Anyone Can Lose…But Can Duke Turn a Weakness into a Strength?

Brian HoraceGeneral Information, Results/ThoughtsLeave a Comment

One thing most can agree on in terms of the NCAA Tournament is that there are no teams that are without significant flaws. The seeding is still yet to be determined but the favorites to land a 1 seed are Virginia, Kansas, Villanova and Xavier currently with the 2 seeding probably looking something like Duke, Michigan State, Purdue and maybe UNC. There are no perfect teams and with such a large sample size of film on each team scheming for the NCAA Tournament, especially in the later rounds can be somewhat predictable. Over the last three years the National Champion has been at very least a 2 seed and there is no reason to believe that will change this year. Also a current trend, over the last 3 years a lower seed has made the final 4. In 2017 it was South Carolina who knocked off 2 seed Duke in the second round; 2016 saw Syracuse take out a 1 seed Virginia in the regional finals and 2015 saw 7 seeded Michigan State knock off 2 seeded Virginia.

The flaws of the Blue Devils aren’t a secret to the rest of the NCAA but as I noted earlier, there are reasons and issues that you can cite as to why each of the favorites can lose in the March Madness tournament. For Duke it’s fairly simple: while the Blue Devils have made marked improvements on defense they lack true experience in the backcourt aside from senior Grayson Allen. Coach K switching Allen to the primary ball-handler on offense has helped stave off some of these droughts but Allen as a ball-handler does come with some issues. Allen had a tendency to be loose or reckless with his ball-handling and while he does have high assist numbers he does display a propensity to turn the ball over at a fairly high clip. In Duke’s last game at home versus UNC Allen had 5 assists, a good number, but he also turned the ball over 6 times. It was a tale of 2 halves in the backcourt. Allen in the first half was held to 1 assist and 4 turnovers and Duke ended the half down by 10 points. In the second half, Coach K switched Trevon Duval back to the primary ball handler and Allens numbers in the second half were 4 assists and 2 turnovers – a much more respectable number. The more glaring stat was that freshman Trevon Duval, in just 15 minutes of play, and 6 assists with no turnovers. It’s not to say that this switch will work against each and every team Duke faces and that Duval should move back to the starting lineup but it gives Duke options. It allows Coach K a different wrinkle to throw at teams. Being able to counter punch and be a difficult team to scheme for is paramount as everything you have done over the past few months is well documented and scouted.

The other issue that Duke has had to deal with is the “either or” syndrome. In the second half of the season Duke has been unable, for the most part, to get both Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen to click at the same time. For Duke it’s either been Allen lighting it up or Bagley lighting it up. Duke, at least in the second half of the UNC game, was able to utilize both Bagley and Grayson – with Bagley primarily taking over the scoring duties and Allen benefiting from the extra attention Bagley received. This is almost a direct function fo the first issue, Duval being a much more effective passer and penetrator causing the defense to have to make more decisions giving Allen and Gary Trent Jr. better looks and giving Bagley some space to operate on the inside. If Duke is effectively able to repeat this and turn these weaknesses into strengths in the coming days, their chances become that much greater to bring him another title.

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