The 2018-19 Duke basketball team looks as good as any of the NCAA title contenders that came before it. With Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett leading the team as freshmen, they’ve quickly run roughshod over their opponents.
But Sports Illustrated seems to think that there is a crack in the armor of the No. 3 team in the nation.
A recent SI piece from Molly Geary pointed out that Duke’s three-point shooting and free-throw percentage are “surprisingly mortal.”
The Blue Devils are far and away the No. 1 team in kenpom.com’s efficiency rankings, but even this superteam isn’t without its faults. Duke has actually been surprisingly mortal as a team from three (it ranks 205th nationally, and while it has several capable shooters, no individual is above 38%) and at the free-throw line, and some of the defenses ahead on the schedule are much tougher than many of the ones it has already faced. The Blue Devils are so talented that an off perimeter night isn’t going to cost them against most opponents—not when R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Co. can get out in transition and power their way to the rim as well as they do. Gonzaga was able to win because it held Duke to 44.1% shooting inside the arc, the only time through 10 games that the Blue Devils failed to hit at least 55% of their twos … and by limiting Duke’s looks on the perimeter, where it attempted a season-low 13 threes. (O.K., and the Zags shot 52% from the floor themselves.) Simple, right?
Despite their struggles from the line and on three-point tries, the Blue Devils have still dominated the court.
In nine of its 10 games, Duke has scored at least 80 points. The team has scored at least 90 points in six of their games – all wins.
The Blue Devils have yet to play a road game at a non-neutral venue, and won’t do so at all until January 8 against Wake Forest.