Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Furman Paladins

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Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (5-0, 0-0] vs. Furman Paladins (1-2, 0-0]

Wednesday, November 26. 2014 • 5:00 PM • ESPNU • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314)

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot

Duke

Duke (5-0) returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium following three straight neutral site contests to face Furman (1-2) Wednesday, November 26. Tipoff is set for 5:00 PM with ESPNU televising the contest. Duke is ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 62-13 all-time when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Furman enters the game unranked in both polls. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 111 straight non-conference home games, more than twice as many as the next closest school (Syracuse – 53). Duke owns the longest active home win streak in the NCAA at 35 games. The Blue Devils are one home win shy of the fourth-best mark in school history and ACC history. NC State won 36 straight home games from 1972-75, while Duke matched that feat from 1991-93. Duke has featured a balanced scoring attack with six players averaging at least 8.0 points per game. The Blue Devils have had 21 double figure scoring games and have not have a player top the 20-point mark yet this season. Eight different Blue Devils have scored in double-figures this season with Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow reaching double figures in all five contests. Okafor has been named ACC Freshman of the Week each of the past two weeks. He ranks among the conference leaders in scoring, rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. Cook led the Blue Devils in scoring in all three games last week and is averaging a career-high 17.0 points per game. He was named MVP of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic after averaging 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists for the tournament.

Furman

Wednesday night’s trip to Duke marks the first road contest for the Paladins, who opened the 2014-15 campaign with three consecutive home games. In addition to Saturday’s loss to UC Davis, Furman fell in the season opener to College of Charleston (40-75) on November 14, and routed Appalachian State (84-65) on November 19.

Duke is the only Atlantic Coast Conference opponent on the Paladins’ 2014-15 schedule. Furman holds an 86-230 all-time record against current ACC members, including a 75-54 loss at Virginia Tech and 71-35 defeat at Clemson during the 2013-14 campaign. The Paladins last win over an ACC opponent was a 79-74 overtime victory versus Florida State during the 2000-01 season in Tallahassee, FL.

 

2. Team Seasons Thus Far

 Duke Blue Devils

In its last outing, freshman center Jahlil Okafor had 10 points and 12 rebounds and dominated the closing minutes as No. 4 Duke took the Coaches vs. Cancer championship title with a 70-59 victory Saturday night. The first half and a good part of the second half was a different story. Okafor was unable to contain his counterpart, Stefan  Nastic of Stanford, on either end of the floor. Fellow freshman Justise Winslow added 14 points and nine rebounds, tournament MVP Quinn Cook had 18 points, and Matt Jones came off the bench to add 10 points for Duke (5-0). Chasson Randle scored 22 to lead Stanford (3-1). Nastic had 13 points and 13 rebounds before picking up his fifth foul late in the game () trying to stop the athletic, 6-foot-11 Okafor from going to the basket. Okafor was amazing down the stretch, scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds and making life miserable in the lane for anyone wearing red. “He’s a target. From last night, we forced too much,” Krzyzewski said of Okafor. “He forced it. He didn’t pass it out. We showed him and told him to kick it out. Tonight he was a facilitator and still got buckets.” Winslow and Cook helped Duke build a 15-point lead in the second half, but it was Okafor who slammed the door on Stanford after it closed to 51-43 on a floater by Randle with 10:55 to play. He pushed the lead to 10 with a layup with 9 minutes to play and then got the crowd of 10,046 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn excited with a slam dunk after a wonderful pick-and-roll play. Two free throws by Randle reduced the margin to 10, but Okafor made up for a missed shot by contesting a shot in the paint, which led to a 3-pointer by Jones for a 58-45 lead. “Those guys [Duke’s freshmen], they go out there, they’re like seniors,” said Cook, who hit four of Duke’s nine 3-pointers. “The way they play, their maturity, and when Stanford made their run to about eight, man, a sophomore makes a big-time shot and Jah gets two big plays and makes some big rebounds.” However, Duke freshmen point guard Tyus Jones didn’t shoot the ball well in the tournament, going 1-of-13 from the field. Krzyzewski said once Jones starts hitting shots, Duke will be even better. Stanford, which led from start to finish in beating UNLV in the semifinals Friday, led for 11 seconds against Duke. The Cardinal trailed by as many as 17 points against a Blue Devils team that starts three freshmen but plays as if it has five seniors on the court.
Overall, Quinn Cook scored in double figures and made at least three three-point field goals in all five contests this season. He leads the ACC in three-point field goals (3.4 3PG), while also ranking among the conference leaders in scoring (17.0 PPG – 5th), three-point percentage (.486 – 7th), assists (4.2 APG –  10th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (5.25:1 – 2nd). Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 40 times at Duke, including all five games this season. Coach K started three or more freshmen 27 times during the 1982-83 season. Quinn Cook was named Most Valuable Player of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, becoming the second Duke player to earn MVP honors at a major in-season tournament twice in a career. Cook was also the MVP of the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis, while Kyle Singler earned MVP honors at the 2007 Maui Invitational and 2008 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Duke’s top-rated freshmen class, Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow, combines to average 48.7 points per game while shooting an efficient 52.6 percent (82-of-156) from the field. The group has combined for 13 of Duke’s 21 double figure scoring games this season. The Blue Devils have trailed for just 29 seconds through the first five games of the season. Duke trailed Fairfield, 2-0, for 18 seconds and Stanford, 2-0, for 11 seconds. The Blue Devils led wire-to-wire in wins over Presbyterian, Michigan State, and Temple. They have won each of the first five games by 10 or more points, marking the first time since the 2010-11 season it has accomplished that feat. Duke has made 36 more three-point field goals than its opposition on the year. The Blue Devils are 48-of-115 (.417), while holding the opposition to just 12-of-72 (.167) shooting from behind the arc. Quinn Cook has more three-point field goals (17) than Duke has allowed (12) on the year. Okafor (15.8 PPG) and Winslow (15.4 PPG) rank 11th and 13th, respectively, in scoring in the ACC. They are the top two scoring freshmen in the conference and two of four freshmen to rank among the league’s scoring leaders. Amile Jefferson continues to be active on the glass, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game. He has collected 19 of his 38 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor and ranks sixth in the league in offensive rebounds (3.8 ORPG). Duke’s backcourt tandem of Cook and Jones have combined for 46 assists with just nine turnovers (5.11:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) through five games. Both players rank in the top 10 of the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Winslow shot a season-high 10 free throws in the win over Stanford and ranks second in the ACC with 7.2 free throw attempts per game. Matt Jones is averaging 6.8 points per game, while shooting 50.0 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range. As a freshman, Jones was just 3-of-21 (.143) from behind the arc and averaged 1.8 PPG. Duke topped the 100-point mark in each of its two previous home games. The Blue Devils have not scored over 100 points in three straight home games since the 2000-01 season. The Blue Devils are averaging 111.0 points per game, while shooting 62.6 percent (83-of-131) from the field at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Furman

In its last outing, Furman rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to pull within two points, but junior Stephen Croone’s last second three-point attempt missed as UC Davis held off the Paladins, 58-55 in non-conference men’s basketball action on Saturday night at Timmons Arena in Greenville, SC. The loss dropped the Paladins to 1-2 on the season, while the Aggies upped their record to 3-0. Trailing 56-45 with under 4:30 remaining, Croone drained the Paladins third trey in less than three minutes and John Davis III stole an Aggie inbounds pass following a UC Davis timeout and went coast-to-coast for a layup to cut the deficit to 56-50 with 4:11 left. On the next possession, J.T. Adenrele made 1-of-2 free throws to push the margin back to seven points before Davis III followed his on miss with a rebound and converted on two trips to the line to get Furman within five at 57-52. After the teams traded turnovers, UC Davis’ Josh Ritchart missed a three-pointer from the top of the key with time running down on the shot clock and Furman’s Daniel Fowler answered by draining a triple with 59.7 seconds left to cut the Aggies’ lead to 57-55. Ritchart missed another three-point attempt and Furman got an open look from the wing for Kendrec Ferrara with nine seconds left, but his trey was short. Corey Hawkins made the front end of a one-and-one on the other end to push Furman’s deficit back to three at 58-55. Croone grabbed the miss on the second free throw and raced the length of the court, but his effort from the top of the key missed left as time expired. The teams traded the lead three times in the opening period before UC Davis carried a 30-27 lead into intermission. In the second half, UC Davis used a 14-2 run from the 13-minute mark to the eight-minute mark to turn a 38-37 lead into a 52-39 cushion. Davis III, Devin Sibley, and Croone all hit three-pointers to kick start the Paladins offense that fell just three points short. Croone led Furman with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while Davis III netted a career-high 14 points and Fowler added 11. Furman shot 41.9% from the floor and outscored the Aggies 13-3 at the foul line, but the Paladins converted on just 6-of-24 three-point attempts. Each team totaled 24 rebounds and 14 turnovers. Furman managed 21 points off of UC Davis’ 14 miscues.

Overall, The Paladins return three starters from last year’s team that posted a 9-21 overall record and 3-13 Southern Conference (SoCon) mark in head coach Niko Medved’s first year with the program. Leading Furman’s list of returnees is 6-foot-1 point guard Stephen Croone. The junior ranks as the SoCon’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points per game during his sophomore season. The All-SoCon pick and 2014-15 preseason All-SoCon selection also contributed 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game a year ago, while connecting on a league-best 192 free throws. Croone, a native of Covington, Ga., poured in a career-high 40 points and pulled down a career best 11 rebounds in an 86-83 victory over Liberty at Timmons Arena on December 20, 2013. The 40-point outing was the first by a Paladin since Roy Simpson scored 45 in a victory over East Carolina on February 5, 1972.

 

3. Head-to-Head

Furman’s trip to Durham, N.C., marks just the eighth all-time meeting between the Paladins and Blue Devils with Duke holding a 6-1 series lead. The schools have not met since the Blue Devils claimed a 102-67 decision on December 14, 1965, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Furman’s only victory in the series was a 73-72 triumph in Shelby, N.C., on December 11, 1951.

In terms of a few select statistical parameters, Duke predominates in each, which gives the Blue Devils a significant edge head-to-head.

 

TEAM PPG eFG% FG% 3PT M/A A/T RPG SPG
Furman 59.7 47.1 41.6 15/57 0.76 32.7 3.3
Duke 89.4 59.8 51.8 48/115 2.02 38.8 9.6

 

4. Four Factors to Winning

This is the first preview where we will begin to use what are called the “Four Factors”. Following is a summary of what this concept is. It will be posted to the Randy’s Devils Vault section of the Blog for future reference.

The concept of the Four Factors was pioneered by Dean Oliver, one of the leading basketball statisticians in the field of APBRMetrics. Dean wrote a book, Basketball on Paper that is highly recommended to anyone interested in the technical details of analyzing basketball stats.

Dean has identified four factors that are the most important determinants of basketball success. They are:

  1. Shooting the Ball Well, which is measured by effective field goal percentage (eFG%). eFG% is like field goal percentage except that it gives 50% more credit for made three-pointers (since it accounts for more points). The calculation is (0.5*3PTM + FGM) / FGA.
  2. Taking Care of the Ball, which is measured by turnover percentage (TO%). TO% is a pace-independent way to measure ball security. TO% = Turnovers / Possessions.
  3. Offensive Rebounding indicates a team’s ability to get second chance shots, which dramatically improves efficiency. This is measured by offensive rebounding percentage (OR%). OR% = Offensive Rebounds / (Offensive Rebounds + Opponent Defensive Rebounds).
  4. Getting to the Free Throw Line is measured by Free Throw Rate (FT Rate). This is not just a measure of how many free throws a team makes, but the frequency in which they go to the line. FT Rate = Free Throws Attempted / Field Goals Attempted.

 

These factors are not weighted equally. Studies have shown for both NBA and college basketball that the factors have the following weights: Shooting (40%), Taking Care of the Ball (25%), Offensive Rebounding (20%), and Getting to the Line (15%). Your mileage will vary depending on the team however (i.e., for some teams getting to the line may have a higher importance to winning).

When applied to the current game, we see that Duke has three keys (factors) that favor them while the Paladins have a slight edge in one. Duke holds a commanding edge in eFG%, 59.8% to 47.1% and in handling the ball as can be seen in TO% (14.1% vs. 22.4%). They also lead the way in offensive rebounding (39.5% vs. 32.3%). Furman has the edge when getting to the free throw line (57.7% vs. 41.5%).

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5. Key Points to Consider

A few points to consider from Duke’s perspective:

  • Consistency – though Duke has seemed to be a team that can go on damaging runs in the past, they must become more consistent particularly when starting three freshmen and their bench production is low
  • Okafor – he has been tested in the last two games, and though by game’s end his numbers were still high, he has become less tough and consistent
  • Offense – shot just 39.2% in last two games (defensive efficiency made up for this)
  • X-factor – Can Tyus Jones regain his shooting touch?

 

6. Endgame

The play of freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow has helped propel Duke to a strong start. If fellow newcomer Tyus Jones can regain his shooting touch, the team could be even more potent. Senior Quinn Cook is holding up his end in the backcourt by averaging a team-high 17.0 points

Six foot eleven Okafor (15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds per game) and the 6’-6” Winslow (15.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG) have teamed with 6’9” Amile Jefferson (8.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG) to form a formidable frontcourt presence for the Blue Devils.

Okafor played well down the stretch to record his first double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s 70-59 victory over Stanford however, he didn’t come around until the 10-minute mark. The Temple game was similar He must have consistency as Duke faces better and stronger opponents in the coming months.

Duke has been playing solid defense holding all five teams it’s faced to under 25 percent shooting from 3-point range and forcing double-digit turnovers in each contest. One player who has stepped up significantly on this end Is Matt Jones. He also had nine assists, eight rebounds, and a mere two turnovers against Temple and Stanford.

Duke gets a chance to work on its offense in the next two games after hitting just 39.2 percent of their shots against the Owls and Cardinal. However, Duke prevailed by being tough on the defensive end as noted above.

While Furman is methodical on offense (unselfish and balanced), they are easy to score against and has had trouble stopping the 3-point shot. This should be a good practice session for the Blue Devils.