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Michigan Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Duke in ACC-B1G Challenge

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIDecember 2, 2013

Michigan Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Duke in ACC-B1G Challenge

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    Mitch McGary could be in for a huge game against a porous Duke defense.
    Mitch McGary could be in for a huge game against a porous Duke defense.Leon Halip/Getty Images

    After throttling N.C. State in last season's Big Ten-ACC Challenge, the No. 22 Michigan Wolverines face a much more daunting task this year.

    The Maize and Blue will face the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

    Is there any chance Michigan can end Duke's home winning streak against non-conference opponents, which now spans 13 years? Most definitely.

    In order for the Wolverines to pull off the upset, there are five things they must do.

    Obvious keys like maintaining poise and limiting turnovers are being excluded. It is difficult to beat anyone, let alone a Top 10 team, when those things are going awry.

    Regardless of the outcome, this should be a thrilling nightcap to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. 

Attack the Rim

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    Mitch McGary needs to have a big game for the Wolverines to take down Duke.
    Mitch McGary needs to have a big game for the Wolverines to take down Duke.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Defending the rim has not been a strength for the Duke Blue Devils this season.

    Over the past three games, Duke has yielded 120 points in the paint, including 50 points in a one-point victory over woeful Vermont. Last month against Kansas, the Blue Devils gave up 50 points on the interior.

    This is because they lack a dominant power forward and have an undersized front court. If Michigan is going to take down Duke, it has to exploit this major flaw.

    The Wolverines certainly have the big men to take advantage of the Blue Devils on the blocks. Now it is just a matter of getting efficient performances from Jon Horford and Mitch McGary.

    Since returning from injury, McGary has yet to pile up points.

    He has only scored more than six points in two of Michigan's last five games. Another single-digit effort against Duke will spell trouble for the Wolverines. This is the perfect opportunity for him to get back on track.

    As for Horford, it is time for him to ditch the mid-range jumper and post up on the blocks.

    He has been effective in the pick-and-roll, which has led to easy scoring chances inside. Although a mere 28.6 percent of his attempts come at the rim, he has yet to miss on those shots according to Hoop-Math

    Relying on jump shots to win games is a bad habit the Wolverines need to break against the Blue Devils.

Get the Most out of Nik Stauskas

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    Nik Stauskas' status is up in the air for this pivotal tilt.
    Nik Stauskas' status is up in the air for this pivotal tilt.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    At this point, it is unclear exactly how much Nik Stauskas will play on Tuesday night.

    The sophomore shooting guard injured his ankle in Puerto Rico and will not be back to full strength by the time tipoff rolls around.

    "He hasn’t been able to do anything full-go yet, so we’ll see more how he does today," head coach John Beilein said on Monday, according to Joe Stapleton of UMHoops. "If he can play well today in practice, then we’ll play him tomorrow. If he’s not moving the way he needs to move today in practice, we probably wouldn’t use him."

    Stauskas has been far and away Michigan's best player this season.

    He has scored at least 20 points in the last five games he has played. Scoring is not all the Canadian has done, though. He has been creating open looks for teammates by driving the lane, which has led to his 3.0 assists per game.

    However long Stauskas plays against Duke, the Wolverines need to make the most of every minute he is on the floor.

Dominate the Glass

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    Jon Horford's rebounding will be needed on Tuesday night.
    Jon Horford's rebounding will be needed on Tuesday night.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Another byproduct of Duke's small front line is a lack of rebounding.

    The Blue Devils are No. 288 in the country in rebounds per game (32.6), while Michigan ranks 68th (39.6).

    Unless the Wolverines are trailing, or simply wish to try and outgun Duke with a smaller lineup, this could be a game in which they play with two bigs on the floor simultaneously for an extended period of time. The advantage on the glass with Mitch McGary and Jon Horford/Jordan Morgan together would be significant.

    McGary and Horford have combined for 13.5 boards per game, 5.1 of which have been of the offensive variety.

    Spacing would be an issue, but the three bigs make a living cleaning up missed shots.

    Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas have to be a factor on the glass as well.

    If Michigan can continue its run of efficient rebounding performances, it has a great chance to earn a signature nonconference victory.

Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert Have to Shine

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    Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert have to show up for Michigan to have a shot against Duke.
    Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert have to show up for Michigan to have a shot against Duke.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Against the weaker opponents on Michigan's schedule, Caris LeVert has been absolutely dominant.

    The Pickerington, Ohio product has scored just 7.0 points per game in the Wolverines' two losses and narrow victory over Florida State. In their other four contests, he has averaged 19 points.

    Michigan cannot beat Duke if LeVert is a liability at the offensive end of the floor. He has to knock down open looks and be aggressive in going to the basket.

    Same goes for Glenn Robinson III, who has struggled in a new role for the Wolverines this season.

    There were some positive signs against Coppin State.

    Robinson looked more confident, especially after nailing a few mid-range jumpers. He only finished 5-of-11 from the field, but his 14 points were a promising sign.

    The last time Michigan went on the road to face a quality opponent, though, Robinson made just 4-of-14 field goal attempts. The Wolverines fell to Iowa State 77-70 as a result.

    Another outing like that will spell doom for Michigan at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Make Someone Other Than Jabari Parker Win the Game

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    Jabari Parker is a man among boys.
    Jabari Parker is a man among boys.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Let's clear up any doubts about this right now—Jabari Parker is going to get his no matter what Michigan does defensively.

    Of all the freshmen garnering national headlines across the country, Parker appears to be the best of the bunch.

    It is tremendously hard to stop a guy who is 6'8", 235 pounds, shoots 55.4 percent from the field, including 50 percent beyond the arc, grabs eight rebounds per game, averages 2.0 assists and can block shots at the defensive end.

    The only thing that can stop Parker is a bad shooting night, which happens from time to time. His 7-of-21 performance against Arizona is evidence of that.

    The Wolverines cannot bank on a second straight off game from Parker. They have to make sure if he is firing on all cylinders that someone else is forced to win the game.

    Duke is not short on options.

    Rodney Hood is scoring 20.0 points a night and Quinn Cook is piling up 13.4.

    Devoting some extra attention to defending those two could be the key to victory versus the Blue Devils.

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