Three points: Playing the hot hand, letting it fly from deep will help Duke men's basketball against Miami

Freshman guard Jared McCain put up a monster 35 points against Florida State Saturday.
Freshman guard Jared McCain put up a monster 35 points against Florida State Saturday.

After earning a big road win against Florida State Saturday, the Blue Devils will take on another Sunshine State opponent in Miami. Before the matchup, the Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Duke win:

Close out

On the heels of a generational performance from freshman phenom Jared McCain, No. 9 Duke will once again be tested on the road against Miami. Spearheaded by sharpshooters like junior guard Wooga Poplar, the Hurricanes have five players knocking down at or around 40% of their threes. Boasting a team 3-point percentage of 37.2 — within the nation’s top thirty — Miami can turn it on from behind the arc if left unchecked. To slow them down, all five Blue Devil players will be required to press the shooters at the line. Duke cannot afford to give up open looks, as these talented shooters will knock them down more often than not. This is doubly true given the Blue Devils’ relatively lackluster perimeter defense, sitting just inside the top third of Division I teams. 

Even so, Duke has enough talent and depth to field five players capable of locking down the deep ball without sacrificing much on the offensive end. If they are able to weather the flurry of threes from the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils should be able to stifle this talented offense and leave the Watsco Center with another road victory. 

Play the hot hand

In the midst of an uncharacteristic run of relatively poor form for sophomore star Kyle Filipowksi, exacerbated by the injury of sophomore captain Tyrese Proctor, Duke has been looking in other directions for production. This phenomenon is most closely embodied by McCain, who has been on an absolute tear over the past several games. This culminated in his 35-point outing against Florida State in Tallahassee, in which he tied Zion Williamson’s freshman scoring record. His efforts have been the deciding factor in many a game this season, and he shows no signs of slowing down. 

It isn’t just McCain, however. Following a bumpy first couple of games, sophomore forward Mark Mitchell has become a consistent producer for the Blue Devils. He brings an air of reliability to the team with his excellent defense and ever-improving offense. His slashing play style has finally started to show results, and he can be counted on to reach double digits most nights. This is all to say that Duke has an immensely talented roster full of players capable of taking over on any given night, so simply running the game through the hot players will undoubtedly prove too much for Miami. 

Let it fly

For as much of a threat as the Hurricanes are from range, the Blue Devils are every bit as good from beyond the arc. Led by McCain and senior guard Jeremy Roach, Duke shoots at a 37.6% clip from deep. Requiring very little space and time, both of these guards can shoot from anywhere. Feeding them early and allowing them to knock down a few quick threes will force the Miami defenders to overcommit on the perimeter, inevitably opening up an easy bucket somewhere else. Establishing this threat from beyond the arc will allow the Blue Devils to wrest away any advantage that would come as a result of playing at home, putting them in the driver’s seat and allowing them to control the game’s flow. If this is allowed to happen, it will be difficult for the Hurricanes to regain control. 


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