After a long summer break, Duke basketball is finally back. This year’s new team now has one week and two regular season wins against Siena and Bryant under their belt, and are gearing up for a tremendous early season test against final four favorites Kentucky tomorrow night. Although the level of competition for Duke’s first two games is not as high as what they will face during ACC play, there were still some important takeaways and observations one can take from their first two performances.

Grayson Allen In Attack Mode Bodes Well For Duke

After what seemed like a few adjustment games in exhibition play, Grayson Allen has come out to start the regular season on a mission.  He has taken a leadership role on a young team devoid of proven scorers by using his superior athleticism and strength and tenacity to attack the rim every chance he gets. Allen’s new found aggression puts tremendous pressure on opposing guards to keep him out of the lane, and he has undoubtedly taken advantage of new rules in college basketball that are honing in on eliminating hand-checking offensive players on the perimeter.

Allen’s relentless driving has resulted in several positives for Duke; the sophomore guard has been able to get to the rim and finish, kick the ball out for open perimeter shots and draw and abundance of fouls. His ability to not only get into the paint but to be in control, and make smart, unselfish decisions once he gets there will be critical for Duke all season long. The prevailing question is will still be if Allen can sustain consistent offensive production for the Blue Devils as one of their go-to players.

It is also worth noting Allen had a couple electrifying dunks during the first two games. It is safe to say we can get used to seeing a good amount of those from him throughout the season.


Amile Jefferson Has a Chance To Have a Very Productive Season

jefferson dribble

While Duke as a team ended their previous season on a high note with a National Championship, Amile Jefferson ended it with an individual high note of his own with his game altering defense on National Player of the Year Frank Kamisnky. Now entering his senior season at Duke, it is clear that Jefferson is ready to be a high-level contributor on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Already an excellent rebounder and defender during his first three years at Duke, Jefferson enters this season projecting to be a consistent double-double machine for the Blue Devils. He has already gotten off to a good start recording back-to-back double-doubles in Duke’s first two regular season games (19 points, 12 rebounds against Siena and 11 points, 11 rebounds vs. Bryant). While never a featured player on offense,  Jefferson has gotten most of his points during his time in Durham on offensive put backs. But it seems as though Duke’s senior foward will have an opportunity to score in a wider variety of ways this season.

Jefferson is not Jahlil Okafor by any means, but with craftiness around the rim, good footwork, considerable length and a few solid moves in the post, he does have the ability to score around the basket. He is also adept at facing up when he gets the ball around the foul line and using a quick first step to beat his man off the dribble. Combined with his relentlessness on the glass, passion for the game, leadership qualities, versatile defensive ability, substantial basketball IQ, and three years of experience under his belt, it looks as though Jefferson, the consummate Duke senior is ready to put it all together during his last college basketball season.


Brandon Ingram is at His Best When He Focuses Attacking the Basket First and Doesn’t Try to Force Threes.


Most freshmen players go through a period in the beginning of their college careers where they adjust to the increased speed of the game and the more physical play. They also settle into the roles they have on their teams and figure out how to play to their strengths.

We saw somewhat of a micro version of this process for Duke freshman Brandon Ingram in the short period of time between the Blue Devil’s first regular season game to their second. In the first game against Siena, he settled for too many contested three-pointers, which he shot 1/9 on, and seemed a little bit rushed and out of control.

The following night against Bryant, we can assume he absorbed some good advice and constructive criticism from Coach K and the other Duke coaches, because Ingram came out looking focused and determined to play to his strengths. With incredible length, athleticism and skill for his size, Ingram has the ability to make plays going to the basket and get to the foul line often.

It isn’t that Ingram should never shoot threes, because he is a good shooter, as he displayed against Bryant last week when he went 4/6 from the perimeter. He just has to make smart decisions about when to shoot and when to drive to the rim. It has only been two games which is a very small sample size, but it seems as though Ingram is a solid percentage perimeter shooter when he catches the ball in rhythm, with his feet set within the flow of the offense. Based on his contrasting performances against Siena and Bryant, it seems like that percentage will drop significantly when he settles for contested threes, threes off the dribble and threes that are not within the flow of the offense.

When he takes these type of low percentage perimeter shots, he is failing to take advantage of the natural talent and skill that he possesses. Ingram will be at his best when he attacks the rim first, and takes set, in rhythm threes when they come to him, instead of trying to hunt three pointers as his first offensive weapon.

Duke Still Has Question Marks About Their Half-Court Offense and Defense

Over their first two games, Duke forced an abundance of turnovers on defense, and scored a ton of points in transition. Hopefully that will be something that they can continue to thrive on throughout the season. It is always good to have the ability to get easy baskets in transition, but to have balance, a team must also be able to generate offense in a  half-court setting.

Last year, with Okafor down low and Tyus Jones, a polished consummate point guard running the show, the team had no problem scoring in the half court. This year’s squad though doesn’t have that perpetually poised point guard or enormous low post presence. They will have to rely on penetration from their guards, kick-out threes, drop-offs in the paint and some offensive rebounding by their experienced front line (plus Jeter). What happens on the nights when the threes aren’t falling, or when Allen and/or lngram are having an off night offensively? Can other players (Jones, Jefferson, Kennard) step up and carry the load, or will the offense sputter out? It is on those nights that we will see how tough this young group is. They dynamics of Duke’s half-court offense as the season progresses will be one of the determining factors in how high the ceiling for this team is.

As for their defense, Duke forced many turnovers in their first two match-ups, as was mentioned above. But they also made far too many mistakes and miscommunications on the defensive end that resulted in layups or open threes for opponents. A learning curve on defense is to be expected for a team integrating as many new and young players as Duke is this year, and despite showing inconsistencies early, this Blue Devils squad is full of long, athletic, quick players and has the potential to be a very good defensive team.

The best case scenario for this team is that the younger players learn and are able to pick up defensive rotations quickly, meshing with a quality returning group of defenders in Plume, Jefferson, Jones and Allen, allowing Duke to develop a formidable and consistent defense by the end of the season. The worst case scenario is that the freshmen fail to improve on defense quickly enough, and Duke remains inconsistent on that end throughout the entire year, which would likely douse any Final Four hopes this team may have.


It has only been a little over two months since Duke’s whirlwind run to their 5th National Championship, but with the departure of Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, a Tyus Jones, and the highly anticipated arrival of Duke’s second straight #1 recruiting class at the end of June, coaches, fans and players are already looking forward to next season. Duke will lose four starters from last seasons championship team. Despite these losses they return valuable and experienced rotation players Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Marshall Plumlee, big man Sean Obi (a transfer from Rice who is eligible as a redshirt junior), a will bring in a talented freshman class consisting of point guard Derryck Jones, wing Brandon Ingram, foward Chase Jeter, shooting guard Luke Kennard and big man Antonio Vrankovic, and finally athletic guard Grayson Allen, who had a breakout game in the championship against Wisconsin when he sparked Duke’s second half comeback charge with his relentless on ball defense, fearless slashing and clutch shooting.

There will be close to a totally new roster on the floor for the Blue Devils, but their two returning guards, Allen and Jones each bring a very different skillset to Duke’s backcourt. With this in mind, what sort of improvements should fans anitcipate for Duke’s lone returning perimiter players headed into the 2015-2016 college basketall season?

Grayson Allen


Despite his electrifying performance that aided Duke in capturing their 5th National Championship, Allen, who for most of his freshman season was a sparingly used bench player, still has a lot to learn, and much experience to gain. He no doubt has the skill and physical ability to be a top player, but this year he will need to adjust to being one of Duke’s main scorers. Allen must become accustomed to being a player that the team relies on to perform each and every game, a player that is one of the main focuses of opposing team’s defensive plans, and a player who is a leader on the court for a fairly young team. Still, just a sophomore himself, these are aspects of the game that may not come naturally to him, but hopefully things that he will improve at throughout the year.

In addition, to continue to progress as a player, Allen has hopefully worked on fine tuning certain skill related aspects of the game over the summer, most notably ball handling and outside shooting. Although he was already capable in both of these areas, this years team, with inexperienced freshman Thornton being the only point guard on the roster, should result in Allen handling the ball much more often than he would on a team with an established and veteran point guard running the show. Tightening up his handle would help Allen be more confident with the ball in his hands, and more effective in the lead guard position if/when when the team needs him to be there.

As for his outside shooting, he has good form on his shot, but was somewhat streaky (36%) from the 3-point line last season. Combined with his substantial athleticism and driving ability, becoming a more consistent outside shooter would undoubtedly elevate Allen to another level as a player. It would not only allow him to be more reliably multifaceted on offense, but would also make him incredibly difficult for opposing teams to contain.

Matt Jones

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) celebrates as Duke defeats the Wisconsin Badgers 68-63 in the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) celebrates as Duke defeats the Wisconsin Badgers 68-63 in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

For his first two seasons at Duke, now junior shooting guard Matt Jones has been a valuable role player for the Blue Devils. What was surprising was the fact that Jones excelled in far different areas of the game then everyone expected him to. Despite beginning his college career with the reputation of being an elite 3-point shooter in high school and AAU, Jones for the most part, has struggled with that part of his game in his two years playing at the college level.

Instead, the 6’4 guard from Texas has made his living on the court with his toughness and grit, quickly becoming a lock down perimeter defender and the ultimate team player. This was especially true last season, as Jones provided much the dirty work on at the guard position for a team of stars and future first-round picks that he was consistently overshadowed by night after night.
Now, with those stars, as well as senior leader Quinn Cook, gone and a new host of highly ranked but inexperienced freshman in their place, Jones has been named a captain, and must use his toughness, experience and unselfish mindset to help lead a young team with no truly proven scorers to success. So with this in mind, what areas of his game does Jones need to improve heading into his senior year?

First, it would be obviously beneficial for him to work on making his outside shooting a more consistent weapon in his offensive repertoire. Shooting a higher percentage would not only raise his individual scoring average and statistics, but it would allow Jones to take some scoring pressure off a young team and very young perimeter who are without an established scorer. Although Jones did improve his three-point shooting percentage from 14% in his freshman season, to 37% during his sophomore year intoned enhancement in this area would elevate his game to another level.

Second, Jones is already a “lead by example” type player on the court with his relentless defensive efforts, but now, as a captain, he must develop other vocal and verbal leadership skills necessary to guiding a young core of players in the right direction. One of the main roles of any captain or leader helping you get players on the team improve. It is one thing to be a good player yourself, but being a leader means embracing the responsibility of lifting up your teammates, showing younger players the ropes and inspiring in them confidence and an unselfish, team oriented mentality.

As an experienced upperclassman, Jones’ support and guidance can help facilitate the improvement of freshmen guards Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard physically, mentally and emotionally. Thornton in particular will experience the roller coaster of being a freshmen point guard this season attempting to run a team at the college level for the first time, with the added pressure of being the only true point guard on the roster. Jones can use his experience to mentor both Thornton and Kennard on the essentials of being Duke basketball players and the hard work that undoubtedly comes with the privilege of that title.

Small Fowards:

2013-2014-Jabari Parker (Fr.), Rodney Hood (So.)
2014-2015-Justise Winslow (Fr.)


Edge: 2013-2014-Despite Winslow being the strongest two way player of the three small forwards from this season and last, the 2013-2014 small forwards get the edge in my book purely because there were two of them, and only one of Winslow, and together, they were one of the best offensive duos in the nation, both becoming first found NBA Draft picks. Aside from Winslow, who projects to be a very productive player for the Blue Devils, the small forward position could be very fluid for Duke this season. Because of the versatility of their roster, Duke has the ability try and evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of very different lineups in the back court and on the wing, and Winslow is really the only “traditional” small forward they could use at the three spot. Other players like guards Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones and Grayson Allen, and power forward Semi Ojeleye may spend time rotating into and out of the small forward spot this season, as the coaches get a feel for different lineups, and determine which combinations of players have the best chemistry and effectiveness on the floor together.

Although Duke underperformed as a team last year, the duo of Parker and Hood averaged 35.5 points per game, 12.6 rebounds per game, while combining to shoot 46.5% from the field and 38.5% from three point range. Parker was by far the superior rebounder, (although that may have been a result of both effort and differing body types), but both were for the most part, poor defensive players, which definitely hindered the Blue Devils when they played strong teams. Their defensive deficiency works against them in this comparison, but their offensive potency and versatility can’t be denied, and creates too much of an advantage for Winslow to surpass on his own despite his potential and competitiveness on the court.

When you look at Winslow compared to Parker and Hood, you get a completely different player at the three spot. While Hood and Parker thrived using a combination offensive versatility and advanced skill sets, Winslow is more raw then they were at the same stage. He is at his best as a lock down defender who can guard anywhere from the one to the four spots, affecting the game on both sides of the court with his strength, athleticism, and tenacity. Winslow is one of those guys that has you shaking your head, wondering how he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He keeps his man in front of him when guarding the ball, and is adept at picking and choosing the right moments to go for steals and traps and when to stay in standard defensive rotations. Adding to his defensive prowess, he is also a strong and very willing rebounder. Winslow isn’t the most polished offensive player but his outside shot is slowly improving, and he thrives when slashing to the rim, and getting out in transition. He has the ability to handle the ball a bit as well. Basically, it would be difficult to find players with more contrasting skill sets at the small forward spot than you have with Winslow compared to Parker/Hood.

Though the combination of Parker and Hood get the overall edge over Winslow, one could argue that Winslow is the perfect fit for this year’s Duke team that has been saddled with poor defensive squads the past two or three seasons. Because Duke has plenty of offensive fire power expected from Jahlil Okafor, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyus Jones Matt Jones, and Quinn Cook, Winslow should feel comfortable settling into a role that is a perfect fit for him-being a productive two way player, with some extra emphasis on being a defensive stopper, essentially doing a little bit of everything for the Blu

Shooting Guards:

-2013-2014-Rasheed Sulaimon (So), Andre Dawkins (Sr), Matt Jones (Fr).
-2014-2015-Rasheed Sulaimon (Jr), Matt Jones (So), Grayson Allen (Fr).

2014-2015-This one was pretty close, but in my opinion, the shooting guards on this year’s roster get the edge mainly because Sulaimon and Jones have another year of experience and work under their belts. After admittedly not being the most mature player last season, the team is hopeful to see a new and rejuvenated version of Sulaimon on the court this year. He will be expected to be more focused on being the best player and teammate he can be, and fulfilling the potential he came to Duke with. This includes coming into the season in shape, letting the game come to him on offense, and not letting frustrating sequences get into his head and negatively effect his performance and attitude in future plays. Sulaimon showed vast improvement in each of these areas as last season progressed after a very poor start, and I am hopeful that he can carry over what he was able to accomplish at the end of last year into this coming season.

Matt Jones came into Duke with the reputation of being an elite three point shooter, but came up empty on the perimeter, shooting a horrid 14% (3 of 21) from three point range. He played very sparingly, which can make it tough for a shooter to get into a rhythm, but even so, 14% is startlingly poor for a player who came in with expectations of being a high level perimeter shooter. There was speculation about the reasons behind Jone’s sudden poor shooting that the Duke coaches were in the process of changing his shot so that he would have a higher release. This is a change that would temporarily interrupt his shooting ability, but hopefully prove to be worth it in the future, as having a higher release would enable him to get more shots off, and shoot more easily over defenders closing out on him. Jones surprised on the defensive end though, as he turned out to be one of the stronger, if not the strongest perimeter defender on the team, while many expected him to be an average defender. Hopefully a summer of work has helped Jones correct the problem he has had with his perimeter shooting, and allowed him to progress more as an offensive player. If he is able to return to his sharpshooting ways he will definitely be able the challenge Sulaimon for minutes.

This season’s team also trades sharpshooter Dawkins for a more versatile offensive player in Allen. Although Allen is a freshman, and has yet to play in college, those who have seen him play throughout the summer and early fall seem to expect him to fight for minutes in Duke’s crowded backcourt, as his athleticism and competitiveness have quickly made themselves known. Dawkins had elite shooting ability, but he was one dimensional on offense and inconsistent on a game to game basis.

Allen doesn’t really have the ability to explode from three point range the way Dawkins could during any given game, but I think he will be a more consistent player who has the ability to contribute in more areas then Dawkins could. Allen is a good perimeter shooter, but can also slash, handle the ball, has potential as a defender. He can even play a little point guard if need be. Skill aside, his college ready body, explosiveness, toughness, basketball IQ give him a chance to give Duke some good minutes if/when he gets on the court. Allen is often forgotten among the three more high profile recruits that Duke reeled in for their 2015 class, but he could definitely surprise some people if he gets the opportunity.


Quinn Cook is another player that could play some shooting guard this year because of the somewhat unique two point guard situation Duke has going on this year, but I can’t bring myself to officially include him in the shooting guard category, since he is not a shooting guard at all. I think a backcourt of Tyus Jones and Cook will be very cohesive on offense but I cringe when I think about how they are going to defend the perimeter. Not only are Jones and Cook both smaller point guards, but they also don’t have the strength, or lateral quickness to effectively defend the perimeter. Cook has struggled often guarding point guards during his time at Duke, so having him now attempt to defend shooting guards who are naturally often bigger stronger then point guards is definitely a risk. There will be times that Cook could be matched up with a two guard that has four or five inches on him. My hope is that one of Cook or Jones wins the starting point guard spot fairly early on in the season, and strong play from Sulaimon, Matt Jones and Allen will limit the amount of time that Duke has a Tyus Jones/Cook backcourt on the floor.

Overall, with a more experienced Sulaimon and Matt Jones, and a very versatile and athletic newcomer in Allen, Duke should have a more consistent level of production and performance from it’s shooting guards. Although this prediction does depend heavily on the improvement from Sulaimon and Jones, I’m hopeful that experience and maturity will help them take the necessary step forward and allow them to play with confidence and consistency that they lacked in the past.

With so many variables and constantly changing pieces, it can be difficult to accurately compare a team’s roster one season, to their roster during a different season. The comparison can become even more complicated if one of those rosters have yet to play even one college basketball game together. That’s the case when attempting to compare Duke’s 2013-2014 basketball roster to their 2014-2015 basketball roster, as the latter has yet to play together. Despite not having seen this year’s team them play as a group yet, when comparing the two rosters, there are certain strengths, weaknesses, differences and similarities that are easy to see. Because of graduation, Duke’s talented four man incoming freshman class, and of course the NBA draft, there is an even bigger year to year difference between this years roster and last year’s then there normally would be. The disparity between the two rosters becomes even more apparent when you compare them not as a whole, but by each specific position-point, guards, shooting guards, small fowards, power fowards, centers, bench and finally coaching staff.

Point Guards:

-2013-2014-Quinn Cook (Jr), Tyler Thornton (Sr).
-2014-2015-Quinn Cook (Sr), Tyus Jones (Fr).


Although Cook and Jones make a younger overall backcourt, they also make one that is undoubtedly more talented then Cook and Thornton. With a senior Cook on the roster, you have an experienced point guard who has played in Duke’s system for years and has the ability to be a great player for Duke this coming season if he can figure out how to become more consistent. With Jones, you have less experience, but a consummate point guard who will be surrounded by plenty of talented players that he will have no problem making better each game. While Cook can be very dangerous when he is on, there are stretches too often where he loses focus and lets himself get too high or too low. As much as Cook is an emotional player, Jones is a steady and calming presence at the helm of an offense. Their differences as players compliment each other, as they each fill in areas where the other may be weaker. While both Cook and Jones bring different strengths to the point guard position, both are capable scorers and distributors, and both can shoot from the perimeter, which is the main difference between them and the Cook/Thornton combination. Thornton was a very limited offensive player, so if Cook was going through one of his rough stretches, Duke didn’t have another point guard on the roster with the ability to provide offense. This year, at times when Cook struggles with his consistently, Jones can more then pick up the slack on the offensive end, and actually has the potential to beat Cook out as a starter as the season progresses, and lineups and rotations solidify.

The knock for this years point guards would definitely be defense. Both are shorter, and more slight, with average lateral quickness, especially Jones who hasn’t been in a college weight/training program all that long. Because of this they are more susceptible to having trouble defending strong, athletic perimeter players. Last year was the same for Cook defensively, but Thornton was often able to pick up the slack on that side of the ball, though when you played him at point, you lost offensive ability at the position in exchange for his defensive tenacity.

Offensively, a point guard combination of Cook and Jones is absolutely more potent then a combination of Cook and Thornton. At the end of the day, while they give up ground on the defensive end, Cook and Jones are the more talented combination and have a higher ceiling overall which is why they get the edge.

Last night in the Barclays Center (Brooklyn), all four members of Duke’s #1 recruiting class in 2014 completed the last high school basketball event of their careers when they participated in the Jordan Brand Classic. New York City was an appropriate setting for each member of Duke’s highly touted class to showcase their skills on the court one last time, before heading off to Durham to begin the next chapter in each of their basketball journeys.

Jahlil Okafor-29 points (13-17), 9 rebounds.
Top big man and overall player in the country Jahlil Okafor stole the show, winning the MVP award for his East squad with an impressive stat line of 29 points and 9 rebounds. Okafor dominated down low in the paint, but also showed off his ability to run the floor effectively despite his size. He once again displayed an array of post moves, a soft touch around the rim and the ability to score efficiently with his back to the basket. The chemistry he has on the court with Tyus Jones is a thing of beauty. You can tell they really enjoy playing with each other and make one another better players.

Tyus Jones-10 points (3-5), 12 assists, 7 rebounds.
Also running with the East squad, Jones recorded 12 assists, showcasing his court vision and ability to distribute the ball while running a team effectively and efficiently. He showed off the incredible chemistry that he and Okafor have as well. The pair worked together seamlessly numerous times during the game, most ending in Okafor getting an open shot, or getting the ball in a position to make a one-on-one move in the post to score. It’s also worth noting that Jones was just 3 rebounds away from a triple-double and had 12 assists compared to just 2 turnovers.

Justise Winslow-13 points (6-11), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals.
Winslow again showcased his ability to do a little bit of everything on the floor, and have a positive impact on the court in many different ways. He’s not flashy, but Winslow is a competitor who always finds a way to contribute to his team, whether it’s with defense, slashing, rebounding, hustle plays, distributing the ball, or getting out in transition. With the struggles they’ve had on defense lately, Duke will be thrilled to be able to put a lockdown defender like Winslow on the court next season.

Grayson Allen-7 points (3-8), 4 rebounds.
Allen started off the game with a few turnovers and some missed shots. It really looked as though he was playing nervous. But once he settled in, Allen grew more comfortable and his play improved. When this happened, he scored on a nice floater, then knocked down a three pointer during a possession not too long after that. In my opinion, all star games such as this one, though very fun, aren’t the best setting for players like Allen to display their ability on the court.

One of the best things about sports is that you never know what you are going to witness on a daily basis. You never know what small, or seemingly insignificant factor can help the light turn on for a team that is struggling, or restore confidence back to a player that hasn’t been performing well. This is a notion that is true for not only this year’s Duke basketball team as a whole, but for a specific player on the team – Rasheed Sulaimon.

Coming off a successful freshman season where he averaged 11 points per game for Duke, and a summer where he helped the team USA win a gold medal in the U-19 basketball world championships, most (including myself) expected Sulaimon to continue thriving in his sophomore season in college right from the start.

When Sulaimon began to struggle mightily after good performances against Davidson and Kansas to start the season, it marked the beginning of a crippling slump for the Duke sophomore that would last until a breakout performance against UCLA in Madison Square Garden on December 19th (A span of 9 games since his slump started on November 15th against Florida Atlantic).

During that brutal nine game stretch Sulaimon (who played in all but one of those games):

  • Averaged just 4 points per game, 1.75 assists per game and shot a sub par 21% (3 of 14) from three-point range in 18.75 minutes per game.
  • Did not score in double digits in any single game.
  • Recorded a coaches decision DNP against Michigan on December 3rd.
  • Made only 3 total three point baskets.
  • Recorded 14 assists (Not a horrible number, but wait until it is compared to what he accomplished in this area in the next thirteen games of the season).

In that nine game stretch, Sulaimon wasn’t hitting shots, was letting his poor play on offense have a negative effect on his defense and wasn’t playing under control when he drove to the basket. He struggled to find an appropriate role on a Duke team that is so vastly different then the one that he played on and thrived with last season. While he was really the only option at shooting guard last season, and far and away the Blue Devils best slasher, he had competition at the two spot this year, and had to adjust to an offense that ran heavily through versatile fowards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. All of these things combined understandably leading to Sulaimon losing confidence on the court. After that nine game stretch though, Sulaimon has been able to turn it around in a big way, and he has looked like a new player in the second half of the season (the thirteen games Duke has played since UCLA on December 19th).

In the thirteen games that Duke has played since UCLA on December 19th Sulaimon:

  • Has averaged 11 points per game, 3.2 assists per game, and has shot 58% (20 of 34) from three point range in 25 minutes per game.
  • Scored in double digits in 9 separate games.
  • Has mad 20 three-pointers.
  • Has recorded 42 assists.

Against Virginia, a game that can be considered a turning point in the season for Duke, Sulaimon scored 21 points on 63% (7 of 11) shooting from the floor, and 80% (4-5) shooting from three point range, to go with 2 assists and 2 steals. He also hit the game winning three pointer, giving Duke a big 69-65 victory at home. The game against Virginia seems to have helped Sulaimon reemerge as a clutch player who has a knack for knocking down big shots for Duke, something he showed flashes of last season.

Against Syracuse, Sulaimon had 19 points and hit 4 three pointers throughout the game, one of which tied the game and sent it into overtime. He also had 6 assists, another part of his game that has grown in the second half of the season.

Expanding on Sulaimon’s passing ability, in the last seven games he has averaged 4.7 assists per game, a very impressive number for a shooting guard. That might have to do with the fact that Sulaimon has spent some time playing point guard lately, an incidence that likely occurred largely because of a struggling Quinn Cook. Regardless, having a player like Sulaimon at the two that can handle the ball and pass well enough to slide over and play point guard if he needs to is a huge asset for Duke. With the ball in his hands the second half of the season, he has shown the ability to drive and get into the paint. Once he’s gotten there he’s shown the ability to make great passes when the defense collapses on him, either kick outs to one of Duke’s shooters, or dump offs to one of Duke’s fowards for layups/dunks. This opens up the entire court for Duke and is one of the reasons that the Blue Devils’ offense has been so good lately.

In the beginning of the year Sulaimon wasn’t playing under control, or making good decisions when he drove, which is why he wasn’t seeing the positive results he is getting now. Sulaimon playing point guard also allows Duke the option to go with a bigger backcourt if they wanted, with him at the one, and 6’5 Andre Dawkins at the shooting guard spot.

Ever since the Virginia game, Duke has employed an offense that has more movement and cutting, instead of just giving the ball to Parker or Hood to make a play, while the other players stood and watched. I think this has been one of the things that has helped Sulaimon find his game again. This type of offense gets all the players involved, so it’s not just one or two guys with the ball every play. Sulaimon has been able to find a role that he is comfortable with in this type of offense, where he has been handling the ball more often.

Another huge improvement for Sulaimon that has helped the team is he improved production and efficiency from three point range. With the increased movement in Duke’s offense, Sulaimon has has gotten plenty of open threes lately, and the last thirteen games of the season he has shot 58% from long range. Since the UCLA game on December 19th, Duke has played 14 games, and Sulaimon hit one or more three pointer in all but two of them. To take this even further, Sulaimon has hit one or more three pointer in all nine games Duke has played since the Virginia game, and has hit two or more 4 times. This is a huge contrast for a player who only hit 3 three pointers total, in the 8 games he played in during his slump. With the return of Sulaimon’s confidence, come the return of his three point shooting.

The last area where we have really seen improvement from Sulaimon is his defense. Whether is has just been better because his offense has been, or if the team as a whole has amped up their effort on defense, it is easy to see the progress Sulaimon has made on that side of the ball. Better perimeter defense overall and pressure on the ball, both of which Sulaimon has contributed to have led to improved defense as a whole for Duke. One area Sulaimon has shown potential in is guarding the opposing team’s point guard. At a long, athletic 6’4, Sulaimon has a height and size advantage over many college point guards that he would be matched up with. This combined with his ability to move his feet on the perimeter and the effort he has shown defensively of late make him a very attractive option to pressure and harass opposing point guards, which is what Duke still wants to do on defense.

With Sulaimon playing well Duke has at least six different plays that can consistently score in double digits. His improved play has been one of the various factors that has given this years Duke team a boost, and is a contributing factor to them playing their best basketball of the season right now. They will need his shooting, passing and defense very much going forward if they plan to make a run in March.

This year’s Duke squad came into the season with high expectations. With highly anticipated newcomers Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood set to begin their careers at Duke, and talented players like Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson returning, analysts, fans and coaches believed Duke to be a legitimate title contender.

Despite the early hype, Duke has not performed to the standard that was expected of them for much of the season, especially defensively. They already have four losses, though in my opinion only the most recent against Clemson is a truly bad loss. It came against an unranked opponent that Duke should have handled without much trouble and dropped the Blue Devils to 1-2 in ACC play. It was also the second loss in three games, both to unranked teams. (Though Notre Dame is always a tough and well coached team ranked or not, especially at home.) Unlike most Krzyzewski coached Duke team’s, this year’s Blue Devils did not start the season a polished an cohesive unit. Duke fans that are accustomed to big wins against highly ranked opponents in November and December, watched their team drop games to highly ranked Kansas and Arizona squads in that time period.

Now that Parker, who has had been one of the best players in the country through December, has gone into a slump, Duke’s flaws as a team are even more exposed. Duke’s lackluster play has shocked many fans and a good deal are at the point where they no longer believe Duke capable of putting together a good run in March, and in turn have already labeled the season lost. Duke does have a number of flaws, defense and front court size being two of the most significant. But in my opinion some of Duke’s biggest issues can be fixed with adjustments, and also with time, as Duke’s two best players Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, who are both very young, continue to learn and gain experience.

So what are some of the main things that Duke has going for, and against them as the season progresses?

The Bad

Defense (or lack thereof) and Lack of Size in the Front Court

Coming into the season all we heard was how Duke would finally return to the uptempo, pressing style defense that Coach K loves, but hasn’t exactly been seen frequently at Duke lately. But between a combination of Duke’s guards being unable to keep opposing guards in front of them on the perimeter and the new hand check/freedom of movement rules in college basketball, this style of defense has not worked for Duke at all. In fact, it has hurt them a lot.

Opposing guards have blown by Duke’s guards with ease for most of the season on the perimeter. Having Duke’s guards pick players up at half court and beyond and attempt to pressure them has only made it easier for them to be beat off the dribble and led to them picking up more fouls. Once Duke lets opposing guards into the paint, there is nobody there to protect the basket. Parker at the four does not seem to have grasped most defensive rotations yet and though both Jefferson and Josh Hairston are decent defenders neither have great size at the five spot, and neither are rim protectors who have the ability to erase bad perimeter defense with shot blocking (or bothering). The result is many layups and easy, uncontested shots at the rim for opposing teams.

For a brief stretch starting after the Vermont game (and ending at the Notre Dame game) Duke displayed improvement on defense that was achieved primarily by packing their defense in, instead of pressuring out to half court on the perimeter. The packed in style clogged the paint and closed off driving lanes, deterring much of the guard penetration into the paint that had been hurting them. Instead of trying for pressure and steals, they just dropped back and played solid defense. The packed in style also helped Duke with rebounding, since their bigs were not constantly out of the paint, hedging at half court on screens.

They played this style of defense against talented teams like UCLA, Michigan and Arizona and saw success in each game. Though they lost the Arizona game, their defense overall was very solid, especially against a team with one of the biggest and most talented front lines in the country. It kept them in the game until the end, and gave them an opportunity to win a the end of the game against a team many believe is the best, and most well rounded team in college basketball right now. They held Arizona under 50% shooting from the floor, and were only out rebounded 28-36 in that game, which is respectable when you acknowledge the sever size differences between the two teams. Also in this game Duke shot 66% from the free throw line and Parker had somewhat of an off night (7-21 from the floor) and Duke still had a chance at the end.

For some unknown reason, despite seeing positive results with the packed in defense, Duke seems to have reverted back a bit to the pressure defense, guarding players out at half court and continuously getting beat off the dribble and giving up layups. This team will never be a defense juggernaut, but they can be decent enough if they stick to the packed in style.

Another option to help the defense and rebounding improve is Marshall Plumlee. Duke has severe size deficit in their front court, yet we watch Josh Hairston playing center, while a serviceable seven footer is planted on the bench. I’m not saying Plumlee is Shaq, but he can provide size, physicality, rebounding, energy, some rim protection and defense in the paint. All things that Duke really needs. He has played well and been active in the small amount of time he has gotten. Getting him on the court for at least 20-25 minutes per game would take a tremendous amount of defensive pressure in the front court off of Parker, (who is being forced to defend and play at the five at times) Jefferson and Hairston. I don’t see how giving Plumlee a chance could be a bad thing for Duke. Best case scenario, he plays well and helps Duke in the front court. Worst case scenario, he plays badly and Duke goes back to the Jefferson, Hairston rotation at the five that they have been using for most of the season. In my opinion they need some solid minutes each game from Plumlee at the five to really make a run in March this year. The question is, will he ever get the chance this season to prove himself capable or incapable of contributing? Could he be any worse in the front court then what we are seeing now from Duke?

Disorganized Offense
This Duke team is a squad that has plenty of players that can score. But we have watched their offense sputter at times, especially when Parker has struggled. For the first half of the season, the offense has relied heavily on one-on-one play by Parker and Hood. There is little movement and cutting. This can be effective at times, but not as an entire offense. What we have seen at times is the other players on the court standing around and watching while Parker and Hood try to create something with the ball in their hands. Not only does this put a ton of weight on two young players to carry an entire offense, it fails to utilize the other talented offensive players that Duke has on their roster (Sulaimon, Jefferson, Dawkins, Cook).

The pressure seems to have gotten to Parker a bit and is possibly a contributing factor to the slump he has been in. He seems to me like he looks tired on the court, and a bit worn out defending bigger and stronger players in the paint doesn’t help either). With Parker struggling the past few games Duke’s offense has resorted to heaving up threes (often questionable and early in the shot clock) even though they are capable and have the personnel to get better, more high percentage shots. During Parker’s offensive absence, Hood has been excellent, but he can’t carry the team on his own. They can’t just keep giving the ball to him or Parker and hoping for the best. Both are very talented and capable offensive players but they can’t be expected to put the offense solely on their shoulders without running any actual offense. Parker playing well up until now has masked many issues that Duke has had, and has even enabled them to play well despite them. But now that he is struggling those issues are being exposed.

If Duke can add more motion, cutting and plays not called “give the ball to Parker or Hood and see what they can do” hopefully they will see a more cohesive and balanced offense. A combination of a more motion based offense with Parker and Hood’s individual ability blended in would be ideal for Duke. It’s not simple to make work but it can be done.


The Good

Coach K
Duke has one of the best coaches in history leading their team. He can be very stubborn about certain things, but if anyone can make the necessary adjustments and help this team reach it’s potential it’s Coach K. The team has its flaws, but they are too talented overall to play as badly as they are playing. It would shock me if they continued to play as poorly as they are, especially on offense.

Like many Duke teams of past, this years team has numerous capable three point shooters (though they don’t have to rely solely on the three ball). Andre Dawkins, Hood, Parker, Cook, Sulaimon, Matt Jones, and Tyler Thornton can all make shots from three point range. You can never count out a team that can shoot the three in any given game. When threes are going down for a team it can cancel out deficiencies or flaws in other areas. The three ball is not permanent solution for Duke’s issues (offensive or defensive), but it is a dangerous and valuable weapon for any team. It can enable a comeback, push a team over the top in a close game, or keep a team in a game when their defense is playing sub par.

Where a team can go wrong with three pointers is when they rely on them too much, as this Duke team has done recently. They can shoot from distance, but also have players more then capable of slashing and getting into the paint and finishing at the rim. With Parker, Hood, Sulaimon and Cook in your lineup there is no excuse for settling for bad and contested three point shots. Duke needs to find the right balance here, though having many players on your team that can shoot the three ball is never a bad thing.

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood
-Although Duke’s offensive issues absolutely need to be addressed, any time you have even one player with the offensive ability of Parker and/or Hood you have an invaluable weapon. Duke has two players of this caliber. Though he is playing poorly now, we have all seen what Parker can do. He can score from anywhere on the court, handle the ball and facilitate. Hood over the last three games has shown how special he can be as well. He his been on an absolute tear on offense, especially from three point range. He his adept at slashing, and gets to the free throw line for Duke. His offense has really come to life while Parker has struggled, which is fortunate for Duke.

Something interesting when thinking about the duo of Parker and Hood, is that at no point in this season so far have they played really well at the same time. It has always been one or the other playing really well. In the beginning of the season, Parker was playing at an incredibly high level, while Hood was playing well but not as spectacularly as he is now. Now Hood is playing extremely well and Parker is in a slump. If Duke can get both of them going at once, they can be lethal on offense, especially combined with the reemergence of Dawkins, Sulaimon playing a bit better and the ability that Cook has shown offensively.

When a team has two players with the ability of these two, I feel like you can never count them out of any individual game, or out of making a run in March. Superstars aren’t everything and basketball is a team game, but there are many situations when a stars individual ability and efforts can enable a team to win games despite flaws in other areas. This said, lets hope Duke gets things figured out and won’t have to rely solely on massive performances from Hood and Parker to win.


Hopefully we see some significant changes for Duke going forward on both sides of the ball. This team may not fix their issues but they definitely have the ability to if the appropriate adjustments are made. The season is not yet completely lost, but this is arguably a low point for Duke this year, an we need to see some improvements for the team as the season progresses if they want to reach their potential and utilize the talent that they are able to put on the floor.

This year’s Duke team has a very talented roster, and true potential as a group. The strengths that they possess have all been well noted, but after watching the first two exhibition games, Duke seems to have one clear weakness that has the potential to hold them back from reaching their goals. That weakness is defensive rebounding.

Although we have quite a small sample size to examine Duke’s rebounding right now, (and the games have not yet been real games) the numbers that we do have are fairly poor. In their first two exhibition games, Duke faced opponents that were inferior to them in size, strength, athleticism, talent and physicality. Despite this, they have not performed well on the boards.

In the first exhibition game of the season against Bowie State, Duke was losing the rebounding battle at half time 17-15 to a much smaller team. Duke only out rebounded Bowie State for the game 43-35. No player on Duke’s team reached double figures in rebounds. Sophomore foward Amile Jefferson recorded a team high eight boards, but no one else on the squad pulled down more then six.

The Blue Devils only out rebounded a significantly smaller Drury squad by seven (42-35), an almost identical rebounding number from their first exhibition game. Just two players, Amile Jefferson and Rodney Hood, accounted for twenty-five of the total forty-two rebounds for Duke, with sixteen and nine respectively. That means the other nine players who recorded minutes in the game only pulled down seventeen rebounds together. Having only two players rebounding at a high rate is not a recipe for success. This Duke team clearly needs other players to start contributing on the boards.

In Duke’s first two exhibition games combined they are only pulling down 66% of available defensive rebounds, a number that would rank them 260th or higher in the country last season in defensive boards. The Blue Devils only lead the overall rebounding margin throughout their two exhibition games 127-70. Although it is very early in the season, the rebounding numbers for Duke are concerning. Poor rebounding is a legitimate obstacle for the team, one that they must overcome to reach the goals they wish to accomplish. An effort on the boards like the previous two Duke had simply will not cut it against teams like Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse and UNC.

To me, Duke’s poor rebounding seemed to stem at least partially from lack of effort. With the athleticism, length, and overall team size that Duke has, there is no other excuse for rebounding as poorly as they did against the competition they faced in their exhibition games. In the first half of the Drury game, Drury was getting two and three opportunities almost every time down the floor because of Duke’s failure to find a man, put a body on a player and pursue the ball. Rebounding is one aspect of the game where the player/team that wants it more and plays the hardest is going to win.

That said, the lack of rebounding for Duke is not necessarily a surprise (Though I didn’t forsee it being a big problem against teams whose tallest player is 6’7). Duke has a legitimate lack of size at the center spot as far as height goes, and rebounding is one of the factors that many thought could be a headache for the Blue Devils this season. Right now Duke starts the 6’8 Jefferson at center. Forward Josh Hairston (6’8) seems at the moment to be the first big coming off the bench at the center spot. The team does seven footer Marshall Plumlee, finally healthy and in shape, but they don’t yet know what they can expect from him, and how effective he will be on the court.

Based on the first two games, we can see that both Amile Jefferson and Rodney Hood are rebounding at the highest rate right now. Hood is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game and Jefferson is averaging twelve rebounds per game. The team needs freshman Jabari Parker who starts at the power forward spot to step it up on the boards, and at 6’8, 235 lbs, Parker is more then capable of it. Parker actually came to Duke a strong rebounder, so it is very possible that the two exhibition games we have seen him play in are not indicative of his true rebounding ability. What Duke has going for it in the rebounding department is that they have great overall team size, athleticism and length, despite lacking height at the center spot. A starting five of Cook, Sulaimon, Hood, Parker and Jefferson is a big overall lineup, despite Jefferson being small for a five. Hairston is also undersized for a five but hopefully Plumlee can be effective off the bench when Duke is facing a team with a big front line. Alex Murphy and Semi Ojeleye are both big, athletic forwards that need to emphasize rebounding when they see minutes in the front court. (To be fair, Ojeleye has rebounded well when he has played, he just hasn’t played a huge amount). The same goes for Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones. Both have good height, length and athleticism for the shooting guard spot, and there is no reason they can’t help out on the boards.

For Duke to fix it’s early defensive rebounding problems, they need contributions from everyone, not just two or three players. This years squad needs to emphasize team rebounding, and accountability on the defensive boards, where each player finds a man to box out when a shot goes up and every one does their part. It’s early now so Duke still has time to improve their rebounding. Hopefully as the season progresses we will see significant improvement from Duke on the boards and as a result a vastly improved team overall.

Duke’s new season kicked off yesterday with a fun night in Cameron Indoor with Countdown To Craziness. After a long summer, players, coaches and fans are all looking forward to the start of the season, and last night the Blue Devils gave us a small glimpse of what is to come when they hit the hardwood for real.

With Cameron packed to the brim with loyal (and loud) fans, anxious to get a look at their team for the first time this season, the action kicked off with the Blue vs. White scrimmage and later came to a close with the dunk contest.

The Midnight Madness games are technically just scrimmages. Although that goes for Duke’s Blue vs. White game as well, Duke’s scrimmage is conducted a bit differently from most others. It is played as close to a real game as possible for a game of its nature. Defense and effort are expected. Because of this we can take some of what we see from the players more seriously, though not as much as if it were a real game. Countdown To Craziness is an opportunity for the new players to show the fans what they can bring to the team, and for the returning players to display the improvements they have made to their games over the summer.

Quinn Cook-Cook played well last night and looked very comfortable in the role he will be playing on this team. His conditioning and perimeter defense have improved and he really seemed to gel with his teammates on offense. One play that stood out to me that really demonstrated the chemistry between Cook and his teammates was the two handed dunk right down the middle of the paint Amile Jefferson had off a beautiful feed from Cook towards the end of the game. Cook’s outside shot also looked really nice and it seems as though he will continue to knock down perimeter shots at an efficient rate. This is a huge plus for Duke seeing that he and others will likely find themselves open more often with the majority of opposing team’s attention on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.

Tyler Thornton-Thornton demonstrated his usually tough game and aggressive defense. He did the dirty work last night, even taking a charge at one point in the scrimmage. He is a very solid player and makes few mistakes, though Cook was able to strip him as he brought the ball up court on multiple possessions. As usual though, Thornton will contribute to this years team with effort and toughness.

Rasheed Sulaimon-Sulaimon had a bit of a rough first half. He seemed to be trying to hard to make things happen instead of letting the game come to him on offense, but to his credit he did not let frustration from offense affect other parts of his game as he has in the past. Sulaimon really settled in and turned it around in the second half though, hitting a couple outside shots and finishing drives around the rim while playing his usual effective defense. It seems to me as though Sulaimon is still adjusting to his new role on the team (this years squad being so different from last years) and he just has to relax and play within himself. He will definitely be pushed by both Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones who are playing well and providing ample competition for the two spot.

Andre Dawkins-Dawkins opened up the Blue vs. White game and reintroduced himself to Cameron by knocking down a three ball from the top of the key. It does not look as though Dawkins has lost any of the shooting stroke that he is known for in the year he sat out, though hopefully we will see more consistency in that area for him this season. Dawkins showed great effort on defense (a change from what we have seen from him in the past), getting in passing lanes and even pressuring the ball a bit. Overall it was great to see Dawkins healthy and back on the court for Duke.

Matt Jones-Jones continued to exceed expectations last night. He played tough defense and even brought the ball up on offense at times and looked comfortable doing it. Jones looked good handling the ball. He really plays under control and takes what the defense gives him. Though known mostly for his outside shooting, he showed off his ability to get to the rim, where he finished some nice drives. He has definitely shown thus far that he is not a one dimensional player. I would be surprised if he does not get minutes this year based on what I have seen from him so far.

Semi Ojeleye-The most obvious thing about Ojeleye, the winner of last night’s dunk contest, is how physically imposing he is. He is very strong and isn’t afraid to use that strength and explosiveness to mix it up in the paint. Ojeleye looked really good and aggressive on the boards and as usual he used his athleticism and muscle to make things happen on the court. Ojeleye is an efficient three point shooter (on set shots), something we did not see last night, but that should be a great asset to him and Duke in the future.

Alex Murphy-Murphy made some nice plays in transition and is obviously in good shape. I think for him to be successful he needs to be more assertive and be more aggressive looking to score. Both of those things go along with confidence, which Murphy has struggled with. With the makeup of this year’s roster (so many talented wings and capable scorers), I can see how being assertive and looking for his own scoring opportunities would be a challenge for Murphy, confidence issues aside. You want to balance being unselfish and a good teammate with personal goals and expectations of yourself, and that is often a very difficult thing to master. I am one who still believes that Murphy can be a really good player for Duke. I don’t know if it will be this year or in the future, but Murphy has the talent, hopefully this will be the year it clicks mentally for him.

Jabari Parker-Last night I believe that Parker left no doubt that he is the best player on Duke’s roster, and the chance to be one of the best players in the country. Even at this point, where is conditioning is clearly better but not where it could be, Parker was dominant on the court. His versatility and incredible feel for the game make him a weapon anywhere on the floor. He handled the ball a lot last night, bringing it up the court, facilitating the offense and dribbling the length of the floor on fast breaks. He scored on crafty drives to the basket, jump shots and in transition. He makes good decisions with the ball in his hands, knowing when to look to score and when to create for someone else. At the end of the game Parker made what turned out to be the play of the night, a vicious baseline, one hand dunk over Marshall Plumlee and Josh Hairston. What surprised me the most was how well and aggressively Parker rebounded during the game. He was in simple words, a beast going after boards. Parker’s rebounding at a high rate may be critical for Duke, a team that doesn’t start that tall of a front line or have much perceived depth in the center spot. Parker also blocked a number of shots and defended with effort, playing the passing lanes which allowed him to be effective getting out quickly in transition. Parker came to Duke with high expectations, but he exceeded what I personally expected of him last night.

Rodney Hood-Hood was very effective at getting to the free-throw line last night. He looked comfortable with the ball in his hands and was able to find seams in the defense where he could drive and finish or draw fouls. He was effective with his outside shot also, although he only knocked down one during last night’s game. Hood was very efficient on offense last night as well. He has a smooth game and is a very versatile scorer. He also displayed his ability on defense last night. The combination of him and Parker on the court at the same time will be formidable.

Josh Hairston-Hairston played a solid game last night. He played hard and defended with aggression. He got on the offensive boards as well trying to keep some plays alive after misses. You can tell that Hairston has slimmed down and looks a good deal lighter on his feet then he did last season.

Amile Jefferson-I think Jefferson is deserving of being called the most improved player on the team from last year, to now. We have heard the coaches speak of the great summer that he had, but we finally got to see results of his hard work come to fruition last night. Jefferson just has a knack for getting open around the rim and scoring. With all the attention on Parker and Hood, is is very possible for a much improved and bulked up Jefferson to find himself left open very often, and have a field day scoring in the paint. That is just what he did last night, finishing an array of layups and a few dunks down low, while defending and rebounding very effectively on the other end. He is long, mobile and very capable of running the floor and playing an up and down style. Jefferson is a very smart player with a great energy about him on the court. I am really excited to see the positive impact that he can have on the floor this year.

Marshall Plumlee-I really liked what I saw from Plumlee last night. He came in and played really hard on both ends. Defending a very mobile front court of Parker and Jefferson was obviously a struggle, but he would not, except in a very extreme case, be asked to guard those types of players in real games. He will most likely be used to help defend some of the bigger and stronger centers Duke will see throughout the season. Last night Marshall battled on the offensive boards, finishing a few garbage baskets and put backs. He was physical and tough on the floor. The highlight of his night was a baseline reverse dunk he threw down towards the end of the game. Based on what I have seen from him thus far I do not see any reason why Plumlee shouldn’t contribute to the front court this season.