5 Lessons Duke Must Learn from Road Losses to NC State and Miami
ACC play has not gone the way Duke thought it would, and the team currently sits at 4-2 and tied for third in the conference.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils lost to both North Carolina State and Miami on the road, and are one loss shy of their conference play total in each of the last three seasons.
Duke needs to learn from these road losses and move on, and these are the lessons the team should take away from these ugly losses.
Their Biggest Weakness Is Inside
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Without Ryan Kelly inside, the Blue Devils have been dominated in the paint. National Player of the Year favorite Mason Plumlee can only do so much, and the frontcourt has been exposed as the team's biggest weakness.
This isn't anything new. Last year the team struggled to compete inside as well, but through the first half of the season it looked like the Blue Devils had fixed this issue to some degree when both Kelly and Plumlee were playing.
Now that Kelly is out for a while, the team is weak inside once again.
North Carolina State had C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell combine for 41 points and 24 rebounds in the game, while Miami's Kenny Kadji went for 22 points and six boards, and he is not even usually the team's top big man.
Duke is being picked apart by big men, and that doesn't bode well for the rest of ACC play.
They Need to Tighten Up on Defense
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Duke's defense was very disappointing in the team's two losses, giving up easy shots and opportunities to capitalize to the Wolfpack and Hurricanes.
The team was once known for its defense and was one of the toughest teams to beat on any given possession, but now that is history.
Duke gave up 84 and 90 points to NC State and Miami, respectively. This average of 87.0 points is 23.8 points higher than the team's season average of 63.2 (per Statsheet.com).
What's worse is that these instances weren't from opponents making tough shots, but they were from poor defensive effort.
North Carolina State shot 50.8 percent from the floor, including 50.0 percent from three. Miami then shot 56.9 percent from the field, and 47.4 percent from beyond the arc. That's an average of 53.8 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from three.
Duke has to work on its defense in order to take down the best teams in the country once again.
They Rely Too Much on the Three
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Another recurring problem for the Dukies is their reliance on the three.
At times it seems like all this team can do is chuck up bombs from behind the arc, and when they're not connecting the team really struggles.
Case and point: these two losses.
Against North Carolina State, Duke shot a paltry 6-of-20 from three for a horrid 30.0 percent. It was even worse against Miami, shooting 4-of-23 for a percentage of 17.4.
This pathetic 23.3 percent shooting from three is a far cry from the team's season average of 41.1 percent, which ranks fifth in the nation (per Statsheet.com). The team can usually connect, but these games showed just how bad the team can be when its shots aren't falling.
They're Too Thin
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Duke has a talented bench, but it looks like Coach K failing to use it in the early part of the season has hurt the team. The guys off the bench are a big let-down compared to the starters.
The team is very thin because the bench players have been poorly used, essentially leaving the team with just eight guys who can play including Kelly, so the team is practically playing with seven right now.
Duke used to be somewhat deep and could rely on bench players, but now the starters are asked to do everything for the team.
They Are Not the Best Team in the Country
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Before ACC play started, Duke was clearly the best team in the country. Knocking off three Top Five opponents and not losing once is pretty impressive, but it all fell apart.
The team then lost two of three games, and now the Blue Devils will fall out of the conversation for the No. 1 ranking.
It's a year of parity in college basketball, and the question of who is the best team will constantly spark an argument.
But I'll tell you this much: Duke is not the best team in the country without Ryan Kelly.