Every year during the pre-conference slate there is at least one home game on Indiana’s schedule that you just know will have a different feel to it. When the 2017-18 schedule was released that game was fairly easy to pinpoint, even before the preseason rankings anointed Duke as the #1 team in the country. Add in the fact that Duke is perhaps the nation’s most prestigious program with the winningest coach of all-time, and well, the Hall should be a rockin’. Oh, and then there is that Grayson Allen dude. We’re sure that he’ll be a popular guy with the IU student section.
Historically, even average renditions of Indiana basketball have been able to compete with the best when playing in Bloomington. We see no reason why that cannot happen again this year, but clearly it is a tall task with the top ranked Blue Devils. First, it is helpful context to take a look at the key players on the Duke roster, with likely starters in bold:
- Marvin Bagley III, 6-11 Forward (Freshman)
- Grayson Allen, 6-5 Guard (Senior)
- Trevon Duval:, 6-3 Guard (Freshman)
- Wendell Carter Jr., 6-10 Forward (Freshman)
- Gary Trent Jr., 6-6 Guard (Freshman)
- Alex O’Connell, 6-6 Guard (Freshman)
- Javin DeLaurier, 6-10 Forward (Sophomore)
- Marques Bolden, 6-11 Center (Sophomore)
As you can see, the Blue Devils will quite literally be a tall task. But as we’ve seen in the past, Indiana has slayed some giants on its home floor. Here are what we believe are the six keys that must happen in order for the Hoosiers to knock off Duke Wednesday night:
- Hall of Horrors. This is the easy one. Is there any doubt what Assembly Hall will be like on Wednesday night? Visions of Kentucky in 2011 and North Carolina in 2012 and 2016 come to mind. When big games come to Bloomington, the Hall delivers. This is Duke’s first true road game of the year. With a roster full of freshmen, you have to believe that the crowd can have an impact. If the youngsters get rattled that could be an equalizer in this one.
- Stay a While De’Ron. You’ve seen the Blue Devils’ length. Later we’ll talk about their rebounding dominance. If the Hoosiers want to have a shot in this one they’ll need De’Ron Davis to stay out of foul trouble. Too many times already this year that hasn’t happened. Even with Davis the Hoosiers cannot match Duke’s length. Without him, it could get ugly.
- I’ll Take That. Turnovers have been an area of improvement over the last few games for Indiana. On the season the Hoosiers have forced 84 turnovers while committing 77 in 6 games. Similarly, Duke has forced 99 turnovers while committing 96 in 8 games. We wouldn’t be surprised to see higher than normal turnovers from both teams, but if the Hoosiers can win the turnover margin in this game that could go a long way in deciding the contest.
- All Hands on the Boards. This isn’t your typical more guard oriented Duke team. Duke is 7th in the nation at 46.1 rebounds per game, and 1st in the country at 16.6 offensive rebounds per game. They play more like the recent long Kentucky teams. Blocking out will be key, as will max effort on the glass, including from the guards. We know Freddie McSwain will give it his all, but the Hoosiers will need everyone aggressively hitting the boards and muscling up the younger Blue Devils to avoid a barrage of put-back baskets.
- Lay it off the Line. Duke is in the Top 50 in free throw attempts per game, a fact that likely comes as no surprise, and perhaps might draw a few eye rolls from Hoosier fans. Visions of a certain 1992 final four game might even come to mind. But in a game where the Hoosiers will need every advantage, they certainly cannot afford to have the Blue Devils living at the line, even if they are only shooting 67% as a team. Relatively close free throw attempt totals will be key. It would be nice if Indiana could do a little better than their current 66% rate when they get there as well.
- Deep Thoughts. Opponents 3-point shooting has been a thorn in the Hoosiers’ side all year. Indiana currently ranks 347th in the country, giving up nearly 45% from behind the arc. Duke is not an especially talented perimeter shooting team. It is currently hitting 34 percent from 3, good for 202nd in the nation. On a night when Indiana will likely be focusing on stopping Duke’s big men, it cannot give up yet another 3-point assault. On the other end, Indiana has been starting to shoot the 3 better and is at 35% on the year. In recent years Indiana has been known to knock out visiting teams with a barrage of 3-pointers. That may not be realistic with this team, but a respectable shooting night from deep would certainly go a long way.
[photo credit – getty images]