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Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Indiana Hoosiers (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

By December 1, 2015No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (6-1, 0-0] vs. Indiana Hoosiers (5-2, 0-0] (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 • 9:15 PM • ESPN • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

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

Team Overviews


Two of the nation’s most efficient offenses will be on display at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday when No. 7/5 Duke hosts Indiana as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Duke leads the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at 118.3 points per 100 possessions, while Indiana ranks seventh at 114.6. Duke is the only program to rank in the top 10 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency each season since 2008-09.

The Blue Devils are 14-2 in 16 Challenge games, marking both the most wins and best winning percentage (.875) of any team in the event. Duke is 6-0 at home in Challenge play.

Duke has the second-best winning percentage (.837) and second-most wins (191) in the NCAA since the start of the 2009-10 season. A win on Wednesday would be Duke’s 100th home victory of the decade, making it one of four programs nationally with 100 or more home wins since 2009-10. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 120 consecutive non-conference home games, a streak that started in November 2000.

Grayson Allen’s average of 22.6 points per game is the highest in the nation by a player in the six major college basketball conferences. Allen’s five games of 20 or more points are the most in the ACC this season. Amile Jefferson ranks third nationally in offensive rebounds per game (5.1) to lead a Duke squad that has a 39.4 offensive rebound percentage and averages 15.6 second-chance points per game.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Forward – Freshman Brandon Ingram

Forward – Senior Amile Jefferson

Center – Grad Student Marshall Plumlee


Indiana University is in its 116th season of men’s basketball and will face Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Hoosiers are coming off a 112-70 win over Alcorn State, while the defending national champion Blue Devils topped Utah State, 85-52. This is the eighth meeting all-time between the two schools and third as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.


The Hoosiers have seven players averaging at least seven points per game including sophomore James Blackmon, Jr. (17.0), senior Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell (15.0), freshman Thomas Bryant (12.3), junior Troy Williams (11.7), senior Nick Zeisloft (8.6), senior Max Bielfeldt (8.4) and sophomore Robert Johnson (7.7).

The Hoosiers have scored 195 bench points combined in their seven games this season. IU scored over 100 points for the second time this season and the most since they had 116 vs. Mississippi Valley State on 11/14/14. The 112 points scored is the second most points scored by Indiana in the Tom Crean era.

Indiana opened the game on a 15-2 run and held Alcorn State without a point for the first 3:48 of the first half. Sophomore James Blackmon Jr. scored eight of the Hoosiers first 12 points. The Hoosiers had 24 assists for the game, the third time this season with 18 or more assists and most since they dished out 25 assists in a win over Austin Peay earlier this season. Nine different players had an assist for the Hoosiers. Indiana had six players score in double-figures for the second time this season. It is the fourth time this season the Hoosiers have had at least five in double-figures.

The Hoosiers shot 19-of-26 (73.1 percent) in the first half and 20-of-32 (62.5) percent in the second half. Indiana has shot 50 percent or higher in eight halves this season and have been at 43.3 percent or better in every half this season. The Hoosiers made nine straight field goals from the 17:42 mark of the first half on a Blackmon three-pointer to the 11:04 mark of the half on a Zeisloft three-pointer.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore James Blackmon Jr.

Guard – Senior Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell

Forward – Junior Troy Williams

Forward – Senior Max Bielfeldt

Center – Freshman Thomas Bryant

Last Time Out


Luke Kennard stayed confident as he wrestled with his shot to start his Duke career. He put up plenty of extra shots after practice. He started connecting Sunday, playing with an assertive productivity that thrilled Coach K. Kennard had the best game of his young career, scoring 22 points to help then No. 6 Duke beat Utah State 85-52.

Grayson Allen also scored 22 points for the Blue Devils (6-1), who won their fourth straight game since losing to Kentucky. Duke ran off the first 16 points of the second half and shot 64 percent after the break, turning an 11-point halftime lead into a blowout margin against the Aggies (4-1).

Kennard had been shooting 33 percent from the floor and 4 for 23 (17 percent) from behind the arc. But he went 4 for 5 from the field to match his previous season high of 12 by halftime. That included a shot in the lane while drawing a foul right before a timeout, prompting coach Mike Krzyzewski to greet him at the bench with an excited message. He finished 7 for 9 from the field and made 4 of 5 3-pointers in 26 minutes.

Chris Smith scored 13 points to lead the Aggies, who shot 29 percent after halftime as Duke took over. “I thought we were extremely selfish offensively and soft defensively, and (it was) just a performance not to be proud of,” Utah State coach Tim Duryea said. “I didn’t think there was one redeeming quality about our performance.”


  • Amile Jefferson scored 13 points and had nine rebounds
  • Duke made 8 of 15 3s for the game, with Matt Jones hitting a pair
  • Duke pushed its NCAA-best home winning streak against nonconference opponents to 120 games, a streak that started in November 2000
  • Utah State’s Jalen Moore came in averaging 13.3 points, but finished with eight on 3-for-10 shooting
  • The Aggies made 3 of 12 3-pointers
  • Utah State had outrebounded its first four opponents but finished with a 40-26 deficit there against Duke
  • Allen, the ACC’s leading scorer at 22.7 PPG, repeatedly got into the lane and hit two 3s to go with five rebounds; he also drew two offensive fouls on Moore


James Blackmon Jr. had himself a day. The sophomore guard led Indiana to a 112-70 victory against Alcorn State on Monday, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting. His 33 points were the single most a player has scored at Indiana under head coach Tom Crean, who is now coaching the Hoosiers for the eighth season.

Blackmon scored eight of Indiana’s first 12 points as the Hoosiers quickly built a 15-2 lead before the first media timeout. The Hoosiers (5-2) did not slow down much after that, leading 24-8 at the second media timeout while starting the game shooting 9-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

Alcorn State (0-6) briefly cut the Hoosiers’ lead to nine points midway through the first half before Blackmon responded with a 3-pointer to bring IU’s lead back to double-digits. The Hoosiers led 53-34 at halftime behind Blackmon’s 24 points, also a new record under Crean at Indiana.

Elsewhere, six different Hoosiers finished with double-digit scoring as Indiana continued to pull away in the second half. Senior guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman center Thomas Bryant each had 13 points. Sophomore guard Robert Johnson had 12, junior forward Troy Williams had 11, and junior forward Collin Hartman had 10.

Indiana also set a season-best mark in turnovers, committing just 12. IU turned the ball over just three times in the second half, finishing with a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But it was Blackmon doing the heavy lifting, connecting on 6-of-9 3-pointers in 28 minutes of work. His other 15 points came in a multitude of ways, whether it be on a breakaway dunk off a steal, a mid-range jumper or five makes from the free-throw line.

Though the offensive numbers jumped off the score sheet, it was everything else Blackmon was doing that caught Crean’s attention.

As Blackmon checked out of the game for the final time with five minutes left to play and Indiana ahead by 45 points, Crean greeted him on the court with a hug. As the crowd gave Blackmon a standing ovation, Crean pulled him in closely to share words of encouragement as he patted him on the back a few times before Blackmon took his seat on the bench.

Blackmon took his seat on the bench with a record night already wrapped up, but perhaps more importantly, he left Assembly Hall with a lesson on defensive presence.

Crean will be able to show Monday’s game as an example of what happens when Blackmon commits on the defensive end of the floor. Likewise, his teammates will see the same.

It is a real-world reminder of what Crean wants Indiana doing this season. He and his players will hope it carries over to the Hoosiers biggest test of the non-conference season against Duke at 9:15 PM Wednesday in Durham, N.C.


  • Blackmon’s 33 points were the single most a player has scored at Indiana under head coach Tom Crean
  • Six different Hoosiers finished with double-digit scoring
  • Indiana set a season-best mark in turnovers, committing just 12


Duke leads the all-time series against Indiana, 4-3. Here is a look at each of the games in the series:

3/20/87        L, 88-82        Cincinnati

4/4/92           W, 78-81          Minneapolis

11/24/95      W, 64-70          Anchorage

11/29/96      L, 85-69        New York

3/21/02        L, 74-73        Lexington

11/30/05      W, 67-75          Bloomington

11/28/06      W, 51-54          Durham

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, once again the two teams are evenly matched. Both are efficient in shooting the ball, though Indiana is much more effective overall. Indiana is the better  3-point shooting team & they defend the arc better. The Blue Devils have the edge in RPG & FT%. Duke also turns the ball over less than Indiana does. Based on stats alone, this game is another toss-up head-to-head.


Duke 2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Indiana
85.4 (+15.3) PPG (Scoring Margin) 88.3 (+18.7)
70.1 Opponents PPG 69.6
55.5 Effective FG% 64.3
48.8 FG% 54.7
44.0 Opponent FG% 44.3
38.7 3PT FG% 44.9
37.1 Opponent 3PT FG% 34.8
39.0 (+6.4) RPG (Rebound Margin) 37.7 (+7.9)
                             32.6 Opponent RPG 29.9
69.8 FT% 64.9
12.0 APG 19.3
7.7 SPG (%) 9.0
11.0 (+2.4) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 15.9 (-1.6)
13.4 Opponent TOPG 14.7
5.9 BPG 4.1

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,] [Please note that the graphical depiction is forthcoming.]

Duke has the edge in three of the four factors. When it comes to shooting the ball more efficiently, the Hoosiers have a significant  edge at 64.3% vs. 55.5%. Duke has a significant edge in handling the ball at 16.0% vs. 22.9% & when it comes to getting to the free throw line, 50.0% vs. 32.4%. Finally, Duke has a slight edge in offensive rebounding (39.3% vs. 38.0%).

Key Points to Consider

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


  • Efficient attack
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Defensively challenged, particularly dribble penetration
  • Has trouble stopping the 3


  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Hard to score against
  • High turnover rate
  • Shoots the 3 well & defends it well

Now, a few key points to consider (refer to the Endgame). These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Duke Appears to Have Found its Point Guard
    • Freshman Derryck Thornton was back on the bench on Sunday after starting three straight games at point guard. This was likely due to a poor showing the last time out against Yale. Coming off the bench may have been a detriment in that he made just one of nine shots for two points and two assists in 19 minutes against Utah State
    • Lest we forget that he’s younger than nearly everyone else on the court each game, and swings will happen
    • He is obviously no Tyus Jones, which explains why Grayson Allen and Matt Jones were working the 1 to start this season, but as the only true point guard on the roster, Thornton has to be involved in the long run for this Duke team to succeed
    • The growing pains will ease off so it is possible Thornton should either return to the starting lineup or at least get enough minutes to work through the learning curve in games instead of just during practice
  • Work Jeter into the Rotation
    • At 10 MPG, Chase Jeter is getting the kind of action that Grayson Allen saw last year as a freshman, which is to say, not very much
    • Duke does not have the luxury of not needing the 6’10” Jeter this season, given the lack of depth up front and lacking a dominant player such as Jahlil Okafor
    • Seniors Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee have held up well in the frontcourt, but over the course of the season, they need someone to step in for one or the other
    • Jeter is the answer, but Duke has to get him into the game more; he had 13 minutes on Sunday, one fewer than in the previous three games when Duke faced much tougher competition
  • A Defensive Paradigm Shift – Use the Zone More
    • Man-to-man defense is the embodiment of Duke basketball, however several times so far this season, the Blue Devils have been torn apart so easily when playing man that Krzyzewski has gone to zone in an effort to stop the bleeding
    • The win over Georgetown was heavily aided by this switch, and had the Blue Devils not gone to a 1-3-1 zone on Wednesday against Yale, that amazingly long nonconference home win streak might have come to an end
    • It might go against Krzyzewski’s principles, but given the state of the game now & the way it is moving, he will need to make the necessary shift & use the zone more often than just in times of crisis
  • Better Utilization of Brandon Ingram
    • The biggest name in Duke’s freshman class has not looked like someone who was rated No. 3 in the 2015 class by 247Sports to this point
    • At times, he’s looked completely disinterested when on the court, particularly on the defensive end, where his lanky 6’9″ frame figured to be an asset in some situations
      • Instead, Ingram has often been a liability when guarding one-on-one, except when opponents try to post up on him
      • This is when his length has made up for what so far hasn’t been much lateral quickness, and it’s why when Duke is on defense and Ingram is in the game, he should be switching to guard as far from the perimeter as possible
  • Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
    • Duke started the same five in each of its first three games, but after losing to Kentucky, some changes happened, and they continued to the point where they have now used a few different lineups
    • With six more games before the ACC schedule starts, even further shuffling can only help identify which five is the best to go with for conference play
    • Wednesday’s game against visiting Indiana and the mid-December contest against Utah in the Big Apple might not be the best times to try out a different lineup, but the games against Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Elon and Long Beach State are.
      • These are opportunities to possibly start Kennard, who finally showed his promise with a career-high 22 points on Sunday, in the backcourt or try out Jeter up front
    • Once we hit January, the rotation of players and their roles should be set


There is a very good chance that this will be the most difficult game Indiana will play this year. A date with #6 Michigan State in the Breslin Center awaits on Valentine’s Day, and that is the only game on the schedule. Certainly, teams like Purdue and Maryland look quite formidable, but Indiana gets the luxury of playing them at home. They could easily lose to either team, but neither can possibly be as daunting as going into Cameron Indoor to take on the reigning National Champions.

Indiana is carrying a couple of barely-top-100 losses back to the mainland and their best win over #53 Creighton in Bloomington. The Hoosiers leaned on Maui for strength of schedule purposes but were unable to dispatch of Wake Forest to make the trip to the island even remotely worthwhile. They will head into Durham untested, where better teams than them have failed. A non-conference team has not beaten Duke within the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium since 2000.

There is no question that the Hoosiers could erase quite a few early-season doubters by beating Duke on Wednesday night on national television, as it would be a candidate for one of the best wins any team gets all season long.

Indiana’s defense has run out of time to sort out its issues ahead of one of the nation’s most elite offenses. It could be the only time all year that the Hoosiers will play a team that is actually better than they are at scoring points. Granted, Indiana’s defense makes just about every team they play look like an elite offensive unit. Only one team (Kentucky) has been able to make Duke’s offense look anything short of incredible, and they may very well be the best defense in the country. Indiana’s defense, on the other hand, is more on the other end of that particular spectrum.

Many teams will tighten their rotations as the season goes on and coaches get a better idea of the personnel they are dealing with. Coach K, always ahead of the curve, has already done that. Only eight guys are playing more than 10% of the team’s total minutes, and one of them (Chase Jeter) is playing less than 20% of the team’s minutes.

Duke does a decent job of taking care of the ball, but only Grayson Allen has an assist rate that exceeds his turnover rate. Along with being the team’s primary distributor, no one takes more shots or plays more minutes than Allen, and for good reason: he leads the team in offensive rating, fouls drawn, assist rate, and is second on the team in 3PT% at 48.6%. He is a legitimate POY candidate.

But Duke is far from a one-man show. Amile Jefferson is one of the very best on the offensive glass and is shooting 70% on his two-point shots while also getting to the line at an excellent rate. Fouling the 6-9 senior is not a terrible idea assuming you prevent the basket, as he has been a 50/50 proposition from the charity stripe in his career at Duke. Junior Matt Jones gives Coach K another sharpshooter from distance, but outside of him and Grayson Allen, there is not much else to act as a perimeter threat for the Blue Devils. The three-point shot makes up only 34.6% of Duke’s shot attempts, good for 189th in the country (Indiana is 45th, for reference).

Duke has a trio of freshman contributors: Brandon Ingram (24.9% possessions used), Derryck Thornton (19.6%), and Luke Kennard (18.0%), that are playing significant minutes. None are afraid to shoot, as the group has hoisted 68 three pointers this season, but have only hit 27.9% of them. None of the three possess an eFG% of greater than 50% and that is dragging down their offensive ratings. They all possess great size and skill for their positions, and it is probably only a matter of time until they adjust to the college game and become reliable options for Duke.

Then, of course, there is Marshall Plumlee. The last of the Plumlee brothers to play at Duke is not quite the threat the last two were, but at 7-feet tall and possessing the ability to place a basketball inside the rim, he is a huge threat Indiana’s very existence. Thomas Bryant will have his hands full keeping Plumlee in check and keeping himself out of foul trouble (Plumlee leads the nation in Free Throw Rate) putting extra pressure on the guards and wings to keep free runners out of the paint.

Certain factors to watch for in this game include:

  • As noted in the keys for Duke, one has to ask what about the zone for IU. Bringing up a zone tends to activate some bad memories for Indiana fans. But for a team that struggles to keep anyone out of the paint, one should at least consider it. There is no real statistical evidence that shows when Indiana has gone to a zone it has actually helped their deficiencies on defense. Indiana could not defend driving players on Monday night against Alcorn State, so it is doubtful that to think that any switches have flipped in 48 hours that will allow Indiana’s guards and wings to check Duke’s athletes for 40 minutes in Cameron Indoor.
  • An important question for Indiana is has Robert Johnson played his way into the starting lineup? By putting him in the starting lineup (at the expense of Max Bielfeldt / Collin Hartman), Indiana has a lot more flexibility in their substitutions. Tom Crean would have the option of pulling anyone off the floor to bring in Bielfeldt, Hartman, or Ziesloft while still having sufficient size and ball handling on the court. RoJo has been one of Indiana’s most consistent players since the start of the Maui Tournament, having turned it over 8 times in the first three games and only 4 times in the four games since (with 15 assists), while shooting over 50% from beyond the arc. Granted, he has not done it against anyone quite like Duke, but neither has anyone on this team.
  • The players spoke after the Alcorn State game about how they were looking forward to the Duke matchup and there is no doubt that they all want to atone for the Maui debacle. The question is will they come out calm and collected in a raucous environment or will they press themselves to make plays and end up making the same mistakes they have been making over the last couple of seasons.

A week ago, I would have most definitely have chosen Duke’s vaunted non-conference home win streak to have endedin this game, but no more. Do not get me wrong, this is by no means going to be a blowout. Indiana is a good basketball team who is trying to find its way. The same can be said of Duke but they have found ways to win. I honestly do not see Duke running away with this one and think the order of victory will be 78-66.

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