5 contests in, it has been a blended bag for the Blue Devils.
On paper, Duke has carried out at roughly the extent one would anticipate, contemplating its roster of 11 newcomers, a first-year head coach manning the bench in Jon Scheyer and accidents to freshman studs Dereck Full of life II and Dariq Whitehead (who missed the opener and the primary three video games to start out the yr, respectively).
However there are nonetheless a number of holes to poke within the Blue Devils’ 4-1 begin. With that, let’s have a look beneath the hood to see how Duke has fared in two key areas heading into the marquee Phil Knight Legacy—offensive spacing and assist protection.
Spacing, spacing, spacing
Now that Whitehead is again within the fold, Scheyer has his total roster wholesome. That signifies that the Blue Devils’ nine-man rotation, that includes 4 main ball-handlers (Whitehead, Jeremy Roach, Jaylen Blakes and Tyrese Proctor), two slashers (Mark Mitchell and Jacob Grandison) and three versatile bigs (Full of life, Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Younger). For these talent units to mesh on the offensive finish, the Blue Devils’ spacing have to be picture-perfect.
That may appear apparent, however all through its 69-64 loss to No. 3 Kansas, poor spacing damage Duke’s capacity to interrupt the Jayhawks down and reduce off the ball. On the opening possession of the second half, as an illustration, Younger had the ball on the fitting block after Proctor–coming off a excessive ball display set by Filipowski (which switched Jalen Wilson onto Proctor and Gradey Dick onto Filipowski)–and Roach executed a dribble handoff, Roach swung to Mitchell and Mitchell dumped it all the way down to Younger.
Roach and Proctor swap locations, with Roach shifting to his authentic spot within the nook and Proctor on the prime of the important thing. Gradey Dick, who switched again to Proctor when the ball was on the other aspect, is late to rotate out, which Younger acknowledges and kicks it to Proctor.
To date, the Blue Devils have executed properly, shifting themselves and the ball to present Proctor an opportunity to work right here towards a so-so defender in Dick. However Mitchell cuts center proper when Proctor receives the move from Younger, and Filipowski is planted within the brief nook as an alternative of out to the 3-point line. Proctor shot-fakes and drives left, however Wilson (guarding Filipowski) is in assist, forcing Proctor to spin to his proper and take a tricky fall-away.
He hits it, however barely higher spacing would have resulted in both a layup for the Australian or an open Filipowski three from the nook.
Simply have a look at how a lot better the Blue Devils’ spacing is on this first-half possession towards Delaware. Roach and Blakes execute a dribble handoff earlier than Blakes comes round a Younger display (whereas Grandison initially seems to be a part of a double excessive with Younger, however circles out to the fitting wing). Roach clears out to the other nook, emptying the fitting aspect of the ground for Grandison and Younger, who dove after setting the display for Blakes. Blakes swings to Grandison, who dumps to Younger and cuts laborious into the paint. Younger, whose imaginative and prescient out of the publish has been spectacular to this point, units up the chopping Grandison for the dunk.
Spacing breeds high quality seems, and whereas Whitehead, Proctor and Roach have the power to create their very own photographs off the dribble, they will not must as a lot if the Blue Devils merely unfold the court docket and transfer with out the ball.
The place is the assistance?
Watch this clip.
You would possibly assume that Proctor is at fault for Dick getting a free alley on the rim, and sure, the freshman guard is overplaying the again display set by Kansas’ KJ Adams Jr. supposed to unlock Dick. However Full of life, who’s guarding Adams, is simply too gradual to react right here, and Mitchell (who is 2 passes away whereas guarding Kevin McCullar Jr. on the left block) ought to have two ft within the paint.
Neither is in correct assist place, and Dick receives the lob from Dajuan Harris Jr.—who is ready to get the move off simply because of little ball strain from Roach—and places Kansas up 63-62 with simply greater than 90 seconds to play .
Earlier within the second half, the Blue Devils have been once more out of place in assist aspect, as Wilson got here round an Ernest Udeh Jr. display, received his defender (Mitchell) on his again and proceeded to his proper to assault the basket. Udeh, in the meantime, is sealing his defender (Full of life), whereas Adams, who has not hit a triple in two profession makes an attempt, is on the left wing guarded by Filipowski.
As soon as Wilson drives proper, Filipowski ought to slide in entrance of him to assist Mitchell and Full of life out, however as an alternative, he hedges barely however stays on the foul line. Roach, who’s guarding Harris (who is 2 passes away within the reverse nook), also needs to sink down into the paint to assist out on the Wilson drive.
Neither supplies assist, and Wilson will get a straightforward lay-in to tie the sport at 41.
These assorted struggles with assist protection may have spelled hassle for the Blue Devils towards Bellarmine, because the Knights move and reduce all around the court docket. And sure, there have been occasions in the course of the 74-57 win when Bellarmine labored by means of almost your complete shot clock and received an amazing look because of beautiful ball motion, however general, the Blue Devils’ switching technique paid off.
Trailing 7-6, Duke turned up the warmth on the Knights, as Grandison pressured Peter Suder (No. 5) within the backcourt and seemingly switched with Blakes after Suder and Juston Betz executed a dribble handoff. When Suder and Alec Pfriem (No. 2) swap spots, Blakes and Roach swap as properly, and Betz swings it to ahead Langdon Hatton (No. 12, guarded by Younger).
In the meantime, Suder cuts baseline to the left wing as Garrett Tipton (No. 10) cuts baseline to the fitting, and Roach and Whitehead subsequently swap. Tipton and Pfriem swap spots, with Tipton now occupying the fitting wing, and Roach and Blakes swap once more. Tipton swings it to Suder on the left wing, who tries to swing it to Pfriem after the latter has reduce baseline once more, this time going to the left nook.
However Roach is on Pfriem like glue, deflecting the move and igniting a quick break that ends with a Whitehead slam.
With Full of life at heart, the Blue Devils may swap one by means of 5, so towards smaller lineups, search for Scheyer to make use of heavy switching. How efficient that shall be towards the likes of Oregon State, Florida, Xavier, Gonzaga, Purdue (doubtless opponents in Portland) or Ohio State or Iowa later in nonconference play stays to be seen, however Monday was a begin.
The place does Duke go from right here?
This week shall be a significant check. Oregon State, regardless of a good 3-1 document, sports activities a loss to Portland State (ranked 261st within the nation by KenPom) and has good cause to be 18.5-point underdogs to a totally wholesome Blue Satan group.
But when Duke will get by that matchup Thursday, it would face the winner of Florida-Xavier Friday. The Gators sit at 3-1 and lately engineered a 17-point second-half comeback towards Florida State, whereas the Musketeers almost knocked off No. 11 Indiana the identical night. Then, there’s the chance for a date with Drew Timme and No. 6 Gonzaga, Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue or undefeated West Virginia in Sunday’s remaining.
Kansas was a transparent indication that whereas the items are there for Duke to be a constant top-10 staff in Scheyer’s first season, it nonetheless has not totally clicked but. However this week, the Blue Devils will get one other probability to click on on an enormous stage.
To win the Phil Knight Legacy, they might want to.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an affiliate sports activities editor for The Chronicle’s 118th quantity. He was beforehand sports activities managing editor for Quantity 117.