Having notched seven straight wins and a big victory on the road against Virginia, the Duke Blue Devils seem to be in the midst of a renaissance. With a much-needed solid pair of performances from freshmen bigs Harry Giles and Marques Bolden against Virginia and the spectacular play of fellow freshman and wing Jayson Tatum, Duke has appeared more well-rounded than they have all season. However, there is still plenty of uncertainty with coach Krzyzewski’s team.
Duke has needed big plays from its best players to bail them out of numerous games this season, and Wednesday evening was no different. Had it not been for Tatum’s heroics and late-game daggers from beyond the arc, Duke’s inability to score and get decent offensive chances may well have doomed them. The sheer dependency on the isolation nature of Duke’s offense is part of what has made it hard for the Blue Devils to establish their post players, especially considering Krzyzewski’s tendency to run the high pick and roll with Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen.
This was especially evident in Duke’s game against Clemson last weekend, in which Krzyzewski freely admitted that the team wanted the ball to go t Kennard almost every possession down the stretch. Of course, as he has done multiple times this season, Kennard carried the offensive burden and led the team to a victory. That being said, can Duke really continue to afford to settle for an offense that frequently relies on efficient shooting from the three and the versatile scoring abilities of their backcourt? Come March, as senior guard Matt Jones put it after yesterday’s win over Wake Forest, “everyone’s good.” It won’t be nearly enough for Duke to be a team that plays solely from the perimeter. They need to continue to try to assert Amile Jefferson as they did against the Demon Deacons (he had 16 points), and rotate Bolden and Giles in the game for different offensive looks.
The defensive side of the ball is perhaps the more pressing worry, as it has been for most of the year. Once again, Duke struggled with foul trouble against Wake when they could not afford to do so, given the opponents’ offensive proficiency. The Demon Deacons grabbed 15 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second chance points, and outscored Duke 46-38 in the paint. Holding Virginia to 55 points was mostly an anomaly, given the Cavaliers’ inability to score the basketball all year. Duke is finding ways to win and notching quality wins in the process, but even still they have yet to play a more complete game on both sides of the ball. A statement like that speaks to the massive potential of this year’s team, but it accurately reflects the preseason hype surrounding Duke. They’ve shown glimpses, know it’s time to put it all together.