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Three points: Physicality, zone defense can help Duke men's basketball get revenge against Miami in ACC semifinals

Getting AJ Griffin more involved against Miami than he was in Duke's previous two games could give the Blue Devils a scoring boost from distance.
Getting AJ Griffin more involved against Miami than he was in Duke's previous two games could give the Blue Devils a scoring boost from distance.

In advance of the ACC tournament semifinals, the Blue Zone brings three things that could make the difference for Duke men's basketball as it seeks victory against Miami Friday evening:

Size advantage

The Hurricanes play with a guard heavy lineup. This allows them to be very quick in transition and a stellar stealing team, leading the ACC with 8.84 steals per game. However, this also gives Duke the opportunity to exploit their small lineup. Miami has the lowest average rebounds per game in the conference at 30.5 and their tallest player that saw the court in their previous game against Boston College was Sam Waardenburg at 6-foot-10. Thus, the Blue Devils’ physical advantage can be used to overpower a smaller Miami team. They should look to use their big men trio of Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams and Theo John to score in the paint and, more importantly, dominate the boards, while leaning on their bigger and stronger guards such as Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore Jr., both 6-foot-5, who can use their physicality to drive to the rim. 

Getting AJ Griffin more involved 

AJ Griffin has had little involvement in Duke’s last two games against North Carolina and Syracuse, which has led to other players like Keels stepping up.  However, the fact that Duke’s best 3-point shooter has only taken four shots from behind the arc in the last two games is concerning. On the season, Griffin has shot 47.9% from three while the NCAA’s current 3-point percentage leader is Demaree King of Jacksonville State with 46.2%. Griffin has barely taken too few 3-point attempts to make the board, but this shows how efficient a shooter he is among the best in the NCAA. Furthermore, his threes have often given the Blue Devils the needed spark to finish out games. One example is Duke’s second game against Syracuse, where Griffin went 6-for-10 from three in the blowout win. The Blue Devils can use more screens and motions to get Griffin more open looks and better opportunities to hit his signature threes. Overall, Duke needs to use one of their most valuable scoring options more to be successful against Miami and possibly beyond. 

Zone defense

Learning from the things that helped Boston College push its quarterfinal matchup against Miami to overtime, Duke should scheme more zone defense in the ACC semifinals. In their last game against the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils’ defense was dismantled by mismatches due to consistent screens that would allow Miami’s guards to find easy lanes to the hoop. The zone defense could prove to be useful so Williams can cover the paint while guards can switch during screens. This can eliminate mismatches and provide help for Miami’s quick offense. Furthermore, Boston College’s zone defense against Miami was very effective late in the game and provided many essential turnover opportunities. Against an explosive Hurricane offense, zone defense could help Duke get revenge against the one ACC team it hasn’t beaten this season.

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