X-Factor: Jared McCain's ability to score in bunches key for No. 10 Duke men's basketball against Louisville

Jared McCain rises for a floater against Wake Forest.
Jared McCain rises for a floater against Wake Forest.

After a heartbreaking loss late against Wake Forest, Duke is returning home for a midweek matchup against Louisville. The Blue Zone has a key player to look out for on both squads:

Duke: Jared McCain

Frankly, something probably went terribly wrong if the Blue Devils lose to this Cardinals team. The squad from Kentucky is just 3-13 in the ACC, with its only conference wins against relatively weak opponents. That being said, another big game from McCain, the freshman guard, certainly will not hurt Duke’s chances at a victory. McCain has been one of the most impressive scorers out of all college freshmen this season, averaging 41.1% from behind the arc along with a 46.1% clip from the field. 

McCain has been on fire as of late, having recorded single-digit points in just two of his last eleven games. His biggest performance this year came against Florida State, where he tied Duke’s freshman scoring record with 35 points. One of few players on this roster capable and willing to pull up from just about anywhere inside the halfcourt line, McCain is often able to provide a spark when his team struggles.

While the Blue Devils ought to have no issue handling this Louisville team, they will inevitably hit rough patches and slow stretches against the Cardinals. Look for McCain to dig Duke out of those holes and set the Blue Devils on the path towards victory when his team needs him most Wednesday. He will be especially important in the upcoming matchup considering the unknown status of sophomore forward Kyle Filipowski, the team’s leading scorer. 

Louisville: Skyy Clark 

While there have not been all that many bright spots for Louisville this year, one of the few has been transfer guard Skyy Clark. A junior who came over after two years at Illinois, Clark has jumped out as a solid guard for his Cardinals this season. He leads the team in points per game with 13.3, and shoots a respectable 34.9% from behind the arc along with a 40% clip from the field. 

Most notably, however, is his willingness to attack the basket. Standing a reasonable 6-foot-3, Clark plays above his size and uses his speed to beat defenders to the rim out in transition. When he plays at his best, Clark can change games. He dropped his career high in points with 29 against New Mexico State, and also just recently put up 23 in a heartbreaking 94-92 loss to Syracuse. 

The bottom line is that this is going to be a tough one for the Cardinals to win. That said, if they manage to pull it off, it will be because of a big performance from someone like Clark who gets the hot hand and makes some big plays. If he cannot get going, look for this to be a pretty straightforward Duke win. 


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