Duke Basketball: 5 Problems the Blue Devils Need to Fix Right Now
Duke has always been a team that is on the cusp of greatness.
They can sometimes seem to have everything figured out but then that one game in the ACC regular season comes around and all that momentum and "swag" they previously had just disappears.
Whether is it due to the lack of energy, the inconsistent play or even the coaching (but not really), there always seem to be a few letdown games.
This year, those games came against Temple, Florida State and Miami. In those losses, shots seemed to not fall and opposing players had their way with the Blue Devil defense.
One thing is for sure: This team has some issues they need to figure out before they are tournament-ready in March.
They Don't Play Great Defense
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has always put an emphasis on defense. He expects his teams to guard the perimeter from long shots and his big men to make it difficult to hit a shot in the paint.
This year's Duke defense has Coach K pulling out his hair.
The Blue Devils rank last in the ACC in terms of opponents' field-goal percentage at .438.
Yes, they are actually tied with Wake Forest for last but Duke has given up more made field goals as well as attempted field goals.
They do rank fourth overall in three-point defense but that is only because the ACC is not the best three-point shooting conference in the nation. Most teams shoot a pedestrian 35 percent from beyond the arch while the Blue Devils are setting the conference pace with 39 percent.
As evidenced in the Miami game, Duke's down-low game can fall apart against a bigger opponent—and by bigger I mean weight-wise. Reggie Johnson of Miami weighed in at a staggering 284 pounds and pushed around the more athletic and slimmer Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly. In Miami's win, he posted 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Ryan Kelly Seems to Vanish
There are points during games when it seems as if only four players are on the court. Then people realize that Ryan Kelly is out there as well.
Don't get me wrong, he is a fantastic player who is absolutely essential in order for the Blue Devils to make a run in the NCAA tournament. He has the ability to score 20 points and can guard a multitude of positions.
However, there are some games when he just doesn't show up. In the loss to Temple early in January, he only had five points on 1-of-2 shooting and made 3-of-4 free throws. He can be a non-factor and the Duke point guards (whoever they are) need to get him the ball more often.
He even had one game where he didn't score a single point in 15 minutes of play against Ohio State.
The lone senior on this team doesn't even regularly start and is upstaged quite often by his brother.
I am talking about the eldest Plumlee, Miles.
They have seven underclassmen and six upperclassmen, which is pretty good.
Their top scorer is Austin Rivers, a freshman, but he is prone to turnovers, along with the rest of the Duke guards.
While they have a decent amount of upperclassmen, what they lack is that all-knowing player who is a senior and has played all four years. Because of the amount of "one-and-dones" in the NCAA, this type of player is becoming a hot commodity.
Last year, this player was Nolan Smith, and boy did he do some mentoring. He helped Tyler Thornton, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins become better distributors and better shooters.
Next year's team will be full of senior leadership and experience that the young guys (hopefully Rivers) can soak up and learn from if they do not opt for the NBA draft.
Much has been made this year about the attendance woes the Blue Devils have gone through at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It seems like for one reason or another, the students are not coming to the games and packing Krzyzewskiville as they once normally would have.
It was widely known that the Duke Athletic Office had to sell the seats that are normally reserved for the students to the general public because not enough students showed up for the game.
When the students don't show up in full force, it leaves Coach K Court with very low energy levels. The players feed off the energy that the students bring.
In their first loss at home this year, the players did not have the same level of intensity and determination that they would normally have and people are citing the diminishing student section as one of the problems.
No On-Court Leader
Of the three main Duke guards that start for Coach K, Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, name the point guard.
Hard to do, right?
That is because they are not true point guards. Last year they all played shooting guard, except Rivers, who was in high school.
They never had to be the person to distribute the ball to the scorers. This makes it difficult to run the offense.
Rivers has the most potential as a point guard because of his high basketball IQ and he is a good passer, but he is better when he is creating his own shot and not giving the ball to other players to score. He is more of a pure shooting guard than Dawkins and Curry.
Curry and Dawkins both can handle the ball but are not consistent and can turn the ball over. They both played shooting guard last year while Nolan Smith ran the point and don’t quite have a feel for the point guard position.
There is promise for Duke in the future. Quinn Cook was recruited as a point guard but he has to mature more and learn Coach K's system more before he can be a truly effective point guard.