Duke Basketball: Areas of Concern Following Tight Victory over Santa Clara

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2012

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 29: Quinn Cook #2, Tyler Thornton #3, Ryan Kelly #34, and Seth Curry #30 of the Duke Blue Devils look on as teammate Mason Plumlee #5 (not pictured) shoots a free throw against the Santa Clara Broncos at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 29, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated Santa Clara 90-77. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

All is well in Krzyzewskiville, as Duke held off a scrappy Santa Clara team and notched a 90-77 victory Saturday. But the Blue Devils have plenty to work on if they want to continue their pursuit of an undefeated season. 

A two-point lead at halftime and a second-half deficit is all you need to know to realize how close this game really was. 

Let's dive in and check out which areas the Dukies should be concerned about moving forward as they get ready to enter ACC play shortly.


Must Shut Down Opponent's Star Player

Many Duke fans were having flashbacks of their improbable 2012 NCAA tournament upset at the hands of Lehigh on Saturday.

Santa Clara's top scorer, guard Kevin Foster, averages 18 points per game and had that well before halftime against the Blue Devils.

He ended up with 29 points, eerily similar to when Lehigh's C.J. McCollum put up 30 against Duke in its bracket-busting loss.

Duke is traditionally a very sound defensive team, but they often have lapses against teams with high scoring capacities such as Santa Clara. They can't afford for one player to be gashing them this bad, as it will come to haunt them when more capable teams visit. 


Can't Overlook Underrated Teams

Santa Clara is incredibly overmatched on paper by the Duke Blue Devils and traveled to arguably the most hostile environment in college basketball. So, why was all the talk about avoiding the "upset alert"?

Because we've seen this before from Duke. With years of top recruiting classes, a coach who's been the man for more than 30 seasons and a ton of championships hanging from the rafters, it's easy to overlook a team that is nowhere to be found on a top-25 list. 

Although the ACC is traditionally a strong conference, it currently boasts No. 23 N.C. State as its only ranked team other than the top-ranked Blue Devils. The competition will be more fierce than Santa Clara, but it won't be elite until they reach the tourney.

Duke's upcoming schedule is littered with teams who they likely aren't paying a whole lot of attention to. Their aspirations are in March, but it's important to keep the focus on here and now to ensure they hold onto a top seed. 


Step Up Backcourt Defense

Just because Duke possesses a strong frontcourt unit defensively and a lot of talented shooters and scorers in the backcourt doesn't mean their guards are free to slack off on defense. 

Coach K won't be happy with 56 combined points from Santa Clara's three starting guards. That's a fact.

The Duke coaching staff is certainly relieved to have avoided an upset against a pesky and talented team, but there's no excuse for highly touted players like Seth Curry and Quinn Cook to be giving up gaudy point totals to their opponents. 

Guard play becomes more and more crucial as the season wears on, which means Duke's backcourt will have to step it up defensively if they truly have championship aspirations. 


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