Duke will face off against Jeff Capel’s Pittsburgh squad for the first time with the former Blue Devil assistant at the helm Tuesday. The Blue Zone breaks down three aspects of the game that could tilt the contest in Duke’s favor:

Don’t get overconfident 

At the beginning of the season, Duke fans thought this year’s basketball team was unbeatable and untouchable. After a loss to Gonzaga, an injured point guard, and a huge upset by Syracuse, it’s clear that this team is not perfect. Yes, the Blue Devils just managed to defeat Virginia in a tough game when the odds were against them. But what about all the mistakes they made? Fouls were being handed left and right, and what about all those missed free throws? On top of that, it still doesn’t look like Duke is getting their beloved point guard, Tre Jones, back. 

With the No. 2 team in the nation going against another unranked team, it’s easy to look at that and put money on the Blue Devils winning. But the fact of the matter is, Duke basketball is going through a bit of a funk, and there shouldn’t be any jumping to conclusions. 

When Pittsburgh played Syracuse Saturday night, it faced a 20-point deficit in the second half. Fighting hard, they managed to come back and make it a single-digit game, until the very end when they fell 74-63. Now although that usually wouldn’t be intimidating, given that Duke did lose to the Orange it’s worth taking a look at. Even if the Blue Devils dominate the game, the players should continue to fight as hard as they did against Virginia, because a lot can happen in a matter of minutes. 

Imitate Syracuse’s strong defense

A big obstacle for Pittsburgh against Syracuse, one in common with Duke, was the consistent crowding of the paint that forced players to make shots from deep. The Panthers only hit 3 of their first 12 3-point looks, but by the end of the game, Pittsburgh had a more respectable 31.4 shooting percentage beyond the arc. Duke’s defensive strategies will have to focus on putting pressure on its opponents, forcing them to take a few steps back to shoot from beyond the arc. 

In the past few games for Duke, their Achilles’ heel has shown more and more. They’ve been playing against teams that have been putting pressure on them to make some three-point shots that they haven’t been making. Even if this happens again, they should hope its opponents as a whole won’t make enough threes to outscore them.

Watch out for Jared Wilson-Frame and Xavier Johnson

Despite the Panthers struggling with three-point shots in their latest game, one player’s shooting did stand out. Senior guard Jared Wilson-Frame, who was sent to the bench for recent poor shooting, jumped into the first half with 14 minutes left. With his entrance came a quick 3-pointer, and, by the end of the game, Wilson-Frame had eight rebounds, and knocked down five 3-point shots. His 19 points led the team, signifying the end of his slump.

Freshman guard Xavier Johnson, is currently the team’s leading scorer, with 17.1 points per game and 4.6 assists per game. Although he didn’t come in as the highest ranked freshman out of his teammates, he’s been having the best season, and is somebody to keep an eye out for.