Fresh off a huge home win against North Carolina Saturday night, the Blue Devils next head to South Florida to take on Miami for the second time this season. The Blue Zone is here with a difference-maker on both teams:
Duke: Dereck Lively II
Once considered the top player of the 2022 class, Dereck Lively II had an underwhelming start to his college career. After missing the preseason due to a leg injury, he couldn’t quite reach the lofty expectations people laid upon him. But a month away from March, it seems like the freshman center has finally thrown away the pressure and expectations off his shoulders and begun to play more fearlessly.
Lively will travel to Miami fresh off his best performance yet as a Blue Devil. In a head-to-head against longtime rival North Carolina, the Westtown School product seized complete control of the paint, logging 14 rebounds and eight blocks. Just as important, his two put-back dunks were momentous in snatching the momentum away from the Tar Heels and back into the hands of the Blue Devils.
Against Miami, expect Lively’s defensive dominance to carry on. Matched up against a shorter Norchad Omier, the Philadelphia native will look to utilize his length and athleticism to seal the rim shut—much like the way he did against the North Carolina frontcourt. Not to mention, Lively’s off-ball movement and aggression near the rim will be key to Duke’s offensive production against a smaller Hurricanes team.
Miami: Nijel Pack
Shooters shoot. And in the modern era of basketball, shooters win you games. Lucky for the Hurricanes, they are equipped with shooters all around, the most notable of whom is Nijel Pack.
The third-year sophomore guard is shooting 40.6% from long range. But more dangerously, if he gets hot, he can make it rain from deep—he’s already had three games in which he drained five 3-pointers.
Pack will be riding on fumes as he and the Hurricanes prepare to take on Duke at home after he’s scored at least 15 points in five of the last six games. In Miami’s most recent win against Clemson, the Indianapolis native did it all, dropping 20 points and putting up four rebounds and three assists. Whether it be putting a tough-defending Tyrese Proctor or Mark Mitchell on him or setting a defensive focus on Pack, Duke head coach Jon Scheyer will need to keep an eye out for Pack and his fellow sharpshooters.
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