Duke men's basketball looks to bounce back from its two-game losing streak as it returns home to face Charlotte. The Blue Zone identifies three keys to victory for the Blue Devils:
Shake it off
Duke dropped to No. 22 in the AP poll after a less than ideal loss in the ACC/SEC Challenge against Arkansas before surprisingly being upset by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Up to this point in the season, the Blue Devils’ most impressive victory has been against Michigan State in Chicago who has since dropped out of the top 25. Duke can’t let these shortcomings hold the team down. There is a significant stretch of games between now and March, and conference play has just begun for head coach Jon Scheyer’s young team. The season is not over; nobody is finalizing their March Madness predictions at this point. These next two home matchups against Charlotte and Hofstra will be the perfect opportunity for the Blue Devils to catch their breaths, put a tally in the win column and prepare for their next ranked matchup against Baylor. Duke may have finally learned that it can’t take any opposing team for granted. The Blue Devils should find success against Charlotte, but they need to learn from their previous mishaps while not dwelling on the disappointing beginning of their highly anticipated season.
The reason Duke found itself trailing Georgia Tech at the end of the second half is because it started the game on the wrong foot. Following the first basket of the game from sophomore center Kyle Filipowski, the Yellow Jackets hit four straight 3-pointers to put the Blue Devils down 12-2. There was always the expectation that the perceived greatness of Blue Devil basketball would somehow automatically disallow Georgia Tech from upsetting its visitors, but the required urgency for the comeback was never shown by Duke. A similarly alarming early deficit was shown in the team’s home matchup against Southern Indiana when the Blue Devils exited the half down 35-31 to a team that has only been a Division I program for a little more than a year. It needs to be a mission for the starting five to force Charlotte out of the game before the end of the first half. The 49ers need to enter their locker room at halftime without momentum and confidence.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Duke has, in recent history, had the luxury of luring consistently high-level recruits. One can always count on a number of quality Blue Devil freshmen to fill out the roster, and for this reason, Duke is frequently a feared program come basketball season. The downside to the high-level recruiting from Blue Devil basketball is that the annual shift of one-and-done freshman to the NBA completely resets the team’s chemistry. The losses from the beginning of this season highlight Scheyer’s frustrations in building his new squad into a single unit. Against Charlotte, Duke has the opportunity to experiment with new offenses that spread the scoring load across more players or raise the confidence of players who have yet to reach their full potential. Take forward TJ Power, for example. The sharpshooting freshman went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in his first two games against Dartmouth and Bucknell. Since then, he’s made 75% of his 3-pointers on eight attempts. If the Blue Devils can discover the hidden gems in their lineup that can make a difference against a tough opponent, they have the opportunity to begin to turn their season around; it all starts against the 49ers.
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