Although the Blue Devils may not be decisively better without freshman Marvin Bagley III in the lineup as a team, one thing is clear: Grayson Allen has been significantly more effective as the go-to option. 

Following a dominant 28-point outing in the Blue Devils' 82-56 victory against Louisville Wednesday, Allen has now maintained his vintage form the last four games. After failing to break 20 points in the first 10 contests of 2018, Duke’s senior captain has surpassed that mark three times in the Blue Devils' last four games, also (maybe not so) coincidentally the four games Bagley has missed with a knee sprain.

In five games this season without Bagley in the lineup—including Duke’s matchup against No. 2 Michigan State when Bagley sat most of the game with an eye injury—Allen has averaged 26.4 points. But when both players are in the lineup and healthy, Allen’s scoring output nearly gets cut in half, down to just 13.3 points per contest.

“When you play good, you feel good, and for me it is just trying to stay in this groove,” Allen said. “Part of it is me just playing better, adjusting and finding different spots, and part of that is adjusting to what our offense has turned into with Marvin out.”

Without the freshman phenom in the lineup, Allen has been forced into a creator role and has become the team's primary ball-handler. Rather than acting as a catch-and-shoot player on the perimeter, Allen has returned to his aggressive style of play, driving to the basket and converting at the free-throw line. In the five games without Bagley, Allen has attempted at least eight free throws on three occasions, and he's currently made 21 straight from the charity stripe. 

The Jacksonville, Fla., native’s strong performance offensively has also translated to the defensive side of the ball. Allen has been much more active defensively, and has led the Blue Devils' recent successful adoption of the 2-3 zone. 

Duke has now held each of its last three opponents to fewer than 60 points defensively, something it had done just once all season prior to this stretch and had not done to three straight conference opponents since 1981.

“Grayson is our leader,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “By having him up top, it allows him to lead better. In the zone and on offense, he’s on top. That positioning works out better, to have his leadership have a positive influence on these guys.”

Allen’s recent resurgence comes following the most brutal stretch of his career offensively. In the first 10 contests of 2018, Allen scored double digits in back-to-back games just once, and he converted better than 40 percent of his attempts from the field on just two occasions. The senior captain felt that at times, he was more focused on getting the young team around him going than himself.

“It is a tough balance for me as a leader,” Allen said. “I was just trying to get a lot of these guys involved early on and get us to move the ball, get us to get a great shot every time down the court because we can with how much talent we have on offense.” 

But with Bagley out of the lineup, Allen has emerged as the go-to option offensively for the Blue Devils. Allen would likely continue his role as the primary ball-handler in the event of a Bagley return, keeping freshman guard Trevon Duval off the ball, but whether Allen can continue to fool defenses and convert from the perimeter consistently remains to be seen.

Regardless, Allen is certainly well out of his slump, and with just a few weeks left in his college career, he is feeling confident about ending his four years at Duke on a strong note.

“I’m glad that it’s happening now,” Allen said. “It takes just a few to go in and then the basket gets bigger and bigger and then you think the rest are going in. It’s nice that it’s happening here at the end. It’s helping me, it’s helping our team and our team is getting better going into this postseason.”