Strengths: Tre Jones’ on-ball defense is second to none in college basketball this season, flustering every opposing guard he has matched up with so far. The freshman point guard can apply full-court man-to-man pressure while staying in front of ball handlers the whole time, often leading to steals or turnovers and easy transition buckets for the Blue Devils. His defense was particularly critical in Duke’s win against Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden and the Blue Devils’ recent 23-point comeback at Louisville. Offensively, Jones is an effective facilitator who rarely makes mistakes and leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Weaknesses: Jones does almost everything at an elite level, but the one glaring deficiency in his game is perimeter shooting. Teams are able to leave him open on the 3-point line and pack the paint to try to contain Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, and Jones rarely makes them pay for their generosity. He’s shooting just 27.1 percent from long distance, and his 66.7 percent clip at the line is also subpar for a high-level point guard.
Aspect of matchup to watch: Coby White is a shoot-first point guard for North Carolina, leading the Tar Heels in scoring and taking the second-most field goal attempts on the team. But he is turnover-prone as a ball handler and struggled mightily in North Carolina’s loss to Kentucky when he was matched up with Ashton Hagans, one of the few defenders comparable to Jones so far this season. Jones has defended other dangerous scoring threats like Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s superbly this year, and if he can keep that trend going and neutralize White, forcing a couple of live-ball turnovers in the backcourt as well, the Blue Devils should be able to come away with the win.
This is one of our five starter breakdowns heading into this weekend's matchup with North Carolina. Check out our reports on Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Marques Bolden and find the rest of our rivalry coverage here.