NC State welcomes a struggling Duke team to Raleigh on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils are 7-8 overall and losers of three straight games, the most recent of those a 93-89 loss against Notre Dame.
Duke lacks the star power among its freshmen that it has been accustomed to for a long time, and ever since Coach K decided to play the one-and-done lotto every year, this type of season has been an inherent risk. (But at least they aren’t Kentucky!) Sometimes the crop of talent in a given recruiting cycle is down, and Duke is stuck riding that out.
Don’t go weeping for the Blue Devils, though: they signed six kids ranked in the top 60 last year. Half of them are wallowing on the bench this season, but there’s no shortage of highly-regarded talent on this roster.
— Duke’s biggest problems are at the defensive end, where its youth and lack of size have been consistent handicaps. Duke ranks just 95th in adjusted defensive efficiency this season, and unless it improves, this will go down as the worst Duke defense in this century.
— In ACC play, the Blue Devils are dead last in eFG% defense: league foes are shooting 41% from three and 52.3% from two. Duke ranks in the top half in TO% and defensive rebounding rate, but that doesn’t matter so much when your opponents are making a bunch of shots.
— Scoring efficiently has not been a problem for Duke, particularly in the paint. Sophomore Matthew Hurt (6’9, 235) is making 61% of his twos this season, to go with 40% three-point shooting. Jalen Johnson (6’9, 220) is shooting nearly 56% inside the arc, while freshman guards DJ Steward (6’2, 163) and Jeremy Roach (6’1, 175) have been surprisingly effective despite their statures. Roach is shooting 61.2% inside the arc.
— Duke comes in shooting a modest 34.3% from three, and about 38% of its field goal attempts have come from outside (which is right around the D-I average). Aside from Hurt, Steward (35.5%) has been solid but there’s a lot of inconsistency elsewhere. Roach is at just 25.9% on 54 three-point attempts, Wendell Moore is shooting 31.1%, and Jordan Goldwire is at 32.4%.
— If they get an above-average jump shooting performance, that’s a bonus, but the Blue Devils have relied a lot on interior scoring and offensive rebounding. They’re average in ball security and have been terrible at earning free throw attempts. NC State’s interior defense needs to step up in this one.
— KenPom likes Duke by two.