Duke Basketball: 4 Minor Contributors Who Will Be Key in Blue Devils' Title Run

Sam DrakeCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2012

Duke Basketball: 4 Minor Contributors Who Will Be Key in Blue Devils' Title Run

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    Coach Mike Krzyzewski is going to need some of his minor contributors to stand up and play big in the NCAA Tournament if the Blue Devils are going to have a chance to win it all.

    Different players have stepped up throughout the season. Austin Rivers with a game-winning three-pointer against UNC, Andre Dawkins going off against Wake Forest and Mason Plumlee with his big double-doubles that can occur at any point during a season, are just a few examples.

    Duke has to play some good teams to get to the Final Four. Teams like Baylor, Notre Dame and Kentucky provide some difficult match-ups.

    These four plays must step up and play good minutes in order for Duke to make a deep run in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Quinn Cook

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    Quinn Cook is the closest thing that Duke has to a true point guard.

    He only averages about 12 minutes per game, most of which comes in garbage time. He shoots a pretty good 77 percent from the free-throw line which allows him to stay in game when it gets close towards to end. 

    Cook is not a very good three-point shooter, making only 25 percent of his shots and only has a field goal percentage of 41 percent.

    The reason he will be key in the Blue Devil's title run is his ability to get the ball to the shooters. In his 12 minutes of play, he averages two assists. He also pulls down one rebound while on the court. 

    Coach K will bring Cook into the game to give Austin Rivers or Seth Curry some rest in the first half.

    In his limited role this season, he has given the Blue Devils some reason to hope for the future at the point guard position. He is quick and can handle the ball. Duke has not had a true point guard the last two seasons, since Jon Scheyer suited up for Coach K. Also, the better that Rivers plays, the more likely he will opt to enter the NBA draft.

    The more touches that Cook gets, the better he will be because of confidence and experience.

Tyler Thornton

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    Tyler Thornton is Quinn Cook, but more experienced and possesses a better shooting touch.

    He makes about 37 percent of his field goals and 35 percent from deep. He also dishes out two assists and pulls down two rebounds in 20 minutes per game. 

    He has played more and more minutes toward the end of the season. In an overtime win against Virginia Tech, he logged 38 minutes. 

    Given the chance, he will jack up a ton of three-point attempts, as evident against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament when he went 3-of-13 from beyond the arch.

    His ability to run the point position and allow Curry and Rivers to move around without the ball will be very beneficial come Tournament time, creating more open shots off screens for Duke's main shooters. 

Andre Dawkins

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    Andre Dawkins has made plenty of Blue Devil fans upset this season.

    He was supposed to be the next big thing for Duke but has never really panned out the way people expected.

    He has had some starting time this season but for the most part, has been relegated to the bench. He does average 22 minutes when he enters the game, which is far from just a bench player.

    During his time on the floor, he averages 8.5 points and two rebounds. He is shooting 40 percent from the floor as well as from beyond the arch which is a good number. Dawkins is also one of the better free throw shooters on the team, shooting 74 percent.

    The Blue Devils are going to need Dawkins to step up and be able to score from deep if they want to keep dancing in March. If he catches fire, which he is known to do every now and then, watch out. In no time at all, he can hit threes and really make defenses have to guard three good perimeter players in Rivers, Curry and Dawkins.

Josh Hairston

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    Josh Hairston's main role is to come off the bench when one of the Plumlee's gets into foul trouble.

    However, his role has expanded since the injury of Ryan Kelly. As last glimpse, Kelly is listed as day-to-day but is most likely going to play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Even if Kelly is healthy, he will still most likely not play his full allotted minutes. That means more minutes for Hairston. 

    Hairston can be equated to a fourth-string big man. Even though he stands 6'7", he weighs 235 pounds which means that he can push his opponents around under the basket. He uses his big frame to grab 1.4 rebounds and 2.6 points in 8.6 minutes per game.

    If there are going to be lingering effects to Kelly, Hairston's minutes are going to be even more valuable to Coach K.