Wildcat freshman Nerlens Noel and Blue Devil senior Mason Plumlee will face off against each other, highlighting one of the biggest games the regular season has to offer. The two centers will be under the microscope as scouts debate who might be able to accomplish more at the NBA level.
Talk about polar opposites when comparing these two.
Noel is potentially a first-overall selection in next June’s draft – he’s already being compared to former Wildcat Anthony Davis. At 6-foot-11, 215lbs, he’s long, very athletic and at 18-years old, isn’t close to being finished growing. He’s explosive and has a tremendous leaping ability for someone his size, which allows him to finish around the rim with ease. The combination of length and leaping ability will no doubt make Noel a force on the defensive end, as he’s expected to be one of the country’s leading shot blockers, much like Davis was a year ago. It helps that he has a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
Plumlee, listed 6-foot-10 and 230lbs, isn’t as explosive or nearly as long as Noel, but makes up for it other areas. Fighting to make his way into the lottery discussion in this year’s NBA draft, the Duke senior has carved out an impressive career with the Blue Devils. Many wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to average a double-double in his final season of college basketball. He’s an excellent rebounder and someone who’s very mobile for his size, making him hard to box out and even harder to slow down given his relentless energy. He’s a much better shooter than Noel, possessing a deadly mid-range jumper. Unlike Noel, opponents have to worry about Plumlee spotting up for a jump shot or blowing by them giving his ability to put the ball on the floor.
Plumlee has three years of experience on Noel, so he should have the advantage entering tomorrow’s showdown. Both players will need to work on their strengths if they hope to find success at the next level, but the head-to-head match-up will give a lot of insight into what we could see in the future.
Plumlee’s concerns come with his ability to guard taller, more athletic big man, and he’s not going to get a much tougher test all season then on Tuesday night. Scout’s concerns for the Duke player are whether or not he’ll be overmatched by the explosiveness of superior athletes.
Noel has to deal with being matched up against one of the best big man in college over the past few seasons in just his second game of the year. He’ll have a size and length advantage, but won’t have the strength and scouts will be observing how much that bothers him. If he gets pushed around by Plumlee and isn’t able to hold his ground, scouts will be concerned if the bigger, stronger athletes in the NBA will be too much of a problem for him to handle. See Hasheem Thabeet for a previous reference.
The advantage going into this game clearly favors Noel, given his age and time left to develop. If he struggles, some could say it’s simply too early for a challenge like Plumlee this soon into his career. They’ll say he’ll learn from the mistakes made and have plenty of time to pack on more muscle and become a stronger player.
Plumlee, on the other hand, won’t be given a pass. If he struggles against Noel’s length, then scouts will no doubt assume he’ll struggle in the NBA as well. Given his age advantage, they’ll consider what he is today is what he’s going to be tomorrow. He won’t have the benefit of the doubt like Noel will.
Tomorrow’s match up needs to go Plumlee’s way, or scouts will routinely look over the tape and pick apart what he did wrong. It’s something that could see his draft stock fall significantly – remember, scouts only compare how you did against the best, not how you did against lower level programs who struggle to find players over 6-foot-8.
Regardless of how things turn out, fans are in for a treat with this match-up coming so early into the season.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts