No. 4-seed Duke begins its ACC tournament slate Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Blue Zone looks at the key player for the Blue Devils in their fight for their conference title:
Duke: Jeremy Roach
The Blue Devils are about to enter ACC tournament play after a season defined by incredible highs and devastating lows. Many on the Duke roster will be experiencing their first taste of the postseason, under the lights with nerves abound and tensions high. There is one man and one man alone who can lead his team into battle, the same way he has all year: junior captain Jeremy Roach.
As the only non-freshman in head coach Jon Scheyer’s starting lineup, the seasoned guard has been tasked with righting the wayward Blue Devil ship many a time. Utilizing his invaluable leadership skills and playmaking ability, he helped lead his squad to big wins like those against North Carolina, N.C. State and Miami that proved Duke’s postseason potential when many were in doubt of its capabilities. With his 13.1 points and 3.2 assists per game, the Leesburg, Va., native has caused problems all over the court, earning him All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.
The true testament to Roach’s unmatched talent and leadership, however, came during his time on the bench due to injury. The Blue Devils managed to eke out wins against Boston College and Pittsburgh in early January, but the junior’s presence was sorely missed against Clemson. Struggling late in the game, Duke could not maintain its already precarious lead in the stress of the moment, leaving the Cameron Crazies praying for Roach’s return. Since his return, he has earned 14.5 points and 3.2 assists per game while only losing three out of 13 contests along the way.
Above all, Roach is the only player on Scheyer’s roster who has real tournament experience. More than that, he knows how to show up under the bright lights with the pressure on. In last year’s campaign in the ACC tournament, the guard put on a show with 19 points in the quarterfinals against a very good Syracuse team. With the weight of former head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last NCAA tournament on his shoulders, the Blue Devil put on an electric performance. Averaging 11.8 points, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game through the five-game tournament run, Roach proved he was capable of stepping up to the plate on the biggest of stages. Duke will need his postseason magic to return as it tries to prove itself worthy of being in the title conversation.
The junior captain may not have the high-scoring performances nearly every game like Kyle Filipowski. He does not put up show-stopping dunks like Dereck Lively II. He no longer provides the first-year novelty of Tyrese Proctor or Dariq Whitehead. However, Roach is a leader capable of changing the outcome of games while boosting the teammates around him. His sharpshooting, playmaking and all-around abilities make him a force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, opponents everywhere should fear Roach when he is in tournament form.
It is his team. It is his moment. It is his championship to win.
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