First, Duke has accomplished more this season, obviously, but let’s examine the Blue Devils’ schedule more closely. The Blue Devils have played the nation’s strongest schedule thus far (insert joke about the ACC schedule being the weaker portion of their schedule here). It’s not only that Duke played (and beat) Michigan State, Kansas and Michigan on neutral courts. But they played very smart RPI-boosting games against the likes of Colorado State, Temple, Davidson and Belmont. Those last three teams in particular are three of the better-coached teams in America. Oh, yeah, tack on a road game (and loss) against Ohio State and you see why no one has played a tougher slate.
Maryland’s schedule was fine, especially for the team the Terrapins returned this season. It ranks 108th nationally in terms of strength. Seven of Maryland’s 12 victories have come against teams ranked 201st or worse in the RPI. Its best victories came on neutral courts against Colorado and Notre Dame, two teams unlikely at this point to make the NCAA tournament. And all six teams Maryland has lost to — N.C. State being the worst of the lot — could make the NCAA tournament in March. All this means, to me, that first-year Coach Mark Turgeon is maximizing his talent this season. Any way you slice it, this has been an impressive start for Turgeon’s tenure in College Park.
As for what Duke and Maryland do well and don’t do well:
Maryland has a huge disparity, in its favor, in relying on free throws as as a large percentage of its points. In other words (okay, there’s my Gary Williams reference), 25.7 percent of Maryland’s points this season have come at the free throw line. That percentage ranks ninth-best in the nation. The Terrapins do not shoot particularly well from the line, but they rely on those free points for a large percentage of their points. Conversely, Maryland’s opponents rely on free throw points for just 17.2 percent of its points. That percentage ranks 300th nationally.
The other thing evident when it comes to Maryland is that the Terrapins are not particularly great in creating turnovers. In fact, the Terrapins rank 323rd in turnover percentage defensively and they have a steal percentage on defense of 5.7 percent, which ranks 343rd nationally.
Now for Duke: The first thing that jumps out to me is the point-differential percentage of Duke opponents. (I’m not talking about shooting percentages here, only where the points come from.) Let’s put it this way: Duke’s opponents collect 61.6 percent of their point total from inside the three-point arc. That is a very high percentage of points to come within the arc. Duke opponents get just 20.1 percent of their points from three-point range, and just 18.3 percent of their points at the free-throw line. So opponents score a lot inside the arc against Duke, and opponents often lose with that method of attack. Teams are going to have to do more outside the arc or at the free throw line (if they can get there) to beat Duke.
The other noteworthy thing is efficiency. Duke ranks third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Blue Devils rank fifth in effective field goal percentage and eighth in three-point percentage.
According to Pomeroy’s site, all of this adds up to an 83-70 Duke victory tonight at Comcast Center. In other words (another nod to Williams), the Blue Devils have an 85 percent chance to win. Personally, add in the crazed ambience because of the Gary Williams ceremony, and I think the Terrapins will make a game of it late.
What are your thoughts? And please comment here throughout the game. I will be checking in from time to time and will be posting a quick-hit analysis as soon as the game ends late night. Thanks, folks.
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