Duke Blue Devils: (2-1)
Duke was extremely impressive in their opening two games against Siena and Bryant. The Blue Devils outscored their first two opponents 205-149. Duke then played in the Champions Classic in Chicago where they fell to #2 Kentucky 74-63 on Tuesday.
Coming off of his fifth-career National Championship at Duke, Coach K is now in the discussion amongst the greatest coaches to ever do it in basketball. Krzyzewski is in his 41st season coaching college basketball. After going 73-59 as the coach at Army, Coach K has won 947 games at Duke and 1018 games altogether, which is the most all-time in Division I Men’s Basketball. Coach K has another talented group that he hopes to take to what would be his 13th Final Four.
The Names to Know
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Duke had a talented group of freshmen who led the Blue Devils to the National Championship game. Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and others were key in getting there, but the forgotten freshman, Grayson Allen, put Duke over the top. Allen’s 16 points in the National title game helped to seal a 68-63 victory and the school’s fifth national title.
Allen was strictly a bench player last season, but displayed how talented he could be. Now he is one of the team’s most important players and will look to lead Duke to back-to-back titles. As a freshman, Allen averaged 4.4 points, 1.0 rebound and 1.5 three pointers per game in 9.2 minutes. Clearly, we are going to see much more from the athletic guard. This season, through three games, Allen has averaged 20.0 points, 3.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.0 three pointers in 30.2 minutes per game.
In the wins over Siena and Bryant, Allen was outstanding and scored 54 points over the two games. However, the star sophomore struggled against the frontcourt of Kentucky as he tallied only six points and committed four turnovers.
Duke lost an abundance of talent to the NBA after their championship run last season so it will be up to Allen to get them back there. If he has a great season, the guard could find himself in the league before long. Allen’s athleticism, three point shooting ability and free throw shooting are fantastic and make him tough to stop offensively.
Allen was selected to the Preseason All-ACC Second Team, Jerry West Watch List, Wooden Award Watch List and was the ACC Player of the Week during the week of November 16th. You will see a lot of him at MSG this weekend.
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Amile Jefferson enters his senior season with a much heavier load on his back than in years past. The senior will be relied on to score and rebound consistently as the gifted freshmen develop for Duke. During each season Jefferson has played for the Blue Devils, he has improved and his role has increased. He was a big part of the National Title team and will now be focal point of the offense this season.
As a freshman, Jefferson averaged 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes of play. Last year, Jefferson averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per night. This season Jefferson has averaged a double-double through the first three games and played well against Kentucky in the loss. The senior had 16 points and 15 rebounds against a talented Wildcat frontcourt.
With 596 career rebounds, Jefferson ranks fifth amongst ACC big men in career boards. Jefferson also has 255 career offensive boards and is five away from tying Carlos Boozer for 10th on the Duke all-time rebounds list. Jefferson’s career .622 field goal percentage ranks him second on Duke’s all-time list, behind Boozer.
Last season, Jefferson was one of the leaders on the championship squad. This year, the forward’s role as a scorer and rebounder will be critical to Duke’s success. Jefferson had Okafor to play with last season, but know has less talented big men with him. However, it is Duke we are talking about here so expect this front line to be good by the end of the season.
In ACC play, Jefferson has been very consistent over his three seasons in Durham. The forward has averaged 5.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and .604 field goal percentage in 21.2 minutes a game. Duke will look to Jefferson for solid play early in the season so expect him to be vital for the Blue Devils in this classic and going forward.
The Style of Play
Quick, balanced offense:
Duke’s offense this season is similar to many Blue Devil teams of the past. They can shoot it from three-point land and their guards are polarizing, but talented and athletic nonetheless. The Blue Devils rank number one in adjusted offensive efficiency at 116.2 according to KenPom.com. Duke is also quick offensively as they average 72.7 plays per game, which is the most of the four teams in the 2K Sports Classic.
In the matchup against VCU, Duke will see a similar style of play, but will have the advantage because of their pool of talent. If the Blue Devils take on Wisconsin or Georgetown in the final of this classic, they will see a much slower game.
Stout Duke Defense:
Defensively, Duke ranks 17th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency at 93.3 through the first three games this season. The Blue Devils have solid big men like Marshall Plumlee who make it difficult for teams to drive inside and with the length they have in talents like Brandon Ingram, it will be tough for guards and wing players to have solid nights.
One Weakness that is worth noting…..
Taste of their own medicine:
Let’s be clear, Duke is a championship contender once again. With their talent and coaching they could win it again. It is early in the season, but if Duke has one chink in the armor it is how the Blue Devils defend the three point shot. KenPom.com has Duke ranked 306th in the nation opponents three point percentage at 44.2. However, Kentucky only shot 30 percent from deep and still defeated Duke. Teams like Wisconsin, Georgetown and VCU will have to do two things well in order to beat Duke: shoot well from downtown and force turnovers.
In the wins over Siena and Bryant, Duke committed a combined 16 turnovers in those two games. Kentucky forced 16 turnovers in their victory over the Blue Devils in Chicago. Teams need to make it tough on Duke offensively if they want to beat them.