Case Study: Duke’s success continues

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Tonight, Duke plays Virginia Tech in what’s predicted to be a blowout. Under coach Mike Krzyzewski, No. 4 Duke has been a mainstay in college basketball for decades. They’re in it every year, with a storied program that built success from the top down. To stay at the top this long, they’ve had to make adjustments, so let’s take a look at the 2015 Duke Blue Devils.

The story of this Duke team begins with soft-spoken superstar, Jahlil Okafor. This freshman center has absolutely dominated this season, with Coach K even commenting that he is unlike any player he has ever coached. His effect on the court is amazing, as every possession flows through him. He’s a black hole in the paint, freeing up the outside and allowing them to put three or even four great shooters around the arc. Okafor has been averaging an amazing 17.7 points per game, shooting 64 percent. His scoring proficiency, an unusual threat for a center, is the keystone of the Duke offense. Though he may be gone after this season, Okafor is a major reason the Blue Devils have a shot at the bringing home the championship.

Another major reason for Duke’s offensive success is senior guard Quinn Cook, who’s been averaging 15.5 points per game. With an average of 40.7 percent from beyond the three point arc, Cook helps stretch opposing defenses, and gives Okafor room to work. The outside help doesn’t stop at Cook though, as both freshmen Justin Winslow and Tyus Jones average more than 11 points a game with 40 percent three point shooting. These young shooters combined with Okafor’s inside presence make Duke’s offense one of the hardest to defend.

On defense, Duke struggled early. After the first few weeks of January, they shifted to a primarily 2-3 zone defense. This defense, while more traditional, allows them to rely on the strong rebounding ability of their inside players, namely junior Amile Jefferson and – I know you’re tired of hearing about him – Okafor. With a combined 15.8 rebounds per game, these two starters lock down the paint and keep the boards in Duke’s favor.

While a lot of Duke’s strength this year can be attributed to its elite players, there is no doubt that the consistency is due to the magnificent coaching of Coach K and the staff he’s built around him. While there are many questions about whether Duke can win it all this March, there’s no doubt that we’ll be talking about this team for years to come.

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