With another week of college basketball in the books, Duke continues to dominate opponents at home. The Blue Devils have won their games by an average of 41 points, continuing to use their up-tempo offense to score more frequently. The charge is led by the dynamic duo of Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith, speculated to be one of the best backcourts in the country, and at this point the pair is on pace to become one of the most successful backcourts in Duke basketball history.
Judging by pure statistics, the backcourt of Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill in the 1993 season was one of the most dominant in Duke history. Hurley, a Duke basketball legend, is considered one of the best guards in college basketball history and Hill was a prolific scorer in his four years with the Blue Devils. When comparing the two backcourts three games into the season, the numbers are eerily similar. Hurley and Hill (we’ll call them H²) were a better scoring tandem in terms of points scored, averaging 37.7 points a contest in contrast to Irving and Smith’s 30.3; with that being said, both backcourts shot about 53% from the field and shot above 40% from behind the arc. 2010’s backcourt has a slight edge in rebounding (7.7-5.7) while H² had more steals per game (3.3-2.3).
The key statistical comparison to make between these two tandems is the assist to turnover ratio. H² averaged about eight assists and 3.7 turnovers through three games, while Irving and Smith average 14 assists and four turnovers. For those who are struggling with the math, H² had a 2.16:1 assist to turnover ratio and this year’s version has an impressive 3.5:1 ratio. Hurley may have been better as an individual player, but the combination of Irving and Smith has been far better at passing through three games.
The plethora of different lineups implemented by the Blue Devils is another factor in the team’s early success. Early in the season, the production of Duke’s big men has been staggered, leading to some changes in lineup formation. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski played two different offensive groups, one with two post players and another with only one post player. Each unit was used for 11.5 minutes before various bench players received some playing time. Scoring was not difficult for either unit, although the unit with only one post player had a slight edge 36-32. The real difference came on the defensive end, where the group with only one post layer allowed only 11 points, as opposed to the 21 allowed by the other set of players.
As mentioned in last week’s column, Duke has one of the most athletic teams in the country, due in large part to the plethora of guards available. With this being said, playing with only one post player allows Duke to use its depth and obviously was a success Friday night. It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Duke uses against tougher competition these next few weeks, because according to statistics, the smaller lineup is more productive, and the stats don’t lie.