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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Duke

coach k
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Looking at the Duke COVID-19 season, there’s the before Jalen Johnson left, and there’s the after – and the after is a Duke team that is an order of magnitude better on D.

I’m drawing the line of demarcation in the 69-53 win over N.C. State this past weekend, in which Johnson played just eight minutes, ahead of announcing on Monday that he was opting out of the remainder of the season to focus on preparing for the NBA Draft.

The Blue Devils (9-8, 7-6 ACC) then went out and dominated Wake Forest in an 84-60 final on Wednesday that featured gobs of garbage time – Duke led by as many as 29 midway through the second half.

What’s noticeably different about the way Duke has played over the past week has been on the defensive end.

For the season, Duke ranks 84th in defensive efficiency, per, but in its wins over State and Wake, the Blue Devils have allowed 56.5 points per game – 15 points below their opponents’ season average – and they held the Wolfpack and Demon Deacons to 42.2 percent shooting – opponents are shooting 46.4 percent on the season against Duke.

Is this a matter of addition by subtraction? Perhaps.

Johnson, per Synergy Sports, ranks as a “below average” defender, allowing opponents 0.963 points per possession.

But the guy getting the minutes that had been going to Johnson ahead of Johnson’s departure, and then started in Johnson’s place in the Wake game – 7’0” freshman Mark Williams – actually rates as “poor” per Synergy, allowing opponents 1.130 points per possession.

Maybe the past couple of efforts from Duke are, well, they did involve N.C. State and Wake Forest, who are a combined 8-18 in ACC play.

State and Wake will make a lot of teams look good on D.

Now that I’ve taken the piss out of the argument that I was trying to make about Duke being better on D, let’s get to the breakdowns.

Breakdown: Rotation guys

Stats from

  • 6’9” sophomore Matthew Hurt: 18.3 ppg, 6.4 rebs/g, 55.8% FG, 45.5% 3FG, 132.6 ORtg, 105.7 DRtg
  • 6’2” freshman D.J. Steward: 13.2 ppg, 4.4 rebs/g, 45.3% FG, 36.1% 3FG, 111.2 ORtg, 105.2 DRtg
  • 6’5” sophomore Wendell Moore: 9.6 ppg, 4.4 rebs/g, 41.8% FG, 29.4% 3FG, 102.9 ORtg, 105.5 DRtg
  • 6’1” freshman Jeremy Roach: 8.8 ppg, 44.2% FG, 24.6% 3FG, 100.9 ORtg, 108.9 DRtg
  • 6’2” senior Jordan Goldwire: 6.4 ppg, 3.6 assists/g, 40.0% FG, 31.6% 3FG, 109.7 ORtg, 101.5 DRtg
  • 7’0” freshman Mark Williams: 4.0 ppg, 3.4 rebs/g, 56.3% FG, 114.6 ORtg, 97.6 DRtg
  • 6’8” freshman Jaemyn Brakefield: 3.9 ppg, 44.0% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 116.8 ORtg, 103.2 DRtg
  • 6’6” junior Joey Baker: 3.2 ppg, 34.0% 3FG, 34.2% 3FG, 84.2 ORtg, 106.1 DRtg

Breakdown: Offense

Efficiency numbers from Synergy Sports.

Spot-ups: 29.1 percent of offensive possessions

Synergy rates Duke “good” on spot-ups – shooting 36.8 percent with 0.920 PPP.

Who to watch for: Hurt (27-of-57, 47.4%, 1.224 PPP, Goldwire (13-of-34, 38.2%, 0.972 PPP), Steward (28-of-79, 35.4%, 0.909 PPP).

Inside game (post-ups, lane cuts and stickbacks): 22.1 percent of the offensive possessions

Duke rates “excellent” on post-ups (1.119 PPP) and lane cuts (1.411 PPP).

Who to watch for: Hurt (33-of-46, 71.7%, 1.345 PPP on post-ups, 7-of-11, 63.6%, 1.231 PPP on offensive rebounds, 7-of-11, 63.6%, 1.143 PPP on lane cuts), Williams (7-of-11, 63.6%, 1.364 PPP on lane cuts, 11-of-21, 52.4%, 0.923 PPP on post-ups), Moore (9-of-12, 75.0%, 1.400 PPP on lane cuts).

Transition: 18.3 percent of offensive possessions

Duke is “good” here: 1.036 PPP.

Who to watch for: Hurt (18-of-27, 66.7%, 1.455 PPP), Steward (20-of-33, 60.6%, 1.190 PPP), Moore (16-of-30, 53.3%, 1.053 PPP).

Pick-and-rolls: 13.1 percent of offensive possessions

“Below average” on P&R ball-handler (0.701 PPP) and “average” on P&R man (0.944 PPP).

Who to watch for: Roach (11-of-22, 50.0%, 20.0% TO rate, 0.933 PPP in P&R ball-handler), Steward (9-of-19, 47.4%, 31.0% TO rate, 0.793 PPP in P&R ball-handler), Hurt (10-of-26, 38.5%, 0.889 PPP in P&R man).

Breakdown: Defense

Efficiency numbers from Synergy Sports.

Synergy rates four Duke defenders “very good” – Moore (0.732 PPP), Goldwire (0.755 PPP), and Baker and Brakefield (both at 0.784 PPP).

Hurt (0.839 PPP) and Steward (0.854 PPP) are “average.”

Roach (1.008 PPP) is “below average.” Williams (1.130 PPP) is “poor.”


Hurt is a tough matchup for anybody – so good on spot-ups, in the post.

Hurt against Sam Hauser (14.8 ppg, 50.7% FG, 43.7% 3FG, 1.25 PPP off screens, 1.200 PPP on lane cuts, 1.167 PPP on post-ups, 1.165 PPP on spot-ups) should be a fun watch.

According to Twitter, teams like to try to attack Jay Huff (12.9 ppg, 6.5 rebs/g, 61.4% FG, 44.8% 3FG) to get him in foul trouble.

You may see Duke try to go early to Williams in the post to achieve that. Would’ve been easier if Johnson had been around.

It will be interesting to see what Mike Krzyzewski dials up defensively with a couple of days to study what Florida State was able to do to get Virginia out of its offensive rhythm on Big Monday.

Leonard Hamilton used ball pressure and had his off-ball defenders overplaying passing lanes, basically using Tony Bennett’s mover-blocker against itself by clogging things up.

Bennett adjusted at halftime, going five-high to get point guard Kihei Clark (9.9 ppg, 4.6 assists/g, 44.5% FG, 29.8% 3FG) space to create, but it was too little, too late – FSU led by 20 at the half, and after a UVA burst cut the margin to seven, the ‘Hoos ran out of steam.

Duke doesn’t necessarily have what FSU has in terms of athleticism, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach K try to go with something similar to what Hamilton employed, because sitting back and letting Virginia pick you apart from the perimeter (the ‘Hoos lead the ACC and is eight nationally from three, shooting 39.8 percent) isn’t going to work.

At a glance

Efficiency data from

  • Offense: Duke 116.1 (16), Virginia 116.2 (14)
  • Defense: Duke 97.2 (84), Virginia 91.7 (23)
  • Tempo: Duke 68.7 (158), Virginia 59.7 (357)


#7 Virginia (15-4, 11-2 ACC) at Duke (9-8, 7-6 ACC)
Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN

  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +3, 62.9% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Virginia 66-64, 58% win probability
  • KenPom: Virginia 67-66, 54% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

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