Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The X Factor?

#21 Shawn James - Tonight's X Factor?

Shawn James is the X Factor in the 2007 version of The City Game. The 6-10 James will tower over his opponent at center for Pitt, 6-7 DeJuan Blair, and continue to provide a major defensive presence in the paint for the Dukes. Through the first six game this season with James' help Duquesne is ranked seventh in Division I in field-goal percentage defense, at 34.5 percent. There is more than just a height difference when considering James and Blair. Blair is a true freshman with less than a half season of college experience, and only 18 years old. James is already 24 years old, and has played two full seasons at Northeastern before transferring to Duquesne. James is in the first of two years of eligibility with the Dukes.

DeJuan Blair, (pictured right) is off to a fabulous start with Pitt. Blair is averaging 10.3 ppg, (2nd on the team) 8.3 rpg, (also 2nd on the team), he leads the team with 16 total steals, and is shooting .569 from the field. Blair does most of his damage in the paint using his massive frame and soft hands. While James has a significant height advantage, Blair has the bulk advantage. Blair weights in at a stout 265 pounds, James is only 225.

Pitt would be wise not to challenge James in the paint, Oakland tried that earlier this season and Shawn James had 12 blocks breaking Duquesne and Atlantic 10 records for blocks in a game. Engaging James and then passing around him may be a Pitt strategy for The City Game tonight. If James leaves his man to go for a block he will also be leaving Blair open, which is a scary thought for Dukes fans.

The fight down low does not stop with Shawn James and DeJuan Blair. The 2nd half of the twin towers for Duquesne is 6-10 5th year senior Kieron Achara (pictured left). Achara is averaging 13.9 ppg and 5 rpg for the Dukes this season. Achara and James rarely play together, alternating time on the floor under Ron Everhart's two platoon system. James and Achara played together at the end of the Niagara game earlier this season, and their time together on the floor helped seal the victory against a tough Niagara team which had been in the NCAA tournament last year.

Pitt's front court depth includes 6-8 240 pound junior Tyrell Biggs, and 6-10 270 pound junior Cassin Diggs. Biggs sees regular time off the bench for the Panthers while Diggs has only seen limited action this season.

Needless to say there is going to be a fight in the paint tonight, and for the first time in many years I like Duquesne's chances down low. All hail the twin towers Shawn James and Kieron Achara.

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