Duke Men's Basketball Regular Season Report Card
The Duke Blue Devils finished their season Saturday night by beating North Carolina 93-81 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke looked great in the win, but it came only three days after the Devils lost to a 16-15 Wake Forest team.
The week was a proper ending for a season with plenty of peaks and valleys. Duke has beaten Carolina, Syracuse and Michigan but has lost to Clemson and Notre Dame in addition to Wake Forest. The Devils also nearly lost to Vermont and East Carolina University at home earlier in the season.
Despite the struggles, Duke finished the regular season 24-7 overall and 13-5 in the ACC, tied for the third-best record in the conference. Let’s take a look at how Duke performed in some key areas during the season.
Duke is currently averaging 79.8 points per game, 17th in the country. The Devils are also second in the country with 1.177 points scored per possession. Gaudy statistics, but I’m giving the Devils a slight markdown because of their tendency to go cold at the worst times.
Duke went five minutes without a field goal during Wake Forest’s 17-0 run late in the second half last week. In the first matchup with UNC, Duke missed 13 straight shots and failed to score for six straight minutes at one point. It also allowed Virginia to take the lead with a late 11-0 run on January 13 before Rasheed Sulaimon’s three-pointer gave Duke the win.
The Devils have a plethora of offensive talent, but that has worked against the team at times as stars Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker have failed to get touches on critical possessions. The duo combined for 54 points against Carolina, but it was the first time they scored 40 or more combined since November.
Duke will need to continue to get Parker and Hood as many touches as possible in order to make a run in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Duke’s offensive stats are impressive, but the defensive numbers are much more average.
The Devils rank just 84th nationally in scoring defense, giving up 67.1 points per game. Duke has excellent depth at the guard positions and seems like the perfect team to pressure opposing point guards and force a lot of turnovers. Due to a few factors, including the new emphasis on hand-checks in college basketball, this has never come to fruition. The Devils are forcing only 12.6 turnovers per game, which ranks 143rd in the country.
Duke has had a number of notable defensive letdowns this season. It allowed Vermont to score 90 points, gave up 91 points (in overtime) to a Syracuse team that averages fewer than 70 a game and even allowed Carolina to shoot 59.6 percent on Saturday.
The Devils were able to beat the Tar Heels due to a stellar offensive performance, but as I’ve already outlined, Duke does not always score that well. Duke has not been able to rely on its defense to hold steady during its cold spells so far this season.
Duke lacks size.
The Devils start 6’9" Amile Jefferson at center and 6’8" Jabari Parker at power forward. Jefferson is a natural power forward and Parker is a natural small forward. Duke’s only true big man is Marshall Plumlee, but he averages only 8.7 minutes a game despite a recent stretch of solid play.
Duke has not been great on the boards this season, but it has survived thanks to the hustle and heart of Parker and Jefferson. Parker leads the conference in rebounds per game with 9.0, and Jefferson is 14th with 6.6.
Their efforts have especially paid off on the offensive glass. Duke is sixth in the conference in offensive rebounds per game, which is even more impressive when you consider that the Devils are tied for the conference lead with a .465 team shooting percentage.
When Duke is scoring it only needs to break even on rebounds in order to win the game. When Duke is scoring as well as rebounding, like it did against Carolina (34-20 advantage), it becomes an extremely difficult team to beat.
Duke will enter March Madness with a solid resume. Duke has 24 wins, 13 conference wins and a handful of impressive victories to hang its hat on.
However, when compared to past Duke teams and this year’s preseason expectations, Duke has actually slightly underperformed. Duke was ranked fourth in the preseason AP poll but was ranked lower than that almost the entire year before getting back to No. 4 last week, then promptly lost and dropped to No. 7.
Duke already has seven losses, which is tied for the second most of any Duke team since 1997. The Devils also failed to finish in the top two of the conference standings for the first time since the 2007 season.
The Devils have been a little inconsistent this year, but what people will remember is what happens in late March. The regular season may be over, but this team’s legacy is still at stake as it enters the postseason.