Saturday's Utah-Duke matchup at Madison Square Garden will be a rematch from last year's sweet 16, where Utah lost 63-57 to the eventual National Champions. Since that game in March, a few things have changed. Duke lost Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow to the NBA and Utah lost Delon Wright. One thing that has not changed is Duke's ability to reload with new young talent.
Sophomore guard Grayson Allen put together a good run in last year's tournament as a freshman and has stepped up this season as a leader. At 6-5 and scoring 21.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game, Allen is an NBA talent and is likely gone after this season. Allen is dangerous from outside as well, shooting 45% from beyond the arc and 50% from the field.
Joining Allen in the backcourt is junior Matt Jones. Also standing 6-5, he is another good shooter at 45% from the field and 45% from deep. He is not the talent that Allen is, but averages 13.6 points per game and has the ability to cause Utah problems in the backcourt. Guard Derryck Thornton is just a freshman but has put together a few great performances already in his young career. He has scored in double digits against VCU, Georgetown, Indiana and Georgia Southern.
In the paint, 6-9 freshman forward Brandon Ingram averages 15 points per game, only behind Allen, and 5.4 rebounds per game. He isn't a great shooter and will do most of his damage close to the basket, but is young and brimming with talent, making him another potential high NBA draft pick.
Senior center Marshall Plumlee will see time at center in place of regular starter Amile Jefferson who is out with a foot injury . Jefferson is averaging a double-double with 11.4 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game and was one of the best offensive rebounders in the country through nine games, so his absence will be felt by the Blue Devils. Plumlee comes from a basketball family however, both his brothers went to Duke and are now in the NBA. 6-10 Freshman Chase Jeter could also see time matched up against Poeltl.
Utah won't have many advantageous matchups in this game but will have one key advantage down in the post. Utah needs to make sure Poeltl gets as many touches down low as possible. Poeltl will be the best big man on the floor and Utah will need to take advantage of that matchup to have a chance at winning this game.
Utah has struggled to match last year's defensive performance so far this season, but will need to figure out a way to contain Grayson Allen to win. Duke's guards have a size advantage on Utah's guards and have the ability to take over a game. Saturday would be good time for Brandon Taylor to break out of his funk, as Utah will need Taylor to play well to get a win on Saturday.
This game will come down to which team gets the best guard play. For Utah that means Brandon Taylor and Lorenzo Bonam need to step up and have their best games so far this season. Utah's perimeter defense struggled in their loss to Wichita State and will need to be vastly improved against a more talented Duke team. Duke holds the advantage both in the backcourt and in the game in a tough matchup for the Utes in New York. Could Utah come together and play well enough to beat Duke? It could happen, but indications so far this season suggest it will be difficult for Utah to leave the Garden with a win.
The game tips off Saturday at 10:00 am MT. You can catch all the action live on ESPN.