Duke will come into Thursday Night's game with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets a bit more blue than normal. Although the team is ranked in the top 10 and defeated some very good opposition, they are coming off of one of the worst losses of the season (12 point loss to Georgetown). While the scoreboard said one thing, the game was not really that close and the Devils never truly looking in sync.
A little less than a month ago the Devils limped their way out of Alexander Memorial with a four point loss, another one that truly wasn't that close.
This time around the game has a lot more meaning. Conference play is among us, and NCAA seeding is starting to become clearer and clearer. A loss in this game could push either team from a possible 2 or 3 seed to a 4 or 5.
If the Devils are going to rebound from their loss in DC, as well as avenge the loss to Tech, then their D will have to step up. You may be a little bit surprised by that, but of the last two losses, the defense has struggled.
NC State and Georgetown both seemed like they were trying to make their bid for ESPN's Top Plays rather than playing in a basketball game. The Duke D just wasn't able to hold up and allowed a ton of easy buckets.
A long with defensive pressure from start to finish the Devils will need someone to step up. In their first meeting, the Devils only had two players that broke double digits in scoring. (Scheyer-25, Mas Plumlee-10) This will not cut it against average teams, let alone one that is making their own bid for an ACC title. Nolan Smith is the obvious person expected to step up, but it could very easy be one of the Plumlee brothers that could be the perfect person to step up.
Another area where the Blue Devils will need to dominate is off of the boards. In their first meeting the Jackets actually had more rebounds than the Devils. That has not happened but a few times this year, and each has been trouble for Duke.
Duke is tied in the NCAA for free throw percentage. In their first meeting the Jackets actually shot more free throws. If the Blue Devils want to win this one, they are going to have to get to the line. That task will be headed by (don't call him a PG) Jon Scheyer. He needs to shoot, dish, and drive getting to the charity stripe as often as possible!
All in all this is going to be a great mid season conference battle. Both teams are very very good and will be one that no one wants to play late in March. While the Blue Devils won't sneak up on anyone the Jackets could. They are an ACC team but their name don't carry fear as the Dukes and Carolinas.
The winner of this game could be crowned ACC champ later in the month, this is a huge game that could go either way.
In terms of a prediction, I see the Devils getting another great home win.They are a very different team at Cameron. I can't see them struggling from beyond the arch, not getting free throw attempts, or boards like they did in the first meeting. Expect a close one in which the exceptional coaching of K leads the Devils to victory.