Video by Sports activities Illustrated
Everybody anticipated Duke to be good—however to be so good that might hand a second-ranked Kentucky workforce a 34-point beat down in its debut? In all probability not. R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson had record-breaking nights of their first video games as Blue Devils, with Cam Reddish posting an underappreciated 22 alongside his fellow freshman stars. Tre Jones facilitated as flawlessly as attainable for a workforce that runs few performs and takes the time period ‘positionless play’ to an entire new degree, whereas Jack White, a considerably forgotten face forward of Tuesday evening, added a double double off the bench.
Duke appeared unstoppable Tuesday evening, however absolutely there’s a workforce or two who can no less than threaten the Blue Devils’ dominance. We took at take a look at 5 groups that will have one of the best shot at posing an issue for what could possibly be faculty basketball, and Coach Okay’s, greatest workforce in historical past. Some will tackle Duke throughout the common season this yr, whereas others may need to attend till March to check the idea.
The Jayhawks are a particular contender for a workforce that would upset Duke just because they’re equally as, if no more, proficient than the Blue Devils this season. They could have misplaced perimeter expertise after a trio of exits final yr, however they’re as properly geared up within the paint as Duke’s big-bucket getters. The Blue Devils should compete with a Kansas frontcourt duo of junior switch Dedric Lawson, a 6’ 9″ ahead who scored 19.2 factors per sport for Memphis in 2016–17, and 7-foot junior Udoka Azubuike who additionally averaged within the double digits. Invoice Self additionally boasts his personal top-tier freshman faces, with five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson within the Jayhawks backcourt. Each are unimaginable total gamers with the velocity, expertise and shot-making means to tackle Duke’s loaded lineup, particularly whenever you add within the frontcourt Kansas has this season. The Jayhawks entered the yr because the top-ranked workforce within the nation for a purpose and would put up one heck of a battle in the event that they have been to face the Blue Devils.
2. Virginia (Jan. 19, Feb. 9)
The Cavaliers are some of the possible suspects to upset the Blue Devils this season—and can be a key convention opponent alongside Duke’s already-anticipated path to the ACC title. Tony Bennett’s Pack-Line protection, specifically, might pose an issue for Duke’s star-studded roster. As we noticed Tuesday, Duke thrives within the second. They ran restricted performs and dominated within the lane, barreling previous defenders with out taking an excessive amount of time to cease and strategize. The Pack-Line protection doesn’t sometimes enable for such model of play, particularly not when Bennett’s workforce does it properly. Virginia floods the lane with defenders and forces lengthy and difficult three-pointers, typically driving groups to take poor pictures in a determined try to revive a traditional rhythm.
That is the place Virginia has an opportunity to comprise Duke’s scary scorers: regardless that Zion’s first bucket got here off of a 3, it was the one one he tried all sport. Barrett went Three of seven from deep, Reddish coming in behind him at Three of 8. A pointy shooter like Alex O’Connell might nonetheless thrive in such a system, however Virginia might make it far more troublesome for Duke’s freshman phenoms to dominate across the basket the way in which they did in opposition to Kentucky. Virginia, one of the best defensive workforce within the nation, ought to drive Duke to gradual the tempo, giving guys like Barrett and Williamson fewer alternatives to rack up the factors within the paint. The methodical, typically monotonous Pack Line stands in stark distinction to the kind of free-flowing, up-tempo basketball Duke dominated with on Tuesday, which might make it difficult for Coach Okay’s crew to beat.
3. Gonzaga (potential assembly in Maui)
The Zags are balanced sufficient to match Duke’s offensive output and probably defend the Blue Devils a little bit higher than Duke will defend them. They’ve bought extra expertise and veteran expertise than Coach Okay’s wildly younger—and a little bit wild generally—freshman faces plus gamers who might arguably match guys like Williamson, Barrett and Reddish in relation to getting buckets. Senior guard Josh Perkins is sweet and constant, sufficient to play Duke higher than most likely nearly anyone, particularly alongside Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell, switch Brandon Clarke and a few proficient underclassmen who can be sprinkled within the combine to fill out the Bulldogs rotation (if the Zags face Duke in a pair weeks on the Maui Invitational, nevertheless, they will be with out Killian Tillie). Gonzaga is equally as proficient, perhaps a bit extra balanced and positively extra skilled than Duke. They’ve bought the size and two-way expertise to maintain up with the Blue Devils on each side of the ball, with enough shooters to get huge baskets and a frontcourt to contest the Duke freshmen’s certain flurry of pictures on the rim.
4. Syracuse (Jan. 14, Feb. 23)
Ah, the zone. Syracuse has mastered limiting opposing offenses with its maddening 2–Three zone. Even groups that have been prolific at scoring final season, like TCU and Arizona State, have been stifled by the Orange’s zone in March Insanity as a result of it’s so arduous to interrupt free from it to search out open seems to be. Duke should work arduous in opposition to the Orange to get the seems to be they’ll need. Many would say the simpler resolution is a three-point taking pictures spree: beat the zone by taking pictures over it. Which, very similar to Virginia’s Pack Line, will possible be an issue for a workforce constructed round younger and fiery rim-slashers who’re used to utilizing drive within the subject. It’s a must to transfer the ball out and in of the zone to get attractiveness in opposition to Cuse, which is particularly arduous to do whenever you’re not enjoying in opposition to the two–Three typically all through the season. It’ll be a special sort of protection for the Blue Devils to take care of which is half of why it’s completely set as much as pose an issue. Add in the truth that Syracuse is sneaky good at steals due to the zone—particularly on quick breaks—and the truth that the Orange return 5 starters who’ve had time to grasp Jim Boeheim’s scheme, together with Nationwide Participant of the Yr candidate Tyus Battle to guide the offense, and also you’ve bought a recipe for a believable upset—no less than on paper.
5. Florida State (Jan. 12)
The Seminoles haven’t got the pure expertise degree of North Carolina, however they get the sting for our last spot as a result of an extended, veteran protection that has given high groups hassle earlier than. Florida State’s defensive-minded scheme served it properly in opposition to historically high-output offensive groups final yr like Gonzaga, Missouri, Xavier and Michigan within the NCAA event. The size and physicality that characterize Florida State’s constantly stingy protection held a number of top-ranked opponents to factors per possession totals far decrease than these groups have been used to final March and will readily do the identical to Duke. Florida State confirmed than identical defensive dominance Tuesday, routing rival Florida to make a gap assertion. The Seminoles held the Gators to only 20 factors within the first half of play and allowed simply 60 total—20 of which got here because the Gators tried an unsuccessful comeback with simply over 5 minutes remaining within the sport. If Florida State can comprise Duke by utilizing the identical technique it did in opposition to Florida within the first half, the Blue Devils might have a tricky time overcoming the ‘Noles veteran defenders.