The matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils in Friday night’s NIT final (6 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be a chess match of two coaches who want to take advantage of their teams’ strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
I’ve come up with some keys to the game for Arizona and Duke that I would have at the top of my scouting report if I were coaching either team.
1. Get Rasheed Sulaimon going
At the end of last season, Sulaimon was an aggressive, confident, attacking offensive player who flashed the potential to be an elite defender. In the first six games this season, he’s been a mere shell of himself. His minutes per game average is down, and his points per game and field goal and 3-point percentages are down with it. He seems distracted and disengaged. For Duke to have success going forward this season, it needs Sulaimon to be a productive player. That starts Friday against Arizona, as he’ll be challenged by one of the most underrated and versatile shooting guards in the country in Nick Johnson. With Duke likely going with a small lineup against Arizona’s bigs (more on that later), it needs Sulaimon to lock down the Wildcats’ top perimeter threat.