Three points: Confidence on the big stage key for Duke men's basketball to overcome Iowa at Jimmy V Classic

Mark Mitchell puts up a jumper against Ohio State en route to his 6-for-7 shooting day from the field.
Mark Mitchell puts up a jumper against Ohio State en route to his 6-for-7 shooting day from the field.

Duke men's basketball is gearing up for the last Power Five matchup of its nonconference slate as it takes on Iowa Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic. The Blue Zone brings you three keys for a Blue Devil victory:

Crowd control

The magic of Cameron Indoor Stadium seems to have quite the hold on this year’s Blue Devils. No. 15 Duke is 8-2 overall, but remains undefeated at home, where the team never plays without a packed student section emitting a rowdy chorus of cheers. Away from Durham, however, the Blue Devils seem to lose some of the confidence that cushions them in Cameron: on neutral ground, Duke’s record stands at 2-2.

To succeed against Iowa in Madison Square Garden—an arena quite different than Cameron—head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad will have to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. Iowa does not experience the same homesick effect that Duke does: the Hawkeyes' record outside of Iowa City, Iowa, rests at a more comfortable 2-1, that one loss more a product of now-No. 24 TCU's talent than any location adjustment.

For Duke to claim the victory in Tuesday’s Jimmy V Classic, it needs to adjust to the new court from tipoff, ensuring that Iowa doesn’t take a first-half advantage that endangers the Blue Devils' prospects in this Power Five matchup.

Competition at the line

In Duke’s last Big Ten contest, a win against Ohio State Nov. 30, free throws made all the difference. Outside of foul shots, the score was tied: with a live ball, both teams garnered 55 points. But the Blue Devils drew 25 fouls, granting them a total of 30 opportunities at the line—26 of which they were able to capitalize on. Comparatively, the Buckeyes lined up 22 times and made 17 of their shots, putting their success rate significantly below Duke’s 86.7% at 77.3%. At the game’s conclusion, the nine-point Blue Devil win came entirely from the charity stripe. 

Scheyer’s shooting drills have certainly made their mark on his team, but what is more impressive than its season free throw average of 77.3% is its ability to draw fouls. Duke adds a mean 14.3 points per game from the stripe while only allowing 9.3 from its opponents. In fact, nearly 20% of the Blue Devils' points have come from foul shots; in multiple close matchups, these points have been invaluable.

In its season thus far, Iowa has had a similar experience from the line. The Hawkeyes have managed to play incredibly clean, allowing, on average, just 7.7 free throws per game. Additionally, they have scored 18 additional points per matchup from the line, and boast free throws as 20.8% of their season point total. For the Blue Devils to knock down the Hawkeyes, they will need to take back that advantage by defending with caution and driving with just enough aggression to ensure they take position at their favorite spot—the foul line.

Putting up threes

When Duke played Boston College on Saturday in its first ACC matchup, it recorded 24 points from 3-pointers. Junior point guard Jeremy Roach landed two of them, as did freshman forward Mark Mitchell and graduate guard Jacob Grandison. Duke made 40% of its shots from outside the arc: not a staggering percentage, but the advantage of a downtown jumper is its efficiency; by making eight of 20 three-point shots, the Blue Devils collected almost a third of their total points from long-range shots.

Duke’s success from downtown starts with Roach. With the team captain setting an example and putting up the ball for treys whenever he has a good look, the rest of the Blue Devils are encouraged to do the same. Seven players took shots from outside on Saturday. Five of those seven made at least one, with no player landing more than two. Duke might not have a record-breaking three-point shooter in its midst, but it does have strength in numbers. If the Blue Devils continue to take chances and knock down threes against Iowa on Tuesday, they will have victory in their sights.

Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports Managing Editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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