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December 9, 2005

Top teams to clash on hardcourt

Most of the hype from the college sports world is still focused on the gridiron, particularly when it comes to the Texas Longhorns.

But another second-ranked Texas team will put its perfect record on the line against the top team in the nation and this game is going down this weekend.

No. 2 Texas takes on No. 1 Duke at Continental Airlines Arena on Saturday at 1:30 ET. We've broken down the game into head-to-head matchups between the starters, bench, and the intangibles. Check out the scoop on the biggest basketball game of the season thus far.

No. 1 Duke Blue Devils
No. 2 Texas Longhorns
Shelden Williams
LaMarcus Aldridge
PPG: 18.3 RPG: 10 BPG: 3.5
Shelden Williams is a force in the paint, as his aggressiveness pays off on the both ends of the floor. For Duke to be at its best, Williams must stay out of foul trouble. His decided advantage in this matchup stems from years of experience in big games.
PPG: 17.5 RPG: 10.4 BPG: 2.1
Texas is a completely different team with LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor. He's off to a hot start, but the matchup with Williams will be a huge test for the sophomore. Aldridge has fallen short of a double-double only once this season.
Josh McRoberts
Brad Buckman
PPG: 7.1 RPG: 4.9 FT: 39%
Josh McRoberts is still learning the ins and outs of Duke's offense, but the Devils need the freshman to be at his defensive best against the Longhorns. Keeping Buckman from getting easy boards and points in the paint will go a long way towards ensuring a Duke victory.
PPG: 13.5 RPG: 8.3 3pt: 50%
Brad Buckman will be a tough matchup for Roberts. His area of strength is around the basket, but Buckman isn't afraid to step out on the perimeter and knock down open shots. Because of that versatility and his experience, the advantage in this matchup goes Buckman's way.
J.J. Redick
P.J. Tucker
PPG: 22.9 FG: 48% 3pt: 44.2%
J.J. Redick is going to get his shots on Saturday against Texas. The question is this: Will they be the type of shots that Mike Krzyzewski wants him to get? Redick has done a better job at getting quality looks this year, but the matchup with Tucker will provide a serious challenge.
PPG: 16.8 RPG: 8.0 APG: 2
P.J. Tucker will have to work his tail off to fight through screens on defense, but Tucker's physical play and knack for scoring in traffic nearly makes this an even matchup. A North Carolina native, this is Tucker's chance to get back at the Duke program for failing to offer him a scholarship.
Sean Dockery
Daniel Gibson
PPG: 7.6 RPG: 3.8 APG: 2.9
The ever-fundamental Sean Dockery plays a quiet role in Duke's offense, but he's an essential part of the Blue Devils' defense. One of the best on-ball defenders in the ACC, his strength will be put to the test as he'll have to stay between Gibson and the basket.
PPG: 13.4 3pt: 36% APG: 3.6
Daniel Gibson isn't the purest shooter, but he has a terrific first step to complement a penchant for drawing fouls. Gibson gets the nod in this matchup on the assumption that he'll be able to penetrate against Dockery and either get a good look at the basket or dish to the open man.
Greg Paulus
Kenton Paulino
PPG: 5.6 3pt: 50% APG: 3.9
Thrust into the starting lineup after Nelson's injury, Greg Paulus will be important role as an off-the-ball defender. Duke won't be afraid of getting burned by Paulino, so watch for Paulus to sag a bit to stop Gibson's penetration and double down on Aldridge in the post.
PPG: 5.6 3pt: 21% APG: 3.5
Kenton Paulino's role in this game will be much the same as Paulus'. The Longhorns are more concerned with stopping Williams and Redick, so watch for Paulino to cover down on the post or give a moment's-worth of help on Redick when the opportunity arises.
Duke bench
Texas bench
Here's the rub for the Blue Devils. Since DeMarcus Nelson's injury, Krzyzewski has been going with a six man rotation. Senior forward Lee Melchionni the main man off Duke's bench is a good set shooter who plays with a lot of heart. He's a solid reserve, but the Blue Devils are treacherously shallow after Melchionni. Texas has nine players on its roster who are averaging at least 10 minutes of playing time per game. Texas has capable, if not good, guards on the bench (freshman A.J. Abrams, sophomore J.D. Lewis) and a couple of solid big men (sophomore Mike Williams, freshman Connor Atchley).
Duke's intangibles
Texas' intangibles
Though it's technically a neutral court, Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. will feel an awful lot like home to Duke. Besides a home-away-from-home advantage, Duke seems to have the 'team of destiny' thing working pretty well right now. Several squads have been on the edge of knocking the Blue Devils from the top of the AP rankings, but Coach K's team has shown a knack for winning close games already this season. This is the Longhorns' chance to establish themselves as a national power on the hard court. You know the saying you have to beat the best to be the best. Texas coach Rick Barnes, the former head man at Clemson, has a losing record against Coach K from his ACC days, but not by much Krzyzewski holds only a 7-4 advantage over Barnes. Texas isn't particularly strong from the charity stripe, shooting 65 percent as a team.

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