You probably can't remember back that far, but during the run-up to the 2012-13 men's basketball season one theme predominated when contemplating Duke's fortunes: the defense would have to improve.
Mike Krzyzewski himself made the case. Others cited all sorts of stats to fortify the argument, none more frequently than the 2012 team's .433 field goal percentage defense.
Even more telling, according to analysts, the Blue Devils' ability to suppress opponents' shooting ranked 10th in a 12-team ACC.
But in praising this year's team after it defeated Delaware on Dec. 1, Krzyzewski referred not to the Devils' .380 field goal percentage defense (third in the ACC), but to a more subtle standard - how many times the squad held opponents to six or fewer assists in its first eight games.
"To me, that shows great team defense," the Duke coach said.
Such a paucity of assists surely reflects an ability to dictate the terms of engagement, to deflect opponents from running a coherent attack. Instead, they're forced to pursue less efficient one-on-one options.
So far the 2013 Blue Devils have held five opponents to six or fewer assists. That's a stunning achievement -- over the past decade a single Duke team was as successful in stifling assists. Over an entire season.
It took the 2009 squad 35 tries before it enjoyed its fifth game holding opponents to six or fewer assists.
Duke's 2013 opponents average 7.8 assists, the lowest rate forced by a Krzyzewski unit since at least 1999.
One can question how telling this stat may be, or argue the six-assist measure is conveniently arbitrary. Then again, Krzyzewski presumably knows what he's talking about.
When Recent Duke Teams Allowed Opponents Six Or Fewer Assists In A Game
Assists per Game
|Number Of Opponents With Six Or Fewer Assists, Season|
|2013||8||7.8||5 - Georgia State (4), VCU (4), Louisville (6), Ohio State (6), Delaware (2)|
|2012||34||11.2||3 - Presbyterian (6), Virginia Tech (5), St. John's (5)|
|2011||37||11.8||2 -- Hampton (4), Virginia Tech (3)|
|2010||40||10.8||3 -- Arizona State (6), Virginia Tech (4), California (6)|
|2009||37||10.5||5 -- Presbyterian (4), Ga. Southern (6), UNC-Asheville (5), Loyola (6), Binghamton (2)|
|2008||33||12.7||1 -- Georgia Tech (3)|
|2007||33||11.4||3 -- San Jose State (5), Temple (6), Wake (5)|
|2006||36||12.2||2 -- Seton Hall (5), Maryland (6)|
|2005||33||9.9||4 -- UNCG (6),Virginia (5), Miami (6), FSU (4)|
|2004||37||11.8||1 -- Michigan St. (4)|