Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Duke

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville's men's basketball's matchup with the Duke Blue Devils
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(Photo of David Johnson, Tre Jones: Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Thanks to yet another slow start on the season, Louisville found themselves on the wrong end of a 78-65 decision against Florida State, starting a two-game conference losing streak. Next up for the Cardinals, they will continue their three-game home stand and host Duke. Tipoff is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 at 4:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Blue Devils:

Not Your Typical Duke Start

In a season that has been unlike any other because of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course it only makes sense that many of the sport's blue bloods aren't having seasons up to their standards, including Duke.

Through their first nine games of the 2020-21 season, the Blue Devils are just one game above .500 with a 5-4 record, with their best win coming against Notre Dame, who is ranked as the 86th best team in the country according to KenPom.

Duke kicked off the season at 2-2 with wins against Coppin State & Bellarmine, but losses to Michigan State and Illinois, all of which took place at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After their decisive loss, to Illinois, the Blue Devils cancelled their three remaining non-conference games out of "an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic".

Once Duke transitioned into conference play, it didn't get much better. They started out with wins against Notre Dame, Boston College and Wake Forest; but then followed that up with back-to-back road losses against Virginia Tech & Pitt.

In fact, following their loss to the Hokies, the Blue Devils dropped completely out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2016.

Jekyll & Hyde Defense

Duke has a very peculiar defense, in that they excel on side of the three-point line, and are substandard on the other.

We'll start with where they do well, which is inside the perimeter. While they allow team to connect on 50.9% of their two point attempts, the closer the get to the basket, the more efficient the defense they play. The Blue Devils average 4.7 blocked shots per game, which ranks third in the ACC and 35th in D1. They also are very adept at pickpocketing other teams, as their 9.0 steals per game is 18th in D1.

Beyond the perimeter, however, is a completely different story as Duke has some of the worst three-point defense not only in the ACC, but in college basketball. They allow opponents to connect on 37.3% of their three-point attempts, which is 309th out of 340 D1 teams. In conference, it has been even worse, allowing ACC foes to shoot 40.7%, which is the worst in the league.

The Hurt Locker

While Duke has struggled so far this season, they still feature several talented scorers. Four Blue Devils average double figures, including their three highest-ranked freshmen from their 2020 signing class.

But, their top scoring threat, for what seems for the first time in several years under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, is not a freshman. He's still a five-star recruit, though.

Sophomore forward Matthew Hurt not only lead the team in scoring with 18.9 points per game, but he is second in the ACC behind Pitt's Justin Champagnie (20.2) and in the top 60 nationally.

Hurt might be a volume shooter for Duke, but he actually has a field goal percentage over 50.0%, and is second on the team in that category, connecting on 51.6% of his shots. On top of that, he also is the best three-point shooter on the roster, leading the team not only in made threes (22), but three-point shooting as well (44.0%).

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