On Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, two top-25 teams meet when Baylor meets Duke: No. 10 Baylor takes on No. 21 Duke.
Baylor looks to rebound after an embarrassing 24-point defeat at Michigan State on Saturday. Even after making substantial roster changes from last season, they still possess one of the top offenses in basketball.
The Blue Devils boast an experienced squad but have struggled early. Still, they come into this matchup having collected two consecutive 20-point victories.
Duke has had a roller-coaster of a start to their season, losing three of their initial eight contests, including an ACC clash against Georgia Tech. Even with Kyle Filipowski returning , Duke has had some growing pains this season.
Tyrese Proctor’s status remains uncertain after missing two games with an ankle injury, and it remains uncertain if he’ll play on Wednesday night. The sophomore averaged double figures and led his team in assists before getting hurt; additionally, he is their top on-ball defender.
Effective is the word that best describes Duke’s offense. Led by veteran ball handler Jeremy Roach, they rank seventh in turnover rate while ranking in both 2-point and 3-point offense.
Filipowski is the center of this team. Returning for his sophomore season and taking 30% of shots while on the court, Filipowski serves as an all-around big who often mismatches opponents on offense or defense; drawing fouls quickly while being an efficient rebounder and stretching the floor, leading his team in points (18.4), rebounds (9.2) and blocks (1.9).
Jared McCain and Caleb Foster, two top-25 recruits for Duke, have played critical roles for the Blue Devils since Proctor’s injury. Their progress will be vital to Duke’s overall success.
Duke ranks above average in both 3-point and 2-point defense, according to ShotQuality projections; they excel at limiting second-chance opportunities (ranked 11th for defensive rebounding).
Filipowski and Duke’s length on defense helps push opponents deep into the shot clock (332nd in average possession length). Because of Filipowski and this defensive set-up, their Blue Devils rarely come under attack around the rim.
Duke gives up nearly 40% of attempts from the perimeter and is often attacked using pick-and-roll in midrange situations. S
Negative regression would inevitably strike Baylor, and it did so on Saturday. They scored just 17 first-half points while their offense struggled for any kind of success.
Offense is the forte of Scott Drew’s Bears team. They rank top-10 nationally in offensive rebounding and first nationally in three-point shooting at 44.6%; all but center Yves Missi are shooting 40 or better from long range, led by Toledo transfer Ray Dennis.
Dennis stands 12th nationally in assist rate and shoots 46.2% from a 3-point range, making him an essential piece of Baylor’s offense, being utilized on 26.4% of possessions while on the floor. Together with freshman JaKobe Walter’s smooth transition – Dennis and Baylor continue to remain an impressive offense.
Imagine this – this team had to replace its three-headed monster of Keyonte George, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer from last season.
Walter made headlines in the Bears’ season opener against Auburn when he scored 28 points without making a turnover. Walter is not known to turn over the ball, is efficient on offense and provides an outside presence that threatens rival teams.
This offensive scheme employs a physical pick-and-roll game with an almost 20% success rate, emphasizing attacking the rim (46% success rate) and getting to foul line.
While Baylor has been an effective offensive machine, there remains plenty to worry about on defense. KenPom ranks Baylor 69th for Defensive Efficiency while forcing few turnovers or ranking below league average in any category across the board.
Baylor plays an aggressive funnel defense that forces their opponents off 3-point range and into the paint. Opponents attack Baylor’s defense through pick-and-rolls or midrange shooting attempts.
Missi has provided Baylor with much-needed rim protection (he ranks 28th in block rate) and efficient rebounding, two much-needed areas given their defensive tendencies. He draws fouls at an impressive ninth-highest rate.
As is often the case in basketball, rim protection can be limited outside of a 7-footer. Jalen Bridges provides some stability and defensive support; Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua has been dealing with injury issues, leaving only Josh Ojianwuna and Caleb Lohner available as bench players.
Once Baylor’s offense gets going, few can stop them; we saw this play out in close games against Auburn and Florida that ended up with high-scoring battles.
Question is, can this offense maintain an NCAA-best 44.6% rate from 3?
Baylor wants to play fast and score points in bunches, Duke plays at a slower pace and has an experienced team. This will be a close game all the way down to the end. Take Duke to cover. Duke 77 Baylor 73.
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