Pressure on Duke basketball team returning home to face Georgia Tech

Duke basketball forward Jalen Johnson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Jalen Johnson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The pressure is all on the Duke basketball team against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. 

Never has there been this much pressure on a Duke basketball team in late January in recent memory, but Tuesday night is the biggest game of the year by far.

Yes, we’ve said games against Michigan State, Illinois, Virginia Tech, etc. were all important, but when the Blue Devils tipoff against Georgia Tech, this is the biggest ‘must-win’ situation a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team has faced in at least 20 years.

The Yellow Jackets, like many other teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, are no longer a pushover.

After a rocky start to the season because of practice limitations due to COVID-19, Josh Pastner has his team playing excellent basketball, falling just short of a road upset of No. 13 Virginia on Saturday evening.

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Georgia Tech is led by star senior point guard Jose Alvarado, who averages 17.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 52.8-percent from the floor and 42.6-percent from three-point range.

Fellow senior Moses Wright protects the paint for the Yellow Jackets with 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game and surely will be a matchup nightmare for Matthew Hurt. Standing at 6-foot-9 and 233 pounds, he is a very athletic forward.

Michael Devoe, a high school teammate of former Blue Devil RJ Barrett, is also thriving in his junior season with 13.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 42.2-percent shooting from three-point range.

Zone defense might not be the best option for Duke on Tuesday night as Georgia Tech shoots 38.3-percent from beyond the arc as a team.

Duke basketball guards will be pivotal for a Blue Devil victory

In a majority of the Duke losses this season, guard play has been an issue, and if the Blue Devil guards do not have an exceptional game, it will be tough to envision a victory for the home team.

Led by senior Jordan Goldwire, the defense of the Blue Devil backcourt has to be impeccable to try and slow the combo of Alvarado and Devoe, while freshmen Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward have to play above their years to keep Duke competitive.

If the freshman guards are not getting the job done defensively, do not be surprised to see Wendell Moore move to the guard position to help the Blue Devils try and slow down a potent Yellow Jacket offense.

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Hurt and Jalen Johnson have to find a way to be effective while both on the floor as Duke’s two best offensive weapons.

Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff have to find a way to make the two forwards coexist going forward as it’s unfair to both players to make one carry the team offensively each night.

As strange as it sounds, an NCAA Tournament bid continues to hang in the balance, and Duke cannot afford to fall to below .500 this late in the season, regardless of how many games have been played.

Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00pm EST (ESPN) inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

PREDICTION: Duke 78, Georgia Tech 74

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