Duke Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Wake Forest in ACC Opener

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2013

Duke Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Wake Forest in ACC Opener

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    The Duke Blue Devils open their ACC schedule this Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Wake Forest.

    Duke looks to remain undefeated and retain its No.1 ranking for another week in the polls, while the Demon Deacons will be hoping to pull off the biggest upset of the Jeff Bzdelik era.

    On paper, the Blue Devils are a team with superior talent that should have no trouble taking care of Wake Forest. However, we have already seen some upsets in college basketball this season no one would have predicted.

    But if Duke can successfully do the following five things, it should win comfortably against Wake Forest.

1. Start Strong

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    Duke has started slowly in its last two games against Santa Clara and Davidson. It was able to open the second half in both games with runs, but it is important for the Blue Devils to get back to putting together complete performances.

    In Wake Forest's last game, the Demon Deacons featured three freshman in the starting lineup. These young players could struggle with the pressure of playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium against the No. 1 team in the country, particularly if Duke can gain momentum to start the game.

    Wake Forest is coming off a solid win against Xavier on Wednesday, and it will start the game with confidence. If the Blue Devils can knock down some open shots and play with defensive intensity in the game's first few minutes, it will quickly erase any confidence the Demon Deacons have.

2. Establish Mason Plumlee

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    It will be interesting to see how Jeff Bzdelik decides to defend Mason Plumlee because Wake Forest doesn't really have anyone who matches up well with the 6'10" senior.

    Plumlee struggled in Duke's last game against the aggressive defense of Davidson, which forced him into six turnovers and held him to 10 points.

    Plumlee spoke after the game about being motivated to improve and to make stronger decisions with the ball, which could be a bad sign for the Demon Deacons.

    Duke should look for Mason early and often in this game to get him involved in the offense. Plumlee could also have a big day on the offensive glass, as the Demon Deacons are currently last in the ACC in rebounding.

3. Make the Demon Deacons Take Contested Shots.

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    Aside from C.J. Harris and Travis McKie, Wake Forest has had a difficult time finding other players who can consistently score this season.

    Cody Miller-McIntyer is the team's third-leading scorer (8.5 ppg), and he is coming off a 16-point performance in Wake Forest's win over Xavier. Look for Duke to shut down Miller-McIntyer and to prevent him from getting in the same sort of rhythm he did against the Musketeers.

    Teams are shooting 38 percent against the Blue Devils on the season, and Mike Krzyzewski has been very happy with his team's defense.

    Duke should be able to assert its will defensively and force this young Wake Forest team into taking difficult shots and possibly turning the ball over.

4. Force Wake Forest to Play at Duke's Speed.

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    In the first half of Duke's game against Davidson, the Blue Devils appeared to struggle with the deliberate nature in which Davidson played. The Wildcats were able to effectively run their halfcourt offense and force Duke to play extended possessions on defense.

    Look for Duke to play aggressive on defense to try to speed up the pace of the game and force Wake Forest and its young guards into mistakes.

    On offense, Duke should be able to move the ball quickly against Wake Forest and create matchup problems to get open shots.

    Also, the Blue Devils will take advantage of the strengths of Quinn Cook and Mason Plumlee. With Wake's inability to rebound the ball, Duke will capitalize off missed shots and make plays in transition. If Plumlee runs the floor, Cook will be looking him as his primary option in the fast break.

5. Take Advantage of Ryan Kelly

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    Ryan Kelly is coming off his most complete performance of the 2012 season in Duke's game against Davidson. Kelly finished the game with 18 points, including going 3-of-4 from the three-point line.

    Kelly's ability to stretch the floor will create major issues for the Wake Forest defense. Also, Kelly has added the element of being able to pump fake and put the ball on the floor to get to the basket, making him that much more difficult to defend.

    With all the attention the Demon Deacons will have to put on stopping Mason Plumlee, it should be an opportunity for Ryan Kelly to see a lot of open looks.

    Saturday's game will mark the beginning of a very successful ACC season for Kelly.