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Duke Blue Devils

by Nick Swope | March 13th, 2009

Good Wins: @ Purdue, vs. Xavier, Florida State (2), Wake Forest
Bad Losses: None

Strengths:
1. Perimeter play.  In recent years, Coach K teams have relied heavily on three-point shooting for success. This year is not any different as Duke uses great spacing to spread teams out, penetrate, and kick to shooters on the wings for perimeter shots. Guard Jon Scheyer and forward Kyle Singler are the Blue Devils most deadly shooters, both shooting 37% from three.

2. Defensive pressure. The Blue Devils’ patented pressure defense is what makes them great. They extend the defense to the perimeter and disrupt opposing offenses, forcing an average of 17 turnovers per game. Gerald Henderson and Nolan Smith, Duke’s two most athletic players, are the best at turning up the defensive pressure.

Weaknesses:
1. Low-post scoring. Not since the days of Shelden Williams have we seen an inside scoring presence for the Blue Devils. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek are Duke’s only true low-post players and neither average more than five points per game. Singler is 6’8”, but he is more of a jump shooter without any real low-post moves. For Duke to be a legitimate Final Four threat, Thomas or Zoubek will have to provide some inside scoring and take some pressure off the perimeter.

2. Athleticism. It is not a secret that Duke struggles against athletic teams. In the last three years LSU, VCU and West Virginia–all athletic teams–ousted Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This year Duke lost to an extremely athletic Clemson team by 27. An athletic team can expose Duke’s pressure defense and also get plenty of second-chance points against the Blue Devils’ porous inside game.

Tournament Prediction:
Sweet 16.  If you can believe it, Duke has not made it past the Sweet 16 since 2004. Coach K gets more out of his players than any coach in the country, but this team lacks the inside game to go up against the top-tier teams.

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