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BDN previews Duke at Georgia Tech

Pic courtesy of my pal Lance King of Lance Images

The Blue Devils (3-7, 1-5 ACC) travel to Atlanta to take on the defending ACC Champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-5, 3-4 ACC) on Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 PM ET and will be broadcast on ESPN3. Duke is looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Boston College, while the Jackets look to snap a 3 game losing streak and secure bowl eligibility.

DUKE IN WEEK 11
The Blue Devils fell to Boston College, 21-16 last Saturday in Wallace Wake Stadium, as Duke’s late 4th quarter drive came up 4 yards short in the final minute. The Duke defense yielded 103 yards and a touchdown to the ACC’s leading rusher, Montel Harris, but it was the 230 yards and 2 touchdowns for freshman Chase Rettig that made the difference. The Blue Devils’ offense failed to find the end zone all day, and the Duke running game was completely shut down by the Eagles’ defense. Duke’s lone touchdown came early in the 4th quarter, as Walt Canty forced a fumble by Montel Harris at the 5 yard line, which was recovered by August Campbell and returned 95 yards for the score. It proved to be too little, too late, as Luke Kuechly and the Boston College came away with the victory.

GEORGIA TECH IN WEEK 11
The Ramblin’ Wreck dropped a 35-10 decision to the Miami Hurricanes last Saturday in Atlanta. Tevin Washington made his first start for the Yellow Jackets in place of the injured Josh Nesbitt and threw for 101 yards and led the team in rushing with 122 yards. The Jackets’ only touchdown came on a 22 yard pass to WR Kevin Cone in the 3rd quarter. The Hurricanes’ offense, led by freshman Stephen Morris, put up 5 touchdowns and over 500 total yards on the Georgia Tech defense, including 4 rushing touchdowns and a 79 yard catch by Leonard Hankerson.

ANALYSIS
Inspired by Coach Cutcliffe’s “Seven Key Factors to Football Success,” we’ve taken a different approach to breaking down this week’s matchup.

Turnovers
The statistics here are pretty simple. The Blue Devils have forced 6 turnovers in their 3 wins, while giving away just 1; in their 7 losses, Duke has forced just 10 turnovers, and given the ball away 23 times. When Duke wins the turnover battle, they usually win this year (the Alabama game being the lone exception). For the Yellow Jackets, the turnover story has not been as dramatic, and the Jackets enter the game having forced 17 turnovers and committed 17 turnovers of their own.

Sacks
The Blue Devils have struggled to get penetration into the backfield all season, and rank last in the conference with just 9 sacks; however, 5 of those sacks came in Duke’s 3 wins. Georgia Tech has 15 sacks this season, but has not recorded a sack during their current 3 game losing streak. If Georgia Tech continues this streak, the Blue Devils should have success moving the ball through the air and on the ground. If the Yellow Jackets are able to penetrate the Blue Devils’ offensive line, Alex King may have a long day.

3rd Down Production
Offensively, this is another telling statistic for the Blue Devils in 2010; in their 3 wins, they converted on 61.4% of 3rd downs, while in their 7 losses, they converted just 37.2%. On the season, Georgia Tech has allowed opponents to convert about 40% of third down opportunities, and the Blue Devils will have to convert at least that to sustain drives on Saturday. Conversely, Duke has allowed opponents to convert 39.8% of 3rd downs, which is right about what the Jackets average.

Explosive Plays
Unfortunately, this is a difficult statistic to calculate, as Coach Cutcliffe defines an explosive play as a pass of 16 yards or more, and runs of 11 yards or more. For those that have watched the Blue Devils, though, it’s clear that this has been a statistic that has doomed the Duke defense. Last week against Boston College, Duke gave up 3 explosive runs and 6 explosive passes, and these plays accounted for 2 of the Eagles’ 3 touchdowns. Facing a big, physical back like Anthony Allen is not a favorable matchup for the Blue Devils, and they will have to minimize his explosive play ability.

Rushing TDs
Duke has face two option offenses already this season, and gave up 5 total rushing touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets are extremely adept at scoring on the ground, as their #1 ranked rushing attack has accounted for 24 of the offense’s 32 touchdowns this season. The Blue Devils are fortunate in that they will not have to face QB Josh Nesbitt, who leads the Jackets with 10 rushing touchdowns, but will still have their hands full with Allen, Orwin Smith, and Roddy Jones, a trio which has accounted for 12 rushing TDs this season. Offensively, Duke has significantly improve their rushing attack from a season ago, but still rank last in the ACC in rushing. In their 3 wins, the Blue Devils have scored 12 rushing touchdowns; if Duke is able to run the ball into the end zone, the statistics say it will help their chance of winning.

Field Goals
In the event of a close game, missed field goals can come back to cost a team. Luckily for both Duke and Georgia Tech, their kickers have been nearly flawless in 2010. Scott Blair is 12/14 for the Jackets, and Will Snyderwine is 18/19.

Penalties
The Blue Devils have done a nice job of not beating themselves most of the year, entering the game averaging fewer than 5 penalties per game. The Yellow Jackets have averaged over 6 penalties per game, including 16 total penalties in their last two games. If Duke can stay disciplined, Georgia Tech may help to sustain some Blue Devil drives.

PREDICTION
In general, Duke has struggled against the run this season, yielding almost 200 yards per game on the ground, but they have had some success against the option. Anthony Allen is the type of big, physical back that has given the Blue Devils trouble all season, and the trend is likely to continue Saturday. Georgia Tech has struggled at times defensively this year, and the Blue Devils should be able to move the ball with a balanced attack. If Duke is to come away with a victory, they will need to have big days from their Scott, Snead, and Connette, and may need some help from Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington, who will be making just his second career start.

GT 34
Duke 24

Previewing the Yellow Jackets

Thomas2Duke (13-1) takes to the road for their first ACC road game of the year against Georgia Tech (11-3) in Atlanta. Duke is looking for a 2-0 ACC start after thumping Clemson 74-53 in their conference opener at home, while Georgia Tech is looking to even their conference record at 1-1 after dropping their conference opener to Florida State 66-59 at home.

Georgia Tech is ranked #17 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and #20 in the AP Top 25. Duke is #5 in both polls. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 73-66 loss to in-state rival Georgia, while in their most recent game, Duke downed Iowa State 86-65 at the United Center in Chicago.

Duke and Georgia Tech have had one common opponent on the season in the Charlotte 49ers. Duke defeated Charlotte 101-59 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, while Georgia Tech won 76-67 in Charlotte.

The Yellow Jackets will be the third straight test for Duke’s frontcourt. Duke’s big men passed the first two tests with flying colors in wins over Clemson and Iowa State who both feature quality inside players in Trevor Booker and Craig Brackins. The difference in this game is Georgia Tech has three talented inside players in Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, and Zachery Peacock.

Junior Gani Lawal (6’9″ 235) averages 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He is 10th in the ACC is scoring and 3rd in rebounds. Lawal has the 5th best field goal percentage at 55.5 percent.

Freshman Derrick Favors (6’10″ 245) averages 12.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Favors is tied for 4th in the ACC in rebounds. In a recent article at Basketball Prospectus, Favors was ranked as the 7th best freshman in the nation.

Senior Zachery Peacock (6’8″ 235) averages 10 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench for the Yellow Jackets. Peacock has the ability to step out to the perimeter and knock down jump shots. He is making 47.6 percent of his 3-point attempts on the season.

While Duke leads the ACC in Assists/Turnover ratio at 1.5, Georgia Tech is 11th at .9. The Yellow Jackets turn the ball over an average of 16.6 times per game. In their three losses, the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over 20.3 times per game. Georgia Tech’s backcourt ball handling is a liability.

Sophomore Iman Shumpert (6’5″ 205) is back after missing six games with a knee injury. He averages 8.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, but also turns the ball over 3.3 times per contest. In the loss to Georgia, Shumpert recorded one assist and five turnovers.

Freshman Mfon Udofia (6’2″ 185) and Senior D’Andre Bell (6’6” 220) are Georgia Tech’s fourth and fifth starters. Udofia averages10.8 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.6 turnovers per game. Bell averages 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.6 turnovers per game.

Coach Paul Hewitt employs a deep rotation with nine players averaging double digit minutes and no player seeing 30 minutes of action per game. Maurice Miller (6’2” 190), Glen Rice, Jr. (6’5” 195), and Brian Oliver (6’6” 220) make up the balance of the Yellow Jackets double digit players.

The keys to the game will be:

1. Defensive rebounding. Duke must keep Georgia Tech off the offensive glass and prevent second chance points.

2. Turnovers. With Georgia Tech’s suspect ball handling, look for Nolan Smith to apply pressure on the Yellow Jackets main ball handler. This is a game where Duke may look to trap the ball as it is brought across the half court line. Lance Thomas could be a key player if Duke opts to run a half court trap defense. The best way to neutralize Lawal and Favors down low is to prevent them from getting it down low.

3. Outside shooting. Georgia Tech’s strength is their inside play so look for Duke to try and open up the inside by knocking down the long ball. Duke is leading the ACC in 3 point field goal percentage at 42.6 percent and second in the league in 3 point field goals made with 8.6 per game.

This Georgia Tech squad is very talented and a better team than the one which finished last in the ACC last season. However, they are not good enough to beat the Blue Devils. This will be a tough match-up and winning on the road in conference is never an easy task, but the Blue Devils should leave Atlanta with an eight to ten point victory in the books.

Duke at Georgia Tech Official Game Notes

Duke practicing for Tech - BDN Photo
Duke practicing for Tech - BDN Photo

Game 15

[5 AP/5 Coaches] Duke (13-1, 1-0 ACC) vs. [20 AP/17 Coaches] Georgia Tech (11-3, 0-1 ACC)

Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010  •  2:00 p.m.  •  ESPN

Alexander Memorial Coliseum (9,191)  •  Atlanta, Ga.

The Opening Tip

Duke (13-1, 1-0 ACC), ranked fifth in the AP poll and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll, faces Georgia Tech (11-3, 0-1 ACC) at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 2:00 p.m. The Yellow Jackets enter the game ranked 20th in the AP poll and 17th in the Coaches’ Poll. Saturday’s game will air on ESPN with Brad Nessler and Jay Bilas calling the action.

The Last Time Out

Duke is coming off an 86-65 win over Iowa State at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday. Senior Jon Scheyer netted a game-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor. He knocked down four three-point field goals for his fourth straight game with three or more treys.

Nolan Smith recorded his fourth 20-point game in the last five outings with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. He knocked down both three-point attempts and is now shooting an ACC-best 53.2 percent from behind the arc. Smith also matched a career high with three steals in the contest.

Junior Kyle Singler continued his all-around solid play with 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Lance Thomas added nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, while limiting Iowa State’s high-scoring forward Craig Brackens to 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Duke shot 56.0 percent (14-of-25) from the field and made all 12 free throws en route to outscoring Iowa State, 45-32, in the second half of play.

Numbers Game

l Duke has won 22 of its last 23 games in the month of January. The Blue Devils are 201-55 under Mike Krzyzewski in January games.

l Senior Jon Scheyer leads the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.58:1) while playing 35.3 minutes per game. He has led Duke in assists in all 14 games with six turnover-free games. Scheyer also ranks eighth in the NCAA at 6.2 assists per game.

l Nolan Smith has 25 three-point field goals and is shooting an ACC-best 53.2 percent from three-point range. In the last five games, he is 15-of-21 (.714) from behind the arc.

l Jon Scheyer is averaging 23.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game during Duke’s current seven-game win streak. He is shooting 47.4 percent from three-point range and averaging 3.9 three-point field goals per game in that span.

l Junior Nolan Smith has scored 10 or more points in all 12 games he has played. He is averaging 18.5 points per game, a 10.1 ppg. increase from a year ago. Smith also has six 20-point efforts in 2009-10 after posting one 20-point game in his first two seasons at Duke.

l Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are averaging 42.9 points combined, while shooting 52.7 percent (97-of-184) from the field and 53.7 percent (44-of-82) from three-point range during Duke’s seven-game win streak.

l Duke has had 17 individual 20-point scoring games this season. The Blue Devils have had multiple 20-point scorers in the same game six times on the year.

l Junior Kyle Singler has led Duke in rebounding seven times in 2009-10 and 43 times in his career. He has grabbed eight or more rebounds in four of the last five games.

l The Blue Devils are 3-0 against ranked opponents this season and 168-116 under Coach K against ranked foes.

l Duke limited its three previous ranked opponents (Connecticut, Gonzaga, Clemson) to 51.0 points per game. The Blue Devils held those three teams to 32.7 percent (53-of-162) shooting from the field, including 13.3 percent (4-of-30) shooting from three-point distance.

l Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler were two of the 30 players recently named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List.

l Duke has won 11 of the last 12 meetings  at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.