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Three points: Duke men's basketball must remain strong defensively against Kansas

Kyle Filipowski had a double-double in both of Duke's first two games.
Kyle Filipowski had a double-double in both of Duke's first two games.

Tuesday night marks Duke's biggest test thus far, as it faces 2022 national champions Kansas in Indianapolis for the State Farm Champions Classic. Before the game, the Blue Zone analyzes three key points for the Blue Devils to shine:

Get big

Duke’s most notable advantage against Kansas comes in the post, as the Blue Devils have four players at 7-foot or taller, while the Jayhawks have zero. However, this does not mean that Duke will find easy baskets down low, as Kansas has Jalen Wilson, a talented forward who is a returner from last year’s national championship squad. For the Blue Devils to take advantage of their size in the post, they will need another major output from 7-foot Kyle Filipowski as well as a step forward from 7-foot-1 Dereck Lively II. Filipowski has started the season with two straight double-doubles, but his efficiency needs to be better against Kansas—the freshman is only shooting 42.1% from the field thus far. Lively, on the other hand, has only played 14 minutes, as he missed Duke’s first game recovering from a calf injury. While it is possible he will have limited minutes Tuesday, the Blue Devils need his impact to be felt when he is on the court. 

Lockdown defense

The Blue Devils have excelled on the defensive end through their first two games, generating 21 steals and 10 blocks alongside only 82 points allowed—the team’s best defensive start since the 1946-47 season. Duke will not only need production in the front court but continued efforts from its guards on the defensive end. Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor and Jaylen Blakes have all shown they're capable of making opposing ball handlers uncomfortable. Moreover, their effort on loose balls has helped lead to extra Duke possessions. Against Kansas, these Blue Devils will have to work even harder. Kansas has averaged 85.5 points per game so far, which is more than Duke has given up all year. A milestone for this team would be to hold the Jayhawks under 70 points, a figure that could put the Blue Devils in a great position to win and display their standing as a talented defensive unit. 

Roll with the punches

While the Blue Devils have faced small speed bumps thus far, such as their slow start against USC Upstate, they have yet to face a true test. For better or worse, that will change Tuesday. This No. 5 Jayhawk squad looks poised to make another run at a national championship this year. Due to the level of competition, at some point in the game, Duke may face a roadblock. If it wishes to remain competitive, the Blue Devils will have to prove that they can fight back. Roach has already proven his capabilities, excelling under pressure last season in Duke’s Final Four run. However, the Blue Devil’s large crop of freshmen will need to show that they can also play with the best of the best. Look for the Roach to help keep the team’s momentum going. This contest will likely go down to the wire, and if the Blue Devils can roll with the Jayhawks’ punches, there is a lot of potential as to how their season may continue.

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