Now that Duke’s halfcourt offense has clicked into full gear, at least in the last two games, there’s another area that’s screaming for improvement.
The Blue Devils have given up 34 combined offensive rebounds – 21 to South Carolina State and 13 to Appalachian State – in two games this week.
“The thing that we’re not doing is rebounding defensively,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Thursday night’s 92-67 win over App State. “When we rebound defensively, that’s what leads to our fast break, more so than a turnover.
“Because we have four ball-handlers and we can advance the ball very quickly and space the floor.”
Duke has won these games this week by a combined 66 points, so it’s not like giving up a plethora of offensive rebounds has hurt the Blue Devils.
At least, not yet.
And so Duke’s focus, after scoring 1.3 and 1.37 points per possession in two games, is finishing opponents’ possessions after one or zero shots.
“We’re good defensively. But we’d be very good if we could complete the defensive exchange better with the rebounding,” Krzyzewski said.
Here’s what to know ahead of Saturday’s game:
Time: 4 p.m.
TV: ACC Network
Announcers: Doug Sherman (play-by-play), Chris Spatola (analyst).
Series; last meeting: Duke leads 20-5; Duke won 97-68 in 2017.
Records: Elon 3-8; Duke 9-1.
Stat to watch: Duke’s defensive rebounding percentage.
It’s spelled out in the intro, but just to drive the point home: Duke has been outscored in second-chance points 17-10 and 19-12 this week, and has been outrebounded in four straight games.
Before this four-game string, Duke held a plus-47 rebounding margin in the three prior games.
Phoenix to watch: Torrence Watson.
A transfer from Missouri, Watson is on this list for one reason: His 34-point game earlier this month against High Point, in which he shot 9-for-12 (and 11 of 12 at the free-throw line).
A former high-major player capable of heating up like that – though he’s had 16 points combined in Elon’s two games since – is sure to have the attention of Duke’s staff.
Blue Devil to watch: Jeremy Roach.
Roach quietly played a fantastic game against App State on Thursday night and has been incredibly consistent on the offensive end for Duke.
He’s scored nine or 10 points in each of the last five games, along with matching a season-high with six assists against the Mountaineers.
KenPom prediction: Duke wins 89-62.
Devils Illustrated predictions: All this talk about Duke needing to improve defensive rebounding …
Elon rebounds 32.8% of its offensive misses, which is 303rd in the country (per KenPom). The Phoenix doesn’t have much size, with the biggest regular (Michael Graham) going 6-8, 221.
The Phoenix goes small and shoots a lot of 3s (46.6% of field goals are 3s), so Duke will have to track down long rebounds if it wants a better number in defensive rebounding percentage.
Otherwise, Duke should be able to overmatch Elon. This is a tune-up in every sense of the term – Elon is coming off a 63-61 win over Winthrop, and that halted a seven-game losing streak.