A spot in the preseason NIT's final four and a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City are on the line tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium as Duke entertains Seton Hall at 7:30.
Coming off a 64-47 season opening win against Boston University Monday night, Duke gets an opportunity for a quick turnaround game after just 48 hours off.
The victory over the Terriers Monday night was a typical season opening performance, as the Devils struggled at times but did enough good things to pick up the year's first win.
While the Duke staff enters every game with an emphasis on defense, the Devils will be looking for a better flow on offense tonight.
Duke shot poorly against Boston University and didn't get the ball in the hands of Shelden Williams enough on the low block. The Landlord still managed to pump in 17 points to pace the team along with J.J. Redick's 19.
Seton Hall started the year Monday night with an outstanding defensive effort, as the Pirates limited Manhattan to under 30 percent field goal shooting in a 66-52 victory at Continental Airlines Arena.
Seton Hall will easily pose the biggest offensive threat that Duke has seen so far in two exhibition games and one regular season contest.
Led by senior forward Kelly Whitney, who scored 25 points Monday night. Guard Jamar Nutter provides outside firepower, as he scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting against Manhattan.
Seton Hall won't be slowing the game down to the extent that Boston University did, but the Pirates would still be wise to try to keep the game at a controlled pace against a Duke team capable of running any opponent out of the gym.
Matchups to watch
Whitney will be one of the better frontcourt players Williams encounters this season and should serve as good prep for the battles to come against the likes of Craig Smith and Eric Williams.
One advantage Williams has over Whitney is the presence of Josh McRoberts to help him on the interior. The freshman pulled down 10 rebounds Monday night to help offset an otherwise very poor rebounding effort by Duke.
For Seton Hall to have a chance to pull the upset, Whitney will have to be at an All-American level against Duke's talented front line. Not only will he have to produce points, but he must lead a rebounding effort at least as successful as BU's was on Monday.
Joining Whitney down low for the Pirates will be 6-foot-10 sophomore Marcus Cousin. Cousin didn't score in the season opener but is a physical presence at 245 pounds and provides valuable defense and rebounding.
2) Seton Hall backcourt vs. Duke pressure
Duke thrives on forcing opponents into turnovers in the backcourt that can be turned into quick points on the other end. The challenge for the Pirates will be to protect the basketball and get into their halfcourt offensive sets.
That burden falls mainly to senior point guard Donald Copeland, who doesn't shoot all that often but is generally a steady ball handler. If he does put it up, it almost always is a three point shot. His main objective against Duke though will be to get Seton Hall in their offense without being pushed 40 feet out from the basket.
Nutter will also be challenged with the ball. The shooting guard turned the ball over five times against Manhattan Monday night. It's a certainty that stat found its way on the Duke scouting report.
The Devils have great defensive talent on the perimeter, headlined by DeMarcus Nelson, who had seven thefts against Boston University. Sean Dockery will certainly turn the heat up on opposing ballhandlers and Redick is a terrific off the ball defender.
If Duke forces another 26 turnovers like they did Monday, this game will be a rout. However, if the Pirates can protect the ball and get shots within the framework of their offense, they'll have a chance to stick around.
The bottom line
Conventional wisdom says the most improvement is made between the first and second games of the season. After getting all the butterflies and nervous energy out of their system Monday, the Devils figure to be a much more loose and relaxed team tonight.
There won't be another game all season where Redick and Lee Melchionni combine for just one three point basket and Williams should undoubtedly get his hands on the ball more.
Assuming Duke gets average performances from its veterans and no crucial errors from its freshmen, this game should be an improved effort and a solid victory.