PREVIEW: Duke (4-1) v. Yale (3-1)

The Blue Devils return home on Wednesday to host the Yale Bulldogs in a pre-Thanksgiving contest that could result in Coach K's 950th win at Duke.

YALE BULLDOGS
3-1 Overall, 0-0 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

G- 11 Makai Mason (20.0 ppg, 4.3 apg)
G- 21 Nick Victor (4.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
G- 04 Jack Montague (15.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
F- 22 Justin Sears (16.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
F- 35 Brandon Sherrod (11.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

College basketball is a guard’s game more often than not and the Bulldogs have a dynamite second year point guard in Makai Mason who is coming off a 24 point performance against SMU in Yale’s two point loss.   Mason took over the job this year full time and ranks second in the Ivy League in scoring and fifth in assists (4.3).  He has scored 20 or more points in three of the four games this season.

On the wing the Bulldogs are paced by senior forward Justin Sears who was his league’s player of the year a season ago.  Last week he averaged the kind of numbers that could make him a repeat honoree by the Ivy League, scoring 19.3 points per game to go along with six boards per contest in the three games scheduled.   

THE STORYLINES

BULLDOGS GOT AN EARLY START

Much as Duke did a few years ago with Dubai and China, the Bulldogs got an early start on the season by traveling to Australia in August.  Yale got several extra practices during the late summer before heading off to Melbourne and Sydney and playing four games, winning three.

The trip allowed the team to work Mason into the starting lineup, but overall the experience wasn’t a key point of the trip as Yale starts four seniors along with the sophomore.  

Off the court, the team held a clinic with Helping Hoops, an organization that brings basketball to kids who don't enjoy the same opportunities afforded to most, saw kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary, watched an Australian Rules Football game and climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

SHOULD BE ANOTHER INSTANCE OF SMALL BALL

This is one of the tallest teams in Blue Devil history, but lately Duke’s best lineup has been one that runs four guards surrounding Amile Jefferson inside.  While we’d expect Duke to start three guards along with Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, the match-up with Yale will likely trend to more small ball.  

The Bulldogs start a lineup with two 6’1 guards, two 6’5 wings, and one 6’8 center inside.  The top three reserves bring a bit more site with senior Khaliq Ghani (6’5), junior Anthony Dallier (6’6), and junior Sam Downey (6’9) filling in the Bulldog rotation. 

GIANT KILLERS

A season ago the Bulldogs showed the world that the Ivy League can play high level basketball by taking down then defending national champion Connecticut thanks to a last second three pointer by Jack Montague.  

That game - which ended 45-44 in favor of the Bulldogs - was the third straight loss for a decimated UConn lineup.  

Justin Sears had 12 point and 15 rebounds to lead Yale.  As a team the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Huskies 36-25, and held them to just one offensive rebound, while grabbing 13 of their own.

Notebook:

- Duke’s victory over Georgetown in the 2K Classic gave the Blue Devils an eighth preseason tournament championship in the last nine years. 

- Should Duke avoid an upset, a win over Yale would give Coach K 950 wins as the head coach of the Blue Devils. 

- Duke has won 281 of its last 300 games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and is 97-4 (.960) at home this decade.  The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 118 consecutive non-conference home games, a streak that started in November 2000. 

- Mike Krzyzewski owns a 1,022-311 record over 40-plus seasons as a head coach, including a 949-252 mark at Duke (35-plus seasons).

- Led by Grayson Allen’s ACC-leading average of 24.4 points per game, four Duke players are averaging double figures and the Blue Devils lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (118.0).

- In two games with freshman point guard Derryck Thornton in the starting lineup, Duke has averaged 82.5 points and 35.0 free throw attempts per game. Thornton is averaging 16.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting from the floor as a starter.

They Said It:

"Three hellacious games in six days is a heck of a thing for our team.” - Mike Krzyzewski on his team’s early season schedule

"They're all adjusting ... We're a good team. We hope to be a really good team, but we're not this juggernaut." - Krzyzewski on his freshman class’ adjustment to college basketball

The Prediction

The Bulldogs represent a double edged sword of sorts for Duke.  For starters Yale isn’t as good as VCU or Georgetown, and certainly not Kentucky.  And yet this opponent is good enough (and has enough experience) to spring a surprise upset if Duke has any sort of letdown.  That seems somewhat unlikely, however.  Especially in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  We’d expect Grayson Allen to lead the way, but also look for Duke to attempt to get a jump start for Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard.  Both freshmen have struggled mightily over the last week, and each will be crucial if Duke is to reach its potential this season.   

The pick…

Duke - 84
Yale - 71


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