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December 3, 2013

What To Watch For: U-M at Duke

Michigan heads to Cameron Indoor Stadium for its Big Ten-ACC Challenge showdown with Duke tonight at 9:15 p.m.

Here are the keys to victory:

1. Mitch McGary

Duke is not a particularly tall team this season, and almost all of their opponents (except for East Carolina) have used that to their advantage this season with big games from some big men.

Here's a list of what opposing forwards and centers have done against the Blue Devils thus far this season:

  • Dayton senior forward De'Mon Brooks, 6-7: 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 10-of-12 free throws, seven rebounds.

  • Kansas sophomore forward Perry Ellis, 6-8: 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 5-of-6 free throws, nine rebounds.

  • Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, 7-0: two points, seven rebounds off the bench.

  • FAU junior forward Kelvin Penn, 6-6: nine rebounds in just 13 minutes.

  • FAU junior center Justin Raffington, 6-9: 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, eight rebounds off the bench.

  • UNC-Ashville sophomore forward Sam Hughes, 6-4: 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, three rebounds.

  • Vermont senior forward Clancy Rugg, 6-8: 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, five rebounds.

  • Vermont junior forward Hector Harold, 6-7: 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, three rebounds off the bench.

  • Alabama junior forward Nick Jacobs, 6-8: 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds off the bench.

  • Arizona forward Brandon Ashley, 6-8: 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, two rebounds.

  • Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0: 10 points on 2-of-4 shooting, nine rebounds.

    Sophomore center Mitch McGary, 6-10, could be poised for a huge game. And if the Wolverines want to escape the boisterous Cameron Indoor Stadium with a win, they will probably need one from him.

    Duke will have a hard time keeping him out of the paint, and it's going to be hard for them to keep tabs on the big man in the transition game, because McGary can run like few other guys his size.

    McGary has now been back in the fold five games since returning from a sore back that kept him out of the early goings.

    Those five games have been big, because freshman point guard Derrick Walton needed a chance to get used to McGary, his talents and how to exploit defenses with his presence.

    Now, it's time to unleash him in what is undoubtedly the Wolverines' biggest game to date.

    The Blue Devils are averaging 32.6 rebounds per game - compared to 33.4 per game by their opponents. Michigan is averaging 39.6 rebounds per game, compared to 32.9 by their opponents.

    McGary and Co. can crash the boards and create some chances against this team - and it may be the key to a victory, or a loss.

    2. What To Do With Parker

    Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker has lived up to the hype so far this season.

    Parker has scored at least 21 points in seven of the Blue Devils' first eight games, and poured in 19 in a loss to Arizona.

    He has shot at least 50.0 percent from the floor in six of those eight games, too, with a high of 80.0 percent (8-of-10 shooting) in a season-opening 111-77 win over Davidson.

    But some teams have been able to slow him down. Arizona gave him fits, holding him to 7-of-21 from the floor (a season-low 33.3 percent shooting) in Duke's last game, a 72-66 loss.

    And after hitting 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) three-point attempts in Duke's first six games, Parker has not hit one in the last two contests. He did not attempt on in a 74-64 win vs. Alabama and went 0-of-5 from three-point range in the loss to the Wildcats.

    Parker is the key to Duke's offensive success. Can Michigan shut him down? Not likely. But can the Wolverines slow him down enough to win? Absolutely.

    3. Playing Without Stauskas

    Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas was the reason Michigan had a chance to beat Charlotte in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, despite a dreadful shooting night from the rest of the team.

    But Stauskas came up limp while going to the hole late in that game, visibly favoring his ankle and grimacing throughout the rest of the game.

    He did not play in the Wolverines' 87-45 win over Coppin State Friday.

    "I don't know," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Stauskas' availability for the Duke game. "Until he's practicing 100 percent, he won't go in there. He's got to be pretty close to 100 percent to go in there."

    All is not lost if Stauskas doesn't suit up against the Blue Devils.

    The offense hummed pretty well without him against Coppin State. Freshman guard Zak Irvin found his stroke, coming off the bench to add a game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range.

    Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III said Monday afternoon that Irvin's confidence is sky-high right now. That performance has really helped boost Irvin's play - and he could use that as a springboard, moving forward.

    Sophomore guard Caris LeVert chipped in 15 points against Coppin State, with a perfect 5-of-5 mark from three-point range.

    The pieces around the court - including McGary and Robinson - will have to step up against Duke, but the Wolverines are not doomed if Stauskas is not ready to go.

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