Crossposted here.

How They Got Here:
Duke advanced to the CBE Classic title game with victories over Columbia, Georgia Southern, and Air Force. Marquette advanced with wins over Idaho State (59-56 OT); Detroit (87-45); and then last night’s 87-72 victory over Texas Tech.

Series History:
This will be the sixth overall meeting between the two programs, and the first since Duke won 59-49 in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament in 1994 behind Grant Hill’s 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Marquette’s only victory came with an 80-77 victory on February 10, 1980.

Duke currently holds a 98-40 overall record against teams from the Big East Conference. Meanwhile Marquette has played only one team during Crean’s tenure – that game resulted in a loss to North Carolina.

Great Backcourt Play Keys Crean’s Team:
The Golden Eagles’ backcourt trio of point guard Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews is among the nation’s best groups. The three sophomores have combined to average 39.6 of Marquette’s 79.3 points per game. Against Texas Tech in the semifinals, the three hit for 55 points while holding the Red Raiders’ Jarrius Jackson to just 14 points.

James is the most visible of the three based on preseason hype, and for good reason. As a freshman he stepped in and put together a statline worthy of former Golden Eagle turned NBA Finals MVP Dwayne Wade with 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists – good enought to take home Big East rookie of the year honors. This season James was a unanimous choice for the Preseason All-BIG EAST team and was named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list.

James has been nearly as good this year, though classmate McNeal has done his best James impression, averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, and four assists. Matthews was limited last season after suffering a stress fracture that sent him to the side lines for nearly a third of the season and relegated him from starter to sixth man. This year, however, he’s back and has been as good as ever.

Inside Presence a Question mark:
The Golden Eagles don’t have a lot of size in their rotation, but they do have a good number of mid sized athletes (6’3-6’6). The biggest member of the rotation is 6’10, 235 pound junior Ousmane Barro, a Senegal native who has struggled with consistency throughout his career. This season he’s been better, scoring at a consistent pace of 7 points per game, while topping 7 or more rebounds in 3 of the team’s five games.

Both Teams Ranked in Latest Poll:
Both the Blue Devils and Golden Eagles appear in this week’s AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke checks in as the nation’s eighth ranked team, a position they have been in many times. Over the 102 years of Duke basketball, the Blue Devils are 60-13 overall (.822) when ranked as the nation’s #8 team. The Golden Eagles are rated as the nation’s #17 team. Duke has an all time record of 10-8 (.556) against teams ranked 17th.

Upperclassman Leadership:
Against Air Force, DeMarcus Nelson set a new career high with 23 points while hitting on 7-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Nelson added six rebounds and three steals to his performance. Nelson became the first active player to record a 20 point game. For the season Nelson is the team’s leading scorer (15.3) and steals (2.8), while ranking third on the team in rebounding (5.5).

Fellow captain Josh McRoberts recorded nine points, six rebounds and five assists for the Blue Devils Monday night. On the young season, the versatile McRoberts is averaging 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 blocks per game while hitting on 15-of-23 (.652) from the field.

Lance’s Turn To Shine:
Freshman power forward Lance Thomas seemed to win the raffle for freshman impact against the Falcons. The 6-foot-8 Thomas logged a career best 15 points while hitting 7-of-11 from the field and added three rebounds. Thomas hit double figures for the second time in four games this season. Classmate Jon Scheyer added 12 points including 4-of-4 from the line down the stretch and 2-of-5 from behind the arc. Scheyer is averaging 10.7 points per game and has hit 9-of-16 (.563) from behind the arc.

Continued Domination Inside and Defensively:
Duke has changed its offensive focus this season, concentrating on attacking the basket off the dribble and going inside against opponents. So far the Blue Devils are out-rebounding their opponents by a 38.0-25.5, a + 12.5 margin. Against Air Force, Duke held the Falcons to just 8 total rebounds over 40 minutes, while shooting a remarkable 61.0% from the floor.

For the season Duke is shooting 55.4% from the field, while holding opponents to 34.1% and just 48.8 points per contest.


Duke 74
Marquette 69


Other previews:

> Associated Press

> Duke Chronicle (more of a game recap than a preview, really)

> The Marquette Tribune

And if you’d like to read up a bit more on Marquette, here’s a game story from the Kansas City Star on the Eagles’ dismantling of Texas Tech yesterday. And from Marquette’s home-town paper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.