Duke Insider: Nothing easy in ACC
The Blue Devils were finding out right away that the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the schedule won't likely involve any easy stretches.
Duke did not post a double-digit margin of victory in its first three conference games, though the Blue Devils were the lone team without an ACC defeat.
Freshman Austin Rivers has been Duke's leading scorer, but he has noticed the attention to detail once the ACC portion of the schedule arrived. Thus, he has averaged less than eight points per game in conference outings.
"It's amazing how different it is," Rivers said. "When you're in the ACC, teams know every move we have. It's just so much harder."
So at least there should be no false sense of security for the Blue Devils as they navigate their way through the conference slate.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the intensity skyrockets with ACC games. And with Duke holding another high national ranking, it's clear to the Blue Devils that many of their conference opponents view games against Duke as a way to bolster their credentials for NCAA Tournament consideration.
Rivers has called the ACC games the most difficult games he has played in college. And two of those games have come against Georgia Tech and Clemson, which have a combined overall record of 17-17, and the other was a homecourt survival against Virginia.
So there are bound to be much more difficult stretches ahead for the Blue Devils.
--If Duke has developed an identity, please let coach Mike Krzyzewski know. He seems miffed by attempts to label his team, which won its first three ACC games by single-digit margins.
"I read something that somebody showed me that we have an identity," he said. "I don't know, we're not looking for an identity. We're looking to be good. We're trying to win. We don't have to have a certain style of play or whatever."
--The bench has shrunk some for the Blue Devils in ACC play. The Blue Devils used only eight players in the home victory against Virginia. But that number was exceeded early in Sunday's game at Clemson when the Tigers built an early lead and coach Mike Krzyzewski, appearing frustrated at a few sequences, used a wholesale substitution by sending five different players into the game.
--The Blue Devils have won their ACC home opener for 19 consecutive seasons. But the tasks at home across a three-day period might vary quite a bit in the coming week. Wake Forest visits Thursday night, then, less than 48 hours later, Florida State arrives. The Blue Devils entered the week with a home winning streak of 44 games, just two games shy of their school-record of 46 in a row at home.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10-0 -- Record for the Blue Devils this season when four or more players scored in double figures, through the weekend.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Wake Forest, Jan. 19
KEY MATCHUPS: The Blue Devils should have the ability to overwhelm Wake Forest, especially with the wave of guards they can send at the Demon Deacons. Duke's post players should be capable of man-handling Wake Forest's thin front line, especially if F Mason Plumlee and C Miles Plumlee play with their normal energy.
--vs. Florida State, Jan. 21
KEY MATCHUPS: The Blue Devils could find themselves in another defensive tussle and that would require strong games from the post players. Duke's perimeter defense has ebbed and flowed, but the Blue Devils will need to pay attention to Florida State G Deividas Dulkys, one of the league's top sharpshooters.
FUTURES MARKET: Junior G Andre Dawkins has shown the ability to score in bunches for the Blue Devils and his offense is something the Blue Devils will need to continue to succeed. But if other aspects of his game continue to develop, he could be on the court for more extended periods and that might lead to more offense from him. After the Blue Devils defeated Virginia, coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was "by far the best defensive game that Andre Dawkins has ever played." Considering how much Krzyzewski values defense, that should be a direct ticket to more opportunities for Dawkins.
C Miles Plumlee fouled out of the ACC home opener against Virginia, marking his first disqualification of the season. The senior had fouled out in five of his previous 116 career games.
G Seth Curry started 30 consecutive games for the Blue Devils, through Sunday and dating to last season. Duke was 25-5 in those games.
G Austin Rivers was held to a season-low four points at Clemson. The freshman scored in double-figures a team-leading 13 times this season, entering the week. He failed to score in double-figures in three of the last five games, at that point.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"We're young, and I think our schedule has helped us. We've played such a tough schedule." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has repeatedly pointed to the Blue Devils' pre-ACC schedule that included Belmont, Michigan State, Davidson, Tennessee, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio State, Washington and Temple for helping it through some tough stretches.