Coming into the season, writers all across the country, including myself said that Duke’s main problem would come from their lack of size down in the post leading to lopsided rebounding numbers. That has been partially true, but hasn’t been the reason for two previous too-close-for-comfort games. Rebounding has definitely been a weakness, but something else has been noticed.
Duke’s overall defense has been nothing short of awful against opponents who shouldn’t even score more than 65-70 points against this team. The on-ball defense has been dismal at best, with players like Paris Roberts-Campbell and Sandro Carissimo easily driving past Quinn Cook and company. How is this happening? How is this happening to a team that is in fact quite similar to the same one as last season? These are the questions every Duke fan is asking themselves.
The fact of the matter is that Duke doesn't have that low-post defender to protect the bucket, but that is no excuse to have players blow past them off the dribble with ease. The communication has been a glaring weakness. Duke is switching on almost every screen because they have the athleticism to guard almost all 5 players on the court. The communication on these switches have been terrible. At times, it has been evident that they aren’t talking on these switches, as two players will follow the ball handler and leave an opponent wide open. Or the opposite will happen and both will go to cover the screener, leaving an open lane for a drive and kick or easy access to the lane.
There is the potential to be a very good defensive team, but there needs to be a constant effort by each defender to communicate and give it their all on each and every possession. It also whittles down to something as simple as boxing out to grab a rebound. Yes, lack of size is definitely a problem, but you can’t out-jump everybody. So, you have to revert back to the basics and fundamentals of basketball. Something as simple as locating your defender and boxing him out will improve the rebounding aspect.
What about the problems off the dribble, you ask? Here, each individual person needs to come prepared and ready for the task each and every day. No opponent should be taken lightly, whether they are Vermont or UNC. Off the dribble, Quinn Cook must be the leader. He is the one holding down the point and guarding the ball most of the time. He must improve his on-ball defense and he has the ability to. Cook has been beat constantly, but he can improve on that. He is fast and has shown that he can be a lockdown defender. I am not blaming Cook for the recent woes; the blame should be put on everybody on the court. Everybody needs to step up their defensive games and we will have to see if they do in their next game against Alabama at Madison Square Garden.