Duke men's basketball takes on Xavier in the second round of the Phil Knight Legacy, and the Blue Zone brings you three keys for the Blue Devils to advance to the finals:
Guard the perimeter
After struggling to shut the Beavers down, the Blue Devils showed their defensive potential towards the end of the second half against Oregon State Thursday. They were aggressive in their approach and unified in their pressure when their place in the Legacy bracket was on the line. Oregon State created problems within the perimeter, forcing the likes of Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Young to bear the brunt of the work. The Beavers scored 18 points in the paint and converted on 6-of-9 layups, nearly punishing Duke with their offensive game.
In contrast to Oregon State, Xavier will present a different type of challenge. The Musketeers stunned Florida with their offensive precision, shooting 55.9% from the field. The most impressive part of their game, however, was from beyond the arc. Making half of its shots from downtown, the net was constantly snapping with the satisfying swish as Xavier caught fire down the stretch to put the Gators away. For the Blue Devils to keep the Musketeers in check, they will need to prevent outside shooting opportunities and force players inside where they will have the height advantage.
The Blue Devils shot 17.2% from outside the perimeter against Oregon State, converting just 5-of-29 3-point attempts. Such a disappointing perimeter performance can only be bested by their shooting at Kansas, where they made 14.3% from beyond the arch. For the entirety of the contest, it seemed as if Duke was slightly off in its long-range attempts in both accuracy and execution. If it weren’t for the sheer hard work and determination of Filipowski and Young in the paint, the Blue Devils could have easily walked out of Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a loss in their pocket and a plane ticket back to Durham.
If Duke’s big men continue to take care of business inside, then someone needs to step up and take on the task of outside shooting to compete with Xavier. 3-point shooting has been somewhat inconsistent for head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad, with no one player truly shining from beyond the arc. Some of the young-gun freshmen have contributed the occasional 3-point bucket, but no one is demonstrating the necessary consistency required of a sharpshooter. For the Blue Devils to beat the Musketeers and other strong opponents, someone on their squad must step up to the plate and knock down threes on a regular basis.
Dominate the glass
If there’s one thing that Duke can do with consistency, it’s control the paint. With its 22 points inside as the backbone of its offense against Oregon State, the height and talent of its forwards and centers is enough to create fear within any enemy it faces. The Blue Devils' control of the glass is what makes their play lethal; they are at their best when they can generate second or third offensive opportunities off of boards. In their first half standoff with the Beavers, junior captain Jeremy Roach stole the rock and went in for a layup. Relentlessly, he missed the first opportunity, rebounded the ball and went up for another shot before freshman center Kyle Filipowski stepped in to finish the job.
Duke’s work ethic coupled with its ability to rebound to create more chances is the driving force of its offense. If it continues to determinedly go after its missed opportunities, Xavier will not have the defensive stamina to keep up with it. Once again, it is all a matter of Blue Devil consistency. They need to put in a full 40 minutes where they dominate the glass in order to walk away with a victory.
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