The key three: Duke basketball vs. Syracuse

Duke is coming off a close overtime win against Virginia Tech and will need to perform at a much higher level to take down new rival Syracuse. Since the Orange entered the ACC last season, the Blue Devils have formed a new rivalry with Jim Boeheim’s squad, creating three classics in a row. Here are three keys if Duke wants to extend its winning streak to nine games:

Figure out how to stop pick-and-rolls involving Jahlil Okafor

When the dominant freshman center turned his ankle against North Carolina Feb. 18, all of Cameron Indoor Stadium fell silent. The 6-foot-11 freshman missed Duke’s next game against Clemson and wasn’t missed considering the Blue Devils won that contest by 22 points. In Duke’s next contest against Virginia Tech, Okafor put up a career-high 30 points, with his performance against the Hokies showing that a bad ankle can’t limit his offensive prowess... Read more

X factor: Duke basketball vs. Syracuse

Swingman Justise Winslow will look to continue his recent tear Saturday against a long Syracuse front-line.
Jesús Hidalgo / The Chronicle

Swingman Justise Winslow will look to continue his recent tear Saturday against a long Syracuse front-line.

No. 4 Duke (25-3, 12-3 in the ACC) welcomes Syracuse (18-10, 9-6) to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the second time since its introduction to the ACC. The contest tips off Saturday at 7 p.m. with the Orange seeking revenge from its earlier season loss to the Blue Devils Feb. 14, as well as last season's loss in Cameron featuring head coach Jim Boeheim's ejection from the game. Before every game this season, the Blue Zone will select a player on both teams that could make a difference for their respective squads.

Duke: forward Justise Winslow

Winslow not only made big plays in the first matchup between the two teams, but is also fresh off a pair of impressive performances against Clemson and Virginia Tech and has scored in double figures in nine straight games, the longest such streak of his career. The freshman shot 57 percent or better in each of his last three outings and has the ability to control tempo after pulling down rebounds, which is why his 8.5 rebounds per game average his last four contests has been so crucial... Read more

Duke in the NBA: Singler, Plumlee getting comfortable with new teams

The NBA trade deadline was a chaotic time for NBA teams, with more than eight percent of players on rosters and more than $225 million in contracts uprooted as teams try to position themselves for postseason runs:

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers: Last year’s All-Star Game MVP, Irving relinquished the honor to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook this year, who led the West to victory against Irving’s East squad. Irving also competed in the 3-point contest but was unable to defend his title.

Irving jumped right back into action with the Cavaliers following the All-Star break, leading Cleveland to four straight wins by averaging 21.3 points and playing off LeBron James nicely. Led by James' 42 points, the Cavaliers knocked off Western Conference power Golden State 110-99 and Irving also chipped in 24 points... Read more

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs. Virginia Tech

It took longer than expected, but thanks to a career day from freshman center Jahlil Okafor, the No. 4 Blue Devils escaped Blacksburg, Va., with a hard-fought 91-86 overtime win against Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Okafor and senior captain Quinn Cook combined for 56 points at Cassell Coliseum to lead Duke to its eighth straight win.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Continue to score in transition: The box score says the Blue Devils only got 13 fastbreak points, but once again, Duke was at its best when it was able to get ahead of the defense. The Blue Devils used their transition game to jump out to a 15-4 lead and an 8-0 run in 1:15 in the middle of the second half to turn a six-point deficit into a two-point lead and get right back in the game... Read more

HALFTIME: Virginia Tech 39, Duke 37

BLACKSBURG, Va.—Jahlil Okafor made his return to the court Wednesday night, but the Blue Devils are getting all they can handle from the Hokies.

No. 4 Duke trails Virginia Tech 39-37 at Cassell Coliseum. Six straight points from sophomore Devin Wilson late in the half brought the Hokies all the way back from a 15-4 deficit to grab the lead after the Blue Devils led for most of the first half.

In the opening minutes, the Blue Devils looked to be well on their way to eighth straight win against the Hokies. Virginia Tech grabbed an early 4-2 lead, but Duke rattled off the next 13 points to claim control.

After scoring 17 first-half points Saturday against Clemson, Winslow came out of the gates firing again in Blacksburg. The Houston native got a couple of deflections, hit a 3-pointer and then finished a fast break with a dunk to stake the Blue Devils to a 9-4 lead by the first media timeout. Winslow combined with classmates Okafor and Tyus Jones to score 18 of Duke's first 24 points... Read more

The key three: Duke basketball vs. Virginia Tech

In search of their eighth consecutive win, the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils head north to take on a struggling Virginia Tech team. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm at Cassell Coliseum. Here are three keys to tonight’s game:

Continue to score in transition

Saturday against Clemson, Duke’s half court offense was not nearly as effective as it had been in weeks prior. But despite not having Jahlil Okafor to dominate in the post and perimeter players missing ten of their first 11 3-point attempts, the Blue Devils went on a number of offensive runs thanks to their exceptional transition offense. Led by Quinn Cook, the Blue Devils scored 19 fast break points and were able to score in bunches. In order to beat Virginia Tech on the road, Duke must continue to get ahead of the defense immediately after securing rebounds by filling the lanes and finishing drives. Not only will strong transition play lead to easy buckets, but it will quiet the crowd in a notoriously hostile environment, especially with Okafor's status still uncertain... Read more

X factor: Duke basketball vs. Virginia Tech

Sophomore guard Matt Jones will be a factor off the bench with his defense and intangibles as Duke's standout glue guy at Virginia Tech Wednesday night.
Eric Lin / The Chronicle

Sophomore guard Matt Jones will be a factor off the bench with his defense and intangibles as Duke's standout glue guy at Virginia Tech Wednesday night.

With the health of star freshman Jahlil Okafor still very much up in the air, the No. 4 Blue Devils (24-3, 11-3 in the ACC) will look to continue their strong play and extend their seven-game winning streak Wednesday night when they travel to Blacksburg, Va., to take on Virginia Tech (10-17, 2-12) at Cassell Coliseum, with tip-off scheduled for 9 p.m. Duke has just four regular season games remaining before the ACC tournament play begins, and currently sits two games behind Virginia for the conference’s top spot. Before every game this season, the Blue Zone will select a player on both teams that could make a difference for their respective squads.

Duke: guard Matt Jones

Jones has been developing nicely and growing into his role as an important sixth man during the last few weeks, culminating with key late-game minutes in the North Carolina game and a starting nod against Clemson Saturday with Okafor sidelined... Read more

Recruiting Roundup: Blue Devils poised to land big names in 2016 following Duke-UNC

The big news of the week: Tyus Battle, a five-star 2016 combo guard, has cut his list to seven. His final list of seven includes the Blue Devils, and is missing a notable traditional powerhouse—Kentucky. Joining Duke in the New Jersey native’s top seven are Louisville, Connecticut, Michigan, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Battle cut Florida, Villanova, Virginia and, most notably, the Wildcats from his list of 11. Tyus’ father, Gary Battle, spoke to ZagsBlog and had this to say about why the Wildcats may have been left off:

“We had some core values and we have some particulars on how they wanted to play him. He was really big on that, how they were going to play him... Read more

Stock Watch: Allen's role increasing as home stretch of regular season approaches

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has just rung again, meaning it’s time to take another look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week the Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market—Trending Up

Grayson Allen: In his first seven ACC games, Allen was held scoreless five times, scored five total points and did not leave the bench twice. But the touted Jacksonville, Fla., recruit has stayed with it and has seemed to figure it out in recent games, scoring in six of the last seven contests, including Saturday's 10-point, two-rebound performance against Clemson. The 6-foot-4 wing knocked down a 3-pointer, showed more of a knack for getting by defenders as he has recently and finally punched home an alley-oop in ACC play during the contest... Read more

Around the ACC: Week 14

With only two full weeks left in the regular season, three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and one is in complete control of the ACC regular season title race:

1. No 2. Virginia (25-1, 13-1): The Cavaliers have had some issues scoring without swingman Justin Anderson, but relied on their defense to capture two more home wins and move one step closer to the ACC regular season title. Monday against Pittsburgh, guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 points to engineer a late Virginia run and the Cavaliers prevailed 61-49, then Sunday against Florida State, after Brogdon and backcourt mate London Perrantes collided and left the game, senior Darion Atkins was the one who made the big plays late in a 51-41 victory. Since its Jan. 31 loss Duke, Virginia has won six straight games.

2. No. 9 Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3): The Fighting Irish had a straightforward week thanks to the play of Jerian Grant, easily dispatching Wake Forest and Boston College by double figures... Read more