duke fans shouldn’t have any reason to worry about the Wildcats.