PREVIEW: (Duke 8-1) v. Georgia Southern (3-4)

An all of a sudden weaker Blue Devil squad will return from an extended break to face Georgia Southern on Tuesday evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES

3-4 Overall, 0-0 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

G- 04 Tookie Brown (14.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G- 03 Ike Smith (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
G- 02 Mike Hughes (10.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
F- 00 Montae Glenn (6.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
G- 01 Devonte Boykins (7.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

Georgia product Tookie Brown came out of high school after scoring more than 3,000 points and a couple of SEC offers.  He elected to stay home and play for the Eagles, and has been an immediate impact at that level.   Brown leads the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game, though he’s been a bit of a volume shooter at times.  Brown leads the team in field goal attempts (73) and also field goal misses (46).  Where he’s made up for the somewhat pedestrian field goal percentage has been at the free throw line where he’s made more free throws (39) than any of his teammates have attempted and at an 83 percent clip.

Overall the Eagles aren’t an overly big team, starting four guards around 6’8 forward Montae Glenn who plays only 16.4 minutes per game, but averages 4.7 boards in that short amount of time.   

THE STORYLINES

TIME TO EVOLVE

The news broke on Monday that Duke would be without senior forward Amile Jefferson for an indefinite amount of time after the senior suffered a foot injury.  The loss of Jefferson leaves Duke without it’s best interior scorer, best rebounder, and best post defender.   

In short, it’s a massive loss for a young team with a lot of height, but just as many questions.  Jefferson leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally with an average of 4.8 offensive boards per game. He ranks 11th nationally in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 17.9 of Duke’s misses while on the floor.

So what’s it mean?

Most likely it means freshman Brandon Ingram will likely move to the power forward alongside Marshall Plumlee.  Duke will then likely start point guard Derryck Thornton, Jr. along with Matt Jones and Grayson Allen as the off guards.  It’s a lineup has a lot of offensive potential, but just as many questions on defense.  At least at this point.  

The loss of Jefferson also means Duke will need to see more contribution (and award more minutes) to Chase Jeter and then at least one of Sean Obi or Antonio Vrankovic off the bench and in the post.  

WARM UP BEFORE THE NEXT TEST

Duke’s going to beat Georgia Southern barring the biggest upset in the last 20 years in college basketball.  But how the Blue Devils go about it will be interesting, especially with Utah waiting in New York later this week.   

The Utes feature one of college basketball’s best big men and though they’ve struggled at times this year, are perfectly capable of causing all manner of problems for a fully healthy Duke team, and that’s not who they’ll be facing with Jefferson out.   So what will Coach K and company do with Jeter?  Obi?  Vrankovic?  How will the rotation evolve with only six players who have played in every game this season?  

Aside from Jeter stepping in, Duke will need a lot more from Luke Kennard who will get additional minutes and opportunities.  

Notebook:

- Duke has a +86-point scoring margin in the second half of games this season, translating to an average margin of +9.6 points per game after the break. The Blue Devils have outscored eight of their nine opponents after halftime.

- Duke is averaging 5.8 blocks per game in 2015- 16 after swatting just 3.8 per game a year ago, thanks to Marshall Plumlee and his team-leading 2.0 blocks per game (60th nationally).

- Paced by Grayson Allen’s 58-of-64 effort from the line, Duke ranks 26th nationally in free throws made and 31st nationally in free throw attempts. The Blue Devils’ 181 made free throws on the season are the eighth-most among major conference teams. 

- Duke has a 46.8 free throw rate on the year, which measures how often a team scores from the line as opposed to the field. The Blue Devils were at 39.8 percent a year ago, marking a 7.0 percent increase in free throw production this season.

- Duke currently leads the nation in adjusted offensive efficieny (points scored per 100 possessions) at 120.3.  The Blue Devils have finished in the nation’s top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency in each of the last seven years, the only team in the nation to do so.

- Duke has been ranked in the AP Poll an NCAA- best 160 straight weeks.

They Said It:

''We're the youngest team in the country, and so it's hard to put these guys in this but when you put them in a situation like this, they're going to learn from it.'' - Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington

“I believe we scheduled to accelerate our team’s growth, and I hope we are up to playing this demanding schedule.” - Byington on his team’s schedule

The Prediction

Much like the game against Buffalo, the Blue Devils are going to win on Tuesday and there won’t be a lot of drama.   But there will be questions.  We look for Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram to get a lot of looks and to score often as the Eagles don’t have much to match up to either.  We’d also look for Matt Jones to spend some time at the power forward position (for lack of a better term) and we’d look for Jeter to play around 15 minutes.  With the rust of the 10 day layoff building up, we look for Duke to grind out the first half before a few spurts of offense put the game away

Duke - 83
Georgia Southern - 61


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