After a nice break for Christmas, with members of the team getting time to head home for the holidays, No. 1 Duke basketball returns to action Saturday afternoon for the team's second to last non-conference game of the season, a home game against Santa Clara.
Here are the three keys to this afternoon's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium:
Can Duke immediately click after the break?
After last playing Dec. 20 against Elon, the Blue Devils got a nice break and only returned to practice midweek. Will that be a problem? If this season is any indication, it may not. After an 11-day hiatus for final exams, Duke came out and routed Cornell 88-47 earlier this month. The Blue Devils came out a bit slow in that game, but ultimately proved that the break was no problem. This Santa Clara team is way more talented than the Big Red, however. The Broncos have a high-powered offense with 78.8 points per game, and if Duke isn't clicking immediately, they could make things scary in the first half.
Which Kevin Foster shows up for Santa Clara?
The key to the Santa Clara attack has been Kevin Foster, a senior and 6-foot-2 guard, averaging 18.2 points per game so far this season. But which Kevin Foster will come to the table? It's tough to say. He already has five games of at least 25 points this season, which is easily more than any Blue Devil has. But he also has been going through serious struggles lately. He was 0-for-8 from the field in his last game, scoring just two points, and had just 12 and 10 points, respectively, in his two games before that. After going 8-of-38 from the field in those three games, his field goal percentage on the season has dipped to 39.8 percent. He's a talented scorer, but also a high volume shooter that Duke must look to contain.
Another bench opportunity
Coach K's rotation has been short to start the season, but in Duke's big wins, some of the talented bench players have had the opportunity to shine. You can never call a win before tipoff, but Duke is favored by 19 points in this one, so most people don't expect it to be close. A big early lead could mean important minutes for guys like Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy, both of whom are very talented but have seen limited action early in this season. Watching them play is not only fun for the fans but also key to their development as they could find themselves in important spots come conference play. And yes, if this margin gets big enough, maybe the Cameron Crazies will get another look at senior walk-on Todd Zafirovski.