With the No. 8-ranked Duke Blue Devils struggling a bit on the defensive end, the UCLA Bruins will be a tough test for Mike Krzyzewski's team in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
The neutral site battle is also known as the CARQUEST Auto Parts Classic. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
UCLA has a nice complement of talented offensive players who can create matchup issues for the Blue Devils. The Bruins are fifth in the nation in scoring with a points-per-game average of 89.1.
Perhaps most troubling for opponents is the fact that their scoring isn't dominated by one guy. Head coach Steve Alford has his team playing with balance.
Versatile point forward Kyle Anderson is the engine that makes the Bruins' attack go. At 6'9", with legit point guard skills, Anderson is a nightly threat for a triple-double.
He's averaging 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.5 steals and one blocked shot per game. If that's not stuffing a stat sheet, then I don't know what is. Look for Duke sophomore Rodney Hood to draw defensive duties against Anderson.
It may be intriguing to imagine Duke's super freshman, Jabari Parker, matching up with Anderson, but the Blue Devils can't afford to risk wearing him down on the defensive end.
Parker is leading the team in scoring this season. He's been phenomenal averaging 22 points per game, but he's going to need some help if Duke is going to keep pace with UCLA's gunners.
As impressive as Anderson has been this season, he's just tied for second in scoring on UCLA's team. Sophomore Jordan Adams leads the way with a scoring average of 21.2 per game. The 6'5" guard shoots 55 percent from the field and has been a demon in the passing lanes.
He is third in the nation in steals with 3.5 pilfers per game.
Ultra-athletic freshman guard Zach LaVine is also scoring 13.8 points per game, shooting 59 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc.
It's Time to Get Defensive
Duke may not face a better and more diverse team offensively all season. This could be a recipe for disaster considering the Blue Devils haven't found their way defensively.
The team is ranked just 268th in the nation in opponent field-goal percentage and 217th in points per game allowed. It is early, as Duke has only played 10 games this season, but surrendering 74 points to East Carolina and 90 points to a 1-5 Vermont team is alarming.
Unless the Blue Devils can produce their best defensive effort of the season, they could be looking at their third loss of the season. If that happens, by season's end, this defeat won't look as bad as it will on Thursday.
UCLA figures to return to the AP Top 25 and remain there for the rest of the season.
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