Game Preview

#17/17 Duke Blue Devils [15-5, 3-4] vs. #NR/NR Wake Forest Demon Deacons [12-8, 3-5]

January 28, 2017 • 3:00 PM ET • Winston-Salem, NC • LJVM Coliseum

Media: ACC Network, Duke IMG Network Radio, Watch ESPN app

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson]

Team Overviews


For the Blue Devils, this has been a wildly disappointing season filled with bizarre controversies, thus far.

After bringing in the nation’s top recruiting class, highlighted by five-star recruits Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles, and adding that to a team with Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and fifth-year senior Amile Jefferson, Duke was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll but quickly dropped after falling to Kansas early in the year.

The real start of Duke’s downward spiral this season, however, began about a month ago in a win against Elon. During the first half of the contest, an Elon player drove to the basket and Allen, fouled him on the way, and tripped him, prompting an indefinite suspension from the team by Coach Krzyzewski. Duke promptly lost their following game in a shocking upset in Blacksburg, VA, at Virginia Tech.

Two days later, Coach K announced the termination of Allen’s suspension and that Krzyzewski himself would be taking an indefinite leave of absence for back surgery, making Associate Head Coach Jeff Capel the interim head coach. They won their next two, but then dropped two in a row on the road, at Florida State and at Louisville. After knocking off lowly Miami in its next game in a comeback win at home, Duke had its worst loss of the season, an 84-82 loss at home in Cameron Indoor Stadium to NC State.

Saturday’s game at Wake Forest is shaping up to be one of Duke’s most important games of the season as we look to avoid their second two-game losing streak. Coach K’s return is not really the answer for this team. Learning to play with each other as a complete team unit along with communication should help the surprisingly struggling Blue Devils team that cannot seem to find its identity.



  • No. 17 Duke heads to Winston-Salem on Saturday in search of its first road win when it squares off with Wake Forest.
  • Duke has utilized eight different starting lineups in 20 games this season. Eight of Duke’s top 11 players have missed time this season due to injury.
  • Led by Luke Kennard (19.8), Duke is one of three major-conference teams with three players averaging at least 15.0 points (also Arizona State and UCLA).
  • Kennard and Jayson Tatum score a combined 36.3 points per game, making them the second-highest scoring duo in the ACC. At a combined 34.9 points per game, Kennard and Grayson Allen rank third among ACC scoring duos.
  • Kennard is on pace to play 1,076 minutes just in the regular season. Despite the heavy workload, he ranks third overall and first among guards in the ACC in field goal percentage (.530).
  • Tatum is the third-leading freshman scorer in ACC play with an average of 17.3 per night. His average of 16.5 per game for the season is on pace to rank sixth among freshmen in Duke history.
  • Matt Jones is 15-of-32 (.469) from outside the arc in Duke’s last six games.
  • Duke’s best perimeter defender, Jones also ranks third in the ACC in steals (1.9) and accounts for nearly a third of Duke’s steals on the season.
  • Duke is 9-1 this season and 34-3 in his career when Amile Jefferson has a team-high in rebounds.

Probable Starters

Guard – Freshman Frank Jackson

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Guard –Sophomore Luke Kennard

Forward – Freshman Jayson Tatum

Forward – Grad Student Amile Jefferson

Wake Forest

Wake Forest looks for its first ranked win of the season as it hosts No. 17 Duke in what is shaping up to be a pivotal matchup as we approach the midway point of ACC play. The game is a matchup of two of the most efficient offenses in the nation (Wake Forest ranked No. 12 nationally by KenPom, Duke ranked No. 18 nationally by KenPom). The Deacs are averaging 87.9 points per game at home this season, shooting 50.0 percent from the floor, 43.8 percent from three, and 77.3 percent from the line at the LJVM Coliseum

As of now, both teams stand in the middle of the pack of the ACC standings, which is a pleasant surprise for the Deacs and a huge disappointment for the Blue Devils. Entering the season, these two teams had vastly different expectations. For the Demon Deacons, a successful season would have been defined by competing in the ACC and potentially making the NCAA Tournament in March. Duke, on the other hand, came into the season as the preseason No. 1 ranked team in the AP Poll and had very legitimate National Championship aspirations.

Instead, we find ourselves in a very different situation entering the first matchup between Duke and Wake Forest this season. Following a Duke loss to NC State earlier this week and a Wake Forest loss to Syracuse on Tuesday, January 24, both teams sit right in the middle of the ACC standings at 8th and 10th place, respectively.

This game could also prove very pivotal for Wake Forest. A win against Duke could drastically improve Wake Forest’s resume given their currently slim NCAA Tournament hopes. Winners of two of their past three, which very easily could have been three of their past three, the Deacs are right in the middle of the ACC standings. Right now, the Deacons need to take every win they can get, which makes Tuesday’s heartbreaking 81-76 loss at Syracuse even tougher to swallow. As we have seen a few times already this season, Wake Forest has had a lot of trouble finishing close games, and they let their lead slip away in the final minutes Tuesday at the Carrier Dome.


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Probable Starters

Guard – R-Sophomore Keyshawn Woods

Guard – Sophomore Bryant Crawford

Forward– Sophomore John Collins

Forward – Grad Student Austin Arians

Forward – Junior Dinos Mitoglou

Last Time Out


Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. scored a season-high 32 points to help North Carolina State rally from 12 down late in the first half and stun No. 17 Duke 84-82 on Monday night.

Abdul-Malik Abu added 19 points for the Wolfpack (14-7, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who earned the program’s first win at Duke’s famously hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995. NC State ran off a 20-5 run to erase a 68-59 deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes, and then got one final stop when Jayson Tatum lost control of the ball before getting a shot off on Duke’s final possession.

NC State shot 55 percent after halftime, with Smith finishing 10 for 18 from the floor with six assists.

Luke Kennard finished with 20 points to lead Duke (15-5, 3-4 ACC), which shot just 38 percent after halftime.


  • The Blue Devils just could not corral Smith all night, and associate head coach Jeff Capel — leading the team in Mike Krzyzewski’s absence following back surgery — is still tinkering with lineups and rotations. He brought Kennard and Grayson Allen off the bench for this one, and Duke kept threatening to make this one look like so many games before at Cameron. Yet, when Smith and the Wolfpack made their move, the Blue Devils struggled for an answer in the deciding minutes.

Wake Forest

Despite a double-double from John Collins, Wake Forest fell to Syracuse 81-76 in a tight game at the Carrier Dome Tuesday night.

The roller-coaster of a game consisted of 12 ties and 14 lead changes.

Collins recorded his third-consecutive 20-point game with 23 points. He also pulled down an ACC career high 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.

Bryant Crawford added 13 points while Brandon Childress scored 10 for the Deacs to round out double-digit scoring.

Syracuse (12-9, 4-4 ACC) jumped out to an early 7-2 lead but Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5 ACC) quickly caught back up with an 8-0 run of its own. From there, the Demon Deacons held the advantage until a jumper from Andrew White III gave the Orange a 21-20 lead with just over seven minutes left in the half. The teams battled in the remaining minutes and fought for three ties and four lead changes but it was the Deacs that took a 32-29 advantage into the locker rooms.

The second half matched the first with multiple ties and lead changes. The Deacs slowly built their way up to a 55-47 lead with just over 10 minutes to go but Syracuse did not back down. The Orange took the lead with just under six minutes to go and held on until a Mitchell Wilbekin triple gave the Deacs a 68-67 lead with 2:33 remaining and forced the Orange to take a time out. After the break, Syracuse once again gained the lead and did not look back. The Deacs managed to bring the score within one with nine seconds remaining but the Orange sealed the game in their favor at the free throw line, 81-76.

Along with his 10 points, Childress matched a career high with three steals while matching an ACC career high three rebounds.


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Duke leads the series 167-78 (Duke leads 47-39 at Wake and 14-11 at LJVM Coliseum). The Blue Devils have won the last four meetings, including both last season. The Deacs’ last win over the Blue Devils was a home 82-72 win in 2013-14. Wake was 3-0 against Duke in 1995, the last time they faced a Blue Devil team led by an interim coach, highlighted by Randolph Childress’s 40-point game in the 1995 ACC quarterfinals.


[National ranking in parentheses.]
Duke 2016-17 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Wake Forest
15.9 (9) PPG (Scoring Margin) 5.5 (109)
42.3 (101) Opponents PPG 44.9 (219)
54.7 (35) Effective FG% 53.9 (49)
48.1 (26) FG% 46.9 (53)
42.3 (101) Opponent FG% 44.9 (219)
35.9 (132) 3PT FG% 38.2 (49)
30.6 (21) Opponent 3PT FG% 33.7 (120)
5.3 (48) RPG (Rebound Margin) 3.0 (103)
33.1 (66.1) Opponent RPG 33.8 (88)
73.3 (73) FT% 76.8 (16)
13.7 (146) APG 15.9 (40)
6.5 (14) SPG (%) 9.6 (274)
2.6 (44) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) -.7 (223)
14.4 (87) Opponent TOPG 12.2 (269)
4.4 (66) BPG 4.0 (100)
17.9 (87) Fouls Per Game 20.3 (256)

Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,] [D-1 Average in parentheses.]


eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
54.7 (36) 16.4 (37) 32.6 (85) 41.0 (55)

Wake Forest

eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
53.9 (49) 17.8 (99) 31.9 (100) 37.8 (118)


Has there been a more disappointing team this season than Duke? I am sure there has been but cannot recall one very recently. The No. 17 Blue Devils were preseason No. 1 in both polls and the betting favorites to cut down the nets on the first Monday in April. However, with a loss on Saturday at Wake Forest, Duke probably falls out of the Top 25 altogether.

The problems for Duke (15-5, 3-4 ACC) were largely summed up in Monday’s 84-82 home loss to NC State. It was the Wolfpack’s first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995 — the same NC State team that lost by a whopping 51 earlier this season to North Carolina. NC State ran off a 20-5 run to erase a 68-59 deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes. Dennis Smith Jr., not any of Duke’s heralded guys, was easily the best player and freshman on the court Monday. Luke Kennard finished with 20 points to lead Duke, which shot just 38 percent after halftime. Duke used the starting lineup of Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Matt Jones, Frank Jackson, and Amile Jefferson for the first time this season. Tatum, Bolden, and Jackson are all freshmen. That improved the bench as Duke’s reserves had a season-high 41 points, marking the first time this season the Blue Devil bench scored at least 30 points in back-to-back games. Grayson Allen scored 13 points, bringing his career total to 1,203. Allen’s 1,203 points rank 46th on Duke’s all-time scorers list.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski remains away from the team following back surgery, but that does not mean he is not still in charge. Coach K reportedly summoned all the players to his home on Tuesday night. In my opinion, he created more negativity for the team by telling them that they were temporarily kicked out of the locker room and also forbidden from wearing Blue Devils apparel. This is not the first time Coach K has ever done this. What did this get him? Absolutely nothing, again in my opinion. This is not a leadership quality and I do know a thing or two about leadership, its pluses, and minuses. When asked about the situation on Thursday, acting coach Jeff Capel said: “Really can’t speak on it. Disappointing when stuff that’s supposed to stay in the locker room gets out.” The Blue Devils are 2-3 overall since Krzyzewski took a leave of absence, which means nothing to me other than they simply won less games than they lost during that stretch, nothing more.

Coach Danny Manning has done a nice job at Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5 ACC). It will not be an NCAA Tournament team but is trending in the right direction. The Demon Deacons had a two-game winning streak end Tuesday in an 81-76 loss at Syracuse. There were 12 ties and 14 lead changes. Reigning ACC Player of the Week John Collins had his third straight 20-point game with 23 and pulled down an ACC career-high 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Bryant Crawford added 13 points while Brandon Childress scored 10 for the Deacs to round out double-digit scoring.

Wake Forest surrendered 52 points and allowed the Orange to shoot 55.6 percent in the second half after giving up only 29 points on 37 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. In ACC defeats, Wake Forest has surrendered an average of 47.6 points in the second half. This is in contrast to the 35.2-point average the Deacons are allowing in the first half of those games. Overall, the Deacons have allowed each of their past five opponents — Virginia, North Carolina, Miami, N.C. State and Syracuse — to score more points than their season average.

The Deacons are improved and pretty good on offense, but their defense needs work. They are also 0-5 vs. ranked teams this year and only one game was close. Duke won both meetings last year. The one at Wake Forest was 91-75. Allen scored 24 points and Kennard added 23. Duke shot 52 percent.


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Wake and Duke both come into this game coming off of loses, both lost games that were winnable, and both come in with only three wins in conference. Both teams are looking for consistency and to try to turn their seasons around. Duke, unlike Wake was expected to be atop the conference standings but to date the lofty preseason expectations have been nowhere in sight. With Coach K imposing some in-house punishments on the team, it will be interesting if the listless team that folded against N.C. State shows up or the team that rebounded from a horrid first half against Miami. It is fast becoming do-or-die time for Duke and with the conference title most likely out of reach it is time to set day to day goals for this team.

The Blue Devils rank third in the ACC in points per game (82.9), just behind North Carolina (89.4) and Florida State (85.7). Wake Forest surrendered an average of 90.5 points per game in two earlier losses to ranked North Carolina and Florida State in the ACC. Wake also allowed 96 in a loss to Villanova. This one should be a shootout.

I expect this game between the Deacs and the Devils on Saturday afternoon is shaping up to be a great and competitive game. Considering neither team plays particularly strong defense, this should be a high scoring affair. Wake Forest’s star power forward, John Collins, should have another great game against Duke’s weak interior defense, and Duke’s star guards, Kennard and Allen will get their healthy share of buckets on offense. I think this game will come down to who wants it more down the stretch, as all indications point to a close game.

All said, I think the Blue Devils will narrowly edge out a win over the Deacs, as they would be unable to deal with the embarrassment of back-to-back losses for the second time this season, especially to perennial ACC cellar dwellers NC State and Wake Forest. Let us call it an 80-75 win for Duke.

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