Less than two weeks remain in the ACC regular season, and Duke is still a good bet to win its first ACC regular season title in a decade.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils will have their next challenge on their quest for an ACC championship Tuesday, traveling to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a 7 p.m. tilt against Wake Forest in LJVM Coliseum. Duke will take on a reeling Demon Deacons team that is on their way to a third consecutive season ending before the NCAA tournament begins.
The potential hardware may be exciting, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski has his team keeping its focus elsewhere.
“We're not going to talk about it. We haven't talked about it,” Krzyzewski said following the Virginia Tech game Saturday about his team’s focus on the ACC regular season title. “We want to go to Winston-Salem and win our 14th [conference game]. And then whatever happens happens. The other thing with all this is our goal is to keep getting better and win as many as we can. And then once we get to March, we'll be in the tournament, then let's be healthy, fresh and ready to go and whatever our accomplishments were up until that point, so be it.”
Wake Forest (11-15, 4-12 in the ACC) may have an ugly ACC record, but the Blue Devils (23-4, 13-3) learned last week what happens when you overlook a conference opponent in its home arena, falling to North Carolina State by 22 points in a game that Duke was heavily favored to win. Having said that, finding the ingredients for a Demon Deacon upset is a difficult task. Wake Forest is far below average nationally in terms of field goal percentage, turnover rate and turnovers forced.
The Demon Deacons’ struggles to control the ball and to force giveaways spells a matchup that should leave Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire foaming at the mouth. The Blue Devil guards’ defensive prowess is well-documented, but their progress offensively has been the true key to the team’s success.
Jones has increased his efficiency on higher usage numbers, becoming Duke’s heartbeat in a campaign that may be worthy of ACC Player of the Year honors.
Goldwire’s transformation has been even more stark. After two seasons of playing sparingly and looking tentative offensively, the junior guard has emerged as a comfortable shooter while holding down a spot in the starting lineup. Over his last four games, Goldwire is averaging nine points on 60 percent shooting from the floor.
“Me and him have built a great relationship now. I love playing with him,” Jones said of Goldwire last Tuesday. “The defense, the energy that he brings, just how much he’s worked on his offensive game. He’s able to show what he can do more and more on the offensive end. I love being out there with him.”
Following the contest in Winston-Salem, the Blue Devils will continue their short road trip in Charlottesville, Va., to take on Virginia Saturday in a game with major implications atop the ACC standings. After that, Duke will have just one day of rest before hosting N.C. State with a chance for revenge.
“You'd rather have at least a couple days for every opponent of prep time,” Krzyzewski said. “Sometimes, you can't do that.”
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