Yale lost to Duke in November, 80-61, with the Blue Devils shooting 48.3 percent from the floor, including 58.3 percent from two-point range. Duke scored 1.19 points per possession against the Bulldogs, with four Dukies scoring at least 12 points. Indeed, Duke’s offense is its calling card, as coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad ranks fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and fifth in offensive turnover percentage. Duke is also 26th nationally in three-point percentage. The Dukies’ offense is disciplined, efficient and potent from long range.
But the Elis match up well with the Blue Devils in three key areas and will defeat Duke if it can capitalize on them:
No surprise here. The Elis rank seventh in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and eighth in allowed offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 28 defensive boards to Baylor’s 18 Thursday. Duke, on the other hand, has trouble keeping teams off the offensive glass. Duke ranks 326th in allowed offensive rebound percentage. Justin Sears snared five offensive rebounds at Duke in November, and Brandon Sherrod hauled three. But Duke ultimately tied Yale in the rebounding category, 37-37. If Duke breaks even again, Duke wins again.
2. Paint play
Duke’s defense, especially on the interior, is mediocre. The Dukies rank just 171st in defensive two-point percentage, and they have the second-highest percentage of points allowed coming from two-point range. Duke may be the sixth-tallest team in the country, but if Yale can neutralize Rico Gathers, it can neutralize anybody, and that entails Sears and Sherrod carving space for clean looks. The Elis’ ball movement against Baylor’s zone was up to the task in the first half Thursday, and it will have to be similarly effective against Duke’s man front Saturday.
3. Makai Mason
Mason can’t just be a floor general. He’s got to be the guy. Mason dished eight assists and committed just three turnovers, but he also scored only 13 points, including just three made free throws and an 0-for-3 clip from beyond the arc. Mason will need to take advantage of a Duke defense that doesn’t force a lot of turnovers. Mason will have to get well over 20 points to win this one as well.