The Blue Devils are on a roll.
This recent stretch of improved play has put Duke right back into the conversation for the NCAA tournament, and its next test comes Saturday against Louisville. Just last month the Cardinals beat the Blue Devils 70-65 in a game that was close all the way down to the end, and the Blue Zone is here to bring you a player who could make or break the contest for both teams.
Jeremy Roach, G, Duke
Duke’s last game against Syracuse was possibly its most complete performance of the season, and freshman guard Jeremy Roach was a crucial part of it thanks to his career highs in 3-pointers, assists and rebounds. In the last two games, he has played some of his best basketball of the season and the Blue Devils are going to need it to continue against Louisville.
The last time these two teams met, Roach did not hit a single shot and he only dished out two assists. Despite this, Duke was only outscored by five points, so if the young guard is on his game, it could change everything. Based on the teams’ rosters, Roach will likely be matched up with guard Carlik Jones, who carries an impressive defensive rating of 99.0. It will be a tough matchup, but if the Blue Devils want to keep dominating opponents as they have in the last four games, Roach will need to have a bigger impact than he did last time out.
David Johnson, G, Louisville
In Louisville’s last two losses, David Johnson averaged just five points per game on 24% shooting from the field, well below his season averages of 12.7 and 41.9%, respectively. The trend is pretty clear—when Johnson struggles, the Cardinals have a difficult time winning. In fact, when Johnson’s offense is as inefficient as it was in Louisville’s past two losses, the Cardinals have failed to score over 55 points in the game. For comparison, when Johnson is firing on all cylinders, Louisville is tough to beat, with his 24-point performance lifting the Cardinals up over Georgia Tech Feb. 1.
On the season, he is shooting 41% from beyond the arc and against the Yellow Jackets, he shot an impressive 6-of-11 from 3-point range. With the trouble Duke has had guarding the 3-point line this season, Johnson could find himself in position for a field day from downtown. In the first matchup between Duke and Louisville, he attempted eight shots from beyond the arc, and although he only wound up converting on three of them, that does not mean he will not find his groove this time around. If he’s in the zone and able to find enough space to get up that many threes again, the Blue Devils could be in for a long night.