Next up for Duke is a road trip to Louisville, where the Cardinals, like Duke, are 2-2 and tied for third along with five other teams.
Duke will be without Amile Jefferson again and that presents problems. Duke leans on him for defense, interior offense, and what we might call facilitation. He’s a great communicator. He’s also an underrated passer.
Louisville has injury issues too. Anas Mahmoud (7-0 junior) has a concussion and Mangok Mathiang (6-10) has a broken foot. That cuts the rotation down a bit and leaves the Cards with Ray Spaldng and Jaylen Johnson inside, which is fine since they’re both pretty good.
The bigger problem with Louisville is its athleticism.
The Cards have a really solid core group with highly athletic 6-3 sophomore Donovan Mitchell, 6-2 PG Quentin Snyder, 6-7 sophomore Deng Adel and 6-6 freshman VJ King.
Like Virginia Tech and Florida State, Louisville is athletic and has more on the bench.
Louisville’s main strength is defense; offense has been erratic.
Duke is more or less the opposite. The Blue Devil offense has been pretty good; the defense has been erratic.
Obviously Luke Kennard has been a huge factor for Duke, and here’s a minor theme to keep in the back of your mind: he grew up in a Kentucky household. His dad is a huge Wildcats fan.
Grayson Allen brings his own sideshow these days - when Michigan State’s Miles Bridges was accidentally tripped by Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer, fans started chanting “Grayson Allen.”
Duke has been using Allen at the point and he’s done pretty well, although it has changed his offensive output.
Jayson Tatum is emerging as Duke’s other go-to offensive performer. He can shoot outside or drive and he applies himself on defense.
Matt Jones is Duke’s best defender and will probably get Mitchell. Allen at point allows him to play to his other strengths, which will ultimately help.
The Blue Devils have been bringing Frank Jackson off the bench as Allen’s backup. He’s a highly promising talent who can change a game in a hurry.
Without Jefferson, Duke has started Harry Giles, who is probably the most talented player on the roster. He’s still getting back to the game though after recovering from his knee problems. He’s going to break out eventually. You can see signs - his shot is improving quickly, he’s rebounded with authority and he’s moving really well.
Duke can generally rely on Chase Jeter, who was solid earlier before his own injury. He’s not an offensive force yet but he rebounds and defends and holds up his end of the deal.
Marques Bolden’s injury disrupted his progress and like Giles, a breakout game from him would be most welcome.
And of course Coach K is recovering from surgery.
So everything is going against Duke, right? Well, no.
Duke will have to play hard and defend well, but this is a talented group, even with all the disruptive injuries, and it is forging an identity. Allen is an intriguing point guard and Duke has good pieces to put around him. Will it come together for Louisville? We’ll see. But it’s evolving.
Win or lose, Duke gets a week off after this game with lots of times for reps and sorting things out. And, perhaps, doing so with Jefferson.
- Duke men's basketball travels to Louisville hoping to find road consistency
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- Duke, NC State at early ACC crossroads – DeCock
- Three to know: No. 7 Duke at No. 14 Louisville
- Duke-Louisville not what we expected
- Duke's Grayson Allen has some U of L history
- No. 7 Duke looks to rebound at Louisville (Jan 13, 2017)
- Duke Basketball set for pivotal showdown at Louisville
- Duke's Amile Jefferson likely to miss Louisville game