X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Georgetown

<p>Senior Amile Jefferson's double-double streak came to an end against the Rams, but he played effectively as Duke's center in the Blue Devils' smaller lineup.&nbsp;</p>

Senior Amile Jefferson's double-double streak came to an end against the Rams, but he played effectively as Duke's center in the Blue Devils' smaller lineup. 

After bouncing back from its loss to Kentucky with a narrow 79-71 victory against Virginia Commonwealth Friday, No. 5 Duke has a chance to take home the 2K Classic title Sunday against Georgetown. The Blue Devils haven't squared off with the Hoyas—who knocked off Wisconsin 71-61 in the other semifinal Friday—since 2010, and head coach John Thompson III brings a dangerous squad into Sunday's showdown at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Zone takes a look at one player from each team who could be the difference:

Duke: F Amile Jefferson

Jefferson recorded only six points and seven rebounds against the Rams Friday, but before that had posted double-doubles in each of Duke's first three games. The senior forward has always been an efficient offensive weapon thanks to his penchant for crashing the offensive boards, but he has upped his production tremendously this year—averaging 6.3 offensive rebounds per game and shooting better than 70 percent from the floor. The Blue Devil backcourt has been wildly inconsistent thus far, and being able to rely on Jefferson for consistent buckets is a huge safety net under the bright lights of the Big Apple.

However, Jefferson's biggest impact against Georgetown is likely to come on the defensive end of the floor. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski experimented with a smaller lineup at times Friday, and the Blue Devils responded well with Jefferson playing the five. Krzyzewski might be more hesitant to use that lineup against a Hoya team with two legitimate centers—7-foot, 275-pound senior Bradley Hayes and 6-foot-10, 270-pound freshman Jesse Govan—but if he does, Jefferson will draw a big defensive assignment. 

If Marshall Plumlee is in the game to help combat those two big men, Jefferson will likely be matched up against 6-foot-9 sophomore Isaac Copeland, who led Georgetown with 15 points against the Badgers. Copeland was an All-Big East Rookie Team selection last year and his development has taken a big leap this season, averaging 13.0 points per game. Jefferson has always been a strong interior defender, and the Blue Devils will certainly need him to slow down some of the Hoyas' frontcourt weapons.

Georgetown: G D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

For Georgetown, everything on the offensive end revolves around Smith-Rivera, who led the team in both points and assists as a junior last season. The 6-foot-3 guard has averaged 13.7 points per game so far this year—not a bad average for most players, but a step down for Smith-Rivera and his 16.3 mark from a year ago. Smith-Rivera has yet to explode this year—he scored 20 or more points nine times in 2014-15—and was saddled with foul trouble in the Hoyas' near-upset of No. 3 Maryland earlier this week.

Duke will likely try to slow down Smith-Rivera by slapping junior captain Matt Jones on him. Smith-Rivera will concede two inches to Jones, the Blue Devils' best on-ball defender, but is comfortable enough playing both on and off the ball that Georgetown should be able to move him around a bit to get some open looks. 

After taking the Terrapins all the way down to the wire, the Hoyas have proven they are capable of competing with the nation's elite teams. A big night from its senior leader—who seems due for an offensive outburst—could be just what Georgetown needs to pull off the upset against Duke and take home the 2K Classic championship.


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