Blue Devil Offense Missing Crucial Piece

While the Blue Devils have managed to reel off nine straight victories since falling to Michigan in early December, many onlookers and fans have noticed that the Duke has been far better on the defensive end of the floor. The missing piece on the offensive end may very well be Jon Scheyer.

The 6-foot-5 junior swingman started the season off as, perhaps, Duke's most efficient offensive player - shooting 46% from the field and 41% from the perimeter. Over the last four games - all Duke wins - however, Scheyer has struggled on the offensive end of the floor shooting just 7-of-33 from floor (21.2%) and 4-of-17 from the perimeter (23.5%). Scheyer is still scoring at a respectable rate of 9.3 points per contest, but it's a marked drop off from the 14.4 average of the first 14 games.

Not surprisingly the Duke offense has slowed in those four games averaging 71.3 points - down from 82.6 points per game in the first 14 games of the year. Certainly the team has clamped down on the defensive side of the ball - holding teams to 59.3 points per contest, but as the season wares on and fatigue begins to set in it will be imperative for the offense to take some pressure off the defensive end of the floor.

That process has begun with the ongoing transformation of Gerald Henderson from solid starter to potential First Team All-ACC and potential All-American. Since the turn of the year the 6-foot-4 junior has averaged 19.0 points per game, including 22.0 over the last four contests.

Similarly is the noticeable improvement of three year starter turned 6th man Greg Paulus who, after struggling to just six minutes against Florida State, has averaged 9.0 points per game while shooting 45% from the floor and 45% from the perimeter.

In a sense Scheyer's recent slump could prove to be beneficial in the long run for Duke - especially if the team has hopes of ending the program's recent troubles in March. The emergence of Paulus and Henderson coupled with the steady scoring output of Kyle Singler has been good enough for the Blue Devils to race out to a 4-0 start in the ACC. And, frankly, Scheyer is too good a player to continue to slump in such a manner.

Could the breakout come against Maryland on Saturday? Past performances certainly suggest as much. In his two plus seasons Scheyer has hit a couple of slumps. Last year it was a three game stretch that saw him shoot 6-of-26 against Pittsburgh, Cornell, and Temple - averaging just 7 points per game. As a freshman he hit five game skid against Marquette, Davidson, Indiana, and Georgetown in which he shot just 9-of-30 from the field.

In each of those seasons he rebounded with a string of strong performances (more than double his slump averages) over the next handful of games. Once that happens this season, it will give the Blue Devils one extra weapon to use on their quest for success in both the remaining half of the regular season and beyond.

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