College Basketball Preview: Duke vs. Colorado State

| by Alex Groberman

Duke will aim to get the bad taste of an embarrassing defeat to Ohio State out of its mouths Wednesday night when Coach K and Co. host Colorado State.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will depend on the sweet comfort of playing at home being enough for his guys as they make their first return to Cameron Indoor Stadium since a dominating November 18th victory over Davidson. After that 82-69 win, Duke trekked out to the Maui Invitational (which they won, as usual) and an unfortunate away game versus Ohio State that eventually turned into an 85-63 bloodbath.

We’ve already covered the lessons learned from that game in-depth here on Opposing Views, so there is no need to go down that road again.

Rather, let’s look ahead to what this coming outing against Colorado State will likely bring to the table. First and foremost, the Blue Devils are essentially unbeatable at home. Couple that advantage with the fact that the team finally got some rest after having played four games in nine nights, and you see why the powers that be behind the polls shifted them downwards ever-so-slightly in this week’s polls.

Of course, you can’t blame the no-show performance versus Ohio State entirely on fatigue if you’re Duke. Yes, the 12 turnovers and awful ball movement probably was the byproduct of tiredness, but there were other legitimate problems. The reason that the Buckeyes were able to shoot nearly 60 percent from the field en route to easy victory last Tuesday was largely because Duke was marshmallow soft in the middle. Whether Ohio State opted to play outside-in or inside-out, the players imposed their will offensively nearly every single time down the court.

And that’s to say nothing of the team’s rebounding woes. Currently, Duke is averaging a paltry 32.8 boards per game – a total that just won’t cut it as the year progresses.

Freshman enigma Austin Rivers continued to prove himself the most fascinating youngster in college hoops when he came up with a season-high 22 points versus a formidable Ohio State defense. With Seth Curry struggling throughout, Curry took it upon himself to try do something, anything against the opposition, and his determination was a sight for sore eyes in a game during which Duke was clearly lacking enthusiasm.

As of now, Rivers officially leads the team in scoring with 15.4 per game. That’s the good. The bad, however, is that he’s a big contributor to Duke turnover problem, with 18 assists and 18 turnovers on the year. All in all, Duke has 108 turnovers to 93 assists on the year.

Rivers, quite clearly, is the team’s best ball-handler and the only player on the squad that can create his own shot with ease. Although he’s still mastering body control near the basket and the intricacies of Coach K’s gameplan, the NBA readiness is blatant every single time he touches the ball. As he continues to improve, Duke will no doubt improve as well.

Does Colorado State have a shot against Duke? Barring a collapse of epic proportions – no. Duke boasts an 89-game non-conference winning streak at home, and it’s hard to envision a 5-3 squad who couldn’t beat Northern Iowa making a dent in the armor. Couple the group’s obvious deficiencies with the fact that it hasn’t won against a ranked opponent since 2004, and you have to bet on Colorado State's 15-game losing streak versus Top 25 teams getting extended 16 by the end of Tuesday night.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. eastern time.

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