X factor: Duke basketball vs. Wisconsin



No. 4 Duke will face one of its stiffest tests of the season Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on the road against No. 2 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. The matchup is the headliner of this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge and will be the first contest between two top-five teams nationally.

Both teams are anchored by National Player of the Year candidates in the post and although the matchup between Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor has made national headlines, we take a look at different players from each team that could decide the outcome of the game.

Duke: forward Justise Winslow

The versatile freshman has done it all for the Blue Devils—averaging 13.0 points along with 4.6 rebounds per game. However, Winslow’s most significant contribution has been on the side of the ball that Duke has improved most on this season—defense. The 6-foot-6 forward has used his size and athleticism to become the best perimeter defender on the Blue Devil squad and arguably one of the best in the nation.

But Winslow’s tenacious defense has occasionally been too aggressive and led to early foul trouble for the freshman. In Sunday’s victory over Army, the Houston native played only 12 minutes after picking up two quick fouls three minutes into the game and his third foul with 6:20 still remaining in the first half. The victory against Army was the third time this season that Winslow has committed three fouls in a game.

Winslow faces what might be his toughest test all season Wednesday when he matches up with 6-foot-9 junior Sam Dekker. Dekker’s size and speed make him a tough cover in the post and in transition—both of which will put Winslow in the precarious position of picking up early fouls if he’s not careful. The freshman will also have to be careful when switching on help defense, as both Nigel Hayes and Traevon Jackson excel at drawing contact and getting to the line.

Winslow has already shot 40 free throws this season, but has only made 60 percent of his attempts, so his ability to attack Dekker and get into the paint on the offensive end, then convert his opportunities could also be huge in Duke's first road game of the season.

Wisconsin: forward Sam Dekker

Dekker is one of the many veteran leaders on an experienced Wisconsin team and will surely be eager to deliver a key early season victory in front of what will be a raucous home crowd. The junior enters Wednesday’s showdown averaging 12.7 points per game on 53.2-percent shooting from the floor. Dekker will be employed by Wisconsin very much in the same way that Winslow is employed by Duke. The forward has gained a reputation as a “do-it-all” player and his versatility makes him capable of hurting the Blue Devil defense in multiple ways.

Duke will need to emphasize not allowing Dekker to get early open looks from beyond the arc. Although the forward is only shooting 28.6-percent from distance this season, the junior shot a blistering 39.1-percent from 3-point range as a freshman and is certainly capable of doing damage on the perimeter. A few early open looks in front of a raucous crowd could put the Blue Devils in a hole early and give Dekker the confidence he needs.

The status of Wisconsin’s x-factor for Wednesday’s game remains a question mark as Dekker suffered from a nagging ankle problem that has limited him in practice this week. However, team staff expects the junior to be ready to go by game-time. Dekker—who has always performed well in big games, including a 15-point effort in a season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Final Four a year ago—is certainly capable of causing Duke major headaches on both ends of the court.


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