Duke basketball: The five greatest defensive teams under Coach K

Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT)
Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT) /
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Duke basketball
Former Duke basketball player and current Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King announces the firing of head coach Avery Johnson during a news conference at the PNY Center on December 27, 2012, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) /

434. Pick Analysis. Lost in Final Four. 1987-88 Blue Devils. 5. player. Scouting Report. 28-7 (9-5 ACC)

Senior forward Billy King couldn’t shoot free throws (47.9 percent for his career). Actually, he couldn’t shoot at all beyond five feet (4.5 points per game for his career). And his average steals and blocks weren’t off the charts (1.5 and 0.4, respectively, his final season).

But the primary contributor to his 1987-88 NABC Defensive Player of the Year award was his ability to shut down opponents’ top players. As a senior, he propelled the underdog Blue Devils to the final weekend of the Big Dance by limiting No. 1 seed Temple’s Mark Macon, who averaged 20.7 points that season, to 13 points on 6-for-29 shooting — including eight airballs.

Prior to that performance, King had helped hold N.C. State’s Vinny Del Negro to a scoreless performance across 35 minutes of play in addition to forcing Florida’s Vernon Maxwell to shoot 7-for-18 from the field, North Carolina’s Jeff Lebo to shoot 2-for-14, and Notre Dame’s David Rivers to shoot 3-for-17.

However, King did have some partners in crime. Junior forward Danny Ferry had a knack for snatching steals (1.3 per game) and loose balls. Junior point guard Quin Snyder (1.6 steals per game) had honed a defensive stance that posed regular problems for opposing ball-handlers. Senior guard Kevin Strickland was just a dude keenly aware of happenings in his surroundings, leading to his 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

And then there was sophomore high-flying forward Robert Brickey, who only averaged 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks that season but went on to average 1.1 and 2.2, respectively, the next. He cemented his defensive fame at Duke on Jan. 21, 1988, by cementing the program’s first-ever Dean Dome win — the first of a three-game rivalry sweep that season — with a Zion-esque last-second block of a baseline jumper from Lebo.

All in all, this group of Blue Devils put the “off” in opponents’ offense. Now for the next greatest defensive bunch in Durham…