Mike Krzyzewski has never had a recruiting haul like this. That’s not to say this year’s Duke team can yet be measured against its coach’s best — that will be decided in March. But no Blue Devils squad has had the same level of incoming talent as this group, led by Marvin Bagley III, the class’ top player, along with Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. — a total of four freshmen ranked in the top 10 of the 2017 recruiting class.

Pair that group with Grayson Allen, a senior and a candidate for national player of the year, and you have a team with national title aspirations. But will that hype be justified the next five months? Tuesday night will provide a key litmus test with a matchup against similarly stacked Michigan State in Chicago. Here are the three keys to watch:

* The benefits of a shortened bench. Through its first two games, Duke’s freshmen have been on the floor a total of 268 minutes, which represents nearly 70 percent of all available minutes. Normally, relying that heavily on incoming talent would be troublesome, but when a class is so highly regarded, Krzyzewski knows it is best to give the keys to the season to his newbies. Allen and Javin DeLaurier, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, are the only veterans to have played significant minutes, though that will change when sophomore Marques Bolden fully recovers from strep throat.

Though went deep into his bench for spurts during wins against Elon and Utah Valley, Krzyzewski figures to use a seven-man rotation at most. That’s in keeping with his strategy over the past several seasons, when reserves accounted for about 25 percent of the team’s minutes. The team is physically prepared for it. As Allen told reporters following the team’s 99-69 win against Utah Valley: “Honestly, our guys are in great shape, so if Coach only goes with five, we’re able to go with five because of the shape we’re in,”

* Defensive improvement. Defense hasn’t necessarily been a Duke specialty — during the past decade, just four of its squads have ranked in the top 25 nationally in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of those teams (2010 and 2015) won the national title. Based on its ease switching ball screens at every position, this team has similar lockdown potential.

Bagley and Carter — who stand 6-11 and 6-10, respectively — appear as comfortable guarding the perimeter as they are on the block. Even DeLaurier has also shown he can switch on opposing guards without creating a substantial defensive mismatch. That unique ability to switch everything should help the Blue Devils tightly guard the perimeter while also hamstringing offensive efficiency within the arc, which has always been an issue for past Duke teams. Opponents converted nearly 50 percent of their two-point shots last season. That will change in 2018.

* Keep pairing Bagley and Allen on the same side of the court. Nineteen of Allen’s 22 points against Elon came in the first half, and of that total, 17 were the result of being on the same side of the floor as Bagley. It’s a pairing we should expect to see all season — Allen curling around a Bagley screen, or using a pick beyond the three-point line while Bagley sinks to the post. Defenders aren’t capable of single-covering Bagley, and they can’t give Allen — a career 39 percent shooter from deep who is making an absurd 67 percent this season — any space on the perimeter.

During one possession in Bagley’s debut, all five Elon defenders were keyed on Bagley down low, each with at least one foot near or planted firmly in the paint. All it took was a pass to DeLaurier, who whipped the ball to Allen, who splashed a three-pointer. Allen’s defender was too concerned with help defense to contest an open perimeter shot.

That’s why playing Bagley and Allen together should yield one of the country’s most efficient lineups. Bagley, who was frequently swarmed and doubled by Utah Valley defenders, showed a knack for correctly passing to a waiting teammate beyond the three-point line.

There is a danger to relying this heavily on freshmen for success. But Krzyzewski clearly believes the talent can navigate the so-called freshman wall and make a run at a national title. Based on initial showings, that confidence might be rewarded, but a game against a team as talented as the Spartans will show us more.

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