Editor's note: March Madness is too much for any one person to handle, so I'm adding help. The guys behind Ballin' Is a Habit, Rob Dauster and Troy Machir, will be contributing throughout March and into the Final Four, both with content from their Web site and original articles for us. This post originally appeared at BIAH.
By Rob Dauster
Duke (33-5) vs. West Virginia (31-6), 8:47 p.m. on CBS
These are not your older brother's Duke Blue Devils.
This is not a finesse team. These Blue Devils don't have five guards on the floor. They aren't going to live and die by the three. The 2010 version of Duke is a tough, physical group. The Devils defend and they hit the offensive glass hard.
Would you believe me if I told you that the key player on this team is Brian Zoubek? For three and a half seasons, Zoubek was a running joke. A top 25 recruit, Zoubek flopped more than Greg Paulus. My six-year-old nephew was stronger with the ball. I don't think he understood the concept of a post move. He still doesn't, but over the last 15 or so games of the season, Zoubek has developed into one of the country's best rebounders. He's always been big, but he's developed an aggressive streak. He goes to the offensive glass hard, he sets screens like a brick wall (ask Chris Kramer, who got knocked out by a Zoubek screen), and he's good for a couple of buckets every game.
Zoubek isn't the only capable big man that Duke has either. Lance Thomas and the Plumlee brothers are all strong, athletic, and capable of getting an offensive rebound or blocking a shot.
And Duke will need each one of them when they go up against the Mountaineers. If there is one thing that you can count on with a Bob Huggins coached team, it is physicality. The Mountaineers have, at any given time, four combo forwards on the floor, all of whom are . 6-7 to 6-9. They're all aggressive going to the glass, and all capable of hitting a perimeter jumper. Duke can rebound, but they are certainly going to have their work cut out for them Saturday.
The key matchup in this game is going to be West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler. He usually plays the two-guard spot, and it is going to create a matchup problem both ways. Whether he is guarded by Jon Scheyer or Nolan Smith, he is going to have a size and strength advantage. Huggins isn't afraid to use Butler in the post, and his height advantage allows him to shoot over smaller defenders.
It works the other way, too. Butler is not as quick as Smith or Scheyer. If WVU decides to go man he is going to be matched up with one of them, because you might not see thaqt much zone from the Mountaineers. The zone worked against Kentucky because they were able to pack their defense in and dare Kentucky to shoot it from the perimeter, and one thing I can guarantee is that Duke won't miss their first 20 3- pointers. The combination of Scheyer, Smith, and Kyle Singler is really good. They can all shoot, put the ball on the floor, and pass. If the 'Eers do go to a zone, they need to make a concerted effort on closing out long while cutting down driving lanes.
The X-factors for West Virginia are Kevin Jones and Wellington Smith. They are essentially the four and the five, and while neither really has much of a back to the basket game, what makes them so dangerous is their ability on the perimeter. Both are better than average shooters, which means that whoever is matched up on them (Zoubek, a Plumlee, Thomas) is going to need to defend them on the perimeter. If they do, that opens up rebounding lanes -- and we all know how good WVU is going to the glass.
Two factors that will be talked about at length that I, personally, don't see being a huge issue is Truck Bryant and Singler. Bryant has a broken bone in his foot, but there is a chance that he could actually see time during the Final Four. If he does, I doubt he is going to be much of a factor. No matter what kind of orthotic you have put in your shoe, a broken bone is a broken bone. And if he doesn't play, well, we all saw what Joe Mazzulla is capable of.
As far as Singler goes, he has a tendency to struggle against players his size with his mobility, which is just about 75 percent of the WVU roster. I don't expect him to be much of a factor.
This is going to be a great basketball game. It won't be that aesthetically pleasing, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up somewhere in the low 60s. But what you will see are two well-coached teams that play physical basketball and really compete hard.
I hope there is a lot of ice in Indianapolis, because these kids will need it Saturday night.