Gardner Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Pick

Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs (3-4 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devils (7-1
SU, 4-3 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 15, 2009, Cameron Indoor
Stadium, Durham, N.C. TV: ESPN2

by Ryno of
Point Spread: Gardner-Webb +35/Duke -35
Over/Under: 149.5

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In 2007, Gardner-Webb went to Rupp Arena and upset Kentucky, 84-68, in
of the most shocking college basketball results this decade. Grayson Flittner
scored 22 points and dished out five assists in that game for the Runnin’
Bulldogs. Flittner is now the senior leader for Gardner-Webb and will have
to play even better than he did two years ago at Kentucky just to keep the
score respectable when his team plays Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on

If it weren’t for that game, not many people would have heard of Gardner-Webb.
But fortunately for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, they did get that win, the biggest
in their history. It’s highly unlikely that Coach K’s Blue Devils are going
to repeat the miserable performance of Kentucky two years ago, but Gardner-Webb
hopes to at least keep the game within 20 or 30 points. That’s easier said
than done against a Duke team playing like a Final Four contender this season
at one of the most storied arenas in college basketball.

Flittner, a 6-foot senior guard, leads Gardner-Webb in scoring with 10.6
points per game and in assists with 4.1 per game. He holds a 4.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover
ratio, an extremely high ratio in college basketball or any level of basketball
for that matter. Gardner-Webb has a balanced scoring attack with three players
scoring between 9.1 and 10.6 points per game. Auryn MacMillan and C.J. Hailey
are right behind Flittner in scoring. MacMillan leads the team in rebounds
with 8.6 per game.

Gardner-Webb is yet to defeat a Division I team this season. Its first
three games were wins over Division II teams, while the last four games
were losses to North Carolina, Western Carolina, NC Asheville and Charlotte.
Duke continues Gardner-Webb’s tour against teams from the state of North
Carolina. The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost by 21 to UNC, by 16 to Western Carolina,
by just two to NC Asheville, and by 29 to Charlotte. By comparison, Duke
beat that same Charlotte team (a team doing very well with only one loss
this season) by 42 points, 101-59.

After starting the season with four easy games, Duke has stepped up its
competition over the past four games, winning three of them. The Blue Devils
won 64-53 over Arizona State after starting slow in the first half, won
68-59 over UConn in the Preseason NIT Final at Madison Square Garden, lost
73-69 at Wisconsin in their only road game thus far, and won 80-71 over
St. John’s in their last game on December 5.

Duke is not very deep this season, especially in the backcourt where the
Blue Devils have only three guards. After starting the season at point guard
last year, Nolan Smith is now playing primarily off the ball and is leading
the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game. He’s also dishing out 3.2
assists per game, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc, and shooting
91.3 percent from the free throw line.

Jon Scheyer moved to point guard towards the end of last season and is
excelling at that position. Scheyer is scoring 15.8 points per game, but
more importantly he leads the team with 5.2 assists per game and has an
absolutely ridiculous more than 8.5-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio. He’s
also shooting 90.5 percent from the free throw line. The way Scheyer is
running the point and protecting the ball makes it really difficult to beat
the Blue Devils.

Kyle Singler, one of the best players in college basketball, moved to his
natural position of small forward this season and is averaging 17.1 points
and 7.0 rebounds per game. Singler is a 6-foot-9 versatile forward who can
light it up from beyond the arc or dominate in the low post.

Freshman guard Andre Dawkins has been a very nice addition for the Blue
Devils, especially with the lack of any depth in the backcourt. Dawkins
is a dangerous threat from 3-point range, shooting 51.3 percent from beyond
the arc.

Down low, the Blue Devils can rotate Miles Plumlee, Lance Thomas and Brian
Zoubek. Plumlee and Zoubek are both averaging more than seven rebounds per
game. Freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, the younger brother of Miles,
give the Blue Devils even more depth in the frontcourt.

Ryno’s Pick: There is no chance at all that Gardner-Webb
even keeps this game close. These two teams are in different leagues. Even
if Gardner-Webb commits no turnovers and shoots lights out on offense, Duke
will be able to score a ton of points with size mismatches. Gardner-Webb
can’t defend a 6-foot-9 small forward and a 7-foot center, both of which
move very well for their size. If the Runnin’ Bulldogs double-team down
low, Scheyer and Dawkins will light it up beyond the arc. Duke beat Charlotte,
a team that won at Louisville, by 42 points. That same Charlotte team beat
Gardner-Webb by 29 points. This game will be a nice warm-up for Duke’s upcoming
game against Gonzaga, and 35 points isn’t even enough for Gardner-Webb.
Take Duke -35.