The Duke Basketball team gets its first major test of the season on Tuesday night as the Blue Devils face Kansas in the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden.
It’s the second part of ESPN’s annual marquee doubleheader of elite programs, with Michigan State and Kentucky squaring off in the first game.
The 2-0 Blue Devils enter as the No. 1 ranked team in the country, while Kansas comes in at No. 7 following an overtime loss to Indiana in its season opener in Hawaii on Friday.
Here are five of the biggest keys for Duke to be successful tonight.
1. Limit Dribble Penetration
Kansas has one of the better backcourts in the country in Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Bill Self has the luxury of two veteran guards with plenty of big-game experience, and Duke has had trouble over the past few years with defending great guard play. It’s a good opportunity for freshman Frank Jackson to get tested against a senior point guard like Frank Mason, who will look for ways to attack the Duke defense for the entire night.
2. Who Gets Josh Jackson?
Duke’s marquee freshmen will likely be sidelined for this game, but Kansas will have its top freshman in Josh Jackson. The preseason All-American and potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft for the Jayhawks struggled in the season opener, but this could the perfect stage for him to have a breakout game. With Jackson, the bigger impact could be who he guards on defense than what he does on offense. His length and athleticism gives him the ability to be a lockdown defender, and it’ll be interesting to see if he spends much time covering Grayson Allen, who’s struggled with lengthy defenders in the past.
3. Shoot Well from the Perimeter
Kansas allowed Indiana to shoot 51% from 3-point range in its season opener, and that’s something Bill Self will want to address quickly, especially when facing a Duke team that is known for spreading the floor and finding open shooters. The Hoosiers had seven players hit a 3-point shot en-route to making 15 as a team. Duke won’t have that much perimeter depth in the lineup, but it will be important for Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson, and Matt Jones to convert the open looks they get.
4. Avoid Foul Trouble
Whether you agree with it or not, Mike Krzyzewski appears to have already shortened his rotation to six guys. With Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum, and Harry Giles still out, Frank Jackson seems to be Duke’s only bench player, with Javin DeLaurier and Antonio Vrankovic getting very limited minutes. If that’s the case, it’s critical that Duke’s starters stay out of foul trouble, especially in the frontcourt. Chase Jeter struggled with that last season, so tonight will be a good chance to see if he’s improved.
5. Will the Jayhawks be Tired?
There will be a unique energy and atmosphere for a marquee game like this in Madison Square Garden, but you have to wonder if fatigue will eventually catch up to Kansas. The Jayhawks played a thrilling, overtime game in Hawaii on Friday night and then made their way to New York for tonight’s contest. Kansas point guard Frank Mason played 40 minutes in the season opener. If it’s a close game down the stretch, will Kansas still have its legs?
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. Let us know your thoughts by following us at @DukeReport on Twitter.