Thursday, February 21

The Duke Dilemma

Just as an FYI (to those of you who read this site regularly but don't follow college basketball) Duke appears to have found a bit of a sour patch en route to replicating its ACC perfection of 1999. Now, many people seem to know why this happens to Duke, however, I'm personally more interested in why it happened to Duke this time and if it has revealed a chink in the Blue Devils' armor. So, to try and find what went wrong (statistically) within the Devils last two games, I decided to compare (using the appropriately named their first 10 ACC games (10-0, average margin of victory +14 pts) with their last two (0-2, -7 points).

Individually, these games differed greatly from each other. The points per possessions stat tells the story with Wake Forest able to limit the Duke offense (88 ppp versus and average of 116) while Miami's offense dominated the Duke "D" (113 ppp compared to 97). This is echoed in the eFG%, Duke shot 46.8% against Wake (54.5 ACC average) while Miami shot 63.1% against Duke (49.8% opponents average), while Duke held Wake exactly to their defensive average and shot exactly their offensive average against Miami. So, 2 ACC loses that Duke can blame on entirely different ends of the floor.

However, there are 2 statistical abberations that both games have in common. The first is the overall pace. Duke plays a fairly high pace game, 2nd in the ACC only to UNC. Both Miami and Wake average 70 possessions a game or fewer (Duke is at 74.5 in ACC play), so you'd think that neither would want to push the pace against a Duke team at home when the tempo reaches the 80's. In both losses, the games were the fastest Duke has played in the ACC (83 and 85 possessions), tied only by their game against fellow roadrunner UNC. The reason for the high pace was that Duke turned the ball over on 10% more of their possessions than average, in both games. Duke averages a turnover on 16% of possessions, but in these games they were forced to 26.5% and 27%. Their only other ACC game above 18% was when Duke hosted FSU. So, what's the formula for beating the Devils? Apparently "get the freaking ball". This should come to no shock, as Duke is not known for their rebounding, if a team can force them into empty possessions and limit their overall chances, you may very well have Duke on the ropes. However, this is easier said than done when playing a team that starts 4 guards.

To view the Duke vs ACC opponents spreadsheet (with thanks to click here.

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