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PREVIEW: Duke (6-1) v. Indiana (5-2)

Duke will return to action at 9:30 Wednesday night against the Indiana Hoosiers as part of the 2015 ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Here's what you need to know about the match-up.

INDIANA HOOSIERS
5-2 Overall, 0-0 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

G- 01 James Blackmon, Jr. (17.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
G- 04 Robert Johnson (7.7 ppg, 4.3 apg)
G- 11 Yogi Ferrell (15.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.7 apg)
F- 05 Troy Williams (11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
C- 31 Thomas Bryant (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

LINKS: ROSTER | SCHEDULE | STATISTICS | SCOUT SITE 

STAR WATCH

The Hoosiers’ backcourt presents a lot of potential problems for Duke with starting guards Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon.  Blackmon has been the more explosive of the two guards, averaging 17 points in just 24 minutes of action per game.  He scored a career best 33 points in the Hoosier’s most recent game, a blow out of hapless Alcorn State.  That performance was good enough to bump his scoring average past his backcourt running mate.  

Meanwhile, Ferrell is the more well rounded, averaging 15 points, nearly seven assists, and and six rebounds per game.  He also leads the team in minutes at just under 32 a night.  That’s significant in that Indiana has a regular rotation of nine players averaging 8.8 minutes or more per game with eight of them averaging more than 18 minutes.

Duke will have to key in on both players, and especially Blackmon from the perimeter where he hit six of his nine attempts against Alcorn.  

THE STORYLINES

BOTH TEAMS NEED TO IMPROVE DEFENSIVELY

While the Blue Devils are one of the best offensive teams in the country, leading up to the game against Utah State, the Duke defense was a work in progress.  Certainly there were flashes of a team who could be elite on that end of the court, but for all  the length, athleticism, and ability there’s also a hefty dose of inexperience to account for.  And that inexperience was allowing teams to drive to the bucket, get easy points in the paint, and generally force the offense to be among the country’s most prolific.  

Things seemed to improved greatly against Utah State, however.  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was the best the defense had played to this point in the season.  

It’s a similar story for Indiana after the Hoosiers got exposed in a big way at the Maui Shootout last week. Sure, it was Alcorn State, but the Hoosiers did manage to limit their opponents to just 41 percent shooting while forcing 13 turnovers.  And the shooting percentage is somewhat skewed in favor of their opponents after the Hoosiers held a 20 point advantage at the half.  Shortly thereafter head coach Tom Crean went deep into his bench.

The key for the Blue Devils will be forcing turnovers - something Indiana may be helpful with.  Prior to the last game the Hoosiers had committed an average of 17 turnovers per game, which allowed opponents to get all manner of transition and otherwise easy buckets.  That trend continued against Alcorn with IU committing 12 turnovers (resulting in 18 points for their opponents), but at least the overall frequency of the mistakes was lowered.

DUKE CAN OWN THE PAINT

The Hoosiers have Thomas Bryant, a 6-foot-10, 245 pound freshman that is learning on the job early on.  The former McDonalds All-American and No. 33 overall player in the class of 2015 according to Scout has shown flashes of potential and is the starter in the middle, but he’s struggled on the defensive side of the court and can get caught out of position (he’s averaging 4.5 fouls per game over 40 minutes).  Still, around the rim he’s very efficient and is shooting over 70 percent on the season from the field (though he’s just 1-of-6 from the outside) and 60 percent from the charity stripe.  

Bryant’s potential and youth are a microcosm of the issues facing the Hoosiers on the interior according to Crean.

"Outside of Collin Hartman, who's playing a bit undersized, we're playing with a brand new front line. I don't know how many are picking up on that but that actually is a fact."

Duke will counter with seniors Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, both of whom should be able to challenge Bryant on the defensive end.  The Blue Devils are also hoping to get more time for their own freshman McDonald’s alum, Chase Jeter.

“We have to get Chase [Jeter] more experience,” Krzyzewski said after Utah State.  “Derek [Thornton] and Luke [Kennard] are starters, too. Chase is building up that.” 

INDIANA MIGHT NEED TO MAKE HISTORY

The Hoosiers are certainly good enough to have a good showing once conference play begins, but so far they’ve struggled in their out of conference games…at least the ones that could matter to the tournament selection committee come March.  Indiana lost to Wake Forest and UNLV in Maui, but did beat St. John’s.  Aside from the game against Duke, the only other “name” out of conference opponent is Notre Dame.  

Those losses tossed the Hoosiers from the rankings, and will be walking into a place where 119 straight non-ACC opponents have lost.  Still, the Hoosiers have the backcourt experience and fire power to make this not only a game, but a dangerous game for a young Blue Devil squad.  

Notebook:

- Duke leads the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at 118.3 points per 100 possessions, while Indiana ranks seventh at 114.6. 

- The Blue Devils are 14-2 in 16 Challenge games, marking both the most wins and best winning percentage (.875) of any team in the event. Duke is 6-0 at home in Challenge play. 

- Grayson Allen’s average of 22.6 points per game is the highest in the nation by a player in the six major college basketball conferences. Allen’s five games of 20 or more points are the most in the ACC this season. 

- Amile Jefferson ranks third nationally in offensive rebounds per game (5.1) to lead a Duke squad that has a 39.4 offensive rebound percentage and averages 15.6 second-chance points per game.

- Behind a combined 7.6 offensive rebounds per game from Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, Duke is rebounding 39.3 percent of its own misses to rank 22nd nationally in offensive rebound percentage.

- Duke has been ranked in the AP Poll an NCAA- best 159 straight weeks.

They Said It:

“They drive to the rim. They get fouled. They have inside-outside attacks. They really, really want to get fouled.” - Tom Crean on Duke’s offense.

“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble with being ready to play a game like that. It’s more making sure we understand the personnel, understand what they want to do, and understand how best we want to attack that and try to keep as accurate and we want to play fast, but we can’t play reckless. You can’t play reckless against anybody and give the ball away, and you certainly can’t do it there.” - Crean on his team’s approach.

“Wednesday is definitely a huge opportunity for us.” - James Blackmon, Jr.

The Prediction

This game has all the makings of a shootout.  Two teams with offenses that are well ahead of their respective defenses.  A nationally televised game and a two of college basketball’s most storied programs.  Both squads have learned lessons, but Duke seems to have progressed the furthest on the defensive end of the floor.  We’d look for Duke to be in a battle before pulling away over the last eight minutes.  The pick…   

Duke - 86
Indiana - 78


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