Duke men's basketball is gearing up to take on the Wolfpack, and the Blue Zone has three keys for the Blue Devils to defeat their conference rival:
Duke is off to a solid start to the season, entering 2023 at 11-3 and ranked sixteenth in the country. However, the Blue Devils have not had to play in many truly hostile environments to date. Duke has only played one true road game, and that resulted in the upset they suffered against Wake Forest. While Duke is favored against N.C. State, anything can happen during conference play, especially on the road. Historically, the Blue Devils have struggled playing in PNC Arena, which is to be expected when playing an in-state rival. The Duke faithful should hope head coach Jon Scheyer has instilled a new mentality regarding road games, one that will leave the young Blue Devil team more than prepared to travel to Raleigh.
Stopping the star
The Wolfpack offense mostly revolves around a single player, and luckily for N.C. State, he is among the best players in college basketball. Sophomore guard Terquavion Smith can score at an unbelievable clip, something Duke is well aware of and will be sure to focus on Wednesday. Touted as a likely first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft, the preseason All-ACC First Team selection has certainly lived up to the billing, averaging 18.1 points per game this season.
While Smith has averaged slightly fewer points in home games, his shooting splits are much better inside PNC Arena, spelling potential trouble for the Duke defense. Smith is shooting a stellar 38% from three at home, a shot he is certainly not afraid to take. He will likely be even more motivated for this one, as the opportunity to beat a rival and establish himself as one of the best guards in the country is surely something he is looking forward to. The Blue Devils must keep track of the sophomore at all times and deploy their best defenders to guard him if they plan to contain a potential offensive eruption, one that would likely doom one of the premier defenses in the conference.
Importance of depth
In Duke’s last contest, the rotation players were the ones who shouldered the load, with sophomore Jaylen Blakes and graduate transfer Ryan Young leading the way. Blakes has turned in back-to-back outstanding performances, averaging 17 points over the past two games and earning himself a spot in the starting lineup against Florida State. Young had one of the best individual games of the year against the Seminoles, shooting 100% from the field and posting a 20-point double-double. While the Blue Devils won’t get this kind of production from their bench players every night and the stars, such as junior captain Jeremy Roach and freshman Kyle Filipowski, are due to bounce back from recent subpar games, it would be excellent for them to maintain a high level of play. If Duke wants to down the Wolfpack, it would love to see continued development from one very important young piece: Dariq Whitehead.
The extremely talented freshman guard has endured some struggles early on, largely due to a preseason injury. However, Whitehead seems to be turning the corner in his recent performances. He had a career-high 16-point performance against Florida State, and is beginning to showcase the skillset that ranked him third in his recruiting class. Whitehead has also shown immense defensive potential, with his 6-foot-7 frame and long arms making him a weapon on both ends of the floor. As the preseason ACC Freshman of the Year runner-up continues to find his footing, Duke’s ceiling goes up, so Scheyer would absolutely love another strong showing from Whitehead in the first game of 2023.
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