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Clemson Basketball: Duke Preview

Duke is good at basketball.

Ameritas Insurance Classic: Texas Tech v Duke Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.

When: Saturday, January 5th, 8 P.M. EST


Duke Blue Devils

Current Record: 11-1

ACC Record: 0-0

Previous Game: 69 - 58 win over Texas Tech

Head Coach: Mike wait...Khachef.. uhm....Coach K.

Projected Starting Lineup

C - #12 Javin DeLaurier - 6’10, 234 - Jr - 5.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG

F - #1 - Zion Williamson - 6’7, 285 - Fr - 19.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 2.1 SPG

F - #2 - Cam Reddish - 6’8, 218 - Fr - 13.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.2 SPG

SG - #5 - RJ Barrett - 6’7, 202 - Fr - 23.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG

PG - #3 - Tre Jones - 6’2, 183 - Fr - 8.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2 SPG

Key Reserves

F - #41 - Jack White - 6’7, 222 - Jr -24.8 MinPG, 7.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG 1.1 SPG, 1.3 BPG

C - #20 - Marques Bolden - 6’11, 250 - Jr - 16.9 MinPG, 4.4 PPG, 2.3 BPG

G - #15 - Alex O’Connell - 6’6, 183 -So - 13.3 MinPg, 5.3 PPG, 36% 3Pt

Advanced Statistics Comparison

Kenpom Ranking

Duke - 1

Clemson - 34

Adjusted Tempo

Duke - 75.4 (12th Nationally)

Clemson - 68.6 (226)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Duke - 119.8 (2)

Clemson - 110 (46)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Duke - 86.9 (3)

Clemson - 94.1 (36)

Miscellaneous Stats

Offensive Rebounding Percentage

Duke - 40.1 (4)

Clemson - 29.9 (134)

Offensive 3 Point Percentage

Duke - 32.4 (234)

Clemson - 31.6 (260)

Block Percentage

Duke - 19.4 (2)

Clemson - 13 (48)

Steal Percentage

Duke - 15 (1)

Clemson - 10.2 (87)


Basic Set: 4 Out 1 In

Dribble Drive

RJ Barrett

This isn’t a master class in basketball. It’s basically a well organized AAU game where everyone gets a chance to drive the ball to the basket. If your big man steps up, the driver dumps the ball down for the easy dunk. No need to talk about motion, or screens, or any of that fancy stuff. This is just simple and efficient 2 man basketball.

Coach K. thinks his players can beat your players off the dribble and will run this to death unless you figure out a way to stop it. If you big man steps up, The only advice I can give is to not let Barrett get to his left hand.

Zion Williamson

Does this play look familiar? It should, because it’s the exact same set that Duke used with RJ Barrett in the above clip. The Zags defender does a nice initial job of pushing Williamson to the right, but then he lets Williamson get back to his left hand in the lane.

Again, Coach K thinks his players are better than your players and will keep things that simple if you can’t stop this set.

Tre Jones

Hey look, you get just the slightest hint of dribble hand off before Tre Jones attacks the hoop with his left hand. Like I said, it’s not complicated, it’s just hard to stop.

Clemson will have to win individual match ups against physically superior players. That’s what Duke is doing this year.

What a Stop Looks Like

Duke doesn’t run many sets. They use the high pick and roll to get their big man to the low block for rebounding, and then they try and beat you off the dribble. On this possession, the Gonzaga defender wins his individual match up and forces a pull-up, mid range jumper.

Any pull-up jumper is considered a win against Duke, even if it goes in the basket. If you make it hard for them to get to the rim, you can bait them into taking bad shots.

The trouble is, it’s hard to stop them from getting to the rim.

Offensive Rebounding

Again, pretty simple stuff. Coach K. uses their 1 in player as an offensive rebounder, and counts on their players being bigger, stronger and more athletic. As you can see on this play, he is correct in his assessment.

For Clemson to have any shot in this game, they must limit Duke on the offensive glass. It’s hard enough to get the initial stop, but getting 2 or 3 stops a possession is impossible.



This clip shows Duke at their best on defense. They have long, athletic players who make passing and dribbling difficult. When they sense weakness, they swarm the ball and then get out in transition.

What’s interesting is this Duke defense isn’t fundamentally sound, but it doesn’t matter because they make up for it with their supreme athletes. If Coach K. can get them to play smarter, they will only get better as the season progresses.

Pick and Roll

If you’re looking for a chink in the Duke armor, teams with the personnel like to put Duke’s big players into pick and rolls and hope for a mistake. On this possession, Duke traps the pick and roll, but a nifty ball fake draws the defender charged with stopping the roll man out of the lane.

If you can handle their pressure, you can use Duke’s aggressive defense against them. They are constantly looking for steals and blocks.

This is another case of Duke totally blowing the pick and roll. Two defenders pick up the roll and leave a shooter wide open for a spot up 3. This is early in the season against an excellent team, so it looks worse than it actually is, but defensive communication is something Clemson must exploit if they want a chance.

Duke wants to play simple basketball, sometimes playing simple yourself is the best way to beat them. Ball movement is great, but there are a bunch of long armed, aggressive players on Duke just looking to jump in the passing lane.

Gonzaga takes that out of the equation on this play by forcing the switch and attacking the big man off the dribble. That’s simple basketball 101 stuff. Trying to get Reed an advantageous match up to attack off the dribble will be crucial for the Tigers.


Duke has one of the most athletic collection of players ever assembled in college basketball. The good news is that they are young and don’t shoot the ball particularly well from the outside. The bad news is it usually doesn’t matter because they are physically dominant at every position and simply win one on one match-ups until you can no longer keep up.

Clemson has to keep this game in the half court, and they have to make Duke work on defense. You’re not going to out run Duke and you’re not going to physical Duke, but you just might be able to out smart them if every thing breaks exactly the right way.

I don’t think Clemson has the horses required to get this done. That’s not an insult to Clemson in any way. I’m not sure any team has the horses to get it done against Duke in Cameron this year.

KenPom: Duke 84 - Clemson 68 (93% confidence)

Drew: Duke 88 - Clemson 76