Despite taking home the championship trophy of the PK80 Invitational Motion Bracket in Portland, Ore., the Blue Devils were not entirely on their game for much of the tournament, needing 15-plus point comebacks their its last two battles due to streaky perimeter shooting and lapses on defense. 

Duke will look to reverse the trend and get off to a strong start against Indiana when the teams do battle Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., in the 19th annual ACC/Big Ten challenge. Duke holds a 16-2 record in the event—the best of any team in either conference—but could face trouble in the first true road game for a team with eight freshmen.  

Can Duke stay undefeated in one of college basketball's classic venues? We discuss the five biggest questions heading into one of the most hostile environments it will encounter this season.

Can the Blue Devils avoid another slow start?

Duke struggled out of the gates in each of its three PK80 contests, falling behind in the first halves against Portland State, Texas and Florida by eight, 14 and 15 points, respectively. The Blue Devils have particularly struggled to find their men defensively in the early going, allowing opponents to take open looks from the perimeter and put up at least 43 points in the first half every game out west.

Duke, fortunately, has been able to use its own perimeter shooting to climb back into games, but this style of play is not sustainable over the course of a season.

“I’m sure [Coach K would] prefer us to play the whole game like we have been in the second halves here,” senior Grayson Allen said of the team’s performances in Portland. “For us to be at our best, we’ve got to be able to play two halves like we just did…. I don’t know if we can come back from 16 every game.”

Will the Hoosiers be able to overcome the Blue Devils size?

With just two rotation players taller than 6-foot-8 in forwards Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis, the Hoosiers could have trouble against Duke’s star freshmen Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, who combine to average more than 35 points and 20 rebounds per contest.

The Blue Devils have done a solid job using their size to force opponents to defeat them from the perimeter this season. However, Duke will need to continue its strong perimeter defense that held its three PK80 opponents to less than 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Indiana can knock down a lot of shots from downtown—the Hoosiers’ Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk and Devonte Green all boast 3-point percentages better than 40 percent on the season.

Can Grayson Allen and Gary Trent convert with consistency?

Following a 7-for-11 performance from beyond the arc against then-No. 2 Michigan State, Allen went cold from the field, becoming a non-factor for much of the PK80. After converting on just three of his 13 attempts from downtown against Portland State and Texas, though, the Jacksonville, Fla., native caught fire, hitting 4-of-8 shots from deep against Florida. 

Like Allen, Trent also awoke from a silent stretch Sunday, converting on three consecutive attempts from beyond the arc in a 57 second span during the first half. Prior to that run, Trent had made just one of his 11 attempts from downtown in the tournament.

In order for the Blue Devils to get off to a hot start, they will need Allen and Trent to make their shots on the perimeter, which in turn should stretch the Hoosier defense to give Bagley and Carter more space to operate down low.

What will Duke’s true free-throw percentage be?

The Blue Devils entered the PK80 tied for 323rd in the nation in free throw percentage at 61.7 percent. After converting at rates of just 73.8 and 61.1 percent from the charity stripe in its first two weekend contests, Duke turned up the heat from the line when it mattered most, draining 19 of its 20 attempts Sunday against Florida.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Blue Devils has been the rapid improvement of Bagley at the line. Entering the tournament with a free throw percentage worse than 50 percent, the Phoenix native needed to start converting at a higher clip in order to dissuade teams from hacking him to get him to the line. 

Against Texas and Florida, Bagley did an excellent job of using his size to get to the line and he converted while at the stripe, hitting 18 of his 23 attempts, including a 9-of-10 performance in Duke’s clutch 87-84 win Sunday.

How will the freshmen respond in a hostile environment?

A first true road game for any player is a challenge, but especially so for this year’s Duke team, which boasts a starting lineup with four freshmen. 

The Blue Devils will especially need Allen to lead the way in Bloomington Tuesday and help Duke build a cushion. If the Blue Devils can get out ahead early, the freshmen will be under less pressure and can potentially use their talent advantage to advance to 9-0 on the season.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date of the game. It will be played Wednesday. The Chronicle regrets the error.