Every week, the Blue Zone will make a take on Duke basketball—whether that take may be hot, cold or lukewarm. This week's take is in from men's basketball beat writer Ben Leonard:
The take: Alex O'Connell needs more playing time
Right now, Duke can't shoot from deep, and it can't defend from deep any better. But the Blue Devils have a solution sitting on their bench: Alex O'Connell.
O'Connell has been a sparkplug all season long, and Saturday against Florida State was no different. When the freshman entered for his meaningful minutes against the Seminoles, Duke was behind by five.
Fifty-nine seconds later, the Blue Devils were up six, capped by an O'Connell 3-pointer.
He was part of a key five-minute stretch in which Duke picked itself off the mat and got itself back in the game, becoming the aggressor once again. Some might argue that he is best used in short bursts like this, but he has proven to be a capable defender and outside shooter.
The Roswell, Ga. native has made 10-of-20 shots from deep and has shot nearly 60 percent from the field and has the fight that the Blue Devils need on defense, especially on the perimeter. Duke has had trouble closing out shooters, but O'Connell certainly hasn't. Yet he only played nine minutes on Saturday.
As he sat on the bench, the Seminoles shot 15-of-32 from deep and threatened to put the Blue Devils in an 0-2 hole to begin conference play.
When Trevon Duval sits, Jordan Goldwire has come in the game frequently to replace him. But what Goldwire brings to the table—smooth passing—isn't really what Duke needs right now. O'Connell brings the defensive intensity that the Blue Devils need and can shoot the rock from deep, something Goldwire hasn't proven he can do consistently yet.
O'Connell has the potential to be a difference-maker off the bench in March like Grayson Allen was in 2015—he needs the experience playing key minutes for long stretches to prepare for it.
Check back next week for another take on Duke basketball.
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Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.