Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Stats & Info [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Blue Devils look like a new team of late

By Ryan Feldman & Rob Nelson

When the Duke Blue Devils meet the North Carolina Tar Heels on Wednesday, the Blue Devils will be a much improved team compared to a month ago.

Since a loss at Clemson on January 11, Duke has won seven of its last eight games with the only loss coming by two points in overtime at undefeated Syracuse.

The Blue Devils are now a completely different team. They have the most efficient offense in the country over the last month, averaging 128.5 points per 100 possessions.

They're grabbing more offensive rebounds, defending the post better, relying more on outside shooting, and using a deeper rotation. And Jabari Parker is playing like a star.

Here's a closer look at Duke's improvements.

Jabari Parker
After hitting a rough patch in the middle of the season where he averaged just 11 points per game on 32 percent shooting over a five-game stretch, Parker is dominating once again.

In his last seven games, Parker is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting.

During that span, 73 percent of his field-goal attempts have come in the paint. He’s scoring 12 paint points per game compared to three paint points per game in his previous four games.

Offensive Rebounding
Duke is grabbing 44 percent of its own misses over its last seven games, compared to an offensive rebound percentage below 30 percent in its first 17 games. The Blue Devils are averaging 16 offensive boards per game in the last seven games.

Their improved offensive rebounding has led to five more points per game on offensive rebound putbacks in the Blue Devils' last seven games compared to their first 17 games.

Post Defense
Using a smaller lineup that often included four guards and wing players along with one big man hurt the Blue Devils early in the season in terms of interior defense. But recently, the Blue Devils have improved their post defense.

Over their last seven games, they're holding teams to 37 percent shooting on post-up plays, compared to 52 percent shooting on post-up plays in their first 17 games.

Some of that has to do with Parker's much improved post defense, as he often has to guard an opposing big man. After allowing 64 percent shooting and 1.15 points per post-up play in his first 16 games, opponents are shooting just 22 percent and averaging 0.50 points per post-up play in his last eight games.

Outside Shooting
Duke has been on fire from beyond the arc lately. In the last four games, Duke is shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers and making 13 of them per game.

Much of their outside shooting success lately is thanks to Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon. Dawkins is shooting 57 percent on 3-pointers in his last five games, and Sulaimon is shooting 55 percent on threes in his last eight games.

Deeper Rotation
Playing time for Dawkins and Sulaimon early in the season was inconsistent. Each of them even sat out an entire game at one point.

Lately, Dawkins and Sulaimon -- along with Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee -- have gotten more playing time.

Jefferson and Plumlee have helped improve Duke's rebounding and defense. Dawkins and Sulaimon have helped the Blue Devils' outside shooting. Sulaimon has also taken on more of a ball-handler role, averaging 4.4 assists per game in his last eight games compared to 1.5 per game in his first 15 games.

Dawkins, Sulaimon, Jefferson and Plumlee combined are averaging 20 more minutes per game compared to the first 16 games.

During that span, the foursome is contributing 11 more points, two more offensive boards, 4 more assists, and two more 3-pointers per game.