ACC Basketball

Blue Devils looking to avoid a Jacket trap

Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils escaped their toughest three-game stretch, coming up a couple Jahlil Okafor free throws and lucky bounce to Jerian Grant short of going 3-0 in that stretch. The voters awarded Duke by keeping them fourth in the rankings. Time to celebrate, crack open a beer and call up an ex, because you desperately want to remember what it was like to have someone attractive to you. However, careful now, because coming up next for the Blue Devils is that rematch with Notre Dame, so one can forgive a young team like this for overlooking the last place Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech may be 1-8 in the conference, but that one win was a 20-point whipping of Miami, a team that stepped into Cameron and whipped the Devils. This is a team that took the Wolfpack to overtime this Saturday and lost on an answered prayer at the buzzer. Yes, the Yellow Jackets have lost plenty of games this year, but it’s tough to call them a bad team, simple because so many of those defeats could have gone the other way.

In fact, take away the 29-point drubbing by first-place Virginia a couple weeks ago, Georgia Tech has lost their ten other games this year by an average of 4.7 points per game.

They do it by playing sound defense (48th in the nation according to Ken Pom), particularly by not allowing it to rain threes and not letting their opponents second opportunities. In fact, they are 58th in the land at stopping the three ball and are 10th in defensive rebound.

Of course, Georgia Tech hasn’t faced an offense like the one the Blue Devils bring to the table. They’re fifth in the nation in offensive efficiency, capable of hitting from both outside (Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow all hit over 40% from deep) and inside (Jahlil Okafor makes 66% of his shots). They also rebound at a high rate (23rd in offensive rebound %) and rarely turn the ball over.

Of course, the key to Duke’s victory against Virginia and is arguable the X-factor moving forward is the return over Winslow, the man with just one look. The heralded rookie had been riding an awful five-game stretch, hitting just 23% of his shots. He had no confidence in his jumper and seem to get lost when penetrating into the lane. However, after finally hitting some threes at Notre Dame, Winslow got aggressive, driving to the basket, scoring 15 against a stud Cavaliers defense.

If he has truly broken out of his slump, then Duke is once again a Final Four contender and there is no way a team like Georgia Tech walks out of Cameron with a win. Let’s face it, it’s not a mystery that all three of Duke’s loses came while he was struggling.

This one will be close, but there won’t be an upset.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Duke, 72-64

 

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