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Duke is doing some Freaky Friday role switching late in the season and it’s real impressive for a young team to be able to turn their defense around basically overnight.
But as the Blue Devils’ defense has dramatically improved, their offense has started to struggle.
When freshman phenom Marvin Bagley went out with a knee sprain after the UNC game, Duke reinvented itself with a 2-3 zone defense and switched to a more perimeter-oriented offense. But once Bagley returned in last week’s game against Syracuse, the offense reverted back to its two-big look and things started to go awry.
The team scored just 60 points, a season low, but still won after holding the Orange to only 44 points on the other end of the court.
It was difficult to tell if the offense was having trouble adjusting back to where it was before Bagley went out, if Syracuse’s 2-3 zone just gave Duke trouble or if the team was just tired after playing a fast-paced game only three days prior.
After scoring only 63 points, including going the last 7:02 without making a shot, it’s pretty clear that there were growing pains involved with Bagley coming back.
Whether the loss to Virginia Tech was a bump in the road or a sign of struggles to come offensively for Duke remains to be seen until Saturday against North Carolina, but having five days off between games will go a long way towards the team, and fanbase, finding some answers.
THE DOUBLE BYE MATH
It’s simple for Duke to get the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament — beat UNC. If they lose to the Tar Heels, things get a little more complicated. In as simple terms as possible, here’s the scenarios to pay attention to:
No. 2 seed: Beat UNC
No. 3 seed: Lose to UNC, NC State loses once
No. 4 seed: Lose to UNC, NC State wins out, Clemson loses its last game
No. 5 seed: Lose to UNC, NC State wins out, Clemson wins its last game
The top four seeds in the ACC Tournament get a double bye and won’t have to play until Thursday, so that’s obviously what everyone is shooting for. But securing the No. 2 seed will also allow Duke to not have to face Virginia until the championship.
Impact of Bagley’s return?
Bagley is back, but Duke had some trouble adjusting offensively in the games against Syracuse and Virginia Tech, as mentioned above. But Bagley was the most efficient offensive player against the Orange and Hokies. The biggest issue offensively in both games was the perimeter shooters not being able to make anything, as Allen, Gary Trent and Trevon Duval went a combined 8 for 44 from beyond the arc in the two games. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that his shooters were tired, which is not surprising considering the team played three games in five days. But it is a bit concerning, considering the team will be playing on consecutive days in Brooklyn and two games in three days in the NCAA Tournament.
Grayson Allen will go out as one of the most decorated seniors in recent Duke basketball history, and when he leaves he’ll be the last player on the team with a national championship to his name (unless the team cuts down the nets in San Antonio this year, obviously). Allen’s legacy will always be a mixed bag, but there’s no denying he has been integral in the team’s success. Coach K still maintains that the team wouldn’t DUKE-UNC VISITORS
Duke will play host to a number of talented recruits behind the bench of the UNC game Saturday, as class of 2018 commits Tre Jones, Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson are all expected to be in attendance in addition to 2019 verbal commit Joey Baker and target Isaiah Stewart. More are expected to be confirmed as gameday draws near.
FOOTBALL LANDS 3-STAR CORNER
Duke landed a big-time recruit last weekend in three-star 2019 cornerback Jalen Alexander, who committed to the Blue Devils over numerous SEC, ACC and Big Ten suitors. Alexander was in town as part of Duke’s first spring Junior Day last weekend surrounding the Syracuse basketball game and the program is expecting nearly 15 recruits in town this weekend as well.