It’s game day for the No. 8 Blue Devils (14-2, 2-0), who travel to Clemson tonight to face the Tigers (9-7, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Duke has won 25 of its last 27 games against Clemson and 10 of its last 11 games at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind once the game tips:
1. Does Austin Rivers have a big game?
The Duke freshman is in the midst of a so-so stretch, having averaged 9.8 points per game in the Blue Devils’ last four contests while only hitting 37.8 percent of his shots and 25 percent of his 3-pointers.
Duke has a number of scoring threats on the perimeter, but Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski indicated a couple of weeks ago that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if one or two of them distinguished themselves as Duke’s go-to guy.
There are risks with Rivers adopting that mindset – he’s prone to making questionable decisions on when to drive to the hoop or when to shoot from the perimeter – but he’s clearly gifted on the offensive end. His first big conference game figures to come sooner rather than later.
2. Can Andre Dawkins build on Thursday’s effort against Virginia?
Before the Virginia game, Dawkins’ spot in Duke’s rotation was open to some debate. The junior guard had been hurt by the development of point guard Quinn Cook, which, together with the strong play of Tyler Thornton, had pushed Seth Curry to the shooting guard spot and had taken minutes away from Dawkins.
But with Curry seeing more time at the point against the Cavaliers, Dawkins was on the floor for 29 minutes, the most playing time he’s seen in nearly a month.
“I’m just out there playing – regardless of what the lineup is, if I’m out there on the court, I’m trying to play as hard as I can on both ends of the court,” Dawkins said.
He finished with 10 points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
Just as impressively, Mike Krzyzewski singled Dawkins out in the post-game press conference, saying that it might have been the best defensive effort of Dawkins’ career.
It wasn’t an overpowering effort from Dawkins, but, for the first time in a while, it was something to use as a building block.
3. Remember the Seminoles
With Florida State’s 33-point rout of North Carolina on Saturday reverberating around the conference, it is worth keeping in mind that Clemson beat Florida State by 20 points last weekend.
Duke, then, will not want to misplace its intensity on the way to Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tar Heels’ loss provided a perfect example of the dangers of sleepwalking through a conference game on the road.
If that’s not vivid enough, Duke can think back to its 74-47 loss at Clemson when Miles Plumlee was a freshman.
-- Jack Daly