Duke hits its second game in three days against Boston College on the road Saturday for yet another opportunity at strengthening its grip on the ACC. Ahead of tipoff, the Blue Zone brings three crucial points for a Blue Devil victory:
Lethality from the line
There’s arguably nothing more frustrating than watching a team struggle from the line in tight games, especially when one or two points can be the difference between a win and loss. Without sounding pedantic, they’re called free throws for a reason; they’re free shots. Though Duke got a rough start from the line this season, it’s been much improved in recent weeks and helped to keep the team in tight games like the home nail-biter against Clemson and losses against Virginia and Florida State.
Against the Tigers Thursday, Duke went 11-of-15 from the line while the Tigers went 15-for-21; they made as many shots as the Blue Devils attempted, even though they lost by 18. Usually Duke has been the holder of this honor, but knowing regardless that the line is a reliable source of points inspires a team and fills its fans with confidence in pulsating, tense moments, and the Blue Devils should keep this in mind against Boston College. Obviously, how many free throws a team gets really isn’t up to them, but making them is, and lethality from the line can very easily prove fatal for the team on the unfortunate receiving end.
Dominate the arc
The Blue Devils’ frontcourt options in Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams are up there with college basketball’s best, but its wing and guard play should not be discounted. Jeremy Roach has enjoyed perhaps his best weeks in a Duke jersey from a playmaking perspective with 40 assists in his last eight games, and Wendell Moore Jr. has shot 51.9% from the field this season and notched eight assists against Clemson Thursday.
That’s not to mention Duke’s stellar record from three as well. Leading this pack is the soaring AJ Griffin, who still sits above 50% in completions from downtown. Joey Baker and Moore have both drained upwards of 38% of their attempts, and Trevor Keels’ 34 treys is second only to Griffin’s 40.
To dominate Boston College, Duke must dominate the arc. That both means making the most out of its wings and guards’ playmaking and utilizing the team’s recent accuracy from deep. If they get both of those right, it can be a great Saturday for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company.
When you’ve got a player in as sparkling form as Keels right now, you do everything you can to keep that guy sparkling.
The freshman guard has been a man possessed in the last three games for the Blue Devils, hitting double digits in each, including a monstrous 25 point, 11 rebound performance Thursday against Clemson. Like we saw in the leadup to the North Carolina game with Griffin and against Gonzaga with Moore, when a player gets hot in a team as talented as Duke, he can quite literally be the difference between a narrow, heavily contested win and a barnstorming blowout.
Trevor Keels fits this bill. Whether he’ll start over Griffin or Roach is up for debate, but he’s been stellar in the last few games and significantly strengthened his case for a berth in the starting five after his injury absence. Regardless, if he maintains his ridiculous scoring output, driving runs into the paint and accuracy from deep, he’ll be the ace up Krzyzewski’s sleeve that gives the Blue Devils blackjack in Beantown.
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