It’s fitting that last year’s champion opens the official Tournament Thursday morning with Duke taking on UNC Wilmington in Providence. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they get a team that plays similar to themselves.
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The Seahawks didn’t face any high-ranked foes this year, but led the CAA for most of the way and ran through the best teams in the Conference en route to the Tourney championship. While they don’t have much size, they have multiple shooters and defend the three point well.
That will come in handy against this Duke team, who also lacks relevance in the paint. Wilmington has the edge in depth, but can that they make that a factor?
The main difference makers will likely be Duke’s best players, Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. Those two have led the Blue Devils all season and there’s no reason that’s going to stop in this Game. Ingram is the ultimate mismatch due to his size, ability to knock down shots, as well as post smaller players up. UNC Wilmington plays the same as Duke with one center and Four guards, but they may have to tweak that lineup if Ingram has any kind of success down low. The best player to deal with Ingram may be Marcus Bryan, who is 6-7 off the bench, yet only averages 16.3 minutes per Game.
Wilmington’s 7-foot center, C.J. Gettys only averages around 15 minutes per Game, but will likely see more time in this Game whenever Marshall Plumlee is on the floor, who averages 30 minutes. But when this Game ends, it will be decided by the other Four positions on the cOurt. Wilmington will have a problem not only with Ingram, but also likely the size of Grayson Allen.
A lot of people are picking the Seahawks to pull off an upset in this Game because these teams are so similar, but thinking Allen and Ingram won’t have success in this Game would be a mistake. Even if Allen is having a bad shooting day, he can get to the free-throw line anytime he wants, while Ingram ate up mid-major schools in non-Conference play because of his size.
For the Seahawks to have a shot, they’ll of course have to be on fire from deep. Their three best scorers can all hit the deep ball and that’ll have to be the case in this Game. Chris Flemmings is the most dynamic player on the team and can Scorein a variety of ways, whether it’s from deep or driving. He also won’t have a problem against Duke’s bigger guards. Denzel Ingram is more of the pure shooter for Wilmington and is a guy that can get hot. He made eight 3s in a Game earlier this season. Craig Ponder dropped 20 points in the CAA title Game and he’ll need to do something similar here.
OUtside of the main guys for Duke, LUke Kennard and Matt Jones are two players that can Scorewhen needed. It’s also relevant to know that the Blue Devils didn’t struggle with any of their smaller level competition in non-Conference play. The Seahawks will be a popular upset pick and have a chance to do that, but it will require a hot shooting day from their top players. Duke will more than likely reach 80-plus points and if it does come down to the wire, can the Seahawks stop Ingram or Allen from getting easy baskets?
Duke’s defense improved throughout the season and that could be a factor in deciding who covers this Game. The Blue Devils know they’ll be a popular upset pick and it’s hard to see last year’s champions coming out flat.
Our Pick – Duke -10.5