M College BB
Weekly lineup
 Tuesday, March 14
Duke vs. Illinois
By Jay Bilas
Special to ESPN.com

 Did Duke fool all of the preseason prognosticators? Duke started 0-2 for the first time since the pre-Vic Bubas era, and for those of you who do not go back that far, that's before JFK was president. The Blue Devils looked very young and very inexperienced in the roles they now fill, and launched up perimeter shot after perimeter shot in New York at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in falling to Stanford and UConn.

While Duke is working on its weaknesses, the Blue Devils are pointing to the mistakes made in each game and saying that they played so poorly yet barely lost each game. However, Stanford and UConn are both saying exactly the same things about their wins over Duke, which they feel could easily have been wider margins. There will be no sympathy for the Blue Devils. On the contrary, many teams smell blood in the water, and nobody is currently intimidated by this Duke team. That could change soon.

Illinois is a team searching for an identity with all of its new talent and promise. The Illini have a new point guard and several new big men, and few know what to expect from this team. Well, you can expect this: Illinois will defend on every play, and set numerous screens for Cory Bradford and crash the glass against a Duke team that does not rebound the ball particularly well early on the defensive end.

When Illinois has the ball
Duke is a man-to-man team that likes to get out into the passing lanes, choke off entry passes and deny ball reversal. The Blue Devils want to force the opposing offense further out onto the floor than teams normally set up, thus getting them out of their comfort zones. Because of youth and inexperience, Duke may be vulnerable to teams that run efficient sets that look to get the ball inside, and that provide for penetration off the dribble.

Players to watch
Illinois' Frank Williams and Duke's Jason Williams will be the primary ball-handlers for each team. Frank Williams is a strong, physical guard with the ability to push the ball upcourt, break down defenses and get shots for others.

Jason Williams is a quick and strong penetrator who is always around the ball and has a flair for the dramatic. Jason's key will be his decisions, and how he holds up when he has to play 40 minutes in the United Center. Remember, Jason has no legit back-up at the point, while Illinois can go with Sergio McClain or Cory Bradford.

Illinois looks to push the ball upcourt in transition and has a very good secondary break. The Illini are very concerned with looking for Bradford, one of the most dangerous scorers in the Big Ten, and they try to spring him with a variety of screens that will require help and communication on the part of the defense. Marcus Griffin, Brian Cook, Robert Archibald and Damir Krupalija are all used as screeners who will hunt shooters and free them up with bone-jarring screens.

Lon Kruger likes to use "big on small" screens that force defenses to make the decision whether to switch, which can provide for some great mismatches. Illinois will run its continuity offense and sets, some out of low stacks and others out of flex action. Bradford will look to camp out in the lane, then decide whether to go off of a single screen on one side, or a double screen or stagger off the other side.

Griffin and Cook are both good rebounders in addition to being low post threats, and Archibald and Krupalija were outstanding in a tour of Australia over the summer. Given Duke's problems inside early, look for Illinois to be active in the post and on the boards. On the perimeter, Frank Williams is the point guard and he has Bradford and Sergio McClain to go to. McClain has improved his shot selection, and is looking to attack the basket more on the drive.

When Duke has the ball
The Blue Devils have great talent, but need to find a mix of inside-outside interaction. Illinois is a man-to-man team, and the Illini have the athletes and size to play denial defense past the 3-point line the way Lon Kruger likes to. Against Illinois, it is very difficult to get easy looks at the basket, because Kruger's teams take great pride in not allowing open shots. This Illinois team has the ability to be a very good defensive team, and it has the athletes to challenge post- and perimeter-oriented teams.

Duke is a motion offense team with a "pass and screen away" philosophy. Motion offense is difficult to teach and to learn, so the Blue Devils have gravitated to more set plays early this season because these give the young players somewhere they have to be on the floor each time down, helping with spacing and floor balance for rebounding. Set plays also define responsibilities and options so that players do not have to think too much on the floor.

Duke traditionally attacks the basket off the dribble, but this season has been strictly a jump-shooting team. Duke's main threats are Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier. Battier has been spending most of his minutes on the perimeter, and as the trailer on the break, he often acts as a point forward. Carrawell's strength is to take the ball off the dribble and use his unorthodox style to pull up or take it all the way. However, the key to this team is freshman Jason Williams. Williams is pure point guard with speed, quickness and strength who looks to penetrate and kick, yet still pulls the trigger from deep. Williams has played very well in spots early, but has struggled with his decision-making. He is close to gaining a comfort level on the court, and when he does, Duke could make a quantum leap in terms of performance as a unit.

In order to be a complete team and to contend for the ACC title and national honors, the Blue Devils need to have consistent play inside. Carlos Boozer, a freshman, is just back from a foot injury and still rounding into shape. Boozer must provide low-post scoring and rebounding and shake his mentality of being a small forward. Duke needs Boozer to be a low-post player -- the Devils already have the perimeter covered.

Matt Christensen is a complimentary player, but must become a capable rebounder and defender, and also a threat to score on his limited touches. Casey Sanders is a good shot-blocker and runs the court well, but does not have the strength or offensive ability yet to play big minutes. Duke's play inside and on the glass will decide this one. Can Boozer provide a presence inside and will Duke attack the basket off the dribble instead of settling for 3s? Free throw attempts will tell the story.


Bilas' breakdown: Wisconsin vs. Wake Forest

Bilas' breakdown: Iowa vs. Maryland

Bilas' breakdown: Virginia vs. Minnesota

Bilas' breakdown: Michigan State vs. North Carolina

Bilas' breakdown: N.C. State vs. Purdue

Bilas' breakdown: Michigan vs. Georgia Tech

Bilas' breakdown: Clemson vs. Penn State

Bilas' breakdown: Florida State vs. Northwestern