Hubert Davis, commenting during the Duke versus Pennsylvania game, thinks the Blue Devils need to work on a few things in order to improve their chances of tournament success in March. Here are three things that stood out:
1) Mason Plumlee should improve his free throws.
2) More Consistent play from Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee.
3) Improve assists-to-turnover ratio.
Plumlee attempts, on average, six free throws a game and only makes 38 percent of them. If he wants to stay on the floor during key moments, he has to improve in this area—especially as Duke needs his rebounding and shot-blocking ability.
Andre Dawkins needs to find other ways to score when his shot isn’t falling. The first two games of the season he scored a total of 10 points but then erupted for 26 points against Michigan State.
In the next game against Davidsonk he only scored five points. It may well be that due to Duke’s deep back-court depth, Dawkins has to be almost perfect to get major minutes. If he misses his first few shots he is relegated to the bench.
He is the best-looking shooter on Duke’s roster, and if he can be more consistent, Duke will be in a better position to achieve its goals.
Coach K has already addressed the assists-to-turnover ratio by increasing the playing time of point guard Quinn Cook. A knee injury slowed the freshman down at the beginning of the season, but he appears to be in good health averaging over 20 minutes, 11 points, 8.5 assists and zero turnovers in Duke’s last two games.
Davis’s points are all sound, but the one area which Duke truly needs to improve is defense. They currently give up 68.4 points per game. This should be a non issue, considering they score 82.8 points a game.
The problem is, when they run into hot shooting teams, they will be in trouble. That’s what happened during the Ohio State game where they lost by 22 points. The game got away early, and Duke’s defense needed to claw them back into the game but failed.
They ended up exchanging baskets while behind by double digits.
Teams that live off their defence tend to go very far in the NCAA tournament, Butler has taught us that. UConn also showed this last season as they won another national Championship.
This is one more reason why Missouri is a safe bet for a Final Four, right?
Currently, Duke relies on the shot-blocking ability of Ryan Kelly, Mason and Miles Plumlee to rescue them after they constantly get beat on the perimeter.
Austin Rivers has visibly grown as a defensive player, and Seth Curry was apparently hindered by a pesky ankle injury which he now seems to have shirked.
Tyler Thornton is Duke’s best on-ball defender, and he has been inserted into the starting lineup. If there is a ball on the floor you will have to work hard to out hustle Thornton.
These guys just need to bring it all together. At the moment they are 12-1 so their efforts haven’t been in vain but with conference play starting soon mistakes need to be minimised.
North Carolina will not be as merciful as Ohio State! Duke can hang with them offensively but if they can’t keep guys like Dexter Strickland and Barnes out of the lane, a nightmare is looming.
Jeff Capel can always instill that fighting spirit of the 1995 UNC game to these young players, hopefully.
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