Duke continues its non-conference home stretch against an underperforming Hartford squad, and will look to capitalize on the opportunity to tighten up as a unit. The Blue Zone examines three keys for the contest:

Perimeter defense 

This Hartford team should not concern Duke fans one bit, but if there’s a place where the Hawks excel, it’s scoring from the outside. Head coach John Gallagher’s squad ranks 24th in the country in most 3-point field goals attempted, at an average of 26 deep balls per game. The Hawks returned their top four scorers from last year, and two of the experienced Hawks quartet are shooting over 30 percent on trey-balls for the season. Redshirt-senior forward John Carroll is the player who everyone will focus on for Hartford, but beware of Jason Dunne, a guard with a sweet stroke who hit five triples in the Hawks’ last matchup with Bowling Green State.

The Blue Devils haven’t had any struggles staying in front of smaller guards this year with Tre Jones’ ferocious mentality and the switchability of the other three freshmen forwards, but they’ll have to be locked in on defense if they want to avoid another slow start like they had against Stetson last Saturday.

Improving the Motion Offense 

It’s hard to say that Duke is struggling on offense when the team is averaging over 94 points per game on the season, but it’s clear that head coach Mike Krzyzewski isn’t having the easiest time implementing his planned motion offense. Much of the success this year has come from lethal transition game, while the half-court offense has often stalled. Duke is ranked 166th in the country in percent of baskets at the rim coming off assists, with Zion Williamson leading the Blue Devils in that category at 46.6 percent. Duke should be able to use its talent differential to keep defenses scrambling and score easy baskets at the rim on cuts, but so far, the Blue Devils are relying too much on isolation plays. 

Hartford will provide some sort of a challenge on defense, as the team held then No. 18 Mississippi State to a reasonable 77 points, but there is no excuse for Duke not to move the ball with purpose and get open looks, something that can turn an already great offensive team into a dominant one. 

Developing the Bench as Scorers 

One of the many positives of the win over Stetson last week was the minutes that Coach Krzyzewski was able to give his role players, and many took advantage of the opportunity. The Blue Devils have a chance to keep giving their supplementary guys more shots in games like these, which they’ll need for conference play. Duke cannot survive a season when it gets almost all its scoring from the R.J. Barrett, Williamson and Cam Reddish trio, and guys like Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’Connell showed they can help with double digit scoring efforts against the Hatters. 

In the latter stages of the game, the Blue Devils getting the most touches should be guys like DeLaurier, O’Connell, Marques Bolden, Jack White and Jordan Goldwire, players who could easily contribute as scorers with so much attention floating around their future lottery pick teammates.