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Can Duke Keep Forcing Turnovers?

It’s a major asset for this team.

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Ameritas Insurance Classic: Texas Tech v Duke
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils and Matt Mooney #13 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders chase a loose ball during the first half of the game at the Ameritas Insurance Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Just before breaking for exams Duke played four straight games against teams it figured to beat. And so it did. Handily.

An essential ingredient in making that happen was a defense that forced at least 20 turnovers per game, 90 in all in four outings. That embrace of energizing man-to-man defense added an element not often seen recently at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Suddenly, through 10 games the Blue Devils averaged 16.7 turnovers forced per game.

This put the 2018-19 Devils in an elite category among recent Duke teams, even if such a rate of forcing turnovers is unlikely to be sustained once ACC play begins.

No Krzyzewski squad in the past dozen years has created turnovers at a more handsome rate. This in sharp contrast with teams in the first part of the century, when five of the first eight years of the 2000s saw Duke force at least 17.2 turnovers per game.

One of this season’s more intriguing developments, then, will be how well the Devils are able to sustain or even extend their ability to force ballhandling mistakes by opponents. Note that relatively few turnovers were created in each of the last two underclass-reliant seasons.

Turnovers Forced Per Game by Duke Since 2001
(Listed in Descending Order, 2019 Through 10 Games)
PerG Margin Season
19.3 +5.7 2001
19.8 +5.5 2002
18.9 +4.5 2008
17.7 +4.83 2019
16.4 +4.1 2009
17.9 +3.9 2003
17.2 +3.4 2004
13.9 +3.3 2013
14.2 +3.2 2010
16.2 +2.8 2006
14.8 +2.7 2011
12.1 +2.6 2014
11.9 +2.1 2016
15.5 +1.7 2005
12.3 +1.5 2015
12.1 +0.7 2017
12.8 +0.5 2012
12.8 +0.2 2018
14.9 -0.5 2007
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