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Opponent Q&A - #1 Duke Blue Devils

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Auburn has a mammoth challenge and a mammoth opportunity ahead.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at Duke Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After Auburn beat Xavier to open the Maui Invitational, #1 Duke took San Diego State to task like they stole something, and cruised to a 90-64 victory in the opening round of the event.

It’s pretty obvious that they’re very good, and if the opening-night Champions Classic 118-84 win over Kentucky wasn’t enough to convince you, they’ve roughed up everyone else on the way to a 4-0 record after one game at the Maui.

Tigers vs Blue Devils tonight at 7 pm CST for a spot in the championship game tomorrow night, and to give us the scoop on Duke, we turned to the Voice of the Blue Devils, radio announcer David Shumate of the Blue Devil IMG Sports Network.

This is a matchup that Auburn fans have wanted to see badly since the Maui brackets were released. How do most Duke fans feel about this matchup with Auburn?

I think there’s so much respect from Coach K when you look at what Bruce Pearl has built at Auburn, the #8 team in the country, and they play so hard and so fast that it’s captivating to watch them play in the open floor. The Duke fans are looking forward to what should be an up-tempo game between two teams that want to get it up and down and really fill it up on the offensive end.

Auburn Arena has become one of the toughest places to play in recent years, but Cameron Indoor Stadium has a long-standing tradition of being one of the toughest environments in the country. For Auburn fans, what makes Cameron Indoor Stadium so special?

You’re exactly right, it’s a beautiful arena they’ve built down at Auburn, but I think what makes Cameron unique is kind of what makes Lahaina Civic Center unique — it’s older, it’s got some character, it only seats a little over 9,000 and you can’t really get too many in there. It gets a little warm, it’s a little bit of a throwback, and that’s what makes it special in that you don’t have some of the bells and whistles that you see in the new arenas, but because of that you have that intimate feeling — the Crazies are right on top of you when you’re down on the floor — it’s just a unique place in a day and age when everyone’s going for the new and shiny, it’s just got so much character.

In my opinion, I think Coach K is the greatest collegiate coach of all-time. What makes him continue to be so successful as he approaches his 40th year in Durham?

Well, from my perspective, he’s a tremendous basketball mind, but the thing that keeps him going when you talk about recruiting and identifying with kids that are 50+ years younger than him is that he’s just an incredible people person. He knows how to read people, he knows how to coach them, he tailors everything he does to each individual person he’s dealing with, and he truly shows that he cares about you and knows something about your space. Just from my little world, if I’m on the road broadcasting football and I come back for basketball, he knows who we played, he knows we were there, and we always have a little conversation before we get going. You think about the myriad of things that he’s doing on a daily basis, he always makes each interaction with each person unique, and I think that transcends generations.

This game will be a battle between Duke’s freshmen and Auburn’s experience. How much will it help Duke to be able to face a team that has experience at all five positions on the floor?

Well, you’re exactly right, there’s a total contrast between the two teams in terms of experience, but Coach K has talked about while there have been so many accolades because of the performance against Kentucky, you have to look at everything in true context of what Duke is trying to do. They do have a lot of young guys, and they’re trying to build over the course of the season in as many reps as they can get against experienced squads and get challenged in many different ways. Obviously with the shooting that Auburn has, they can challenge you in a number of facets on the defensive end, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this matchup plays out.

This quartet of freshmen Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones is a tremendously special group. And while the college basketball world mostly focuses on Zion Williamson, how do the other freshmen complement him and what makes them play so well together despite being freshmen?

I’m glad you bring that up, obviously Zion is a freak athlete. Coach K has said he’s the most unique athlete that he’s ever coached, but I think Tre Jones is the guy that makes everything go together. He’s so unselfish, he’s so free with the ball, and he’s so good at making sure everyone feels involved, and that to me is such an important piece when you have so much talent on the floor, so it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves as the year goes along. And then you have a guy like Cam Reddish, who’s just such a quiet shooter, but maybe the best shooter on the team.

What do you think is keeping Coach K awake at night when he looks at this team?

Well, they’re young. I think that’s the one thing that keeps any coach up at night, that you don’t know. And as the season goes along, how they respond to each individual challenge, and also, the schedule that Duke’s playing. I mean, look at what’s going on here in Maui with all the ranked teams and then the gauntlet that is the ACC. There’s plenty to keep the coach up at night.

How do you see this game playing out?

I think it’s going to be up and down and high scoring, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. If you like offense, this is the game for you. These are two teams that want to run, and it may be one of those where who has the basketball last is the team that wins, but I expect it to be really high scoring.

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Auburn and Duke tonight at 7 pm CST! War Eagle!