There is very little doubt, at least in my mind, that this year’s incarnation of Duke Basketball should end up being better than last seasons.
If the Blue Devils latest outing, a 69-45 handing of Division II Winston Salem State, is any indication this could finally be the year where the post is where Duke stakes its claim. Mason Plumlee had a dominating performance with 19 poins and 10 rebounds, granted the Rams didn’t have a player taller than about 6-foot-6, so he should dominate.
But the fact that Plumlee proved that he could be the go to guy is a big bonus and Duke was clearly targeting him on the offensive end of the floor.
Amile Jefferson also had a solid game in the post, scoring 13 points and playing opportunistically. Jefferson grabbed 5 rebounds. If Duke can get that kind of production from him (he logged 22 minutes) then that will certainly help until Marshall Plumlee can get back from his broken foot.
Even after that, if he continues to be able to play effectively it will be hard not to put him on the floor for some solid minutes.
Overall there has been a lot of good that have come from the first couple of exhibition games including the emergence of Rasheed Sulaimon as a potential star as a freshman. He is smooth, and as I’ve said before, I can’t shake the thought that he reminds me so much of Nolan Smith that it is almost scary.
Another bit of good news from the latest exhibition was the play of Seth Curry. Though he did not start he played 17 minutes and scored four points in his first action of the season. Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that the nagging leg injury could bother him the entire year. Curry though moved well and once he shook off some rust in the first half he was much more aggressive as the game went on.
Even if Curry is limited at times this year, Sulaimon has more than made up for the lack of Curry in the lineup, at least over the course of the two exhibition games.
One problem that was apparent against Winston Salem State was the Blue Devils shooting. They were a mind boggling 1-17 from behind the three point line, an area that has been a strength Duke’s essentially since the advent of the three point line. Many are wondering already if Andre Dawkins decisions to redshirt may end up hurting the Blue Devils more than originally though.
Curry is the best returning pure shooter, with Ryan Kelly just behind him, and neither connected on a three. Sulaimon, while he has a nice shooting touch, was not connecting Thursday night and neither was Alex Murphy, another good shooter.
The only three was hit by Quinn Cook who didn’t have a particular stellar game at point guard. He had only one assist and three turnovers. And while the one assist may have been more of a product of missed shots (Duke only shot 39 percent) the turnovers are something the has to cut down on, especially against the top quality opponents the Blue Devils have coming up very soon.
And Despite being significantly bigger than Winston Salem State, whose biggest players again were only about 6-foot-6, Duke managed to out rebound them only by two, (46-44) allowing 19 offensive rebounds, far too many for a smaller team. The Blue Devils in contrast only mustered 18 rebounds, and when you shoot only 39 percent, offensive rebounding is a must.
Overall this is a much better looking team that seems to have a better connection than last year, but they are still not perfect. They have areas they need to improve, but unlike last season, I feel like the potential to get better is greater with this team than with last seasons.
If they can continue to improve defensively and sure up the turnovers and rebounding then come February and March this will be a team to be reckoned with.
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