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The Daily Tar Heel

Midseason report card: How the Duke men's basketball season has gone so far

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Photos courtesy Chronicle photographer Morgan Chu.

After consecutive early-season road losses to unranked Arkansas and Georgia Tech, the Duke men’s basketball team has found its stride and is firmly fixed in the national conversation.

Here’s a look at how Jon Scheyer’s squad stacks up ahead of the first Tobacco Road showdown on Feb. 3. It’s report card time. 

Frontcourt

When scouting the Blue Devils, the report starts and ends with star big man Kyle Filipowski. The sophomore 7-footer leads Duke in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.5 points and 8.7 boards per contest. His unique skill set and size makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders. Filipowski can both score at a high level inside and out — he’s shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 48 percent from three — and block shots at a significant clip on the other end. Add it all up, and he is rated the eighth-best player in the country by EvanMiya.

Playing alongside Filipowski is sophomore forward Mark Mitchell. A slasher who can get to the rim and score inside, Mitchell was named to the preseason watch list for the Julius Erving Award, which is awarded to the nation's best small forward. Mitchell is currently averaging  12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. 

Grade: A-

Guardplay

The Blue Devils' starting backcourt consists of senior Jeremy Roach and sophomore Tyrese Proctor. Roach brings a wealth of experience to the floor, having played in over 100 games for the Blue Devils, including seven against the Tar Heels. But it isn’t just experience and leadership he offers, it’s production too. Roach can hurt defenses with dribble penetration and from beyond the arc — he averages 13.9 points per game and is shooting over 45 percent from long range. A bigger guard, Proctor will share ball-handling duties with Roach and is an adept passer, averaging a team-best UPDATE ME 3.9 assists per game.

Talented first-year Jared McCain tends to play more off the ball but still carries a significant scoring threat. McCain scored 21 points and nailed two clutch threes in a top-10 win over Baylor. The grade would be higher, but the Blue Devils’ guards have struggled with consistency at times and don’t have a star at Filipowski's level.

Grade: B+

Bench

As is typical for Duke, the rotation is fairly tight. First-year guard Caleb Foster is the clear sixth man, averaging 7.9 points in 26.2 minutes per game. But beyond Foster and the starting five, no player averages more than 13 minutes per game. Graduate center Ryan Young provides some size and experience off the bench — seen recently when he filled in for Mitchell, who missed two games with a knee injury — and junior guard Jaylen Blakes is another backcourt option for Scheyer.

Grade: C-

Offense

Simply put, Duke’s offense is one of the best in the nation. One area in which the Blue Devils are particularly great is taking care of the basketball, averaging only 9.4 turnovers per contest and boasting a top-15 assist-to-turnover ratio nationally. With high-percentage shooters in Roach and Filipowski, Duke ranks first in the ACC in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Scheyer’s team is the ninth-best offensive team in the country, according to KenPom.

Grade: A+

Defense

The Blue Devils’ defense isn’t quite on par with their offense. It’s still solid, ranked 30th in the nation by KenPom, but is a bit of an enigma. Here’s what I mean: Duke only allows 67.2 points per game, fourth-best in the ACC, but fares much worse when it comes to opponents' shooting percentage. The Blue Devils rank 11th in the ACC in opponent field-goal percentage and 10th in opponent 3-point percentage.

Grade: B

Key to the game: pace

The biggest difference between UNC and Duke? How fast they play. The Blue Devils are slow ranked 202nd in tempo by EvanMiya. North Carolina plays much faster, and is listed as the 49th fastest team in the country. The Tar Heels will want to speed things up, while the Blue Devils will look to slow it down. Whichever team controls the pace will have a good chance to win the game.

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@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com