By Charles Jay
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What in the world is going on with the Duke Blue Devils? This is the question hundreds of thousands of college basketball betting analysts and coupes fanatics are asking themselves these days. This is a team that has made it into the NCAA Tournament every year since 1995, but after losing four out of their last five games, there are some doubters as to whether they can get back to the Big Dance again.
Duke is doing some things it isn’t used to, like losing consecutive home games, as they have to Notre Dame and Syracuse lately. And Miami, which is not considered to be a traditional basketball powerhouse, waxed them pretty good earlier in the week. So you can’t blame BetAnySports customers for having a lot of skepticism as Duke heads toward its Tuesday date against Georgia Tech on the road.
It has been suggested by more than one pundit that this team just can’t defend at the highest levels of college basketball, and maybe they have a point; Duke has allowed three of its last four opponents to shoot 50% or better from the field. However, if you really want to do some forensics on the matter, maybe the whole thing traces back to the absence of Amile Jefferson, the senior power forward who fractured his right foot in practice back in mid-December and has not returned to the team as yet. Duke was 8-1 straight-up with him in the lineup, and has gone 7-5 without him, with only one victory over team that is ranked in the Top 100, according to analyst Ken Pomeroy’s innovative ratings.
Pomeroy does a lot of analytics on his website, and he has ranked Duke 147th in the country in Defensive Efficiency, and that puts them right in the middle of the pack. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is not used to being in the middle of the pack on anything, really. These days he is employing a lot of zone defenses, in order to hide of the deficiencies on the part of many of his players. This is something that has made his mentor, Bob Knight, very ill in the past (of course, Knight is a staunch advocate of man-to-man defense).
But BetAnySports patrons also realize that it’s very tough to operate without depth. Jefferson was averaging 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and without him, Duke employs nothing more substantial than a six-man rotation. It is just a fact of life in college basketball these days – when you take on a lot of “one-and-done” players, you are going to go through periods where the well runs relatively dry.
But at the same time, let’s not forget that this is the defending national champion we are talking about. And there are some key people left over from that. Grayson Allen is the team’s top scorer at 20.3 points per game, and is shooting 49% from the field. Marshall Plumlee, from the family that keeps producing big men, is averaging eight rebounds and 1.9 blocks, and had an outstanding effort with 19 points and 17 rebounds against Syracuse.
And Duke has one of the more talented freshman in the country in Brandon Ingram, who has averaged 17 points again and he shooting almost 42% from three-point range.
It has been suggested by some people, including long-time Duke apologist Dick Vitale, that the Blue Devils will come around when Jefferson gets back in the lineup. They are 15-6 straight-up at the moment, and as they have a grueling conference schedule in front of them, including two meetings with #2-ranked North Carolina, there is a limit as to how many games they can actually lose between now and the day the committee makes the selections for the tournament.
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