The Blue Devils roll into Clemson after a tough loss to Virginia with some areas to improve from game-to-game. The Blue Zone has the three keys to a Duke road victory:
Focus on the turnover margin
Earlier in this season, I wrote about how this season started off as just the third time since the 2002-03 season a Duke team had been averaging under 10 turnovers per game. That stat came at the end of the non-conference schedule, right after the team had posted just six turnovers against Elon. Since the start of ACC play, however, the team has posted under 10 turnovers just twice, one coming in the Blue Devils' win at Wake Forest and the other coming against Louisville.
In each of their ACC losses, on the other hand, the other teams have displayed impressively clean play. Virginia, Florida State, and Miami each finished their games with just five turnovers. In those matchups, Duke had 15, 15 and 17, respectively. Giving your opponents an extra 10 possessions from turnovers alone allows them the opportunity to take more shots, and as a result, outscore the Blue Devils. Yet the scoring margin between those three losses still only shows up as a minus-4 for Duke. It’s clear this team has the ability to compete at a high level on sloppy nights. Look for the team to begin to clean things up against Clemson, posting fewer turnovers when they face off.
Get your stars back into it
Virginia did an excellent job of sending doubles over to Duke's star freshman Paolo Banchero for most of the night, causing him to take just one shot in the second half, which was his attempted game-winning buzzer-beater from the corner that kicked off the top of the backboard. While the doubles made his life difficult, overall there appeared to be a much less aggressive Banchero on the floor. This is not the first time this season the freshman has seemingly disappeared from the court, with a similar game played against Florida State, also resulting in a loss. Against Clemson, he needs to come out strong and reassert himself as the potential ACC Player of the Year winner he has been for much of the season.
As for AJ Griffin, off nights happen. Starting out 0-for-5 can be really discouraging for a young player who was just starting to find his groove. But the ACC was put on alert after his 27-point night at North Carolina—everyone now knows what the freshman out of New York can do when he gets going. Like Banchero, Griffin needs to come out against Clemson looking to dominate, rediscovering his rhythm from long-range, helping the Blue Devils reaffirm that they can attack teams from any area on the court.
The bright side for Duke comes from beyond the arc as it looks into the next matchup. Even with Griffin struggling to find his rhythm against Virginia, the team was still able to knock down six shots from distance, shooting at a 35.3% clip. While neither of those numbers are real eye-openers, they show that even without a guy who shoots a scorching 48.6% from range on the season, the team can still knock down enough shots to remain a perimeter threat.
The last time Duke and Clemson faced off, the Blue Devils lit it up from distance, shooting 10-for-20 on the game. For the season, Clemson ranks 191st in Division I for 3-point defense. Duke, on the other hand, ranks 49th in 3-point offense thus far. The combination of these two stats bodes well for AJ Griffin and the rest of the team as they look to pour in some offense after a tough loss. Feeding Banchero on the inside will be crucial, as will the kick-outs to open men on the outside, as Duke looks to knock down its shots in an important bounce-back game.
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