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X-factor: Marques Bolden will be key for Duke men's basketball against Georgia Tech

Marques Bolden is a force in the paint for Duke.
Marques Bolden is a force in the paint for Duke.

After a convincing win on the road against Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils continue their ACC slate against a wildly inconsistent Georgia Tech squad. Will the Yellow Jackets bring their best, or will Duke clean up another fledgling conference opponent? The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each side that could tilt the contest one way or the other:

Duke: Center Marques Bolden

All season long, the perimeter has not been the Blue Devils' friend. Sporting an ugly 31.2 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, Duke has struggled consistently to knock long-range shots down. On the other hand, opponents' 3-pointers have been the death knell for the Blue Devils in their two losses to the season. 

Luckily for Duke, Georgia Tech ranks as one of the worst in the nation in shooting threes, putting up treys at a 30.8 percent clip–one of the worst in the nation. As long as the Blue Devils don't have to worry about long range threats, Duke can pack in the paint and limit the Yellow Jackets' dangerous weapons down low. The perfect Blue Devil for the job? Marques Bolden.

After a shaky start to his Duke career due to injuries, Bolden has emerged as a revelation on defense this season, notching a beastly 6.1 blocks per 40 minutes and 4.8 rebounds per game. With Georgia Tech boasting two explosive players in the paint with James Banks III and Jose Alvarado, Duke will need the DeSoto, Tx., native to stay locked in for as long as he can stay on the floor. Although not as foul-prone as some of the Blue Devils' other role players, Bolden has shown to give too much contact on defense at times and will need to be wary of opponents drawing contact if he is to stay on the floor for extended periods of time.

Georgia Tech: Guard Brandon Alston

Although Banks and Alvarado will undoubtedly draw the brunt of Duke's defensive attention, the Blue Devils cannot forget about Brandon Alston. As the only real perimeter threat on Georgia Tech's team, Alston is shooting at a 40.9 percent clip from long range and is averaging 9.6 points per game coming off the bench. The Vienna, Va., native has  mastered the catch-and-shoot three, easily making shots with just a split second window to work with. With Tre Jones still banged up going into the matchup, Duke will have to rely on the likes of R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish to defend the Yellow Jacket shooter.

Although Alston is most dangerous when he has the ball in his hands, the Blue Devils can instead take advantage of the Georgia Tech guard's poor defensive instincts to snuff out the Yellow Jackets. Alston is able to put sufficient pressure on the perimeter to force tough three pointers but becomes an absolute non-issue in terms of guarding slashers from the wings. If caught in the lane between Zion Williamson and the basket, expect an easy Blue Devil bucket.

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