XFactor: Duke basketball vs Georgia Tech

After falling out of the rankings for the first time in eight years, Duke will look to resurrect its season Tuesday against Georgia Tech after extended time away from the court. The Blue Devils will need to clean up on the glass to pull away early against the pesky Yellow Jackets. Before each game, the Chronicle takes a look at one player from each team who could be the difference maker in Duke's upcoming contest:

Duke: guard Grayson Allen

Georgia Tech boasts the third best 3-point field goal defense in the ACC, suggesting a possible halt to the success sharpshooters Luke Kennard and Matt Jones have had on offense. With the ACC’s leader in rebounds per game matching up against Marshall Plumlee, the graduate student’s talents may also be held at bay. These factors place a premium on the driving abilities of Allen, who will try to be the difference-maker as Duke tries to avoid being stung by the Yellow Jackets.

With Georgia Tech ranking 132nd nationally and 11th in the conference in personal fouls committed—averaging 19 per game—the always-aggressive Allen will have plenty of opportunities to put himself at the free-throw line, where he leads the team in attempts and shoots nearly 84 percent. The Jacksonville, Fla., native will be relatively untested by the Yellow Jackets’ porous defense, which is one of the worst in the ACC in terms of points allowed and also struggles to force turnovers. Allen’s high-flying vertical abilities will also prove to be an asset against a Georgia Tech team whose tallest starter is just 6-foot-8.

Expect the sophomore to be plenty involved in Duke’s efforts to right the ship, as the guard has averaged 38 minutes per game in his last three contests. If Allen can use his penetration to stretch the floor and create opportunities for fellow Blue Devils, his team will leave Atlanta with its fifth conference victory of the season.

Georgia Tech: forward Charles Mitchell

The Yellow Jackets have had some close losses as of late, with three of their last four defeats coming by a combined margin of eight points. Tightly contested games often come down to a battle at the charity stripe. In their most recent game—a 60-57 loss to Syracuse—the Yellow Jackets missed out on an opportunity to pull within a point of the lead by missing two key free throws in the final 10 seconds of the contest. With Duke also hanging by a thread in several of its most recent games—including three single-digit losses in its last five games—this ACC matchup has the ingredients to be decided late at the line.  

With leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt shooting 83 percent at the foul-line, someone else on Brian Gregory’s roster will need to step up his game if the Yellow Jackets plan to come away with a win. The most obvious culprit is senior forward Charles Mitchell—who shoots just 58 percent from the free-throw line despite being second on his team in attempts. If Mitchell can have one of his better games from the charity stripe, it will add an extra boost that could push Georgia Tech past the Blue Devils.

The rest of Mitchell’s skill set will suit his team well against Duke—as the Atlanta native averages a double-double while leading the ACC in rebounds per game—and will certainly exploit Duke’s recent weakness on the defensive boards. The Yellow Jackets hold the third-best rebounding margin in the conference—besting their opponents by an average of eight rebounds per game—meaning that a strong post performance from the big man could spell trouble for the Blue Devils. 

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