Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Need Inside Presence

By Gregory Philson
Jabari Parker
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Duke basketball’s problem has always been evident on paper this season. The Blue Devils do not have any size and that lack of a big was exposed by Arizona in the Wildcats’ 72-66 victory in the NIT Season Tip-off Championship, Friday.

Duke’s lack of a proper post player was never more apparent than in the final minutes. The Blue Devils, trailing and needing a quick two points, could not move the ball effectively inside. Jabari ParkerRasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook had nowhere to go and had to settle for awkward jumpers or contested drives.

This was made even more difficult with Nick Johnson‘s ever-increasing defensive presence. Johnson — who only stands at 6-foot-3 — altered several shots and made a huge block on a driving Cook with less than a minute to play. Despite Johnson’s height, he was still able to control the post area. Arizona recorded eight blocks. This obviously has to be a concern for Duke going forward.

Offensively, Arizona was able to drive the paint all night and out-rebounded the Devils 36-28. Sophomore Brandon Ashley recorded 13 points and was one of five Wildcats in double figures. Considering Arizona only made five 3-pointers, the rest of the points were scored closer to the basket or on foul shots earned by attacking the hoop. Arizona out-made Duke at the charity stripe 21-to-12. Arizona is definitely a bad matchup because of the team’s overall length and size, but the loss to the Wildcats clearly shows Duke will have its problems when it faces bigger teams in the ACCPittsburgh with Talib ZannaNorth Carolina with Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks and Florida State‘s frontline of Okaro WhiteMontay Brandon and Boris Bojanovsky should be able to take advantage of their size and strength.

Duke outmatches most teams on the wings and in the break, but when the game slows to a half-court possession-by-possession affair, coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s Blue Devils will have to figure out a way to either post Parker more or develop a spread-them-out offense where post defenders are forced to come outside. Duke is still extremely talented, but if the Blue Devils want to be standing in April, they will need to develop more of an inside game.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.
Related: ACC Basketball: North Carolina Must Focus vs. UAB

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