After a November full of huge games, and huge wins, can the Devils take care of business as they open up December?
Duke's November was an unquestionable success, completed with a reversal of last year's post-Maui collapse against Ohio State. During this year's OSU game there was talk about the Devils' physical and/or emotional fatigue. While it did look to perhaps be the case in the first half, the second half looked to be more about dispelling that idea.
Still, the question remains, and may even loom larger with Delaware headed to Cameron on Saturday. Can Duke remain sharp just a few days removed from 4 tough games in about a week, especially with all the toughest competition behind them? No disrespect to the Blue Hens, but an unranked 2-5 opponent is going to be just a bit harder to get up for than a top 5 team that played in the Final Four last year (or 3 of them...).
Delaware was picked preseason second in the Colonial behind Drexel. An early season win against Virginia in Charlottesville boded well for the Blue Hens (and was equally ominous for the 'Hoos, though the Wisonsin win surely took some of that sting away). Delaware has followed that up, however, with 4 straight losses, the last to Lafayette.
The key to stopping Delaware will be handling Jr. guard Devon Saddler, who leads the team in points (21.4 ppg), assists (3.0 apg) and minutes (36.0 mpg). Senior forward Jamelle Hagins is second on the team with 13 ppg, grabbing 13 rebounds per as well. At 6'9" and 235 lbs, he could provide some matchup problems, although Duke held Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas well under his average production on Tuesday night.
Bottom line - unless the hangover from November is the "I'm never drinking again" kind of hangover, Duke will win this game comfortably. Look for a focus on stopping Saddler, which may increase Tyler Thornton's minutes. Maybe we also see more of Alex Murphy to see how he can do against a relatively smaller team.
I'll be in Cameron for this one to see my good friend Rusty Miller and his National Champion Duke Cycling (@DukeCycling) team get recognized at half time. I'll shoot out some comments during the game.