Duke basketball will face its toughest test of the season in Sweet 16

The Blue Devils are gearing up for the best team it has faced all season
Mar 24, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor (5) celebrates his three
Mar 24, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor (5) celebrates his three / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite entering the 2024 NCAA Tournament with an injured guard and two consecutive losses, the Duke basketball team shattered expectations with a commanding 93-55 victory over James Madison on Sunday.

The resounding win, which saw the Blue Devils effectively seal the game within the first 10 minutes, left both Duke fans and the James Madison squad in disbelief.

For a Duke team that has struggled out of the gates all season long, this was a long awaited epiphany and could not have come at a better time as James Madison is an incredibly talented team that does a great job on the defensive end turning teams over.

The game started with a Jared McCain 3-pointer and Duke never looked back. McCain finished with eight triples, scoring 22-of-30 points in the first half.

This was as complete of a game as Duke has had in the Jon Scheyer era and provided a relatively stress free watching environment.

The Blue Devils will now face it's toughest opponent of the year as they prepare to go up against the No. 2 defense in the country, Houston. Kelvin Sampson has created a force in Texas as it relates to defense. Houston has been Top-10 in defense efficiency, according to KenPom, the last four years.

Like most matchups at this point in the tournament, it will all come down to which team can dictate their style of basketball and which team can whether the storm when the other team is going on a run.

According to Evan Miyakawa, Houston has performed better when they prioritize offensive actions that get them to the free throw line. In Houston's 36 games, when they have a free throw rate of 26.4-percent, they are 18-0. When they have a free throw rate of less than 26.4-percent, they have a record of 14-4.

The other major stat to look out for according to Evan Miyakawa is Houston's 3-point attempt rate. Houston has performed better when a lesser percentage of its shot attempts are three's. When at most 37-percent of its shots taken are 3-pointers, they have a record of 17-1. When more than 37-percent of their shots are 3-pointers, they are 15-3.

For Duke, it has become quite clear what their keys to success are for the rest of the tournament.

Miyakawa says Duke has performed significantly better when they have a higher assist rate. When Duke has an assist rate of 54.9-percent, they are undefeated on the year. When they have an assist rate of less than 54.9-percent, they are 9-8 .

This has been evident all year of Duke's offense, when its guards are moving on offense and sharing the ball they are tough to beat. When you add in Kyle Filipowski's ability to pass out of double teams in the post, Duke becomes much harder to guard.

This Duke team is playing its best basketball at the most important time of the year. They look more connected, together, and passionate than they have at any point of the season.

Houston will provide the toughest test of the year, but this Duke team looks up to the challenge.