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ACC battles are coming for Blue Devils

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Clemson comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night as Duke opens ACC play on Saturday in a primetime matchup on ESPN. This Blue Devils team featuring Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden and Jack White has become appointment television with most of the college basketball audience’s eyes still paying attention to college football and the NFL. How will the youngsters on this team adjust to a heightened level of competition? The last two years, it hasn’t gone well for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s one-and-done- heavy squads, as they have dropped their first conference games. That has contributed to Duke not winning the regular-season championship the last two years. Getting a jump on their competition with a win on Saturday will go a long way towards Duke achieving one of its championship goals this season.

ATOP THE POLLS

Despite not playing this week (again, sigh), Duke maintained their No. 1 ranking in the Associated  Press poll with 35 votes and gained the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll over Virginia despite not playing a game. With a win over Clemson this weekend, the Blue Devils will be staring down a raucous environment in Tallahassee when they take on No. 9 Florida State. Should they stay undefeated after taking on the Seminoles, they will have another Top-10 matchup staring them in the face when No. 4 AP-ranked Virginia comes to town for a 6 p.m. tipoff

FOUR GAMES, NINE DAYS

Duke will play four games in nine days starting on Saturday when it hosts Clemson for an 8 p.m. tipoff before turning around and playing at Wake Forest, at Florida State, and then returning home to face off against Syracuse on Monday, Jan. 14. It will be a whirlwind tour for a team that hasn’t played a single game in over two weeks, and before that had only played two games in the previous 10 days.

DEFENSE AT ELITE LEVEL

Duke’s defense is the No. 2-ranked defense in the country according to kenpom.com, leads the country in blocks per game by a large margin (eight blocks per game for Duke with Baylor next at 6.4) and ranks third in the country in steals per game (11.5). The Blue Devils are forcing turnovers on 22.8 percent of opponents’ possessions (Top 30 in the country in that stat) and are blocking 19.4 percent of opponents’ shots (second nationally). The head of the snake for Duke, Tre Jones, defends at such a high level that he has drawn comparisons to former Blue Devils’ greats on the defensive end like Chris Duhon, Tommy Amaker and Steve Wojciechowski.

DELAURIER SETS FG RECORD

Duke’s starting center for the last three games has made 13 consecutive shots over the last four games, going back to the start of the Hartford game. That is a record for most consecutive shots made by a player under Krzyzewski and is a big part of the reason why the junior has taken over the starting role recently. With so many scorers at other spots on the court for the Blue Devils this season, DeLaurier and fellow center Marques Bolden don’t need to produce much offensively, so any extra points they can contribute only adds to the efficient offense (second nationally) that their fellow starters are dishing out.

JONES, GILES-HARRIS DECLARE FOR DRAFT

Duke’s highest-drafted quarterback in program history will almost certainly be Daniel Jones this summer. Jones entered school without a scholarship, entering Duke with the intention of paying his own way for the first semester he was enrolled, and then going on scholarship the following spring. Now, he is projected as one of the top three players at his position in the draft and could potentially be the first quarterback off the board over Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.

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