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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | November 20, 2018

Duke vs. Auburn prediction: 3 stats tell the tale about this top-10 matchup

Thanks to the 2018 Maui Invitational, we’ve got another Top 10 matchup just two weeks into the season: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 8 Auburn.

RELATED: 2018 Maui Invitational schedule, bracket, scores

The two teams square off Tuesday night at 8 p.m., ET. You can watch the game on ESPN or WatchESPN.

It’s still very early in the year, so statistics aren’t a perfect representation of a team yet, but there’s still plenty we can learn from looking at the numbers. Here’s what they say about this matchup:

RELATED: College basketball TV schedule | Scoreboard | Updated stats

Auburn is the biggest defensive test for Duke yet — by a mile

Duke’s absurdly high-powered offense hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near this good yet.

Auburn is ranked No. 25 in the country for Defensive Rating, allowing 83.9 points per 100 possessions. Here’s where Duke’s previous four opponents fall in defensive rating:

Opponent DRtg rank (of 353) DRtg Result Score
Kentucky 302 108.9 W 118-84
Army 326 112.6 W 94-72
Eastern Michigan 173 97.4 W 84-46
San Diego State 169 96.8 W 90-64

So yeah, this may be a wake-up call for Mike Krzyzewski’s offense.

That defense is led by the Tigers’ press that has forced turnovers on 23.8 percent of possessions — the ninth-highest mark in the country. Auburn wants to play fast, and force opponents out of their comfort zone and into turnovers. 

But Duke is the 44th-fastest team in the country. And their fast break is one of the most efficient in the country. If Auburn can disrupt it and force turnovers on the break, they’ll take away one of Duke’s major weapons. But that’s a big if.

Auburn has way more experience. If they can keep it close, that may provide the edge

In order, Auburn’s five leading scorers are a junior (Jared Harper), a senior, (Bryce Brown), a sophomore (Chuma Okeke), a junior (Samir Doughty), and a junior (Austin Wiley).

Meanwhile, only one upperclassman is averaging more than five points per game for Duke — junior Jack White. Four of the Blue Devils top five scorers are freshmen.

Getting your top performances out of players with a lot of experience under their belt is a huge upside in college basketball, especially in close games. But it’s certainly not everything. R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish are playing with plenty of confidence just four games into their careers.

But there’s still a lot of uncertainty there. That trio still hasn’t really been tested on a big stage in a clutch game. Yes, they destroyed Kentucky, but did that game really test them? Kentucky never had the lead, and after the first six minutes, the margin was never within single digits. If this Auburn game is within a couple possessions late, we’ll learn a lot about Duke’s freshmen.

Duke’s offense is one of the best in the country (but Auburn is right behind)

The Blue Devils are tied for the 11th-highest offensive rating in the country, averaging 126.1 points per 100 possessions. That’s led by Barrett’s 24 points per game, and Williamson’s 22.3, not to mention Reddish shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range to average 16.5 a game. No other ranked team has two players averaging at least 20 points per game. This team is scary good.

But Auburn isn’t offensively-stunted. Nowhere near it. The Tigers’ offensive rating of 125 is ranked No. 14 in the nation. They’ve got five players averaging double digits and one more at 9.3. And if that weren’t enough, the Tigers average 16.7 extra scoring chances per game — the most in the country. That’s powered by Auburn’s work on the boards, where they collect 44.2 percent of available offensive rebounds (the 7th-best mark in the nation).

Prediction:

Duke will have its lowest offensive output of the season, but the freshman trio will keep this game just out of reach for the Tigers: Duke 82, Auburn 78.