Abridged Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (16-6, 5-4 (8th)] vs. NC State Wolfpack [12-11, 2-8 (13th)]

Saturday, February 6, 2016 • 9:00 PM • CBS • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

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


7kngc4ov3f9f5pi0y7amDuke defeated Georgia Tech, 80-71 on Tuesday to quiet the critics a bit. Duke fell from the Top 25 for the first time since November 2007 after losing to Miami-Florida on January 25. After a week of rest, they managed to get back on track from Atlanta. NC State is coming off a tough, 77-73 loss at Florida State, to drop them to 2-8 in the ACC. While NC State is looking at a possible NIT berth, Duke at 25th in the RPI rankings, will get a berth in the NCAA Tournament, unless they fall badly in the second half of conference play.

Duke has the second-most efficient offense in league play, thanks primarily to its ability to shoot the ball. Obviously, this is an item that is and will always be more important than anything else. The Blue Devils also opened league play with a forgiving schedule, they are 5-4, but they have zero wins against ACC teams in the Pomeroy top 50. Pomeroy rates it as the 10th-easiest league slate to date. Surely, the scheduling on the Duke side had to plan for what some are calling a down year.

This is just a really so-so Duke team. The Devils can score with anybody, but the modest offensive peripherals have to be a concern given the schedule. You can still make a March run with an elite offense and sub-standard defense; Notre Dame went to the Elite Eight with a similar profile last year. (Notre Dame also barely escaped its opening-round game.) However, it is not ideal.

Duke Offense — Four FactorseFG% TO%OR%FT Rate
2015-16 Overall (National Rank)55.1 (18)14.5 (5)36.4 (25)41.1 (82)
2015-16 ACC Only (Conference Rank)56.4 (1)16.1 (5)31.9 (9)35.9 (9)

Jefferson is an x-factor of sorts going into the last month of the season, but the offense does not need more support. What can he do for the defense?

Duke Defense — Four FactorseFG% TO%OR%FT Rate
2015-16 Overall (National Rank)48.7 (119)17.4 (233)32.8 (287)24.9 (7)
2015-16 ACC Only (Conference Rank)49.1 (6)15.1 (12)35.2 (14)24.3 (1)

DUKEDuke needed a win badly on Tuesday, after losing four of their last five games. As we keep noting, the loss of senior Amile Jefferson to a foot injury has taken away their top rebounder and best post player. They also did not have head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was out due to illness, but he was not really missed. Associate head coach Jeff Capel took over against the Yellow Jackets and did a stupendous job. Duke outrebounded a beefy Georgia Tech team by one and shot 48.3 percent from the floor and 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. Allen led the Blue Devils with 27 points, four assists, and seven rebounds. Guard Derryck Thornton added 15 points, while Ingram added 14 points and 10 boards.

Allen leads the Blue Devils in scoring with 20.6 points per game, while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from beyond the arc. Ingram adds 17.0 points and 6.6 rebounds, while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. Duke shoots 47.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc, while allowing teams to shoot 43.6 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from 3-point range. They rank 10th in the nation in points per game at 84.7.

NC State allowed Florida State to shoot 52.6 percent from the field in their four-point road loss on Monday from Tallahassee. They wasted a great performance from guard Anthony Barber, who scored 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting. On Jan. 23, NC State met the Blue Devils at home, and fell 88-78 from PNC Arena. NC State shot 51.7 percent from the field and Barber led five players in double figures with 19 points. But once again, the defense struggled, as Duke hit 54.2 percent of their shots and 40.0 percent (10-25) from beyond the arc. They could not stop guard Grayson Allen (28 points, 11-of-17) or freshman Brandon Ingram (25 points, 10-of-16).

NC State averages 75.1 points per game and shoots 42.7 percent from the floor. They allow teams to shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc (302nd) and 42.2 percent from the field. Barber leads the Wolfpack in scoring with 23.4 points per game and assists with 4.6 per game. Forward Abdul-Malik Abu adds 12.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Duke crushed NC State in the first game on January 23 by 10. The Wolfpack are 3-4 on the road, while Duke is 10-2 at home. The Blue Devils shoot the ball over 39 percent from beyond the arc at home, while NC State struggles to defend the 3 overall, allowing teams to shoot 34.7 percent from the field.

I feel good about this game and will go with Duke by 12.

Following are some overall keys that I have addressed in past previews or in my most recent article on www.dukeblogger.com, What is Next for Duke – Will They Fold or Will They Hold?.

5 Keys to the Season to Watch For

  • Was Amile Jefferson the One Player That Duke Could Not Afford to Lose?
    • Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski realized early on that some players who were projected to play significant roles this season weren’t going to be ready for major minutes, which placed added importance on the starters’ ability to carry the load
      • And then Amile Jefferson injured his foot, creating a doomsday scenario that turned an already thin rotation into one that had no more room for error
    • He is still wearing an orthotic boot on his injured foot after a brief reprieve, thus the timetable for his return is still uncertain
    • Jefferson’s absence has forced Brandon Ingram to move from his natural spot at the 3 into the frontcourt, alongside center Marshall Plumlee, and Duke now uses a three-guard lineup
    • There’s a reserve available for the backcourt, but not one who can be relied on to spell Ingram or Plumlee


  • Grayson Allen Is a Team Leader
    • Sophomore guard Grayson Allen recorded his 10th game with at least 20 points on Tuesday, and Duke needed every one of his 27 in order to get the win at Georgia Tech
      • As has been the case almost all season, the Blue Devils are heavily reliant on Allen’s scoring and feed off his intensity
    • He is averaging 20.6 points per game, which is tops on the team, and with seven more three-pointers on Tuesday, he has 46 this season
      • Duke is 1-3 when he fails to shoot 40 percent from the field
    • He’s also the Blue Devils’ best distributor, averaging 3.7 assists per game
      • That speaks to some of the team’s struggles, as the lack of a true point guard has forced Allen to create for others instead of just finding his own shot


  • Brandon Ingram Is More Than Just a Scorer
    • Ingram has shown the most in-season development of any Duke player, with the 6’9” freshman forward displaying an all-around game that isn’t entirely dependent on putting up points
      • This was evident on Tuesday, as an off shooting night (he was 3-of-15 from the field) was offset by 10 rebounds and four blocked shots
    • It was Ingram’s fifth double-double of the season, and all of them have come since he was moved into Amile Jefferson’s power forward spot in mid-December
      • Though rebounding isn’t his forte, Ingram has averaged 7.7 boards per game in ACC play, second to center Marshall Plumlee’s 9.6 per game
    • He has also has 35 blocked shots, and he’s turning it over only 1.8 times per game


  • The ‘Energizer Bunny’ Is Just Not There
    • After taking a week to rest and recuperate, Duke showed some of its highest levels of energy in weeks on Tuesday
      • But even that didn’t last
      • A huge second-half surge that built a 17-point lead with 5:35 left in the game began to fade as fatigue set in
    • So it goes when only six players log meaningful minutes
    • Duke went back to a man-to-man defense in the second half against Georgia Tech, since its zone (implemented more to preserve energy than anything else) was not doing the job
      • But while that helped the Blue Devils win the game, they can’t do that every night without enough time to rest
    • The next game is Saturday, but then another comes barely 48 hours later
      • Duke’s last two games played on such short rest, against Syracuse and Miami, resulted in two of its worst offensive performances of 2015-16


  • Bench, What Bench
    • Freshmen Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton have taken turns starting alongside sophomore Grayson Allen and junior Matt Jones in the backcourt, with Thornton earning his 11th start on Tuesday
      • He had 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, his best game since ACC play began on Jan. 2
      • [Personally, I feel that starting Thornton is best for the team in order to bring order to the chaos at the start; Kennard cannot play the 1 spot & his shooting has become spotty at best in the last few games]
    • Being able to alternate between those two and have them spell Allen and Jones is the closest thing the Blue Devils have to a luxury this season
      • That’s because the fourth guard is the extent of Duke’s bench
    • Freshman Chase Jeter’s eight minutes spelling the frontcourt on Tuesday tied his longest total in the ACC, and freshman Antonio Vrankovic made only his fifth appearance of the season (albeit for one minute)
    • Sean Obi, a sophomore transfer from Rice, has played in only nine games and just four in the conference, although his recent lack of PT may be due to injury
    • Duke has never been known for going deep into the bench, outside of garbage time, but this year, it’s been to the extreme

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