Duke basketball faces familiar situation with ‘must-win’ in Louisville

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball season is on the ropes, but there is some good news on the horizon. 

Nothing has gone right for the Duke basketball program this season, and things are teetering on the brink of a disaster with Saturday’s matchup with the Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 4-2 ACC).

The Blue Devils (5-4, 3-2 ACC) are on the outside looking in on many early NCAA Tournament bracket projections, and despite no bad losses on its resume, Duke has yet to secure a key victory in its limited amount of games.

A victory on the road against Louisville would go a long way in making the Field of 68 come March, but this is not the first time Mike Krzyzewski‘s team is facing adversity in the state of Kentucky.

Just two years ago, Duke found itself down 23 points with less than 10 minutes to play against the Cardinals and rallied behind the lights-out play of Tre Jones, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson, all of whom are in the NBA.

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However, that team was never in danger of missing a tournament or spiraling in a downward trend when healthy, but the matchup between the Blue Devils the Cardinals somewhat mirrored the meeting between the two teams in the 2014-15 season.

Duke had just lost two straight games in blowout fashion and many were expecting a third straight loss as the No. 4 Blue Devils faced No. 6. Louisville.

Mike Krzyzewski implemented a zone defense with his young team, and it stifled Louisville to just 20 points in the first half, en route to a 63-52 victory that brought the Duke season back on track.

Now, this Duke team has much, much larger issues than the former National Champions, but hopefully that short tangent brought some confidence to the Blue Devil faithful.

Duke basketball must stick with what is working against Louisville

Saturday afternoon is no time to get cute for Krzyzewski or the Blue Devils.

Find something that works early, and do not go away from it.

Jalen Johnson was single-handedly trying to will Duke to a victory against Pittsburgh before foul trouble sent the five-star freshman to the bench in the final two minutes to see the comeback attempt fall short.

As much as Jordan Goldwire is a leader on this team, if Krzyzewski wants to run a zone defense, Goldwire cannot be on the floor because of his man-to-man strengths and lack of offensive abilities.

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The best scoring backcourt consists of Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward with Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, and Johnson at the forward positions.

Louisville is also in a rut of its own having lost two straight games to Miami (FL) and Florida State, with its most recent loss coming to the Seminoles at home, 78-65, but the score is very deceiving compared to how thoroughly the Cardinals were beaten.

Head coach Chris Mack has relied on a three-headed scoring monster of Carlik Jones (17.5 PPG), David Johnson (13.1 PPG), and Jae’Lyn Withers (10.5 PPG) to combat the team’s 32.3-percent shooting from three-point range.

Playing in front of their first crowd this season, the Blue Devils will have their work cut out for them to avoid a three-game losing streak.

Tipoff is at 4:00pm EST (ESPN) inside the KFC Yum! Center.

PREDICTION: Louisville 75, Duke 70

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