The Blue Devils were off for the first two days of the tournament in Greensboro due to being one of the top four seeds, but will now begin play with a quarterfinal match-up against a Clemson team that won 69-65 in overtime last night against Georgia Tech.
For Duke, it’s an opportunity to avenge one of its earlier losses this season, when the Blue Devils lost on the road at Clemson by 13 points back on January 11. For Clemson, it would be another win over a Top 10 opponent for a team that is still fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00pm EST and will be televised on ESPN 2 and the ACC Network.
Let’s go over a few things to watch for in tonight’s contest.
Which team will be more fresh to start the game?
It’s an interesting dynamic for both squads going into tonight’s game. Duke hasn’t played since last Saturday against North Carolina and could show a bit of rust. Clemson played an overtime game last night that didn’t even begin until 9:30 EST. Will the Tigers show up with tired legs this evening? Will the Blue Devils come out flat? Whichever team can handle its unique circumstances best will have a great opportunity to jump out to an early lead and seize the momentum.
Will we see a different Jabari Parker?
When Duke faced Clemson earlier in the year, Jabari Parker was in the midst of his midseason slump. He tallied 15 points and seven rebounds against the Tigers, but he was only 5-of-13 from the field and attempted six three-pointers, which was a recurring problem during Parker’s offensive struggles. Now, he’s become much more active and aggressive in the paint and is a force to be reckoned with on the glass. Clemson was able to manage Jabari Parker rather well when it saw him the first time. Let’s hope tonight they see an entirely new and more powerful Jabari Parker.
Containing Clemson’s role players.
Clemson has one of the most underrated players in the country in K.J. McDaniels. He dominated the Blue Devils in all aspects of the game in the first meeting, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. However, McDaniels could have a big night for the Tigers tonight and it still wouldn’t necessarily be enough to upset Duke. The more critical issue is making sure Duke doesn’t allow Clemson’s role players to build confidence and make a significant impact on the game. Jaron Blossomgame was a huge presence in the first game against Duke, scoring 14 points to go along with 14 rebounds. McDaniels will likely figure out a way to get his tonight, but the Blue Devils need to focus on stopping his teammates and making him a one-man show.
Are the young Blue Devils ready for the postseason?
As much as guys at Duke are used to playing under pressure and receiving the spotlight, this is the first time many of them have had key roles in the postseason. Although he may be the best player in the country, Jabari Parker is still a freshman. Rodney Hood is only a redshirt sophomore with very little postseason experience. And Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon are sophomores who were able to defer to three senior leaders on last season’s squad. While the Blue Devils are extremely talented, this is a new type of environment. How they respond to this environment will be very interesting.
What will you be watching for in tonight’s game? Let me know in the comments section!