X factor: Duke basketball vs. Boston College



No. 2 Duke will look to keep its string of double-digit victories alive as it kicks off conference play against Boston College at 4 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Saturday's game will be the Blue Devils' third this week as Duke looks to move to 13-0 on the season. Before each game this season, the Blue Zone will select a player on both teams that could make the difference for their teams:

Duke guard: Rasheed Sulaimon

The Blue Devils will need a strong effort from their bench and the junior will have to lead the way. In his last three games, Sulaimon has averaged just 4.3 points per game on 30.7 percent shooting from the field. These struggles followed a three-game stretch of outstanding play from Sulaimon—one in which he averaged 12.7 points per game on 48.1-percent shooting.

Although Duke’s starting lineup has gotten much of the shine early this season, Sulaimon remains a key cog that is capable of putting up points when the starters hit the bench. The 6-foot-5 guard has an explosive first step and a deadly long-range jumper that makes him tough to guard. But at times, Sulaimon has drifted in-and-out of games and consistency has always seemed to be a problem for the junior.

Strong play from Sulaimon will be crucial to the Blue Devils maintaining control of the game and being able to give their starters some much needed rest. Being the third game this week, look for Duke to try and keep their starters fresh by rotating their lineups a bit more than usual. With a strong performance from the Houston, Texas, native, the Blue Devil bench will be able to reestablish itself as conference play begins.

Boston College guard: Olivier Hanlan

The junior showed his ability to be a thorn in the Blue Devils’ side just a year ago when he put up 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting in the Eagles 21-point defeat. After being Boston College’s leading scorer a year ago, Hanlan has averaged 15.5 points per game—second highest on the team—along with 4.0 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game this season.

The 6-foot-4 guard is dangerous because of his quick first step and aggressiveness that allow him to get to the rim at ease. Hanlan—who is currently projected as an early 2nd-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft—has also hurt teams in transition and is a skilled ball-handler that will test Duke’s much improved defense

However, the key for Hanlan and the Eagles will not be for the guard to put up gaudy stats once again. In order to pull off the upset, Hanlan will have to get his teammates involved. As a team that ranks 185th in the nation in points per game, the only way Boston College can keep pace with the Blue Devils is if Hanlan can move the ball to teammates who can knock down open shots.


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