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Duke Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Kansas

Trevon Duval - Duke Basketball
© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke basketball team has a chance to advance to the Final Four this Sunday with the most anticipated matchup of the weekend – a showdown in Omaha against No. 1 seed and Big XII champion Kansas.

The game will be televised on CBS and is scheduled to begin at 5:05 pm ET.

It’s a contest between two of the most decorated programs and iconic brands in college basketball. Kansas enters with a 30-7 record while the Blue Devils are 29-7. Despite being the lower seed, Duke is currently listed as a 3-point favorite.

Here are 5 keys to victory for Duke.

  1. Duke Needs Good Trevon Duval

In Duke’s opening round win over Iona, Trevon Duval showed why he’s a likely first round NBA Draft pick with his athleticism, explosiveness, and ability to break down a defense and find easy shots for his teammates. In Duke’s Sweet 16 over Syracuse, Duval showed why he’s been benched multiple times this season with his out-of-control play, costly turnovers, and poor shot selection. In many cases, it’s been a tale of two seasons for the highly-touted freshman point guard. Duke needs Duval to be at his best in Omaha on Sunday afternoon.

2. Containing the Kansas Guards

Kansas has one of the best backcourts in college basketball in Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman. All three players average double figures in scoring and shoot better than 40% from 3-point range, with Graham being a National Player of the Year candidate. The 3-point shot is a major weapon for the Jayhawks and it will be interesting to see if Kansas is able to have success against Duke’s length and zone defense, which can be vulnerable to perimeter shooting.

3. Exploiting the Frontcourt Mismatch

While Kansas has the advantage in the backcourt, Duke counters with a major advantage in the frontcourt. Whether it’s Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter, the Blue Devils will have a mismatch in virtually every half-court possession, due to having two dominant post players. Udoka Azubuike is a great interior defender for the Jayhawks, but he can’t stop Bagley & Carter by himself (no one can) and it’s especially advantageous if Duke can get him in foul trouble. Duke struggled against Syracuse on Friday night when it got away from getting the ball to Bagley and Carter and started settling for perimeter shots. The Blue Devils must stay committed to attacking the paint on Sunday.

4. Limiting Turnovers

Turnovers have played a role in many of Duke’s losses this season. Part of it can be attributed to youth, as well as inconsistent guard play – two areas where Duke is vastly different from the Kansas team it’s facing in the Elite Eight. Against a quality opponent like the Jayhawks and in a pressure situation like the one Duke will find itself in Omaha with a Final Four appearance on the line, every possession will be critical and the Blue Devils must take care of the ball.

5. An Unexpected Spark

Who will be the x-factor to help provide a spark for Duke? In 2015, it was Matt Jones knocking down big shots in the second half against Gonzaga. In 2010, it was Andre Dawkins coming off the bench to give the team a boost against Baylor. In order to make a championship run, you usually need a lift from an unexpected place. Whether it’s Alex O’Connell making plays, Marques Bolden coming up with key stops, or Javin DeLaurier providing energy, Duke will likely need one of its role players to be a big x-factor today.
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