The Blue Devils return home from playing Kansas in the Champions Classic to play the Delaware Blue Hens on Friday.
Duke has a bit of a tie with Delaware as that’s where Mike Brey went after he left Mike Krzyzewski’s staff in 1995 before moving on to Notre Dame.
Delaware is currently 1-1, with a fairly meaningless win over Wilmington University and a 75-71 loss to Air Force, which is off to a poor start, having lost to Bowling Green and Texas A&M-Commerce. But that doesn’t mean Delaware can’t play.
They are coached by Martin Ingelsby, who played for Mike Brey and also was an Irish assistant before taking his old boss’s job at Delaware.
Ingelsby comes from a basketball family: his dad had a brief NBA career before becoming a high school coach (he coached his son at DC’s Archbishop Carroll). His sister is married to Baker Dunleavy, whose brother Mike starred at Duke and whose father was also an NBA player. Baker is currently the head coach of Quinnipiac. Like we said, a basketball family.
Ingelsby has had success at Delaware: toss out the Covid year, and his last two seasons were 22-11 and 22-12. He got the Blue Hens in the tournament last year, losing to Villanova in the opening round 80-60.
He’s gotten two extensions, so if he goes anywhere, it’s him making a choice. They’re not booting him.
There is one familiar name on the roster: Jameer Nelson, Jr. His dad had a spectacular career at St. Joe’s and did well in the NBA too. He was a Second Team All-CAA selection and started all 35 games last season.
Their rotation goes about eight deep and it’s not a big group. Nelson, a junior, is 6-1, senior Christian Ray is 6-6, senior Ebby Asamoah is 6-4, senior LJ Owens is 6-3, junior Johnny McCoy is 6-5, junior Gianmarco Arletti is 6-6 and freshman Cavan Reilly is 6-4. Sophomore Jyare Davis at 6-7, is the only rotation player taller than 6-6.
That’s going to be tough going against Duke’s bigs. Ryan Young is 6-10, Derek Lively is 7-1 and Kyle Filipowski is 7-0. He has had three straight triple-doubles and four seems like a good possibility.
But that’s not to discount Delaware.
They’re well coached and have a champion’s mentality. They also have vastly more experience than Duke, which, as Kansas just showed us, can be a major advantage.
Ingelsby learned a lot from Brey and his offense is similarly difficult to contain. His teams get a lot of open shots, much like Notre Dame, and he likes three point bingo.
Nelson is a solid guard and he’s paired with Owens, who is an excellent sniper.
Delaware doesn’t run a mere three-guard offense; it lists four as starters: Asamoah and Ray are both listed as guards with only Davis listed as a front court player
And Davis is pretty good. He really took off mid-season and by the end of the year was playing at a high level. He was the CAA Rookie of the Year last season so he’s got some game. He’s averaging 17.5 ppg and 4.5 boards.
The first success for Delaware would be if it forces Duke to play small because that means they are dictating the terms of engagement. Duke has enough players to do that though, even without Dariq Whitehead. We wouldn’t expect him to play but it’s not out of the question.
Lively is agile enough to anchor a small lineup and can probably keep up with the much smaller Davis. It wouldn’t surprise us to see Jaylen Blakes get a lot of minutes in this one as he’s an excellent defender and might suppress a three point shooter.
It also wouldn’t surprise us at all to see Blakes, Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Jacob Grandison and Lively at the same time.
It wouldn’t surprise us to see a big game from Roach: he likes to drive and with Delaware’s size, he has a lot of opportunity there.
Duke is obviously favored to win this one but if you’ve paid attention to Brey’s Notre Dame offense, you know how explosive it can be. Ingelsby’s is very similar and also dangerous. And as you know by now, if a team gets hot from the outside, life can get quite difficult.
Bottom line: it should be a straightforward win for Duke, but the Blue Hens have the ability to thoroughly scramble that logic.
We mentioned this recently, but if you’re not reading David Ben Akiva’s game previews, you really should. He’s very thorough and insightful.