Tuesday night marks Duke’s biggest test yet as he faces 2022 national champions Kansas at the State Farm Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Before the game, the Blue Zone analyzes three key points to help the Blue Devils shine:
Duke’s most notable advantage against Kansas is in post, as the Blue Devils have four players 7ft or taller while the Jayhawks have zero. That doesn’t mean Duke will find easy hoops, however, as Kansas have Jalen Wilson, a talented forward who returned from last year’s national championship roster. For the Blue Devils to capitalize on their size in the post, they need another big performance from 7-foot-1 Kyle Filipowski, as well as a step forward from 7-foot-1 Dereck Lively II. Filipowski has the season with two straight double-doubles started but his efficiency needs to improve against Kansas – the newcomer is only shooting 42.1% from the field so far. Lively, on the other hand, has only played 14 minutes as he missed Duke’s first game after recovering from a calf injury. While it’s possible he’ll have limited minutes on Tuesday, the Blue Devils need to feel his impact when he’s on the pitch.
The Blue Devils excelled on defense in their first two games, recording 21 steals and 10 blocks with just 82 points allowed – the team’s best defensive start since the 1946-47 season. Duke will not only need front-court performance, but also ongoing efforts from his guards on the defensive end. Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor and Jaylen Blakes have all shown their ability to make opposing ball carriers uncomfortable. Additionally, her effort on loose ball has helped Duke have more possessions. Against Kansas, these Blue Devils will have to work even harder. Kansas has averaged 85.5 points per game so far, which is more than Duke has given up all year. A milestone for this team would be keeping the Jayhawks under 70 points, a number that could put the Blue Devils in a great position to win and show off their standing as a talented defensive unit.
Roll with the punches
While the Blue Devils have faced minor bumps so far, such as their slow start against USC Upstate, they have yet to face a real test. For better or for worse, that will change on Tuesday. This No. 5 Jayhawk roster looks poised for another run at a national championship this year. Due to the level of competition, Duke may hit a roadblock at some point in the game. If they are to remain competitive, the Blue Devils must prove they can fight back. Roach has already proven his skills, excelling under pressure in Duke’s Final Four run last season. However, the numerous newcomers to the Blue Devil must show that they can also play with the best of the best. Look for the cockroach to keep the team’s momentum going. This contest will likely go to the end, and if the Blue Devils can roll with the Jayhawks’ punches, there’s a lot of potential for how their season can continue.
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