Duke has won its last four contests after giving up 96 points in disappointing fashion over in Raleigh. They made it through Phase II with a 5-1 record including big wins over FSU and at Miami.

Health Ė Bolden has not played in the last 5 games with a grade 1 MCL sprain. DeLaurier missed three game last phase with a hamstring injury. Bagley suffered a separated should vs. Miami but apparently popped it back in himself. Missing Bolden and DeLaurier has caused Duke to both play smaller and to play Carter and Bagley more minutes to share the workload. Hereís hoping the team doesnít have any more missed games the next 75 or so days.

Defense Ė Coach K seems to have his teamís attention with regard to defensive effort, but it remains to be seen whether they can execute for long stretches and avoid slow starts, sloppiness and foul trouble. During the last phase they gave up 96 points in a loss to State and 93 points in a win vs FSU. They basically got into up and down games both times and tried to outscore the opponent rather than lock down on D to feed the offense.

The good news is the last 10 minutes vs. Miami, Duke gave up only 16 points and got a lot of stops for come from behind win. Duke sits at #82 in the country for defensive efficiency on KenPom after starting this phase at #70. The focus is there at times, Coach K is rotating defense some, but focus wanes and lots of opponents are getting into the paint. I think two issues come to mind about the defense. First, starters are playing pretty heavy minutes and are young. Thatís a recipe for foul trouble. Carter and Duval have both had early foul trouble limit minutes and effectiveness. Coaches have been working on moving feet rather than reaching.

Second, playing at a faster pace has led to other teams running with us and getting more efficient shots in transition. I donít know that we slow down, but hustling back on D and chasing shooters off the 3 point line will help on the margins, as well as avoiding live ball turnovers on offense that allow for run outs. At the end of the day, I expect Coach K will continue to rotate defenses, probably spend a lot of time on it in practice in the hopes of a March run. This team can outscore anybody. But that leaves little margin for error. If the defense can start games with the same energy it seemed to close out vs Miami, Texas, Florida, FSU then things will click. We have a ways to go and I think the starters have to just make up their collective minds to do it.

Bagley Ė We are going to see defensive schemes aimed at pushing Bagley further out, draping a second defender on him and even playing him really physically. How will Duke adjust and still run a lot of offense through Marvin? What wrinkles can Coach K add?

A faster pace will help Bagley get touches before the defense is set. But in the half court, K will need to run a few schemes for Bagley. He can use baseline screens to have Bagley pop up on the opposite block for a quick pass. He can use 3 point shooters as decoys for lobs and driving lanes. Coach K can also use Bagley as a decoy to open up the late or swing the ball around for 3ís. I expect defenses to go after Bagley and Allen, but we have run more of the offense through Marvin to date so itís more likely the team will run some plays to counter the D.

Duval Ė Duval is averaging 12 points and 6 assists. His shot has fallen a little more the last few weeks. His assist to turnover ratio is 118:49 or 2.40:1. He seems to recognize when he has mismatch and can get to the rim quickly. I think Bagley and Allen are going to be our 1-2 punch; but if this team is going to make the big leap and a title run, the Duval is the guy. He can be the quickest and fastest guy on both ends of the court. If he gets hot defensively, we are on another level.

Offensive Rebounding Ė I have our offensive rebounding percentage at 45.977%. (280 o rebs / 609 missed FGís). Thatís good right!?

3-Point Shooting Ė Allen is shooting .389 from 3-land on 126 attempts (6.6 per game). Trent is shooting .432 on 118 attempts (6.2 per game). Carter has shot well, and Bagley and Dual have hit here and there. If Allen breaks out of his current slump (11-42 this phase, 26%) then the team can put teams away. If both Allen and Trent finish this season over .400, then we should be happy.

Maturity - The comeback wins make this less of an issue. Our young squad has fought back from double digit 2nd half deficits vs Texas, Florida, Miami and a more moderate deficit vs FSU. But they also played ole defense and got out-worked by BC and State, two out-classed opponents. We are getting to the point in the season where they should know how to take care of business. They have to put lesser teams away. I will be looking for growth in that department.