Still Searching For Offensive Balance

The Blue Devils continue to search for more balanced scoring as March begins

Finding more offensive options has been a theme facing the Blue Devils for the past couple of months, and that might be coming to a head entering the postseason.

In each of the last two games of the regular season, Duke had only five players reach the scoring column. Most of the scoring has fallen on seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, with sophomore transfer Seth Curry picking up the slack at times.

Smith is the ACC's scoring leader, but Singler's shooting woes haven't allowed him to keep up the points production on a regular basis. Singler shot a combined 6-for-31 in two games against rival North Carolina.

In the second meeting with North Carolina, Curry connected on six 3-point shots. The rest of the Blue Devils were a combined 0-for-16 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"I think we could have done a better job hitting shots," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "A lot of the ones we missed were open looks. I'm not saying that if we had made a few more that we would have won the game, I'm saying that we should have made a few more open looks."

In the regular-season finale, guards Smith and Curry accounted for 50 of the team's 67 points, so offensive contributions from the post players is almost essential in creating more balance for the Blue Devils.

--Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's all-time record against North Carolina is 35-36 after the March 5 loss. With 985 career victories, he remained seven behind all-time wins leader Bob Knight. The most games the Blue Devils could win the rest of the way is nine if they were to capture the ACC tournament and NCAA Tournament titles.

--Duke and North Carolina met in the regular-season finale with the outright ACC title at stake for the sixth time in history. By winning March 5, North Carolina has won four of those matchups.

BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- Number of consecutive games Duke had won within the state of North Carolina until losing March 5 at rival North Carolina. The Blue Devils might have a few more weeks of in-state games, with the ACC tournament in Greensboro and a potential first-week assignment in the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They did the things you need to do to win a championship game." -- G Nolan Smith, on the March 5 game against North Carolina that determined the ACC regular-season champion. Duke has won only one of the last seven regular-season finales against the Tar Heels.


GAME PREVIEW: Duke heads to the ACC tournament as the No. 2 seed, with a quarterfinal game set for March 11 in Greensboro, N.C. Duke will play in the night session against the winner of No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 Miami.

POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: Duke is among the teams contending for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's likely the Blue Devils will have to win the ACC tournament to be a No. 1 seed for the second year in a row after finishing second in the ACC regular-season standings. Either way, the defending national champions are expected to be among the top contenders in the NCAA Tournament.

FUTURES MARKET: The Blue Devils suddenly don't look so invincible within the ACC, losing two of their final three regular-season games. So confidence could be an issue with Duke considering the team was such an overwhelming favorite entering the season. Duke takes the No. 2 seed into the ACC tournament, and for the first time all season, it might not be looked upon as the favorites. It's not that the Blue Devils have fallen off the radar, but this certainly creates a different impression, and the response could be a less-stressed team, or it could put more pressure on Duke to live up to its preseason billing.

--Senior G Nolan Smith had scored 30 or more points in his career four times, all coming this season. He racked up 34 points in the first meeting with North Carolina and then tallied 30 points in the March 5 rematch. His 12 free throws in the March 5 game were one short of his career high.

--Junior F Miles Plumlee grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds in the loss at North Carolina. He had six double-digit rebounding games in his career, but only two this season.

--Freshman G Kyrie Irving continues to move better, and a protective device covering his right foot and injured toe was removed at the end of the first week of March. Still, there have been no suggestions from the Duke program that Irving will play again this season, with most speculation centering on whether he'll return for the 2011-12 college season or go the professional route. The Blue Devils went 19-4 without Irving through the end of the regular season.

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