Duke women's basketball begins its ACC tournament play Friday evening against North Carolina. The Blue Zone has three keys for the Blue Devils to redeem themselves against their rival:
An optimized rotation
A rarity in today’s age of college basketball, head coach Kara Lawson’s squad runs a rotation that is 10 deep. Lawson has a plethora of players who can make an impact on an ACC tournament court, but how will her rotations change as Duke enters the postseason? The Blue Devils have no shortage of guards that can make a difference in any game: Starters Celeste Taylor, Shayeann Day-Wilson and Reigan Richardson have combined to average 27.2 points per game in the regular season. Add Vanessa de Jesus and Ashlon Jackson off the bench, and Duke has five capable guards.
Where Lawson could implement some changes is with her group of forwards. Kennedy Brown is a hallmark, and Mia Heide has played well as the backup center. In addition, Elizabeth Balogun has arguably been Duke’s second-best player. Does this mean the minutes of Jordyn Oliver and Taya Corosdale will shorten? Time will tell, but the Blue Devils' regular-season record of 24-5 could be enough justification for Lawson to keep her lineup in place.
Get Shayeann going
In her last seven games, Day-Wilson has been in a rough patch. Starting the year as one of Duke’s premier scorers, the sophomore averaged 9.5 points per game through the win against Pittsburgh, third-best on the team. However, her scoring average has dropped nearly a point, now sitting at 8.6 points per game to close the regular season. The Toronto native's potential is through the roof: Her pure scoring and playmaking ability is unbelievable at points. Just look at the sophomore’s first game against North Carolina this season — her 24 points contributed to one of her best games in a Duke uniform. In order to win the ACC title, Day-Wilson must be an impactful partner to ACC Defensive Player of the Year Taylor in Duke’s backcourt.
Defense wins championships
It’s no secret that defense has been Duke’s calling card all season long. To start the year, the Blue Devils stunned their nonconference opponents with their relentless full-court press. In ACC play, Duke’s strong half-court defense has carried their defensive reputation. After all, the Blue Devils have held opponents to 50.9 points per game this year. The next test for a team on the lookout to hang a banner: the postseason. The pressure and intensity of the matchups will be ramped up, every defensive possession crucial. In its quarterfinal rematch against North Carolina, Duke’s prowess on both ends will be put to the test.
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