Duke men's basketball has a marquee matchup against No. 8 Virginia Saturday. The Blue Zone has three keys for the Blue Devils to right the ship and pull off the upset:
When the Blue Devils stepped onto the court at the Watsco Center Monday, it would have been hard to predict the chaos that would ensue. Matching its season-high of 21 turnovers in a single game, Duke struggled to run a settled offense and create quality shot opportunities, which in large part contributed to its 81-59 loss to the Hurricanes. A majority of this turnover issue came from subpar ball handling by the Blue Devil backcourt, with guards Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach each turning the ball over five times. Meanwhile, Miami capitalized on Duke’s misfortune, earning 23 points off of turnovers. As head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad looks forward to Saturday, it will be up against a Virginia team that has the 10th-best scoring defense in the country, only allowing 60.4 points per game. If it wants to have a chance at upsetting the No. 8 team in the country, it will have to capitalize on offensive opportunities and minimize turnovers to get the most out of its time with the ball.
A complete and consistent game has been a rarity for the Blue Devils this year. Nowhere was this more evident than against the Hurricanes, when Duke never truly found its rhythm. Making only 11-of-32 field goal attempts while shooting 12.5% from three through the first half, the Blue Devils couldn’t quite ride their high from the rivalry win to a fourth-straight victory. While they improved their numbers in the second half with a 50% field goal percentage, the first period deficit was too great to come back from. To make matters worse, freshman Kyle Filipowski, Duke's leading scorer, only had nine points on the night, straying from his usual double-figures pattern. Going up against such a strong Cavalier team, the Blue Devils will need to fight for a full 40 minutes, and that starts with a complete performance with each member of the squad firing on all cylinders.
Nothing to lose
Duke is undeniably a perennial competitor in college basketball, but few are expecting the Blue Devils to walk into John Paul Jones Arena and dazzle the country with an upset. After all, Scheyer’s team is 2-5 on the road. A Virginia victory may seem likely in front of a rambunctious Cavalier crowd, but Duke has the chance to go into this game with little pressure. The Blue Devils’ youth has arguably been their greatest strength, and simultaneously their Achilles’ heel, all year long as the freshmen adjust to the ups and downs of the college scene, but going into this game as underdogs may provide these young guns with the relief they need to go onto the court and just play. This matchup is Duke’s chance to prove it belongs in the national conversation without Mike Krzyzewski at the helm. The question still remains: Is Scheyer’s inaugural squad up to the challenge? With nothing to lose and a lot of respect to gain, a win against the Cavaliers would answer that with a resounding yes.
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Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity first-year and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.