X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Maine

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Maine

After a 78-69 victory against Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Blue Devils will face Maine in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday evening at 5:30. Duke will look to continue its early-season success playing without three of its top freshmen, who are sidelined due to injury. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be a difference-maker in Saturday’s game.

Duke: Forward Amile Jefferson

The 6-foot-9 graduate student from Philadelphia has been impressive to start the season for the Blue Devils. With the injuries to Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, Jefferson has been forced to play a larger role for the shorthanded Blue Devils. Duke’s captain has responded to the challenge by putting up a career-high 14.0 points per game so far to go along with 9.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Jefferson has been able to shoulder the load on the inside and has been the anchor of Duke’s defense. 

The unquestionable leader on and off the court for the Blue Devils, Jefferson has been the consistent force the team needed to start the season. He must continue his solid play and stay out of foul trouble to conceal the Blue Devils' deficiencies in their depleted frontcourt against the Black Bears. Read more »

Duke football 2016 season review: Special teams

Duke football 2016 season review: Special teams

The Chronicle's review of the Blue Devils' 2016 season wraps up with an analysis of their special teams unit. Check out our evaluations for Duke's offense and defense if you missed them earlier this week.

Special Teams: C-

Kicking/punting: One of the biggest stories of the season for Duke was freshman kicker A.J. Reed's struggles. Reed converted only three field goals in 10 attempts on the season, and his longest made kick of the season was just a 38-yarder. After four-year starter Ross Martin graduated as the most accomplished kicker in school history, Reed's performance marked a dramatic turn in the wrong direction for the Blue Devils. Duke was alone in last place in the nation with just three made field goals as a team.

Reed missed his last four field-goal attempts of the season, as head coach David Cutcliffe seemed to lose faith in his kicker down the stretch and elected multiple times to go for it in fourth-and-long situations or punt on short fields when most teams would try a field goal. This severely limited the team’s offense and put even more pressure on an injury-riddled team to get into the end zone.

At the end of the day, Duke lost two games by three points, and the Blue Devils would have been in better position to win a few more games had Reed hit more of his kicks. Was Duke’s inability to make field goals the sole factor that kept it out of a bowl? Probably not, but it certainly made things more difficult for a team that was coming off its first bowl victory since 1961. Read more »

Chron chat: Recapping Duke football's 2016 season

Chron chat: Recapping Duke football's 2016 season

After the Blue Devils wrapped up their 4-8 season with a loss at Miami last Saturday, The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar, Ben Feder and Sam Turken discussed why the Blue Devils missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. Although injuries and a few lackluster performances early on derailed Duke's 2016 campaign, our football beat writers took a step back and debated whether the future looks bright the Blue Devils. The topics discussed can be viewed below.

0:28—Daniel Jones' future as Duke's quarterback after his strong finish to the season

1:38—How injuries forced the Blue Devils' young players to get more experience at the skill positions

3:35—Breakout seasons at linebacker for underclassmen Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris Read more »

This week in Duke history: Duke football clinches Coastal Division with win in Chapel Hill

This week in Duke history: Duke football clinches Coastal Division with win in Chapel Hill

It was a result that would have been hard to believe only a few years earlier.

On Nov. 30, 2013, the Blue Devils used a late Ross Martin field goal to seal a 27-25 victory at North Carolina, as well as the ACC Coastal Division title.

Under then-sixth year head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke opened a new chapter in its history after a brutal stretch before his arrival, including a 2-33 clip in the three seasons before he came to Durham. The win marked the Blue Devils' 10th of the season—a school record—en route to the ACC championship game and a second-straight bowl game after no previous trips to the postseason since 1994.

After dropping its third and fourth games of the season to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, Duke reeled off seven straight wins for a chance to win the Coastal Division. There was a close battle against Troy to start the streak, double-digit wins against Virginia, N.C. State and then-No. 24 Miami and perhaps the biggest win of the year at No. 16 Virginia Tech, a 13-10 thriller. Read more »

Duke football 2016 season review: Defense

Duke football 2016 season review: Defense

Next up in The Chronicle's review of Duke's 4-8 season is an evaluation of the Blue Devils' defense. Look back at our grade for Duke's offense here, and check back later this week for an analysis of the team's special teams unit.

Defense: C+

Pass: Duke's secondary was decimated by season-ending injuries to redshirt senior captain DeVon Edwards—who tore his ACL Sept. 24 against Notre Dame—and senior cornerback Breon Borders, who missed the last three games of the year with a hip injury. The Blue Devils paid the price in the defensive backfield, surrendering 10 passing touchdowns in their last three contests and allowing four opponents to pass for more than 300 yards this season.

Duke was particularly susceptible to the big play through the air, allowing 15 passes that went for more than 40 yards. The Blue Devils made some game-changing plays of their own, picking off 10 passes—led by senior Deondre Singleton with three—but they slowed down toward the end of the year with just three interceptions in their last six games.

Under the tutelage of first-year defensive line coach Ben Albert, Duke's pass rush made major strides this season. The Blue Devils had 29 sacks a year after they were one of the worst teams in the nation at pressuring opposing quarterbacks with just 17 sacks. Redshirt senior defensive tackle A.J. Wolf led Duke's front seven to an impressive season, and his contributions against then-No. 15 North Carolina—when he pressured Mitch Trubisky into two uncharacteristic interceptions—helped the Blue Devils to their biggest victory of the year. Read more »

Injury update: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses team's various ailments after Duke-Michigan State

Injury update: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses team's various ailments after Duke-Michigan State

Even after the Blue Devils came away with a hard-fought 78-69 win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Duke faces numerous questions about the health of its roster. The Blue Devils utilized a six-man rotation once again Tuesday but will need to get healthy in the month of December with a brutal conference slate starting New Year's Eve. 

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski talked about his team’s various injuries following Duke’s win against the Spartans.

Allen continues to gut it out

The junior has nursed a leg and toe injury during the team’s first eight games and continues to play at much less than 100 percent. Although the guard has not missed a game for the Blue Devils, the junior has struggled with his shot and is shooting just 37.1 percent from the floor.

Just so you know, Grayson does not practice one second. So when he’s out on that court, that kid...it’s a gutty performance.
When we had back-to-back games up at Mohegan, he landed on the side of his toe during Penn State and we weren’t sure...he played. Then, warming up against Rhode Island, it didn’t look good. He said, 'I’ll play,’ but he limped the whole game. When we have a little bit of time in between, he just needs to rest it. And then it becomes good enough to play. But he can’t do anything.
Kennard and Jeter fully healthy

The sophomore duo has played a key role for Duke and both players seem completely recovered from their minor injuries. Kennard came into the season with a sore toe but has emerged as the Blue Devils’ most reliable scoring option. Jeter—who left the team’s game against Penn State two weeks ago with a left ankle injury—said following Tuesday’s win that he’s “back” and has “the same type of explosion.” Read more »

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

An 11-0 run in the second half sparked No. 5 Duke to a 78-69 win against Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Four Blue Devils scored in double figures, led by junior Grayson Allen's 24 points, and Duke extended its nonconference home winning streak to 130 games. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Stop Miles Bridges: Senior guard Matt Jones played suffocating defense on Michigan State’s star freshman, holding him to only 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting—both below his season averages of 17.4 points per game and 50.0 shooting from the field. Bridges did manage to snag nine rebounds, but his limited offensive presence clearly hurt Michigan State once Duke started to pull away. The Flint, Mich., native fouled out with 12 seconds remaining after picking up all five of his fouls in the second half.
  • Contest shooters: Although the Spartans shot 49.1 percent from the floor, the Blue Devils managed to hold them to just 5-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc and allowed only one made 3-pointer in the last 10 minutes of the game. By successfully limiting the deep ball, Duke forced Michigan State out of its comfort zone and prevented any big scoring runs for the Spartans.
  • Share the ball: The Blue Devil starters combined for 14 assists and created plenty of opportunities from deep, but only Allen truly capitalized. The junior captain shot 5-of-11 from long distance, but the rest of the team shot a combined 2-of-15 from the 3-point line. Had Duke taken advantage, it could have put the game away well before the decisive run midway through the second half.

Three key stats:

  • Duke wins the turnover battle: Led by Jones’ four steals, the Blue Devils generated 18 giveaways while turning it over only nine times themselves. Any time a team wins the turnover battle by such a significant margin, it puts itself in a good position to win, and Duke scored 19 points off turnovers to help take control.
  • The Blue Devils shoot only 7-of-26 from deep: Duke had another poor shooting night, with only Allen finding a consistent rhythm from deep. Although it was not the Blue Devils' best performance from the perimeter, they were very efficient with their chances in the paint and shot 57.5 percent on 2-pointers.
  • Duke controls the offensive glass: Michigan State won the rebounding battle 39-33, but the Blue Devils managed to track down more offensive rebounds by a margin of 11-8, led by five for forward Amile Jefferson. The Blue Devils converted these rebounds for 16 second-chance points and only allowed two second-chance points for the Spartans.

Three key plays: Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

Following Duke's 78-69 win against Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Cameron Indoor Stadium, The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Sameer Pandhare broke down the keys to the Blue Devils' victory. Four Duke players scored in double figures and an 11-0 second-half run for the Blue Devils proved to be the difference after the two teams entered the halftime locker room tied at 35. The topics discussed can be viewed below.

0:20—How Frank Jackson ignited Duke's key run in the second half on the offensive end to help the Blue Devils take control of the game

0:58—Why head coach Mike Krzyzewski decribed Matt Jones' night as "a spectacular two-point performance"

2:13—How much production Duke got from Amile Jefferson and its frontcourt even with a four-guard lineup Read more »

Halftime: Duke 35, Michigan State 35

After a slow start to the game, the Blue Devils have struggled to find their footing in a tightly-contested first half.

No. 5 Duke and Michigan State are tied at 35 heading into halftime of the teams’ matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Blue Devils missed their first seven shots from the floor but remain tied despite shooting just 2-of-11 from 3-point range in a sloppy first half for both teams. 

The Spartan defense placed an emphasis on preventing Duke from getting open looks from beyond the arc and it has worked with Grayson Allen the only Blue Devil hitting from long range.

In response, Duke’s guards have looked to take their defenders into the post with the majority of sophomore Luke Kennard's looks coming near the basket. The guard has eight points on 4-of-7 shooting so far.  Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Michigan State

After handling its last two opponents with ease, No. 5 Duke will take on Michigan State Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The shorthanded Blue Devils will face a hungry Spartan team that is coming off of a narrow victory against Wichita State after losing to Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas last week. Here are three keys to success for Duke:

STOP MILES BRIDGES

Michigan State’s success this season has been heavily dependent on its 6-foot-7 guard from Flint, Mich. Miles Bridges—the No. 8 recruit in last year's ESPN 100—is leading the Spartans in scoring with 17.4 points per game and rebounding with 8.7 boards per game. Bridges has been doing it all for the Spartans, as he is shooting 50.0 percent from the field and also leads the team in minutes per game. The Blue Devils will have their hands full trying to stop the talented freshman, but they must find a way to limit his opportunities. With Michigan State lacking a surefire second scoring option behind Bridges, Duke can focus its defense on stopping him and cannot afford to let the freshman find his rhythm.

CONTEST SHOOTERS

With Michigan State’s veteran big man Gavin Schilling sidelined due to injury, the Spartans, like the Blue Devils, have been forced to play an undersized lineup this season. This has made Michigan State reliant on perimeter shots, with more 39 percent of its points coming from 3-pointers. The Spartans have three players—including Bridges—who are shooting better than 40 percent from the 3-point line. If the Blue Devils want to be successful Tuesday, they must close out on perimeter shooters to force them off their spots and make them drive and attack the rim.

SHARE THE BALL

For much of the season, the Blue Devils have been forced to play a lineup featuring four guards alongside 6-foot-9 forward Amile Jefferson. The team has gotten comfortable with this lineup and has been efficient on offense, as it ranks eighth in the country in points scored. The small lineup with four capable outside shooters—all of whom can also penetrate the defense and find the open man—has created problems for opposing teams. For the Blue Devils to continue their success on the offensive end, their perimeter players must move the ball and create open shots for each other. With four players shooting better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, Duke can pull away from the visiting Spartans if it consistently finds open shooters and knocks down its perimeter jumpers. Read more »