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Key three: Duke men's basketball needs to solidify starting lineup against Georgia State

Senior captain Jack White took a starting spot from freshman Matthew Hurt Tuesday, but his minutes could be diminished against Georgia State.
Senior captain Jack White took a starting spot from freshman Matthew Hurt Tuesday, but his minutes could be diminished against Georgia State.

No. 2 Duke is coming off its first game of the season in which it broke the century scoring mark. The Blue Devils seek to continue their dominance against Georgia State Friday night. A win might vault them to the top of the basketball food chain. The Blue Zone looks at three keys for Duke to win its fourth straight game:

Sort out the starting lineup

In three games this season, the Blue Devils have featured three different starting lineups. In those three lineups, the three constants have been freshmen Vernon Carney and Cassius Stanley and sophomore captain Tre Jones—a trio that is unlikely to lose its starting spots. But the other two spots are up for grabs, especially after a game that saw six players score in double figures and nine players log 15 minutes or more. It may be that, after years of only playing eight players consistently, head coach Mike Krzyzewski simply has too much depth to ignore this year. Krzyzewski has indicated that the starting lineup will be constantly changing based on the opponent and who is playing the best. After scoring 19 points and going 3-for-3 from three, look for freshman Matthew Hurt to insert himself back into the starting lineup.

Convert from the charity stripe

After a heartbreaking end to the 2019 NCAA tournament, partially a result of missed free throw from a team that never could find their shot from the line, the start of this year’s campaign has been similarly disappointing. The Blue Devils shot 61 percent from the line in both of their first two games. In their most recent matchup, they slightly redeemed themselves, hitting nearly 86 percent from the line. They’ll have to find this consistency early in the season or run the risk of faltering from the line in conference play and dropping contests they would have otherwise won. Duke currently ranks 197th in the country in free throw percentage among Division I teams, a statistic Krzyzewski is certainly looking to change going forward.

Take smart shots from three

For years, the Blue Devils lived and died by the three-point shot. In recent years, particularly last year, they took a different approach, choosing to instead live and die by the two because they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from beyond the arc. The first two games of this season didn’t bode well for their outside shooting, especially after draining just four of 22 long-range attempts against Colorado State. But against Central Arkansas, they shot 9-for-18 from deep, including star sophomore Tre Jones’ first three-pointer of the year. Despite shooting a relatively low volume of triples compared to overall shots, they were still able to break the 100-point mark. If Duke can continue to knock down its shots from behind the arc and keep up its defensive pressure, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-balanced team anywhere in the country.

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