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Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils (7-0) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (7-0) #ACCBig10Challenge

By December 2, 2014No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (7-0, 0-0] vs. Wisconsin Badgers (7-0, 0-0]

Wednesday, December 3. 2014 • 9:30 PM • ESPN • Madison, WI • Kohl Center (17,230)

By Randy Dunson

  1. Snapshot


Duke (7-0) travels to Madison to face Wisconsin (7-0) Wednesday, December 3 at the Kohl Center in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest. Duke enters the game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 64-13 when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Wisconsin is ranked No. 2 in the AP and No. 4 in the Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 30-14 against teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll this decade (2009-10 season) with a 12-8 mark against top 10 teams.

Wednesday’s game marks the 38th time under Mike Krzyzewski Duke has faced a team ranked in the top 5 of the AP Poll while also ranked in the top 5 of the poll. The Blue Devils are 24-13 under Coach K in matchups of top 5 teams. Duke is the winningest team in ACC/Big Ten Challenge history with a 13-2 (.867) record. The Blue Devils won their first 10 matchups in the event before Wisconsin snapped that streak December 2, 2009. The Blue Devils are 3-2 overall in ACC/Big Ten Challenge road games but have lost their last two road contests in the event.


The No. 2 Wisconsin (UW) men’s basketball team returns home to the Kohl Center for one of this season’s premier non-conference battles, as the Badgers (7-0) host No. 4 Duke (7-0) on Wednesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Badgers won the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament with three wins in as many days last week, topping UAB and Georgetown, then Oklahoma in the championship game. Frank Kaminsky was named Tournament MVP while Sam Dekker made the all-tournament team. Wisconsin began its 116th season of men’s basketball in 2014-15 and the 14th season under head coach Bo Ryan. The winningest coach in Wisconsin history (321-121), Ryan needs just three conference victories to become UW’s all-time Big Ten wins leader.

UW is a very mature team. Their frontcourt consists of senior forward Frank Kaminsky (13.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG – First-Team All-Big Ten, NCAA West Regional MOP, led team in scoring, rebounding, FG% and blocks, started all 38 games), junior forward Sam Dekker (12.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG – Second-Team All-Big Ten, started all 38 games), sophomore forward Nigel Hayes (7.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG – Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, All-Freshman Team), and senior forward Duje Dukan (2.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG – Played all 38 games, career-high 15 points vs. SJU). The backcourt is led by senior guard Josh Gasser (8.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG) – Big Ten All-Defensive Team, 3rd in Big Ten shooting 43.1% from 3-point range), senior guard Traevon Jackson, Sr. (10.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG) – Led UW with 151 assists, and 129-167 FTs), sophomore guard Bronson Koenig (3.5 PPG, 1.2 RPG – Avg. 15.5 mpg, shot 47.4% from behind the arc during postseason (9-19), scored 11 points vs. Kentucky at Final Four)

The Badgers added three true freshman to their roster in 2014-15 and also regained the services of junior guard Jordan Smith, sophomore guard Zak Showalter, freshman guard Riley Dearring, and freshman forward Aaron Moesch who all redshirted during the 2013-14 campaign.

  1. Team Seasons Thus Far

Duke Blue Devils

In its last outing, Duke posted a 93-73 win over Army Sunday, November 30. The Blue Devils dominated the interior, finishing with a +18 rebound margin, including a 17-6 edge on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils shot 65.9 percent (27-of-41) from inside the three-point arc and scored 50 points in the paint against the Black Knights. Duke is shooting 61.4 percent (162-of-264) on two-point field goals and averaging 42.3 points per game in the paint on the year. Jahlil Okafor scored a game-high 21 points in the win over Army, while Tyus Jones added 16 points, five rebounds and 10 assists.

As the 2014-15 season progresses, several notable trends and highlights continue to emerge:

Team Highlights

  • Duke has won each of the first seven games by 10-or-more points, marking the first time since the 2002-03 season it has accomplished that feat; the Blue Devils opened the 2002-03 campaign with nine straight double digit wins
  • The Blue Devils have trailed for just 48 seconds through the first seven games of the season; Duke has not trailed past the 16:46 mark in the first half with its largest deficit being two points
  • Eight different Blue Devils have scored in double figures this season with Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor reaching double figures in all seven contests
  • Freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow have started all seven games for the Blue Devils; Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 42 times at Duke, including 27 times during the 1982-83 season
  • Duke is averaging 25.7 points per game off opponent turnovers; the Blue Devils have scored 20-or-more points off turnovers in six of their seven games
  • Duke’s top-rated freshman class, Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow – combines to average 45.9 points per game while shooting an efficient 52.8 percent (113-of-214) from the field; the group has posted for 16 of Duke’s 29 double figure scoring games this season

Individual Player Highlights

  • Cook has scored in double figures in all seven games and ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring at 15.6 PPG; he leads the ACC in three-point field goals (3.0 3PG), while also ranking among the conference leaders in three-point percentage (.429 – 8th), assists (4.0 APG – T-9th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (4.67:1 – 3rd)
  • Okafor, a three-time ACC Freshman of the Week selection, ranks second in the ACC in scoring (17.7 PPG) and field goal percentage (.636), while also ranking among the league leaders in rebounds (13th – 7.9 RPG), offensive rebounds (T-4th – 4.0 ORPG) and blocks (T-9th – 1.57 BPG) Okafor averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to claim last week’s award.
  • Amile Jefferson continues to be active on the glass, averaging a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game (5th in the ACC); he has collected 29 of his 62 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor and is third in the league in offensive rebounds (4.14 ORPG)
  • Duke’s backcourt tandem of Cook and Jones has combined for 70 assists with just 13 turnovers (5.39:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) through seven games; both players rank in the top 10 of the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio
  • Matt Jones is averaging 7.6 points per game, while shooting 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from three-point range
  • Okafor has grabbed four or more offensive rebounds in four straight games and is averaging 5.8 offensive rebounds per game in that span
  • Jones recorded 10 assists with no turnovers in the win over Army to become the second player in Duke history to post 10 or more assists in a game without a turnover; he currently leads the ACC and is tied for fifth nationally with a 6.00:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (minimum 4.0 APG)
  • Duke’s post rotation of Jefferson, Okafor, and Marshall Plumlee combines to average 30.6 points and 19.9 rebounds per game while shooting 66.4 percent (89-of-134) from the field


In its last outing, with wins over UAB, Georgetown, and Oklahoma in consecutive days in The Bahamas, the Badgers claimed the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis, a tournament field that boasted five teams ranked in one of the two polls. During the 3-game tournament, the Badgers allowed just 54.7 PPG while forcing opponents into 18.3 turnovers per game. UW had four players average double-figure points during the tournament, led by MVP Frank Kaminsky’s 13.0 PPG. Nigel Hayes averaged 11.3 PPG, Sam Dekker scored 11.0 PPG en route to All-Tournament honors and Duje Dukan chipped in 10.7 PPG off the bench. Dukan averaged 27.0 minutes per game on the trip and made 6-of-11 3-point attempts while pulling in 4.0 rebounds per game. Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 11 assists in three games and tallied just one turnover in 65 minutes. UW has trailed in the second half just once this season, against Georgetown in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. In that game, the Badgers came back from a nine-point second-half deficit to post a 68-65 win. In the championship game with a 69-56 win over Oklahoma, the Badgers had five players in double figures, led by tournament MVP Kaminsky, who finished with 17 points (14 in the second half) and eight rebounds, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Seniors Traevon Jackson and Dukan each scored 13 points, while Jackson equaled his career high with eight assists and Dukan hit on 3-of-5 shots from behind the 3-point arc. Sam Dekker (11 points) and Nigel Hayes (10 points) rounded out the top scorers. The Sooners had just one player reach double figures (Dinjiyl had 10 points). UW’s defense held OU to a season-low 56 points and just 37.0% shooting, including 29.2% in the second half. The Badgers racked up a season-high 12 steals and converted OU’s 21 turnovers into 26 points.

Overall, the Badgers are off to a 7-0 start and a few trends have emerged in the early going:

  • Wisconsin been out-rebounded just once in 7 games and own a +8.3 margin on the glass, the 2nd-largest rebounding margin in the Big Ten; also lead the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 77.7% of possible boards at the defensive end
  • The Badgers have gone 98-for-143 (.685) at the free throw line, averaging 20.4 FTAs per game; by comparison, the Badgers’ opponents are just 50-for-82; UW is averaging 8.7 more free throw attempts per game than its opponents.
  • UW leads the Big Ten allowing just 50.6 points per game; /opponents are shooting just 37.1% (4th in the Big Ten) and 28.8% on 3FGs (3rd in Big Ten)
  • The Badgers are averaging just 13.7 fouls per game, the lowest mark in the Big Ten and 7th in the nation; no Badger has fouled out this season. UW opponents are fouling 19.6 times per game
  • UW is shooting 50.5% from the field; the Badgers have connected on at least 50% of their shots in 4 of 7 games and have only been below 48% once (43.5% vs. Oklahoma)
  • UW is averaging just 9.3 turnovers per game; the Badgers have ranked among the nation’s top 5 in fewest TOs per game in each of the last 5 years, leading the nation in 2010, 2011 and 2014.
  1. Head-to-Head

Wisconsin and Duke will meet for just the third time, having faced off in 2007 and 2009 Big Ten ACC Challenges. Both teams claimed victories on their home floor with the Blue Devils winning 82-58 in 2007 before the Badgers led wire-to-wire in a 73-69 win at the Kohl Center in 2009. The Badgers are 38-38 all-time against current members of the ACC and have won seven of their last nine games against ACC foes.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke leads in all, which gives the Blue Devils a statistical edge head-to-head.


Wisconsin 74.6 57.0 50.5 48/141 1.60 36.6 6.1
Duke 90.4 60.1 52.7 63/163 2.17 39.6 8.9


  1. 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,]

As in the Army game, although the opponents each team has faced to date vary considerably, they are remarkably similar when looking at each of the four factors. Duke has the advantage in all four.

Duke holds a definite edge in eFG%, 60.1% to 57.0%. In terms of handling the ball, the Blue Devils have a slight the edge in TO% (13.6% vs. 14.7%). They have a significant edge in offensive rebounding (41.2% vs. 30.9%) and another slight edge when it comes to getting to the free throw line (40.3% vs. 38.4%).


  1. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:


  • Methodical offense
  • Scoring comes primarily from two players (Hayes/Kaminsky)
  • Highly efficient attack
  • Stingy defense
  • Commits few fouls


  • Highly efficient attack
  • Stingy defense
  • Commits few fouls

Now, a few key points to consider from Duke’s perspective. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Fast start – Duke once again needs to jump out of the blocks quickly as this Wisconsin team is very experienced and the crowd could easily temper the effect of any Duke runs early on
  • Okafor – This will be the young man’s first true test against a very experienced and seasoned athlete like himself; although given his attributes, will he be able to match-up with Kaminsky and the pressure of being double-teamed by other experienced players
  • Three-point efficiency – The Devils ability to knock down the three ball against Wisconsin could very well be critical; this area of their overall game has become suspect lately and they very well may need to be efficient against this team
  • X-factor – Kohl Arena and the Wisconsin fans (see Endgame)
  1. Endgame

One of the best games this season takes place Wednesday when the Duke Blue Devils travel to the Kohl Center in Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Not only is it a matchup between two Top Five teams, but it is the anchor game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. One should not underestimate the importance of conference pride in this one, as the Big Ten and ACC are two of the best leagues in the country. Whichever conference wins the Challenge will have bragging rights and a potential boost when it comes to selections for the NCAA tourney next March.

Duke may have the best overall roster in the country other than Kentucky, but this game will be a major test for them. While Duke has played very good teams such as Temple, Stanford, and Michigan State, Wisconsin has faced formidable teams as well in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

A major factor in this game could very well come down to how this young Blue Devils team handle the noise at the Kohl Center. There are few stadiums in the entire country as loud and daunting as this for almost any opponent, and it is sure to be rocking when Duke comes to town.

Although the overall talent level of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow is not questioned, they have not played in a true road game in front of a raucous crowd like this in their young college careers. It will not be a surprise if the youngsters are pressed early on and commit untimely turnovers.

This game will definitely be a very good test of experience and youth. Wisconsin brings back Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, Nigel Hayes, Sam Dekker, and Bronson Koenig from its Final Four run. They are six major contributors who have battled in Big Ten play and postseason tournaments throughout their careers. The Blue Devils certainly have some experience in Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson and Quinn Cook, but the freshmen play the most important role. Again, do not be surprised if the freshmen make a few mistakes against the experienced Badgers in a hostile environment.

In terms of individual matchups, it does not get much better than Okafor vs. Kaminsky. The two big men could compete for All-American status later in the season, and a head-to-head win for either could help his case. The big-man battle will also go a long way toward determining the outcome of this game.

Okafor is arguably the best low-post scorer in the country and is a beast to handle down low, while Kaminsky stretches the defense with a solid three-point stroke. Kaminsky is also a capable scorer and rebounder on the blocks, but he can neutralize some of Okafor’s effectiveness if he forces the Duke center away from the basket with his outside shot. If Kaminsky is draining threes, Okafor will have to venture outside of the paint, which will open up offensive rebounding for the Badgers.

Another critical individual matchup to watch is the one between Dekker and Winslow. Both small forwards are future NBA players, but Winslow’s tenacious defense could be the difference in who plays better. Winslow’s lateral speed, athleticism, shot-blocking prowess and ability to force turnovers and convert them into transition opportunities on the other end should give Dekker problems all game. Kaminsky may generate most of the headlines from Wisconsin, and rightfully so, but Dekker is a critical part of the offense as someone who can score from anywhere on the floor and attack the rim off the dribble. If Winslow can slow him down, it would go a long way toward disrupting Wisconsin’s attack.

Interestingly, Duke already played one game that may give us an insight into how this one will ultimately unfold. While it may be simplifying things a bit to point to Duke’s early-season battle with Michigan State as a primer for the Wisconsin game simply because the Spartans and Badgers are both in the Big Ten, there is something to be learned from that contest.

Although the Blue Devils controlled the pace for 40 minutes and the outcome was never really in doubt, Michigan State battled down low and actually outrebounded Duke by a 35-25 margin. What’s more, the Spartans grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, which is something Duke cannot afford to let happen in the Kohl Center.

While the rebounding, or potential lack thereof, from Duke is something of a concern based on that Michigan State game, the Blue Devils’ perimeter defense was very encouraging. The Spartans shot an abysmal 25 percent from three-point range, largely because Duke was suffocating on the outside. Almost every time a Michigan State player looked to launch a long-range shot, there was an outstretched Blue Devils hand right in his face.

If Duke brings that same type of defensive intensity Wednesday but mixes in a few more rebounds, it could win on the back of its defense alone.

However, the fact that this one is in Madison will be the ultimate deciding factor. The crowd will match the Cameron Crazies’ intensity and inspire a few extended Badgers’ runs that will prove to be the difference in an otherwise tightly contested game.

Given the above, I believe that this will be an extremely close game with Wisconsin edging Duke out at the end.

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