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The Blueprint to Beating Duke

Is there a formula for taking down the Blue Devils?

Duke Basketball by Jarrett Campbell is licensed under CC 2.0

The Blueprint to Beating Duke


Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

So, it looks like everyone is starting to wonder if teams are starting to figure out a way to beat Duke. And by everyone, I mean a member of The Turf, who shall remain nameless. This nameless individual was wondering if, after only two close games, if teams were starting to figure out a way to beat Duke. Those two games in question, the 89-87 loss to Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and Saturday’s 80-78 buzzer beater win against Florida State.

 Before I answer this question, just let me get my quick fix of pure exhilaration:

Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

The short answer to my nameless colleague’s question is no. Neither Gonzaga or Florida State showed us anything in their games which could potentially be used to beat Duke. Those two are really good teams coached by very good coaches. What also helps us that those two teams have a lot of experience playing together. They are primarily made up of upperclassmen. For example, Gonzaga’s stud forward and best player on the team, Rui Hachimura, is a junior.

The Blue Devils Are Young

Duke is primarily made up of freshmen. Four of their five starters are playing their first year of college basketball. Yes, they are extremely talented, but completely inexperienced. They haven’t even played 20 games together as a team. They are still learning each other’s style and how they can coexist on the court. More experienced teams are going to have the advantage in a close game. Those teams have stronger team chemistry and more trust than this young Duke team.

Individual talent is great, and Duke has the best in all of the country, but when it comes to winning big games, it’s usually the more experienced teams that come out on top. Just look at Villanova last year or UNC the year before that.

Duke ’s game at Florida St. was also the most hostile environment they’ve played in this year. It was only their second true road game of the year and that place was rocking. That can be extremely intimidating for these 18 year olds who haven’t played in an environment like that before. It’s a lot to ask of a kid to keep composed when the arena they playing at is filled of a bunch of screaming lunatics wishing the worst of you.

There are ways to beat Duke, but we knew about them well before the FSU game.

First off, they can’t make a free throw. It makes me irrationally angry actually. It’s embarrassing. So far after 14 games, Duke is shooting 67% at the charity stripe. That’s a D on a history test. It’s also a lot of points left off the scoreboard. In close games, free throws are extremely important. This could become a major problem for Duke, especially come tourney time.

Depth is also an issue. Coach K does not use a deep bench. Against Florida St. he only used 8 players; well only 7 in the second half after a Florida St. player went full Captain Insano on Zion Williamson. These young kids aren’t used to playing that much. It’ll be interesting to see if the wear and tear of a full college season will effect them in the tournament.

Runnin‘ With the Devils

The last thing that could be detrimental to this Duke team is their half court play. These boys like to run. The court can barely contain them. They love to score in transition. If you try to run with them, you will lose. If you turn the ball over, and they can get a fast break off that turnover, you will lose.

Gonzaga did it a little bit in Maui, but if you want to beat Duke, slow the tempo down. Make them run their offense. They prefer to drive to the hoop too. So play a zone. They don’t have a real sharpshooter like they’ve had in the past with JJ Redick and Jon Scheyer. Duke’s next two opponents, Syracuse and Virginia, are really good at controlling the pace of the game. The exact pace they may hurt Duke.

So there you have it guys. That’s how you beat Duke. Odds are you won’t, but it’s worth a try, right?

Ok, now one more hit.

Actor, Voice-Over Artist, Sports Blog writer. Joseph Dalfonso is an unconventional triple-threat. Joseph grew up in the great beautiful state of Maine and now resides in New York City. Joseph is an avid New England sports fan who loves a good flannel every now and again.

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