Duke Basketball: Takeaways from 2022 Champions Classic loss to Kansas

Despite coming back from a slow start, Duke Basketball was able to get a late lead against Kansas. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get the win.

Coach Jon Scheyer got to experience a “first” as a new head coach. A “first” that his predecessor experienced 368 times in 42 years at the helm at Duke: a loss. All of the eyes in the college basketball world were seemingly on Scheyer as he got to man the helm for a top-10 match-up between Duke Basketball and Kansas. Ultimately, Kansas got the better of Duke and pulled away with a 69-64 win but neither team looked like complete products (as is expected in these November games).

For Duke, the new coach has an extremely talented roster but mostly filled with freshmen, and it showed early. The Blue Devils looked lost and slumped out to a 17-6 deficit. They eventually climbed back in the game and had opportunities to take the lead before halftime but trailed by four at the break, despite Kansas being a significantly better team in the first 20. Duke, however, showed an ability to make adjustments as they took control in the second half before ultimately getting outscored by nine in the final ten minutes to hand them their first loss of the season.

As it is with every game, there are good and bad takeaways from these games. Duke still has a few lessons to learn as their season moves forward and Scheyer has some rotational questions that will need to be answered/experimented with. But here is what we learned from last night in the Blue Devils’ first real test this season.

The frontcourt is Duke’s strength

Duke’s offense was brutal for most of the night. According to KenPom, they scored an ugly 0.89 points per possession, had 13 shots blocked (more on that later), and committed 18 turnovers (trust me, we’ll get to that too).

But what the Blue Devils did really well was keep some of these aesthetically heinous offensive possessions alive with 21 offensive rebounds. This accounted for 42% of their missed shots according to college basketball reference. Duke beat Kansas in second-chance points 19-12 and when jump shots aren’t falling (3/21 from beyond the arc), that’s how you keep yourself in the game.

Freshmen big men Kyle Filipowski and Derek Lively grabbed six and four of those offensive rebounds respectively. Two of Lively’s offensive rebounds were turned into ferocious put-back jams. Filipowski also did more than just rebound on offense, he also did a fantastic job of creating off the dribble and displayed perimeter skills that are rare for a seven-footer. There were a few plays in the second half where he got to a comfortable space in the Kansas defense for a pull-up mid-range jumper as well as taking Kansas’ KJ Adams off the dribble and dunking over him to help give Duke a six-point lead in the second half.

Offensively, that was how the Blue Devils re-gained a lead. With guards struggling to create much offense, the Duke bigs rebounded well enough to keep possessions alive.

Guards showed glimpses, but way too inconsistent

Jeremy Roach scored 11 points in the first half and was the only productive wing player outside of Jaylen Blakes drawing some fouls and getting to the free throw line. Freshman wing player Mark Mitchell and freshman guard Tyrese Proctor put up goose eggs in the first half scoring column. Between Roach, Proctor, Mitchell, reserve guard Jacob Grandison and Blakes, the Duke backcourt combined for one assist and nine turnovers in the first half. In the second half, that ratio improved to 5:2.

The outside shooting was bad for the whole team but Proctor provided some glimpses with his seven-point second half that saw him hit a three and a few mid-range pull-ups. Once he saw a few shots fall, you could see him in more control and his confidence go up. If Duke is to be in contention for the ACC and for a national title, they will need Proctor to mature as the second primary ball-handling option to Roach and to be able to create offense late in games.

Duke played way too out of control and struggled to finish at the rim

In that painful-to-watch offensive first half, Duke was called for six offensive fouls, five were charges and one was a class B technical when Proctor flopped on a three-point jump shot.

The charges, specifically, are a product of playing out of control. Playing out of control not only led to those turnovers but to squandering transition opportunities. At least three of those charges came in transition with one of Blakes, Proctor or Filipowski running over a stationary Kansas defender. One of the main reasons Kansas was at-all able to create a cushion was because they were able to convert those opportunities into points while Duke continuously turned the ball over in those opportunities.

Speaking of the poor Blue Devil transition offense, there was an instance in the game that perfectly encapsulated their struggles. With five minutes left in the first half and the Blue Devils down by seven, Roach made a great outlet pass to Blakes all the way to the block on the other end of the floor. It seemingly looked like an easy layup or dunk opportunity but, credit to Kansas guard Dajuan Harris, got his shot swatted off the backboard from behind. Lively was in position to grab the offensive rebound but when he went up for the seemingly clear put back dunk, his attempt was swatted by Ernest Udeh. Just like that, Duke had a pair of transition bucket opportunities and had both shots blocked. This was another main theme of the game as the Jayhawks blocked 13 Duke shots.

Final Takeaway

Duke was bad offensively. Kansas didn’t light the world on fire but was more than good enough to win the game and as of now, clearly the better team. The focus of this piece was to breakdown Duke’s performance but it is worth noting that we’re probably talking about a Blue Devil win, despite the flawed game, if it wasn’t for the efforts of Jalen Wilson from Kansas. The fourth-year Jayhawk junior was the best player on the floor all night and scored 25 points (making 11 of his 19 two-point attempts) to go along with 11 total rebounds and five assists.

But when it comes to the Blue Devils, Scheyer will have the challenge of coming up with forward combinations that work well moving forward. The pairing of Ryan Young and Filipowski worked well in the first two games against Jacksonville and USC Upstate but underwhelmed offensively against a great Kansas team.

The Lively and Filipowski combination looked good together but Lively is still working his way back into game shape after missing the opener and playing 15 minutes in his first game and only 20 against Kansas. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing that combination more moving forward. It’s also worth noting that Duke will add another key wing piece when star freshman forward Dariq Whitehead is cleared for action.

Tuesday night still represents an incomplete picture of what Duke will look like this season but it certainly is the complete picture of the type of challenge Scheyer has ahead to get this team to mesh in his first season.