Before each Duke men's basketball game, the Blue Zone provides you with our pre-game analysis and keys to a victory. The X-Factor highlights one Duke player and one opponent who could be the difference between a win or a loss:
Jordan Goldwire, G, Duke
While senior guard Jordan Goldwire is not the player the Blue Devils look to for consistent scoring output, he brings stifling on-ball defense to the table. The way Goldwire hounds the opposing backcourt night in and night out makes up for what he lacks offensively, and typically earns him 25+ minutes each game. The Georgia native is second in the ACC this season in steals, snagging 2.5 per game, and he is also a master of converting takeaways into easy fastbreak opportunities.
Most importantly, Goldwire has held high-scoring guards to subpar performances in many games this season, logging four steals against both North Carolina and Virginia. Georgia Tech wields two premier guards in Jose Alvarado and Micael Devoe, who average 16.0 and 14.7 points, respectively, so Goldwire’s services will be even more important Tuesday. If the Blue Devils are to survive the fourth-highest scoring offense in the ACC, they are going to need Goldwire to limit their productivity and efficiency.
Jordan Usher, G, Georgia Tech
Senior guard Jordan Usher is coming off of a strong outing against Syracuse, in which he had 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Averaging almost 11 points per game, Usher has been a big part of Georgia Tech’s high-octane offense this season. The 6-foot-7 senior guard was fairly subdued in the first matchup with Duke this season in January, although fellow guard Jose Alvarado filled up the stat sheets for the back court.
However, the reason Usher is so pivotal is because of the energy he brings, and his feats of athleticism can completely shift the momentum of the game. Coming off a huge comeback win against Syracuse, Georgia Tech will likely look to ride the momentum high, and Usher will be vital to their success. While Georgia Tech may look to Alvarado and Devoe as well as forward Moses Wright for consistent points, Usher could be the key to turning the tide if the Yellow Jackets get off to a slow start.