(Photo Credit: 247Sports)

This is it. The one we have been waiting for all season. This is the game everyone circled when the schedule first came out. A collision course of two college basketball’s most storied programs. A game with four lottery picks on the floor at the same time. A matchup of two teams with deep postseason aspirations. it’s about as good as a November game can ever get.

Both teams are stumbling into the matchup, neither happy with their previous performance. For Duke, a loss to Gonzaga was the first real adversity the Blue Devils had to deal with all year. It was the first time Duke showed glimpses of immaturity and an inability to execute. It was also the first time the freshman came down to earth and showed some vulnerabilities. But, don’t get me wrong, Duke still played great and a loss to an experienced, elite Gonzaga team is no reason to push the panic button if you are a Duke fan. Duke actually outrebounded Gonzaga and had fewer turnovers. But, several poor possessions and bad decision-making down the stretch were too much to overcome. Despite Duke’s mental mistakes, it still took a Gonzaga team shooting 52.3% from the field and 52.6% from three to take down the Blue Devils. (We’ll get into the cracks in the Duke armor more below in the “What to Watch for” portion of the article).

For IU, a lethargic start forced a late comeback to survive UC Davis. Afterward, Archie Miller said it was IU’s worst defensive performance of the year. It was not pretty, but it was a victory. And, that’s all that matters.

Now, each team looks to move forward and get back on track. As Tuesday’s game approaches, let’s take an in-depth look at Duke:

Meet the Blue Devils

Key Departures

  • Marvin Bagley III – 6’11” / 234 lbs / Forward – Phoenix, AZ.
  • Grayson Allen – 6’5” / 205 lbs / Guard – Jacksonville, FL.
  • Trevon Duval – 6’6” / 209 lbs / Guard – Columbus, OH.
  • Wendell Carter – 6’10” / 259 lbs / Forward – Atlanta, GA.
  • Gary Trent Jr. – 6’3” / 183 lbs / Guard – New Castle, DE. 

Projected Starting Lineup

  • RJ Barrett – 6’7” / 202 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Mississauga, Ont. – Barrett is averaging 22.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. He plays the most minutes on the team (32.3 minutes per game). Barrett shoots 31.% from three and 62.2% from the line. He also commits 2.5 turnovers a game (highest on the team).
  • Zion Williamson – 6’7” / – 285 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Spartanburg, SC.– Williamson is averaging 20.7 points, a team best 9.5 rebounds, a team best 2.7 blocks, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is only shooting 25% from three.
  • Cam Reddish – 6’8” / 218 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Norristown, PA.– Reddish is averaging 15.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.7 assists in 23.2 minutes of action per game. He is an excellent shooter, averaging 43.2% from beyond the arc. Perhaps the team’s best defender.
  • Tre Jones – 6’2” / 185 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Apple Valley, MN. – Jones is posting 9.5 points, a team best 5.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. He is also the most efficient three-point shooter on the team at 54.5 % (although he only takes 1.8 per game).
  • Marques Bolden – 6’10” / 250 lbs / Center / Junior – De Soto, TX. – Bolden has progressed very well this season. He has been a terrific rim protector, averaging 2.2 blocks per game (including a staggering 7 blocks against Auburn). He is also contributing 6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game. 

The Rotation

  • Jack White – 6’7” / 222 lbs / Forward / Junior – Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. – White is one of the unsung heroes of Duke. He averages 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds. He brings great energy and grit to the team.
  • Javin DeLaurier – 6’10” / 234 lbs / Forward / Junior – Shipman, VA. – Averages 3.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. Provides solid defense against mobile bigs because of his great footwork.
  • Alex O’Connell – 6’6” / 183 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Roswell, GA. – Shoots 46.2% from three but plays limited minutes.
  • Jordan Goldwire – 6’2” / 181 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Norcross, GA.
  • Antonio Vrankovic – 7’0” / 269 lbs / Center / Senior – Zagreb, Croatia.
  • Justin Robinson – 6’10” / 202 lbs / Forward / Junior – San Antonio, TX.
  • Mike Buckmire – 6’2” / 173 lbs / Sophomore – Blue Bell, PA.
  • Brennan Besser – 6’5” / 190 lbs / Guard / Senior – Chicago, IL.
  • Joey Baker – 6’7” / 200 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Fayetteville, NC.

Expectations for the Blue Devils

For Duke, it’s all or nothing. Expectations are sky high. It is championship or bust… And, rightfully so.

Duke has one of the best recruiting classes of all time. But, you don’t need me to tell you that. Unless you have been living without the Internet for the last eight months, you know the names and you know the level of anticipation. Whether it’s TV, social media, or the ESPN+ show, Duke basketball has been omnipresent and covered almost as much as a presidential election. Yet, surprisingly, the team has lived up to expectations. The hype is real.

RJ BarrettZion Williamson, and Cam Reddish will likely be the top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. Tre Jones will likely soon follow sometime in the first round. With this star power, Duke also has great complementary role players. In particular, Jack White has been the ultimate X-Factor this year, bringing tremendous hustle and doing the dirty work in the post. With this depth, Duke confidently plays an 8-10 man rotation each game.

Duke has a prolific offense, averaging 91.8 points per game (9th best in the nation). If you watched the first few games of the year, you might conclude that the team’s main scheme is to shoot the three ball. However, over the last couple of games, it has become clear that Duke is best when driving to the basket. Every single player on the team can drive effectively. In particular, Barrett and Williamson are superb at getting to the rim. Even shooting specialist Reddish has a great first step and can score inside. Because the team is so lengthy and athletic, they can beat almost anyone off of the dribble. Ironically, Duke is not particularly good at free-throws. There are only two players on the entire team that shoot above 75%.

Unlike some past seasons, Duke is also good defensively. IU can expect both a straight man-to-man and an 1-2-1 defense. Jones often will apply pressure near half-court because Duke’s help-side defense has been a strength. Williamson and Bolden have been impressive shot blockers and always provide a last line of defense. However, the defense has not been perfect. The team has occasionally been slow on rotations. In particular, Barrett sometimes loses his man. This is likely simply a product of the learning curve. The more the team plays, the better the defense will likely become.

Overall, Duke is dangerous because they can adapt to any style of play. They like to run on the fast-break but can also play half-court. The team is effective getting to the rim but also can hit the three. Nearly every player on the court can play multiple positions. It’s a team built on the modern “positionless basketball” philosophy with the talent to take on any challenger and beat them at their own game.

What to Watch for

  1. Make them shoot, not drive – Duke is at its best when going toward the basket. They like to out-physical opponents and get them into foul trouble. When it comes to shooting, Reddish is the main threat. Reddish shoots 42.3% from three and takes 7.3 three-pointers per game. Tre Jones is extremely efficient, shooting 54.5%, and Alex O’Connell is a terrific shooter, averaging 46.2% from deep. Yet, Jones only averages 1.8 three-point attempts and O’Connell only sees the floor 10.8 minutes per game (and, he has only played three minutes in each of the last two games). Barrett only shoots 31.6% and Williamson only 25%. Thus, besides Reddish, the team is not particularly efficient from beyond the arc. The IU defense should try to clog the paint and force Duke (except for Reddish) to shoot threes. By forcing the players to the perimeter, this will neutralize their athleticism and make the offense less efficient.
  2. Slow down the game – Gonzaga beat Duke largely by preventing fast-breaks and forcing Duke into half-court sets. Similarly, when Auburn ran with Duke, they struggled to keep pace, so they changed tactics to a more deliberate half-court offense and became much more competitive. If IU is going to hang around, they will need to prevent transition buckets. The best way to prevent fast-break opportunities is to take smart shots and use the clock to your advantage. IU must limit possessions and prevent easy breakaway baskets if they want to win.
  3. Keeping the ball out of Jones’s hands – Jones is a great point guard and great decision-maker. When he has the ball, good things happen. He doesn’t turn it over and he always keeps everyone involved. Thus, it is imperative that IU force the ball out of his hands and make someone else be the primary playmaker. In the Gonzaga game, there were times when Jones gave the ball up to Barrett or Williamson and drifted to the wing. When this happened, Duke fell into isolation sets and were less productive. Similarly, Barrett and Williamson are much more turnover prone. The less time Jones has the ball, the better.
  4. Utilize the versatile bigs – Another important strategy is to utilize Fitzner and Morgan early and often. Like IU, Gonzaga has versatile big men that can seamlessly move from the post to the perimeter. This gave Duke many problems. First off, it created defensive rotation issues and blown assignments. Moreover, it also substantially impacts Duke’s personnel groupings. Typically, Bolden is the preferred center because he is a better rim protector and a little better offensively. However, DeLaurier often comes in the game to deal with mobile bigs because he has better footwork and can guard better on the perimeter. By constantly feeding Fitzner and Morgan, Duke would likely have to play Bolden less. This is preferable for IU because it leaves a great shot blocker off of the floor, making it easier for the Hoosiers to score down low.
  5. Don’t get in foul trouble – Duke is going to drive to the basket and try to get fouled. It will be important for IU not to commit reckless or silly fouls. Gonzaga let Duke back in the game largely because Gonzaga was in severe foul trouble and many of their best players had to go to the bench. IU needs to make sure they have their best players on the floor for as long as possible. Fouls are going to happen. The key is to eliminate the unnecessary ones.

Injury Watch

  1. Jerome Hunter (Leg)
  2. Race Thompson (Concussion)
  3. De’Ron Davis (Sore Achilles, likely)
  4. Zach McRoberts (Back, gametime decision)
  5. Devonte Green (Thigh, gametime decision)

How to Watch

DateTuesday, November 27
Time9:30 PM EST
RadioHoosiersTV Audio

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