With a 6 game winning streak underway for the Duke Blue Devils it’s been sort of a head scratcher as to why and how things got better for this team. It’s seems an over simplification to just say they are playing better, obviously they are. Delving within the numbers shows a few reasons as to why they’ve gone on this run over the past 6 games, but is that all there is to it?
It’s pretty well-known that Duke is a team that relies heavily on the 3-point shot A lot of people like to recount the old adage, “You live by the 3, you die by the 3“. But what if that is just what you do well? Looking at the Duke’s 4 loses in the ACC they’ve shot 32.7% from beyond the arc, that’s 5 percentage points less than their season average of 37.9% but during this 6 game winning streak Duke has shot 44% from 3 point range, raising their percentage 6 points up from their average. That is a pretty significant swing.
Sharing the Ball
Assist to turnover ratio has been something the coaching staff has been closely monitoring and trying to rectify this season, especially as of late and the differences are striking in the wins and loses of the past month or so. In the 4 loses this season in the ACC Duke has an assist to turnover ration of .75 (42 to 56) in the 6 game winning streak it’s been much better at 1.19 (82/69).
There are other numbers that stand out to me on the defensive end: During their 4 losses Duke gave up 55.8% shooting in the second halves of games but during this streak it’s down to 42.5% that’s a huge factor and speaks to renewed energy, understanding and focus on the defensive end for this team. Moreover I think it speaks to players like Harry Giles and Marques Bolden finally getting in sync with what K and Company are trying to do. They are learning.
Getting to Know You…
While I think the numbers are important I think they are but a by-product of what’s actually happening. Duke is getting more comfortable, dialed in. When many fans and some experts were busy writing off this team, claiming the season was done and that Duke was dead the coaching staff and players blocked out that noise. Duke collectively put on their hard hats, packed their lunches and went to work. Some of it was just being able to know day in and day out who you’ll be playing with come game day. Some of it was simply being able to have a healthy practice – well healthier, there are still nagging injuries to Allen and Jefferson.
The most important numbers to this run are just the amount of games played as a unit and each time out that a healthy Duke is on the floor be it practice or game those are the integers that matter. Familiarity breeds comfort in basketball, you can’t build trust in a teammate that you never actually get to play with. I personally was sick of hearing about how players were being selfish and playing hero ball – a lot of that was a symptom of the injury problems that plagued this team. Just like in pick-up ball it’s hard to get a read on your team when you can’t really know their tendencies and strengths. I think regardless of how this season turns out this has been one of the better coaching jobs that I’ve seen Coach K and company deliver. It’s not necessarily about what happens in March that tells the story sometimes it’s about how you overcome adversity and right the ship. Show me a team that has dealt with more than this Duke team and I’ll show you a team that is nowhere near 21 and 5.