Durham, NC --- Duke is 4-0 and Mike Krzyzewski now has 904 career victories. But the Blue Devils are far from the team they should become.
Friday night's 82-69 victory over feisty Davidson at Cameron Indoor Stadium offered two glimpses into who the Blue Devils are, and the direction they should head.
Duke got another lesson in intensity, something that isn't yet a consistency for this team, more about who should and shouldn't bounce the ball on the floor, and so many other small nuances that have been part of the Devils' DNA for decades.
But the Devils will get there, mark it down. They made strides on this night, overcoming a one-point halftime deficit in impressive fashion.
"We were a lot better in the second half from our focus, intensity, played really hard and smarter," Duke senior forward Miles Plumlee said. "This team has a lot to learn, but you could see tonight that we learned a lot and got better."
This isn't a particularly good ballhandling team, but it will get better. In the first, half, when Davidson pretty much led most of the way, Plumlee and his 6-foot-10 brother Mason spent way too much time away from the basket. Setting screens 20 feet from the cylinder is one thing, putting the ball on the floor and trying to drive to the basket from the free throw line is another. It wasn't very effective.
In the second half, Plumlee stayed on the low post more, used the dribble to back in his defender or make a move on the block, and used his athletic ability and 6-foot-10 frame in getting to the rim for offensive rebounds and a spectacular alley-oop dunk that brought down the house.
Mason Plumlee finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, 9 and 8 coming after halftime. But this ebb-and-flow by individuals and the team is just part of the growing process that will consume this team for some time.
"Right now we have different guys stepping up at different times," junior forward Ryan Kelly said. "And we hope at some point everybody's playing great. And then everybody can step up to that level and be what we can be and reach our potential."
Junior Seth Curry (17 points) is learning the point guard position but is more comfortable playing off the ball. Andre Dawkins is the designated perimeter assassin, and while he's can be deadly on some nights, when he's off he doesn't bring that much more to the floor to justify 30 minutes a night regardless.
Freshman Quinn Cook did a nice job in the second half. He was aware, recognized open teammates, and gave the Devils 12 very solid minutes.
That's part of the problem right now. Duke used four players on the ball, including sophomore Tyler Thornton, who's a bit limited, but always brings Duke-level of intensity and focus every time he steps on court.
Freshman Austin Rivers is uniquely gifted, and he clearly has game. But so far, it isn't translating into what Duke needs. In some respects, he needs to tailor his game to blend into the vision Krzyzewski has for this club. Duke also must adapt some to Rivers.
He can drive to the rim and has an assortment of floaters in his arsenal, but right now he's trying to do a bit too much, and at times it appears he's ignoring teammates. But he's young, needs some humbling, and his game will be molded. Duke's staff sees this and by late January, Rivers will be far more in tune with his mates, and will be more productive as a result.
Though it's not a preference, Krzyzewski knows he has four guys he can trust putting on the ball.
"I think you have to adjust top whatever team you have the opportunity to coach," the Hall of Fame coach said. "If we have one guy whose just going to dominate We don't have that. What we do have are good players. You don't talk about what you don't have, you try to use and develop what you do have."
Duke isn't a real good basketball team right now, but it will get there. Kelly is playing well and will mesh better with the others in time. Everything will settle in with Rivers, Krzyzewksi will know which freshmen can help and how, and this club will attain an identity.
"We were hoping that we could get better and I think that we are getting better, " Krzyzewski said. "So right now we still won, and that's a good thing, too."