Duke Needs Balance In Finals

In the first two games of the ACC Tournament the Blue Devils have not been overly sharp on the offensive end of the court. That will have to change if Duke is going to win a ninth ACC Tournament in the last 12 seasons.

Duke has endured some shaky times in winning two games in the ACC tournament, but the Blue Devils have made enough plays in clutch situations to come out on top. Forward Kyle Singler emerged as to the go-to player in victories against Virginia and Miami.

The top-seeded and defending champion Blue Devils will take on seventh-seeded Georgia Tech in Sunday's tournament final. The teams split during the regular season, both winning at home. With the tournament in Greensboro, N.C., and many fans from other schools already departed, there's a chance that the arena is bustling with Duke fans for the title game.

Duke has done a good job of sharing the ball for most of the season, particularly with registering 16 assists on 26 baskets against Miami. The Blue Devils probably will need to keep that trend going in order to carve into Georgia Tech's defense.

While there have been sluggish stretches for Duke in the first two tournament games -- and coach Mike Krzyzewski picked up a technical foul during the first half of Saturday's game against Miami after giving a major scolding to his team during the first half of the game a day earlier -- the Blue Devils ought to be on full alert for the title game. Duke takes pride in winning eight of the last 11 ACC Tournament crowns.

DUKE 77, MIAMI 74: Duke trailed by three points at halftime after leading by double digits, but the Blue Devils attacked Miami's zone better during the final 20 minutes in Greensboro, N.C. Kyle Singler made five 3-pointers, including a couple to start a big second-half spurt, to finish with 27 points to go with six assists as the Blue Devils pulled away to a 16-point lead and then held on.


--F Kyle Singler's 27 points in the ACC Tournament semifinals marked his second-highest point total of the season against an ACC opponent. The only more productive game came with 30 points in a victory against Georgia Tech, which is Duke's opponent in Sunday's final.

--C Brian Zoubek made 5 of 6 free throws against Miami in Saturday's ACC Tournament semifinals. That marked the most made free throws of the season for the senior center, who hadn't taken any free-throw attempts in the previous four games. He's about a 60-percent shooter on foul shots for his career.

--C Jon Scheyer has been slow to get untracked offensively in some recent games. He made only one shot from the field and uncharacteristically missed back-to-back free throws in the first half against Miami. But he made 3 of 6 second-half shots from the field and finished with 16 points.

--The Blue Devils do not want to accept an ACC regular-season title as their defining achievement. "We're not finished," senior forward Lance Thomas said. That tends to be the theme around the Blue Devils, who have had postseason shortcomings in recent years.

"We've got a lot left to do," senior guard Jon Scheyer said.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski calls this Duke team a "very good team" but always stops short of making reference to a great team.

--The Blue Devils won 13 conference games in the regular season, giving them 13 or more ACC wins three times in a five-year stretch. But it was the first time they won at least a share of the regular-season title since the 2005-06 season. There hadn't been a three-year drought for Duke since a four-year span (1987-90).

ON THE SPOT: Constant questions about Duke's depth and the large amount of playing time for its key trio of players might be put to test in the ACC tournament. Duke could be required to play three games in three days if it advances to the final. The Blue Devils have had several tough turnarounds this season (two games in three days), but they haven't played on back-to-back days since opening the season by defeating Coastal Carolina and Charlotte in home games as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Coach Mike Krzyzewski dismisses concern about fatigue, saying properly monitoring the duration and intensity of practices is the way to keep players fresh.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never go into a game thinking you're going to blow out somebody like that." -- G Jon Scheyer, on Duke's 82-50 victory against North Carolina to end the season. That was the largest margin of victory for the Blue Devils on their home court against North Carolina in the history of the storied series.


SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils wrapped up a share of the regular-season title in the ACC by winning nine of their final 10 games. Duke is in the mix of teams bound to be considered for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils improved to 27-5 record with a ACC tournament quarterfinal win over Virginia.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Brian Zoubek, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- F Miles Plumlee, F Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, G Andre Dawkins.


  • Duke 67, Virginia 49
  • Maryland 79, Duke 72
  • Duke 82, North Carolina 50
  • Duke 57, Virginia 46 (ACC tournament quarterfinals)
  • Duke 77, Miami 74 (ACC tournament semifinals)
  • vs. Georgia Tech, Sunday, March 14 (ACC tournament finals)

POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The Blue Devils are a strong contender for a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament. If they win the ACC Tournament on Sunday, their chances of a No. 1 seed are strengthened. If there has been a downside to the ACC Tournament it's that the Blue Devils won't have faced a team that finished in the top half of the league so their power rating might take a slight hit. Yet their 28-5 record going into the tournament final ought to give them plenty of credibility.


--G Kyle Singler made 50 percent or more of his shots from the field for only the second time in the last 10 games when he shot 7-for-14 against Virginia, helping him to a team-high 18 points in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. He has been the Blue Devils' high scorer in four of the last six games, and his 11 rebounds gave him the team's high mark in that category for the first time in six games -- or since a victory at Miami. And that's Duke's ACC tournament semifinal opponent.

--G Nolan Smith has tailed off on 3-point shooting, going a combined 5-for-19 in the past five games. The next opponent is Miami, and in the only meeting this season against the Hurricanes, Smith hit a career-high 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range.

--C Brian Zoubek picked up two early fouls and played only five first-half minutes in the ACC tournament quarterfinals against Virginia. He responded with six second-half rebounds, with his seven rebounds for the game the second-most on the team despite playing only 19 total minutes.

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