Following a remarkable offensive performance, the Duke Blue Devils easily dispatched the bottom-dweller of the ACC, the Virginia Tech Hokies, with an 88-56 road victory.
After turning in their largest margin of victory in conference play, Duke (23-3, 10-3 ACC) will return back to the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium fresh off of a two-game road stand, as they will play host to the upset-minded Boston College Eagles.
In the first meeting between the two schools, Duke overcame same-day travel and a terrific all-around performance from Boston College (12-14, 4-9 ACC) as they narrowly escaped with a one-point win.
Can they avoid another down-to-the-wire challenge from the Eagles?
If so, they will need to follow these five specific keys to ensure themselves of a comfortable triumph over a young but promising Boston College team.
All statistics via ESPN and The ACC
There is no question that sophomore forward Ryan Anderson is Boston College's best player. However, freshman guard Olivier Hanlan has steadily become their most important player this season.
The 6'4" Hanlan has had a stellar first year at the collegiate level for Boston College, as he is leading all freshmen in the ACC in scoring with 14.5 points per game—ninth in the ACC—while continuing to strengthen his case for ACC Rookie of the Year.
For Duke to notch its 11th victory in the ACC, it will begin on the defensive end in containing the scoring prowess of Hanlan by limiting his ability to get to the free-throw line—he ranks sixth in the ACC in free-throw attempts— and forcing him into contested jumpers.
In the first meeting between these two programs, Hanlan scored 11 of his game-high 20 points from the free throw line. While it was a tough shooting night for the freshman (4-of-11 from the field), he was able to find other ways of putting points up on the scoreboard by penetrating into the paint and drawing contact resulting in 12 of the Eagles' 20 free-throw attempts.
Despite a cold shooting night in the first game, Hanlan is shooting close to 43 percent from the field this season. However, away from the Silvio O. Conte Forum he is shooting just 38 percent.
On Sunday afternoon he will make his first trip to arguably the most toughest environment in all of college basketball, Cameron Indoor Stadium.
If the passion and emotion from the Duke faithful can translate over to a solid defense performance for the Blue Devils, it could make for a long night for the talented freshman.
The three-point shot has been the staple of the Duke offense for a number of years. This season has been no different, as they are fourth in the nation and first in the ACC in three-point percentage.
In their overwhelming victory at Virginia Tech on Thursday night, they blistered the nets from beyond the arc shooting over 70 percent from three—their second highest percentage of the season.
Duke will now return home where they have shot close to 46 percent from three in conference play.
If the Blue Devils can establish the three early and continue to shoot at a high percentage against the ACC's worst three-point defensive team, their path to victory No. 24 will become much clearer.
If only Boston College had converted one more three-point attempt against Duke four games ago, it would be the Blue Devils seeking retaliation and not the Eagles.
Boston College shot an abysmal 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from three in a 62-61 loss against Duke. It was the seventh different time this season that the Eagles had shot less than 30 percent from three.
Translation: Boston College is not a great three-point shooting team.
Still, despite ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in three-point percentage, the Eagles are third in the conference in made three-pointers converting just over seven per game.
While the Duke defense has regressed since the beginning of the season without senior Ryan Kelly, it is still good enough at times to harass the opposition.
When speaking of the three-point shot, Duke is third in the ACC in holding their opponents to only 30 percent from beyond the arc. In their last five games, they have held teams to a combined 23.9 percent.
As shown in the first meeting, the three-point basket was the difference-maker in a win and a loss. In Sunday's rematch, it could ultimately become the deciding factor once again.
If you were to pick out the biggest flaw from this Duke team, the consensus would heavily lean toward their severe lack of rebounding.
That fact was never made more apparent than in their third loss of the season two games ago against the fourth-best rebounding team in the country, Maryland, in which they were out-rebounded by the Terrapins, 40-20.
The Blue Devils bounced back nicely against Virginia Tech in their next game, winning the battle on the boards, 34-25, though the Hokies allow a conference-worst 38.6 rebounds per game.
Still, it's progress. And look for that to continue on Saturday.
Boston College will enter as the second-worst rebounding team in the ACC, pulling down 31.9 rebounds per game. Even though Duke has dealt with their share of struggles on the glass this season, they should still win the rebounding advantage against the Eagles, with senior Mason Plumlee and his 10.5 rebounds per game leading the way.
Unexpectedly, junior Josh Hairston has been a pleasant surprise for Duke in the last two games.
Don't believe me? Look at the statistics:
- 11.0 points per game
- 72.7 percent from the field
- 22.5 minutes per game
- 19.6 points per 40 minutes
After starting, yet registering only nine minutes of playing time against North Carolina three games ago, Hairston has provided the Blue Devils with a steady incline of production in his time on the floor.
While his specialty has only been drawing offensive fouls, are we finally beginning to see glimmers of hope on the offensive end from the 6'7" forward besides just second-chance opportunities?
After only two successful games, it's too early to tell.
However, if this trend can continue against Boston College and extend throughout the remainder of the regular season until senior Ryan Kelly returns to the court, the team's play as a whole will improve significantly.