Arkansas vs Duke: What Hogs Can Do Differently Than Texas Tech to End Coach K’s Career

Coach K

It was Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils who suffered the final blow of Arkansas’ stirring national championship run back in 1994. Scotty Thurman’s nearly sky-scraping shot from the right wing was heard around the world, but it wasn’t as loud as the Hog call that reverberated across the land a mere 50.7 seconds of game time later.

Now, just a year removed from their first Elite Eight appearance since 1995 – the year after that Arkansas basketball program-defining victory over Duke – another band of gritty Razorbacks have burst onto the national scene led by chippy coach, this time Eric Musselman. These Hogs face another monumental opportunity with Coach K once again standing in their way – this time for the final time.

The 42-year head coach of the Blue Devils previously announced that this season with Duke would be his last, setting the stage for his final tournament run to be one for the ages. Coach K’s 31-6 squad is now set to face their toughest test yet: a stifling Razorback team hot off the heels of becoming the first team ever to beat a No. 1-ranked team in the regular season and a No. 1-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament.

For the first time since 1994 and 1995, the Razorbacks punched their ticket to consecutive Elite Eight appearances with a 74-68 win over Gonzaga on Thursday evening. The Hogs put on yet another masterful defensive display, holding the high-powered Gonzaga offense to 38% shooting and fewer than 70 points for only the third time all season. Only once this year did the Bulldogs shoot worse from the field than they did against the Hogs – in a 67-57 loss to Saint Mary’s in late February.

The Blue Devils are no strangers to high-quality defenses, however. While Arkansas just beat the No. 1 team in KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AOE) rankings, Duke is also fresh off a win over the team ranked No. 1 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (ADE) in Texas Tech.

What to Expect When Duke Has the Ball

Unfortunately for the Hogs, Duke ranks No. 2 in AOE. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 52% from the field and 37% from behind the arc against Texas Tech’s top-ranked defense. This came one game after shooting 57% FG and 39% 3P against Michigan State’s 67th ranked defense according to ADE. Much of Duke’s efficient scoring came in the second half against the Red Raiders when they shot roughly 70% in the final frame.

Texas Tech fields five starters that range from 6-6 to 6-8, averaging roughly 6-6 between all nine players who play 10 minutes or more per game. The Raiders had success playing the passing lanes against Duke – something Arkansas can also do well, though it’s not their calling card. The Razorbacks’ physical style of defense forces teams to slow down and grind through offensive sets with minimal room to dribble rather than relying on turnovers and fast-break opportunities, a style more in line with Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” philosophy that brought up that ’94 title.

Duke’s Superstar Prospect

The Blue Devil offense revolves around former No. 2 overall recruit, Paolo Banchero. The 6-10 freshman is projected to be one of the top three picks in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, along with Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. Arkansas has already outlasted two of these prospects, but that doesn’t make Duke’s superstar any less dangerous.

He paces Duke is scoring (17.8) and rebounding (7.8) while ranking second on his team in assists (3.2). During the NCAA Tournament, the Freshman of the Year candidate has taken his game to new levels, averaging 19.3 points per game on nearly 54% shooting from long range.

“Banchero has done himself something special in this tournament,” says Matt Norlander of CBS. “He has taken his game to an entirely different level and reintroduced himself into the conversation to be the number one overall pick in the NBA draft, which frankly he had been nudged out of by the likes of Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren.”

While the game plan against Gonzaga’s 195-lbs Chet Holmgren was to stay physical to make him uncomfortable, Banchero weighs 250 lbs – closer to Jabari Smith’s weight – and won’t be as easy to bully in the paint. Instead, defenders like Trey Wade, Stanley Umude, and Kamani Johnson will have to stay in front of Banchero and leave him no room to dribble or get into a rhythm.

Dangerous Duke Basketball Guard Duo

While stopping Duke’s 6-10, 250-pound freight train with shooting touch appears to be a tall task, it’s the Blue Devil guards that Arkansas should be focused on shutting down. Several times this season, Arkansas has allowed a team’s leading scorer to play one-on-one basketball – often resulting in big scoring outputs – while shutting down the perimeter players and slowing down the game. This will come into play when Au’Diese Toney, Devo Davis and JD Notae match up against Duke’s starting backcourt of Wendell Moore and Jeremy Roach.

Moore, a 6-5 junior, averages 13.5 points per game on over 56% from the field (57% in the NCAAT). Roach, a 6-1 sophomore, bumped his scoring average from 8.6 up to 14 points per game in the tournament, shooting nearly 64% from the field. It’s unclear which defender coach Musselman will assign to which guard, but everyone will have to be aware of this scoring duo defensively.

Arkansas vs Duke: Role Players

“They’ve got five guys averaging double figures, so knowing our personnel is going to be big,” says Stanley Umude of Duke when compared the Blue Devils to Gonzaga. “They got a lot of different guys that can do a lot of different things.”

Rounding out the Blue Devil lineup is a pair of lethal shooters surrounding an athletic, 7-foot shot-blocker. Trevor Keels (6-4) and AJ Griffin (6-6) are a pair of tall guards who average over four 3-point attempts per game, hitting at 32% and 45% respectively. Help defenders will need to be aware of Banchero’s movements when he has the ball, but they cannot stray too far away from either of these snipers.

In the middle of this offense lurks 7-0 sophomore, Mark Williams. He scores roughly 11.3 points per game on 71% shooting. He averages 2.6 offensive rebounds per game, so Jaylin Williams will have to continue to rebound as he’s done so far in the tournament where he averages 12.3 rebounds per game – 10.7 of which are defensive.

What to Expect When Arkansas Has the Ball

Duke ranks 47th in KenPom’s ADE, essentially landing them in the “good, but not elite” range. Arkansas is 15-6 against teams in the top 75 in ADE, including 6-1 against the top 10 in ADE. In other words, Duke doesn’t pose a level of defensive threat that Arkansas hasn’t already seen at some point this season.

That being said, it’s not a given that the Razorbacks will be effective from the field. They have often struggled to score throughout the tournament, including netting only 53 points in their win over New Mexico State.

Against Gonzaga, JD Notae put up 21 points on an inefficient 9-29 shooting. He’s now shooting just over 30% from the field and 18% from long range in the tournament. This matchup against Jeremy Roach and Duke would be the perfect time for the Hogs’ All-American to break out of his shooting slump.

He can’t do it alone, however, and an unlikely scorer could potentially come to his aid. Before transferring to Arkansas this season, Au’Diese Toney played against Coach K’s Blue Devils three times with Pitt. He averaged 19.3 points per game including a 27-point, 75% 3-point shooting performance.

Texas Tech had success when attacking the paint against Duke, something the Hogs typically rely on with their streaky 3-point shooting. They shot 53% from inside the arc and 32% from long range – both numbers the Hogs can feasibly reach – in their five-point loss to the Blue Devils. The JD Notae-Jaylin Williams pick-and-roll will likely be on full display again as coach Musselman keeps his best two players involved with a mix of slashing and shooting from the surrounding forwards.

Duke also has a zone defense they will likely throw at the Hogs for stretches in the game. This likely won’t faze a Musselman-prepared team and could provide a few shot opportunities needed to get the Razorback shooters back in their rhythm.

“If they go zone to stop our rim attack I think we can run some sets to get some open threes, things like that,” says Umude of Duke’s defense. “But it’ll be about getting out there and seeing how they’re guarding us and making adjustments from there.”

Arkansas vs Duke: What to Watch For

While Duke is by no means the best defensive team Arkansas has played this season, they are a smart defensive squad. So far, through three tournament games, they’re allowing only 9.7 free throw attempts per game to opponents. Arkansas is averaging over 21 attempts per game. One of these numbers has to give, and if we’ve learned anything about the relationship between refs and Blue Bloods, the odds won’t be in Arkansas’ favor.

This means the Hogs will likely have to find other ways to score besides getting to the charity stripe. As a team, Arkansas is shooting only 37% from the field and 27% from long range in the NCAA Tournament. Their defense has allowed them to win games to this point, but Duke’s well-rounded attack will be slightly different than Gonzaga’s and could prove to be more challenging with a couple of Blue Devils hitting their stride at the right time.

Arkansas’ offensive struggles could be the reason they lose this game or the reason they pull off the upset if they break out of their slump.

Arkansas vs Duke Prediction

ESPN’s BPI gives Duke a 64% chance of defeating the Razorbacks on Saturday night. These two teams have met only three times on the hardwood, Arkansas having won each of the last two matchups after dropping the first meeting in 1990. The most recent matchup was that 1994 NCAA Tournament awardeding the Hogs their first and only national title in basketball.

Arkansas has found different ways to win games all season long. They have simply out-shot their opponents from the field, they’ve attempted 30 or more free throws seven times, and recently they’ve mucked up both sides of the ball enough to get the other team out of their comfort zone. Look for this trend to continue against the Fighting Coach K’s as Au’Diese Toney once again smothers his defensive assignment enough for the Hogs to basically play 4-on-4 defensively. JD Notae won’t quite break out of his slump, but he’ll continue to put pressure on the basket, and provide the Hogs enough of an offensive lift for their 11th-ranked defense to carry them into their first Final Four since 1995.

Arkansas wins 76-72 (again).

How to Watch Arkansas vs Duke

No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (28-8)

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (31-6)

Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA

Date: Saturday, March 26th, 2022

Time: 7:49 PM CT

TV: TBS (TBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson)

Online: NCAA Tournament Central

Radio: Learfield Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
– Radio: Westwood One Network (Ryan Radtke and Steve Lavin)
^ Sirius/XM: Westwood One Broadcast: Sirius: 135 || XM: 202 || Online Channel: 965
– Live Stats: NCAA Tournament Central

Arkansas vs Duke Game Notes

  • Arkansas is 6-4 in NCAA Tournament Elite 8 games.
  • This will be the fourth time Arkansas and Duke have met. Arkansas owns a 2-1 advantage and are 1-1 versus the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Duke defeated the Razorbacks, 97-83, in the 1990 Final Four in Denver. Arkansas defeated Duke, 76-72, in the 1990 NCAA title game thanks to “The Shot” by Scotty Thurman — a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left and the shot clock hitting zero as the ball was in the air for a 73-70 lead. (via Razorback Communications)

See more on Arkansas vs Duke, starting with Dicky V!

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