After decades of success and rising banners at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Duke Blue Devils have struggled under first-year Head Coach Jon Scheyer.
The Duke Blue Devils sit at 13-4 (4-2) on the season, losing two of their past five games. Their offense isn’t nearly as explosive as years past, and are shooting a disappointing 29% from deep. They have just one win over an AP Top 25 team, (vs. #25 Ohio State, 81-72 on Nov. 30).
The ACC doesn’t have a clear juggernaut this season, with Clemson atop the conference at 14-3 (6-0). If Duke wants to earn a free bid to the tournament in March, here are three things they need to do to get back on top.
1. Get to the free-throw line
The Duke Blue Devils are on fire from the free-throw line. They are shooting 78.6%, which is the 12th best in the nation. Except, it’s not that easy…
They average just 18.7 free throw attempts per game. That’s about the middle of the pack for all qualified college basketball teams.
In three of their four losses, the Blue Devils shot less than 72% from the charity stripe.
If Duke can produce more free throw attempts, they could run up the score.
2. Use defensive identity to fuel the offense
Duke has always been a force on defense. That statement remains true under Jon Scheyer.
As a team, the Duke Blue Devils average over six steals per game and about four and a half blocks per game. Defensively, teams average less than 63 points on against them.
It’s as simple as 1 + 1 = 2. If coach Scheyer can use the strong defensive identity to fuel the transition game and hold opponents to low-scoring games, they can continue their winning ways.
3. Allow time to heal injuries
Injuries hurt every team. It seems to happen every season at some point, either teaching you how to play without your star guard or dismantling your in-conference run by losing your two-way forward.
Duke is dealing with just that.
Two of the Blue Devils’ star freshmen, Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II, have both played less than 280 minutes this season. To put it into perspective, that’s less than seven full games.
Junior Jeremy Roach has been dealing with a toe injury for the majority of the season and is expected to miss more time as critical in-conference play starts to heat up.
At this point, all Cameron Crazies can do is wait and be patient. Don’t rush the team back on the court. Learn how to move the ball without some of your stars, and grow from there when they do return.
The main point is to not get too deep into the Blue Devils’ struggles so far this season. They are under a first-year head coach and it’s been an irregular season where many blue bloods seem to be facing difficulties. Expect the Blue Devils to still make a Sweet 16 run in March and be back on track soon.