The ACC in the NCAA: Can Albany Beat Duke?Posted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013
After the shocking loss to Lehigh last tournament, it seems unlikely that Duke will ever overlook a no. 15 seed again. Yet, looking at Albany‘s body of work; no one would blame the Blue Devils for looking a little bit ahead. Albany is not Lehigh. Lehigh was ridiculously underseeded at 15 and featured two top caliber players, one of whom, C.J. McCollum will probably play in the NBA. Duke was missing Ryan Kelly, and, in general seemed to be faltering at the end of this season. Meanwhile, this season, there is little to indicate that Albany is mis-seeded and Duke finished the regular season healthy and on a strong note. Still, for the sake of argument, if Albany were to somehow beat Duke, how would they do it?
Duke’s one big weakness all season has been rebounding and the Great Danes have actually been pretty good on that front, particularly in terms of defensive rebounding, though Albany easily outpaces Duke’s offensive rebounding mark as well. The big caveat here is the caliber of competition that Albany has been beating on the glass: dominating the America East Conference on the boards is a little simpler than doing the same in the ACC. Yet, it bears mentioning that tempo-free rebounding measures tend to be remarkably stable even when the level of competition changes. As strange as it is to say, it’s quite possible that the Great Danes could own the boards against Duke.
Other than that possible advantage, Albany is left with little more than the classic remedy of Davids taking on Goliath: slow the tempo down, play decent defense, make threes, and get lucky. Albany has played at a relatively slow tempo for most of the season and has been generally good on the defensive end of the court. The team is fairly talented from deep, shooting 36.4% as a team, and featuring Jacob Iati, the America East Conference’s most dangerous perimeter sniper who is averaging 41.1% in his career at Albany. Here’s a point of reference for the kind of long-distance shooter Iati is.
- Player A 83-of 193 43.0%
- Player B 89-of-217 41.0%
Player A is Seth Curry while Player B is Iati. Obviously Iati’s small stature (listed at 5’10″) and lack of Curry’s all-around game makes him a more limited player, but he has the touch to fill up the scoring column. If Curry is missing from deep and Iati is connecting? Albany has a shot at the upset.
Obviously, if all goes according to Mike Krzyzewski‘s plan, Duke’s balanced attack embodied by Ryan Kelly will set the tone for a shoot-out styled game where Duke’s athletes and speedy shooters can put up so many points that anything Albany can muster won’t even matter. That outcome is far more likely. Still, longshot or not, the Great Danes have the tools to be underdogs.