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Duke’s Evolving Defense

Lots of things have changed over the years for Duke basketball including how defense is applied

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Ameritas Insurance Classic - Texas Tech v Duke
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) defends Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Tariq Owens (11) during the first half of the Ameritas Insurance Classic College Basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on December 20, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Early on, Duke has markedly outscored opponents this season. It has not, however, played stifling defense to augment those point differentials.

Of course, given their general scoring prowess the Blue Devils haven’t needed to focus on defense, or at least not had the need to make it a prime focus of their efforts. One suspects defensive efficiency will develop as better on-court communication, development of fundamentals and more efficient offense evolve.

One interesting thread to follow in 2018-19 is how effectively the Devils stifle opponents’ field goal shooting. That ability was seldom a notable attribute of Mike Krzyzewski teams during the first half of his Duke tenure. His teams are far more noted for defensive disruption -- forcing opponents’ turnovers and unraveling their set plays – than for causing other teams’ shooters to simply miss.

But with added reliance on a 2-3 zone last year, that profile changed. Whether it’s a permanent shift or a blip on the radar screen is unclear. The freshman-filled ’18 Devils quietly held opponents to .405 shooting from the floor, third-best in the ACC behind Virginia and Syracuse, and fourth-best during Krzyzewski’s first 38 years at Durham.

Best Field Goal Percentage Defense by Krzyzewski Squad
FG Def Year FG Off Pct. Diff. ACC Rank
.390 2005 .445 +.055 First
.391 1999 .514 +1.23 Second (Md .388)
.401 2010 .441 +.040 Sixth
.4048 2018 .492 +.087 Third
.4051 2011 .471 +.066 Fourth
.407 2004 .471 +.064 Fourth
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