PREVIEW: Duke (14-2) v. Clemson (10-6)

The Blue Devils go back on the road for the third time in four conference games to face a red hot Clemson team that is looking to defeat ranked opponents in back to back games for the first time since 1989

CLEMSON TIGERS

10-6 Overall, 3-1 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

G- 12 Avry Holmes (10.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
G- 20 Jordan Roper (9.1 ppg, 4.0 apg)
F- 15 Donte Grantham (9.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
F- 05 Jaron Blossomgame (15.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
C- 35 Landry Nnoko (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

Fourth year junior Jared Blossomgame leads the Tigers in both points and rebounds per game and will likely be the top priority on the Duke scouting report.  In four ACC games the 6-foot-8 forward has averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds as the Tigers have won three of four including three straight.  As with his likely match-up, Brandon Ingram, Blossomgame can hit the perimeter shot (shooting 38 percent from long range), and can’t be lost when the defense looks to collapse into the lane.  

A season ago Blossomgame played with a sprained ankle against Duke and was the only player on the roster to hit double figures as the Tigers lost 78-56.

THE STORYLINES

DON’T GET LOST ON THE LINE

While Blossomgame can score on the interior or the perimeter, the majority of the Tigers begin their offense on the perimeter.  Led by Avry Holmes (42 percent), Donte Grantham (36 percent), and Jordan Roper (35 percent), Clemson averages 22.3 three point attempts per game.  And they shoot a decent percentage, hitting 36 percent as a team.  

Holmes in particular has been very strong of late, scoring in double figures in eight of the last 10 games.  

It’s the same on Duke’s side of the court, though the Blue Devils shoot better as a team (38 percent) and make more per game (8.4 made 3-pointers). 

HISTORY NOT ON THEIR SIDE

The Tigers pulled off an upset over nationally ranked Louisville in their last game out, beating the Cardinals by four.   Next up will be the Blue Devils who enter the game ranked ninth and sixth in the two national polls.  If Clemson can pull off a second upset, it would be the first time since 1989 the program has defeated nationally ranked opponents in back-to-back games.  

However…

Clemson has won 10 games against Duke in which the Blue Devils were ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams.   The last time came in 2009 when Duke was smashed in Death Valley by 27.

PLUMLEE CONTINUES CAREER BEST PLAY

In back to back games Marshall Plumlee has set new career highs in scoring.  He’s doing it in a supremely efficient manner as well.  Over the last two games the senior has missed only one field goal attempts and one free throw.  The performances have caught the attention of many including head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who offered some insight into his center’s play.

“Before we started conference play Marshall made a change in how he leads. He was leading mostly by example before then and very well, since the conference has started he has totally vested in leading the team. Some of the things that we are doing offensively, places him in a position where he can be more productive.”

Notebook:

- Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to a 109-48 (.694) in ACC road games.

- Duke averages 8.4 three-pointers per game, good for third in the ACC, and shoots .384 from beyond the arc as a team. Matt Jones ranks fifth in the ACC in three-pointers per game (2.6).

- Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (121.4) and fourth in the NCAA in scoring offense (88.1).  

- Duke leads the ACC and ranks 14th nationally with an average of 5.9 blocks per game as Marshall Plumlee is averaging a career-best 1.9 per contest.

- Grayson Allen has scored in double figures in 14 of 16 games this season. Duke is 18-0 in his career when he scores in double figures. His average of 6.9 free throw attempts per game ranks third in the ACC.

- Brandon Ingram has been named ACC Rookie of the Week each of the last two weeks. Since Dec. 15, Ingram has averaged 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting .500 from the floor.

They Said It:

“Hopefully our fans will turn out Wednesday,” Brownell said. “Hopefully we’re celebrating a national championship, Dabo’s bringing the trophy to half court. Heck, if he’s undefeated, maybe I’ll let him coach the game.” - Brad Brownell

The Prediction

It’s another game that has “danger” written all over it.  Duke goes to a venue where wins are never easy and will play a team that has the ability to make up ground or keep opponents at bay because of their ability on the perimeter.  And the Tigers are coming off three straight ACC wins over Florida State, Syracuse, and Louisville.  It may very well be the toughest combination of opponent and environment this young team has seen to date.  Of course this is the same Clemson team that has losses to Mass (by 17), Rutgers (By 18), Alabama (by 1), South Carolina, and Georgia (by 23).  In short, it’s a mixed bag for the Tigers prior to this most recent win streak.  We look for an even game before a Duke run provides a little bit of breathing room for Duke.  Clemson will make a late run, but we look for a steady diet of Kennard and Allen living at the free throw line to pull out the win.

Duke - 78
Clemson - 72


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