Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
Southern Illinois (2-0) and Duke (3-0) meet at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic. Duke is ranked #10 in the AP poll and has four returning starters led by forward Kyle Singler, who has scored 59 points in three games this season after averaging 13.3 ppg last year. Outside of Singler, Duke lacks front court strength without a true big man and relies heavily on a ‘drive and kick’ offense with plenty of 3-point shooting. Duke was pushed to the limit by Rhode Island and their solid set of shooters in the Blue Devils recent 82-79 home win. Senior point guard Greg Paulus played just 11 minutes in that contest as he’s battling an arm injury. He’ll be more ready to contribute and get guards Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson involved in the offense with Singler.
Southern Illinois has been an annual participant in the NCAA Tournament this decade until last year’s appearance in the NIT. Head coach Chris Lowery’s teams pride themselves on high-pressure and tenacious man-to-man defense and have a solid experienced floor leader in senior point guard Bryan Mullins. He was the Missouri Valley defensive Player-of-the-Year last season and has been instrumental in getting all players involved in the offense while distributing 21 assists in two games this season. He also leads the team in steals and Southern Illinois has forced 42 turnovers in two games. Southern Illinois is a very young team outside of guards Mullins, Wesley Clemmons and forward Tony Boyle. However, sophomore forward Carlton Fay is primed for a breakout season and he along with some of SIU’s best recruiting talent will need to provide strength and rebounding inside after the team lost most of it’s top rebounders from last year. Southern Illinois did a solid job of pressuring the ball handler and slowing down the quick outlet passes and fast break chances while rallying from a 15-point deficit to beat UMASS. It will be a tougher task against Duke with their quickness and better ball handlers.
Southern Illinois may find the Madison Square Garden environment and the hype of playing Duke a bit overwhelming, and mounting a rally against a more talented and together team will be a real struggle if they fall behind early.
Winner: Duke Margin: 10+ points.
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.